When you’re on the go in your RV you may not always have access to essentials you need. One thing you never want to find yourself without when you are in the middle of nowhere is clean drinking water, especially if you are traveling in an area with salt water or anywhere near Mexico. No matter what type of water source you're starting with, distilling is always the best way to go in order to obtain quality drinking water. Learn more about choosing and using water distillers for RVing here.
But my water is already “clean”! Even “clean” water can have potentially harmful contaminants. Typically, water is treated with chlorine to eliminate pollutants. However there are usually pollutants left behind, and chlorine remains in the water too. The EPA has “allowable” levels of lead, arsenic, mercury, radioactive particles, and other toxins that they consider safe for drinking water. Pollutants that are found in water that are not safe and that you want to eliminate include aluminum, asbestos, chlorine, cysts, microbes, and salt. Microbes include bacteria, viruses, protozoa, and fungi. Not all of these are “dangerous,” but they can affect your health negatively. So how do you remove these toxins from your water, especially if you are in an area where the water source is sketchy to begin with? Distill it!
How distilling works First let’s understand how fresh water is replenished in nature. When evaporation occurs, the water leaves all the impurities behind as it rises up to the clouds. So this means that the clouds fill up with clean, drinkable water. Evaporation naturally separates the impurities from the water. This natural process has been duplicated in a handy tool you can use to create clean, drinkable water in the great outdoors. A water distiller can turn dirty, polluted water into crystal clear drinking water!
How a distiller works Water distillers are appliances that will heat water, catch the steam, and then deposit the steamed water into another container, leaving the impurities in the beginning reservoir. These appliances are available in different sizes to meet varying needs, from a single person to a family. The space inside your RV and the type of camping you do will determine the size and type of distiller you will choose. If you are on the go and using many different water sources, you will want a standard countertop machine. These typically take around 4 hours to distill the water and hold about a gallon at a time. If you are parked at a campsite with continuous water hookups, you can get an automatic distiller that will constantly distill water as you use it. These generally hold just under 4 gallons at a time and can distill up to 9 gallons a day. These distillers can be very expensive and take up a lot of space, so for this reason we will focus on the countertop version.
Why spend the money on a distiller when you can just filter the water? Water filters are typically made of carbon that strains out the impurities. The problem with these filters is that they are unable to completely rid the water of other impurities. Filters will only slightly reduce pollutants like algae, chloride, copper, lead, mercury, nitrates, salt, and viruses. With a filter, you are attempting to remove the contaminates from the water. With distillation, you remove the water from the contaminates.
How do I choose the correct distiller? Once you have figured out what size you need, there are a host of brands with different features to sift through. One of the biggest things you want to look for is quality. Buying a cheap distiller can lead to two possible problems. First, inexpensive distillers don't always properly distill your water, so it may not be as clean as you think it is. Secondly, inexpensive distillers often break quickly, causing you to have to replace it way too early. So don’t just grab the cheapest one! Read online reviews and ask friends or fellow campers which one they use (if they do). Another thing to consider is the temperature at which the distiller is working. It is good to look for one that has a “preheat” feature. The reason for this is that there are some toxins in the water that actually evaporate and have a lower boiling point than water. This means that as the water begins to heat, these will evaporate first and still end up in your water. The “preheat” phase brings the water temperature high enough to remove these impurities and deposit them in a filter, and then reach the appropriate temperature to evaporate the water. Some distillers will include either a “pre-filter” or a “post-filter.” The reason for this is to get rid of any volatile organic chemicals that may be able to survive the distillation process. The pre-filter will remove these chemicals before the distillation process which is the most efficient way to remove them. However, unless there is a pressurized water input, they are not very practical, and with a manual countertop distiller, this isn’t a possibility. The post-filter will remove these chemicals from the steam as it’s forced through the filter. There are a few more features you will want to consider. An automatic shut-off switch is important so you don’t have to remember to turn it off, especially if you're leaving your RV to go exploring. Making sure it is off when not in use can not only prolong the life of the unit, but helps to reduce the risk of fire. You will also want to make sure that any plastic on the container is BPA-free. When dealing with heated liquids, getting BPA-free plastic is the way to go.
For an RV, we chose the H2oLabs 300. The size of this distiller is reasonable for the average RV, but the main reasons we chose this distiller are:
- 1-year warranty
- UL Listed (meaning it has been safety tested by Underwriters Laboratories)
- All plastic is BPA-free
- Has optimal heating
- Has a thermal switch and fail-safe fuse for added safety
Our second choice for a countertop distiller is the Megahome MH943TWS. This distiller features:
- A 1-year warranty
- UL listed
- A safety shut-off
While the carafe is glass, we were unable to find mention on the BPA status of the plastic used to make the unit. It is unlikely that the plastic contained within this unit will affect the water as it is simply the housing, but that is why this unit came in as our #2 pick. Learn about other high-tech camping gear that can make your getaway easier and safer! While enjoying the RV lifestyle and cruising around America, keep your glasses full of clean, pollutant-free water by using an ingenious water distiller! Do you use a water distiller when camping? Which one do you use? Let us know in the comments!