Office Matters: Hard-piped filtered water system vs. self-contained bottled water system

John Bednar helps avert problems coming down the pipe

office-matters-hard-piped-filtered-water-systemIf your office currently has a hard-piped filtered water system, now is a good time to consider if and when you should change to a self-contained bottled water system. A hard-piped filtered water system is a system that has a copper water line connected to a water filter that is usually located within the equipment room. The copper water line is typically installed under the concrete floor and either runs towards the front of the office, and then branch lines run to each treatment room, or individual lines run from the equipment room to each treatment room.

There are a few issues in having the hard-piped filtered water system. One issue is where the hard-piped filtered copper water line terminates within the treatment area. It usually requires a 3/8” compression fitting to be installed on the line so that the DCI water handpiece hose can be connected. The point of this connection often fails, and if an equipment control panel is not being utilized, then the water is constantly running. If the failure occurs after hours, then the doctor and staff arrive the following morning to find that the office has flooded. Another issue that is standard practice is that building departments and/or city inspectors are requiring that a backflow preventer be installed on every line where a handpiece or another piece of equipment is connected. So, a backflow preventer is beginning to be a requirement in the individual treatment areas, in addition to within the equipment room or wherever the main water source enters the suite. A backflow preventer will cost anywhere from $800 to $1,000 and will require annual testing.

If your office did not to have to meet these requirements at the time it was built, then you can expect for these requirements to be imposed on you some time in the near future as more local jurisdictions are starting to perform inspections to check on items such as these. Keep in mind that after the backflow preventer installation is complete, it then must be tested on an annual basis by a company that is certified to do so. The reason for this requirement is to prevent any contaminated water from backing up and finding its way back into the city’s main domestic water supply. If your office currently has this hard-piped filtered water system, then you may want to make sure you have an equipment control panel or another way to shut off this water line when you leave for the day or for an extended period of time. The equipment control panel has switches and/or buttons to control the turning on and off of the hard-piped filtered water system, the vacuum pump, and the air compressor. This equipment control panel should be conveniently located so that staff can easily turn the filtered water, air compressor, and vacuum pump on upon arrival and then turn if off before leaving for the day. Turning the filtered water off at the end of the day will prevent the office from flooding if a failure should occur since the only water that will leak from the system will be the minimal amount of water still within the line.

As an alternative, you could install a self-contained bottled water system. This system comes with different-sized bottles depending on your needs. The cost of these bottles ranges between $200 and $400 per bottle. The bottle can mount inside a cabinet if rear delivery is used or inside a chairside mobile or stationary cart. The bottle can also attach directly to the chair or to the pivot arm if an over-the-patient delivery is desired. The bottle is pressurized directly off of the air line. The 3/8” compression fitting installed on the air line may possibly need to be replaced with a double 3/8” compression fitting depending on the exact system to be used. Filling the bottles with domestic water has become more of the norm, although an independent countertop filtering system can be utilized to fill the bottles without the worries of backflow prevention. The old hard-piped filtered water line in the treatment areas would simply be capped since it would no longer be in use, and the same would apply within the equipment room or wherever the main water source may be.

When you consider updating your hard-piped water system, it is important to evaluate the cost of the modifications that need to be made and implemented in an effort to prevent failure, as well as the cost of the inspections to meet your city’s building requirements. While doing so, you should also evaluate the potential costs for a self-contained water system considering the versatility, and if such system meets your needs. It is important to address this issue as we are coming across more cities and jurisdictions that are changing their requirements. You will also be making an effort to protect yourself against the potential of a flooded office. Please keep in mind that different cities and jurisdictions will have different building requirements, and it is important to educate yourself on these, as well as surround yourself with people who understand the issues and requirements associated with such projects.

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