Published on September 15th, 2009 | by Greg0
Zuvo and ZeroWater Aim To Make Water Safer, Tastier
Bottled water is bad. It’s bad for the environment, it’s not any safer than tap water, and some bottled waters apparently actually line the pocketbooks of repressive governments. We’ve looked at many gadgets before, water jets and water boilers, but this is our first time looking at water filters. Note that I say filters, and not purifiers, and that’s because few devices are actually purifiers. Zuvo’s FAQ page breaks it down: “To be recognized as a water purifier, a drinking water treatment unit must meet strict requirements… Technically speaking, a water purifier must be able to treat water of unknown microbiological quality and, in that water, reduce bacteria by 99.9999% (6 logs), viruses by 99.99% (4 logs) and cysts by 99.9% (3 logs) according to a nationally recognized standard such as the EPA Guide Standard and Protocol for Testing Microbiological Water Purifiers or NSF P231”.
So, if bottled water is bad, but you aren’t sure about your tap water, what are your choices? They’ve basically always come down to two types of systems- pitcher (gravity fed) filters, and other more complicated systems that you install on your tap or faucet. Well, ZeroWater claims they have evolved the pitcher method, and Zuvo says they have created a five-step process in a counter top, powered unit. San Francisco’s water is pretty good- tasty, clean- but we must add that neither unit is meant to work with water that has not already been treated. Both units make clear that they are for use with disinfected public drinking water, so don’t expect to take that fetid swamp water and create your own brand of bottled water.
The Zuvo is the more expensive, by far, of the two. Their FAQ page chart makes it sound like they can make up the difference over time with inexpensive filters that last a long time, but their math is definitely fuzzy as they don’t take into account the initial cost of the unit- nearly $300. They also don’t include the possible cost of a replacement bulb, or the electrical costs. Beyond that, though, there are only two main issues: the unit is fairly large and requires power, and worse, installs by default on your countertop. It takes up valuable space, then, but at least is quiet and reasonably attractive. Also, you can install it under a sink, but need to purchase their special butler faucet kit (add about $30). If you can get past those factors, you will find that the Zuvo is reasonably fast, efficient, and produces a great-tasting end result.
Installation wasn’t a snap, but it wasn’t bad either- about ten minutes. And we liked the fact that it can remove lead and chlorine, though not arsenic or flouride. They throw the everything but the, uh, kitchen sink at the water, including two UV treatments, ozone, a Class 1 Particulate Reduction Filter, and another process they call photo-oxidation. And it shows- you can actually watch the unit work, which is really neat. Another note: though they claim that with “pitcher filters, your water is only as clean as the filter you use”, it’s almost as true here, as you will still need to replace your filter every 500 gallons or 6 months. They do include a spare filter, though, which is great. There is no doubt that the Zuvo is a great way to easily filter your water without worrying about filling a pitcher, and the process is thorough, resulting in great-tasting water.
The ZeroWater Pitcher, on the other hand, doesn’t include a spare filter. And that wouldn’t be so bad, except that the filter only lasts about 20 gallons. On the other hand, it does include a nifty extra- the TDS meter. Their meter measures total dissolved solids in parts per million, hence the name- their system is said to be the only gravity-fed filter that can remove all of them. We like the gimmick- any gadget that, as they say, allows you to put a number on what your taste buds know: water tastes different from city to city and from brand to brand in bottled water. It also serves as an easy way to tell when to change your filter (when you test your water and the meter says 006). As with other systems, they claim technological superiority, this time via a five-stage filter with Ion Exchange technology.
We did, in fact, see the total dissolved solids get to 0 with the ZeroWater Pitcher, though they got reasonably close with the Zuvo. Bottled waters rated much higher typically, coming in at 75-90 or so, and tap water much higher still above 150 (ratings varied pretty widely, oddly, for the tap water). On the other hand, we aren’t certain that it matters a lot- but if taste is the most important thing, it’s definitely worth taking a look. The gadgetry makes a taste test fun as well. We did a quick blind survey, and folks were actually evenly split between which water they ended up liking more- there was generally a difference in taste, but it came down to preference. In terms of the pitcher itself, it’s nicely blue and reasonably sturdy, but it doesn’t have a very large capacity and filters very slowly. And, worst of all, filling the top reservoir before filtering doesn’t fill the lower reservoir- a design flaw that is somewhat common among pitchers but is awkward nonetheless. There is an elegant addition though, that testers loved- a rear spigot on the lower part of the handle for easy pouring. At $35, it’s an easy purchase at first, but keep in mind the heavy cost of the filters- best for occasional drinkers, it does make for fantastic results with tea or coffee, minus the impurities.