Berkey water filters
We really wanted to use and sell Berkey water filters. Berkey filters are well marketed, do a good job of filtering water, and frankly, they have an attractive dealership program. Based on widespread support from average "preppers", we assumed the Berkey filters had to be a solid product, so we set up a dealership agreement with New Millennium Concepts Ltd. (U.S. maker and seller of the Berkey water filters). Here's what we found.
MacKenzie and I ordered several Big Berkey water filters (with black filter elements) and began our evaluation. Like all drip filters, they are pretty slow, but this isn't really a problem because you can just go do something else while the filter does the work. The filters need to be "primed" the first time with pressure from a tap to begin water flow, but this pressure would be pretty easy to duplicate even without running water, so again, we didn't consider this a big problem.
Our first unit worked well for about a week, and then it began to leak where the filter seals to the upper water chamber. This allowed contaminated water from the untreated upper chamber to drip into the lower chamber that is supposed to be full of purified water. The filter is held in place by a plastic wing nut, and a rubber washer is supposed to create a water tight seal to prevent this leak. I gently snugged up the wing nut to remove the play in the connection that was causing the leak. Instead of snugging up the connection, the plastic wing nut (which connects to a plastic threaded stub) stripped out making it impossible to tighten the filter in place. The leak was now permanent, making my filter useless.
I hopped online to see if anyone else had experienced this problem. In no time at all, I found several Berkey filter owners who experienced the exact same problem, and a similar leak at the spigot. Worse yet, even more owners were reporting that their filter elements were literally falling apart! The elements were separating from the base that they are glued to. This total failure causes lots of contaminated water to flow down into the "drinking water" chamber. They reported that the failure was not readily noticeable at first meaning that they drank contaminated water for some time before the problem was discovered.
Even more disturbing was the manufacturer's response to the problem. I called our account manager to get the company's side of the story straight from the horse's mouth. When the filters totally fail by breaking at the base, Mew Millennium Concepts Ltd. has a replacement policy. If it broke within the first 6 months, they replace the filter and you have to send the failed one back. After 6 months, but before 12 months, they sell you a replacement filter at a 75% discount... So, their product totally fails and you have to pay to make it right? If it fails after 12 months, they sell you replacement filters at a 50% discount, and after 18 months the discount is only 25%. If the failure occurs after 2 years, they are happy to let you pay full price to replace their defective product.
The company says this prorated system is fair because the user received some use from the filter (the more use you got before the filter fell apart, the more a replacement filter costs). IF this is a reasonable policy, then the proration should roughly match the claimed 3000 gallon life of the filter. 3000 gallons is roughly 8 years of drinking water for one person, while the warranty proration assumes a 2 year filter life. So either the warranty proration is nowhere near fair to the customer, or New Millennium Concepts Ltd. doesn't actually expect their filters to last more than a quarter of their advertised life. They don't trust their product with a few dollars in replacement cost, and you are supposed to trust it with your life.
The Berkey filtration systems obviously don't hold their own with the caliber of products we chose to rely on every day and carry for our customers. We were very disappointed and discontinued our dealership.
This article will stand as witness to our dedication to Badger Peak's founding principle. Even when it costs us a lucrative dealership, we won't promote or sell any product that isn't a proven solid performer. No gimmicks, just smart sustainable living.
MacKenzie and I hope this information will help you avoid a mistake that we made. Fortunately we have found a few very solid water filtration systems with manufacturers that stand behind them. As always these products passed our rigorous testing and are still surviving our daily use.