Water quality varies dramatically from region to region. Depending on the locale, it may contain some type of chemical, such as chlorine or chloramine, as well as calcium, magnesium, organics, sediment, dirt and/or rust particles.
Before determining the type of filtering system or systems a foodservice operation requires, order a water test or, at minimum, obtain a water report from the operation’s municipality.
The capacity of water filtering systems today is much higher than 10 years ago, processing more water in a smaller filter footprint. This is good news, due to the increasing water demands from today’s foodservice operations for beverage dispensers, coffee and espresso machines, ice makers and steam-producing equipment.
With varying water quality and the inconsistent impact it has on specific types of foodservice equipment, a number of water filtration systems address distinct needs. Typically, most filters provide two types of water improvement. Mechanical filtration captures particles in the water via some type of barrier in the filter. There are also carbon or other mediums designed to take out chemicals, like chlorine. The average size of the openings between parts of the filter are measured in microns. The smaller the micron, the better the filtration, since fewer particles will get through the filter.
Operators can choose from a number of water filtration types and components. For example, a sediment filter removes suspended solids and debris. This type has a wide range of removal capabilities ranging from 5 to .5 microns.
An absorbent media, carbon filters help remove chlorine and other chemicals to improve the water’s taste and odor. This type also removes volatile organic compounds or VOCs, which are chlorinated solvents and fuel components. These filters come in either a block or powdery granular format. Phosphate filters or anti-scale inhibiting media uses a mineral that dissolves and coats hard minerals with the goal of prohibiting these from bypassing through the system and sticking to equipment. This type of filter works best with water containing up to about 12 grains of hardness.
Ultra filtration, or UF, is a newer technology for sediment, particulate and bacteria removal. Removal capabilities with this type are high at .2 microns. UF prefilters can help carbon filters last longer.
Water with high amounts of chloride, an aggressive form of chlorine, can attack stainless steel. This may require treatment with a reverse osmosis, or RO, system, which separates chemicals, then condenses it into brine and flushes it down the drain.
RO treated water is preferable for ice, since it produces harder cubes that last longer. This process also removes metal ions, hardness, VOCs and compounds from water, eliminating between 90 and 99 percent of impurities. The majority of RO systems are about 20 percent water efficient, using 1 gallon of water for every 4 gallons that is wasted.
An emerging trend in this area are filtration systems that blend minerals into water, essentially creating a recipe to improve quality. Operators can dial in the exact water type that’s needed with this technology. Another new filtering system features a sequestering resin media that removes minerals by segregating particulates’ hardness molecules. This type would be used in place of phosphate.
To address hard water, operators can install an ion exchange system in addition to a water filter. Newer models use saltless water softening cartridges. Today’s point of use systems are much smaller than previous units and don’t require large resin and salt tanks that need replenishing like traditional water softeners.
Water with moderate total dissolved solids or TDS less than 300 PPM will typically need a carbon filter and scale inhibitor, such as phosphate. For water with TDS readings over 300 PPM, more advanced filtering may be required. This will be dependent on the operation’s water usage, equipment and menu. For example, extensive use of hot water and higher-volume ice machines will require more advanced filtration.