Atmospheric Water Generators (Air To Water Machines): FAQ & Buyer’s Guide

The guide below is an FAQ guide about Atmospheric Water Generators (AWGs).

However, we’ve also included information that may be useful to potential buyers of these types of machines.

 

(*Note – the information in this guide is general information only. It’s important you cross check and confirm any data contained in this guide for yourself, especially prior to buying or using an AWG.)

 

Firstly, What Is Water-From-Air Harvesting?

Water-from-air harvesting includes any method used to extract water from the air/atmosphere.

 

Passive vs Active Water-From-Air Harvesting Methods

Water from air harvesting can involve either passive, or active forms of extracting water from the air.

 

Passive Water-From-Air Harvesting

Passive water-from-air harvesting doesn’t involve a power source or moving parts.

Instead it involves some sort of static setup that relies on natural processes.

Examples are a fog net or a fog fence that uses natural processes to extract water from ambient humid air.

 

Active Water-From-Air Harvesting

Active water-from-air harvesting does involve a power source or moving parts.

An example of active water-from-air extraction and generation is the use of an atmospheric water generator.

 

So, What Is An Atmospheric Water Generator?

An Atmospheric Water Generator (AWG) is a specific type of unit/device that uses a power source, and actively extracts water from the (humid ambient) air.

Some people refer to AWGs as ‘Air To Water Machines’, or ‘Air From Water Machines’.

 

Atmospheric Water Generators vs Dehumidifiers – What’s The Difference?

AWGs are different to dehumidifiers in that they may have the ability to produce potable water, as opposed to non potable water

 

Different Atmospheric Water Generator Extraction Methods

AWG devices can use different extraction methods, with some of the more common ones being:

– Cooling rods/coils (cooling condensation)

– Or, desiccants (wet desiccation using solutions and substances)

 

Different Models & Brands Of Atmospheric Water Generators

Different brands manufacture different AWG products of different sizes, with different features and capabilities.

 

Are Atmospheric Water Generators Safe?

It might depend on a few factors.

Each country has different regulations or some version of a ‘Safe Water Act’ that outlines a quality standard or requirement that water has to meet for different end uses e.g. potable vs non potable water uses.

So, you have to determine what the water produced by the AWG will be used for, consider the water treatment technology used in the AWG, and get some sort of confirmation or certification from the company producing the AWG that the water will meet a certain Standard or quality (or meet the quality requirements for a certain end use). Consumer protection laws in some countries may also cover some of this.

However, check ‘Safe Water’ regulations in your region, and confirm yourself prior to purchase.

 

Some Safety Features To Consider In AWGs

Some safety features you might look out for in AWGs might include:

– The AWG should have filter and purification technology

This ensures the air used and water produced is safe and healthy for the end use – whether it be drinking or otherwise.

 

– Different processes or features that might be part of the AWG water purification system

Sediment filtration, mineralization, activated carbon, and microbiological treatment by UV lamp, might be part of an AWG water purification system.

TUAFI also introduces essential minerals back into their water.

 

– Reference by the brand/company of which ‘Safe Water’ standard or regulation their product meets

A company like GENAQ for example has (at the time of publishing this article) AWGs that produce water that meets World Health Organisation (WHO) standards for drinking water and is certified by European health authorities

 

How Do Atmospheric Water Generators Work?

Different types of units might work differently, and have different systems, features, and capabilities.

Some companies actually provide a device system diagram that shows you the parts of the unit, and the flow of how everything fits together and works to generate water (along with providing a description).

Other companies provide instructions or product use information outlining how their product works, and/or how to use it.

Generally, to be effective, they need to operate in the right conditions first and foremost i.e. in humid ambient air that is of a certain temperature and relative humidity.

For example, GENAQ (on genaq.com) indicates that their units ‘function in arid climates with temperatures over 50ºC (122F) and relative humidity lower than 20%, and also in industrial or polluted areas’ 

Some more general descriptions of how some of the main types of units might work might be:

 

Cooling Condensation Units

For cooling condensation units – ‘… as a rule of thumb, cooling condensation atmospheric water generators do not work efficiently when the temperature falls below 18.3°C (65°F) or the relative humidity drops below 30%’ (wikipedia.org)

In a cooling condensation unit, air passes over a cooling coil rod, bringing the air to it’s dew point (causing water to condense), and the water in the air drops into a storage or treatment tank where it can be filtered and purified for it’s end use.

 

Wet Desiccation Unit

In a wet desiccation unit, a substance or a solution (a brine type solution) is used to absorb water from humid air, before separating the water from the substance or solution and purifying/filtering it.

 

Pressurizing Air

Pressurizing air is another method used.

 

How Efficient Are Atmospheric Water Generators?

It depends on the brand and product model of AWG, and it depends on the efficiency indicator being measured.

A few examples of different indicators of efficiency of an AWG are the energy/fuel to water output efficiency, and also the water input to water output efficiency.

You can check efficiency performance information for each individual product for a better idea of each of these. 

To look at each in more detail …

 

Energy/Fuel Input To Water Output Efficiency

This is the amount of electricity or fuel an AWG unit has to use to generate a specific unit amount of water e.g. how many kilowatts of electricity it has to use to generate 1 gallon or 1 litre of water.

EPA.gov suggests a lot of energy might be used for some units, but, energy efficiency might have improved over time: ‘Although significant quantities of energy can be required to operate these condenser and fan systems, recent technological advancements have substantially improved the energy-water ratio [which also increases the feasibility of these systems].

A few different energy to water efficiency examples are:

 

[It takes] 310 Wh to make 1 litre of water (wikipedia.org)

 

Watergen GEN-L & GENNY Models – 350Wh/liter (watergen.com)

 

Large versions, mounted on trailers, are said to produce up to 1,200 US gallons (4,500 l) of water per day, at a ratio of up to 5 gallons of water per gallon of fuel (wikipedia.org)

 

Water Input To Water Output Efficiency

Other water technology like water recycling or desalination requires water inputs, and water outputs come out.

Using desalination as an example, a certain amount of salt water goes in, and a certain amount of fresh water comes out.

AWGs on the other hand only extract water from the air, so it’s difficult to get an idea of how much water from the air is converted to generated water.

wikipedia.org has one estimation though: ‘[AWG] demands more than four times as much water up the supply chain than it delivers to the user’

So, there may be efficiency or sustainability concern here depending on the type of water used.

 

How Much Power Atmospheric Water Generators Use

At the time of publishing this post, we took two examples of brands and the model data these brands provided, and outlined them here …

 

Watergen Models

GENNY: ~350 Wh/L nominal; During water boiling: ~800 Wh/L

GEN-L: ~ 60 kW*h

 

Akvo Models

36k model – uses 1.5 kw/h at peak power consumption

365k model – uses 9 kw/h at peak power consumption

 

Other Models

You can check the power consumption of individual models in the product data before you buy them.

 

How Heavy Are Atmospheric Water Generators?

At the time of publishing this post, we took two examples of brands and the model data these brands provided, and outlined them here …

 

Watergen Models

GENNY: 80kg

GEN-L: 2630kg

 

Akvo Models

36k model – 140kg

365k model – 600kg

 

Other Models

You can check the weight of individual models in the product data before you buy them.

 

How Much Atmospheric Water Generators Cost 

Cost can be significant impacted by factors like the brand and model of AWG, and features like the water generation capacity, and size of the AWG mode

Smaller models can cost in the hundreds of dollars, whilst the largest AWGs can cost in the tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars (or more, depending on the size and capabilities of the machine/device).

This is just the purchase price though.

There’s also ongoing costs such as maintenance, power costs, and so on.

A 5,000 liter capacity a day model we checked out claims to be able to produce a liter of water for between 2 to 4 cents (according to product specifications)

Energy and electricity costs are an important consideration – the more expensive energy and electricity is in a particular city or town – the more expensive AWG water might be to generate.

There’s also end of life costs to consider.

 

Price Of AWG Water Compared To Water From Other Sources

GENAQ has a ‘cost of water for human consumption’ economical chart, and indicates that AWG water is more economical than bottled water, home distilled water, and water tanks.

Having said this though, it’s important to do your own price breakdown (including purchase, operation and maintenance, and end of life costs) to calculate which source of water is cheapest or most cost effective.

How efficient the machine is (at converting energy to water, and water to water), and the price you pay for energy or electricity can also play a role in the ultimate price of the water too.

 

Are Atmospheric Water Generators Sustainable?

Environmental Sustainability

Some environmental sustainability considerations for the use of AWGs might include:

– How much energy they use, and how energy efficient they are

Overall, as outlined elsewhere in this guide, total energy consumption of some AWG units might be an issue from a sustainability perspective, especially when generating larger scales of water

 

– The energy sources they use

Cleaner energy sources may make the energy usage footprint more sustainable, whilst some fossil fuel energy sources (like coal powered electricity, or petroleum based fuel) may lead to a lower sustainability footprint

Some reports indicate that AWGs that run on coal have a higher carbon footprint than desalination

There may be some technology and advancements being developed that helps AWG units utilize passive solar and solar hydro panels, gravity, and other energy sources in order to use cleaner energy to generate water.

 

– Environmental impact and resource footprint of the manufacture and disposal of AWG units

The manufacture of AWG units involves the use of raw materials, and there’s a production footprint to consider

In terms of waste disposal, waste management of AWG units, and whether there’s any resource recovery (if they contain any valuable or scarce materials or metals) plays a role too

These stages might have a smaller impact though than the operation stage that uses energy (as might be the case for other products that use energy or fuel during operation)

 

– AWGs and waste by-products

Some AWGs may produce waste by-products as a result of waste generation, and some might not

To illustrate an example of a waste by-product from another water generation method, desalination plants may produce a waste ‘brine’ by-product

 

Other Sustainability Considerations

– AWGs contributing to more sustainable social freshwater management strategies

Although there may be some concerns with energy usage for AWGs, they may be part of the solution when it comes to more sustainable freshwater management strategies across society

AWGs may be able to help generate freshwater to fill a certain portion of freshwater supply for individuals and groups of people, and this may help in addressing some of the global water issues that some regions face 

AWGs may be used alongside other water generation technology like desalination for example to form a more effective and diverse water supply strategy, to address water issues like water stress or water scarcity

 

Off Grid & Portable Atmospheric Water Generators

Some AWGs are designed to be portable, and to be used off grid i.e. away from the main electricity grid.

In the product specifications, you want to check the power source that the AWG requires.

Some can be run off solar panels, or diesel generators.

 

Solar Powered Atmospheric Water Generators

These types of AWGs do exist – they can use solar panels directly, or the solar panels can charge a battery and used this stored energy at a later time.

Some AWGs that run off solar panels incorporate a wet desiccation gravity system.

Check the model specifications to see that a unit can run off solar power though.

GENAQ for example has AWGs that can be run using solar panels, wind turbines or a diesel power unit.

The smartcity.org resource listed in this guide contains details of the Tatung company using AWGs with solar power in the United Arab Emirates.

Aldelano is an example of another company that produces atmospheric water generators powered only by the sun (check out the solarcoldbox.com resource)

 

Industrial & Large Scale Sized Atmospheric Water Generation

Some large commercial AWGs can produce around 5000 litres per day according to some sets of product data.

Some of these AWGs are modular and can be connected up into large ‘AWG farms’ where larger quantities of water can be generated in the one place.

Some brands currently make AWGs that generate high purity water for industrial processes (check the product specifications and description to see which ones do).

 

Atmospheric Water Generators For Home Use

Water-Gen are an example of a company that does an AWG for home use.

 

Atmospheric Water Generators For An Office

Water-Gen is an example of a company that does an AWG model suitable for an office.

 

Atmospheric Water Generators For An RV

It depends on the power source available in your RV as to whether there might be a suitable AWG available.

Check the power source you have available, and check the specifications of the AWG to make sure it is compatible with that power source and set up.

 

Atmospheric Water Generators For Agriculture, Farming & Irrigation

Most of the commercial AWGs available don’t produce water on the scale required for agriculture, farming and irrigation.

Some prototype AWG types of technology are being developed to produce water for agriculture, farming and irrigation.

Some AWGs in places like Dubai have produced water for the purposes of irrigation.

Check out the CSIRO and Smartcity (Tatung in Dubai using AWGs powered by solar for irrigation needs) resources in the sources list for more information.

 

Best Atmospheric Water Generators – Reviews, & Who Makes The Best Ones? 

There’s several brands now that do AWG products and technology, and they all offer different models with different features, systems and capabilities.

A few examples of brands that do different types and models of AWGs are:

GENAQ

Water-Gen

ALDELANO

 

There’s also online retail sites like Alibaba and Amazon that may list AWG devices, or devices similar to AWGs.

 

Rather than us providing product reviews here, and trying to identify the ‘best’ brands and models, what you can do instead is go to retailer and brand websites, and browse each model of AWG on offer.

Look at the features, specifications, product description and other relevant information for the model that looks like it most suits what you are looking for.

Looking at customer feedback and reviews across a range of sites can help you get a more accurate idea of how good (or poor) the product might be.

Some brands also outline what setting (home use, office, business, etc) or what end water uses the model might be good for.

 

Potential Benefits & Disadvantages Of Atmospheric Water Generators

Read about the pros and cons of Atmospheric Water Generators in this guide.

 

 

Sources

1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atmospheric_water_generator

2. https://www.quantumrun.com/article/atmospheric-water-harvesting-our-one-environmental-chance-against-water-crisis

3. http://akvosphere.com/4-main-benefits-of-atmospheric-water-generators/

4. http://akvosphere.com/akvo-atmospheric-water-generators/

5. https://tuafi.com/why-tuafi/

6. https://www.epa.gov/water-research/atmospheric-water-generation-research

7. https://home.howstuffworks.com/atmospheric-water-generators.htm

8. https://www.watergen.com/

9. http://www.genaq.com/water/

10. https://www.skywater.com/

11. https://solarcoldbox.com/solarwatermaker

12. https://en.smartcity.org.tw/index.php/en-us/component/k2/item/18-smart-pv-atmospheric-water-generator

13. https://www.csiro.au/en/Do-business/Commercialisation/Marketplace/Atmospheric-water-generation-prototype

14. https://www.watergen.com/product/gen-l/

15. https://www.watergen.com/product/genny/

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