The Rexi ‘hydropanel’ from Zero Mass Water synthesizes moisture from the air to provide homes with … [+]
We all know what a solar panel is, but what about a hydropanel?
That’s a new one, and much of the world is getting its first taste of the relatively new category at CES 2020. A company called Zero Mass Water showed off its Rexi Source hydropanel, appropriately outdoors in the Las Vegas Convention Center parking lot. It looks similar to a solar roof panel, except instead of providing energy from the sun, it creates drinkable water from the air.
It’s a titillating idea, and it works. The Rexi isn’t Zero Mass’ first panel — the startup launched a commercial version a couple of years ago, and the panels are producing clean water for schools, businesses, and houses in many regions across the world.
Now the company is launching the residential version that anyone can buy. Here’s how it works: The panel takes moisture from the air, absorbs it into a hygroscopic material and then condenses it into pure water. The Rexi may not be a solar panel, but it is solar-powered, and it’s equipped with sensors and a cellular connection so the owner can check on the panel’s status anytime (and so it can connect to Zero Mass’ network for aggregate data analysis and to identify faults).
Once the panel creates the water, it needs to add minerals like calcium and magnesium since drinking water isn’t typically pure. Once it’s ready, though, it gets pumped directly to the house, skipping your city or town’s water utilities altogether. That means there’s no chance of contamination — at least, from any factors outside of your home. And maintenance is minimal: the air filter needs replacing once a year, and the mineral cartridge every five years (for about $100).
The panel only produces about a gallon of water a day (less in extremely arid climates), so this isn’t a complete freshwater replacement, and Zero Mass doesn’t market it as such. Instead it says the Rexi is a way to take control of the water you drink while making it risk-free. I tasted some hydropanel-produced water at the company’s booth, and it tasted… well, like water.
There are downsides: For starters, it costs a pricey $2,500, and that doesn’t cover installation (the company estimates another $1,000 for that). The panel requires a big reservoir, which will take up space somewhere underneath your roof, and might complicate the installation. Then there’s the tricky subject of freezing — when it gets too cold, the panel will go into “hibernate” mode to prevent damage, but it means you won’t get water during the winter. And cold climates are a nonstarter.
Even given those limitations, the market for the Rexi looks clear, from remote residences to the eco-conscious to people who simply may not trust their local water utility (and may have good reason not to). Zero Mass expects to start shipping the panel by summer.