From water filtration to ground faults, foodservice operators should plan for systems and components that impact equipment performance.
Foodservice operators can spend months selecting the best kitchen equipment package for their concept. If they don’t spend a few extra hours thinking about some of the add-on components and systems that impact kitchen equipment, though, they could end up with major disruptions or even severely damaged units that are still years from being paid off.
Not surprisingly, the most significant of these systems involve water filtration.
Filtration can mean a lot of different things, says Paul Pumputis, western regional manager for Dufy’s AIS, a CFESA-certified company out of Sauquoit, N.Y. Water filtration systems cover removing corrosive chemicals like chloride, particles like calcium that form scale that prevent proper operation, and even adding minerals to water in specific cases.
That means finding the right water filtration solution is a job in and of itself.
“A lot of equipment is very dependent on the type of water you put in to it. Water is vastly different across the country, so manufacturers can’t make a one-size-fits-all filtration system. They can tell you what water requirements they want for their equipment, but there is no way they would be able to spec out one system that will fit all water quality needs.”
When installing equipment that uses water, then, operators should always have their water quality tested. From there, they can add the systems that address the problems with their area’s water and provide each unit with the type of water it requires.
Spec’ing systems is only the start of the process, however, says Pumputis. Once a water filtration system (or systems, depending on the needs of individual pieces) is installed, it’s essential for the operator to have it maintained. That’s an easy job to overlook. “I had a customer fairly recently who was taking care of their own maintenance on a reverse osmosis system. Instead of changing the filter, their maintenance personnel bypassed the system. They ended up with combi ovens where the boilers were failing prematurely. The warranties did not cover them because it was a water quality issue not a manufacturing defect. It was an ugly situation all the way around,” he says.
Water isn’t the only utility where additional components can make or break equipment performance. Operators should set the regulators on gas lines to the level that the equipment can handle, which often means reducing the pressure. Often, these regulators will be installed by building owners at the entrance to a space. In some cases, though, they’re not put in.
Such oversights can be especially troubling with newer facilities that run gas lines with roughly two pounds of pressure per square inch. Most kitchen equipment needs approximately a half a pound or even justa quarter pound of pressure, says Pumpitis. If a regulator isn’t installed, or if an installed regulator fails, there could be a dangerous flare-up. What’s more, that added pressure can damage gas-powered equipment. “If all of a sudden you introduce four times the amount of pressure to a piece of equipment, you can compromise the integrity of all its valves. It could be very bad.”
On the electric side, there isn’t an add-on component operators should purchase, but municipal codes can lead to electrical problems for a kitchen, Pumputis says.
Many cities now require ground fault outlets in certain situations. These outlets are designed to prevent electrocution by cutting power if they sense certain changes in the flow of electricity. While that’s a good thing, says Pumputis, kitchen equipment can use electricity in a way that causes a ground fault to shut off, grinding a kitchen to a halt.
To prevent or resolve this issue, operators should work with a municipal inspector to develop alternatives. “There is a reason code requires [ground faults]. But if it’s servicing a piece of equipment, sometimes you can get them to allow a dedicated circuit, twist lock plug that can’t be used for anything but that piece of equipment, or a hard wire that doesn't require the ground fault inspection,” says Pumputis.
While some of the add-on components like ground faults present only occasional problems, others, like water filtration, can lead to frequent, serious issues. In each case, though, operators should work with their equipment manufacturers, dealers and service agents to find the solutions that work best for them.