By Rod Yoder

Introduction
Today more than ever before, consumers are being bombarded with messages about what is in their water. From the recent attention given to pharmaceuticals infiltrating drinking water systems to the increasing interest in repurposing wastewater for in-home use and heightened awareness of the challenges of an aging distribution system, water quality is becoming a growing concern for many. As consumers are evermore educated about their water quality, water treatment systems are becoming even more attractive solutions. This is good news for our industry, but it’s not without its challenges.

History
In the past, consumers ordered a drinking water treatment solution to meet their current water quality needs. But as we know, water sources evolve over time. A homeowner looking to improve their water’s taste today may require additional water treatment tomorrow, such as removal of arsenic III and V or protection from viruses, or removal of perchlorate —the list goes on. In some cases, an existing water treatment system can be adjusted to solve new water quality problems, but these alterations can be expensive and take time to configure. Often, an entirely new water treatment system must be purchased to solve the issue; this costly scenario comes with an added expense—it reduces the consumer’s confidence in their water treatment expert.

The solution would ideally be a scalable water treatment system that can easily and quickly adapt to nearly any water treatment need that may arise. This would allow consumers to feel secure in their purchase, knowing that they’re likely covered should their water quality needs change over time. That system now exists.

This article discusses a new and historically significant innovation in the development of the point of use (POU) drinking water treatment system. No longer constrained by the limitations of traditional POU systems, this innovative drinking water treatment solution owes its flexibility to a unique approach to system design. This new POU system will meet the ever-changing demands of the consumer and the increasing contaminant reduction requirements for various qualities of drinking water.

Unique flow system
The new system’s customizable nature is due in part to the unique flow system used to manage flow paths through a seven-stage filtration process. Each unit is designed to accept up to five separate filter cartridges (pre filter, post filter, membrane and two auxiliary cartridges). The basic system contains three cartridges and can be easily expanded to accept more filtration cartridges if required.

The manifold of the drinking water treatment system is also unique. In place of tubing and connectors, the manifold is welded. The second level contains the molded flow paths. The flow paths are ridged and create a path >3/8 inches, allowing water to flow freely without restriction. The two levels also are structurally sound, withstanding burst pressures over 1,000 psi. Elimination of screws to join the two manifolds eases the manufacturing process, while the risk of potential leaks is reduced. The patented manifold incorporates a variety of unique check valves, shutoff valves and a membrane flushing system.

The seven-stage process
The seven stages of the drinking water treatment system are contained in a stylish cabinet:

  1. Prefilter
  2. RO membrane
  3. Auxiliary #1
  4. Auxiliary #2
  5. Storage tank
  6. GAC postfilter
  7. High-flow, lead-free faucet

Thanks to the flow path of the drinking water treatment system, different types of specialty cartridges can be added to treat various contaminants at the RO permeate flow rate. The treatment process starts with water flowing through a sediment or carbon sediment prefilter. Following the prefilter, the water passes though the 75-gallon per day (gpd) membrane. Once through the RO membrane, the water passes through auxiliary ports number one and number two, which can contain contaminant-specific reduction cartridges as needed. Nearly all advanced contaminant reduction or removal technologies are improved by extended contact time; having these cartridges located after the RO membrane assures sufficient contact time since they flow at RO permeate flow rates. After auxiliary cartridge number two, the treated water goes to the storage tank. When the tap is opened, treated water passes through the GAC post filter and is delivered to the tap at exceptionally high flow rates.

The expandable and modular nature of the system means, essentially, that any customer can customize it. As new contaminants arise, or customers are made aware of existing contaminants, the drinking water treatment system can easily be upgraded at a minimal cost. A consumer can start with a system that offers certain removal capabilities and can add or subtract auxiliary cartridges to change or increase the system’s removal characteristics at a later time.

A filter cartridge for all needs
While each cartridge performs a different water treatment function, they are identical in design; this assures the standardization of all filtration cartridges, including those yet to be developed. This consistency is a key factor in the expandable, customizable nature of this new drinking water treatment system. Because of this unique design, the system will never become outdated, as all future water treatment cartridges will be configured to fit the original system. Each cartridge works in conjunction with the system’s patented flow system, meaning the system is completely flexible.

The following cartridges are presently available for the drinking water treatment system; several more cartridges are being developed.

Virus/bacteria removal cartridge – Provides unprecedented protection against waterborne pathogens. The drinking water treatment system with the virus/bacteria removal cartridge was tested by NSF and passed the stringent NSF P231 microbiological test protocol. (It is one of only two systems to successfully pass the P231 protocol; the first one by the same manufacturer.) With this cartridge in place, the system consistently removes > 99.999 percent of virus and > 99.99999 percent of bacteria. In addition to the virus and bacteria challenge, P231 has a turbidity challenge that must be met. With elevated levels of turbidity, the system continues to operate effectively. The drinking water treatment system with the virus/bacteria removal cartridge was also tested by BioVir labs to the US EPA Guide Standard for Microbiological Purifiers and passed with the same results as certified by NSF. BioVir showed consistent > 99.999 percent virus removal and > 99.99999 percent of bacteria removed.

Mineral addition cartridge – Gives the user an option to add valuable minerals to treated drinking water. The mineral addition cartridge adds magnesium (mg) and calcium (ca) into the water and slightly raises the pH. The amount of mg and ca released into the water is dependant upon the inlet feed pressure to the drinking water system. Mg levels can be expected to be between 10 ppm – 30 ppm; ca levels can be expected to be between two and four ppm.

VOC removal cartridge –A GAC block that is certified for 99.5 percent removal of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and MTBE removal of 95 percent.

Arsenic removal cartridge – Works with the RO membrane to give the system the ability to remove both Arsenic III and Arsenic V. The arsenic removal cartridge uses an absorptive media to remove Arsenic III and V below the limit of <three ppb.

Perchlorate removal cartridge is an ion exchange media that works with the RO membrane to remove perchlorate. By using the cartridge along with the membrane, the system is able to reach levels <one ppb for perchlorate reduction.

Unique rinse
After shutdown, a patented rinse process is initiated, unique to this drinking water treatment system. While producing permeate water, the system stores a small amount in an accumulator. The membrane’s surface is automatically cleaned and left to soak in RO-processed water after each use. This extends the life of the membrane and enables it to maintain a high level of performance, while eliminating the TDS creep experienced by most other systems when they are shut off and at rest.

Shutoff guard
One of the system’s most unique features is the automatic shutoff of the post filter. After 500 gallons of water have been processed through the shutoff guard post filter, it reduces the flow from the faucet by 90 percent or more. The shutoff device contains a gearing mechanism that relies strictly on the flow of water to operate. As water flows through the gearing, the meter lowers until it reaches 500 gallons and begins the flow restriction. This signals the need to change the pre filter, auxiliary filters and post filter. More importantly, this prevents cartridges from being used past their intended capacity.

Filter life indicator
The filter life indicator allows consumers to visibly see how much capacity remains in each of the filter cartridges. System owners can estimate when to buy replacement cartridges before the shutoff guard shuts down the system.

Product testing
This drinking water system underwent an extensive field trial and structural testing program to assure reliable operation and structural integrity upon full release. The field trial testing was performed on various feed water characteristics and multiple applications throughout North America and Europe. Many of these applications included multiple tap connections and extended elevation installations. Data gathered through the field trial proved very valuable and was used to make product modifications and improvements. The structural testing done on the system focused on the complete system and on every individual moving part of the system. Testing, such as burst, hydrostatic and life cycle tests, was done beyond the requirements set forth in the various NSF/ANSI standards. As a result of this extensive testing, the new system enters the market with complete product confidence.

Performance data
The drinking water treatment system offers exceptional flow rates due to a significantly enlarged porting design in the manifold and cartridges and the incorporation of patented quick flow technology using a water-on-water (WOW) tank.

One of the most impressive attributes of the drinking water treatment system is the flow from the faucet. By incorporating the WOW tank with minimal flow restriction, the drinking water treatment system has a >30 percent increase in faucet flow than other comparable system on the market without the use of any type of pump. A side-by-side comparison showed the following results:

System40 psi50 psi60 psi70 psi
Standard system.5 gpm.6 gpm.65 gpm.7 gpm
Drinking water treatment system1.1 gpm1.25 gpm1.39 gpm1.49 gpm

Comparison was done with a 10-foot rise and 20-foot tube length

Because of these exceptional flow rates, many applications that require a feed/booster pump will not need one with the new system. Even in cases with high TDS, the drinking water treatment system operates very effectively without a feed pump. In field trials, various systems have been applied to feed water with >1900 TDS and the drinking water treatment system has a TDS rejection rate of 94 – 96 percent.

The WOW tank’s patented quick flow technology has been used with other drinking water systems produced for more than six years. Because of the reduced flow restrictions, the system takes full advantage of a WOW tank design. The drive water is contained between the bladder and wall of the tank; the treated water is contained inside the bladder. Once the tap is opened, the drive water forces the treated water from the bladder at a much higher flow than a conventional air-charge tank. The WOW tank provides a much higher and steadier flow until the tank is nearly emptied.

If a WOW tank is not the preferred storage tank, the drinking water treatment system can easily be modified to use an air charge tank. The manifold is equipped with a screw that needs a simple turn to enable the system to be used with an air charge tank. An air charge tank must be used with the virus/bacteria removal cartridge to maintain P231 and Microbiological Purifier certification.

The drinking water treatment system takes advantage of other patented or exclusive technology to further enhance performance and service. Many of these patents have been used in the past with other products; because of the unique features they provide, they have been incorporated into the new system.

Operational advantages

  • The system offers higher production rates than any other drinking water treatment system. It is capable of producing more than 40 gallons of drinking water daily.
  • Flow from faucet is up to two times greater than any other drinking water system on the market and the system provides longer, more consistent flow rates regardless of whether the storage tank is full or nearly empty.
  • Capable of removing 99.99999 percent of bacteria and 99.99 percent of viruses, generating bio-pure water as certified by trusted third-party regulators.
  • System indicates how much filter capacity remains, making timely filter changes easy.
  • Membrane life is extended because the system cleans itself with the very same high-quality water it produces.

Installation and maintenance advantages

  • A very important feature of the drinking water treatment system is the ease of installation and service. The system uses colored collets and all tubing is 3/8 inch. The use of colored collets is an easy way for the installer to provide accurate and efficient installations. The system can be installed under a sink or mounted on a wall with ease. Sanitization of the system is equally efficient: a completed system can be totally sanitized in a matter of minutes, not hours, using a newly developed technique and a granular sanitizing agent.
  • If a consumer has severe water filtration needs, the system can be quickly configured to incorporate additional filter cartridges, making expansion a breeze.
  • The system is designed to automatically notify consumers when filters need to be changed, which helps reinforce a regular maintenance schedule.

Manufacturing advantages
An extensive design review reduced the total number of parts and simplified the assembly processes. Because this system is so customizable, fewer products are now offered, leading to reduced inventories required for the manufacturer and the dealer.

Cost-saving advantages

  • Because the system uses no electricity, it is a smart investment for consumers seeking to reduce their energy consumption.
  • The system cleans itself with high-quality water, meaning the membrane lasts longer and doesn’t need to be replaced as often, saving consumers time and money.
  • An indicator lets the consumer know when the filter needs to be changed, eliminating unnecessary replacements.
  • The unit comes with a 10-year warranty, extending the cost-saving value to consumers.

Marketing advantages

  • With highly educated consumers eager for high-quality water solutions at a price they can afford, the adaptability and expandable nature of this new drinking water treatment system meets a serious need and provides a significant advantage over traditional systems.
  • The sleek and stylish tower design sets it apart from other POU systems.

Summary
A new POU drinking water treatment system offers features and benefits unlike any other system on the market. The goal of this development project was to offer consumers improved drinking water quality through a highly flexible yet very stylish design incorporating proven and upgraded state-of-the-art features. The measurement of the manufacturer’s success in this endeavor will come from the response of the public.

About Kinetico Incorporated
The drinking water system discussed here is the Kinetico K5 Drinking Water Station. Headquartered in Newbury, Ohio, USA, Kinetico is a leading manufacturer of water treatment systems. An extensive network of Kinetico dealers serving residential and light commercial customers has helped more than a million people in nearly 100 countries experience the benefits of better water. Since 1970, Kinetico has prided itself on creating unique water treatment systems that serve customers in an expanding variety of residential, commercial, industrial and municipal applications. The company also has offices and facilities in the United Kingdom, Canada, France and Denmark. Further information is available at www.kinetico.com.

About the author
Rod Yoder is the manager of residential products at Kinetico Incorporated where he has worked for 11 years. Yoder is active in many WQA committees and is the incoming Chairman of the WQA Water Sciences Committee. Yoder can be reached at 440.564.9111 or ryoder@kinetico.com.

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