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How to Build a Distiller

Updated April 17, 2017

Distillation is a method for separating fluids. In this case we will show how to make a distiller which will take pure water vapour from tap water or other fairly clean water sources and produce healthy and pure distilled water. The vessel sizes may be increased in proportion to allow larger scale production of distilled water.

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  1. Clean the stainless steel pans and glass lid in soapy water, rinse well and dry.

  2. Remove the lid from the larger pan and place the smaller pan in the centre of the larger pan.

  3. Place the temperature-controlled submersible heating element in the smaller pan and add enough source water to completely cover the heating element, but not to overfill the pan.

  4. Place the glass lid onto the larger pan. Try to minimise the gap caused by the heating element's cord or use a towel to seal the gap from the outside. Vapour leaking out through the gap is lost distilled water at the end of the process.

  5. Turn on the heating element and set the temperature for 98.9 degrees C (or approximately 36.7 degrees C C).

  6. Water vapour will form inside the glass lid and should start dripping along the inside of the lid to collect in the larger pan. This is your distilled water product.

  7. Monitor the water level in the source pan, adding more when the heating element is exposed. Do not perform the process with the heating element dry.

  8. Remove the element and centre pan (carefully, they will be hot) making sure not to spill any source water into the distilled water in the outer pan. Pour the distilled water in the outer pan into a clean container and enjoy.

  9. Clean the pans, lid and heating element before each use.

  10. Tip

    A more self-contained process may include a hose feeding source water into the centre pan. This feed line must include a valve opened and closed by level sensors placed in the centre pan. This automated system will keep the source water above a minimum level to keep the element submerged but cut off before source water overfills the centre pan. Adding an exit hole and hose at the bottom of the outer pan sidewall to run to a catch vessel will give you a steady (but fairly small) flow of distilled water from this continuous distilling process.


    Always clean the equipment before using. The heater element, stainless steel pans and glass lid will be hot during and immediately after the distilling process. Exercise caution when handling hot equipment. Do not leave the basic system unattended when in use.

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Things You'll Need

  • Source water (tap water, lake water, salt water, etc.)
  • Temperature controlled submersible heating element
  • Stainless steel pan roughly 6 inches in diameter with 3 inch wall
  • Stainless steel pan 8 inches (or greater) diameter with 4 inch (or greater) wall and glass lid

About the Author

Chris Donahue is an electrical engineer living in the Dallas area. He has worked on defense projects, semiconductor process equipment, instrumentation and is currently in water utilities. He earned his Registered Massage Therapist (RMT) standing in Texas in 1999.

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