Berkey Home FAQ FAQ

About The Berkey Water System

Is an authorized Berkey® dealer? is one of the largest authorized Berkey® dealers in the United States!


How does the Berkey water filter compare to other water filters on the market?
See how Berkey performs in an independent head to head water filter comparison.


Which size Berkey water filter system do I need and how many Berkey filters do I need in my system?

We have a whole page on our website devoted to that topic! Learn how to choose the right Berkey Water Filter.


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 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/ANSI Standard 42 (aesthetic effects) and Standard 53 (health effects) would specifically apply to our purification elements.

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/ANSI Standard 42 (aesthetic effects) and Standard 53 (health effects) would specifically apply to our purification elements. NSF/ANSI 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/ANSI Standard 53 addresses, “systems designed to reduce specific health-related contaminants, such as Cryptosporidium, 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/ANSI 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/ANSI 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.


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.


Does the Berkey water filter soften hard water?
Although it is not a water softener, the Berkey can sometimes reduce the hardness of water. Check out the full explanation of Berkey softening hard water.


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?
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.


How do reverse osmosis, distillation, and Berkey purifier systems compare maintenance wise?
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 a RO system whereas they are removed by the Black Berkey filters.


How does reverse osmosis, distillation and Berkey systems compare when contemplating 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. 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 2 cents per gallon.


What is the difference between the Black Berkey purification filters and the white Ceramic filters?
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 the Sport Berkey is made of the same material and has the same ionic properties as the larger and longer lasting Black Berkey filter element found in all of our larger Berkey water filter models.


What is the difference between a water filter and a water purifier?
We have the answer to that question on our water filters vs water purifiers page.


Are the Black Berkey™ Purification Elements or Berkey PF-2™ recyclable?
We don’t recommend the recycling of the Black Berkey® Purification Elements or PF-2s. The shells of the Berkey® PF-2™ are made of Polypropylene, which is Recycle Code 5. Uses of Polypro (for short) include catsup bottles, yogurt containers, margarine tubs & medicine bottles. However, there is no recycle code for the Berkey PF-2™ elements. A recycle code cannot be assigned since the element is sealed and contains material inside for arsenic & fluoride reduction. To recycle, one would have to cut the element open and remove the material before recycling the plastic shell.

The same issue applies to the Black Berkey® Purification Elements. The complex matrix of materials used within the media of the Black Berkey® Purification Elements does not allow the elements to be easily classified by a single recycle code. In addition, with both of these types of elements, there is no way of knowing what contaminants are in the media after use.


What type of stainless steel is used for the housing of the Berkey?
The stainless steel containers of the Berkey is made from highly polished AISI (American Institute of Steel and Iron) 304 grade stainless steel. It is known for its heat and high corrosion resistant properties. The stainless steel does not contain lead. This type of stainless steel contains between 8 to 10.5% nickel.


Does the Berkey change the pH level of my water?
When water is filtered through our system, the Black Berkey® Purification Elements may increase the pH level of the water between 0.5-1.0. The majority of contaminants are generally acidic in nature. When they are removed, this causes a slight increase in pH. This is healthful because pathogenic bacteria and viruses have difficulty surviving in alkaline environments. An environment with more alkalinity does have a higher pH level. The pH level will depend on various factors including what the pH level of the pre-filtered water is. Check out our article for a more detailed explanation on how Berkey effects the pH of you water.


Does the Berkey remove monochloramine from my water?
Yes, Berkey Filters have been tested to remove over 99.9% of Chloramines from water. Check out our page dedicated to monochloramines for a more in-depth explanation.


Using The Berkey Water System


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:

Preferred Method

1. 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.

2. Estimate the average amount of water you filter through your Berkey per day. This number will be the (Total Use) in gallons.

3. 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.

4. 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 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 Scotch Brite brand, etc.) or stiff toothbrush. It’s simple to do and takes less than a minute per element.


 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.


What can I do to disinfect extremely contaminated water before filtering it?
The Berkey water purification systems can efficiently purify raw untreated pond, lake and river water. However, always use the cleanest and clearest water possible. As an additional precaution, if using a source of water that you believe might contain extreme viral and bacteriological contamination, it is recommended by the CDC, EPA and other organizations that approximately sixteen drops of plain bleach (sodium hypochlorite) or iodine per gallon be added to treat the source water before purifying. This should kill minute pathogens such as viruses, within 30 minutes. The disinfectant will be removed from the treated water entirely with the Berkey system, including any odor or taste. For more information about disinfecting water, please reference the following links. or


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. For more in-depth instructions check out the Test Black Berkey Filters page.


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.


What is the TDS reading of the purified water?
A TDS meter does not register much of a change between the pre-filtered water and the post-filtered water. This is normal, and the answer has to do with what a TDS meter actually measures. For a full explanation, check out the TDS Meter and Berkey Water page.


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 0.5" to 2" of water to remain in the upper chamber. By design, the water must pass through very fine micro pores within the filtration 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 may have noticed that the system purifies much faster when full than when half full. That’s because there is more water pressure when full.

The only way to remedy this problem would be to enlarge the pores of the filter elements. This would reduce the efficiency of the Berkey purification system. During each cycle the water left from the previous cycle mixes with the water from the current cycle and is then purified. There is no need to be concerned about the excess water during normal use. However, should you discontinue using your filter for a period of time, such as during a vacation, it would be best to empty both chambers before departing and leave them upside down to dry on the dish rack.


What are some of the often heard complaints about Berkey Water Filter systems?

This article goes through some of the most frequent complaints that our customer service representatives receive, all compiled into one place. Berkey Complaints