Let’s say that a 20 ounce bottle of water costs about $1.50. One gallon contains 128 ounces, or 6.4 bottles of water. 6.4 multiplied by $1.50 equals $9.60. For comparison, cost for a gallon of gasoline is about half that amount.
As you do the math in your head to make sure that I’m right, here’s one more fact that is sure to bug you if you’re unaware: most bottled water is just from the tap.
Does this mean that the water you are drinking from a plastic bottle is of subpar quality? Not necessarily. Most tap water in this country is very drinkable, though there are some contaminants – from chlorine to lead – that we would recommend filtering out to avoid long-term health issues. Does this mean you are getting ripped off? Well, remember, that plastic bottle is yours for keeps after you buy it. As long as you use that bottle to its full potential, using and reusing it dozens of times, you’re getting a great deal.
If you are still reading, you must be one of the millions that just throw away a plastic water bottle when you’re done with it. This means that yes, depending on how much bottled water you buy, you are probably getting ripped off.
Being ripped off by bottled water is nothing to be ashamed of. Who isn’t sucked in by the bright blue colors and refreshing looking water droplets common in your typical Aquafina ad? (And don’t even get me started on bottled water with flavor shots!) Bottled water companies do a great job of selling a product that looks crisp and clean. But fundamentally, not all bottled water is created equal.
For example, if the bottle does not explicitly state it is reverse osmosis (RO) or distilled water (DI), it is likely nothing more than water run through a standard carbon filter. Carbon filters are not a bad thing, of course. We sell a lot of them, some for as low as eleven bucks, or the cost of about seven bottles of water.
But a basic carbon filter, while solid, will still leave behind some impurities – which many incorrectly assume are being filtered out from the plastic water bottle they buy. I suspect that many also assume that serving the cleanest possible filtered water in their home is simply too large of an investment.
Let’s get math-heavy now and talk pricing per gallon to get better filtered water into your home, from a low to a high price point:
Low Price Point:
A ZeroWater filter pitcher will reduce levels of contaminants, including lead, chlorine and mercury, by 99.9%. The pitcher itself goes for $40 while ZeroWater replacement filter four packs run $63, as of September 2013. An initial $40 investment will get you 30 gallons of clean, filtered water shown to reduce more impurities than the 192 plastic bottles of water (or $288 worth) you could be buying.
Medium Price Point:
The US-1500 Under Sink Water Filter comes complete with cartridges, faucet and standard installation hardware for about $180. Filters will need to be replaced about every six months and the P-250A replacement filter cartridge set sells for about $28. This initial investment will serve 500 gallons of clean, filtered water, compared to just over 21 gallons if this same amount was to be purchased in the form of bottled water. Prices as of September 2013.
High Price Point:
The Pentek BBFS-22 Big Blue Whole House Water Filter System will filter every single drop of water in your entire home. Initial cost of the system is just over $200, which includes all the peripheral products required for maintenance including spare O-rings, spanner wrench for changing cartridges and silicone grease. Our highest current price point for Pentek Big Blue replacement filters is just under $70, though most are in the $20 to $30 range.
An initial investment in the system and the highest price point filters, as of September 2013, is about $270. That would get you about 28 gallons of water from the bottle. Assuming 8,000 gallons filtered by the Big Blue on each filter change, the plastic water bottle represents a pretty crazy markup.
I’m not saying that we completely vilify bottled water companies or shout ‘sucker’ at everyone we see with an Aquafina. A bottled water here and there will not break your bank – and if properly recycled – will not break the world. Just know that with a small to moderate initial investment, you will save an incredible amount of money in the long run. And you’ll have so much more to spend for flavor shots.
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