By Gary Battenberg
No doubt you are well into the marketing, sales and installation of water treatment equipment from your selected supplier(s). Hopefully, you are enjoying your new business and your customers are pleased with you. Let’s see how you are doing and whether there are some gaps in your policies and procedures that can be addressed in this and subsequent installments.
In the May issue, we took a detailed approach to water pressure and how to ensure accurate collection of information, as well as the necessary tools needed to obtain that information. In this installment, we are going to look at the steps necessary to ensure a thorough installation and start-up for a conventional water conditioner and RO appliance for a typical residential application. We will address the low-pressure issue mentioned at the end of the June article in a later installment because the following steps should be attended to first and become your track to run on for all of your installations, regardless of how simple or complex the application.
Use the following steps as a tracking method to make sure you do not overlook an important detail for your customer and the company that would require an unscheduled visit or extra expense to the company.
Step 1. Upon arrival at the customer’s home, survey the installation site with the customer to establish the best place to locate the water conditioner—preferably close to the water supply, continuous power, a suitable drain and a non-hostile environment that will comply with the manufacturer’s warranty requirements.
Step 2. For well water, test the raw water for hardness, iron, pH, TDS and water temperature, along with any other parameters that would normally be included for evaluation in your market. For city water, test for hardness, chlorine or chloramines, pH, TDS and water temperature.
Step 3. Verify water pressure, using a faucet-mounted pressure gauge. (See May issue). Record all findings on the installation order for future reference. NOTE: leave the pressure gauge on the hose bib and shut off the main water supply service valve and then observe the pressure gauge. If the pressure indicator on the gauge slowly drops to 0 psi, then there is a leak in the service plumbing. Note on the installation order that the leak-down test failed, then find the source of the leak. At this point, proceed with the installation of the water treatment appliances. The leak issue will be addressed later in this article.
Step 4. Install the RO first but leave the feedwater valve closed to prevent untreated water from entering the RO system. This is especially important where well water contains iron, manganese, hydrogen sulfide and/or bacterial problems that must be corrected before the water can be rendered as suitable feedstock to the RO system. For the water conditioner, be sure the floor or support surface is flat, level and free of any small debris that could damage the brine cabinet. Be sure to follow the manufacturer installation instructions for each appliance to comply with their warranty conditions.
Step 5. Be sure that all plumbing is properly supported and grounded. If the installation piping is different from the main water pipe you are connecting to and that piping is grounded, be sure to ‘jump’ the ground wire to maintain the contiguous ground.
Step 6. To comply with local, state and national code requirements, be sure to establish the drain lines with air gap devices to prevent a cross-connection between the potable water supply and the sanitary system. This is critical if your installations are being inspected pursuant to a permit.
Step 7. Check for a proper electrical circuit with a circuit tester to confirm that you have a continuously hot power supply that is not controlled by a wall switch. A good circuit tester is available from most hardware and electric supply companies and is an invaluable tool that you should never be without. This tester will tell you what kind of circuit you have and indicate one of several problems that you may find. If there is a problem, again, note this on the installation order. This issue will also be addressed later in the article.
Step 8. Start up the conditioner and then the RO unit, per the manufacturer’s instructions. CAUTION: if the service plumbing
is fouled with iron bacteria or sulfur (hydrogen sulfide), the plumbing system must be ‘cleaned up’ to eliminate these preexisting conditions or subsequent frustration and unscheduled service calls may result. (This will be the topic of a future installment.) Check your work for leaks and repair them if found.
Step 9. Perform a post-installation analysis to confirm that the systems are correctly treating the water and document this on the installation order.
Step 10. Clean up the work areas and remove all packaging and other installation-related waste. Restore housekeeping to equal or better condition than when you arrived.
Step 11. Explain the function of the bypass valve(s) and when to use it. Explain how and when to use the shut-off valve for the RO in the event of a leak.
Step 12. Explain the controller functions for the water conditioner and how to check and reset the program settings in the event of a power failure or surge.
Step 13. Explain the brine tank requirements (e.g., never let the salt or potassium level drop below the brine level to ensure continuous soft water; clean the brine tank annually if needed; indicate what type of salt or potassium chloride to use, where to buy it and how to replenish the brine cabinet). Some lower-grade salt such as #2 rock typically contain high silica content that presents itself as sand in the bottom of the brine tank. This kind of salt usually contains miners carbon that leaves a ‘bathtub’ ring at the brine level and may contribute a dank odor in the brine tank as well. Using a high grade of pellet or solar salt is always recommended.
Step 14. Drain the RO accumulator tank once a week to maintain the highest quality water for drinking and food preparation. This is especially important where there are only one or two residents in the home and very little water is used daily.
Step 15. Review the owner’s manuals so the customer is advised of what their responsibilities are as an equipment owner.
Step 16. Fill in the warranty cards and make sure the customer understands that the cards must be received by the manufacturer within 30 days of the installation to validate their warranty on their new equipment. Most dealers will do this as a courtesy to the customer to ensure warranty validation.
Step 17. If the leak-down test failed, now is the time to show the customer where their ‘preexisting’ plumbing problem is, how it will affect the performance of the equipment and the quality of the treated water if the leak is not repaired within 24 to 48 hours, and instruct them to have the leak repaired quickly. If you have the business card of a repair plumber, leave it with the customer and note the plumbers card on the installation order, or note that the customer was referred to a repair plumber if they don’t already have one. Note this on the installation order for future reference.
If there is an electrical problem, such as an open neutral ground, advise the customer that this preexisting electrical problem should be repaired as well, and refer them to a maintenance electrician. Note this on the installation order for future reference.
Step 18. Finalize all paperwork for the service file and accounting purposes. Be sure to secure the customer’s signature where necessary and sign off on completion of installation to the customer’s satisfaction. Be very sure the customer has signed off on their responsibility to correct plumbing or electrical issues that must be repaired to ensure proper operation of the equipment.
By making sure that all the details are attended to, you will have an informed customer who understands the required attention to their new water treatment systems, which will foster loyalty to your company. This is one of the most important details of the installation and where many installers fall short of taking care of the customer with regard to the fine details of the project. Extra care in this part of the job will pay off in referral business that comes your way from your happy customers.
In our next installment, we will take a look at the problems associated with low pressure problems and how to make equipment work in a hydraulically deficient environment. Stay tuned.
About the author
Gary Battenberg is Managing Director of Santa Fe, NM-based Good Water Company, Inc. He has 30 years experience in the field of water treatment processes, including equipment design and manufacturing utilizing filtration, ion exchange, UV disinfection, RO and ozone technologies. Battenberg is also a member of the WC&P Technical Review Committee. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (505) 471-9036.