Adding specialized point of use (POU) equipment such as coolers can increase profits when a business plan and sound operating procedures are followed.
The business plan
Water treatment professionals must determine their target customers. Then they select the equipment based on the customers’ needs and specific geographic locations.
Professionals should obtain detailed information from equipment representatives, including initial cost per unit, time allotted to install the units, and the level of monthly, quarterly, semiannual or annual service provided. Then they must determine the cost of possible parts that need to be exchanged, additional equipment for inventory and the technician’s time required for installation and maintenance to determine monthly equipment rental fees.
All states are different, so study all regulations and plumbing codes. Dealers should also hire selectively. Potential employees should be knowledgeable in refrigeration; electrical; and hopefully, plumbing.
Organizations such as the Water Quality Association provide specialized training in all aspects of water treatment business practices, including in ethical sales methods. Dealers should use these associations and build relationships with suppliers to maintain a source of on-line technical guidance, product selection or in-house training.
Installation and operations best practices
Attention to detail is important when installing POU systems. Installation practices are a company’s advertising billboard. Customers will watch and have plenty of questions. Follow these steps for quality installations:
- Organize fittings in a large tackle box neatly labeled. Keep tools used most in a separate pouch for quick access.
- Keep tubing neat and on the roll. Tubing comes with a plug. Once the tubing is cut, place the plug back into the unused tubing to prevent foreign contamination.
- When connecting the POU cooler to a potable water source, locate the cooler within 25 feet of the water source and within 6 feet of an outlet if possible.
- Check the outlet’s amperage rating. Verify that all appliances on the circuit will not throw the breaker when cooler is added.
- If the account is new, do not reuse a water line since its age is unknown.
- Document previous damage with a camera, and keep it on file.
- Use a separate shut-off for the POU cooler when possible, identify it with a tag and inform the customer of its purpose.
- Develop a plan in case a boil water alert is issued. Instruct the customer to turn off the water and not use it until the boil water alert is lifted. Depending on the severity, supply the customer with bottled water.
- Reverse osmosis systems require a drain. Use quality drains and locate them on the correct side of the P trap.
- When running water lines, use quality tubing and remember that heat and sunlight can contribute to tubing breakdown. Using black tubing with ultraviolet (UV) protection is recommended.
- Consider municipalities that add chloramines to drinking water. They can affect all parts of the POU system. If the wrong filter is installed, chloramines can rust stainless steel in hot tanks.
- Most important, add a separate pressure regulator and a leak detection device.
- Once installation is complete, schedule a yearly inspection and filter exchange. Provide the customer with a written record of the filter exchanged and cooler wiped down.
- On older models, exchange the cooler and return it to the shop for cleaning and sanitation.
- Consider using coolers with built-in ozonation or UV sanitization systems to prevent biofilm formation.
- All filtration coolers are equipped with a float mechanism. A thorough inspection of the float mechanism is a must. Shut the water off, put on latex gloves, pull out the float mechanism and inspect it.
- Check the water lines; clean off the condenser; exchange the drip tray; and wipe down the cooler with a quality cleaner.
- Replace worn components immediately to prevent service calls and water leaks.
With these suggestions, water professionals will be more organized, prepared and profitable, and customers will appreciate the reliable service and professionalism.
George Dziura, who began his water industry career in 1994, is a Certified Plant Operator by the International Bottled Water Association and a Certified Installer. He is currently technical service director for MTN Products, which designs and manufactures beverage dispensers. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.