Tips & FAQ’s
Do I need to fill my Berkey Water Filter System to the top every time?
Yes, each time you fill your Berkey Water Filter System’s top chamber you should fill it up to the top of your filters. Only filling your system partially can wear out your filters unevenly, as the bottom of the filter is doing all the work! This causes the filtration rate to slow substantially, as the unused portion dries out and needs to be primed more frequently. Always make sure your bottom chamber is empty, before filling the top chamber, to avoid overflow.
When do I need to replace the Black Berkey filter elements in my system?
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 portablesuitcase, 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 theSportBerkey is made of the same material and has the sameionicproperties as the larger and longer lasting Black Berkey filter element found in all of our larger Berkey water filter models.
Who is Berkey®?
New Millennium Concepts, Ltd. is the copyright owner of the Berkey® trademark and name. They are the owner and manufacturer of the Berkey® line of water filtration and purification products. Authorized Distributors of the Berkey® line of products should have an authorized distributor logo displayed somewhere prominently on their website. This logo is the same for all of our distributors.
What grade of Stainless Steel is used in Berkey® filter systems?
High grade polished 304-stainless steel.
Will a Berkey® system work with softened water?
The Black Berkey® purification elements are designed to remove VOC, heavy metals and other contaminates , but will not remove mineral salts added by water softeners. We highly recommend that you obtain pre-softened water to use in your Berkey® system. You can use one of our purification systems on a regular basis by bypassing your water softener to get your drinking water.
Most water softeners have a bypass valve or way to get water before it passes through your softener. However, it they do not have a bypass installing a simple inline needle piecing valve with 1/4” tubing prior to your water softener will give you easy accessibility to un-softened water to run through our purification system.
There are report that pharmaceuticals have been found in municipal water supplies across the U.S. Will the Black Berkey® elements remove drugs from water?
Given the enormous number of pharmaceuticals that could end up in drinking water, it is impossible to test for them all. However, we do know from our clinical testing, that the processes used for purification of water by the Black Berkey® elements remove more contaminants than any other system available on the market today.
Can I filter sea (salt) water through my Berkey® system?
No. The salt concentration in sea water will rapidly ruin the Black Berkey® filter elements.
In case of an emergency, will my Berkey® system make our pool water safe for consumption?
Yes, the Berkey® purifier will make chlorinated pool water safe for human consumption. But only use your pool as source water in case of an emergency, as the high concentration of chlorine will cause the elements to wear prematurely.
What size Berkey® system would be best for my needs?
Please see our Selection Guide for details on how to select the right system for your particular needs.
What is the most convenient method for filling the upper reservoir?
The most convenient method is to use the spray hose on your sink if you do not have one you should use a pitcher to add water into the upper chamber. Which ever method you choose be sure not to fill the upper chamber to full capacity if the lower reservoir is not empty.
We have well water, are the PF-2 filter elements required?
No. The PF-2 fluoride reduction elements are not needed if you are on spring water or well water. These elements should only be used if you are on a municipal water supply that has added fluoride to the water.
We live in California, why are we unable to purchase Berkey® water purifying systems?
California recently adopted AB 1953 / SB 1334 & 1395 / HSC Section 116875, commonly referred to as the “no lead law”. No Berkey® products contain lead but under this measure, the state of California must have confirmation of that fact, so Berkey® is forced to suspend sales of water purification systems to the residents of California. As any ‘health law’ can be complex in its application, shipment of Berkeys to California will resume when we get clarification on how to best proceed in obtaining a lead free certification as defined under the terms of this law. We will continue to ship to all other states except Iowa. If you would like to buy a Berkey® water purifier as a gift to be shipped to someone in another state, we accept payment from residents in all 50 states.
Troubleshooting, Testing & Replacements
The water in the upper chamber of my Berkey® system does not drain all the way. Is this normal?
Yes it is normal for the last 1/2″ to 1″ of water to remain in the upper chamber. Because the water must pass through the micro pores in the elements to be filtered, as the water level lowers in the upper chamber there is a reduction in the hydrostatic pressure available to force the water through the micro pores. The system purifies much faster when full than when half full because there is more hydrostatic pressure from the water available in the upper chamber. To remedy the problem, we would have to enlarge the pores within the filter elements which would of course, reduce the efficiency of the purification elements. During each cycle the water left in the upper chamber mixes with the water added from the current cycle and is then purified. Do not be concerned about this excess water during normal use but if you stop using your filter for a long period of time such as during a vacation, it would not hurt to empty the filter before leaving.
After about six months, the flow rate has slowed down considerably. Do the Black Berkey® elements need replacing?
No, typically what causes the filters flow rate to reduce is a high level of turbidity and / or sediment in the source water which sometimes clogs the micro-pores of the purification elements; fortunately unlike other filtration elements Black Berkey® purification elements are re-cleanable. To clean, simply remove the elements from your system and scrub the exterior of each element (preferably with a white Scotch Brite® pad or stiff toothbrush). Scrub each section of the filter until you see a bit of black on the white pad then move to the next section. Then re-prime each element and reinstall them. Your problem should now be resolved.
Is there a test to ensure that my filter is still working properly?
Yes, you run a Filter Test by filling the upper chamber with water and adding a tablespoon of red food coloring for every gallon of water in your upper chamber. If the red food coloring is removed entirely, your filtration system is working properly. If there is any trace of red in your filtered water, check to make sure that the Black Berkey® elements are seated properly and that the wing nuts on your elements are securely tightened. If the test fails run the test until you are successful, making sure to rinse out the lower chamber thoroughly between tests. If you do not have a successful test on the first run, be certain that after you have a successful test to thoroughly clean the lower chamber with soap and purified water, then return it to normal service.
We recommended that you run the test when your system is first assembled. We also recommend that you test your system every 3 to 6 months thereafter or after your system has been in storage or before taking your system on a trip and especially before taking it out of the country.
I would like to take my Berkey® system with me while I travel out of country are there any pre-cautions I should make before leaving to make sure it is working properly?
If you plan on taking your system while you travel we strongly advise that you perform a red food coloring Filter Test prior to leaving see here. Also, as you may not have enough water pressure to be able to prime the elements at your destination, it is a good idea to prime any new purification elements before leaving.
I just setup my Berkey® system but it is hardly filtering any water at all. Am I doing something wrong?
Usually the problem is due to high water tension, this causes an air lock in the filter which keeps the air from being purged from the micro pores of the new purification elements. A priming button and instructions for its use are included with your Black Berkey® elements. Please remove and prime or re-prime your purification elements fully and then reinstall them this should fix the problem.
When I boil the water or freeze it into ice cubes, I sometimes get little white things floating in the water. What is this?
It is a problem that sometimes occurs with hard water. As the Black Berkey® elements purify your water they increase its pH as it removes harmful acidic compounds. This is beneficial to your body’s health as pathogenic bacteria and viruses thrive in acidic environments and conversely have difficulty surviving in alkaline environments. This increased pH level of the purified water reduces it’s ability to hold as many minerals in solution, when this happens the minerals will precipitate out over time and depending on the exact composition of the minerals dissolved in your water, the precipitate will either sink to the bottom or float to the top. The process is known as flocculation and the precipitate are usually sometimes referred to as “white floaters”. So there is nothing to be concerned about, the minerals that were already in your water are simply visible now whereas previously they were suspended in solution in their ionic state.
I did a TDS reading on the purified water from my Berkey® filter and found the reading was about the same as it was with the unpurified water. So I am wondering if my system is working properly?
Yes, since a Total Dissolved Solids [TDS] meter is not designed to measure the amount of biological and chemical contaminates in water as such these substances will not register on the meter, it measures dissolved minerals in an ionic form. Black Berkey ® elements are designed to leave the healthy & beneficial minerals while extracting only the undesirable heavy metals such as lead & mercury as well as sedimentary minerals such as iron oxide & aluminum. Therefore, your TDS reading won’t change much unless you have a significant amount of heavy metals or sedimentary minerals in your water.
I just purchased a Berkey® system but didn’t receive a priming button. 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 in the box which held your Black Berkey© elements which should have contained two (2) elements. Attached to each element should be a rubber washer and a wing nut. Also in the boxes could be what appears to be another single black rubber washer. This is actually 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; so we have asked the manufacturer to change the color of the priming button back to tan.