21 April 2016 | By Kevin Winchester
Kevin Winchester advises FMs on formulating an effective and sustainable drinking water maintenance strategy
FMs must have a rigorous water maintenance strategy in place. Without maintenance, filters can stop working and systems can break down more often. Without appropriate maintenance, drinking water quality can deteriorate and people will be subjected to poor-tasting water that is high in chlorine. Here are five top tips for creating a strategy to provide an exemplary standard of service and offer value for money.
1/ Assign responsibility
The first decision is whether maintenance should be carried out in-house or subcontracted to a specialist or third-party supplier. FMs need to manage expectations, particularly if subcontracting. Rather than providing unrealistic targets for how quickly a problem can be resolved, consult the third party first and gauge how many people it has out in the field and how quickly they can travel to the specified geographic region. Those responsible for service and maintenance should be easily contactable at all times.
It is also important to establish who is responsible for which part of the water system. Usually the on-site FM will be responsible for water supply after it enters the building from the water utility while whoever is assigned responsibility for drinking water maintenance looks after everything from the local isolation valve to the dispense point.
Fundamental to all of this is putting together a service level agreement plan that is clear and easily adhered to by all parties.
2/ Sanitising regime
Putting the correct time frames in place for sanitising leads to a hygienic drinking system that runs seamlessly.
The nozzle and surrounding areas should be wiped down with antiseptic wipes or sanitising spray twice daily - once at the start of the day and once at the end. A closed-off or protected nozzle makes it less likely that germs will enter the drinking water system. If there is a drip tray check, empty and clean it. Clean it with sanitising spray or sanitising wipes and if there is a scale build-up on the drip tray lid, remove and clean it with a mild descaler.
The FM, manufacturer or supplier should insect the system monthly to see if flow rates and temperatures are correct. If the system allows sparkling water, CO2 levels should also be checked.
With good-quality filters it is recommended that you sanitise products every six months. Isolate the system, use a sanitising solution fluid and clean the equipment thoroughly. Filters should be replaced if needed to ensure that the system continues to produce high-quality water.
3/ Chiller maintenance
Chillers are usually robust systems, but it is still necessary to put these appropriate checks and balances in place for their continuing operation:
l Check the mineral content of the water - confirming its hardness or softness before installation - especially if hot water is to be provided. The measurement in Clark degrees will determine the type of filtration required and its setting. This also affects the programme for filter changes.
l Set in place an appropriate time frame for changing filters.
l Check that gas connections and compressors don't have loose connections. If they remain tight it means the system will run more effectively and it removes risks of leaks and electrical shock.
l If a scale filter has come to the end of its life or is damaged, replace it, as it will no longer be able to stop scale build-up.
When it comes to hot drinking water, calcium build-up poses a threat to the system. It is a particular problem when the water is hard, as in the South-East, where a stricter filtration programme is needed. Conversely, soft water - in places such as Scotland and Wales - can eat away at plastic impellers and stop water being pumped through.
FMs should expect to incorporate environmental considerations into their drinking water maintenance strategies. For instance, consider the type of chiller that is used - there are many low power rated units available. A 300 watt chiller that constantly turns on and off is likely to use more energy than a chiller with a lower wattage that remains on. Furthermore, a system that involves fewer chillers, such as a centralised drinking water system or ice bank units, is likely to be more water, cost and energy efficient.
4/ Use technology
CMS Technology is like having an extra employee monitoring systems. It raises issues before you are aware of them and allows FMs to stay one step ahead of the game.
Integration of systems with the internet now allows for real-time tracking of barcoded items. The use of PDAs can facilitate automated updates. FMs should consider automated reporting technology, which distributes emails to the relevant departments when a fault is found. This stops problems escalating to cause lasting damage.
5/ Seek guidance
External bodies provide a wealth of resources and advice. FMs can consult the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF), which is the leading global, independent third-party certification and testing organisation for products that affect water quality. When buying components, check if they are NSF-approved and take note that whenever there is a change to a component companies have to inform the NSF to get authorisation.
The Water Regulations Advisory Scheme also plays a similar role in the UK and provides a useful bank of online resources. Please note that it is also common practice to hire additional external water and filtration specialists to ensure best practice is being adhered to regarding the wider supply of water to the building.
Kevin Winchester is head of business development at Vivreau