How Effective is that UV System?

When a homeowner decides to purchase water treatment equipment, they are looking to protect their drinking water and the health of their family members who are consuming it. They are looking for water confidence, which is an investment into their home similar to installing a new furnace or replacing the windows, but with water treatment the target is family health.

The purchase of water treatment equipment is traditionally done by consumers who are on private water systems, whether surface water or a private well. The trend is starting to shift, however. Consumers that receive water from a municipal supply are now looking for added security by taking some of the water treatment into their own hands. Either way, the tap can be turned on with the peace of mind that the water is safe to consume.

Water treatment can be done in many forms, whether it is with a water softener to remove hardness, a reverse osmosis system to remove dissolved solids, an ultraviolet (UV) system for the destruction of microorganisms or a simple carbon filter to improve the taste and odor of the water. Regardless of the equipment, all systems must be maintained or they will no longer be effective and can, in some cases, make the water worse.

This especially is the case with UV systems. A UV system targets microorganisms, which can cause serious health concerns if not addressed. UV systems must be maintained at least once a year or more, depending on the water quality. This involves the inspection of the quartz sleeve and the replacement of the UV lamp. Both are very important for the UV system to be effective against potential waterborne illness.

UV systems are designed for a specific flow rate based on the reactor size, the water quality and the amount of intensity coming off the UV lamp. Each UV system, regardless of the manufacturer, is designed around a specific lamp technology. Not all UV systems are the same—they are matched with a specific UV system design. Therefore, if a UV system is rated for 10 gpm at 95% UV transmittance, the water will receive sufficient disinfection at that flow rate based on the system design and the UV lamp.

The Brain of the System

The UV lamp can be considered the brain of a UV system. Without the UV lamp and quartz sleeve, disinfection cannot occur. All maintenance issues of a UV system are surrounded around the lamp and quartz sleeve being protected. The quartz sleeve must be cleaned in order to ensure that the UV intensity from the lamp can get to the water and the lamp must be replaced after one year because the UV intensity does drop off over time.

With all of these factors in mind, it becomes obvious how important it is that the correct lamp is used within the UV system. The quartz sleeve is also an important component because it protects the lamp. Both the lamp and sleeve are manufactured from a very specific material that readily transmits UV light. Neither the lamp or the quartz sleeve is manufactured simply from glass but a type of quartz that allows the UV system to perform efficiently and protect the water.

Consumer Confidence

Consumers considering purchasing a UV system are also buying water confidence. In order to ensure that confidence, the correct replacement lamp is vital to the continued performance of that piece of equipment. That being said, if a specific model is purchased, it is imperative that the lamp is replaced with one that has been designed for that model. Otherwise it can be unclear if the UV system is actually disinfecting the water.

There are companies in the water industry that are selling knock-off lamps for residential UV systems that are sold throughout the world. These lamps are offered at a very low price with the promise that they operate the same as the UV manufacturer’s lamps, but this is not true. If a consumer were to install a knock-off lamp, the water confidence that was offered by the UV manufacturer no longer holds true and cannot be supported by the manufacturer.

As a UV manufacturer, the comments that have been received from the field with regards to how these knock-off lamps are made and how they are performing have been quite alarming:

1. Lamp wiring is inferior as well as incorrect. System operation and safety is then compromised.

2. False indication that lamp is ‘On.’ The knock-off lamps cause a false “Lamp OK” status when in fact the lamp has not been lit and therefore is not producing any UV light. There will be absolutely no disinfection provided under these conditions.

3. Wrong lamp pin lengths or weak pins. Relates to safety, potential fire hazard and possible damage to the lamp connector, which in turn can destroy the ballast.

4. Certification. By using a knock- off lamp as a replacement, any certifications that the UV system holds will now be voided, such as NSF Standard 55, CSA/UL/CE. In Canada, it is a requirement to have UL/CSA on systems that are sold. If a knock-off lamp that has not been part of this certi-­ fication is used, the electrical code that is required on newly sold appliances is no longer being met.

5. Insurance. If a fire occurs due to the installation of a knock-off lamp, there may be complica- tions with regards to home insurance as the knock-off lamp voids all electrical certifications.

6. Loss of warranty coverage. UV manufacturers cannot offer any warranty coverage of systems that are not using replacement lamps provided by the manufacturer because they cannot guarantee the safety of the system.

For consumers who invest money into a disinfection treatment device, it is important that the system is maintained as needed in order to keep the water safe.

If you are unsure about a lamp, call the manufacturer and they will be able to tell you immediately if you have the appropriate lamp. Be on the lookout for programs that are set up by the manufacturer specifically for this type of situation—they will be prepared for your questions. This is a simple way to ensure that your customer’s water is safe.

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About the author

Melissa Lubitz is technical salesperson, municipal projects group, for R-Can Environmental, Inc., a Trojan Technologies Co. Lubitz can be reached by e-mail at [email protected].