Not a day goes by that we do not interface with a new Foodservice location. Whether it’s a new Whole Foods Market or local, craft coffee shop, we always give the same recommendation:
While it is not preferred, copper still remains the most common material used when running new water lines and this plays a big part in why we first recommend purging your new water lines.
As anyone who has taken part in overseeing the construction or remodeling of a new Foodservice location can tell you, it gets expensive. Construction and material costs, city permitting, equipment, staff and training, supplies…and every other ‘unexpected’ cost that pops up along the way. The last thing anyone wants is to finally make it to opening day, only to have new equipment breakdown in the first week.
Adequately flushing your water lines before connecting equipment and water filtration can significantly decrease the risk of problems. There are three reasons for this:
Have you ever noticed that increased turbidity in your water when nearby construction is going on? It is not uncommon for sediment and particulates to find their way into the water as new water lines are being run. Construction sites are typically not the cleanest, most orderly operations…and I can assure you, keeping the water lines free of dirt is probably not too high on their radar. These particulates can rapidly plug filters and clog solenoids in combi ovens, ice machines and espresso machines.
Water is nature’s solvent, because of its polarity it can dissolve a little bit of everything it touches. Furthermore, one thing we know about new copper is that it oxidizes. It forms a layer of copper oxides that protect it from excess dissolution by water over time. So initially, it is important to allow the water to flow freely through these new lines and ‘coat’ the new copper before connecting equipment.
When sweating and soldering new copper lines, plumbers use what is commonly referred to as ‘Flux.’ It is a petroleum-based paste that contains zinc chloride and ammonium chloride. Because this is a very potent material, it is applied with an acid brush and is recommended to be finished (or cleaned) thoroughly with a warm, damp rag. Again, construction sites typically operate in some form of organized chaos. With regard to plumbing, it’s safe to assume there will usually be some flux residue left behind in the lines once they have been run. This residue can plug filters, coat equipment and react with other contaminants present in the water, leading to various problems (such as corrosion).
There is not a magic formula for determining how much or long new water lines should be flushed before connecting equipment. Rather it’s simply a precautionary procedure and something is better than nothing. We have had a national account go so far as to flush their lines for 24 hours at full flow and still others who simply flush them for 2-3 hours. With regard to filtration it is also not a bad idea to keep an extra filter on hand to guard against downtime from pre-mature plugging. Flushing new water lines is often overlooked. Nonetheless, simply allowing the lines to purge can be worth its weight in gold…or copper!
Photo credit: Tony Hisgett
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