In some camps, a water distiller is considered the best all-round water filter to have in your home. For other experts, as good a water filter it is, it has a drawback that in their opinions, is too serious to ignore.
But first, how does a water distiller work? It works by heating water to boiling point, causing it to vaporize and become steam.
The steam is then collected in a cooling compartment, where it condenses, that is, it turns back into a liquid. The contaminants that were originally in the water before distillation remain in the boiling chamber as the process continues.
Water distillation is good for removing microbiological contaminants such as cysts and giardia as well as inorganic compounds such as heavy metals, calcium, magnesium etc.
As a matter of fact, its ability to remove microbiological contaminants is one powerful reason why it is considered head and shoulders over reverse osmosis water filters. Reverse osmosis doesn’t effectively remove microbiological contaminants.
However, one drawback is that water distillers are ineffective at removing synthetic contaminants like TCE, trihalomethane (THMs), herbicides and pesticides, unless they are fitted with a carbon filter. More on carbon filters later.
Most synthetic compounds boil at temperatures below water, so they are simply transferred into the steam and hence, into the distilled water after condensation.
Older distillers tried to correct this problem by drilling a vent the start of the steam condenser coil, which would allow synthetic chemicals with low boiling points to be released prior to condensation.
Other systems like the fractional or water cooled distillers, formulated ways to rid the system of these dangerous gaseous as well.
However, these methods weren’t very effective, since some of these contaminants had boiling points close to that of water. Many of these chemicals were linked to cancer, making them even more dangerous.
Modern day distillation units however, are able to solve this problem by incorporating carbon filters prior to or after distillation. Carbon filters, such as granular and compressed block systems, are good at removing synthetic contaminants.
The question now becomes:” should the carbon filters be placed before or after the distillation process.
Ideally, these carbon pre-filters should be used prior to distillation. This is because carbon filters are subject to attack by airborne bacteria; bacteria which can seep into your distilled water.
Therefore, if a carbon pre-filter is used, the process of distillation can remove any bacteria that seeps in, giving you the opportunity for the cleanest possible water. If it is used after distillation, bacteria or any loose carbon might migrate into the water you drink.
Perhaps, the major drawback of distillation units is that they strip water of the trace mineral found in naturally occurring water. These minerals, such as calcium and magnesium are essential to the body. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), de-mineralized water is dangerous to your health.
No question about it, distillation removes the widest range of contaminants, which is perhaps why many people, including the U.S Navy, still use this method.
Nonetheless, no place on earth will you find naturally occurring water that has no trace minerals in it. This suggests that humans were not meant to consume de-mineralized water.
In the end, your decision to get a home distillation unit will rest on your desire for clean, safe water versus the potential health risks associated with drinking distilled water.
It would be prudent to check with your doctor about the health effects of drinking distilled water. Let him advise you as to whether the minerals gained from eating a proper diet and taking supplements, are sufficient to make up for the lack of minerals in distilled water.
If in your doctor’s opinion drinking distilled water has no adverse health effects, getting a home water distiller unit will go a long way in improving the quality of your water supply.