Making the Sale Using Certification to American National Standards
A presentation supported by third-party testing and certification will bring peace of mind to the buyer and dealers closer to the sale.
Dealers of drinking water treatment systems today enjoy a
growing market of opportunity. However, accompanying this growth is increasing
competition, a tightening economy and a far more informed consumer. All of
these require dealers to find better ways to differentiate their products and
Making the product sale involves many considerations by the
homeowner and, therefore, should be part of every dealer’s sales package.
They include such things as price, service delivery, maintenance intervals, warranty and, of course, the performance capability and reliability of the product to address the homeowner’s needs and desires for improved water quality. Building consumer confidence in product performance and reliability requires the dealer to present facts, dispelling any skepticism in the homeowner’s purchasing decision. These “facts” can vary significantly, impacting the dealer’s ability to make a convincing presentation and, ultimately, the product sale. Those dealers representing products tested and certified to American National Standards have a distinct advantage in addressing this need.
Some dealers will rely on data provided by the product
manufacturer as produced in the manufacturer’s own laboratory. This
commonly is referred to as a “self-declaration” of performance.
While it addresses the need for test data, manufacturers’ testing of
their own products often brings into question the credibility of the testing
and results. Others will use commercial laboratories that have the means of
installing a device in the laboratory and testing with challenge water,
controlling which contaminants are introduced to the device and evaluating its
ability to reduce them. How this testing is done can affect the performance of
the system. As the customer of the laboratory, the manufacturer can direct them
to conduct testing in a certain way that may influence the final result. This
can again bring into question the credibility of the data.
American National Standards
To overcome all these issues of credible data to demonstrate
product performance and reliability, the water treatment industry took the
first important steps more than 30 years ago. In the early 1970s NSF
International (NSF), along with the manufacturers, the Water Quality
Improvement Standards and Certification Council, U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency, state regulators and other agencies developed the first of the NSF
Drinking Water Treatment Unit Standards. The goal was to establish standards by
which products would be tested, eliminating variability in test methods and
acceptance criteria. Over time this same need and desire led to the development
of five more NSF Standards, addressing the diversity of products available in
the market for reducing a variety of drinking water contaminants. (See Table
To further the standard’s recognition and acceptance
both in the United States and around the world, NSF sought and received
accreditation by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).
This allowed NSF to designate all six NSF Standards as “American National Standards” (NSF/ANSI), reinforcing the need and value to have one set of standards for all related products.
Meeting the Standard
Compliance with the American National Standards is a
significant undertaking by the manufacturer and represents many valuable
selling points for the dealer. First, the standards address a wide range of
product requirements beyond simple contaminant reduction. For example, every
material used in the device that comes in contact with the drinking water is
independently evaluated. This evaluation determines if individual materials add
harmful substances to the drinking water. Homeowners want contaminants reduced,
Toxicologists first evaluate the material formulation as
required by the standard. Once all the formulations are reviewed, testing
parameters are selected and the product undergoes an aggressive water
extraction test. The analysis of the extracted water must show that no
contaminants are introduced into the drinking water above regulated levels.
Another critical evaluation required of all treatment
devices is structural integrity. This testing generally involves three
evaluations. First, a short-term burst pressure test at four times the maximum
working pressure is performed for most products. The resulting test pressure
often is 500 psig, many times higher than any home would ever experience. The
second common evaluation includes testing at a lower pressure but for a longer
duration. This test is referred to as the Hydrostatic Pressure Test and is run
for 15 minutes at three times the maximum working pressure. The third and final
test performed on most systems includes 100,000 continuous cycles from 0 to 150
psig, simulating integrity of the product over its useful life. The single criteria used for all these tests is the absence of any leakage of water from the
product during and at the conclusion of the test.
The standard also specifies requirements for product
literature and product labeling. These requirements standardize the minimum
information to be included in product installation, operation and maintenance
instructions, data plate and accompanying literature. In doing so, the
homeowner is protected against false or misleading information.
These three sections (i.e. materials, structural integrity
and literature) are applicable to all standards and all products. Dealers
emphasizing to the homeowner these broad criteria will demonstrate some of the
significant measures taken by manufacturers to bring quality and reliability in
The final and most important aspect of the standards is the
contaminant reduction testing. Dealers can present to the homeowner many
important features of the testing that will help to build confidence in the product.
Manufacturers have a choice as to which contaminant testing
they want performed. Once the individual contaminants are selected, the
standard specifies the challenge level, test conditions and maximum effluent
values. Challenge levels generally are determined using occurrence data
collected by the U.S. Geological Survey. Levels are set at 95 percent of the
upper end of the survey results, representing extreme test water conditions.
Testing of the treatment system is to the full capacity and flow conditions
and, in many cases, beyond. For example, adsorptive media making aesthetic
claims such as taste, odor and chlorine reduction are evaluated to 100 percent of
the system capacity. Conversely, health claims such as lead, MTBE, mercury and
arsenic are tested to 200 percent of the claimed capacity. Flow rates are
controlled for the aesthetic tests, whereas no flow control is provided during
the health-related claims testing.
Products meeting the health related performance criteria at
200 percent can claim only 100 percent, or half of the total tested capacity.
This ensures an added level of safety in the event the system is not maintained
promptly at the end of the service cycle. For those with performance indication
devices, testing is done to 120 percent of life and the reliability of the
indication test is evaluated. Further, the manufacturer can claim only one
capacity. If one contaminant is not removed as efficiently as another, the
manufacturer must claim a reduction capacity that represents the least
efficient of all claims, providing another level of conservatism.
Reverse osmosis (RO) systems, as tested to NSF/ANSI Standard
58, also have a number of conservative measures built into the testing. For
example, pre- and post-filters are removed from the system during the
performance testing. This ensures that only the membrane is providing for the
treatment and is not assisted by the other filtration components. The other
reason for removing the pre- and post-filters is they generally are
capacity-related components, unlike the membrane. Testing of these components,
if making related capacity claims, is performed using the other applicable
The test conditions for adsorptive/absorptive media and RO
systems includes operation 16 hours/day, far more than a typical home. While
this is necessary to accelerate the testing, thereby reducing the cost of the
test, it also represents another stress condition. Most systems perform better
with longer rest periods. All tests also are performed in duplicate and both
systems under test must pass.
Water softeners also are evaluated for a number of
performance-related tests, ensuring the claims made by the manufacturer are
accurate. Testing performed to determine capacity, for example, requires
multiple regenerations to determine softening performance, along with water
consumption during regeneration and rinse effectiveness. Related claims also
are evaluated, such as the accuracy of the brine system, to determine the
amount of salt used in each regeneration cycle.
Certification Ties It All Together
In addition to the many selling points dealers have
available for products tested to the requirements of American National Standards,
there still are more relating to the process of certification. Certification
requires another level of commitment by the manufacturer, further reinforcing
the value to the end customer of product quality and integrity. Some examples
of the requirements relating to certification include the following.
of all product modifications prior to making the change, ensuring the change
does not negatively impact compliance with the applicable standard.
of each production facility at least once per year, ensuring the product is
manufactured to the proper specifications as certified.
of the product every five years, ensuring consistency over time with the test
requirements of the applicable standard.
for product recall and public notice in the event a certified product is found
to be out of compliance with the applicable standard.
NSF and the Mark of Distinction
All of these important measures of product performance and
reliability are available to those dealers representing products tested and
certified to any of the six American National Standards for drinking water
treatment units. Currently, nearly 5,000 products are NSF certified to these
standards. (See Table 2.)
Finally, dealers representing NSF Certified products know
they are supported by a mark that is unmatched in credibility and recognition.
No other certification organization has more experience, capabilities or
commitment to the testing and certification services for the water treatment
industry and to public health and safety. References to NSF are made regularly
in consumer publications, including newspapers, magazines, radio and
television. This visibility helps to further enhance the importance of
certification and the value it brings to the dealer and ultimately to the
Dealers know that the purchase of a drinking water treatment
system is an important decision made by a homeowner. They also know that
homeowners are more knowledgeable and informed than ever before regarding water
quality issues. Making a convincing presentation, as supported by independent,
third-party testing and certification to NSF/ANSI Standards, will bring peace
of mind and confidence to the buyer and dealers one critical step closer to making the sale.