By Michael Sheffield
POU systems that are specifically designed for commercial use fall under the category of commercial modular systems. They are more complex than the typical POU systems utilized for residential use because of the varying end uses designed for commercial applications, such as coffee, ice or post-mix beverages. The typical POU residential system is objectively straightforward in the matching of replacement elements to filter systems. Installation instructions and packaging information can be easily followed to provide self-assurance to the residential user that the water treatment system is installed and maintained properly.
On the other hand, the multiple options of end uses for commercial modular systems leads to a multifaceted installation and maintenance process. Depending on where the commercial modular system is installed, a multitude of customizable treatment options allows for a great deal of variation in system up-keep. The customizable treatment options are of great importance to commercial applications, as the systems can be tailored to account for different water conditions or water demands specific to the commercial facility.
The most common design of commercial modular systems consists of a manifold that can have a variety of replacement element options. Manifold outlets can vary from a single outlet or a twin, triple, quad etc., with the outlets having interchangeable replacement elements, depending on the commercial end use. The water flow path through these systems, in a parallel fashion, allows for the ability to switch out the replacement elements to cater to the specific commercial application.
Evaluating commercial modular systems
The definitions used throughout the different NSF/ANSI water standards can be found in NSF/ANSI 330 Glossary of Drinking Water Treatment Unit Terminology. When evaluating a treatment system, it is important to have a true definition of the system type, so as to reduce any confusion on the consumer’s end. The definition for commercial modular systems, which can be found in Section 3.37 of NSF/ANSI 330, is used to demonstrate a clear difference between the evaluation of residential systems and commercial systems. This definition reads: “Commercial modular system: A system consisting of multiple components attached to a manifold, produced specifically for food-service applications, installed by an authorized plumber or authorized agent of the manufacturer, and not intended for use in residential applications.”
Many of the requirements for residential systems are not applicable to commercial modular systems, given the diverse end-use pattern of the commercial modular systems. Residential systems need to be straightforward to consumers, so as to minimize the prospect of installation or maintenance error. On the contrary, per NSF/ANSI 42 and NSF/ANSI 53, commercial modular systems must be installed by sanctioned agents of the manufacturer or sanctioned plumbers. This safeguard is set in place to limit the possibility of incorrect element configurations, which could lead to inadequate water treatment or other treatment errors.
That being said, the NSF Joint Committee on Drinking Water Treatment Units has established a straightforward evaluation process and requirements in NSF/ANSI 42 and NSF/ANSI 53 for commercial modular systems to gain certification for an assortment of commercial end-use patterns. This is especially helpful for commercial modular manufacturers in that there can be multiple variations within a manifold system. The certification process is designed to allow the filtration elements themselves the ability to hold multiple claims, capacities and flowrates. Water treatment manufacturers have scientifically advanced specialized treatment technologies configured by professionals in the field, which assure a dependable water quality. Configuration from qualified professionals during installation allows the manufacturer to mix and match elements to provide a personalized water treatment system specific to the concerns of different commercial users.
In order to allow for this certification opportunity, modular elements are allowed to be assigned their own individualized performance data sheets. This is unlike regular residential systems, which are required to have data sheets for each specific organized system setup. The NSF/ANSI certification options for commercial modular systems creates a greater opportunity for customizing modular system designs from the manufacturer to the commercial applicators.
Importance of third-party certification
Independent, accredited, third-party certifications are so important because they assure accuracy and independence for the testing, evaluation and certification of products. As such, end users can be confident that the certification is based solely on sound scientific principles. The complexity of commercial modular systems and variety of end-use patterns highlights the importance of consistent methodology in the certification process. The wide spectrum of influent water sources to commercial buildings allows for a broad range of certification options, which all need to be accounted for in accordance to the specialized treatment needs of the industry. This is why NSF/ANSI 42 and NSF/ANSI 53 include an individualized certification process for commercial modular systems. Developing these specific requirements and certification opportunities, distinct from residential water treatment systems, shows the dedication taken by the NSF Joint Committee on Drinking Water Treatment Units to assure an appropriate evaluation of these products.
Michael Sheffield is a Senior Technical Reviewer at NSF International, serving in the Drinking Water Treatment Unit (POU/POE) program. He has an MS Degree in environmental science from American University, specializing in water toxicology.