Water Filtration: Safe Drinking Water from Thin Air?
Safe drinking water from thin air? That’s the claim of San Luis Obispo, California, based Atmospheric Water Systems (AWS), which offers a product line of air-filtering water systems under the brand Dewpointe. Founded more than a year and a half ago by Co-owner Stephen Krauss, Dewpointe systems takes a different approach to creating safe drinking water. Rather than filtering the water that comes through a pipe, Dewpointe filters the moisture out of the air to create drinking water. There are no water pipes attached to the machine. The rectangular device simply plugs into a wall.
I caught up with Mr. Krauss on the second day of this year’s West Coast Green event held at Fort Mason in San Francisco, California, and found out more about the Dewpointe system.
How does it work? Magic?
No, similar to a dehumidifier, Dewpointe pulls moisture out of the air; but unlike a dehumidifier, the goal of this device is to make that moisture drinkable. A series of filters take out 99.99% of the impurities and create clean drinking water. Impressive as this may sound, it also means that there must be moisture in the air for Dewpointe to operate effectively. Hence, all tropical or even moderate humidity environments in the United States such as coastal states, the south and mid-west work well. In desert environments or low moisture areas such as the south-western US, the Dewpointe will struggle.
How much water does it create and what does it cost?
Depending on the relative humidity, a residential unit will create 3-8 gallons of drinking water per day. There is a hot/cold water model (DH9) and a cold only model (DH9x). Both models retail for $1,599. Commercial units are also available but were not at the show and therefore are not described in this article.
Is there maintenance?
Yes, similar to all other water filtration systems, the water filters need to be changed. Estimated annual filter changes is approximately $100. The filters are made of plastic and can be recycled in the same way you would recycle any other plastic. Units come with a 90-day labor, one-year parts and three-year compressor guarantee from the manufacturer.
How does it taste?
Anyone who has ever tasted “plasticy” bottled water or chlorinated tap water will know that taste is the real test of any filtration system. Dewpointe claims that its water is more pure than anything you’ll get out of your tap and will be much better than what you are accustomed to tasting from bottled water. Mr Krauss states that this is because the EPA allows 20 parts per million (PPM) of total dissolved solids in tap water whereas bottled water can have anywhere from 400-800 PPM. Dewpointe has 3 PPM. My completely unscientific and statistically meaningless test of drinking a cup of Dewpointe water confirms that it does taste clean, clear and overall excellent.
How much energy does it use?
This is the downside of using an electric device to create clean drinking water. The hot and cold model uses around 10 kilowatt (kW) hours of power to create 3-8 gallons per day at a cost between $0.40 – $3.00/day. This is because the cost of electricity varies across the US with some areas paying only $0.04 per kW hour and other areas paying as high as $0.30 per kW hour. The higher your humidity, the more you will produce and the lower your per gallon cost. Worst case scenario is that the cost of a gallon of purified water is the minimum amount of water produced (3 gallons) and the highest cost of electricity ($0.30 * 10 kW hours = $3.00) meaning that a gallon costs $3.00/3 gallons = $1.00 per gallon. This is comparable to what you would pay at the store but means you do not have to waste a plastic bottle or make a trip to the store. The best case scenario for a Dewpointe system is that you produce 8 gallons of water at a cost of $0.40 or $.05 per gallon. As you can see, where you fall on the humidity/electric rate spectrum makes a big difference but even the worst case scenario is comparable to the price for a gallon in the store. Mr. Krauss states that the average cost one should expect to pay is somewhere between the extremes or around $0.50-$0.60 per gallon. Note that both models shut off when the water storage tank is full.
Off grid considerations
Since the Dewpointe system runs on electricity, anyone who wants drinking water off the grid could simply couple this unit with solar panels to create drinking water in remote locations. This is ideal for emergency relief areas, military applications, park ranger stations and a plethora of other situations.
The compressors are built in the United States, the filters come from Japan and the body of the units is made in China. Mr. Krauss stated that he spent a long time determining the best place to manufacture the units and through his research realized that an entirely US built system would need to retail for closer to $4,000.
Cool to the last drop
Depending on where you live, the quality of your water and the price you pay for electricity, Dewpointe may offer a clean, cost effective, great tasting, and more sustainable way for you to enjoy drinking water. Magic? No. Innovative thinking? Yes.
To see the device in action and find out more about why it was developed, watch the video below:
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