Pro Pur BIG Review—Is it worth the price?
Clean drinking water is important to say the least and the best and cheapest way to have it readily available is to filter it yourself. When it comes to water filters though, the gravity feed filters, like the Berkey filters (which I do not recommend) and the BIG (being reviewed today), are the most attractive option. For one thing, they’re usually rated around 3000 gallons per filter so in a two filter setup, you get 6000 gallons of water for a little over $100 (price of the filters only) shipped. This is accomplished by the fact that the filters can be washed. Also gravity feed filters are able to filter out more contaminants than faucet mounted filters. This probably isn’t a BIGeal if you’re using tap water as the source, but in case of emergency, you increase your sources of potable water because any fresh water source, like rain water or river water, can be filtered and consumed. Faucet mounted filters also don’t work when there is no water pressure.
Previously, I had purchased a Berkey and you can read my Berkey Light review here. In the past, I had great luck with Berkey filters but I can no longer recommend them due to quality-control issues with the filters. The main issue was the filter elements becoming separated from their mounting bases which allowed water to bypass the filter element and flow directly into the bottom chamber. The company I bought the Berkey from had great customer services and after contacting them about the problem, they promptly sent two new filters free of charge with no shipping. After a couple months though, the new filters had the same problem. So goodbye Berkey, hello Pro Pur.
The most attractive feature to me about the Pro Pur BIG water filter was the fact that the filters were shorter and wider in diameter 4” x 4”. With the Berkey light, the 2” x 9” filters seemed to flop around with the slightest movement, which is what I think caused them to break away from their bases. At any rate, the filters Pro Pur sent me were their new 2” x 9” filters, which was disappointing at first because I thought I would have the same problem as before but once mounted, the filter elements were really solidly made. If I have problems though, I will get the shorter, wider elements.
First Impressions: To be honest, when the BIG arrived, I was not impressed. In addition to not getting the 4” x 4” elements, the build quality seemed to be pretty shoddy. The finish of the two chambers appeared uneven and mottled. The cover, came with a dent in it and the metal spigot had some chrome missing from the spigot handle. Inside the chambers, the metal appears to be pitted.
Things did improve though after giving the chambers a through cleaning. The finish on the outside cleaned up well so maybe there’s something in the manufacturing process that explains why the unit ships with an uneven finish. The filters are also very solid once installed. The plastic used to mount them is more stiff than the material Berkey uses.
Using the BIG is identical to the Berkey Light. Water goes into the top chamber and drips into the bottom chamber. The filters Pro Pur make, drip a lot slower than Berkey’s so it’s best to fill it up and let it drip overnight. Because the BIG is stainless you won’t be able to easily observe the water level in the bottom chamber. My work around for this was to fill the bottom chamber up with water and pour it into the top chamber and mark the water level on the outside with a permanent marker (hint to Pro Pur, add a witness mark to the top chamber). Every time I refill the top chamber, I empty the bottom. Which leads me to another tip. The base Berkey uses for the Berkey light comes in handy with the BIG. The base is hollow so it gives you a place to rest the top chamber and by resting it on the base, I can fill the top chamber using my sink faucet.
Overall, I think the Pro Pur BIG is a good purchase but only time will tell. Here is a summary of the good and bad points:
- Filters are solid and mount solidly
- Filters don’t mold—a problem with the Berkey filters
- Water tastes great
- Some quality control issues, I.e., chrome missing from the spigot handle, damage during shipping, pitting inside the top and bottom chamber.
- Slow order processing
- Spigot is really slow, regardless of the water level in the bottom chamber
It might seem that the quality-control issue would damn the BIG from any kind of recommendation. The thing is, a gravity feed filter is basically just two pots and a filter so in reality the filter is the star of the show and so far, these are living up to Pro Pur’s claims. A little chrome missing off a spigot handle doesn’t interfere with the operation and otherwise the construction is solid. So, like I said, I’m happy with my purchase.