It works!

It works at a glacial pace, but it does work.


Interested in keeping track of time, I set up the distiller but didn’t turn the flame on till 8am exactly. Not surprisingly, it took a long time for anything at all to happen.


The distiller is in three stainless steel pieces: Bottom to top, they’re the water pan, the collector pan, and the condenser pan. I filled the water pan with bottled drinking water trucked in from town and the condenser pan with well water. Four hours later I feared I was going to regret that last thing but it turned out all right.

Now, the way this works…


The water in the bottom pan boils. The steam goes through the cone in the center of the collecter pan, condenses on the bottom of the condenser pan and drips down into the collecter pan. The collecter pan seems to hold about half a gallon before anything comes out the hose at all…


…but once the water covers the exit pipe and starts to flow, it starts a syphon that empties the collector pan. So either clamp the hose (included) or have the end of the hose ready in a pot because it all comes out at once…


And on my stove, that happened after three and a quarter hours. Like I said, glacial. But it seems that’s just how long every home distiller takes. Might be quicker with a bigger burner underneath.


The water in the condenser pan gets really hot, like almost boiling. Since I filled it with well water, that pan was pretty much a mess by the time I was done but happily I had lots of hot water to wash it out in.


And since the Lair is a rather small cabin, all that hot water kind of fogged the windows.


I let the whole thing run until 12 pm, time to feed and walk Tobie. And when I was done…


Something over half a gallon of distilled water. Unimpressive but better than nothing and might very well save my electrical system’s metaphorical ass one day. I think it really might serve me to revisit the matter of solar heat.

I’m left with a question: Would it have worked better if I kept swapping the water on top when it got hot? I don’t know. The instructions say not to, that it’s supposed to get hot. I don’t understand that, logically it should work better with cold water in the condenser pan, but since there’s very little steam leakage I’m also not sure it makes any difference.

About Joel

You shouldn't ask these questions of a paranoid recluse, you know.
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14 Responses to It works!

  1. Malatrope says:

    Won’t hurt anything to experiment. Keep the top water cooler and see what happens. At the least, you might get less fog on the windows. I suspect excess steam coming out into the room means the stove can be turned down a mite. Perfect would be all steam condensing into liquid.

  2. Dan Garrison says:

    Can you put it on the wood stove when you are heating the cabin?

  3. jabrwok says:

    I wonder if dropping some ice cubes in the condenser water (or freezing said water) would accelerate the condensation process.

  4. -s says:

    So long as the condenser pan isn’t starting to boil, it will work just fine. Cooling it won’t improve anything. Trust physics.

    Putting it on the wood stove is a great idea. It will cost nothing – all the heat eventually goes into the room, which is what you want from the stove. It will save 4 hours of propane.

  5. wouterdewaal says:

    I’magonnabet most people who buy that setup does not use it for battery water…

  6. jrg says:

    So basically, you boil water (regular) and gather the condensation as the end product (distilled), correct ? That sounds about right.

    I recall that people who melt snow in a pan receive a very small amount of water too. Your pictured results make sense to me. The wood stove idea above sounds like a winner, but regulating steady heat might be a problem.

  7. Kentucky says:

    Seems like you could get the same result from distilling your well water . . . at the cost of really messing up the water pan.

  8. Ben says:

    Practical, sun-powered water distilling is theoretically possible, as a “dump load” using the excess capacity of your pv system. A small electric still could make a few oz per typical day operating after your batteries are fully charged.

    I’m thinking of a version of something like this: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0B7RK4H7M?ref_=posts

  9. Goober says:

    Second vote for trying on the wood stove when you have a good fire going. With the added benefit of putting some humidity in the cabin on those cold, dry days. Keep Toby’s nose from going dry.

  10. Anonymous says:

    …I can’t think of how to work this into an ironic last post…distilled water seems pretty tame.
    I guess the Wild West ain’t so wild any more.

  11. Joel says:

    Most aspects of self-reliant living are quite tame, because they’re just aspects of life. Once when I was much younger I was an enthusiastic member of the ‘guns and gear’ school of prepping, but I now recognize that as fundamentally unserious. When you actually live off the grid your everyday needs have very little to do with tacticoolity. Yesterday I baked bread and washed laundry, and saw nary a single zombie. 🙂 Doesn’t mean I wasn’t carrying a gun.

  12. Mike says:

    It’s nice to see that you have the distilled water issue in hand. I think the suggestion of placing the still on the wood stove is a good one. Maybe add a small side table for the black pot to stand on.

    “Most aspects of self-reliant living are quite tame”

    You sure have that right, Joel. I got away from the tacticool stuff years ago when I retired. After settling into retirement mode, I came to the conclusion that the act of constantly planning ahead and worrying about the future fed off my uncertainty rather than eliminating it. Now, I put away a few things for a rainy day and do my seasonal preps, but don’t lose sleep over it.

To the stake with the heretic!