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Berkey Systems Frequently Asked Questions

Which Berkey System is right for your needs?

The most popular small family (3 people) model is the Big Berkey system. The most popular medium (4 people) to large family (6 people) is the Royal Berkey system. The Imperial Bereky model is designed for small to medium sized groups (6 – 12 people) and the Crown Berkey model is more useful for medium to large groups ( 12 people and up) and can service from 75 to 150 people per day.

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.

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.

It is time for me to replace my filter elements but I have a different brand name of gravity filter. Will the Black Berkey elements fit my system?

Yes the Black Berkey purification elements are interchangeable with other gravity systems and the PF-2 filters can be used as well.

What else should I do to maintain the system properly?

a) Wash lower chamber once per month with soapy dishwater.
b) In areas with hard water, calcium scale may build up on spigot and chambers after prolonged use. To remove, soak affected part(s) in vinegar or a 50-50% mix of vinegar and water for about 15 minutes. Wipe away calcium scale with a ScotchBrite® pad or soft brush then wash with soapy dishwater and rinse

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 red food coloring for every gallon of water within your upper chamber. If the red food coloring is removed entirely, your filtration system is working properly. If this does not occur 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. Alternatively, having a Black Berkey Primer pump with you will enable you to prime any system. It requires no electricity or a pressurized water source.

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.

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?

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 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.

How durable are the systems?

The exterior chambers are made of high-grade polished 304 stainless steel making them rugged enough to handle camping trips and college dorms yet elegant enough to complement your finest décor (The Light Berkey system is made of food grade polypropylene).

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.

  • If NMCL’s recent test results show that the Black Berkey Purification Elements reduce Fluoride, then why do I need the Berkey PF-2 Post Filter Elements?

    NMCL's most recent laboratory testing indicates that the Black Berkey Purification Elements will initially reduce Fluoride up to 99.9%. Typically carbon based elements that reduce Fluoride begin to lose that ability rather quickly. This is the case with Black Berkey elements as their efficiency at removing Fluoride plays out long before the 3,000-gallon life of the element.

    There are a number of filters on the market that utilize carbonized bone char (a media that NMCL purposely chooses not to use), and that make claims for Fluoride reduction. One major problem with such elements is that it takes a very large amount of media to remove small amounts of Fluoride. Therefore, there is not enough media in such filters to remove Fluoride effectively over the long term. For example, we have testing for a competitor's 3-filter system that utilizes bone char for their Fluoride removal claims and, as one would expect, those elements become quickly exhausted. Testing shows that their efficiency declines from 100% removal to 81.4% removal after filtering a mere 45 gallons. This is equivalent to only 15 gallons per element required to experience this dramatic decline in efficiency.

    This same effect occurs with Black Berkey elements after a few hundred gallons. For that reason NMCL developed a more durable and longer lasting solution for Fluoride reduction by creating the replaceable Berkey PF-2 Fluoride reduction elements. The media in a set of Berkey PF-2 elements can reliably remove Fluoride contaminants for up to 1,000 gallons, which is less than the 3,000 gallon life of the Black Berkey elements but again, that is why they were designed to be replaceable. This enables the users to reliably remove Fluoride contaminants from their water while taking full advantage of the 3,000 gallon life of their Black Berkey elements.

    Therefore, the Black Berkey Purification Element's job is to remove a wide variety of potential contaminants, while the Berkey PF-2 Post Filter's job is to remove Fluoride contaminants that the Black Berkey Purification Elements begin to miss after extended use.

    If arsenic is removed using Black Berkey Purification Elements then what is the need for Berkey PF-2 Elements?

    When we developed the Black Berkey Purification Elements, the Berkey PF-2 Elements were created to work in conjunction with them as post filters. When we first created the Berkey PF-2 Elements, we did not have testing to determine whether the Black Berkey Purification Elements reduced arsenic or not. Since then, we have received lab results confirming that the Black Berkey Purification Elements do reduce arsenic up to 99%. It would not be advisable to change all of our literature addressing Berkey PF-2 Elements because they do reduce arsenic, even though the Black Berkey Purification Elements do it first.

    What is the life of the Berkey PF-2 Elements?

    Each set of two Berkey PF-2 Elements will last for approximately 1,000 gallons of water.

    How do I know when 1,000 gallons has been filtered and when its time to replace the Berkey PF-2 Elements?

    The best way to gauge when to replace the Berkey PF-2 Elements is to do the following:

  • 1) Keep a track of how many times per week you need to refill your system.
  • 2) 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.
  • 3) Finally divide the Total Gallons Used Per Week into the 1000 gallons and that will tell you how many weeks before the filters should be replaced.
  • 4) 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 fluoride reduction filters for some time now, you can still use the above formula to determine when to replace the filters. Just count forward from the date you purchased your filters.

    What are the limitations found in other types of water filtration systems?

    Carbon Block, paper and certain resin based filters: Most commonly used, filters are not re-cleanable, there is no feedback mechanism for filter replacement and most do not remove pathogenic bacteria. Most popular systems provide only 40-700 gallons (150-2,660 liters) before the filter must be replaced.

    Distillation: Removes beneficial minerals from water, does not remove VOCs (chemicals found in herbicides, pesticides and fertilizers).

    Reverse Osmosis: Removes beneficial minerals from water, does not remove pathogenic bacteria, filter is not re-cleanable, there is no feedback mechanism for filter replacement and reservoir tank can become a breeding ground for bacteria.

    The Above Sytems: Virtually all of the above systems become useless during emergencies when power and or water pressure is lost.

    Bottled Water: Tap water is considered an acceptable source; many bottled waters contain high levels of bacteria and the industry is virtually unregulated.