Feb 24, 2012 at 11:44 am #1286138
I purchased my Steripen Opti right after Christmas. Like any gear nerd, I brought it home and promptly "tested" it in a glass of tap water. Cool! I had a new toy!
And I tested it again, and again, in different containers. My lamp was working since I could see the blue light, right? Well, something sat uneasily with me. The light seemed a bit dimmer than pictures I had seen. This was probably just my imagination, and different cameras will show light differently.
But still something inside me wasn't convinced. So I brought my concerns to various parties, including the store at which I purchased it and to Steripen directly. I even sent in pictures of the lamp in use and the tech support person said the photos looked like the lamp was operating normally. Everyone I talked to assured me the lamp was fine.
*Knock knock* Who's there? My hunch.
Luckily I was also having other issues with the unit at the same time. There is a tiny o-ring that sits underneath the head of the thumb screw that presumably helps seal the opening where the thumb screw goes through the battery cap and into the unit. This came out after only a few openings of the battery compartment, and being brand new it was covered under warranty.
I had been dealing with Rich from Steripen about these issues. He offered to replace the end cap for free and if I was still concerned with the UV lamp on my unit that I could send it in and they could test it. For $5 shipping I wanted the piece of mind and to finally put that nagging feeling to rest.
As a note, I would like to mention that dealing with Rich was nice. He was quick to respond to my emails and offered to rectify the situation by replacing the faulty endcap without hesitation. So Steripen's customer service is a plus.
I sent my unit off for repair, and I got this reply today:
"Hi Travis, I'm sending you a replacement steripen today. Your concern about the UV was well based; you had a faulty lamp.
Good luck with your travels.
Sometimes you just gotta follow your gut feeling.Feb 24, 2012 at 12:32 pm #1844217
Good for you to follow through on your "hunch"!!
I hope you got a decent gift card — or at least a reimbursement for postage? :)Feb 24, 2012 at 12:42 pm #1844225
Thanks for posting this Travis. I just bought one so time to test it.
How will I for sure know that the lamp is working based on the proper 'brightness?' I have never used one.Feb 24, 2012 at 12:48 pm #1844226
I have one that works pretty normal… so hard to say precisely the difference in brightness. Suffice to say, like a mini florescent light tube — you can pretty much tell if the light is working normal — versus a tube that is 'struggling' and dimming like. Maybe Travis can describe the latter in better terms.Feb 24, 2012 at 12:50 pm #1844228
Thanks. I have a trip coming up and will take it but some additional Katadyn tabs just to be safe. An extra ounce that I can handle…; )Feb 24, 2012 at 12:51 pm #1844231
@ngatelLocale: Southern California
Since Travis has pictures of a bad one and will be getting a new one, perfect opportunity to show a side by side comparison.Feb 24, 2012 at 12:51 pm #1844232
David, that's a tough one to judge. My lamp looked a bit dull and hazy compared to photos I found online. Other than that, there's not much else I can say. I would suspect that the vast majority of units are fine, but every product line has its lemons. Steripen did say they test their units during QC, but I'm not sure if that's every unit or a certain percentage.
I'll try to dig up the photos I took, but I think I deleted them.Feb 24, 2012 at 12:54 pm #1844236
Thanks guys.Feb 24, 2012 at 12:59 pm #1844240
@retiredjerryLocale: Oregon and Washington
Thanks for posting that Travis
I've had one for about a year and it seems normal, but now how would I know?
What I hate is that with water treatment there's no way to know if it's working.
Water is usually good, so you're just preventing a rare event of getting some infected water. The fact that I don't get sick could just mean that I didn't happen to encounter any infected water.
And if I did get sick, it's similar to routinely happening intenstinal problems that could be caused by exposure to bad food or fecal contamination. Only rarely does someone get very sick that doesn't go away without treatment.
Oh well, I debate just not treating water so I'm no worse off than that.Feb 24, 2012 at 1:00 pm #1844241
Sorry for the sideways photos. iPhone pictures like to do that. The little LED light is supposed to blink during the entire purification process, so some of the light you see in the pictures is coming from that.Feb 24, 2012 at 1:07 pm #1844247
Yay – thanks for the pics.Feb 24, 2012 at 1:08 pm #1844248
@retiredjerryLocale: Oregon and Washington
Are those photos from a good lamp or a bad lamp?Feb 24, 2012 at 1:12 pm #1844249
This is the bad lamp, and I should be receiving the good one in a few days. Do note that the Steripen Rep said the lamp looked ok from these photos. As I was typing my response to Jerry, I got an email from Steripen:
Travis, it was emitting about half the UV energy we expect. Every pen is tested on a UV radiometer before leaving the factory, so presumably the lamp went bad in the shipment to the store and to you. We keep improving the strength and connections of the lamps, but unfortunately they still fail sometimes.
RichardFeb 24, 2012 at 1:38 pm #1844264
@danepackerLocale: Mojave Desert
After contracting amoebic dysentery (fatal W/O antibiotics) from eating Kinilau – raw fish & veggies – in Cebu, Philippines in Jan. my internal medicine doctor there advise me to use my Steripen even in commercial FILTERED water unless it was distilled water.
I looked strange to the wait staff in restaurants as I stirred my (iceless) water with the Steripen but if you ever had amoebic dysentery you know it is agony and anything you can do to avoid a repeat you'll do. Yeah, don't consume ice in ANY form in 3rd world countries B/C you don't know the source of the water it was made from. Freezing only puts the bugs to sleep. Then they wake up in your nice, warm, dark tummy and go to work multiplying expolentially. And the agony begins…
The Steripen worked flawlessly several times a day for over a month and I'm really glad I had it with me. The lithium batteries held up well and I didn't need the backup batteries.Feb 24, 2012 at 1:43 pm #1844270
"I looked strange to the wait staff in restaurants as I stirred my (iceless) water with the Steripen"
But imagine the look on the same wait staff if you had pulled out a First Need pump purifier instead…
Eric, if you don't mind my asking… why is your doctor advising you to zap even commercially filtered water?Feb 24, 2012 at 2:12 pm #1844285
Thanks for this thread Travis! I have a new Steripen Opti which is going to undergo some thorough testing soon!
I wonder how we'll know when the bulb is worn out from use if it wears out before the electronic use count tracker thinks it's worn out….Feb 24, 2012 at 2:21 pm #1844292
Just wanted to add a note on my customer service experience with SteriPEN. Just today I sent an email
to them to ask for the battery capacity of my Freedom unit (info for another thread in gear forum actually) and got a response back so quickly I didn't even read it at first as I assumed it was an auto-response. Actually it was an answer to my question from Rich Avery. Maybe a slow day or a fluke, but as far as I'm concerned that was stellar customer service.Feb 24, 2012 at 2:22 pm #1844293
As soon as the visible bulb shorts out, the UV circuity will stop working as well. The visible bulb is the "safety switch" so to speak.Feb 24, 2012 at 2:35 pm #1844298
The ultimate would be a self-diagnosing unit that has a built-in UV sensor on a separate circuit that can actually detect if the UV lamp is working at an acceptable level.Feb 24, 2012 at 2:40 pm #1844302
And just what is going to check on that UV sensor? :)Feb 24, 2012 at 2:46 pm #1844304
@skopeoLocale: British Columbia
I have to say that although I've been very happy with my Steripen and it has worked flawlessly since I stopped using rechargeable batteries (the rechargeables let me down when the temp dropped), that since UV light is invisible, I am always left wondering if I'm just waving a flashlight in my water.
I take the leap of faith that Ben has alluded to, that the Steripen folks have built in safeguards to prevent this but in Travis's case, how would you know if the UV light was failing if the flashlight lamp was still illuminating your steripen?
Good detective work Travis, it would have been easy to assume all was well as long as it was still glowing.Feb 24, 2012 at 3:09 pm #1844316
>And just what is going to check on that UV sensor? :)
I was thinking a dedicated global satellite network that constantly monitors the unit's monitoring system. :)Feb 24, 2012 at 3:24 pm #1844322
@brooklynkayakLocale: Atlantic North East
The photos that you posted look like a normal fully functioning unit, but a photo can deceive.
I know you have to be in shade to actually see the bulb on a sunny day. The bulb doesn't give off a lot of visible light, it is the invisible UV that does the job.
From all the experience stories that I have found, the system is more reliable than other systems, short of boiling your water.
The fact that you see the faint white/blue light tells you that it is emitting UV and it doesn't take much UV to do the job.
I don't know what the company thought was defective about it? Or maybe they saw something else and decided to play it safe.
I wonder if the light will look any different when you get the new one?Feb 24, 2012 at 3:58 pm #1844346
>I don't know what the company thought was defective about it? Or maybe they saw something else and decided to play it safe.
Because I had a concern and because Steripen would rather play it safe than risk a lawsuit, they offered to actually test my unit. They used a radiometer to see how much UV was coming out of it, and they found it was only emitting 50% of what they expect.
The unit I had may look perfectly normal, I don't know. But I had a pretty strong hunch to really determine if it was operating at full strength, and whether it was luck, karma, or divine intervention, my hunch was correct.
Considering the quality control steps that Steripen takes, I'm not doubting the technology or their product. I happened to get a lemon, and that's the way it goes sometimes. I don't think people should be afraid that their unit is working properly–most likely it is, but if something doesn't seem right, maybe check it out. That goes for any product.Feb 24, 2012 at 4:08 pm #1844351
@brooklynkayakLocale: Atlantic North East
@Travis, That makes sense.
I suspect that even if it was working at 10% it would still do the job, but you paid for 100% and you should get it from a new unit.
I know people out there that use the 1/2 liter timing when they treat 1 liter without issue.
I have no doubt about how well UV works, but silt can block UV and some larger organisms may need more UV in some cases.
I found I really appreciate the Steripen and many people who have hiked with me now use them.
Chemicals may be lighter, but have many disadvantages that can become annoying after many days on the trail. Filters are either too heavy and/or unreliable.
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