Pop quiz: what was Luke Skywalker’s job on his home planet? If you answered, “Helping his uncle and aunt on their moisture farm,” give yourself a nerd point. But here’s the cool thing — a “moisture farm” doesn’t just exist in a galaxy far, far away. Atmospheric water generators exist right now, and they can help homeowners become less reliant on water from their plumbing system.
How Does An Atmospheric Water Generator Work?
There are actually several ways to snatch moisture floating in the air and turn it into drinkable water. If you happen to live in a part of the world with high enough humidity, you can buy a device that creates water at home. Inside these devices is a coil that is chilled to almost freezing temperature (without actually reaching it). When the warmer air passes through the coil, the air’s moisture naturally condenses and is collected in a storage container.
Unfortunately, conditions have to be just right in order for this to work. Humidity has to stay above 40% and temperatures have to stay about 35°F. Some locations are not ideal for atmospheric water generation, including the ice planet of Hoth and (despite what the movies might tell you) the desert planet of Tatooine. Your home generator’s efficiency also depends on the weather report. Are you expecting humid, warm, tropical weather? Those are perfect conditions for water generation. Are you expecting a dry, chilly ice tundra? Then you’re better off relying on your tap water.
In order to make the water as pure as possible, it's usually also filtrated before the homeowners take a sip. For example, some systems have a carbon filtration system, the same kind you might find in a typical Britta filter. Others have UV light chambers that zap any bacteria that might lurk in the water. More advanced systems even have a water recycling system that filters the water if it's left stagnant for too long.
Since almost no one is ready to ditch their tried-and-true plumbing system entirely, many models can be integrated with your regular kitchen tap. When the atmospheric water generator’s tank is full, you use water pulled from the air. But when it's empty, it switches over to conventional tap water.
Unfortunately, keeping that coil cool 24/7 requires a lot of electricity. Wattage ranges anywhere from as low as 300 watts for simple systems to 1200 for more sophisticated systems. On the high end, that’s as about as much energy as a conventional microwave. This level of energy consumption means that atmospheric water generation is not as cost effective as simply filtering water from your tap. It is, however, still much cheaper than buying bottled water.
Of course, most people get it for the benefit of being able to reliably produce their own water. Plus, the electricity cost can be mitigated if you rely on solar power.
How Much Water Are We Talking Here?
The exact amount will depend on your local atmosphere and the size of your particular system, but an atmospheric water generator can be reasonably expected to produce anywhere from one to seven gallons a day. That might be enough to keep your family hydrated and to boil pasta, but it’s not going to be enough to completely satisfy your family’s needs. You’ll probably still need tap water to bathe, fill your toilet, wash your car, and keep your plants alive.
How To Buy An Atmospheric Water Generator
There are three important factors you should consider before you follow Luke Skywalker’s path and buy an atmospheric water generator of your own.
1) Why Do You Want One?
If you want cheap, clean water, you’re better off filtering what already comes out of your tap. However, if you want a way to generate your own water in the event of a natural disaster, to be more independent from the water company, or to provide clean water for your cabin so far out in the boonies it doesn’t have running water, then it’s a smart purchase. Maybe one day we’ll cheaply get all the water we need through moisture farming, but for the moment, it’s more useful as a backup or last resort than as a primary water supply.
2) Short And Long-Term Cost
Atmospheric water generators start at around $1,000. Higher quality home models cost $1,500 or more. But the most important cost happens after you make the purchase. Take a look at the wattage of every model you consider to ensure they’re energy efficient. Ideally, you want to generate as much water as possible while consuming as little energy as possible. After you switch it on, be prepared for higher energy bills.
3) Your Local Atmosphere
Moisture in the air is the raw material of an atmospheric water generator. An atmosphere that either too dry or too chilly will lead to a poor water crop, and you won’t get to pretend you’re Owen Lars. (If you already knew that’s the name of Luke’s uncle, give yourself a second nerd point.)