TAMPA (FOX 13) - There's nothing like the pre-storm panic of a hurricane to highlight the need for clean water. Shelves are left bare as people race to stock up. But one Florida company has a unique solution for consumers: Drink the air.
"The humidity is greatest after a hurricane, when machines are most efficient and making the purest water," claimed Drinkable Air's vice president Jeff Szur, as he showed us how it works. "What starts the process is drawing the air into the machine and we have an antibacterial filter."
The typical office water cooler-sized machine sucks in air like any dehumidifier but it filters and stores the water. "This coil is coated with food-grade coating so never touches metal, drops into drip trays, and seven-gallon storage tank," Szur said, adding the machine works best at 30-percent relative humidity
At the office in St. Petersburg using the technology where he's demonstrating the machine, the air inside is at more than 40-percent relative humidity, which will create about five gallons of water in 24 hours.
"If you see the air goes across, and the gas form of the water, humidity, touches the cold coil and you can see we're making water," he continued.
When Szur ran his fingers along the coils, they came back coated in beads of water. The machine can make about two days' worth of drinking water for 20 employees.
So is pulling the water from the air clean?
"Absolutely," Szur said. "Any time it goes from gas to liquid, it's pure. Think, how do we distill water? We boil and capture the steam, and then it's pure. We do that without boiling. We do it with condensation."
At $3,400, it's an investment. But it will last 12 years, with filter replacements every six months.
The office manager here, where they're developing a powdered drink by the creator of Gatorade called Cholestorade that needs to be mixed with water, says it's easier and cheaper long-term to not have to order jugs of water.
Caitlin Delanoy recalled the first time she used the machine. "I was like, I didn't understand. Where is this coming from? Is there a drain connected to this? No, it's just coming from the air that we're breathing!"
Beyond office settings, Drinkable Air is releasing a tabletop version for homes. But the creator has a bigger goal that became clear when Irma hit, and then Maria -- and everyone was running out of water.
They put out on social media that anyone in need of water could come fill up three gallons per household at their facilities in South Florida. They ended up giving away 100 gallons and selling out of their inventory of machines.
Now, he wants to work with FEMA to get these machines into hurricane-prone areas ahead of time. They can run off generators in the event of a power outage.
"If these machines were already there, you wouldn't have to worry about shipping water in," Szur continued. "When disaster hits, just turn them on."