Volume 45 Number 11
An Inside Look at the Certification of Hybrid Systems
Consumers may frequently see the following in product literature: “Replacement cartridge for Company A, B, C and D systems,” “Replacement kit is compatible with other water filtration systems,” and “Fits other systems.”
These are common statements among many of the drinking water treatment units (DWTUs) available in the market today, both commercial and residential. It’s tough to imagine how consumers and buyers interpret these statements when they look to purchase a DWTU replacement element. Considering that many of these alternative components aren’t evaluated, certification organizations like NSF International rely on specific policies that clarify how such claims can be advertised. NSF program representatives review literature during the certification process—including the packaging, data plate, installation manual and performance data sheet—to determine if such an issue exists.
1. The company can insert the following delineation statement in close proximity to the advertised statement and in the same typeface and print size: “Not Performance Tested or Certified by NSF.”
2. The company can cite the documentation source for the indicated claim(s): “Tested and verified by independent laboratory testing.”
Whether choosing option 1 or 2, if these claims are on the packaging, the delineation statement will need to be on the same panel of the box as the statement that advertises its replacement element for use in another company’s product. The goal of the delineation statement is to prevent companies from advertising, implying or claiming that any non-certified claim(s) are certified by NSF.
Product safety & performance
The second deals with performance claims. Company B’s cartridge in Company A’s housing would have a different seal than Company A’s cartridge in Company A’s housing. Companies invest a significant amount of money into the engineering of the seal to ensure there’s no bypass on the system. This is particularly true of those making cyst reduction claims. Slight differences in the interface between the cartridge and housing can have a significant impact on performance. A related concern comes with product modification, a relatively frequent occurrence with DWTUs. An NSF-certified company isn’t required to change the model designation for a product redesign that doesn’t result in a reduction of performance, i.e., capacity and/or flow rate, or when the performance claims are added to the product listing. Therefore, Company A could have made a change in the housing and replacement element during recertification, while Company B’s retrofitted replacement element may not have been updated. When the consumer inserts Company B’s old design into Company A’s redesign, problems could arise.
Options to certification
The NSF program representative will work with the technical manager to develop a subset of performance claims that will need to be performed to validate the seal of the new system. At the same time, NSF’s toxicologists can evaluate the material safety of this new combination. If a Standard 42 claim is desired, it’s unlikely that a test to the full capacity would be necessary to determine that the seal is adequate. In addition, the flow would not be of concern since Standard 42 testing controls the flow to the manufacturer’s flow rate. If Standard 53 claims are desired, a flow rate test will be necessary to ensure that the new combination flows at the same rate or slower than the flow rate of the original system test. In addition to verifying the flow of the new system, a test(s) will be chosen to verify the seal of the new combination. Special documentation can then be made for the plant that will allow the auditor to verify the materials without disclosing ingredients, or the identity of the company’s suppliers or vendors. There are many scenarios, but the main objective is to ensure that information is only disclosed to the appropriate parties.
NSF is also able to provide testing services with two companies that are contemplating certification but are interested in the performance of the hybrid. Once again, NSF would start this project by obtaining written permission from both companies that outlines the scope of the project. NSF can then proceed with testing a product without knowing much about the product. The program representative would only need to know the desired test, flow rate and sampling schedule to offer cost and time estimates. If this preliminary information is acceptable, testing can begin. If not, the program representative and/or technical manager can work with the company to come up with other solutions that will meet the needs of both companies.
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