Berkey Water Filters FAQs
Q: I just started using my Berkey system but it is hardly filtering any water at all. Am I doing something wrong?
A: 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 purification elements. Included with your Black Berkey elements is a priming button and instructions for use. Take out the Black Berkey elements, prime, and re-install them when you finish.
Q: I have been using my system for six months and the flow rate has slowed down considerably. Do I need to replace the elements?
A: No, unlike other filtration elements, the Black Berkey elements and the ceramic elements 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, scrub the exterior of each element under running water with preferably a green pad (3M or ScotchBrite brand, etc.) or stiff toothbrush. It’s simple to do and takes less than a minute per element.
Q: I 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?
A: Please check in the box which held your Black Berkey elements. The box should contain two elements. Attached to each element should be a rubber washer and a wing nut. Also in the box, should be what could look like another single black rubber washer. This is your priming button. It is thicker than the washers and the center hole is smaller. This black priming button can easily be confused with a washer (we asked the manufacturer to change the color of the priming button back to tan).
Q: How do I know when it is time to replace the Black Berkey elements in my system?
A: The manufacturer suggests 2 methods. The first method is:
- Multiply the number of Black Berkey elements in your system by 3,000 gallons to get Total Gallons for all Elements within the system.
- Next keep track of how many times you usually refill the upper chamber in a week.
- Then multiply that figure times the capacity in gallons of your particular system (for example the Berkey Light system is 2.75 gallons) to determine Total Gallons Used per Week.
- Finally divide the Total Gallons Used per Week into the Total Gallons for all Filters and that will tell you how many weeks before the filters should be replaced.
- Next, calculate the future date for replacement (52 weeks per year), write that date for future reference.
- Your Black Berkey elements will never stop working; the filtration rate just slows down. This brings us to the second method. If after cleaning your elements they do not filter any faster; it is time to replace them. This is the simplest way to decide, and the one we use ourselves.
Q: What are the differences between the Super Sterasyl Ceramic elements and the Black Berkey elements?
A: The ceramic elements were developed and are made in England since the early 1800’s, and are what gave the Berkey systems their world renowned reputation.
The Black Berkey elements were developed and are made in the U.S. since around 2000.
- Longevity: Both elements are re-cleanable, but the ceramic elements may last slightly longer.
- Price: Both elements cost about the same.
- Filtration Rate: The Black Berkey elements filter slightly faster.
- Post Filters: Both elements can be enhanced (when needed) by the use of post filters (PF-2 for the Black Berkey elements and PF-4 for the ceramic elements). Post filters slow the filtering rate by 15 – 20%.
- Filtering power: The Black Berkey elements remove slightly more chlorine, lead, and other heavy metals, and completely remove MTBE. The ceramic elements need to be combined with the PF-4 to accomplish this. Both elements need the use of their post filters to reduce fluoride.
Both the Black Berkey elements and the ceramic are far more powerful and last longer than any other filtering systems available today. Whichever one you choose, you made the right choice.
Q: How do I determine which Berkey is the right size for our family?
A: Consider 3 factors when choosing the best size for your needs:
- How many gallons of water do you consume per day? As a rule, one person consumes 1 - 2 gallons per day. That’s 2 - 4 gallons per day for a couple, and so on. Once that is figured out, you'll want to purchase a system that will NOT require you to refill it more than twice a day to produce the amount of water you need. For instance, if you determine you consume about 6 gallons per day, the Royal Berkey will be the smallest system you'll want to purchase as it holds 3.25 gallons. Refilled twice in one day, it would produce about 6.5 gallons. Many of our customers find they drink more water when they start using a Berkey system for the simple reason that the water tastes so much better. They also use the "Berkey water" for all their cooking needs as well. "If you wouldn't drink it, don't cook with it." Naturally, this use increases the amount of water they consume per day.
- Emergencies: a natural disaster or power outage can render you without water. In such occasions, you'll be glad to have a Berkey system with a holding capacity greater than your average daily need.
- An increase in users: after a number of years, you may find that your Berkey system needs to be refilled more often to keep up with a growing family (more members and/or children have grown into adults). Since the Berkey is a life-time purchase, remember to keep this in mind when you purchase a Berkey system.
Q: A family in our area recently purchased a Crown Berkey from you with 8 elements, and they love it. I'd like to buy one too but don't know how many elements I need. How do I figure that out?
A: The more elements installed in a Berkey system, the faster the water filters. For instance, a Royal Berkey with 4 elements filters water twice as fast as one with 2 elements. A Crown Berkey with 8 elements filters water 4 times faster than one with 2 elements. This can make a big difference when you need water NOW, and there is no filtered water in the Berkey.
Picture this, you walk up to your Berkey to get some water only to find it is almost empty because someone forgot to refill it. At such a time, the more elements your Berkey has, the sooner you will have water available. Your friends' Crown Berkey with 8 elements will provide them with gallons of filtered water in just a few minutes vs. waiting a while for the water to be filtered using, say only 2 elements.
More elements in a Berkey will not only filter the water faster but you will also have less need to clean or replace the elements as often as more elements "share" the load of filtering the water.
You also save on the purchase of a system with 4 elements or more as each pair of elements are $10 less ($89 vs. $99).
The Travel Berkey and Berkey Light can only use 2 elements at one time. That means the rate at which they filter the water is fixed (not upgradeable). On the other hand, the Big, Royal, Imperial and Crown Berkeys are all capable of using more than 2 elements at one time. This option is critical considering that Berkeys are a life-time purchase.
Q: How do I test my Berkey system to ensure it’s working properly?
A: You can test the Black Berkey elements by filling the upper chamber with water, and then adding a tablespoon of food coloring for every gallon of water. If the food coloring is removed entirely, your system is working properly. If not, make sure the wing nuts on the elements are securely tightened then re-run the test. Beware that over tightening can strip the wing nuts, and under tightening may not secure a water-tight seal.
Q: Can I filter sea (salt) water through my Berkey system?
A: No. The concentration of salt in sea water will ruin the elements.
Q: Several hours after filling my Berkey system, there was water on the floor below it. What could be causing it to leak?
A: There are two possibilities:
- Overfilling: You can only put as much water in the upper chamber as there is empty space in the lower chamber. Any more water in the upper chamber will be forced by gravity to filter down into the lower chamber. When this happens, the extra water that doesn’t fit in the lower chamber has to go somewhere and is forced out where the upper and lower chambers meet. For example, if you own the Big Berkey (holds 2.25 gal.); you can put 2.25 gal. in the upper chamber as long as the lower chamber is empty. But if you already have, say 1 gallon of water in the lower chamber, you can only put 1.25 gal. of water in the upper chamber. If you put too much water in the upper chamber, it will filter down and leak out.
- Improperly installed spigot: The spigot has 2 washers (one for the inside and one for the outside of the chamber) and a nut. When installed properly and hand tightened, they form a water-tight seal. The washers for the Berkey Light spigot need the slanted sides facing each other.
Q: The spigot that came with my Berkey leaks. How can I fix it?
A: The spigot has a cap that can be unscrewed, and taken off. Unscrew it and pull the cap off. Be sure to pull the cap off that is below the lever you push or pull to dispense the water (not just the lever). Once the cap and lever are off, simply assemble them again. This simple procedure usually fixes a leaky spigot for good.
Q: I have a water softener installed in our house, can I filter that water through my Berkey?
A: We do not recommend it. It is best if you use water that has not gone through your water softener.
Q: Do the PF-2 elements replace the Black Berkey elements?
A: No. The Black Berkey elements and the PF-2 elements are used together. The top of the PF-2 elements 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.
Q: What is the difference between the PF-2 and the PF-4 elements?
A: The PF-2 elements are to be used ONLY with the Black Berkey elements. The PF-4 elements are to be used ONLY with the Super Sterasyl ceramic elements.
Q: We are on well water. Do we need the PF-2 elements?
A: No. The PF-2 elements should only be used if: ...you are on city water...you have confirmed with your city that they are adding fluoride to the water...you want to remove the fluoride. The PF-2 elements are not needed if you are using spring or well water.
Keep in mind that use of the PF-2 elements slows the filtration rate of your Berkey system by 15 – 20 %. They also displace water which means your Berkey system will hold (store) less water in the bottom chamber.
Q: In case of an emergency, can I take water from our pool and filter it with my Berkey system? Will all the chlorine be removed?
A: Yes. The Berkeys can make chlorinated pool water safe for consumption. However, keep in mind that such a use will cause the elements to wear faster. So, I would only do so in case of emergency.
Q: I’ve been reading about how chlorine turns into a harmful gas in the shower but will my shower head fit the shower filter you offer? I like our shower head and wonder if the one you offer is any nicer.
A: Yes, our shower filters fit any shower head that is sold in the U.S. The optional shower head we offer with our shower filters are nothing fancy. If you like the shower head you are currently using, I’d keep it.
Q: The news has reported the dangers of BPA in plastics that come in contact with food. Does the Berkey Light have BPA in it?
A: No, the Berkey Light is made without any BPA.
Q: What is the pathological removal capability of the Berkeys vs. reverse osmosis system?
A: Reverse Osmosis does not remove pathogenic bacteria. 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 for 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 elements.
Q: With respect to cost, how does reverse osmosis, distillation and Berkey systems compare?
A: 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.
Q: With respect to maintenance, how does reverse osmosis, distillation and Berkey systems compare?
A: All Berkey systems are easy to disassemble and clean. The lower chamber should be washed in ordinary dishwater occasionally. The elements may need to be cleaned typically after 6-12 months of use, depending on the type of water being filtered
Distillation systems need to be soaked and cleaned with vinegar solution to remove the scale, typically after each gallon or two.
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 be 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.
Q: Which of the 3 methods of filtration - reverse osmosis, distillation or Berkey purification is the healthiest for drinking purposes?
A: 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 reading will not typically change much unless there are a lot of heavy metals or sedimentary minerals in the source water.
Q. Is there a warranty provided for Berkey systems?
A. Yes. As always, you have 60 days to return any product to us. This is our 100% Satisfaction Guarantee. Also, New Millennium Concepts, the manufacturer of our Berkey products, provides a 12-month warranty for all stainless steel Berkey systems and a 2-year prorated warranty for the Black Berkey Purification Elements. Please alert us to any problems with your Berkey product, and we will help you through the return process.