TDS: 'The Done Sale'

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Courtesy of HM Digital, Inc.

Many Americans have at least some concern that their tap water is problematic, yet they don’t know where to begin. The TDS, or total dissolved solids, meter can be the first step in determining if there’s a problem.

The term TDS has long been well-known in the water treatment industry, yet still has not penetrated the mass consumer market. However, by hearing your brief explanation, consumers can realize that TDS is an important aspect of their water quality.

All human beings need water, and even in tough economic times, good water quality is critical. A TDS meter is a simple, inexpensive device that can be a reliable tool to help your salespeople deliver good water quality to their prospects.

What is TDS?
If your customers go to Wikipedia, they’ll find TDS defined as “an expression for the combined content of all inorganic and organic substances contained in a liquid which are present in a molecular, ionized or micro-granular (colloidal sol) suspended form.” From this or similar information, the layperson or average consumer might conclude that TDS is anything in water that you cannot see, other than pure H2O.

For the water treatment professional, the Water Quality Association Glossary of Terms defines TDS as “The total weight of the solids that are dissolved in the water, given in ppm [parts per million] per unit volume of water.” It further defines “dissolved matter” as matter or solids (not gases) dispersed uniformly throughout water, which will pass through a 0.45-micron pore-diameter filter.

In any case, TDS includes dissolved salts, metals or minerals. A debate continues as to whether some minerals are beneficial in drinking water, but a lower TDS often is more desirable. The lower the TDS, the higher is the ratio of “pure” water molecules to dissolved solids. (Note that for most fresh drinking water sources, water with high TDS may need further analysis to determine if it contains substances harmful to human health.)

TDS is measured on a quantity scale, either in milligrams per liter (mg/L) or more typically, in ppm.

A TDS meter is an extremely quick, easy-to-use and inexpensive device to help you measure the TDS level of water. A single TDS meter can be used hundreds of times, requiring nothing more than occasional re-calibration and new batteries.

Technically, a TDS meter measures the electrical conductivity of the water, based on mobile charged ions, and then converts that reading to TDS using an estimate performed by the TDS meter’s microprocessor.

This is important information for a salesperson to know, although from a sales perspective, it is likely easier to stick with the basics when explaining it to the consumer.

Why measure it?
TDS is an overall indicator of water purity and, more often than not, the first parameter tested.

Water treatment is often a question of cost-effectiveness. Measuring the TDS level can help determine not only if the tap water is problematic, but what type of system may provide a solution. A TDS meter is an excellent tool for determining the efficacy of many types of water filtration and purification systems. A reverse osmosis system, for example, considerably reduces TDS in water.

Many people still rely on time or flow measurements to determine when a filter cartridge or membrane needs to be changed. Since usage may vary and TDS levels of water supplies fluctuate, time and flow are far from precise methods.

With improved technology in TDS measurement coupled with accessible prices of meters, there is a shift away from a reliance on time and/or flow.

TDS and closing the sale
Once the TDS level is known, a customer’s next question likely will be: “Is my current water supply poor enough to warrant a change?”

A TDS meter and education of the consumer can help answer this question and, ultimately, close the deal. While a comparison of numbers — meaning the TDS level of the tap water versus the TDS level of filtered/purified water — may be enough to convince some people, savvier consumers may need more. An explanation of TDS should always be provided.

It’s also important to explain that the TDS range is what’s most important, as opposed to slight differences in the ppm range of TDS. The consumer should know that the US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) secondary maximum contaminant level (recommended for taste, odor and appearance) for TDS is 500 ppm.

The scale of 0 to 500 ppm (up to the EPA’s recommended maximum) would be important for consumers to know, given that the average tap water in America is approximately 350 ppm. It’s been proposed that ideal drinking water should be under 50 ppm, or lower than that. The accompanying chart (see sidebar) provides a visual illustration of different TDS values and ranges.

Equip your customers
You have revenue possibilities in addition to selling water treatment systems, so for starters, why not sell a TDS meter to your customer? It’s useful at home, and can be taken to restaurants and on trips. Customers’ friends will ask about the meter, which will create word-of-mouth advertising for your dealership.

As for upselling, there are a number of inline TDS monitors available on the market. For a slight increase in cost, a customer can purchase a system with a pre-installed TDS monitor, which allows quick and easy measurements. Dual inline TDS monitors are particularly useful for RO systems; with such monitors, a customer can easily determine a percent rejection rate.

Whether the customer has a handheld or inline TDS meter, the salesperson should instruct the customer about how to properly test tap and filtered water on a regular basis. Ultimately, this will lead to sales of replacement filters and membranes.

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