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Solar Water Distillers – Kits and Plans

I have built and sold and installed solar water distillers for years. It is a wonderful feeling to build something that can take contaminated or polluted water and turn it into absolutely pure and drinkable, fresh water!

So what is a solar water distiller?

First of all you want to understand how a solar water distiller, also called a solar still, actually runs. You design it so that the sun heats and distills the water without any electricity whatsoever. It works by evaporation and condensation, just like how rain is made.

This is a completely passive method (no moving parts, nothing to break down) and is great for areas with water contamination issues, for cabins or camping, survivalist expeditions, emergencies or after earthquakes, for people with health problems, or folks that just simply want to drink clean water without having to buy it or spend countless dollars on filters the rest of their lives (or the high electric bill to run an electric distiller).

How does a solar water distiller work?

So basically a solar distiller (still) is a wide and low-profile ‘box’ (the still body) that has glass on top at a slightly sloped (about 10 degrees) angle. The bottom of this box inside will be black so as to absorb as much of the sun’s rays as possible. The water is inserted through a side tube (you can use a water hose or gravity-fill using a bucket and tube) into a thin layer, maybe 1″-2″ in depth inside the still.

solar still

Solar Water Distiller

The sun shines through the glass and heats up the water, as this happens the water will start to evaporate, and will begin condensing onto the cooler glass above, and then trickle down underneath the glass, draining into a 1″ CPVC tube (or other food-safe material) cut in half lengthwise, which acts as a water trough. The condensed/distilled water then drains out an exit tube into your water collection vessel (usually glass since plastic dioxins in plastics can be carcinogenic).

That’s all there is to making solar distilled water!

However, be aware…

Making the box with food-safe materials is a MUST! There are different ways to do this.

Additionally, the box needs to be insulated well so as to not lose heat. Basically, this is similar to a solar oven design, but holds water, and gets hot enough to burn you if you were to touch it.

The water does not boil–nor do you want it to boil since that is a ‘forced distillation’ method and is typically too acidic, plus tends to taste metallic.

Natural solar water distilled water is softer and alkaline, if not neutral in pH, and tastes sweeter than forced distilled water.

Choosing the right materials

It’s a bit tricky choosing the right materials, but items ranging from glass to solar kits that have high quality food-grade silicone manufactured liner can be included. You can also use food-grade silicone in the tubes (special order only) like what regular silicone caulking comes in and smear it onto the inside of the box yourself to cure before distilling water.

Some people use high-grade stainless steel but this tends to be expensive and can pit/erode over time since distilled water has NOTHING in it, and absorbs whatever it touches.

Glass can also be used, but it would need something black that does not fade in the sun underneath it, and food-grade silicone would still be needed to seal the corners and edges.

Build Your Own Distiller

You can learn all about the layers of insulation and box materials and items needed (plus other tips and warnings on which materials to avoid) in my book (version 1), which is a FREE PDF download here on my regular solar distiller page.

My 2012 edition book is also available in paperback that has this book on solar water distillers in it (including how to build a solar oven, solar and wind energy, earthtubes, hurricane/tornado resistant houses, and passive solar home design): Passive Solar Energy House Projects: A How-To Guide
Hard copy $15.00 / Electronic $9.99 (Kindle) / FREE here on Kindle for Amazon Premium members

I no longer sell manufactured solar water distillers, however you can click on the links below to purchase them directly from the websites/companies if you desire, or buy a kit, or simply get the construction plans and do it on the cheap.

Build-It-Yourself KITS

FYI: You can buy the Rainmaker 990 solar still KIT from Solaqua if you want a starter kit rather than building one from scratch.

Construction PLANS

For solar water distiller construction plans anyone used to be able to obtain them through the El Paso Solar Energy Association but they went defunked, so you can now get the black-and-white newspaper print style copy here at Solaqua for $27

KEEP WATCH! Soon I will have the original EPSEA style solar still construction plans (coming soon!) available for you as an 8-1/2″ x 11″ paperback for the same $27 price, which includes myself (Sharon Buydens) as well as the original authors (Mike Cormier & Robert Foster)  of the above but with some color photos added, a whole section about the original EPSEA solar distiller projects in colonias, and some extras that are not found in the original. More bang for your buck!

Get on my email newsletter list (top right column of this page) to be notified of when it becomes available, as well as other free titles and articles.

Small/individual home-sized manufactured distillers

A top water distiller that is on the market (and has been successful for many years) is the Solaqua Rainmaker 550 solar water distiller. It produces 1 1/2 gal/day for 1-2 people per still (no electricity, on-site, no running water necessary).

Large output manufactured distillers

Suns-River stills produce 4x the amount of water than a passive still using the sun and an electric pump – these are excellent for communities or even families.

Flo-Onics Stills used to produce 100 gal/day to 250,000 gal/day for communities/groups/towns but last time I checked I think the company was defunked.

Enjoy learning more and making your own solar water distiller as my next book comes out on this very subject…

Be sure to sign up for our newsletter and get on the list for new posts for my blog articles and also updates on when new free ebooks will be available!


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