Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Review: Making water at home

Note I started this post to tell people about alternatives to bottled water but because of the SARS-CoV-2 (Covid-19) outbreak most of the items are already sold out. You might be able to find similar items though or after sanity comes back.

Mentioned in this post

Mophorn Water Distillers Countertop 4L BPA-Free Container 750W Digital Control Distilling Water Machine for Home with Handle Upgrade
BN-LINK 12 Hour Mechanical Accurate Countdown Timer with Grounded Pin - Energy Saving for Kitchen, Phone Charger, Lamps, Security 1875W, 1/2 HP, ETL Listed
ZeroWater (ZBD-040-1) 40 Cup Ready-Pour Glass Dispenser, BPA-Free, with Free Water Quality Meter, NSF Certified to Reduce Lead and Other Heavy Metals
Beverage Dispenser Replacement Spigot,Oak Leaf Stainless Steel Spigot Polished Finished, Dispenser Replacement Faucet
ZeroWater ZD-018 ZD018, 23 Cup Water Filter Pitcher with Water Quality Meter
ZeroWater Replacement Filters 12-Pack BPA-Free Replacement Water Filters for ZeroWater Pitchers and Dispensers NSF Certified to Reduce Lead and Other Heavy Metals
Etekcity Digital Handheld TDS Meter , +/- 2% High Accuracy, 0-9990 ppm (Blue)

Update 10/14/2021:
VEVOR Water Distiller, 1.1 Gal Distilled Water Maker, 4L Pure Water Distiller w/Dual Temperature Display, 750W Countertop Water Distiller, Distilled Water Machine for Home w/Plastic Container White

The issue

I'm on a well and the water that comes out of it is HARD as in averages in the mid 300s on a water purity meter AFTER going through the water softener. It also has Hydrogen Sulfide in it from time to time. So I store up water for the animals to use during the H₂S times. I was drinking mainly bottled water but hated all the extra plastic. (See my Drinking water post about testing the various brands and types. You will probably be surprised.( I bought a ZeroWater ZD-018 ZD018, 23 Cup Water Filter Pitcher with Water Quality Meter to try and avoid that but a filter was yielding me less than 9 gallons of water. Even buying the 12 pack of filters at $118 that comes out to over a dollar a gallon plus you have the filter to dispose of. Hard to say which has waste but the filters weight about 464 grams and a gallon water bottle about 70 grams. (Not including packaging.) Of course some of the filter weight is not plastic and it is compressed where the bottles will take some effort to get to the same size package and so on. Either way neither seemed like a good choice.

My setup

What I came up with

Step 1

I had decided on distilled water for bottled water from earlier testing I started thinking why not just distill the water? After reading reviews I figured out the base models are not very good. What you need is a model you can adjust the heat on and a timer to make sure it does not run dry. Here is the water I started with. It is hard to see but this is a relative soft batch at 284.

Starting with the review and then doing a bit of experimentation it appears the the temperature dial and readouts on the distiller might be off a bit. I set the dial right at 100C but it says it is cooler.

Then I set the timer for 3 hours. (Which is a good deal shorter than the 4 to 5 hours in reviews and still distilled almost all the water.) That gives me water purer than most of the bottled waters on the market.

This is what is left behind. I poured some of the less than 1/2 inch left in the boiling chamber into a beaker for this pic. That is 8260 on the meter! I did not notice till I was posting this the 10x indicator in the low left of the LED readout. Kind of shows why you do not want this to boil dry with a 320 degree auto shutoff like the base models do. Way too much of this ends up in your output.

Estimates were around 50 cents of electricity per gallon in review so it could be way cheaper too. I appear to be running it cooler and shorter than most so maybe even better.

Step 2 (optional)

You probably want something to hold s the water and possibly filter it. Which lead me to getting the ZeroWater (ZBD-040-1) 40 Cup. From the reviews the valve on this is junk so you will want an after market spigot too. This give me a 2+ gallon buffer ready to use water as pure as the distilled bottled water (zero on the meter) and the filters should last a long time since the water going in is pretty pure to start with I'm keeping tabs on how many gallons I get from a filter so we'll see if it is all worth it. More to come.

Update 9/18/2020 

After about 6 months I'm still very happy with this though I have put an upside down bowl (about 3 inches deep)  under the jug to raise it to lessen splashes escaping. Stopped using the distiller's carbon filters too given I run it through a ZeroWater. I think the carbon filters are only needed if you run the unit dry which my setup avoids and they tend to leave bits of carbon in the jug and ZeroWater reservoirs. Note making almost a gallon a day, I've still not needed to change the ZeroWater filters. I did clean out my smaller ZeroWater ZD-018 ZD018, 23 Cup Water Filter Pitcher with Water Quality Meter I was using to filter softened water when its filter needed changing. Between the 2 I can empty the whole jug in one go without waiting for the reservoir to empty. (The 40 cup's reservoir only holds about 4/5ths of a gallon. The 23 cup even less.) Given the price and rate I was going through those filters I'm sure the distiller is cheaper on top of less waste.

Something else you might find helpful is to add one of these Kichwit Dishwasher Magnet Clean Dirty Sign Indicator to the front. I set it to: 
  • Clean - when ready to go (I run it "off hours")
  • Running - when I set the timer to start a 3 hour run
  • Dirty - when I empty the jug till I have time to clean and refill the reservoir. 
After running it without refilling a couple times I figured the sign was well worth the $8.

Update 10/14/2021

Mophorns went out at about the same 9 month mark (~200 gallons) so I purchased a VEVOR Water Distiller the 3rd time. The first started cycling off and on while the second the heating element appears to have quit on so it might be possible to merge the two into one working one when I have the time. The Vevor is cheaper and has a digital control and read out and $40 cheaper. Assuming 50 cents in electricity and replacing every 200 gallons I'm looking at a dollar a gallon with the Vevor and again with a fair bit of waste if I have to toss it. I figure worst case I can give to Goodwill to repair or recycle. It also appears these are all basically the same so there is a fairly good chance I could use parts from one to fix another. I'm actually still using the same top cooler unit from the 1st distiller. Oddly the second Mophorn took ~3.5 hours to distill a gallon of water with about an inch left in the boiler will both the first Mophorn and the Vevor seem to do it in 3 hours. Interesting too that read out on the Vevor holds at 100 so maybe the temp control is not even needed. Just sort the run time to leave a bit in the boiler. In that case the cheapest unit (currently $75) might be fine.

Note I swapped out the jug for a beaker list a cover awhile back for something easier to clean. This worked will with the Mophorns.
Mophorn with beaker

The Vevor has the controls in the main unit instead of an add on base so it is much shorter requiring me to add a base on my own. If you use the jug it comes with it is not an issue of course.
Vevor with beaker

Update 02/07/2022

The VEVOR Water Distiller went out after 4 months. Shorted out actually, tripping the GFI breaker. After some experiments, I've decided the temperature control is not really important as long as you have a timer to shut it off before it boils dry so getting the cheapest model is probably good enough. Turned out though the VEVOR Water Distiller was the cheapest model Amazon had in stock, even without a temperature control, so that is what I got. Hopefully the 4 months lifespan was a fluke. Need to find time to see if the others can be repaired. So far it is running about $20-30 per month for hardware alone.  Add in electricity and it is getting close to the cost of the Zero filters and no savings in waste either. It does remove the Hydrogen Sulfide (HS) gas when that is an issue where the Zero filters do not, so maybe still be a bit of an advantage. 

Update 07/13/2022

The second VEVOR Water Distiller also went out after 4 months. So bought the cheapest, no frills one I could find which was the Mophorn Pure Water Distiller 750W which runs ~$80. After about 2 months of use it seems to work about as well as the ones with temp controls as long as you still have the timer keep it from boiling dry.