Leaking Reverse Osmosis Systems

Jan. 2, 2020

This article originally appeared in Water Quality Products January 2019 issue as "Down the Drain"

About the author:

Guy Gruett is vice president for Water-Right, Gruett can be reached at [email protected]

When it comes to reverse osmosis (RO) systems, data shows that most consumers do not know what they want. They just know that they want higher quality water. When homeowners start their research for a solution, it can often get confusing. The internet provides general information about the capabilities of RO systems, but in fact, a home’s location and its particular water condition plays an important role in understanding what type of RO system is best for a home. To avoid the confusion, smart homeowners rely on professional water treatment dealers to assess their homes and help make sure that the appropriate system is installed. As a dealer, are you prepared to offer the right solutions to homeowners? Or do you often find yourself making follow-up service calls, replacing faulty equipment or dealing with insurance claims? 

Are All ROs Created Equal?

Imagine a home with new kitchen cabinetry, designed to last a lifetime. Somewhere in that cabinetry’s lifetime, a new RO system gets installed – an offshore brand that a homeowner purchased because of its low price. Then, at some point, due to faulty or low-quality line connections, the system begins leaking. For a while, the leak goes by unnoticed, but when it is finally discovered, the homeowner is clearly upset. Not only is their RO system unreliable, but they also need to replace some of their cabinets and flooring. Calls to the water treatment dealer who did the installation and the insurance agent follow, which means an unhappy customer and a frustrated dealer.

Removing Liability Concerns

Some RO systems involve an elaborate set of tubes with up to 36 possible points of leaking. That is a high amount of leaking potential for a homeowner who does not want ruined cabinetry and a dealer that does not want frequent service calls or liability claims. Plus, many of these systems are not sold to the dealer by a U.S. registered business. It makes settling claims difficult to resolve when there is no U.S.-backed corporation involved.

One local dealer recently went out of business because they sold filtration systems made offshore that had frequent leaking issues. They sold a lot of these systems because of their low price, but after claims of $2,000 to $5,000 started to add up, they had trouble finding an insurance company that would work with them, putting further strain on their business and eventually causing them to close and reopen under a new business identity months later. In this case, the product sold was not U.S. manufactured nor represented by a U.S. company. The insurance company was basically on the hook, and they had no other recourse but to pay the claims and deny the dealer future coverage. Water-Right helped this partner establish new insurance.

Systems that are a manifold design greatly reduce leak points and do not have the “spaghetti tubes” other systems do. Manifold design systems successfully reduce current and emerging contaminants and improve the overall smell, taste and appearance of tap water. Plus, these systems are made entirely in the U.S., so if there is ever service that needs to be done, there is full support to ensure the system has the right components.

Is Certified Equipment Better?

The short answer is yes, although certification can take months, even years, to finalize and can cost tens of thousands of dollars per contaminate. During that time, emerging contaminants are continuously showing up in water supplies. The good news is that an RO system will typically reduce most contaminants to an acceptable level. So, certified equipment is great if you have a specific contaminant. 

RO systems have proven to be the most reliable option to protect against newly identified emerging contaminants, until certification can take place. Water-Right’s position is clear: If a reduction claim is made regarding a primary contaminate, we must have certification to claim reduction. Unfortunately, the speed of the certification process is not keeping up with the technology to identify harmful trace compounds. Homeowners in many cases must choose between buying bottled water or nothing.

“Will it Remove X?”

Often, homeowners will have particular contaminant concerns. They may have heard that there is a high level of lead, copper or arsenic in their area and might ask dealers for products that address any one of those particular concerns. But they might not be aware that there are a variety of other contaminants that are also affecting the quality of their water. By recommending an RO system certified for the homeowners hot button issue, a dealer will satisfy the customer’s particular concern and help protect their water against a variety of other current and emerging contaminants. 

In the past, water contaminants were mostly metals. Today, compounds have become more common and more complex, particularly because they continue appearing in new and unknown forms. The good news is that an RO system will reduce most past, current and emerging contaminants, regardless of whether they are metals or compounds. 

Service After the Sale

Many water treatment dealers offer filter replacement as an add-on service and relationship-builder with their customers. By installing the customer’s filters for them, the dealer can inspect the water system and make sure everything is working properly. The homeowner also enjoys the peace of mind that the filters were installed correctly, that they are not going to leak and that it is sanitized.

When dealers buy systems and parts from a reliable vendor, they can trust they will be supported years down the road, even if the technology changes. That brings confidence to the dealers who work with a trusted vendor and assurance to the homeowner that they are working with the right local company.

Everyone wants better drinking water. They just do not necessarily know what the best equipment is to help them achieve that. Good manufacturers and suppliers are in business to help dealers fill that need. 

About the Author

Guy Gruett

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