How to Choose a Berkey Water FilterBy John Davis - September 9, 2015
The Berkey Water Filtration System uses a different design than other filters. Instead of filtering water as it comes into your home, or filtering water below your faucet, the Berkey system sits on your countertop.
Every day you pour water into it and within a few minutes you have fresh and delicious drinking water. Numerous reviews on both the Berkey website and Amazon have attested to the superior quality of water that the Berkey system produces.
On top of doing an amazing job filtering water, the Berkey system is also designed to meet your daily water needs. An identical water filtration system is available in four different sizes. Every system offers the same high degree of performance, the only difference is the amount of water it can filter every day.
The Berkey is a gravity fed water filtration system. That has a couple of different implication on how this system works.
First, as the Berkey depends on gravity to work, it doesn’t require electricity. That’s good news for your yearly utilities bill. You’ll also save money because you can clean the Berkey’s filters yourself. When the filtration process begins to slow down, simply clean the filters with a ScotchBrite pad, reinstall them and you’re ready to go. The whole process takes less than ten minutes.
Second, unlike a reverse osmosis water filtration system, the Berkley is capable of filtering an unlimited amount of water in any given day. Most other systems have a daily maximum filter limit. With the Berkey, you can filter water from dawn to dusk. This could be a huge benefit if there is a natural disaster and you need fresh water for the entire household.
The Berkey’s design is also useful because you can pour water into it from any source. If water isn’t coming out of your faucets, you can take water from a stream, pond or lake. Other water filters do not give you this option.
On the other hand, one of the drawbacks of using a gravity fed system is the time that it can take to filter your water. The Berkey filters fastest when the holding tank at the top is full. As water is filtered through and the pressure decreases, so does the filtering speed. This can be an inconvenience if you’re in a rush or you need water immediately for a dish you’re cooking.
The Two Flavors of Berkey Filters
The Black Berkey Filter
The Berkey filtration system comes standard with the Black Berkey water filter. This is one of the most effective water filters on the market and has a very high satisfaction rating from consumers.
As Berkey points out on their website, the filter is actually so powerful that it can remove red food dye from water without stripping out essential vitamins and minerals that our bodies need to survive. Now that’s a powerful filter!
In fact Berkey claims their black filter is the most powerful gravity fed filter on the market. The pores in this filter are so small that pathogenic bacteria get trapped and cannot pass into your drinking water. In addition, Berkey states on their website that the black filter removes parasites herbicides, pesticides, VOCs, detergents, silt, sediment, nitrites, heavy metals, foul odors and bad tastes.
On top of all that you can clean this filter yourself. When it starts to filter your water slowly, it’s easy to give it a quick scrub and return it to full capacity.
A Berkey black filter is rated to last for 3,000 gallons and it comes with a prorated 2 year warranty.
British Berkefeld SuperSterasyl Ceramic Water Filter
When you buy a Berkey water filtration system, you also have the option of using ceramic water filters. These filters are made out of diatomaceous earth, a soft rock that occurs naturally. It’s a very effective filtration substance because of its microscopic size and porous quality.
The pores are so small they make it nearly impossible for pollutants and toxins to pass through. They are especially effective at filtering particulate matter, pathogenic bacteria, and fine sediment.
In addition to filtering water with diatomaceous earth, these filters also contain activated carbon. This is a common media in many water filtration systems because it’s extremely effective and has a long shelf life. Typically, activated carbon can filter thousands of gallons of water before needing to be replaced.
Like the Black Filter, Berkey’s Ceramic Filters can be hand cleaned in your sink with a ScotchBrite. Although, if you’re simply filtering tap water, Berkey claims that you’ll only need to clean these filters about once every six months.
Which Filter is Right For Me?
This is a tough question to answer. Both filters are top of the line and are very effective at reducing a huge range of contaminants.
That being said, a majority of people use the Black Berkey filter in their system. It’s a durable, tested, and effective filter that requires only minimal maintenance.
Perhaps the ceramic filter is a better choice for you if you want a natural product that is made out of elements found in the earth, not created in a laboratory. Either way, no matter which filter you choose, you know that you’re going to get an outstanding product that’s going to remove nearly all contaminants from your water.
However, there is one design feature in both of these filters that you should be aware of. Neither of the two Berkey filters will remove fluoride from the water. If you want to filter fluoride you need to buy an additional filter that attaches to the bottom of your original filter.
Models and Specifications
The Berkey filtration system comes in five different sizes – or models. The systems are identical apart from their storage capacity and filter rate.
The 1.5 gallon water tank is ideal for one or two people, or a camping trip.
The Travel Berkey is 18″ high, although it can be collapsed to 12″ for storage. It has a 7.5″ diameter.
It can hold a maximum of two filters which will filter up to 2.5 gallons of water per hour.
The 2.25 gallon water tank is a good size for most average families. In fact, Berkey mentions that this is the most popular size they sell.
The Big Berkey is 19″ tall and has a diameter of 8.5″.
It can hold a maximum of four filters. The filtration time per hour varies depending on how many filters you choose to install.
With a 3.25 gallon water tank, the Royal Berkey is a good fit for larger families or small businesses.
This system is 23″ tall and has a 9.5″ diameter.
It can hold a maximum of four filters and filtration time depends on how many filters you choose to use.
Featuring a hefty 4.5 gallon water tank, the Imperial Berkey is twice the size of the Travel Berkey. That makes it a good fit for large families who drink a lot of water or small offices.
The Imperial Berkey is 25.75″ tall and has a 10″ diameter.
It can hold a maximum of 6 filters and filtration time per hour depends on how many filters you choose to install.
With a massive 6 gallon water tank, the Crown Berkey is certainly king of the Berkey family of water filters.
Crown Berkey is 30″ tall and 11″ in diameter.
It weighs 12.6 pounds and can filter 6.5 gallons per hour.
What’s the Best Size of Berkey Water Filter For Your Home?
Which Berkey system you choose should depend on your water usage. Most people are going to find a Big Berkey to be adequate for their household.
While getting a bigger sized Berkey isn’t that much more expensive, it is more of a hassle. The larger sized Berkey systems take up more room, they are higher which means it’s harder to reach the top, and they are heavier which means they are harder to carry around.
How Much Do Berkey Water Systems Really Cost?
While a Berkey system is relatively cheap to buy, the replacement filters are expensive, and they cost more than filters for other water filtration systems.
Two brand new Black Berkey Replacement Filters will cost $107.00 with free shipping.
A single brand new British Berkefeld SuperSterasyl filter is going to cost $32.00 and a set of four is an even $150. Again, shipping is free.
As I mentioned, neither filter removes fluoride from your water, which means you need to buy an additional filter if you want to get rid of fluoride.
Two fluoride filters for the Berkey Black filters cost $52 while two fluoride filters for the Berkey Ceramic filters cost $50.
Warranty and Support
Berkey offers a six month warranty on all parts and products of the system. During that time they will repair or replace any defect in the system.
The warranty for the Black Berkey Filter is longer. It comes with a two year, prorated warranty based on six month intervals.
Despite this relatively short warranty period, there have been reviews posted online from people who have been using their system for more than ten years. The Berkey is designed to last for a decade or more, especially if properly maintained.
It’s also nice to know that they have an office in Texas that you can visit and they also have a United States phone number.
Pros and Cons
- The Berkey is one of the most effective water filtration systems on the market
- The gravity fed system means it works without electricity, and is capable of filtering water from any source
- Relatively inexpensive price for a quality product
- Filters last for years and you can clean them yourself in a matter of minutes
- The unit is made of polished steel and it looks modern and tasteful
- Relatively short warranty
- Many people have complained about the cheap plastic spigot breaking
- Possible to overfill the system and have it leak out
- Need to purchase separate filters for fluoride
- Replacement filters cost more than filters for other systems
- The filters cannot be allowed to dry out (see the filter section for more information on this)
The Berkey System has a good overall rating on Amazon. There are 323 ratings for the Berkey Big System. In all, 68% of people gave it five stars, and the overall average is 4.3 out of 5.0
The Berkey seems to be a very competent and thorough water filtration system. Its filters are extremely effective and really do seem to live up to Berkey’s claim they are the best on the market.
The price point is good, as is the fact that a Berkey filter doesn’t use electricity, and you always have the option of filtering water from any source. I also like that cleaning the filters is a simple process and only needs to be done irregularly.
I personally enjoy my reverse osmosis system because it’s under the sink and out of site, but if you can’t fit an RO system under your sink or if you have a good spot for a Berkey to sit, it seems like a solid choice for a water filtration system.
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