Want Safe Drinking Water in your RV? Save 10% on an Acuva ArrowMAX 2.0 Water Purification System

Safe drinking water is something many of us take for granted every time we turn on the faucet and fill a glass. But when your lifestyle involves traveling in an RV to many different locations where water is of unknown quality and safety, you need to think long and hard before putting that glass to your lips. Drinking water in an RV, after all, is only as safe as the water coming into your rig and sitting in your fresh water tank.

There are two main issues related to water quality and RVing. One is the water source – the source from which you fill your fresh water tank. This may be a campground, city park, fueling station, your own home, or one of many other sources offering water. To be sure we don’t run out of water, most RVers (especially us boondockers) follow the same procedure — when our fresh water tank is nearing empty, we fill it at the next opportunity. But what’s the quality of the water we’re taking into our tanks? The answer is that we often don’t know.

Campground water hookups don't guarantee safe drinking water in an RV
The quality of water at campgrounds and other sources on the road is often unknown.

The second issue, of course, is the quality of the water sitting in our fresh water tank. It doesn’t take long for bacteria and other undesirable elements to breed in an enclosed tank. Despite the fact that we generally sanitized our fresh water tank with bleach twice annually, we never really knew the status of what came out of that tank and into our drinking glass a few weeks after sanitizing the tank, because of the great unknown – the quality of the water entering the tank at each fill-up.

If you’re thinking “water filters” is the answer, we learned that ordinary filters can only do so much and aren’t as effective as newer technology. We even learned that filters can be the cause of contamination (they can trap bacteria, viruses, and cysts and allow them to grow in the filter material 😝), and that information led us down the path of further research regarding better options for drinking water in our RV.

Here’s what we learned:

Safe Drinking Water in an RV: The Traditional Ways

Traditionally, there are a few ways to address the issue of safe drinking water in an RV. Let’s run through those briefly since most of our readers may be using one or more of these methods, and we’ve used them all ourselves at one time or another.

1) Bottled Water

Bottled water is the go-to source of drinking water in an RV for many travelers. We have friends who use bottled water when they travel because they feel that the upside outweighs the downside. Let’s take a look.

Pros

One advantage to bottled water is the taste. We know bottled water. It tastes the way we expect it to taste. Many people even have a favorite brand of bottled water, and the consistency of taste is something they appreciate and figure in as being worth the cost.

Another advantage of bottled water is that it’s so widely available. You can grab a bottle of water (or a whole case) on just about every corner. Fueling stations, Walmart, Sam’s Club, Costco, and every grocery store have plenty of bottled water for sale.

You can also buy bottled water in many sizes, from single-use bottles all the way up to multi-gallon containers.

Cons

Among the disadvantages of bottled water as drinking water in an RV is the fact that it takes up space and adds weight to what you’re hauling. Anyone who has ever traveled in an RV understands the importance of minimizing “stuff” and weight. Water is heavy at 8.34 pounds per gallon, which can be a real issue for those RVers running at or near their weight limit.

Having to haul water into the RV, find a place to store it, and find a way to keep it from becoming hot water in plastic bottles when the interior of the RV gets warm makes the conveniences noted above less compelling.

Cost is another big con when it comes to bottled water. Considering that water is still one of the few things left in life that can often be had for FREE, spending the considerable amount that bottled water can cost seems downright wasteful.

Speaking of wasteful… here’s what might be the biggest con of all when it comes to bottled water: single-use plastics. What in the world are we thinking will happen when we use bottle after bottle after bottle, by the hundreds and thousands every year?!  Multiply the number of bottles one family buys in a year by the millions of people buying bottled water, and we’ve got a real plastic waste issue on our hands.

Yes, we can (and should) recycle plastics, but not using them in the first place is a far better choice for the environment. And as RVers, enjoying the natural beauty of planet Earth seems completely at odds with using disposable plastic containers every time we get a bit parched.

Plastic waste from bottled water... is this really a good way to get safe drinking water in your RV?
Bottled water is very popular with consumers – but at what cost?

We’ll jump right off the bottled water soapbox now, but all we’re really saying is that there are better ways, and better is generally – well – better.

2) Sanitizing Your RV’s Fresh Water Tank

For years we sanitized our fresh water tank using bleach about twice a year. This was the way to go, right? This was the way to ensure water for drinking, washing dishes, cooking, and showering.

We even published a post and video demonstrating how we sanitize our fresh water tank.

At the time, we felt that this was the best way to approach the matter of drinking water in an RV. And it is still a viable option used by many RVers.

Pros

Regularly sanitizing your RV’s fresh water tank ensures that nothing is growing in the tank. This in turn allows you to feel comfortable drinking your onboard supply of water safely, and it also protects the entire fresh water system including the water that flows from the bathroom faucet and shower.

But is bleach sanitizing the best way to ensure safe drinking water in an RV?

Cons

Here’s the problem. While your tank may be essentially clean for a duration of time following sanitizing with bleach, this does nothing to protect you from potentially risky water sources such as when you’re running off, and filling your tank, at campgrounds rather than using the sanitized water in your tank. Obviously, you have to refill your fresh tank, so there’s no way to avoid continuing to introduce water from unknown sources.

We also know that some people can’t sanitize their tanks due to bleach allergies or just wanting to avoid using bleach for a variety of reasons.

using bleach to sanitize drinking water in RV
One way to sanitize the water in your RV tank is by using bleach, but this doesn’t address water coming into your RV from water connections at campgrounds.

The other disadvantage of tank sanitization is that the process needs to be done periodically, requiring time and access to a considerable amount of water, a place to dump the tank containing the bleach/water mixture, and having bleach on hand. This will be less of an issue if you’re undertaking this process at your home, but for those of us who live on the road, it can be less than convenient.

3) Reverse Osmosis

Reverse osmosis is a water purification technology that uses a high-pressure pump to force water across a semipermeable membrane, removing dissolved particles including minerals, salts, certain metals, and a number of impurities.

In addition to the reverse osmosis membrane, multiple filters are used in the process including a sediment filter, a pre-carbon block, and a post-carbon filter. Each filter is designed to remove different-sized particles.

In the end, approximately 95-99% of dissolved salts are held back, and contaminants and substances are removed, so the water that’s left is very pure.

There are pros and cons to this system which was at one time thought to be the best water purification technology available until new data emerged calling some of its benefits into question.

Pros

The advantage of reverse osmosis is that it does indeed purify drinking water. Safety and taste are improved significantly, and heavy metals are removed, including from non-potable water sources.

Even water with very high mineral content can be consumed after purification with a good reverse osmosis system.

Cons

Unfortunately, not only is reverse osmosis a very slow process (meaning you can’t simply hook up and quickly fill your fresh water tank), it wastes an incredible amount of water — as much as six times the amount of clean water it produces.

Reverse osmosis systems can be expensive, especially when you figure in replacement filters over time. The systems can also require a fair amount of space depending on the system purchased.

It’s also important to know that reverse osmosis drinking water in an RV (or anywhere) requires a tank in which the purified water is contained. And once the water is inside that tank, bacteria can develop.

But here’s the biggest disadvantage:

Reverse osmosis was originally developed to remove salts from seawater, making it drinkable. In essence, however, it does its job too well, removing healthy minerals such as calcium, potassium, magnesium, and bicarbonates.

Demineralized drinking water is actually not healthy and has been found to be unsuitable for long-term consumption. The World Health Organization has noted the adverse effects of demineralized or low-mineral water on health as well as the difficulty of replenishing those minerals with foods without impact to human and animal health.

This concern includes long-term consumption of water purified by reverse osmosis (as well as distilled water). The problem is that when low-mineral or demineralized water is consumed, the necessary minerals and electrolytes ( removed in the purification process) are leached from the body. Over time this can create a host of health issues.

While this might not be of concern to the occasional RVer, it would certainly not be a good choice for us, since we live in our RV full time.

Fortunately, there’s newer and better technology available, and we’ve found it to be the best option for us.

Safe Drinking Water in an RV – The New Way: UV-LED Purification

Ultraviolet LED water purification is currently the most effective method on the market for disinfecting water while also preserving important minerals. Without adding chemicals of any kind, UV-LED purification systems eliminate 99.999% of harmful bacteria, viruses, particles, and microorganisms.

The technology is so effective that it’s used in large municipal systems to ensure water is safe to drink. After UV sanitizing, they add chlorine to keep water pure while it travels through the distribution network to your home water faucets. Large, expensive, power-hungry LED lights are used to sanitize municipal systems, so the technology has been out of reach and impractical for individual home or portable use… until now.

Acuva Arrow Max 2.0 UV-LED Water Purification System
Our Acuva ArrowMAX 2.0 UV-LED Water Purification System, installed and in use!

Let’s take a look at how portable UV-LED water purification systems work. We’ll be looking specifically at the Acuva UV-LED system because we’ve used one ourselves for years. We trust our Acuva system to keep us safe and recommend it as the best way to achieve the goal of safe RV drinking water.

How Does the Acuva UV-LED Water Purification System Work?

The Acuva UV-LED water purification system uses small LED lights that emit light at the UV-C wavelength which means that power use and size are dramatically reduced — perfect for RVs!

Acuva engineered a patented design that exposes water to UV-C light as it passes through the system, ensuring that bacteria, viruses, cysts, and 99.999% of other contaminants are destroyed, (while leaving minerals that are important to the maintenance of good health).

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Ditch the bottled water! Major cities sanitize their drinking water using ultraviolet light, and now you can, too. Acuva’s UV-LED system makes water safe to drink, using a fraction of the space...Show More

Ditch the bottled water! Major cities sanitize their drinking water using ultraviolet light, and now you can, too. Acuva’s UV-LED system makes water safe to drink, using a fraction of the space and power… perfect for RVs.

Check out our Acuva installation video here

Get 10% off any Acuva system when shopping online at Acuva's website and using the discount code listed here.

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UV light inactivates any microorganisms present in the source water, interrupting their ability to reproduce. That means that they aren’t able to do so inside the person who drinks the water, which could lead to infection or disease.

UV-LED light is highly effective at destroying bacteria, viruses, cysts, and the like, but it isn’t designed to remove water hardness, lead, iron, sediment, or chlorine. For this reason, all Acuva systems include a pre-filter to remove those elements ahead of the UV-LED process.

The Benefits of Acuva UV-LED Water Purification

There are many benefits to both the technology behind the Acuva UV-LED water purification system and the sleek, compact design.

First, of course, is the fact that the system is proven and time-tested to ensure safe drinking water right at the point of use. There’s no need to invest in a whole-house system (although you can) or even a large, intrusive countertop system.

Acuva has taken some very serious purification technology that was originally created for the sanitization of massive sources of water and they’ve reduced it to a minuscule size, by comparison, sacrificing none of the technology. So the Acuva water purification ensures safe drinking water right at the point of use.

For RVers in particular, a great benefit of this system is that it sanitizes and purifies all sources of water coming to the water dispenser. This includes water from your RV’s fresh water tank as well as water from city water sources at campgrounds, your home, or any other water source that you typically connect your RV to.

Another significant benefit for RVers is the fact that the Acuva UV-LED system uses very little power, making it ideal for boondocking (camping off the grid), our favorite way to camp.

Another advantage of the Acuva system is that its design allows it to be combined with other filtration such as a pre-filter. The CDC notes that ultraviolet purification systems with pre-filtration are highly effective at removing protozoa like giardia and cryptosporidium, bacteria like salmonella and E. coli, and viruses like hepatitis A, norovirus, and rotavirus.

But as noted above, the UV-C purification process itself doesn’t address things like lead, sediments, chlorine, and other molecules that may be contained in your drinking water. But a pre-filter can handle all of that and more, ahead of the extensive UV-LED destruction of bacteria and viruses. Combining this with additional filtration can further improve the taste of the drinking water in an RV.

Acuva pre-filter to assist with the cleansing of drinking water in an RV
All of Acuva’s systems come with a pre-filter to address contaminants such as lead, chlorine, sediments, and more ahead of the UV-LED’s treatment of bacteria and viruses.

You’d think the additional pre-filtration would come at a real premium, but in fact, Acuva includes one with every system. And replacements are reasonably priced, too. Acuva’s pre-filter replacements are only $20 and are good for 1,000 gallons of water flow. Or you can upgrade to the Advanced Prefilter ($50 ea, but lasts for 4,000 gallons) to also remove lead, heavy metals, chlorine (99%), chromium 6, mercury, carcinogens, and other contaminants (99%), as well as turbidity, unpleasant odors, and improves taste.

In addition to being compact and space-saving (the main unit installs under the counter), our ArrowMAX 2.0 unit is flow-triggered, allowing it to work with an existing countertop filtered water dispenser if desired. (Larger models are also flow-triggered and could supply safe water at the main faucet and/or multiple outlets.)

For us, the Acuva system is the ticket, and we’ve been satisfied (and healthy!) using it for several years. As you may have learned from our video at the top of this post, we recently upgraded to the ArrowMAX 2.0, and we gifted our Acuva ECO NX (which we’d used for years) to friends.

How Do You Install an Acuva UV-LED Water Purifier?

If you’re considering an Acuva UV-LED water purification system for your RV, and you’re wondering how difficult the installation is, we’ve got you covered there. Have a look at our step-by-step DIY tutorial video by following along as we install our original Acuva unit.

How To Install An RV Drinking Water Purifier — Acuva Eco — 10% OFF!

Should you be interested in buying an Acuva UV-LED water purification system for your own RV (or boat, or sticks & bricks house!), we’ve got a generous offer from Acuva for RVgeeks subscribers:

10% Off
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Acuva 10% Off - Discount Code RVGEEKS

Ditch the bottled water! Major cities sanitize their drinking water using ultraviolet light, and now you can, too. Acuva’s UV-LED system makes water safe to drink, using a fraction of the space...Show More

Ditch the bottled water! Major cities sanitize their drinking water using ultraviolet light, and now you can, too. Acuva’s UV-LED system makes water safe to drink, using a fraction of the space and power… perfect for RVs.

Check out our Acuva installation video here

Get 10% off any Acuva system when shopping online at Acuva's website and using the discount code listed here.

Show Less

Will UV Light Kill E. coli Bacteria & Viruses?

Yes! UV light does indeed kill E. coli and other bacteria and viruses, and although we read the data as noted above, we wanted to see it for ourselves.

So, we set out to see how well the Acuva system worked by taking samples (including one sample with an insanely high E. coli level) and running them through an Acuva UV-LED water purification system. We then sent them off for independent lab testing, and ALL came back safe to drink!

Here’s the video of this experimentation in process:

Safe RV Drinking Water Test — 10% OFF Acuva UV-LED Water Purification Systems

Will You Ever Need to Sanitize Your RV Water Tank Again?

Considering the testing results noted in the video above, as well as several years of real-world use in our own RV, it’s definitely tempting to stop sanitizing our fresh water tank entirely. But the point-of-use Acuva UV-LED water purification system only sanitizes our drinking water at the kitchen water dispenser.

Occasional sanitizing an RV fresh water tank is still a good idea for other water usages including the exposure of skin to potential bacteria and viruses when showering, for example.

We’ve significantly reduced the frequency with which we sanitize our fresh water tank, but we do it far less often, usually about once every two years. That’s only 1/4 as much as we used to!

We also take comfort in knowing that any water we drink from the Acuva UV-LED water purification system will be safe and sanitary.

Conclusion

There are several ways to ensure that you have safe drinking water in an RV. The technology that we trust most is our Acuva unit. We’ve never been more confident in or satisfied with a water purification product in nearly 20 years of full-time life on the road.

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We're handy RVers, not professional technicians. We're happy with the techniques and products we use, but be sure to confirm that all methods and materials you use are compatible with your equipment and abilities. Regardless of what we recommend, consult a professional if you're unsure about working on your RV. Any task you perform or product you purchase based on any information we provide is strictly at your own risk.

We sometimes receive products for evaluation at no cost, and The RVgeeks are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. But our opinions are our own, you won’t pay an extra penny, and we only link to products we personally use, love and can recommend to friends with complete confidence.
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