Top Frequently Asked Questions
Berkey® systems are designed to work without the need for electricity or plumbing. They are “off-the-grid” water purifiers and are gravity fed. You can use several sources for providing water including:
· Ponds & Stagnant Ponds
· Tap Water
· Water Storage
The key to the Berkey® systems are the Black Berkey® Purification Elements, commonly referred to as Black Berkeys or Purification Elements. Black Berkeys are the primary filters, able to purify contaminants from the water. Elements are sold in sets of two. One set of Black Berkey® Purification Elements is rated to purify 6,000 gallons of tap water.
Except for the Sport Berkey® Water Bottle, Berkey® systems include an upper chamber which rests upon a lower chamber when assembled. Think of these as two large open-top canisters. The upper chamber (or canister) has holes in its base into which the Black Berkey® Purification Elements are housed. The upper canister is designed to rest on top of the bottom canister. Essentially, the top chamber is where the water-to-be-purified is poured. The bottom chamber serves as the reservoir for the water that has been purified in the upper chamber, by passing through the Black Berkeys.For individuals wanting to address fluoridation in their water source, please see the paragraph on the PF2 Fluoride/Arsenic Reduction Elements below.
Except for the Sport and Go Berkeys, all of the bottom chambers of the Berkey® systems contain a spigot which allows the user to access the purified water from the reservoir.
The Sport Berkey® Water bottle was designed to provide on-demand water purification, equal in purity to the larger multi-element systems. The Sport element is rated to purify 640 refills (~110 gallons) of tap water, or 160 refills (~28 gallons) of questionable quality (i.e. creek, pond, lake water, etc.). An individual using her Sport Berkey® for everyday use might refill her bottle up to three times a day. If she was using it for tap water around the city, taking it to work, to the gym, and at home, at the rate of three refills per day, she could expect to change the Sport Berkey® Element at 7 months of use. She would only need to purchase a Sport Berkey® Replacement Element, not replace the whole water bottle.
California passed a law in 2010 that prohibits all Berkey distributors from selling our larger Berkey systems to the state of California. If you live in California, please consider:
Berkey products available for shipment to California:
- Berkey Light
- Travel Berkey
- Go Berkey
- Sport Berkey
- Black Berkey elements (for replacement or system expansion)
- Super Sterasyl elements (for replacement or system expansion)
- Fluoride post-filter elements
- Replacement parts
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 the 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, 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 Berkey has conducted are much more rigorous than those required by NSF for the certifications mandated by the state of California. Berkey purifiers have been rigorously tested by third-party independent accredited labs far surpassing the above standard of taste, odor, and chlorine reduction. For example, Berkey purifiers 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 of our consumers on our website. Although this extensive testing is sufficient for 49 states in the US, it is currently not acceptable for residents in the state of California.
Even after 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.
After careful review, it has been concluded that the additional taxes, certifications, and red tape have created too large of a barrier for their dealers to offer the larger Berkey Systems in the state of California.
The state of Iowa has established regulations and procedures for the sale of water systems.
Berkey products available for shipment to Iowa:
- Sport Berkey
- Black Berkey elements
- Super Sterasyl elements
- Fluoride post-filter elements
- Shower filters
- Replacement parts
The state of Iowa 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 Iowa. The cost for NSF Certification is very expensive and provides nothing of value in the emergency water treatment industry.
The tests Berkey has conducted are much more rigorous than those required by NSF for the certifications mandated by the state of Iowa. Berkey purifiers have been rigorously tested by third-party independent accredited labs far surpassing the above standard of taste, odor and chlorine reduction. These test results are published and available to all of our consumers on our website.
Even after NSF certification has been obtained, the state of Iowa additionally requires that systems further be registered with the Iowa Department of Public Health. One major problem arises because each flexible configuration we offer is considered by the state of Iowa to be a distinct and separate system that must be certified independently. Under Iowa legislation, the expense required to certify each system and maintain certification per configuration quickly becomes unaffordable.
While this may not be a problem for companies that are inflexible with respect to the systems they offer or have few product offerings, such requirements place a huge burden upon companies that do offer such flexibility, (i.e. multiple variations of water filter systems).
Berkey has concluded that the additional taxes, certifications, and red tape have created too large of a barrier for their dealers to offer Berkey Systems in the state of Iowa.
What is a Total Dissolved Solid?
According to tdsmeter.com, “Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) are the total amount of mobile charged ions, including minerals, salts or metals dissolved in a given volume of water, expressed in units of mg per unit volume of water (mg/L), also referred to as parts per million (ppm).”
TDS Meters and Water Quality
A TDS meter cannot identify between; healthy ionic minerals, harmful sedimentary minerals, and heavy metals. In other words, TDS is not a good way to measure the “cleanliness” of water because beneficial minerals are also considered total dissolved solids.
A TDS reading of 0 would indicate the absence of all TDS, including healthy beneficial minerals, bad minerals, and heavy metals, this type of water is also called “dead water”. . Zero Water Filters also utilize a TDS meter to gauge the filter life and water quality.
It is our belief at Berkey Filters, that a water purification system should filter out things that are harmful to your body, but leave in the helpful things such as beneficial minerals. The Black Berkey elements, utilized in all our Berkey Systems, are designed, to do exactly that! The Berkey Black filter’s proprietary design allows healthful beneficial minerals (like calcium, potassium, etc.) to remain in your water and remove; chemicals, harmful sedimentary minerals, heavy metals and many other contaminants (200+ in total) see our independent test results!
When a TDS meter is used on Berkey Water, the reading both before and after the water has gone through the system is about the same. This is because the Berkey filters leave beneficial minerals (a TDS) in your water. This will be the case unless you have a significant amount of heavy metals or sedimentary minerals in your pre-filtered water.
Testing Berkey Water
Rather than using a TDS meter on your Berkey Water, we recommend running the Red Dye test. This is a simple test you run on your Black Filters to visibly see if the Black Filters are removing the chemically colored red food coloring. Please note only McCormick’s Red dye should be used as it is the only purely chemically composed red food coloring. Do not use gel coloring.
Important side note: When using a Berkey system for the first time, it is common for a TDS meter to initially show a higher reading, due to the manufacturer’s process dust and carbon that are compressed in the media of the filter element. After running four to five batches of water through your Berkey system, you should notice a this higher reading is reduced.
The unique Berkey® design combines the age-old process of micro-porous filtration coupled with modern state-of-the-art technology and the highest quality materials to bring you the finest water purification system available anywhere. The micro-pores within the self-sterilizing and re-cleanable Black Berkey® purification elements are so small that pathogenic bacteria are simply not able to pass through them.
The media within the elements remove contaminants by a surface phenomenon known as “adsorption” which results from the molecular attraction of substances to the surface of the media. The exclusive purification elements are also impregnated with proprietary “absorbing” media that promote IONIC “absorption” of pollutants within the micro-porous elements.
Another reason Berkey® systems are so effective in removing contaminants from water is the extremely long “contact period”. Other filtration systems rely on water pressure that forces water molecules through the filter elements at 60-90 PSI. These water molecules come into contact with the filter media for a mere fraction of a second. By comparison water molecules, passing through the “Tortuous Path” structure of the Black Berkey® purification elements, are drawn gently by gravity and stay in contact with the media for a long period of time. This allows the filter media to be more efficient in capturing contaminates. For example, if you were to hurl 100 steel ball bearings at a large magnet, some would stick but most would bounce off. However, if you were to walk over and gently place the ball bearings on the magnet most, if not all, would adhere to the magnet. Berkey® systems fully utilize this principle.
This advanced technology was developed, refined, and proven through years of diligent, investigative research and testing performed by water purification specialists, researchers and engineers. The flow rate or time of exposure through the exclusive Black Berkey® purification elements has been calculated to yield the greatest volume removal of toxic chemicals and pathogenic bacteria found in nature and caused by pollution from industry and agriculture.
Black Berkeys are the primary filters which are able to purify contaminants from the water. Elements are sold in sets of two. One set of Black Berkey® Purification Elements is rated to purify 6,000 gallons of tap water. Since the qualities of raw water sources vary, even among different samples of the same source, tap water is the standard of reference used to establish the 6,000 gallon mark. Water which is free of sediment and low in contaminants will perform closer to the 6,000 gallon lifespan for the Black Berkeys, maybe even surpassing that amount. The key in determining the lifespan of the Black Berkeys is in the production and not their age.
Black Berkeys are easily maintained by re-priming and scrubbing with a stiff brush, toothbrush, or slightly abrasive pad, similar to a green/white Scotch-Brite™ pad.
Maintenance is made much easier with the new Black Berkey Primer. Never use warm or hot water or freeze the Black Berkeys as this will likely damage the integrity of the compressed carbon and proprietary impregnated media.
All carbon filters will eventually require replacement, although the life of the Black Berkeys can be extended with routine or necessary maintenance.
If you have used your elements:
The method of storage depends upon the length of time that the Black Berkey® Purification Elements will not be used:
If the filters will not be used between 4 to 15 days and you want to avoid the re-priming process, remove the filters from the system, place them into a sealable sandwich bag or container and place the filters in the refrigerator towards the front to ensure that they do not freeze. This will allow the filters to stay mostly saturated so that re-priming is not typically necessary. If for any reason the filters run slower than ususal, re-prime them until the exterior wall of the filter begins to sweat beads of water for 10 seconds.
For long term storage, we recommend drying and sealing the filters. The key is to ensure they are bone-dry before storing them long-term, to prevent any potential bacterial growth. One option for drying your filters is to leave them on a window sill for one to three days and allow them to air-dry. We also offer a tool to assist in both priming and purging. This tool is called a Black Berkey Primer™. The benefit to purging the Black Berkey® Purification Elements is that they are dried very quickly. Once the filters are bone-dry, place them in a storage bag such as a large, seal-able sandwich bag. The elements are extremely powerful and can absorb odors and smoke from the air. By sealing them in a storage bag, they should not absorb any odors from the air. When you are ready to re-use your filters, clean them by scrubbing the outside with a Scotch-Brite® pad or stiff brush. Then re-prime the filters either manually or with the Black Berkey Primer™ before putting them back in the system.
In theory, the shelf life of the Black Berkey® Purification Elements is indefinite.
**Please note that the storage methods above apply to the Black Berkey® Purification Elements only.
If you have never used your elements:
If the elements are unopened and in their original packaging, please ensure you do not store the elements in an area that also has strong smells to them, such as a laundry room or garage. The elements have carbon as one of their components so it is possible for them to absorb the odors of the room they are stored in. For example if they are stored in a laundry room, it is possible for the media in the elements to pick up the odor of highly fragranced items such as powdered laundry soap.
The easiest way to determine that the Black Berkey® Elements are still working properly is to add 1 teaspoon of McCormick’s regular RED food coloring per gallon (only McCormick’s red will work, cannot be organic) in the top chamber and make sure the water collecting in the bottom chamber is clear and free of the food coloring. It is best to place a glass under each Black Element in the empty bottom chamber so as to differentiate if one/more Black Berkeys is still working properly.
If you are using the optional PF2 Fluoride/Arsenic Reduction Elements with your Berkey® system, please be sure to detach them from the Black Berkeys and remove them from the bottom chamber before performing the Red Food Coloring test.
Yes. Rainwater can be poured through the Berkey water filter system, and then safely used for cooking and drinking.
Chlorine From My Pool Water?
According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the following are listed as sources not recommended for drinking water:
- Radiators, hot water boilers (home heating systems)
- Water from the toilet bowl or flush tank
- Swimming pools and spas
Chemicals and contaminants commonly found in swimming pools include the following: pH increaser, pH decreaser, alkalinity increaser (sodium bicarbonate, baking soda), alkalinity decreaser (muriatic acid, sodium bisulfate), calcium hardness increaser, chlorine, bromine, biguanide, cyanuric acid, ammonia, saltwater, bacteria and other pathogens, algae, insects, and animal waste. The presence and concentrations of these chemical contaminants are dependent upon several factors including the types of pools, types of disinfectants used, disinfectant dosages, bather loads, temperature, and the pH of swimming pool waters.
The Black Berkey® Purification Element has been rigorously tested by independent third-party labs for the removal or reduction of contaminants such as herbicides, inorganic non-metals (including chlorine, and chloramine), pathogenic bacteria, parasites, pesticides, perfluorinated acid compounds, petroleum, pharmaceuticals, radiologicals, trihalomethanes, viruses, and volatile organic compounds.
In conclusion, in position on chlorine in a water source is that according to the test data, the Black Berkey® Purification Element appears to reduce greater than 99.9% of chlorine. With that being said, we do believe the elements will remove a chlorine threat given the facts of the test data. However, we would not recommend drinking pool water for regular consumption as it may contain additional contaminants or chemicals other than chlorine that may or may not have been previously tested by our vast catalog of independent third-party testing.
Petroleum based products are some of the easiest to remove from water. The Black Berkey Purification Elements have been tested to remove the following petroleum contaminants up to 99.9%: Gasoline, Diesel, Crude Oil, Kerosene, Mineral Spirits, Refine Oil.
However, please keep in mind that it is possible to overwhelm filtration elements. For example, removing a gallon of kerosene from a 1,000 gallon pool should not be problem (time consuming, but not a problem). Removing a gallon of kerosene from 2 gallons of water & kerosene mixed would probably overwhelm any gravity fed element.
Glyphosate is a non-selective herbicide and pesticide. Glyphosate is primarily released into the environment via runoff water and predominantly applied as a spray for agricultural purposes. This contaminant has recently become the topic of discussion because of its association with acute or chronic exposure leading to various potential health issues or concerns. The EPA has extensive information published about Glyphosate, particularly about it being in drinking water. Click here to view basic information about Glyphosate in drinking water. Black Berkey™ Purification Elements will reduce Glyphosate in your water by greater than 75%, exceeding the laboratories reporting limits.
The most recent laboratory testing indicates that the Black Berkey® Purification Elements reduce Arsenic up to 99.9%. Typically carbon based elements that reduce Arsenic begin to lose that ability rather quickly. This is likely the case with Black Berkey® Elements, which means that their efficiency at removing Arsenic likely plays out long before the 3,000-gallon life of the element.
For that reason, the PF-2 filters were developed. A more durable and longer lasting solution for Arsenic reduction by creating the replaceable Berkey® PF-2™ Fluoride and Arsenic reduction elements. The media in a set of Berkey® PF-2™ elements can reliably remove Arsenic 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 Arsenic contaminants from their water while taking full advantage of the 3,000 gallon life of their Black Berkey® Elements.
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 and Arsenic contaminants that the Black Berkey® Purification Elements may begin to miss after extended use.
Actual reduction capability is dependent on the presence of other competing contaminants in the source water. High levels of fluoride and heavy metals may reduce the capacity and efficiency of these elements.
Plastic fibers from the water?
Plastic Fibers, also known as Microplastics, are small plastic pieces that can enter and contaminate drinking water. Scientists are studying the exact pathways that allow microplastics to enter into the drinking water supply. An extensive investigation on microplastics in water found that these analyses caught particles of more than 2.5 microns in size,” 2.5 microns would be 2.5 micrometers.
A “micron” is an abbreviated term for “micrometer”, or a millionth of a meter (1/1,000,000 meters). This is about .00004 inches. For Size comparison, a human red blood cell is about 5 microns across. A human hair is about 75 microns across (depending on the person).” **
Working down to a smaller scale 2.5 microns would be 2,500 nanometers.
The Black Berkey® purification elements can reduce viruses down to the nanometer scale, in the tested range of 24-26 nanometers:
24-26 nanometers is .024 to .026 microns…in other words, much smaller than the plastic particles being found in water.
The fact that Black Berkey® purification elements have been tested to remove viruses to the nanometer range suggests that contaminants much larger in size, such as plastic fibers should also be removed. Nonetheless, since actual testing of plastic fibers has not yet been conducted, NMCL can’t officially make that claim.
Drugs/pharmaceuticals that are in our city-water?
We have no way of knowing exactly what potential contaminants may be in each person’s water supply. What we do know is that our Black Berkey® purification elements filter out numerous pharmaceutical drugs and endocrine-disruptors (EDCs); such as BPA, Naproxin, Octylphenol, Progesterone, THM’s and many more. Please click here to view some of our most recent test results, specifically pertaining to EDCs and pharmaceutical drug contaminants that could be found in your water.
NSF certifications are not required but rather optional. In our opinion, NSF certifications are limited in their application with respect to our gravity fed purification elements. 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. ” This would appear to be an unnecessary certification as not only do the elements easily handle public drinking water, but also untreated raw water, exceeding what the standard would certify for.
NSF Standard 53 addresses “systems designed to reduce specific health-related contaminants, such as Cryptosporidium, Giardia, lead, VOC’s, MTBE that may be present in public or private drinking water.” The organisms mentioned are rather large in size. Our purification elements have been tested to remove not only a whole host of VOC’s but more importantly viruses, much smaller organisms. Again, this exceeds what the standard would certify for.
The tests we have conducted are much more rigorous than those required by NSF for the certifications required. Our purifiers have been rigorously tested by third-party independent accredited labs far surpassing the above standards 42 and 53. 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.
The cost for NSF certification is also very expensive. Each configuration of each system would have to be certified. If you include the sport bottle and all purification systems offered, that’s 16 separate certifications (times 2 standards). At an estimated cost of $10,000 per system configuration, that’s around $320,000, plus yearly maintenance fees. As you can see, it’s difficult to justify the cost required, just to obtain certifications that the elements already exceed.
Berkey® PF-2™ Fluoride and Arsenic Reduction Elements
The letters P and F in PF2 denote the fact that these are post filters, or additional filters that work in conjunction with the Black Berkeys by attaching directly to them, although the PF2s hang in the bottom chamber of the Berkey® systems. PF2s are designed to be used exclusively with the Black Berkey® Elements and not with any other filters. An equal number of PF2 elements should be used to the number of Black Berkeys used in each Berkey® system.
Example: If a Berkey® Light is configured with 2 Black Berkeys, then an equal number of 2 PF2 elements must be used by attaching one PF2 to each Black Berkey®.
The PF2 Fluoride/Arsenic Reduction Elements contain activated alumina oxide, media recognized and documented by the EPA (amongst others) to remove and reduce fluoride and arsenic, as well as heavy-metals, from contaminated water. Activated alumina oxide is a non-toxic media.
For more details about alumina oxide in the PF2s, read the manufacturer’s FAQs.
The PF-2 water filters must be primed prior to installation. The filtering media contained in the element is very dense and contains dust from the manufacturing process. This dust needs to be rinsed from the media in order for the water to run clear and to break the surface tension of the filtering media.
**First wash your hands and the PF2 filters with water and mild soap, then remove the blue plugs on the ends of the PF2 filters**
1. Place the rubber priming button (small, tan colored, donut shaped device) onto one end of a PF-2 and align the hole of the filter with the hole of the rubber washer.
2. Press the priming button up against the sink faucet so that the priming button creates a seal between the faucet and the PF-2 element. Place thumb or finger on top of the faucet to apply pressure, this creates a better seal.
3. Turn on the cold water slowly, allowing water to fill the cavity of the filter and discharge from the opposite end. Allow water to flow for one to two minutes or until water runs clear, whichever is longer.
4. Turn the Pf-2 filter over and prime the opposite end (reversing the flow of water) repeating steps a. thru c. until water runs clear from both directions.
* To determine if more priming is necessary, run additional water through the element and using a clear glass, collect the water discharging from the opposite end. If the collected water still appears cloudy, continue priming until the water is clear.
Note: Do not immediately discard the priming button or blue caps as you may need them in the future to re-prime the elements.
A “lock” condition may occur, where the water flowing through the upper filter and into the lower filter will stop flowing into the bottom chamber once the water level reaches the bottom of the fluoride filter. To solve the lock condition, the post filter needs to be loosened slightly so that enough water can escape to prevent pressure from building up within the post filter element(s). In other words a small amount of “burping” (bubble) is necessary for the elements to perform properly.
To obtain optimum flow without a lock condition and to not have excessive water leaking, adjust the tightness/looseness of the filters. The number of rotations is a guide. If it appears that too much water is seeping between the threads tighten it a bit more (careful not to over-tighten and damaging the interior screen). If the system air locks, then try loosening the filters by unscrewing slightly.
The Berkey Fluoride Filters are best for city water that’s been treated with Fluoride. You may chose to add the Fluoride Filters even if you’re on well or spring water if you’re concerned about arsenic, which the Fluoride Filters also remove. Please check with your city to see if they add fluoride to your water.
They have an indefinite shelf life. They must remain in their original packaging and be stored in a cool, dry, odorless place. They cannot be exposed to weather conditions.
Once used, they can only be stored up to 2 weeks. They must be kept moist in a bag in the refrigerator door near the front, so they don’t freeze.
Once you return and are ready to resume using the filters, re-prime and reinstall.
NOTE: The Berkey Fluoride Filters should never dry out completely. This could cause bacteria growth and replacements would be necessary.
Cloudy water is a sign that the PF-2™ Fluoride and Arsenic Elements need additional priming. Please remove the PF-2 elements and re-prime them for 60 seconds on both ends. This should expel any residual process dust and fix the problem.
USA Berkey Filters Policies
Berkey Lifetime Warranty
Our Exclusive Lifetime warranty for Berkey Water Filtration Systems ensures replacement of all Berkey canisters, spigots, washers, and wing nuts that fail due to faulty materials or workmanship. These items may be returned to us and we will send you new replacement items. There is no need to register with us; this warranty applies to any system purchased on our web site at www.usaberkeyfilters.com or over the phone.
This warranty does not cover damage caused by carelessness, accidents, or abuse of the system. Filters have a separate warranty. This Exclusive Lifetime warranty exists in addition to all other stated warranties on Berkey Systems.
To take advantage of your lifetime warranty on Berkey canisters, spigots, washers, or wing nuts, contact us at 888-213-3394. If possible, please have your receipt handy. Once you have reported the issue, you will be asked to ship the damaged parts to us. We will process the claim and, if it’s approved, ship the replacement parts to you. All shipping will be at the customer’s expense.
All other items have a manufacturer’s warranty of at least 90 days, and some are up to a year. If an item breaks due to a manufacturer defect, please call us at 888-213-3394.