FCI Watermakers
Frequently asked questions about marine and commercial offshore reverse osmosis watermakers and desalinators for boats, ships, yachts & oil rigs
  • Why would I want a marine reverse osmosis watermaker on a boat?
    • Safety is a paramount concern. If you have a marine water maker onboard, then you can avoid or greatly limit the potential risk to you and your passengers by providing virtually limitless fresh water in the event there is an emergency that keeps your vessel offshore for an extended period of time. This provides both you and your passengers with peace of mind.

      There is also a tremendous risk in filling your fresh water tanks with dock-fill water, particularly in foreign countries where the quality of the water is uncertain. By introducing potentially contaminated water into your fresh water tanks you are exposing all people onboard to unknown risk. You know the water from your marine watermaker is fresh and will keep your tanks clean and safe.

      Having the ability to make fresh water while you are underway frees your vessel from the burden of carrying the water weight necessary to accommodate an entire voyage. Water weighs approximately 8.3 pounds per gallon. This extra weight adds up and can reduce the distance you can travel over a given period of time. Also, if your vessel is power driven, your fuel costs will increase according to the additional weight you carry on your voyage.

      Convenience is an important factor. No special stops are necessary to buy water as you voyage. Simply run your marine watermaker to fill your tanks and enjoy a limitless supply of water for longer showers, laundry, cooking, washing dishes, making ice and wash-downs with water that leaves your vessel spot-free.

      All of these factors result in a marine watermaker being an extremely smart and economical investment for virtually every boat owner.

  • What size marine watermaker is right for my boat?
    • Marine watermakers should provide ample fresh water to all passengers onboard on a daily basis. As a guideline, the U.S. Coast Guard recommends that 30 gallons of water per person per day should be available onboard. So, for example, if you are planning for 4 people onboard, then you should plan on having 120 gallons of water available per day.

      Next, determine how many hours per day you want to operate the watermaker to make the capacity that you need. Most people are comfortable with between two and five hours per day. Then, compute how many gallons of water you need to make per hour to make your daily demand considering the period of time you would want to operate the watermaker. Considering the example above, if a person wanted to make 120 gallons of water in a two-hour time period, then a watermaker capable of producing 60 gallons of water per hour is required.

      Marine watermakers are rated based upon how many gallons of water they are capable of producing per hour. This information is also stated in terms of daily production (that is, the rated hourly production multiplied by 24). Marine water makers are typically available in ranges of production from eight to 344 gallons per hour (that is 200 to 8,300 gallons per day). Larger commercial-sized systems are typically available in outputs up to 1,750 gallons per hour (42,000 gallons per day). Unlike competitors, FCI units are engineered to deliver the advertised output under varying conditions.

  • What makes FCI Watermakers’ systems different from other reverse osmosis units available today?
    • FCI Watermakers has long been recognized in the marine industry for building reliable, durable, state-of-the-art watermakers. FCI has systems in the field with over 17,000 hours of operation on them still running strong.

      FCI Watermakers offers the industry's most comprehensive one year system warranty with a lifetime guarantee on reverse osmosis membrane vessels. Other watermaker manufacturers only offer a limited warranty with no guarantees.

      We only use the finest quality components on our systems. FCI goes the extra step in building systems that provide customers with the most durable marine watermakers available in the marketplace. For example, FCI uses “washdown duty” motors on all marine systems. This means that FCI motors are epoxy coated and have neoprene gaskets. Other manufacturers typically use “general duty” motors, which are merely painted and their gasket material is made of cardboard. Plus, FCI uses motors with industrial-quality 316 stainless steel shafts. Other manufacturers use motors with steel shafts. Our high-grade materials enable our marine reverse osmosis systems to withstand the elements of wet marine environments and not succumb to corrosion and rust.

      FCI Watermakers is the only manufacturer that offers the Universal Reverse Osmosis Controller (UROC) on a range of watermaking systems. The UROC controller offers user-friendly digital interface with full customizing, automatic operation for various applications and installations. UROC technology also provides users the ability to monitor and operate their marine watermaker from a computer. UROC controller technology is unique to FCI Watermakers, and is not offered by competing manufacturers.

      All FCI watermakers come complete with a fully automatic fresh water flush as part of the system. Most other manufacturers sell them as accessories, which means additional costs to users. Fresh water flushes are an integral part of a watermaking system because they deter the build-up of biologicals in the watermaker when it is not in use. Manual flushes are not reliable because there is no guarantee that they are done on regular intervals by boat owners or their crews. With FCI systems, there are no extra buttons to push or valves to turn to enable the flush feature. When an FCI system completes its operation, it is automatically in fresh water flush mode. There is virtually nothing else like it in the marketplace.

      FCI watermakers are economical to own, operate and maintain. The cost of acquisition of an FCI marine watermaker is very reasonable as compared to other RO units in the marketplace. And, operation and maintenance costs are negligible. Typically, all users need to do is replace filter cartridges and change the oil when warranted.

      For more information on the high-performance features of FCI’s reverse osmosis systems, read the FCI Advantage.

  • In what type of water will a marine reverse osmosis system work best?
    • Unlike some brands that test their watermakers under a certain set of criteria, FCI watermakers are designed to work effectively in a wide variety of sea water and brackish water conditions. The rated output capacities for FCI Watermakers systems are established at salinity range of 35,000 ppm TDS (total dissolved solids) and at 77 degrees Fahrenheit. These standards are representative of the salinity and temperature of average sea water. However, in different geographic locations, and at different times of year, both of these parameters will fluctuate.

      As the TDS and/or the temperature vary from the standard ranges, it’s important to adjust the pressure regulator so that the water maker maintains its rated output. An example of this would be with brackish water, where the salinity might decrease to a range of approximately 3,000 TDS to 5,000 TDS. As a general rule, as the salinity decreases from the standard 35,000 TDS, system production will increase and the RO unit should be adjusted accordingly.

      Likewise, as the temperature increases from the standard 77 degrees Fahrenheit, so does the output from the water maker. An example of this would be in tropical climates during summer months where water temperatures often exceed 77 degrees. In this case, the pressure regulator on the water maker would also need to be adjusted so that the water maker maintains its rated output.
  • Can I make potable water with a marine reverse osmosis water maker in a harbor?
    • Yes, you can. However, typically in harbors and other protected waterways that are not exposed to open-ocean tidal flows, debris, urban run-off, oil, fuel and other larger particulates and contaminants tend to collect and possibly suspend themselves in the feed water source for the watermaker. The result of this is that when you operate a watermaker in this type of environment, there is a greater likelihood that the system’s pre-filters will foul more quickly than if the feed water source was clean, open-ocean sea water. So as a rule of thumb, in order to extend the life of the pre-filters and related components of the watermaking system, it is recommended to operate your watermaker in an open-ocean environment whenever possible.
  • Can I make water with a marine reverse osmosis system while underway in a boat?
    • Yes, you can, but be careful to keep the through-hull, which is the intake for the marine water maker, well below the waterline. The reason for this is that the feed pump, or the low-pressure pump for the water maker, requires a flooded suction. If excessive air is introduced into the feed pump, the feed pump will lose its “prime” and the water maker will cease to function due to a lack of a feed water stream. In that case, the low-pressure pump would need to be “re-primed”, after which the water maker would function properly again. So if you intend to make water while underway, make sure that the intake through-hull is placed in such a position so that it does not take in air when the vessel is underway.
  • Are marine desalination units noisy?
    • Some brands of watermakers are noisier than others, which is usually a result of inferior design efficiency and low-quality of components. Like any other piece of machinery, marine watermakers do make a sound when they operate. Some manufacturers don’t do anything to address this issue, and other manufacturers do things to “mask” the sounds, such as creating chambers or other mechanisms ostensibly designed to dampen noise resonating from system components.

      FCI Watermakers has gone to extensive lengths to design and manufacture marine watermakers that are the quietest in the industry. We use only the highest quality motors, pumps and other components in our watermakers. Our systems are built on four-point vibration isolation mounts, which dissipate system vibrations and keep them from resonating through the vessel. All other components of FCI watermakers have been designed and selected to maximize noise control. The end result of this is that FCI watermakers are extremely quiet as compared to competing brands.
  • How long should I expect a marine RO system to last?
    • The life expectancy of a water maker varies by manufacturer. Brands that use lesser quality components or those that have inferior designs will obviously not last as long as those brands that have superior designs and utilize top-quality components. FCI Watermakers designs are second to none, using only the finest quality components. The life expectancy of an FCI marine watermaker system should be 20 years or more of trouble-free service, provided the unit receives proper maintenance according to the owner’s manual. Plus, the open-frame and modular FCI systems are designed to facilitate easy visual inspections and routine, on-site maintenance. By comparison, competitors’ enclosed-frame systems require complicated disassembly to allow shipboard inspection — a cost that can add up over the life of the marine RO unit.
  • Is it possible to control the watermaker from the helm station?
    • FCI offers UROC technology for digital remote control/monitoring as an accessory for all of its systems. This is remote control in the true sense of the word, and not a glorified “on/off” switch that is typically offered on many other watermaking products. For instance, with FCI ‘s Universal Reverse Osmosis Controller on our Max Q systems, the user can monitor all system readouts from a backlit digital display. The remote control also enables the user to troublshoot, and program set points, automatic shut-off parameters and fresh water flush times without going to the main system.
  • Do I need a ultra-violet sterilizer with my watermaker?
    • No, it is not a necessity, but can be beneficial as UV sterilizers remove approximately 99.9% of any biologicals from fresh water. With that said, proper placement of a UV Sterilizer is after the holding tank, not immediately after the watermaker, as specified by other manufacturers and/or installers. The reason for this is that in addition to receiving clean water from the on-board watermaker, holding tanks are vented (inviting potential for contaminants) and are also fed by dockside fillings from shore— there is no control of water quality in the holding tank itself. If a UV sterilizer is used, it should be sized to accommodate the requirements of the boat’s fresh water pump.
  • What parts and features should come standard with my marine water maker system?
    • Many manufacturers require users to buy packages of components to ensure full-service operation of their marine water maker. For example, a fresh-water flush is a necessary watermaking function included in every FCI system, but other manufacturers often sell this feature separately. With FCI’s inclusive pricing on our watermaking systems, you don’t need to buy add-ons, accessories and upgrades to achieve advertised outcomes and superior performance. What’s more, FCI systems come fully calibrated so you can enjoy quick water satisfaction, versus other brands that require the purchase of additional accessories or calibration solutions to complete the set up.
  • Can you give me guidance on marine water maker parts and accessories I don’t need?
    • We believe marine watermakers should come fully functional without needing to purchase additional accessories. Some unnecessary items include an oil water separating cartridge and an on-system UV sterilizer. The theory on the cartridge is that it will remove oil from the water before it hits the water maker membrane, but since water is pulled from below the surface where oil floats, the component ends up being a frivolous design feature that you end up paying to replace because the owner’s manual tells you it naturally degrades over time. In 30 years of manufacturing, we’ve never seen a membrane that has been dulled by oil build-up. Similarly, for a UV sterilizer to work properly it should be put in the discharge side of your fresh water holding tank. But competing manufacturers mount it on the intake side as part of the water making system, presumably to sterilize the water before it hits the tank. Because holding tanks are vented (inviting potential for contaminants) and are also fed by dockside fillings from shore, the holding tank itself could be contaminated with algae or bacteria. So, it makes no sense to take the extra step in purification if the UV sterilizer is placed before the holding tank.

      Other things to look out for when buying a water maker are:
      — systems that require proprietary components, such as membranes, pumps and fittings that are harder to find and more expensive to replace;
      — water maker systems that use inferior materials, such as plastic versus high-grade stainless steel or bronze;
      — special tools that are required for assembly or calibration;
      — and compact systems that are completely enclosed in a frame that inhibits easy service and maintenance, such as changing the oil or replacing a fitting.
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