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DIY Solar Water Distillers Purify Contaminated Water | Off Grid World
These simple, low-tech homemade solar water distillers, done as an experiment by New Mexico State University, use the evaporation cycle to purify undesirable water. They are nothing more than boxes constructed from miscellaneous materials with a glass or plexiglass face, a trough to collect the water, and tubes to drain the clean water into a container.

Dirty water is placed into the distiller box and left in the sun. When the sun heats up the box, pure water evaporates and collects on the glass as condensation, leaving the contaminants behind. The water drips down off the glass into the trough, where it flows through the tube into a collection jar.

These distillers are effective, safe, and cheap, as they can be made from materials that are easy to obtain. They are able to purify contaminated water and salt water.

According to the NMSU studies done with these distillers, sea water with 30,000 parts per million of salt can be purified to 1 ppm. No matter how bad the water is that is placed into the distiller, the water collected in this manner comes out about 99.9% pure, making these simple distillers ideal for disaster situations.

A unit built similar to these at a size of about 6 ft x 4 ft would provide about four gallons of clean water per day - enough drinking and cooking water for a family of four.
 

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Closet Powerboater
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I picked up 2, sealed US airforce survival solar stills. Each is about 3x5x3" and weighs about half a pound. They're for the abandon ship bag and hopefully will never be used.

The book "Sailing the farm" had lots of drawings and diagrams for DIY solar stills. They had rigid ones like in the above article and roll-up designs as well. The home made ones seem useful perhaps, but I'd be worried about water sloshing around in them and the salt water contaminating the fresh.

MedSailor
 

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They are great if you have plenty of sunlight and all day. I'm not sure that they would be that effective on a moving boat with a breeze. For a life raft i'd want something far more efective.

Try it in your backyard. It's not hard to make. You will be amazed how long it takes to make some water.
Then imagine on a moving boat.

Solar stills are for survival in austere land enviornments.
A unit built similar to these at a size of about 6 ft x 4 ft would provide about four gallons of clean water per day - enough drinking and cooking water for a family of four.
In New Mexico; low humidity high heat enviornment.

Done it, it's barely enough water to get by.
 

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I'd consider that estimation of solar still output of a 4X6' unit to be wildly optimistic and in general you might get about 1/3 that.

The average solar still loses a lot of efficiency because the water is condensing on the surface through which the light passes heating the water that has already condensed.
A better design would have a collector that then put the heat into a reservoir of water with an entirely separate condensor. Perhaps the condensor could be cooled by evaporation to improve efficiency.
 
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