By David H. Martin

More than 51,000 industry professionals including designers, architects, distributors, kitchen and bath dealers and other retailers flocked to the 2004 Kitchen/Bath Industry Show at McCormick Place in Chicago. It was the best-attended KBIS show ever. It also proved a fountainhead of water improvement news from leading major appliance manufacturers.

Maytag moved into whole-house water purification at K/BIS with the introduction of its new hollow-fiber, membrane ultrafiltration, point-of-entry (POE) system. The Maytag Central Water Filtration system is NSF certified to Standards 42 and 53, and has significant bacteria- and virus-blocking capabilities, according to Zenon Environmental’s Tony Stephenson. Zenon manufactures the system for Maytag. Stephenson claims the POE central water filtration system makes nine gallons of biologically safe water per minute and operates on as little as 35 pounds per square inch (psi) water pressure. The unit features a factory-set automatic backwash. Zenon is training Maytag-certified installers to maintain the units, which come in two versions—one for municipal water and another with a “big blue” sediment filter for well water. Suggested retail prices are $2,200 and $2,800, respectively, says Stephenson. At the same time, Maytag has upgraded its side-by-side refrigerator water filtration unit, PuriClean II. The new NSF-certified (Standards 42 and 53) 750-gallon capacity filter (replacing a 500-gallon filter) is made by PentaPure.

Electrolux, the largest home appliance manufacturer in the world, introduced its new upscale ICON brand appliance line, led by a 23-cubic-foot, side-by-side refrigerator-freezer with an advanced microbial water filtration cartridge developed by KX Industries. Called PureAdvantage, explains director of brand marketing John Swensen, the new ice and water filtration cassette will meet a new NSF certification standard for filtration. (According to KX, its “microbiological interception” technology meets stringent USEPA “purifier” standards without actually destroying the trapped microbiological contaminants. It has been certified by the California Department of Health Services to meet the following performance: bacterial reduction of 99.00 percent, viral reduction of 99.99 percent, and oocyst reduction of 99.95 percent.) Swensen predicted the new technology would eventually be included in the company’s better-known Frigidaire refrigerators. Frigidaire products currently have PureSourcePlus filter cassettes, its third generation of eye-level refrigerator filters, first pioneered in 1996.

Whirlpool announced a new co-branding alliance with Proctor & Gamble’s PUR water filters in selected refrigerators at K/BIS. The new cartridge, bearing the PUR brand, is a twist-off unit inserted into the grille of new counter-depth, side-by-side refrigerator-freezers. The cylindrical cartridge, like a CUNO unit it will eventually replace in all Whirlpool side-by-sides, is certified to NSF Standards 42 and 53. Whirlpool’s KitchenAid brand refrigerators will follow suit, as will Whirlpool-made Kenmore side-by-sides.

Lowe’s wins new Whirlpool line
In an exclusive WC&P interview at K/BIS with Whirlpool innovation consultant Shiv Dutt, the company revealed its plans to offer a full line of undercounter point-of-use (POU) drinking water systems and POE water softeners through Lowe’s stores, the nation’s fastest-growing chain of home improvement centers. The move appears to parallel the existing GE SmartWater relationship with Lowe’s competitor, Home Depot, although PUR and Brita brand products will be sold in the same water treatment section of Lowe’s stores. “Lowe’s will go national with Whirlpool brand water treatment by the end of this year,” says Dutt, who revealed that CUNO is manufacturing the POU/POE products for Whirlpool. “Whirlpool is committed to a comprehensive sales training effort toward Lowe’s plumbing department personnel.” It should be noted this isn’t Whirlpool’s first branded venture in the water treatment category. In 1970, the company test-marketed water softeners, then made by Bruner, a company later purchased by Culligan. In the mid-1990s, Whirlpool tested a line of POU products made by CUNO in West Coast Circuit City retail appliance stores.

LG Electronics and Thermador side-by-side refrigerators both feature through-the-door filtered ice and water with filtration provided by twist-out CUNO units concealed in the grille (Thermador) or in the fresh food department (LG).

Haier America, still another major appliance manufacturer, showed the most complete line of water coolers at K/BIS including countertop and electronic cooling models. Avanti showed its new water cooler with a built-in, automatic ice maker.

Water softeners at K/BIS
CUNO launched its SSupreme Series of water softeners and backwashing POE filtration systems at K/BIS, all with stainless steel tanks under its Aqua-Pure brand sold through plumbing channels. All SSupreme Series systems are built from 316L stainless steel, feature electronic push-button controls with LED screen, 19-gallon-per-minute peak flow rates, and carry a 25-year limited warranty. WaterBoss, the retail brand of Hague Quality Water, showed the same line of compact softeners at K/BIS that were redesigned just a year ago. The brand, once a retail category leader along with Kenmore, may be losing ground as Home Depot and Lowe’s consolidate around softeners that carry GE and Whirlpool brands. Sears Contract Sales showed the same lines of Kenmore water softeners and RO systems (made by Ecowater) as seen last year. GE Water showed no SmartWater products in its K/BIS booth for the second year in a row.

Faultering faucet filters
The integral faucet filter category appears to be stuck. The overwhelming growth of refrigerator water and ice filtration appears to be coming at the expense of the integral faucet filter industry led by Moen. Moen showed nothing new this year in its PureTouch filtered line for kitchens and baths. In fact, its PureTouch display space was reduced by 50 percent as Moen placed emphasis on its K/BIS launch of a new high-end faucet line. American Standard showed the same selection of POU kitchen and bath filtration products this year as last—as did its Jado division, an upscale line of filter faucets. Just as telling, there were no new entries from other faucet manufacturers in the category.

In-Sink-Erator exhibited its Series 1100 instant hot water dispensers in an expanded choice of nine finishes to coordinate with any faucet. The F-201 replacement filter is rated for taste and odor. The F-501R adds protection against cysts. Model HC-1100 has two graceful levers—one for instant hot water and a second for filtered cool water.

Sunbeam shower filtration products debuted at both Chicago spring shows (K/BIS and The Housewares Show held weeks earlier; see Report from the International Home & Housewares Show.) The three Sunbeam brand models are made by H20 International.

Conclusion
The 2004 K/BIS Show in Chicago showed new interest in POU/POE water treatment from major appliance manufacturers. For the first time, a new generation of microbial filters appeared at K/BIS. Integral faucet filters have apparently plateau while refrigerator water filtration continues to evolve. Next year’s show moves to Las Vegas.

About the author
David H. Martin is president of Lenzi Martin Marketing, of Oak Park, Ill., a firm specializing in water improvement and environmental marketing that integrates old and new media. He can be reached at (708) 848-8404, email: dmartin@lenzimartin.com or website: http://www.lenzimartin.com.


Report from the International Home & Housewares Show
Water coolers reigned at McCormick’s Housewares Show with IIT’s Hamilton Beach debuting a line of floor and cabinet coolers. Haier America showed a selection of compressor-cooled and thermoelectric coolers in white and designer colors. Sunbeam, Avanti and Brita all showed floor-size coolers.

Clear Flow Corp. introduced the world’s first faucet-mounted water filter designed for bathroom sinks. The miniature faucet-mounted filter fits most bathroom faucets and includes an adjustable water fountain. The $30 SRP filter is NSF certified to Standards 42 and 53 and comes in white, black or chrome.

WaterPik showed its new compact F-8 InstaPure water filter, said to be 20 percent smaller then other leading faucet filters. The unit meets NSF Standard 53 and is said to reduce 33 contaminants. A built-in power rinse feature is included.

Brita showed a new chrome filter pitcher with a $29 SRP. WAL displayed a two-liter pitcher with a 150-pitcher counter meter. Sunbeam showed a 1.89 liter pitcher with $9.99 SRP.

Greenbison Inc. showed its Samson multi-purpose washer for deep cleaning of jewelry, fruits, vegetables, dishes and kitchenware. Items are immersed in a three-gallon ABS plastic reservoir that fits in the kitchen sink. Units combine ultrasound and ozone action and will be sold through health food stores and direct to doctors and dentists, according to Greenbison.

—David H. Martin

 

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