Generating Water Out Of Thin Air (Atmospheric Water Generation)

Welcome to this week’s Urban Survival Newsletter, brought to you by my FastestWayToPrepare.com course, a 6 module on-demand preparedness course that will show you the shortcuts, tactics, techniques, and procedures to get your family prepared for breakdowns in infrastructure due to natural and manmade disasters as fast as humanly possible.

In addition to having a desiccant dehumidifier in our gun safe, we also have another, much larger, plug-in dehumidifier in the room where the gun safe is to take some of the load off of the one in the gun safe.

A few months back, I had an “Ah-Ha!” moment as I was pouring out the water in the dehumidifier and realized that this was another source of water in a disaster situation.  As incredibly obvious as it is, I had never had to use a dehumidifier until this summer and I thought I was a genius.  I immediately started trying to figure out whether it was a viable large scale product.

What struck me as interesting is that even though we were miles from groundwater and that the humidity was very low outside, the desiccant in our safe was still sucking a lot of water out of the air and our dehumidifier was pulling a quart of water or more per hour out of the air.

I knew that our current location would make things challenging in a survival situation because of the groundwater situation and the lack of rain.  In the last 6 months, we’ve received just over an inch of water, and it has come in a few sprinkles that weren’t even enough to get water to our downspout.  Seeing ready-to-use water generators made me very excited to have another possible strategy to simply storing water and catching the incredibly infrequent rain.

The first hurdle I ran into was the fact that our dehumidifier is an energy hog…using 1700 watts per hour.  60 watt light bulbs are pretty common and this is the equivalent of running 28 of them simultaneously.  This would take the entire output from my 2000 watt generator or a fairly expensive array of solar panels to power.  In a survival situation, without a $10,000 solar system to power my dehumidifier, I’d simply be swapping fuel for water, which meant that my water supply was limited by the amount of fuel I could store.  This was, obviously, a hurdle that I had to get over.

The second hurdle that I ran into was that the water in a dehumidifier tank isn’t really safe to drink.  I’d drink it, and a lot of other questionable water in a pinch, but I wouldn’t want to make a habit of it.  In addition to having traces of whatever metals/solder the dehumidifier fins are made of, it also concentrates whatever pollutants, fungus, bacteria, and viruses happen to be floating around in the air of your house.  This is a common hurdle for dehumidifier water, rain catchment, air conditioner water, and most urban water supplies, so it’s not that big of a deal…it’s just something to be aware of.

Since I had the water purification part of the equation taken care of, I decided to start looking for high efficiency dehumidifiers.  In the process, I found that there were already dehumidifiers coupled with water purifiers called “Atmospheric Water Generators” or AWGs.

As it turns out, the idea of sucking water out of the air and making it drinkable is quite old, dating back to passive systems that were used in the Middle East almost 2,000 years ago that used piles of cold rocks to cause moisture to condense out of warm air. Fast forward to modern times and we see that the technology to turn air into potable water using portable units was first patented in 1992, and put into mass production in 2004.  Today, there are units that range in size from household units that generate a few gallons per day to semi-truck sized units that generate thousands of gallons per day in use around the globe.

This is yet another area that has benefited from a growth in the number of people who are looking for ways to become more self-reliant by going partially or completely off-grid.  Today, there are dozens of options using a handful of technologies to help you extract water from air.

The two main technologies are dehumidifiers coupled with water purifiers and using reusable desiccants.

In the desiccant atmospheric water generators, desiccants are allowed to absorb water during the most humid parts of the day and then heated to cause them to release their water.  If you’re not familiar with desiccants by name, you will oftentimes find them in vitamin bottles or in bags/cans for dehumidifying safes and gun cases.

As I started doing research, I found that almost all of the units were energy hogs, requiring 400-900 watts to run—not quite as bad as my 1700 watt dehumidifier, but not efficient enough to be practical in a survival situation.  Even if I was in an area with high humidity, like most hurricane prone areas are, the sheer amount of power required made the units impractical.

In addition, they used up to a dozen steps for filtration/purification and used a lot of electronics.  To me, it seemed like there were more points of failure than necessary.  After all, while the engineer in me loves the complexities of Rube Goldberg machines, I want something that’s going to be resilient in a survival situation.

Even though I knew it wouldn’t be the ideal solution, I decided to go  ahead and buy a generator. awsFrankly, I wanted to see if it would be an all-in-one solution that I could recommend to my readers, and I didn’t want to recommend it without using it first.  I ended up getting an EcoloBlue 30, which will generate 30 liters per day at 80 degrees and 80% humidity while drawing 280 watts.

One thing to note on the EcoloBlue AWGs, is that the “guts” of the unit are used in a hand-full of brands of AWGs, like “Atmos” and “Advanced Ultra Water Manufacturing”  Different companies simply throw a different shell over the guts and market it under their own name.  I may end up doing something similar in the near future.

The fact that the same guts are marketed with different names is important, not only because it means that replacement parts are somewhat easier to find, but also because EcoloBlue is fulfilling single orders of 100 or more units and it can take up to 6 weeks to get your unit if they have a backlog at the time.  Having an alternative brand that you can buy could get one in your hands much sooner.

After almost 8 months of using our EcoloBlue on a regular basis, I’ve got some solid first hand knowledge to share with you.

To begin with, I’ll answer the most obvious question—Yes, it does work!  There have been weeks where most of the drinking water that the 4 of us drank was from the unit.

We haven’t had any days where we’ve been able to get the full 30 liters from it, but that’s because we don’t run it 24/7 and because the humidity in our house ranges from 35% to 60%, with the norm being 40-50%.

Here’s a chart of how much water you can expect to generate per day, as well as the cost per gallon assuming an ambient temperature of 70 degrees.  Production increases with higher ambient temperatures, so these numbers will be conservative for most people.

Chart

As you can see, it’s not a perfect solution by a long shot.  The power consumption is fairly high, and water costs well over 20c per gallon in electrical costs alone at lower humidity levels.  When you add in replacing filters every 6-12 months and a 10 year life expectancy for the unit itself, (this is a guess, as none of the manufacturers list a life expectancy for the units) the cost goes up even more.

But, and this is a big point, almost every preparedness/self-reliant alternative to “store bought” food, water, fire, fuel, and electricity costs more in terms of either time or money.  Yes, it’s cheaper to get water from the tap…just like it’s cheaper to get gas from the pump and electricity from the utility company, but I believe that it’s worth it to either use more self-reliant solutions on a regular basis or have proven solutions available to use in the event that easy “store bought” solutions aren’t an option.

When we use public utility prices as a benchmark for what things “should” cost, we have to take into account the fact that they value efficiency and low prices today vs. being able to provide service during non-ideal situations.  Having self-reliant or off-grid solutions like this let you enjoy the best of both worlds…the unsustainable low utility prices that we get to enjoy on a day-to-day basis AND a backup small scale solution for disaster situations when large scale solutions don’t work.

This mindset really applies to everything that operates on a just-in-time system…from utilities to food, &  from fuel to medications.

So, how do these units work?

  1. They start off by taking air and running it through a rudimentary air filter.  The purpose isn’t to “purify” the air, but rather to minimize dust and hair inside the unit.
  2. Next, the air goes over a set of condenser coils that are coated with a food grade coating to minimize interaction between water and the metals/solder used for the cooling coils.  The condenser is cooler than room temperature, causing the air to release it’s “extra” humidity…like what happens when you open your freezer door.
  3. The water then goes through a carbon charcoal filter to eliminate chlorine and other VOCs.  All of the sales literature says that this step also removes ammonia, but carbon charcoal filters don’t remove ammonia.
  4. The filtered water is collected in a small, roughly 2 liter tank.  When it fills up, the water gets treated with UV light, which kills awsguts
    bacteria, viruses, protozoa, mold spores, and inhibits bacteria growth in the reservoir.
  5. After getting treated with UV light, the water is pumped through a series of 2 carbon charcoal filters, a reverse osmosis membrane, a mineral filter, and a final carbon charcoal filter.
  6. After going through this set of filters, the water goes to a holding tank that is periodically exposed to UV light to minimize or eliminate bacteria growth in the unit.
  7. When you decide to use water in the tank, it goes through a cold water pump, or through a hot water tank.  The water that goes through the cold water pump is again treated with UV light at the outlet.

The end result is very good tasting water that’s satisfying, in part, because of how it makes me feel like I’m “beating” the system and have found another emergency source of water for my family.

Another way that you can use these units is to run a hose to the back of the unit like you would to a refrigerator ice maker/water dispenser.  Then, you can take advantage of the filtration system as well as the heater/cooler during non-water emergencies and switch over to generating water if your utilities go out.

Pricing on these units are all over the place.  They’re based on supply and demand, and to a certain extent, where disasters are happening in the world on the particular week that you’re looking.  Plan on spending $1,500-$2,000 and be happy if you find one for less.  You can find units for significantly less, but they’ll be models that use significantly more power.

One drawback of the units is that they’re somewhat loud and they are designed to only be used indoors.  They’re not obnoxiously loud…somewhere between a refrigerator and a dishwasher.  The ambient noise level in our living room is 40 db during the day with normal stuff turned on.  When we turn on the AWG, it gets as high as 65 db, depending on which cycle it is on.  We turn it off when we’re eating or having a quiet conversation in the same room, but I wouldn’t say that we need to.

The units are expected to last 5-10 years, depending on whether or not the filters are properly cleaned.  This bit of information was very hard to find, seems to be an estimate, and didn’t seem to be proven out by actual results yet.

Ecoloblue was very good to work with.  They answered questions quickly and they understand preppers.  One thing to note is that some of their units say that they have a “Solar Option.”  This simply means that you can hook up solar panels to batteries and an inverter and run the AWG.  It doesn’t mean that they run on 12V or that they have any special features that make them work well with a solar system.

Would I recommend the units?  That’s complicated.  If you’ve got room, you can buy several 55 gallon water barrels for $20 apiece or a 1,000 gallon water tank for $500.  If you’ve got a source of groundwater or get frequent rain, then it might not be necessary.  But, if you want a compact plug-n-play water generation solution that you can use as a water purifier now and as a water generator in the event of a disaster, then it may be a good fit.

I’m still researching and testing other options for water generation, including a simple setup of a high-end dehumidifier and a Berkey filter and will keep you updated as I make discoveries.  If you have any experience in this area, please let me know by commenting below.

Until next week, God bless and stay safe!

David Morris

www.SurviveInPlace.com
www.FastestWayToPrepare.com
www.UrbanSurvivalPlayingCards.com

 

About David Morris

David Morris is the creator of the Survive In Place Urban Survival Course, the Fastest Way To Prepare Course, Urban Survival Playing Cards, Tactical Firearms Training Secrets, and other books, courses, and articles on preparedness, survival, firearms, and other tactical topics. He lives with his wife, 2 boys, and 2 dogs.

Comments

  1. There is a new breakthrough in AWG technology being introduced to the market this year. It recovers atmospheric water using solid desiccant. This clean technology consumes mostly heating energy to regenerate the adsorbent medium and uses electric power only to move the air streams. The implications are far reaching, since it recovers water at the humidity ratios as low as 0.004, has low installation cost (2.5 USD per gallon) and low operating cost (0.01 USD per gallon). The commercial models will be available in 2014.

  2. I just picked up a Ecoloblue 30 on craigslist, The person I bought it from had owned it from new for about 1 year, and after he cleaned and primed it according to the instructions it would not produce water anymore. I have heard that multiple primes might be needed after a clean or even when new so I figured for $200 it was worth a chance. I primed it and followed the instructions to a T and it’s working. My concern is that they seem a little over complicated with all the filters, and I was wondering if anyone has any knowledge of anyone replacing the filter cartridges with a Sawyer Point Zero Two filter or something like that? It could save a bunch of money.

    • They are VERY over complicated and you got a killer deal for $200. Even so, it just started getting humid enough where we’re at that we turned ours on again.

      I have the same gut feeling on the Rube-Goldbergesqueness of it but the closest thing that I’ve done to what you’re suggesting is getting a high end dehumidifier with a discharge pump and running it into a Berkey-like filter/purifier. I don’t know how the backpressure on the Sawyer would be compared to the RO/carbon filters on the Ecoloblue–if the pressure is too much, it might burn out your pump prematurely.

  3. Hello there, I discovered your web site by means of Google even as looking for a similar matter, your web site came up, it appears to be like great. I have added to my favourites|added to my bookmarks.

  4. Many thanks Dave to you and your commenters, especially the man who tipped me off about Reverse Osmosis and his wife’s arthritis//I’m 76 and put in an RO after I moved in FL home because I don’t want all of that flouride in my system/my arthritis got really bad and I’ve blamed everything, esp. a lot of antibiotic use from dental surgery, but NEVER would have made the RO connection/I do take mineral supplements but not on a regular basis/I have them in my cabinet! now/those pills will be by my drinking water spigot/thanks for your great tip/who ever you are and great work Dave!!

  5. Is there anything out there(reasonable priced)that can take the salt out of salt water? thanks

  6. Angela Condrey says:

    Thanks for another wonderful article David.

    I am looking at a property that has a well. The person selling it was not the person who installed the well. Does anyone know or can you point me to resources for questions I should ask about the well and who I might ask? It’s a really small town and a local might know all the property history, but it is far from where I live. I am going to look at it in May and would like to be prepared with questions when I get there.

    Thanks to anyone who can help :)

    • If your really small town or County/Township has an environmental health department or building department, you should contact them. You should be able to provide the location of the property by address or an assessor’s parcel number or whatever they need.

      Good Luck

  7. alot of good usefull idea’s here and thanks david for bringing this subject up as it is a
    very vital subject, got to have water to survive.
    ron

  8. This company says their version is 100% solar
    www.atlantissolar.com/solar_atmospheric_water_generator.html
    Can you let us know what you think of this?
    Best,
    Barry

    • davidmobile says:

      Actually, ANYTHING can be 100% solar given a big enough array of panels, a big enough bank of batteries, a big enough charge controller and a big enough inverter.

      Several AWGs are making solar claims based on the fact that it’s possible, even if it’s not remotely practical.

      I’m not saying its a bad unit…technically, they’re correct. Just go into it with your eyes open if you go this route.

  9. Anybody seen this? www.eolewater.com/gb/our-products/range.html

    The website says, “From wind to water”. Looks promising.

    • davidmobile says:

      Yes, it’s a neat setup…it’s just too big for most people. It’s designed for communities of a few hundred people with a decent sized chunk of land.

    • dave,
      I have been researching water from air now for 7 years and have several products that may be of interst. Please look at www.wesolutions.com.au.
      The recent “water from atmosphere” article was somthing i looked at and became interested in 7 years ago; from that i have looked at a myriad of ideas and claims from others. I live in a 100% solar home and have one of this “water from air systems” still running….. never a problem HOWEVER if you operate them in environments that the air is polutted you will have problems. We found this out the hard way.e.g. dont use them in smoke,mining camp dust,hair dressers,near a stove, polutted air and lunch rooms…..in fact any confined space.A farm is perfect.

      Here in Australia we pay $3 for a 500 ml bottle of water. The machine makes cheap drinking water under good conditions. I live backed up to a rain forrest so not an issue for operation and its runningoff the solar anyway. How much it cost per liter or gallon really depends on the RH and temp and hwo much you pay for electricity.

      I embarked on a obsession to make water from air cheaply and as you can see from the web we are evolving into making Theoretically 1 million liters a day in middle east through a bank of 8 large systems for nothing. IT can be done. We dont profess to make drinking water due to the various laws to that effect but we do make water.How its turned into drinking water regulations is up to the filter man but believe me you can drink it.
      Also slated is an low voltage electonic device that removes moisture from the air statically from any air conditioner input air. coming soon.
      What we are struggling with is Solar operated systems however we do have a proposal in to provide a solar assist system for a group who grow food in containers. our system can provide the water needed and the control inside RH and temp. All 3 world country stuff but………..
      any way I could go on but thourght I’d put up a comment on the article.
      cheers

  10. Jean Faircloth says:

    David, This is off the subject of water,but I need to know about radios. It’s a small radio you use it like a ham radio but not as strong. And you do not have to have a liscence to run it. I tryed to get the info from Off The Grid but haven’t heard from them. So we are hoping that you know or can find out and pass it along.Thanks,David PS It is so hard to try to get things together when my husband sticks his head inthe sand even though he knows it’s coming.

    • David dschearer says:

      It’s called FRS radios. eBay has many to sell from $20 and up.. range is usually a couple of miles at best.

  11. I HAVE PLANS TO DO A A/C UNIT BY PLACING 4″ PIPES UNDER GROUND WITH A BLOWER TO COOL MY HOUSE. I WAS CONSIDERING PLACING 4 EXTRA TUBES TO USE FOR WATER. RUNNING THEM DOWN HILL WITH A 1000 GALLON TANK TO COLLECT THE WATER. THEN A SIMPLE HAND PUMP TO GET THE WATER. THEN IT CAN BE TREATED. A SIMPLE WIND VAIN TO CATCH THE AIR AND SEND IT THROUGH THE PIPE. POSIBLY RUN RAIN RUN OFF TO IT. I BELIEVE I CAN GET PLENTY WATER FROM MY HOMEMADE SHALLOW WELL. IF IT FILLS UP I CAN ALWAYES ADD ANOUTHER TANK

  12. Carol McDonough says:

    I purchased blue food grade 55 gal barrels from local source (food plant) for $15.00, very clean.It will be cleaned again and rinsed with vinegar water then bleach. I bought an aquapod as a bladder to line the barrel -just in case- and a Berkey to filter the water. I’ll probably add water stabilier to water.

  13. ROBERT L CECIL,SR says:

    YOU CAN MAKE A SOLAR STILL BY SIMPLY DIGGING A 4 FOOT BY 4 FOOT BY 4 FOOT HOLE. PLACE A GALLON JUG AT THE BOTTOM.PLACE A SHEET OF PLASTIC OVER THE HOLE THEN PLACE WEIGHTS AROUND THE EDGES. FINALLY PLACE A WEIGHT IN THE CENTER OF THE PLASTIC SHEET OVER THE GALLON JUG. AS THE WATER CONDENSES IT WILL FILL THE JUG. TAKE THE WATER PUT IT INTO PLASTIC WATER BOTTLES. LAY THE WATER BOTTLES ON A WHITE OR BRIGHT SURFACE IN FULL SUNLIGHT FOR 8 TO 10 HOURS TO LET THE SUNS ULTRIVOILET RAYS TO KILL ANYTHING HARMFUL IN THE WATER……

    • Better not plan on doing that quickly in an emergency situation; 4 x 4 x 4 doesn’t sound that big, but if you’re digging it by hand, especially if you’re not used to digging… well, it’ll take a LOT longer and be MUCH harder than it sounds. Keep in mind, that’s 64 cubic FEET of earth to move.

  14. Roger W. Grim D.C. says:

    Hi David, As a comedian once said, ” It’s Me again Margaret…” I know that their are a lot of pros & cons out there on safe drinking water. I want to make a suggestion David, not only to you but for all your readers, I have been looking into this about safe water for over 46 years as a Doctor of Chiropractic, for myself and sharing it with my patients. Now I am retired after 46 years of practice, and I still share my knowledge with as many as I can in the”traffic pattern ” of my life!
    My suggestion to all…..is to purchase a British Berkfeld water purifyer, We have had ours for 30 years….How about….Dat…..?! We are still using it today to purify our water daily. You have to follow the directions in cleaning it out every two or three months and the 4 silver impregnated, charcoal ceramic filters which the Big Berky has is still functioning today as good as ever. You can buy different brands and sizes on the market today. Some have only 2 cylinders, and are smaller. I have suggested to several of my friends that are like minded how much healthier one’s self & family would be if they had one and like-wise they have been using theirs for many years also. The filters take out 99.9% of all virus & bacteria like crypo & guardia.

    It is a whole lot cheaper to spend $100 -$200 for extra cartridges that $1,200 – $1,500 on something that is not portable….My Big Berky is 100% portable, I can take it with me if I “HAVE TO BUG OUT” ISN’T THAT WHY WE PREPARE? Please…..Consider this….!
    “Doc”

    • Yes, Doc…that’s why I mentioned them in the article. They’re great! It’s important to remember that even a Berkey won’t work if you don’t have water to put it…and that’s where AWGs come in.

  15. I have bought in the past plastic grade 55 gallon barrels from a Pepsi distributor in Nashville TN
    they had i think mountain dew in them and all i did was take them down to the car wash and use the high pressure sprayer to clean them out with soap and then rinsed them, these were food grade and could withstand the acidity of the coke products. They worked just fine put a cup or so of bleach in them and it keeps the algae down.

  16. Used a Berkey filter. Liked it alot & would recomend. Had the one with room for 4 filter units.
    using only 1 filter at a time , since am single. The unit had rubber grommets to seal the other 3 holes. Saw one guy put filter unit on top of a 5 gallon jug. Cutting top of jug so unit fit snugly. Then took water valve from reservoir on bottom of stainless steel unit & put on bottom of jug. This way friends could come over & get a couple of gallons & still leave enough water to cook a big pot of spagetti. Could see the water dripping / not, thereby refilling filter unit as needed. He would use 2 /3 filter units(impatient),for it drips slowly.

  17. I, too, would be very interested in a non-electric water production process. Man that would bring peace of mind!
    Thanks for being up on all this, Dave.
    Chana
    Valencia, CA

  18. No dissolved minerals in atmospheric moisture? Hmmmm. Wonder why all the bare metal around my place, 4 miles from the Pacific, rusts out so fast.

    To Jeff: you must have done your engineering on a drafting board. Almost all the engineers I new in the 43 years of my test engineering career loved RG systems and used them. I could describe some lulus we came up with to prove a theory or test some thing structurally, like a B2 wing. Or physically catching a deployed Trident warhead in our arms. How about standing in the swirling vortex of water at the arresting end of a aircraft carrier steam catapult, with your finger over the lens of a gutted browney camera acting as shutter, and a flash bulb soldered to a wire in the other hand set off by a colleague on a battery at signal of your foot; just to prove a theory. Engineers I new not only loved RG systems they used them. (sorry guys – couldn’t let that one pass)

  19. auld sailor says:

    You are probably familiar with the small coolers that are sold to use 12voltsdc and cool by the use of pizio electric crystals. If they were configured as dehumidifiers they posibly would run on solar power and are made to run from car batterys. I should have googled it before making this comment. Maybe they are already available.

  20. David: Since I assume that the objective is to provide water during a scenario where city water is not available, ie, “a real emergency situation”, have you explored Solar Distillation? A German company makes a product called WaterCone that is simple and produces 1-1.5 liters of water/24 hr. and costs around $70.00 each. These units are being used in many poor countries to provide healthy drinking water. (www.watercone.com). The concept is relatively simple and dummyproof. I think that taking this simple distillation concept and scaling it up for larger output is well worth exploring for the home prepper. Applying good ol’ American innovation to scale this basic concept up to higher output is the way to go.

    • Yes…great product, but our family, as an example, would need 16 of them.

    • The watercone technology has been around for a long time. A similar product was standard equipment in some life boats and life rafts on ocean going vessels. Today you are more likely to see a hand operated desalinator but the technology still works. They would be easy enough to build. A pyramid would be as effective as a cone. The central dirty water basin surrounded by a clean water trough for the dark color base. A clear dome to allow the sun to warm the water.

      Multiple trays could be stacked on each other with multiple cones stacked above the trays. They would not take much space.

  21. S.Bryant Adkins says:

    This is a thought I had for suppliment water source. Living on the Gulf coast we have humidity plus.
    I have noticed every surface covered in dew in the mornings.
    Why not cover out building walls and roofs with some sort of metal sheeting and squeegy these surfaces.
    The water collect still not potable but be filtered as needed.

    • I would expect this to be quite potable. You might collect a bit of dust the first day or two but I would expect it to clear up soon enough. I know thousands of people who rely on rain catchment as their source of water. Certain roofing material is better than others but the metal that you suggested is the best. Care would need to be taken to select a model with a lot of flat area. The old corrugated roofing would be fine for rain but would be a bear to try a squeegee on. There are rain barrels all over the State and I know communities where the people melt the snow for drinking water and have for generations.

  22. Beckster says:

    Thanks for doing the research on EcoloBlue30. I had looked into it and saw that with the solar model, you have to purchase your own batteries. I don’t suppose that you looked into it that far? I’ve been trying to find a good source for the batteries. Also for the readers, EcoloBlue sells boxes of the replacement filters for future use which I would recommend. I’m thinking about possibly setting one up outside on the covered front porch (camouflaged). We have 70-90% humidity here in Corpus Christi, TX. Thanks also for the tip on where to look for cheaper 55 gal drums. The cheapest I had seen was $65. David, thanks for what you do for us and thanks to other readers for sharing knowledge and experiences.

    • Carl Didier says:

      Beckster,

      I’m a retired engineer living in Corpus since 2002. I live on Oso Bay. I’m looking for a good, cheap solar distillation unit to convert salt water to drinkable water.

      Let’s email each other and compare notes.

      Carl Didier (just Carl)

      • Carl, haven’t done much research on solar distillation up to this point, but it has been on my mind lately. Tossing around idea between solar or wood for heat, only because there’s so much wood throughout town curbside: both would be free (at least fuel wise). I feel like there must be a way to do the solar while being practical, inexpensive and taking up minimal space. Would be interested in putting our minds together, free time for me is precious-still working. Did you see Walt’s comment, 3 comments down?

  23. You will find if you speak to the folks at EcoloBlue that their units only produce about 2 gallons per day at best in the desert. There is morning humidity and evening humidity that increases enough to produce approx. 2 gallons, but nothing like you folks in the sticky East, who can get more like 7 gallons.

    Also, on the 55-gallon drums mentioned above, check with local food manufacturers. A good example is that I have been able to get blue 55-gallon drums only used for diced tomatoes with a salsa company. They were selling them to me with the lid and metal, clamping band for $15!

  24. I thought electric power was probably not even worth considering in an emergency of the type considered here. Thermal refrigeration units could be used and propane can be stored. These have no motor. Might even be rigged to use other sources of heat, motor oil, fuel oil, cooking oil, wood, coal, etc in a pinch. Natural gas of course works and if available could be used along with electricity as a heat source if available. A much more versatile system for major emergencies.

    When ever the subject of disaster situations comes up I remember Kevin Kosner’s “The Postman”. When I saw it years ago thought it was way out – don’t think that way anymore!

  25. David: I bought 2 – 55 gallon containers – molasses barrels. Washed them several times, ourside, over 3 days with eco-friendly cleaning agents. At our last Denver Urban Survival Meet Up group, a fellow warned everyone about how sugar materials leach back into the water from these types of containers and create bacteria. I thought used “food grade” was safe – - – knowing I would always boil water from an uncertain source anyway. Where do you stand on new vs used barrels? (I have added a ’5 year’ water stabilizer.) Suggestions?

    • davidmobile says:

      Jack, frankly, I don’t plan on drinking ANY of my stored water without purifying and/or filtering it. For me, it’s easier to simply assume that it will be incredibly nasty and go from there.

  26. Lyle Koch says:

    There are much cheaper ways to get water – without electricity – a box with a plastic covering and a path for the water to drip down into a reservoir – some plants – or even brackish water – you have drinkable water (with a little sunshine) you could also create a small still which could work to condense water using firewood and some copper coils

    • davidmobile says:

      Yes and no. A good rule of thumb for solar stills is 1 liter per square meter per day and they need to be outside rather than inside. That may or may not equate to cheaper, easier, or safer depending on your situation.

  27. An A/C and a dehydrator are basically the same technology, the part’s functions are the same. Take a look at: www.dcairco.com/index.php/products/trucks/dc-9000 This is a 600 watt, 12 volt A/C. All you need to do it take the condensate water and run it through a good filter system, now you have fresh water and your shelter is cool too. This is just the first such unit I found in an internet search. I also found a 24 volt DC aircraft A/C, but it probably costs a lot more. There are almost no dissolved minerals in atmospheric water. Dust, acids and bacteria/fungi spores etc. are present. The truck AC can be powered with a solar cell array and any extra power can be used to charge batteries so you can run the A/C at night or when it is very cloudy.
    Good engineers don’t like RG designs. I’m a (semi) retired engineer.

    • davidmobile says:

      I LOVE Rube Goldberg designs as entertainment, but not as something to depend on :). One of the reasons I brought this up, and the thought of decoupling it and simplifying it, is to provoke ideas just like what you presented. Thanks!

  28. Lawrence says:

    Hi David,

    For those who have a well, would not the money be better spent on something like a “Simple Pump”? Thus you would always have access to water without electricity.

    • davidmobile says:

      Most people don’t have wells or ground water on their property. For those who do, they’re normally a better option than AWGs.

  29. Spencer Lofland says:

    I appreciated your well researched article on water from dehumidifiers.
    I am wondering if using outdoor air would create more or less problems with purity.
    It would have more humidity to pull from.
    Please give me your thoughts.
    Thank you,
    Spencer

    • davidmobile says:

      It all depends on the purity of the inside vs outside air and the humidity of each. The mass of water outside would definitely be higher because of the increased volume of air, but higher humidity will make dehumidifiers produce more water.

  30. Eddie Hinson says:

    Working in a chemical plant for many years, I worked around all different types of water processing units, and Dave is right about one thing, they are energy hogs, and expensive to maintain, and would be impossible to use if the electrical grid was to collapse. So, if I was worried about survival and water is most essential, if you don’t live in an area where a shallow bored well is feasible, then you better move. One thing to remember is that many of our grandparents had shallow wells that were hand dug, it can be done.

  31. I believe that they will shut down the power grid….no electric. That is why they are closing all the coal power plants…AGENDA 21, look it up…no industry, no people. If we store food and water and prepare…the government will just come and take it and you away. Anything that works off electric….will be useless.

  32. It seems like there is a significant amount of overkill in the water filtration/sterilization of what is essentially distilled water.
    I have an artesian well that supplies my home so this option is not something I need, however I like to keep up on what is available… Thanks for the info!

    • It’s not really distiller water and contains any impurities that might be in the air. With the excessive purification that the system uses, you could use the setup in a salt water environment or around seventy polluted/diseased water.

  33. I Counted 4 charcoal Filters, 1 mineral filter, 1 reverse osmosis filter (read that expensive,) 3 different UV lights (at +$45/bulb,) and a ptarttidge in a pear tree! As the kids say: OMG! If we can breath all this stuff without filtering it before we inhale, I don’t see the necessity. A simple activated charcoal filter and a silver lined storage tank is more than adequate for water vapor taken from air! These people are trying to make this seem so much more complicated just to keep us from simply using an efficient de-humidifier. Efficiency aside, the rest is overkill & marketing hype! Good heads-up, thanks!

    • Hence my Rube Goldberg reference :). AND why I’m playing with simpler solutions. But the fact remains that the units do work…to the extent that they’re being ordered in very large quantities.

  34. Judith Whitfield says:

    Wow! A 55 gallon water drum for $20? Where do you purchase those? The best deal on 55 gal water drums was around $50 each and that was a “special sale” that I might not ever see again.

    • davidmobile says:

      Check Craig’s list and your local freecycle group.

    • Eddie Hinson says:

      It would be much safer to buy a new drum, than buying a used drum from a source that you don’t know. Maybe buying a used drum from a distributor who would guarantee it’s safe use for water storage. I would stick with a new drum, stick with plastic not steel drums. You can get 55 gal. drums in two types; Open head and bung drums. Open head simply means the lid comes off, and bung drums have two bungs in them for filling the drum or emptying the drum, the bungs screw out and a valve can be installed for draining the drum when laying horizontally, but remember even a new drum needs to be rinsed out and cleaned from the manufacturing process.

      • I got 10 off craigslist for $15 each. They held olives before. I use them for the garden now, but have filters that could work if needed.

  35. Would be interested in the Berkey experiment since I have one. And something I haven’t seen yet…has anyone icehouses/springhouses being made and used?

  36. For several years now I have been collecting and using the drip off from my A/C unit to water plants and garden. I get about 10 gallons/day most days. Never have tested it for drinkability but I’m sure it could be properly filtered. Just a thought. I also collect roof run off into a 250 gallon tank for the garden.

  37. bob orourke says:

    Wouldn’t it be easier and cheaper to have a well drilled and a generator on standby?

    • davidmobile says:

      It depends on where you are and how much time you have. There are very few one-size fits all solutions.

    • Eddie Hinson says:

      Yes, a shallow bored well would be much cheaper, and the water can be retrieved easier. If you live in an area like we do in NC where a bored well if feasible. It’s easy enough to do, just call your local well drilling outfit and ask them.

      • davidmobile says:

        It really depends on where your at. Most people in the US live in cities. Wells aren’t an option. AWGs are.

  38. R DAvid Kryder says:

    David,
    I have no knowledge/experience with water filters, but enjoyed your article. Thanks.

    Would you think about addressing a series on what to do with one or more dead bodies, in the event of an emergency?

    Dave
    (520) 393-1783

    • Dave you and I have a problem using this type of system in our area code in which we have relative humidities (outside of monsoon) that are less than 20%. According to USGS our water table is 1250-1500 ft below us. I would love ideas on water sourcing in the Sonoran Desert.

      • Tom, I also live in the Sonoran Desert area and since I don’t know anyone who is interested (??maybe??) in survival and I am on my own, I would want to know how to contact those of like mind. All I have been reading in survival books, periodicals, blogs, etc., tell me not to advertise that I am collecting survival items. So I am reluctant to say much to anyone. I am in Tucson. Any thoughts for me and how to connect with others that are preparing?

  39. Good information. I would be concerned about the reverse osmosis filter, as that also removes the necessary minerals to stay healthy. If you are getting those essential minerals from another source (that won’t run out), OK. We drank RO water for a few years, and my wife’s arthritis and constipation were getting really bad. We stopped drinking RO water and started drinking Alkaline Ionized water and within days both problems disappeared. Be careful about drinking RO water long-term. Consider growing sprouts for nutrients and an Aquaponics system (garage sized) for growing organic food indoors, where nobody will steal it. Prep now, tomorrow may be more difficult.

    • davidmobile says:

      It’s best to simply plan on getting your minerals from somewhere other than your water.

    • Great Grey says:

      Remember water taken from the air is distilled water, no minerals in it to begin with. Only the dust in the air for any possible minerals.

  40. Early morning dew is a great source for drinkable water. Wipe it off plants and things with a towel.

    • As I’m reading the article re: generating water via the atmosphere, I heard my sump pump kick on and pump out the collected water in the well. This water is draining constantly and my pump is dutifully pumping it back out. My question is, since this is ground fitered water, could I, with treatment to remove any contaniments, drink the water? If I pumped it into a holding tank, coud I use it to wash clothes, cooking, etc? I have a battery back-up, so it’ll work when power goes out.

      • davidmobile says:

        I would personally filter it with a Berkey or Sawyer AND send a sample to a lab for testing to see if you can drink it straight.

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