Tony Hird, business development director at Ebac, discusses POU water coolers and describes the benefits of Ebac's Aquasafe system.

Tony Hird, business development director at Ebac, discusses POU water coolers and describes the benefits of Ebac

The growth in market share of point of use (POU) water coolers is a significant shift that means those who have these products on their premises need to consider issues that never would have applied to bottled cooler users.

The POU cooler has grown to account for almost 50% of the overall market, compared with just under 12% in 2002. No wonder, as they provide endless amounts of chilled water without the need for deliveries, or changing of bottles.

One of the key issues with anything a facilities manager – or, indeed, any manager – supplies for staff or public consumption, is hygiene. Along with such requirements as plumbing, this is an area that those who use POU coolers may wish to consider. The provision of water coolers is a great way of making hygienic water available to staff and visitors, but there are different levels of hygiene. The overwhelming majority of coolers will meet all regulations on hygiene.

However, it is important to note an important fact about POU coolers which does not apply to bottled dispensers. With most POU coolers, the water is filtered as it is fed into the machine, no matter how long it stands there before being dispensed. On less well-used coolers, this could be hours or days before the water is consumed, meaning that small levels of bacteria are able to build up in the water.

The filtration process takes place not to make the water safe to drink – water from the mains supply is, under normal conditions, safe to drink anyway – but simply to make it taste great. However, it also removes the chlorine which keeps bacteria at bay.

This is where POU coolers differ from bottled units, where the water is sanitised during the bottling procedure.

Surely, thought our designers, the process could be even more hygienic if the water is filtered at the point of dispensing? This led to the development of our Ebac Aquasafe system, which was launched in our Fleet coolers last year.

By making this simple but important change to the order of the process, the chlorine is left in the water until the last possible moment, as it is in the mains supply, before it is put through a carbon filter system. The system reduces the chance of microbiological contamination by 98% and customers see this as the future of POU coolers and could help this form of unit to increase its share in the overall water cooler market even further.

Because the chlorine remains in the water, instead of requiring regular sanitisation, the coolers simply require a change of filter kit, and the process can often be done by the user, rather than there needing to be an installer call-out. Additionally, no chemicals are required, reducing the carbon footprint of companies.

Customers are seeing the benefits this process brings and indications are that sanitisation at the point of dispensing will be a 'must-have' in the future.