Berkey Water Filter FAQ's
Everything you ever wanted to know about Berkey Filter systems
- What Makes Our Water Filtration Elements Unique?
- When and how do I clean the ceramic filter elements?
- What else should I do to maintain the system properly?
- What happens when the carbon becomes exhausted?
- How do I determine when the filter element must be replaced?
- Does the system remove beneficial minerals?
- How durable are the systems?
- Historically, who has used these filtration systems?
- How do I determine which Berkey® system is right for my needs?
- What are the limitations found in other types of water filtration systems?
- What grade of Stainless Steel is used in Berkey® systems?
- Is there a Berkey® system that will accommodate large groups?
- What is the most convenient method for filling the upper reservoir?
- The water in the upper chamber of my Berkey® system does not drain all the way. Is this normal?
- I have been using my system for about six months and the flow rate has slowed down considerably. Do I need to replace the elements?
- How do I know when it is time to replace the elements in my system?
- I will soon be leaving the country. Is there a way to test my Berkey® system to make sure it is working properly?
- I just purchased a Berkey® system but the system is hardly filtering any water at all. Am I doing something wrong?
- I have found that when I boil the water or freeze it into ice cubes, I sometimes get little white floating things in the water. What is this bacterium?
- I did a TDS reading on the purified water and was surprised to find that the reading was about the same with the purified water as it was with the unpurified water. Is my system working properly?
1. What Makes Our Water Filtration Elements Unique?
- Our water filters have been in continual use since 1827.
- They are impregnated with Silver, which Inhibits Mitosis or Bacterial Grow-Through.
- The reduce Particulates:
- @ .2 Nominal
- @ .2 Microns 98%
- @ .3 Microns > 99.7%
- @ .5 Microns > 99.9% (Spectrum Labs)
- They Remove more than 99.99% of Cryptosporidium, Giardia, E. coli, Vibro Cholerae, Salmonella, Dysenteria.
- Toxicological extraction is commonly the most difficult area of the NSF testing standards to satisfy. This means that the filter does not re-contaminate the water. Many other ceramics have not passed and may not be capable of passing the NSF material extraction test. The Ceramic shell of our Super Sterasyl element is an NSF Listed Component and is manufactured to meet NSF standard 42 for materials.
- They have a Carbon Core. This helps to reduce bad tastes and odors, as well as pesticides, herbicides, organic solvents and trihalomethanes.
- Ceramic elements may be cleaned many times to prolong the life of the filtration elements.
- No other ceramic manufacturer may claim all of the above.
2. When and how do I clean the ceramic filter elements?
If the time it takes for the water to filter into the lower chamber substantially decreases, simply hold the ceramic element under clean running water while scrubbing lightly with a ScotchBrite® pad or toothbrush. Cleaning should be performed evenly by working from the threaded mount down.
3. What else should I do to maintain the system properly?
- Wash the lower chamber once each month with soapy dishwater.
- Calcium scales may build up on spigot and chambers after prolonged use in areas with hard water. To remove this, soak the affected part(s) in vinegar or a 50-50% mix of vinegar and water for about 15 minutes. Wipe away the calcium scale with a ScotchBrite® pad. Or softly brush and then wash it with soapy dishwater and rinse.
4. What happens when the carbon becomes exhausted?
When the carbon is exhausted, it will no longer be able to reduce chemicals, foul tastes and odors in the source water. Note that even when the carbon is exhausted, the ceramic shell will still continue to remove pathogenic bacteria and turbidity.
5. How do I determine when the filter element must be replaced?
Replace the elements when the carbon has been exhausted, or if there is a significant change in diameter of the ceramic after cleaning. If you observe a crack in the ceramic occurs, the integrity of the filter has been compromised, and the filter must be replaced.
6. Does the system remove beneficial minerals?
7. How durable are the systems?
The exterior chambers are made of high-grade polished stainless steel making them rugged enough to handle camping trips and college dorms yet elegant enough to complement your finest décor.
The Berkey Light is made of Lexan-the same material used to make bulletproof glass.
8. Historically, who has used these filtration systems?
- The Royal household in England.
- Populations in over 140 countries worldwide.
- Relief Organizations such as UNICEF, the Peace Corps, Missionary organizations and Red Cross Societies Internationally.
- Hunters, campers, adventurers and explorers.
9. How do I determine which Berkey® system is right for my needs?
The most popular model for families is the Big Berkey®. The Imperial Berkey® and Crown Berkey® models are more useful for large groups and can service from 100 up to 150 people per day.
10. What are the limitations found in other types of water filtration systems?
Although they are among the most commonly used, carbon block, paper and certain resin based filters are not re-cleanable, they have no feedback mechanism for filter replacement, and most do not remove pathogenic bacteria. Most popular systems provide only 40-700 gallons before the filter must be replaced.
Distillation Systems remove beneficial minerals from water, and do not remove VOCs (chemicals found in herbicides, pesticides and fertilizers).
Reverse Osmosis removes beneficial minerals from water, does not remove pathogenic bacteria, the filter is not re-cleanable, and there is no feedback mechanism for filter replacement. Also, the reservoir tank can become a breeding ground for bacteria.
Virtually all of the above systems become useless during emergencies when power and or water pressure is lost.
Bottled Water: Much bottled water is simply tap water or equivalent. Also, many bottled waters contain high levels of bacteria. The industry is virtually unregulated, leaving the consumer open to harm.
11. What grade of Stainless Steel is used in Berkey® systems?
High grade polished 304-stainless steel.
12. Is there a Berkey® system that will accommodate large groups?
Yes we offer two systems they are:
- The Imperial Berkey® system, when configured with six Black Berkey® purification elements can purify up to 400 gallons per day (~17 gallons per hour) when the upper chamber is full. This is enough to provide for up to 200 people on a sustained basis and up to 800 people on a short-term emergency basis.
- The Crown Berkey® system, when configured with eight Black Berkey® purification elements can purify up to 650 gallons per day (~27 gallons per hour) when the upper chamber is full. This is enough to provide for up to 325 people on a sustained basis and up to 1,300 people on a short-term emergency basis.
13. What is the most convenient method for filling the upper reservoir?
Most people use a pitcher to pour water into the upper chamber however, if you have a spray hose on your sink, using it to refill the system is a very convenient method.
14. The water in the upper chamber of my Berkey® system does not drain all the way. Is this normal?
Yes it is normal and not unusual for the last 1/2" to 1" of water to remain in the upper chamber. By design the water must pass through very fine micro pores within the elements in order to pass from the upper chamber to the lower. The lower the water level in the upper chamber, the lower the pressure available to force the water through the micro pores. You might have noticed that the system purifies much faster when full than when half full. That is because there is more pressure. The only way to remedy the problem would be to enlarge the pores within the filter elements. That would of course, reduce the efficiency of the purification elements. During each cycle the water left from the previous cycle mixes with the water from the current cycle and is then purified. You should not be concerned about the excess water during normal use however if you discontinue using your filter for a period of time such as during a vacation, it would not hurt to empty the upper chamber before departing.
15. I have been using my system for about six months and the flow rate has slowed down considerably. Do I need to replace the elements?
No, unlike other filtration elements Black Berkey® purification elements are re-cleanable. What typically causes the filters to drip slowly is turbidity and sediment clogging the micro-pores of the purification elements. Simply remove the elements from your system, scrub the exterior of each element with preferably a white ScotchBrite pad or stiff toothbrush. Simply scrub a section of the filter until you see a bit of black on the white pad then move to the next section. It’s simple to do and takes less than a minute. Then re-prime each element and reinstall them. Your problem should now be fixed.
16. How do I know when it is time to replace the elements in my system?
The best way to gauge when to replace the filters is to do the following:
- Multiply the number of filters in your system by 3,000 gallons to get Total Gallons For All Filters within the system.
- Next keep a track of how many times you need to refill the upper chamber in one 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) and write that date on a sticker and attach it to the bottom of your system for future reference.
By the way, if you have been using your system for some time now, you can still use the above formula to determine when to replace the elements. Just count forward from the date you purchased your system.
17. I will soon be leaving the country. Is there a way to test my Berkey® system to make sure it is working properly?
Yes, anytime you plan on taking your system out of the country we advise that you always perform the following test prior to leaving. You should test your filters by filling the upper chamber with water then add a tablespoon of food coloring for every gallon of water within your upper chamber. If the food coloring is removed entirely, your filtration system is working properly. If not, check to make sure that the wing nuts on your elements are securely tightened then re-run the test.
By the way, always prime new purification elements before leaving the country, as you may not have enough water pressure to be able to prime the elements at your destination.
18. I just purchased a Berkey® system but the system 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 being purged from the micro pores of the new purification elements. Included with your Black Berkey® elements is a priming button and instructions for use. Please remove and prime your purification elements, reinstall them and that should fix the problem.
19. I have found that when I boil the water or freeze it into ice cubes, I sometimes get little white floating things in the water. What is this bacterium?
With respect to the little white floaters in the water, it is not bacteria but rather a problem that sometimes occurs with hard (heavily mineralized) water. When water is filtered through your system, the Black Berkey® purification elements actually increase the PH of the water. This is healthful as Pathogenic bacteria and viruses thrive in acidic environments and conversely have difficulty surviving in alkaline environments. This is also true inside your body. When the PH level of the purified water is raised, the acidity of the water goes down and the water is no longer able to hold as many minerals in solution. When this happens the minerals begin to precipitate out over time and depending on the mineral composition they will either sink to the bottom or float to the top. This process is known as flocculation and the precipitated minerals are usually referred to as "white floaters". The bottom line is that this is nothing to be concerned about, the white floaters are minerals that were already in your water; they are now simply visible whereas they were previously invisible due to their suspension in an ionic form.
20. I did a TDS reading on the purified water and was surprised to find that the reading was about the same with the purified water as it was with the unpurified water. Is my system working properly?
Yes, a TDS meter measures only Total Dissolved Solids or minerals; dissolved solids are simply dissolved minerals in an ionic form. A TDS meter does not measure the amount of biological and chemical contaminates. Black Berkey® elements are designed to leave in your water the healthful and beneficial minerals and to extract only the unwanted heavy metals such as lead and mercury as well as sedimentary minerals such as iron oxide and aluminum. Therefore, your TDS reading will not change much unless you have a significant amount of heavy metals or sedimentary minerals in your water.