Frequently Asked Questions about Berkey Water Filters
We want to help our customers out! If you have a question about Berkey Water Filters, we hope you'll be able to find the answer here. If not, feel free to send us an inquiry through our Berkey Filters website.
How does the Berkey water filter compare to other water filters on the market?
See how Berkey performs in an independent head to head water filter comparison.
Which size Berkey water filter system do I need and how many Berkey filters do I need in my system?
We have a whole page on our website devoted to that topic! Learn how to choose the right Berkey Water Filter.
Use one of the 2 methods below:
- Take the number of Black Berkey filtering elements in your system and multiply it by 3,000. This number will be the (Total Life) in gallons.
- Estimate the average amount of water you filter through your Berkey per day. This number will be the (Total Use) in gallons.
- Then simply divide the (Total Life) by the (Total Use). This number represents how many days your filter will effectively treat your water before needing to replace them.
- As a reminder, with a permanent marker write the date that you calculated the need for Berkey replacement filters on the bottom of your unit.
Example: If you have a two filter Big Berkey and your used 4 gallons of water per day. You would multiply 2 (#of filters) by 3000 = 6000 (Total Life), then divide 6000 by 4 (total use) = 1500 days the filters will last, That's a little over four years!
The Black Berkey filters in your unit will never stop working. The rate that the filters produce water will slow down. This is an indication that the filter needs to be cleaned. This brings us to the second method. If after cleaning your elements they do not filter any faster; it is time to replace them.
I hear a lot about the Big Berkey, is this the best system for me?
The Big Berkey is our most popular system. All of our Berkey water filter systems have the exact same filter elements inside, so all produce the same quality of water. As you upgrade to larger units, the capacity and flow rate becomes higher. This gives them the ability to provide drinking water for larger groups of people. The Big Berkey is our most popular model because it produces enough water for 8-16 persons and still compact enough to be portable, making the Big Berkey ideally suited for most of our customer's needs. The Big Berkey was also the first water filter model offered by Berkey. Over time the Big Berkey has accumulated a huge following in the missionary and emergency relief organization field. This large following of dedicated users has produced much press making it a popular choice. Use the recommendations information on our Berkey Filter Model's page to determine the specific filter that best matches your water filtering situation.
We are on well water. Do we need to add the PF-2 filter elements?
No. The Berkey fluoride reduction filters should only be used if you are on city water, you have confirmed with your city that they are adding fluoride to the water and you want to remove the fluoride. The PF-2 elements are not needed if you are on spring water.
What are the basic differences between the Berkey Light and the stainless steel systems?
The Berkey Light model is designed for outdoor use. Therefore, it is about three pounds lighter in weight than the equivalent capacity of our stainless steel system. This is the only difference; all Berkey models produce the same high quality purified water. The Travel Berkey system is also designed for outdoor use and is the smallest of the stainless steel systems. It is compact enough to fit inside a portable suitcase, because unlike the Berkey Light system, the upper chamber nests within the lower chamber during travel. This is the preferred system when mobility is a primary issue.
The four multiuse filter systems are designed for indoor and everyday use, so they are heavier and larger than the above systems but these systems can also be used outdoors or during unexpected emergencies when a source of potable water may not be available.
We live in the state of California, are we able to purchase a Berkey water filter system?
The state of California has established regulations and procedures for the sale of indoor water systems. Under these regulations, the state of California requires that any water treatment system that is sold in the state first be certified by an independent, third-party testing agency, such as NSF, before the system can be considered eligible for sale in California. NSF Standard 42 (aesthetic effects) and Standard 53 (health effects) would specifically apply to our purification elements.
NSF Standard 42 covers systems “designed to reduce specific aesthetic or non-health-related contaminants such as chlorine, taste and odor, and particulates that may be present in public or private drinking water. NSF Standard 53 addresses, “systems designed to reduce specific health-related contaminants, such as Cryptosporidium, Giardia, lead, Volatile Organic Chemicals, and MTBE’s that may be present in public or private drinking water.”
The tests we have conducted are much more rigorous than those required by NSF for the certifications mandated by the state of California. Our purifiers have been rigorously tested by third-party independent accredited labs far surpassing the above standard of taste, odor and chlorine reduction. For example, our systems have been tested for the removal of hundreds of contaminants including heavy metals, pesticides, herbicides, pharmaceuticals, pathogenic bacteria, and viruses. These test results are published and available to all our consumers on our website as well as published in our printed literature. In addition, there has also been other highly publicized and notable testing of our purifiers against other so-called similar water filtration systems which clearly back up our third-party testing. Although our extensive testing is sufficient for 49 states in the US, it is currently not acceptable for residents of the state California.
Once NSF certification has been obtained, the state of California additionally requires that companies pay high costs to obtain and maintain certification with the state of California.
In the end, we have concluded that the additional taxes, certifications, and red tape have created too large of a barrier for our firm to offer our systems in the state of California.
Only sales of the following outdoor systems and products are now available to customers in the state of California: Sport Berkey®, Go Berkey®, Travel Berkey®, Berkey® Light (With or without LED lights), Black Berkey® Filter Elements, PF-2 Fluoride Filters, and All Replacement Parts.
I have been using my system for about 6-months, and the flow rate has slowed down considerably. Do I need to replace the filters?
No. Unlike other filtration elements, the Black Berkey filters are re-cleanable. What typically causes the filters to drip slowly is turbidity and sediment clogging the micro-pores of the elements. Simply remove the elements from your system, and clean the Black Berkey element by scrubbing the exterior of each element under running water with a green scrub pad (3M or ScotchBrite brand, etc.) or stiff toothbrush. It’s simple to do and takes less than a minute per element.
Many news stations have reported that pharmaceuticals have been found in the water of many cities in the U.S. Do the Black Berkey elements remove drugs from the water?
There are simply too many varieties of pharmaceuticals that could end up in drinking water. "Too many" means that it is impossible for Berkey to test for them all. However, we do know from testing, that the purification process used by the Black Berkey filters remove more pollutants than any other system available on the market today.
I just started using my Berkey purifier system, but it is hardly filtering any water at all. Am I doing something wrong?
Typically the problem you are experiencing is due to high water tension, which prevents the air from purging from the micro pores of the new filtering elements. Included with your Black Berkey filters are a priming button and priming instructions. Take out the Black Berkey filters, prime, and re-install.
Is there a way to test my Berkey purifier system to make sure it is working properly?
Yes. You can test the Black Berkey filter elements by filling the upper chamber with water, and then adding a teaspoon of red food coloring for every gallon of water within your upper chamber. Be sure to use red, as no other color of food coloring will work. If the food coloring is removed entirely, your system is working properly. If not, make sure the wing nuts on the filters are securely tightened then re-run the test. If you have the PF-2 fluoride filters installed, remove them prior to performing the red dye test.
I just purchased a Berkey system but didn't receive a priming button with my Black Berkey elements. Instead, I think I received an extra black washer in the box. The instructions say to use the tan colored priming button. What gives?
Please check the box which held your Black Berkey filters. The box should contain two elements. Attached to each element should be a black rubber washer and a wing nut. Also in the box, should be what could look like another single rubber washer, however, it will be tan in color. This is your priming button. It is thicker than the black washers, and the center hole is smaller. This tan priming button can easily be confused with a washer.
Do the PF-2 elements replace the Black Berkey elements?
No. The Black Berkey filter elements and the Berkey fluoride reduction elements are used together at the same time. The top of the PF-2 Fluoride Filters screw onto the bottom of the Black Berkey elements (similar to installing a light bulb). The water flows through the Black Berkey elements, then the PF-2 elements. "PF" in PF-2 stands for Post Filter. When properly installed, the PF-2 elements will hang loosely from the black filters and may seem wobbly which is normal. The PF-2 elements are secure.
I installed my Berkey PF-2 elements but my water is a bit cloudy, and why does it have a bad taste?
Insufficient conditioning (priming) of the Berkey Fluoride elements may result in an undesirable taste and/or cloudiness in the water. The odd taste is from process dust that may not have been washed free from the filters during the conditioning process. Please remove the PF-2 elements and prime them again for no less than 60 seconds (longer may be needed) on both ends. This should expel any residual process dust and fix the problem.
Can I filter sea (salt) water through my Berkey system?
No. The concentration of salt in sea water will more than likely ruin the elements fairly quickly.
I have a water softener installed in our house, can I filter that water through my Berkey?
Some people do, but we do not recommend it. It is best if you put water in your Berkey that has not gone through your water softener (the excess salt will likely shorten the life of the elements).
In the case of an emergency, can I take water from our pool and filter it with my Berkey system? Will all the chlorine be removed?
Yes. The Berkey water filter systems can make chlorinated pool water safe for consumption. However, keep in mind that such a use will cause the elements to wear faster. So, you should only do so in the case of an emergency.
Which of the three methods of water filtration, reverse osmosis, distillation or Berkey purification is the healthiest for drinking purposes?
With respect to the healthfulness of the water, most health experts that are up to date on current research are no longer recommending drinking RO or distilled water on a long-term basis because these methods remove all the beneficial minerals from the water making the water an acidic "hypotonic" solution. A chemist will tell you that any time a hypotonic (de-mineralized) solution comes into contact with a "hypertonic" (mineralized) solution, the minerals within the hypertonic solution will transfer out and into the hypotonic solution until equilibrium is achieved. What this means is simply that when one drinks hypotonic water, the minerals in the blood and lymphatic system, which are hypertonic, transfer into the hypotonic RO or distilled water that is consumed and the minerals are flushed out of the body upon urination.
In an effort to re-mineralize, the blood and lymphatic systems then begin to scavenge for minerals from other parts of the body, such as bones and other organs, and this process repeats itself every time de-mineralized hypotonic water is re-consumed. Several studies suggest that people who drink de-mineralized water (hypotonic) over a long period of time tend to be more prone to degenerative diseases such as osteoporosis.
Berkey purification systems do not remove the beneficial minerals from the water, but they do extract harmful heavy metals such as lead and mercury as well as sedimentary minerals such as iron oxide. Therefore, the TDS (total dissolved solids) reading will not typically change much unless there are a lot of heavy metals or sedimentary minerals in the source water.
With respect to maintenance, how do reverse osmosis, distillation, and Berkey purifier systems compare?
All Berkey models are easy to disassemble and clean. The lower chamber should be cleaned by hand in dishwater once a month. The Black Berkey elements may need to be cleaned typically after 6-12 months of use.
Distillation systems remove minerals from the drinking water. These minerals build up on the surface of the container and need to be soaked and cleaned with a 50/50 vinegar solution to remove the scale.
Reverse osmosis systems can have up to four filter elements, with each needing to be changed at differing intervals from four months up to two years. This requires that the water pressure is shut off and part or all of the system to be disassembled for maintenance. Additionally, the bladder tank should be washed with a chlorine solution at six-month intervals to kill any colonizing bacteria.
What is the pathological removal capability of a reverse osmosis system vs. the Berkey's?
Reverse Osmosis does not remove pathogenic bacteria, and that is why it is often necessary to add an additional UV light to the system. However, the UV sometimes does not kill all the bacteria because any turbidity in the water can create shaded spots preventing some bacteria from being exposed. Typically, the UV is installed before the bladder tank, however, it is in the bladder tank that bacteria usually colonize. Therefore, if the bladder tank is not sterilized on a regular basis, it becomes a source of bacteriological contamination that is never exposed to UV. Additionally, the carcasses of the dead bacteria remain within the drinking water with an RO system whereas they are removed by the Black Berkey filters.
With respect to cost, how does reverse osmosis, distillation and Berkey systems compare?
With respect to upfront cost, RO systems typically are the most expensive due to the cost of the system and the additional expense to have the system plumbed in. Next in cost would be a distillation unit. A Berkey system will typically be the least expensive of the three.
With respect to cost per gallon of water, calculated upon the cost per gallon for replacement filters and energy costs, distillation systems and RO systems properly maintained typically cost between 35-65 cents per gallon. A Berkey system typically costs about 1.6 cents per gallon.
What is the difference between the Black Berkey purification filters and the white Ceramic filters?
Let us start by giving you a brief history about Berkey. Berkey is the original North American distributor for British Berkefeld, a company who makes the finest ceramic water filter available. These ceramic filters are excellent at removing harmful bacteria from sediment heavy, contaminated drinking water. It soon became clear to Berkey that a more powerful filter was needed, one that not only removed bacteria but was also, in addition, able to remove chemicals, viruses, heavy metals, fertilizers and a long list of additional contaminants from your drinking water. After many years of research Berkey developed the Black Berkey purification element. This filter gives you all of the benefits of the ceramic filter with the added abilities mentioned above. Black Berkey purification element significantly raised the bar to a level that no other gravity flow water filters are currently able to attain.
Are the filtering elements in the Sport Berkey as effective as the Black Berkey purification elements?
Yes, the replaceable filter in the Sport Berkey is made of the same material and has the same ionic properties as the larger and longer lasting Black Berkey filter element found in all of our larger Berkey water filter models.
What is the difference between a water filter and a water purifier?
We have the answer to that question on our water filters vs water purifiers page.
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