Debunking the Alternative Choice


Recently, a product was introduced into the marketplace that directed its marketing toward users of the Berkey® Water Purification Systems, particularly the Big Berkey® model. It has promoted itself as an alternative choice and the manufacturer of the Berkey® systems has tested its performance in two ways:

  1. Flow Rate
  2. Lifespan

The following comses directly from the manufacturers of the Berkey® Water Purification Systems in their testing of this alleged alternative choice against the Black Berkey® Purification Elements:

…we thought we would put this “new” system to the test.

The first test we conducted was a flow rate test. This is what we found:

A fully configured four element Big Berkey® system can produce up to 7 gallons per hour of purified water.(1) By comparison this fully configured alternate system only holds two filter elements (the large diameter of the elements precludes the system from accommodating more than two elements).(2,3) The alternative system when full only produces a mere 80 ounces per hour. However, the flow rate rapidly decreases as the water level declines. For example, when 70% full, the flow rate declines to approximately 62 ounces per hour. At 50% full the flow rate declines to about 44 ounces per hour and at 1/3 full the flow rate drops to a mere trickle of about 26 ounces per hour (approximately 5 (five) hours to produce a gallon of water). Averaging out the above rates, one would expect a typical run cycle to produce an average of 53 ounces per hour. This is an average of one gallon of water produced every 2 1/2 hours.

So let’s do an economic comparison: Assuming the alternative system is topped off continually, it can produce about 15 gallons per day whereas a fully configured Big Berkey® system can produce about 168 gallons per day. Therefore it takes over eleven of the alternative systems to produce as much water at one Big Berkey® 4X4 system.

So here are the numbers:

Cost of alternative system: $239 x 11: $2,629.00

Cost of Big Berkey® 4×4: $358.00

Savings with Big Berkey® System: $2,271.00

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The second test we conducted was designed to validate the claims that the alternative

filters have a lifespan equal to that of the Black Berkey® purification elements.

This test is designed to “overwhelm” the elements with a chemical contaminate in order to determine at what point a chemical breakthrough occurs. We added chlorine (Clorox®) to the water but found that we could not complete the test because after approximately 1-1/4 cups of Clorox had been filtered through the alternative filters, they began to break down. After 1-1/4 cups of Clorox® had been purified through the Black Berkey® elements, they continued to maintain their effectiveness. In the alternate, we decided to compare their respective performance. To do this we inserted both of the test elements, side by side, into a Berkey Light™ housing and added an additional cup of Clorox® to the pre-filtered source water. We also quarantined the water from the alternate filter element from that of the Black Berkey® purification element by inserting a canning jar under the effluent stem of the alternate filter.

Below is what we found:

Early in the Test

The alternate filter is having a hard time keeping up with the flow rate of the Black Berkey®purification element. Note how the Black Berkey® purification element is filling up the entire diameter of the lower chamber while the alternate filter element is only filling up the jar.

Midway through the Test

As the water level in the upper chamber declined, the flow rate of the alternative began losing more and more ground to the water level, produced by the Black Berkey® purification element, inside the larger diameter housing.

End of Test

The Black Berkey® element continued to purify the contaminated water whereas the alternate filter ran slow and continued to excrete a black inky solution.

The above picture illustrates the difference between the two elements in terms of both volume produced and quality of water.

Which one will you depend on for YOUR family? 

The above picture again highlights both the difference in flow rates and the quality of water produced by the alternative filter (left) and the Black Berkey® Purification Element (Right) after approximately two cups of Clorox® had been filtered through each element. During an emergency, such as Katrina, in which source water may be laden with heavy chemical contamination. The difference is clear.

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Additional Observations & Summary

 • The Berkey® system can be primed, set up and begin purifying water in about 20 minutes whereas the alternative system must be conditioned for two days prior to use.(4)

• The 2 day conditioning process cannot be accelerated by priming the alternate filter elements. When we attempted to do so, the ceramic broke, causing the element to explode.

• The wall thickness of the Black Berkey® elements is approximately 60% greater than the wall thickness of the alternative element.

• The Black Berkey® purification elements remove virus whereas the alternative filter element does not.

• The flow rate of the system is only about 1/11th of the flow rate of a Big Berkey with 4 Black Berkey Purification Elements.(5)

• When performing a Chlorine test, the alternative element began excreting a black inky solution.

• The claim is made that the new system is NSF certified; yet, NSF has no record of their certification.(6)

• Relevant test data is not available for the alternate system.

• Rather than using the expensive plasma welding on the stainless steel housing, which also gives Berkey® systems their beautiful mirror like lustrous shine, the housings use a cheap deep drawn method and make a tinny sound when thumped.

• The foot ring on the bottom of the system is a cheap plastic, instead of rubber, that falls off and is not snug nor does it fit tightly to the system.

If you purchased an alternative choice filter and are not satisfied with its performance, you may be able to return it for a refund. If not, there is no reason to fret because Black Berkey® purification elements can replace the filters in the alternative choice systems.  Thus, you can upgrade your system with the power of authentic Black Berkey® Purification Elements.

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1 Fully configured Big Berkey® water purification system contains 4 Black Berkey® purification elements.

2 Fully configured alternate system contains alternate filtration elements.

3 Literature and website claim expansion to 3 elements. System obtained for test purposes did not

physically allow this expansion; the elements were too wide at the base to allow claimed full


4 Based on assembly instructions which stated: “…fill the upper container fully with cold or room

temperature water. Allow all water to flow into the lower container. Open the spigot and discard the

water in the lower container. Let your system stand unused overnight. Refill upper chamber and

repeat…” In other words, “alternate” system would not be available in an emergency situation until 48

hours after set-up.

5 No flow rate is established on “alternate” website or literature.

6 Claims NSF 42 certification – no such listing appears on NSF website using any combination of the

alternate name or parent corporation.



-The Berkey Guy


2 Responses to Debunking the Alternative Choice

  1. shane July 21, 2012 at 5:14 am #

    you should have compared 2 black berkeys to two of pro purs filters. you make a mockery of your own ‘testing’ by comparing unfairly in this respect.

    It is irrelevant for a direct flow rate test relating to the filters themselves that the original pro pur filters dimensions only allowed 2 filters to be used in the unit.

    • David July 25, 2012 at 10:03 am #

      Thanks for your feedback, Shane. The reality is that we have yet to be contacted by a user of ProPur who is completely satisfied with its performance. Granted, no product is perfect and products can always be improved…we’ve just had lots of folks end up purchasing Berkeys after being unsatisfied with other systems. Please feel free to email me your positive experience with the system you personally use.

      Thanks, David

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