Distiller vs. Reverse Osmosis for water? Love/Horror stories?

Discussion in 'Darkroom Equipment' started by michaelbsc, Aug 14, 2011.

  1. michaelbsc

    michaelbsc Member

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    In another thread someone mentioned using a home distiller to get clean water for mixing chemicals. My municipal water is biologically safe, but has enough mineral content that I'm surprised the county isn't trying to hawk the mineral rights to a mining company to get extra revenue.

    Now, being somewhat dense I really wasn't aware these home distiller units existed. I have been looking at a small reverse osmosis system to clean up my water, but haven't made any purchases yet. Bottled water is getting to be a chore.

    My limited research on line over the past hour leads me to believe that the two types of systems will provide about the same quality of water, and systems sized to deliver similar quantities are somewhat comparably priced.

    Obviously a distiller will require periodic cleaning while an RO system will require periodic filter pack replacement.

    Does anyone have any love/hate stories to pass on as advice about comparing the two?

    Thanks,
    Michael
     
  2. tkamiya

    tkamiya Member

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    I'm using one of those faucet mount Pure filter thingy. The water tastes absolutely devoid of any "flavors." I lack any ability to make judgement beyond that. I use water from it to make stock/working solutions.

    It is said to remove 99.xxx% of mineral content.
     
  3. Ian C

    Ian C Member

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    The heart of reverse osmosis water purification system is the semipermeable membrane. They have to be replaced periodically and can be expensive.

    The water is usually first filtered with conventional cartridge filters to remove as much particulate as possible before introducing the incoming water to the pressurized side of the semipermeable membrane. These devices work by using an applied pressure on the inlet side of the membrane in excess of the osmotic pressure (a function of the membrane and the particular liquid).

    The cost of both the filters and the semipermiable membrane has to be factored into the operating cost. The semipermiable membranes are often referred to as “filters”, but shouldn’t be confused with the conventional filters that first remove the coarse particles from the incoming water.

    http://www.filtersfast.com/Pentek-ROM-26T-Filter-Membrane.asp?gclid=CJ-f-Iyyz6oCFQfBKgodBUU8zg
     
  4. georg16nik

    georg16nik Member

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    Michael, my distiller is dentist-grade made in Italy, its being sold in Europe mainly to dentists, I know for sure that similar distillers are available in US.
    It needs around 6 hours to process ~ 1 gallon of water. It is very small device, a stainless steel container where the water is heated, on top of it, it has a cover that holds a serpent with a fan, so that the vapors from boiling the water are lead into a collecting container, on the top of that container, there is a box with black charcoal/activated carbon to filter out the water completely. So, the chain is distilling -> filtering through black charcoal/activated carbon..
    This is as simple as I can describe it :smile:
    You can pass the already distilled water a few times more if You need double, triple etc etc distillation.
    I distill water every day, so once a week You put a few teaspoons of citric acid in the stainless steel container, fill it with water and without the cover You connect the device to the grid to make the water almost boil.
    You will notice that after 10 minutes the citric acid has dissolved the mineral gunk content from the bottom.
    That is as far as periodically cleaning the distiller.
    Cleaning is a must, because after a week if daily distilling, the bottom of the distiller is covered with minerals layer, its hard to describe the smell of the distiller stainless steel tank after the distillation is completed..

    I try to always use distilled water in processing films and paper. All is crystal clear.

    Reverse osmosis is a different cup of tea, not worth the hassle. Been there done that.
     
  5. Bill Burk

    Bill Burk Subscriber

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    I have a reverse osmosis unit that I bought online from a company in Canada. It's served me well over the years. Most of the water goes to the refrigerator pitcher and tea kettle. But since the tap is here in my darkroom, I have ready purified water for chemical mixing.

    They threw in what they called a shower filter, can't imagine anyone wanting to take a shower with one of those on the top of their head. That filter went to my water table, where it gives my sink water one stage of filtration, just enough to keep particles out of my rinse water.

    I have on occasion come in to find a fine mist spraying. I have learned to replace the filters while there is still enough daylight to solve any plumbing problem I may cause. But aside from requiring nerves of steel, it is generally stable.
     
  6. Steve Goldstein

    Steve Goldstein Subscriber

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    I've used a distiller unit for a long time. My first one finally gave out after about 25 years, so I bought a new one just 3 years ago. It's basically the same as Georg described. The activated-carbon post-filter needs to be changed periodically, I've always gone way longer than the recommended replacement schedule. As for cleaning, I put a couple of inches of water in and a carefully calibrated splash of vinegar (1-2 tablespoons, I guess) and let it sit overnight, then usually just rinse it out. I bought the unit and replacement filters from Waterwise in Florida.
     
  7. Pgeobc

    Pgeobc Member

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    For some number of years, I was involved with trying to supply a clinic with distilled water where the water was very hard.

    It was disappointing to say the least: stills had to be cleaned and maintained, not to mention tended to while running. Occasionally, our glass still would break because someone got in a hurry.

    We then tried reverse osmosis. That method failed, too, because of clogged filters.

    To make a long story short, it was cheaper and easier to buy commercial deionized water.
     
  8. georg16nik

    georg16nik Member

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    Geo , glass in distillers were used in the ancient times.
    In the last decades all distillers uses stainless steel for the heating container and the spiral tubes.
     
  9. jk0592

    jk0592 Member

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    We have a RO system to purify water for the marine fish.
    For my darkroom work, I find it is faster and easier to manage to buy demineralized water by the gallon at the drugstore.
     
  10. mrred

    mrred Subscriber

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    I am an urban dweller that does not drive and lives in a condo. RO was out of the question and the distiller gave me great freedom from lugging heavy bottles from the drug store. It is obviously not for everyone, but it really works for me.

    Something not discussed yet is the real cost of distilling vs RO. Distilling will hit your electric bill. You are boiling off all that water. Aside from the cost of the filters, RO looks pretty cheap.
     
  11. Rick A

    Rick A Subscriber

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    I have a whole house filter set-up that does the exact same thing your tap filter does, except at every faucet and plumbing fixture that draws cold water. I filter for sediment and taste, two different filters in line on the main feed line to the house.
     
  12. bwfans

    bwfans Member

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    I have used RO for 10 years because our water source is well water. I found RO is very economical for houses with well water. The only consumable is water and well water is almost free except the electricity used by the well pump.

    Local tap water is usually around 120-180 ppm. The water come out of RO is around 10 ppm. Sometime I feel the RO water is too pure and might not have enough minerals to satisfy human needs.

    Home distilled water costs around 10 cents or 20 cents per gallon. This is cheaper than buying from the store.

    Both distilled water and RO water are perfect for darkroom uses.
     
  13. puptent

    puptent Member

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    I noted only one comment mentioning a de-ionizer. My mother was a tech in a large hospital lab that ran a de-ionizing column 24/7. It requires a modest amount of electricity, and provided enough water for all the labs, and several photographers who filled up every week or so. The one in the lab sat on top of a cabinet, a footprint of only a couple square feet. I don't know if a de-ionizing system would meet your needs, and I don't know what kind of maintenance or expendables it required (I just filled a couple of 1 gallon jugs a couple times a week or so, and there were several photographers that I knew of in the lab taking home water also). It might even be the kind of thing that can be owner built?
     
  14. georg16nik

    georg16nik Member

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    As far as electric bill..
    Well, there are solar distillers if You want to cut costs. I have friend who made one for his house, since its relatively easy to be made by someone who knows the first things about the process.

    @bwfans - the human body gets minerals from the food by hydrolysis, also some of the companies that sells distillers, provide liquid minerals, so You know what You put in the water and how much.
    Some of us drink distilled or RO, their entire life.
    As far as I know distilled water is what is provided in the military ships, submarines etc. etc.
     
  15. DREW WILEY

    DREW WILEY Member

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    For fussy work like color separation negatives or matching masks where the development characteristic
    must be exact and perfectly repeatable, or making up critical pH dyes, I only used steam-distilled. It genuinely makes a difference.
     
  16. Anscojohn

    Anscojohn Subscriber

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    Not an answer to the question, but, anyhow, I used the collected water from my central AC unit for years until warned about possible fungus growth. * then began boiling it for about five minutes before filtering. I now have a UV unit installed in the AC condensor unit that kills possible fungi. I have no problems; the water is free; and my houseplants love it, too.