General Tips for 'Inherited' or 'Neglected' Systems

So, you just purchased a boat that has an older Spectra system on board, or perhaps your old Spectra system has sat around for a few years longer than you intended on leaving it for. And now you are asking, "What should I do?"....


Spectra systems are robust and quite different from conventional reverse osmosis systems, primarily due to its fixed recovery/energy recovery method. We suggest that anyone using a Spectra system for the first time read the owner's manual for understanding of the expected functionality. If you don't have an owner's manual on hand, see Spectra Manuals to download, or contact to request a free PDF copy of any system owner's manual. Just provide the system model and estimated manufacture year, or send us photos of the system so we can help you identify it! (See Parts ID Manual for a copy of our Parts ID manual to help identify on your own!)


The way we recommend getting started is by following the steps for recommissioning outlined in the owner's manual. You can note any issues to address that present themselves along the way. 


It's a fairly straightforward procedure - make sure to start by putting in all new prefilters, then, flush the system out with an extended rinse (make sure intake & discharge are clear, run system via manual toggle switch for up to 4-6 hours with pressure relief valve OPEN to rinse out membrane unpressurized). As a substitute or follow up procedure, you can clean the membrane with SC-2 alkaline cleaner. Severe biological growth will irreparably damage a membrane, mild growth can be rinsed out. While the system is not pressurized is typically a good time to inspect for major leaks and to check out your general plumbing. Next, pressurize the system (close pressure relief valve and run system) and see what happens. You’ll either make good water, not enough/poor-quality water, or no water at all, and we can diagnose the failure from there and figure out what steps to take.


Additionally, you can use the below method to determine if your membrane can be salvaged or needs to be replaced. There is no way of knowing what works without trying to use it. However, generally speaking, the only thing that should potentially be harmed for sitting for a long period would be the membrane element itself. In automated systems, sometimes electronics such pressure transducers or solenoids may require replacement.


How to test to see if biological growth has occurred:

Before running the system, remove the prefilters and examine their condition. If the filter housings are full of smelly, discolored water, the system was not properly stored. Install clean prefilters.

Next, check the membrane. Detach the brine discharge hose, attach the brine service hose, and lead it to a bucket. Open the pressure relief valve 1/2 turn, and manually run the system for 30 seconds (metal toggle switch on feed pump module).


Examine the brine water: If it is discolored and smells bad, perform an SC-2 cleaning with unchlorinated water before running the system pressurized. If the brine is fairly clean, follow the New System Startup procedure outlined in your owner's manual.


Depending on the medium that was used for membrane storage (sc-1 or propylene glycol) the system will be stored for 6mo or 1 year, respectively. How long it will last beyond that is largely dependent on the environmental conditions it’s being stored in (warmer typically means faster growth accumulation). There is a chance the membrane will be ok. To recap, extensive bacterial growth will destroy the membrane, mild bacterial growth can be rinsed out. Before assuming your membrane is destroyed, run non-chlorinated freshwater or seawater though the system for up to 6 hours with the pressure relief valve open. As a substitute or follow up procedure bacterial growth can be cleaned out with SC-2 Alkaline cleaner. There have been cases where membranes have been growing bacteria for 6 months and they were able to be salvaged, so it would definitely be worth a shot.


After the above procedure, move to an area where you would be comfortable making water in, and fire it up and see if it works. If the operating pressure and output seem reasonably close to within range, but  product ppm won’t get into drinkable range, it likely indicates the membrane needs to be replaced. To see nominal parameters for your system, you can reference your owner's manual, or find here: Quick System Production Breakdowns


If you are within range of an authorized full-service provider, if unfamiliar with Spectra systems it would be a worthwhile experience to get a brief service call for in-person guidance. 

Spectra Dealer/Distributor Storefinder


Common replacements on systems that have sat around for a while are:

  • Membrane
  • Feed Pump Head
  • Clark Pump internal parts (we sell rebuild kits and many providers are capable of rebuilding them as well) Clark Pump Kits & Reman Options

We suggest that anyone with a Clark Pump that hasn’t been rebuilt in five years keep a rebuild kit on hand if they are planning on cruising. After five years, you may encounter leaks from compromised seals/o-rings.