Interview with Vincent M. Kent, Water Quality Association president

Vincent M. Kent, president of the Water Quality Association and Abendroth Water Conditioning, recently spoke at the association’s Mid-Year Leadership Conference in Bloomingdale, Ill.

Kent began his career in water treatment in 1994 and also obtained a Wisconsin Master Plumbing license, and WQA certified water specialist and certified installer certification. Kent and his wife run Abendroth Water Conditioning with a staff of 14 employees. After obtaining his Master Plumbing license, Abendroth Water started offering customers complete system design and engineering, plumbing, well pump and well drilling services. Kent is also active in the community. He maintains a business partnership with the local high school and technical college, teaching water quality to students.

Recently CONTRACTOR was able to ask Kent some questions about topics discussed at WQA’s Mid-Year Leadership Conference.

Question: Regarding a WQA green seal, do you think the industry needs a green seal? If so, why should WQA create a green seal standard for equipment manufacturers?

Answer: I do think that our industry needs green seal, and WQA is the perfect group to come up with a green seal standard for water treatment devices. Our products touch everything that is a water-using device in a home or business. The certified professionals in our industry have a great understanding of how all water-using devices operate, and how much better they perform when treated with quality water. Our members understand the importance of a leaking toilet, dripping faucet, scaled heater or boiler, and the many energy saving benefits these devices provide. As the importance of re-use continues, it is our industry that’s currently creating the filtration, disinfection, and delivery of greywater for re-use in today’s homes and manufacturing plants. Our industry has also built great relationships with plumbers who are looking for an industry to design, manufacture and service the systems after the plumbers install them.

Q: During the state of the industry presentation, Peter Censky, WQA executive director, spoke about issues facing the industry, lead standards and water softeners. How do these issues affect the technicians, such as plumbers, installing water softeners and fixtures?

A: Regulators never sleep. Regulation continues in all areas of business, but right now there is a lot being focused on water. Why? It is an easy target. I feel that it is an industry that is not understood by many. It is also an industry that provides one of the key elements in life to everyone. These new regulations will affect all installers, plumbers and technicians who provide these services. You will not be able to just go and buy a tank, valve, and some media, and put it together, install it, and walk away. And today this happens all too often. Water treatment systems should have the WQA Gold Seal certification, should be green, and should be installed by WQA certified water specialists, WQA certified installers and plumbers that carry similar certification. I have seen many "do it yourselfers" or handymen install water treatment systems backwards, without proper backflow protection, undersized equipment, and systems that leach materials out of the equipment because it was not a certified or tested system.

Q: Why is the Battelle Study important to industry professionals, and what are the main results, regarding product efficiency and performance?

A: The Battelle Study will be one of the most important studies ever completed for the benefits of softened water. Water softeners have always been looked at by some as a "wasteful" treatment because they see waste water going down the drain. The problem here is perception and education.

The Battelle Study will provide all of the facts about soft water and the benefits of using a water softener to remove hardness from the water. The reality is that water softeners treat more water, save more appliances, save both electrical and gas energies, reduce chemical costs, and handle all of this while using less wastewater then a load of laundry or two 10 minute showers. The study is currently showing us some great information. One of the biggest areas is in the new high-efficiency tankless style heaters. These heaters are another misunderstood area being pushed as a very green technology. Being in the plumbing business, we have installed and serviced many tankless heaters, so I was confident in what Battelle would find.

After 19 days of running a household average of 50 gallons per day of hot hard water, the heaters had to be shut down because they could no longer provide a flow rate. The system was completely plugged. Even after the manufacture descaled the heater, the heater could no longer provide a minimum flow rate of 1.25 GPM. Upon further investigation of the heater and plumbing, it was discovered that the hot water piping after the tankless heater had to be removed and replaced in the study lab at a cost of $10,000. For those who are not aware, tankless heater warranties are void when placed on water with a certain hardness. These heaters have also dropped by 8% in efficiency. The benefit? The soft water tankless heaters are still running with no scale.

Q: Why is the association creating a report for consumers based on the data and findings from the study?

The reason we will be putting together a Battelle Study information guide for regulators and consumers is to ensure that these individuals have all of the proper information when making a decision on using a water softener. There are alternative methods out in the market today that are making claims that they can "soften" the water or remove hardness, and this is simply not the case. The word "salt free" water conditioning is being used very loosely in an effort to capture the good feeling of green.

Q: Why should plumbing professionals be concerned about water quality issues?

A: I think that WQA's efforts in improving water quality, understanding the proper methods for improvement and the technology we bring will help all plumbers in today’s market. While many plumbers choose not to get into all of this science and technology, they are getting excited about the partnerships that we are bringing. There are many water treatment professionals who do not hold a plumbing license and rely on plumbers to install the products they sell. It is a win/win situation.

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