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WATER PURIFICATION SYSTEM, cheap and effective

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SO YOU HAVE an emergency supply of water, but you're not sure how pure it is.  Here is an excellent, cheap setup you can easily DIY for purifying LOTS of water.  It's based on the Berkey ceramic water element filtration system that's been around for a long time.  LOOK ON AMAZON FOR "DOULTON" FILTERS.  The ceramic material will filter down to .5 micron (that's 1/2 of a millionth of an inch) and according to the manufacturer will eliminate bacteria like E. coli and salmonella, and parasites like Crytposporidium and Giardia, microscopic impurities that will cause serious health problems and even death.  A colleague of mine who has a great deal of knowledge in the area of food safety has studied this setup carefully and I have built a system per his recommendations.  My primary system has 3 filters and will be used if I need to purify questionable water.  From there, you would dispense the water and add 4 drops of non-scented bleach per gallon, let it sit for at least 15 minutes.  This will address the possibility that there could be extremely small amounts or particulate matter, for example if you were purifying water from a creek.  The bleach will take care of any traces of impurities, then add the bleached water to a 2nd filter system to eliminate the bleach traces.  The result SHOULD BE a SAFE source of drinking water.  

Worth mentioning is that as long as you are putting in chlorinated tap water from your faucet, you can eliminate purchasing bottled water, because you will have a product that is far better than some of the water out there.  AND as long as you are putting in potable water, this system needs almost no maintenance.  If you're using tainted water and the impurities clog the elements, they can be removed and scrubbed with a ScotchBrite under some clear running water, and you're back in business.  The elements should NEVER need to be replaced.  DON'T USE SOAP on the ceramic elements.  I use my 3-filter device for drinking water AND for cooking, and it's really nice to have basically free purified water to cook with and not have to worry about a PUR or BRITA filter that just got 1 gallon closer to needing replacement.  This setup will pay for itself quickly for most people.

TWO COMPLETE SYSTEMS needs 4 bottles, 4 elements, 2 spigots, and can be made in a couple of hours if you have all the tools located.  Cost for the whole thing is about $150, compared to about $700 for 2 of the large stainless steel Berkeys, and I much prefer the transparant bottles so you can see what's going on inside.

I welcome any comments on this critical survival device if anyone sees anything I have missed.  This is the method I will be using to purify drinking water for me and my family.

AUTHOR ADDED:  I'M GETTING LOTS OF REQUESTS FOR HOW TO FIND THE FILTERS SO I ADDED A SCREEN SHOT OF THE ORDER PAGE FROM WHEN I GOT MINE FROM AMAZON SO YOU CAN SEE HOW MUCH IT COST WITH SHIPPING.  I DON'T KNOW THE EXACT PRICES NOW, IT'S LIKELY THE FILTERS ARE GOING UP, BUT EVEN BACK THEN THERE WAS NO SELLER WHO OFFERED ANY BREAKS ON SHIPPING, AT LEAST NONE THAT I COULD FIND.

Here is a link to the manufacturer of the filters: http://doultonusa.com

HERE'S ANOTHER EXCELLENT LINK THAT navarre1095 FOUND:
http://shop.monolithic.com/products/just-water-ceramic-drip-filter
THE FILTERS THERE HAVE CARBON INSERTS WHICH LASTS A FEW YEARS AT BEST, BUT THE CERAMIC PART IS SIMILAR TO THE DOULTON PRODUCT AND CAN BE CLEANED AND REUSED INDEFINITELY DEPENDING ON THE WATER SOURCE, FOLLOW THE LINK FOR SOME REALLY GOOD INFO, ALSO THEY HAVE A LITTLE BETTER PRICE ON COMPONENTS FOR A SYSTEM LIKE THIS.
crlsh2 years ago
It's not cheap if it costs you $300+ dollars.
Hebinho2 years ago
The idea is great!
But I guess the whole assembly should be kept far away from bright daylight in order to not have algae produced in the two bottles. And if you have time enough to wait, one filter element should be enough. The filter elements are designed to last for about a max. of 6,000 litres (depending on the quality of the water beeing purified ("filtered")).
Pratical experience here in the countryside in Brazil is, that the filter element gets blocked mechanical by sediments in the water far from reaching these 6,000 litres and the recommendation in the user guide for these elements is to change them at least after 6 months (but I couldn't find out if this is the max. time of efficiency of the activated carbon, the colloidal silver or the mechanical filter fleece).

BTW: "...down to .5 micron (that's 1/2 of a millionth of an inch)..." The unit "Micron" is by definition the millionth of one meter (take a look at http://www.finishing.com/226/71.shtml )

Best regards from Brazil
Dipl.-Ing. Herbert Waldherr
you only have to worry about algae if your water has a pH above 7.2.
waldosan2 years ago
i actually have a well at my house so as long as i have electricity the pump will work, if that fails the well cap comes off easily enough and i can simply cap off a pipe and make a simple pipe bucket, failing all of that the place where i live is filled with springs and someone had the smart idea of building a cistern in a state owned park and running a pvc pipe to allow it to drain using gravity.

that last option is actually my primary source of water at the moment as the bloody stupid architect of my old house decided to put the septic and the well on the same side of the house, it's not deadly or anything we've tested it but it takes too long to acclimate to the taste of it to really make it worthwhile, the water from the spring is literally the best tasting water i have ever had, ever. so we got a few 5 gallon water jugs and a stoneware water dispenser for our counter and now we have clean good tasting water.

as for catching water being illegal i find it hard to believe that it'd be enforceable, one big thing to remember about legislation is not just the balance between privacy and protection but also the ability to enforce anything. trying to enforce any kind of legislation like this is a statistical nightmare and really cause more problems than solve.
DanCrocker2 years ago
Sad part about this is that some communities are now looking at legislation to prevent homeowners from catching rainwater because it reduces the inflow to the water table. Not my words. Theirs.
Stands to reason stream flows would be reduced by growing numbers of households practicing water catchment. Rather than outright ban, limiting the storage capacity should be something everyone could live with. Large users of water from aquifers live with a limit they to how much water can withdraw.
There are actually many places around the world where it's already illegal. Check your local laws before you build something like this since the fines are usually ridiculous.
tim_n2 years ago
Great but I assume it doesn't filter out chemicals such as pesticides/poisons etc.
aworkofbart (author)  tim_n2 years ago
Take a look at the link I just added (monolithic) and I think you will find the info there useful. The manufacturer lists all the nasty things that their ceramic filter takes out including pesticides and such. I think that some of their performance depends on how long the charcoal center lasts, let us know if you can figure that part out. Might be a good idea to build a system and put away a few extra filters for future uncertainties.
navarre10952 years ago
Excellent post! I treat drinking water for a living and this will definitely do the trick. A cheaper ceramic filter can be found here if you are interested.http://shop.monolithic.com/products/just-water-ceramic-drip-filter
aworkofbart (author)  navarre10952 years ago
Excellent link, I'm going to post it on the article, it's a good source for anyone who wants more info about ceramic filters.
WVSundown2 years ago
Could you use hydrogen peroxide to purify? I'm trying to stay away from bleach, but will use it if I have to.
aworkofbart (author)  WVSundown2 years ago
I haven't looked into that, seems like the standard is unscented bleach.
OK, thanks.
silver colloid is better for you than bleach or peroxide; just don't mix the two.
Thanks, I forgot about silver colloid!
Hydrogen peroxide will only kill things that die in the presence of oxygen, since it basically works by releasing free radicals. It's only suitable for use if you know that the contamination consists of anaerobic microbes. Shaking some air into the water usually works just as well.
Thanks, I hadn't thought of that!
Don't forget silver dollars they will work in a pinch if you run out of or don't have Silver colloid. Pioneers used to put them into their water to purify it. So look for silver dollars and silver half dollars. If they have any copper color on the sides they are silver plated. You need true silver dollars or half dollars. During the plagues in Europe the rich used to give their children silver spoons to suck on. Thus the saying "born with a silver spoon in their mouth". Remember silver is a natural and save disinfectant/antibacterial that was widely used up until WW2.
Bosun Rick2 years ago
A friend of mine just advised me that he simply recycles the water extracted by his de-humidifier. It's pure distailled water, suitable for any use.
The only problems are recovery amount could be too low for normal household use (IE: bathing & cooking) but maybe enough to use for drinking, also, long term storage in sterile containers. He uses 1 gallon milk jugs (washed & dried of course).
I use 2 whole house type filters in tandem, 1st one has a 5 micron carbon filter, the 2nd is a ceramic but I'm not sure of the micron rating. My next project is a bleach injection pump that will be tied in to come on with the pump on my water system, serving a measured amount of bleach into the water to help cut rust bacteria (a source for those pesky red/orange/brown stains in the toilets & showers) which can't be all that healthy.
HollyHarken2 years ago
Some detailed instructions and photos would be appreciated. To my thinking this is too general and not specific enough. Maybe I'm used to the very detailed instructables that are usually posted on this site.
aworkofbart (author)  HollyHarken2 years ago
I'm not sure I am using the right format because my page doesn't seem to display like others I have seen, but if you click on each photo and hover over them you should see some details.
sallyab2 years ago
I'd like to try this and did a search on Amazon, but only came up with replacement filter cartridges and nothing 'ceramic'. Is that right? Is there a particular brand you used? Does this system prevent lime build up?
aworkofbart (author)  sallyab2 years ago
I added a screen shot to help you find the filters. I think the ceramic elements will remove lime among all the other things they trap, but you might want to check the manufacturer's claims.
poppet22 years ago
Sorry that I'm being dense, but what kind of filers, etc. are you talking about? I'm not seeing any information that makes things plain to someone like myself. Please redo this in some more detail for people like me. I'm really interested, but can hardly get any usable information out of what you've provided.
aworkofbart (author)  poppet22 years ago
I added a screen shot to help you find the filters.
CarolAnn5252 years ago
I would like instructions and a detailed supply list and if you can tell where to get the filters from. i am very interested in doing this but need more details as to how. THANK YOU! It is a wonderful and needed project!
aworkofbart (author)  CarolAnn5252 years ago
I added a screen shot to help you find the filters, and be sure you hovered over all the pics, that's where a lot of the details are. Let me know if you need more.
Are the two jugs "sealed and connected" ? Or does the lower jug just have the the top cut off from it, then the upper jug is just setting on top of the lower jug?

And if it the lower jug is cut open on top, does the weight of the full upper jug cause "flexing" problems on the lower jug?
aworkofbart (author)  Scratchthejeepguy2 years ago
The upper jug just "nests" on top, the beads of hot glue that I added make it sit nice and straight, no flexing problems while everything is sitting where it's supposed to. Even with the top cut out, the containers are very sturdy.
niftyswell2 years ago
My day job is helping to design industrial water for ultrapure semiconductor application starting with raw water from a river or well. Nice job but a couple of pointers..the more you pretreat with carbon and less demanding filters the longer and better the quality of your final product will be and the more life you will get out of those pricy ceramic filters. A pretreat filter costs 5 bucks and I would step those to smaller and smaller particulate ratings. Otherwise the pressure drop would be too great and you would be changing filters all day long. In the industry we call undesirable biotics: bugs. Keep in mind that carbon can become a bug factory if it is not periodically hot sanitized 160 degree water for 2 hours is safest. Sanitization with bleach is a necessary maintenance needed on your unit at all stages where water is stagnant. Remember exponential bug growth starts after only 4 hours of stagnation where there is no chlorine. Sunlight actually can in many cases sterilize too and they do that using those containers (contrary to Walter's comments above) google sterilzing water with sunlight in Africa for details- but it takes a day in the sun to kill all the bugs. You do not have to see them to know they are there and even the most aggressively treated water has bugs in it. So there are very affordable tds test kits you can buy and if you want to then you could even do your own CFU (colony forming unit) test with a petri dish for fun to test the efficiency of your unit for bugs.

At my home I use a pre-filter 10 micron, 5 micron, then softener with industrial mix bed resin(will last probably forever with residential flows), carbon, reverse osmosis setup with a high efficiency grundfos pump and staged industrial bladder tanks. For my entire home it cost 20 thousand to make a low energy unit that needs filters replaced every 3 years and salt every 6 months but if I wanted to set up a simple tap feed I think the DIY crowd could do it for a similar amount of $$ to what you spent!
f5mando2 years ago
An excellent instructable, depending on where you live. Our tap water is laced with fluoride. Without reverse osmosis it remains in the water.
Cool))
clasof562 years ago
ah, one more thought....my wife uses the purified water to wash her hair...she says its a great improvement from city water....
clasof562 years ago
hey guy, is great to see this set up. all i can say is that it works great. i could not drink the tap water here..like a laxative in a half hour. finally bought a berkey stainless set up with two filters and now no problem at all. the filters are great and supposed to last ten years...we do about three gallons a day here with little effort. the key, like you said, is the filters. and like they say, the water is not filtered, its purified.
you did a useful and fun project. cudos