Frequently Asked Questions
Black Berkey Filter Elements FAQ
No, we do not recommend using softened water with the Black Berkey filters, this improper use of the Berkey Filters will result in a void of the 2 year pro-rated filter warranty. The Berkey purification elements are designed to remove heavy metals, but will not completely remove mineral salts, which are added by a water softener. The salt added by a water softener, embeds in the exterior of the filter, requiring frequent cleaning. With each cleaning the clogged exterior of the filter is removed, so water may pass through again. For this reason, these salts tend to shorten the life of the filters.
If you do have a water softener, you can use a Berkey IF you bypass the softener to get your drinking water. Most water softeners have a bypass valve, or way to get water before it passes through your softener. Therefore, we highly recommend that you obtain pre-softened water directly from the source rather than run softened water through your Black Berkey Filter Elements. If you are unable to do so, maintenance and replacement frequency of the elements may increase.
Water filtration is a complex science, we try to use common terms when possible so the explanation is more understandable, if you are interested in the science behind specific water purification methods used by Berkey, please follow the links contained within this page below. Several well known methods are used to produce the Black Berkey purification elements. These methods are combined and blended to produce a unique filter process the likes of which the world has never seen.
MICROFILTRATION - The first line of defense is that the Berkey purification elements are composed of a formulation of more than six different media types, all constructed into a very compact matrix containing millions of microscopic pores. These pores are so minute that they produce what we refer to as a tortuous path that pathogenic bacteria, cysts, parasites, sediment and sedimentary minerals must travel through. These paths are so small that these pollutants physically cannot pass through them and become trapped eliminating them from your drinking water this is known as microfiltration.
ADSORPTION - Secondly our media formulation uses unique adsorption and absorption properties. Adsorption works to create an ionic barrier similar to surface tension. This barrier is perfectly suited to the microporous water filter because it effectively allows the tiny pores to block water contaminants that are smaller than the pore size itself. This blocking process is how the Berkey water filter is able to remove submicron viruses that other brands of water filters cannot without the use of obnoxious chemicals like iodine or chlorine. Next, the heavy metals ions (mineral molecules) are extracted from the water through an Ion exchange process where they are attracted to and transformed by electrically bonding to the media. Finally, because of their gravity flow nature, water molecules can take several minutes to pass through the filter elements whereas these water molecules passing through other filtration systems pass through in only fractions of a second. This longer contact time between the water molecules and the filter media, provides much greater removal rates of harmful water contaminants not obtainable through conventional pressurized water filtration methods.
FLOW RATE - Finally, Berkey systems are so effective at removing contaminants from water because of the extremely long “contact period”. Other filtration systems rely on water pressure that forces water molecules through the 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 structure of the Black Berkey 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 contaminants. 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 Black Berkey purification elements has been calculated to yield the greatest volume of removal of viruses, toxic chemicals, and bacteria. As you can see, the Berkey water purifier incorporates several different scientific methods to produce unmatched drinking water quality. We are able to do all of this and still maintain simplicity. All that you as a Berkey user are required to do is simply pour water into the unit. All of the processes mentioned above will continue to work for you behind the scenes for many years to come. This long filter life allows you to produce purified drinking water for pennies a gallon.
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 VOCs 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 web site 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.
The manufacturer does not use or publish a micron rating for the Black Berkey elements for the following reasons: There is much confusion with respect to nominal and absolute micron ratings. An absolute micron rating is one that states the maximum pore size expected within an element. The nominal micron rating is the average pore size within the element. This means that if 90% of the pores are .02 microns and ten percent are 2 microns, one could claim the nominal micron rating as .2 microns, which would imply that pathogenic bacteria and parasites would be totally removed. But in reality the bulk of the water would channel through the larger 2-micron pores and thereby allow both bacteria and parasites to pass through. A nominal micron-rating claim can be very misleading. With respect to the absolute micron rating, there is also confusion because there are two different standards to determine absolute; in the US the standard is 99.9% removal, but the international standard in 99.99% removal or 10 times greater removal. Clever marketers of products can use the confusion over the above differences to make product “A” appear to be better than product “B” when product B may be far superior in reality. For example, we used to report an absolute rating using the international standard because we have a large international customer base. Several years ago we published a rating on our ceramic filters. A particular company began to publish that our elements were .9 microns whereas theirs were .2 microns. However, our micron rating was based on absolute (international) while theirs was based on a nominal (US) rating. When tested at Spectrum Labs, it was found that at the .2 to .3 microns range our filter removed more particulate than the other brand. Unfortunately many people make their purchasing decisions based on a micron rating that can be legitimately distorted and to a significant degree. Based on the information above, we decided not to participate any longer in publishing a micron rating. Rather, we think an absolute pathogenic bacteria removal rate is a far better gauge because it is far more difficult to abuse. Based on that criterion, the Black Berkey Purification Elements remove greater than 99.9999999% of pathogenic bacteria such as E.Coli. To our knowledge, no other personal filtration element can match that capability.
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.
We recommended storing the Black Berkey Filters if they will not be in use for 4 or more days. Below you will find the proper method of storing the Black Berkey Filters depending on the amount of time the filters will not be used. It is best to empty both chambers before storing because anytime water sits it becomes stagnant, which means it can grow bacteria. You may consider washing your chambers with soapy water before leaving them to dry. Unused and unopened Black Berkey Purification Elements theoretically have an indefinite shelf-life. We recommend storing them in a dry area away from anything fragrant (laundry rooms or the garage). The filters are very powerful and can absorb odors in the air. After Use Short Term: If the filters will not be used between 4 and 15 days we advise removing them from the system and placing them into a sealable sandwich bag or container and placing the filters in the refrigerator towards the front to ensure they do not freeze. This will allow the filters to stay mostly saturated so that minimal priming is required when they are ready to be used again. When you are ready to use the Black Berkey Filters again, re-prime until the exterior wall of the filter begins to sweat beads of water for 10 seconds. Long Term: If you have used your Black Berkey Filters, you should fully dry them before storing. We 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 and cleaned to a degree at the same time. Alternatively, the filters can be dried by leaving them on a windowsill for one to three days allowing them to air-dry. The key is to ensure they are bone-dry before storing them, to prevent any bacterial growth. The filtration elements are extremely powerful and can absorb odors and smoke from the air. Once dry, we recommend sealing the purification elements. This can be done with a storage bag such as a sealable sandwich bag. By sealing them in a storage bag, this will aid in preventing the filter from absorbing any odors from the air. When you are ready to use your elements, they will need to be re-primed by scrubbing them clean with a 3M ScotcBrite pad or stiff brush. In theory, the shelf life of the elements is indefinite. **Please note that the storage methods above apply to the Black Berkey Purification Elements only. ** When storing the chambers of your Berkey system, it is best to empty both chambers before storing them, because anytime water is still, it becomes stagnant and can produce bacteria. We recommend washing your Berkey system with soapy water before leaving it to dry.
If you recently purchased your Berkey System and water is passing through the filters very slowly, or not at all, the problem is typically due to high water tension. High water tension prevents air from being purged from the micro pores of the new purification elements. Your Black Berkey elements need to be primed to purge this air out of the micro pores and allow water to flow through them. Included with your Black Berkey elements is a tan priming button and instructions for priming. Please remove your elements from the unit, prime your elements, and then install them back in your unit. This should fix the slow flow rate problem. If the flow rate slows down considerably at any time during the life span of the elements, the problem can be easily remedied by re-cleaning the elements. What typically causes the elements to drip slowly is turbidity and sediment clogging the micro- pores of the purification elements. Simply begin by removing the elements from your system. While running the elements under cold water, scrub the exterior of each element with a ScotchBrite Pad or stiff toothbrush. Scrub a section of the element until you see a bit of black on the pads and then move to the next section. This simple process should take only a few minutes. Re-prime each element and then reinstall it in your unit. Your flow rate should be restored. NOTE: Never use soap or detergents.
Each Berkey filter element has a life of 3,000 gallons: That’s an incredible 6,000 gallons for a two-filter system (less than 2 cents per gallon of water). This is possible because of the Black Berkey filter elements’ unique ability to be cleaned up to 100 times using a 3M ScotchBrite pad.
Flow Rate: Each filter will have an approximate flow rate of 1 gallon per hour under optimal conditions. Filtration rates may be faster depending on the size of unit used (i.e. larger units will have more water pressure available to force the water through the filters due to the added weight from more water). The rates listed on the website are faster because they were calculated when water is continuously and simultaneously removed from the lower chamber and added to the upper chamber. Size: The Black Berkey Filters measure approximately a diameter of 2.25" and an approximate height of 8.5" excluding the stem. The total approximate length of the filter is 9.75" Composition: Carbon composite containing high-grade coconut shell carbon combined with a proprietary blend of 5 other types of media. Certifications: The Black Berkey purification element formulation has been tested by State and EPA accredited laboratories to exceed NSF/ANSI Standard 53 but has not yet been certified.
The thread size on the stem of the Berkey Purification Elements is 11 mm.The outer diameter is about 3/8 of an inch and the inner is about 1/4 of an inch.
Dehumidifiers that use refrigeration will have cold metal tubes to turn water vapor from a gas to a liquid. According to the EPA, stagnant condensate water can harbor biological contaminants, including mold, mildew and algae, especially if the collection bucket isn’t cleaned regularly. These contaminants have the potential for causing diseases such as hypersensitivity pneumonitis and humidifier fever. Evaporation trays in air conditioners, dehumidifiers and refrigerators should be cleaned frequently. The condensate can contain lead and other metal residues from the component parts of the dehumidifier. Unlike distilled water, dehumidifier water is never sterilized through boiling. The Black Berkey Purification Elements are capable of removing the various potential contaminants that are typically found in dehumidifier water. However, we always recommend using the cleanest water source possible and we DO NOT recommend using dehumidifier water in your Berkey system on a regular basis. If no other water source is available during an emergency, the water from a dehumidifier could be used, on a short term basis only.
Technically, in order for anything to be defined as Vegan or Kosher, it must be consumable for ingestion. Our Black Berkey elements and Berkey systems are not consumable. Nonetheless, it is our understanding that these particular products may be considered to be both Vegan and Kosher, by answering the following questions: a. Is the product that is produced through the purification process consumable? YES. Purified water is the consumable product now in question. b. Does the purified water contain any life form or any derivatives of past or present life forms? NO c. Do the elements contain any content from any animal life, past or present? NO d. Bacteria are considered life forms. Is the Black Berkey element bacteriostatic and does it prevent any life forms from living within the element? YES. The elements are bacteriostatic and YES, the bacteriostasis does prevent mitosis and will not allow any life forms to colonize within the element. However, this is not true of all filter elements on the market today. Many filter elements will support microscopic life forms and have no ability to augment bacteria blooms within the catalysts. Always be sure your elements are bacteriostatic. e. Will the filter remove crustaceans and or any other animal life form that may be in source water prior to purification? YES.
The media within the Black Berkey Purification Elements is not designed to remove beneficial (ionic) minerals from your water supply. These kinds of minerals can be reduced if they are in high concentration, but some will still be allowed through. We have not done any testing for the removal rate of ionic minerals, as they are not supposed to be completely removed to begin with. There are no water filtration companies on the market that publish a test of that nature.
Electrolytes are compounds such as sodium, potassium, calcium, etc. They help perform the functions of muscle contraction and heartbeat among other various bodily tasks. Many electrolytes also fall under the category of beneficial minerals, so we do not have specific test results for electrolytes. We do have test results for one particular electrolyte, chloride, which is reduced by the Black Berkey Purification Elements in excess of 99.6%. If you would like to add electrolytes to your water, we recommend using electrolyte additives in the lower chamber of your Berkey System.
Our manufacturer'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 the manufacturer 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 the manufacture 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.
Berkey Fluoride Filter Elements FAQ
The length of each PF-2 Fluoride Filter is 6" with a diameter of 2.5". When the elements are attached to the stems of the Black Berkey Filters, in the system, the Fluoride element extends down into the lower chamber approximately 7.5". The threaded hole side of the Berkey PF-2 Elements that attaches to the Black Berkey Purification Elements is 11mm.
The elements can be adjusted by either turning them more revolutions or less. If the elements are screwed on too tight, the screen within the post filter can become damaged. This will not negatively affect the performance of the element. The only purpose for the screen is to keep the media within the element during shipment. Secondly, a “lock” condition can occur, where upon the water coming through the element and post filter will stop flowing into the bottom chamber once the water level reaches the bottom of the post 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” (spill) is necessary for the elements to perform properly. To obtain optimum flow without a lock condition and to not have excessive water seepage, you can adjust the post filters a bit each way, to reach a proper balance. Again, the number of turns is a guide. If it appears that too much water is seeping between the threads, the post filter can be tightened a bit more, using care to not overt-tighten. If the system air locks, then the element(s) should be unscrewed a bit.
No the Black Berkey Purification Elements fit into the base of the upper chamber with the threaded stems of the filters protruding through the holes in the base of the upper chamber. The PF-2 filters screw onto these threaded stems so that the Berkey PF-2 Elements hang down into the interior of the lower chamber. The water flows from the upper chamber, through the Black Berkey Purification Elements, into the Berkey PF-2 Elements and then into the lower chamber. The “PF” in PF-2 stands for Post Filter. So, they do not replace the black filters but rather work in conjunction with them.
Our most recent laboratory testing indicates that the Black Berkey Purification Elements reduce Arsenic and fluoride up to 99.9%. Typically carbon based elements that reduce Arsenic and Fluoride 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, a more durable and longer lasting solution for Arsenic and Fluoride reduction was developed 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 and 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 Arsenic and Fluoride 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, arsenic, and heavy metals may reduce the capacity and efficiency of these elements.
Cloudy water is a sign that the PF-2 Fluoride Filters need additional priming. The cloudiness is caused by residual process dust within the capsule of the filter. Please continue with the following instruction. The priming process may need to be repeated more than once to completely remove any residual manufacturing dust. 1. Plug one end of the fluoride filters with the blue caps they come with initially. If you do not have the blue caps, your thumb will do. 2. From the uncovered end, fill the capsule part way with water and cap/plug both ends. 3. Moderately shake the filters to loosen any residual process dust that may be trapped within the filter. Gently tapping the PF-2 element on the counter a few times will also help to loosen any excess manufacturing dust. 4. Remove both blue caps from the ends of the PF-2 element and empty out any residual water. 5. Next, re-prime the filters following standard procedure. a. Place the rubber priming button (tan colored) onto one end of a PF-2 and align the hole of the filter with the hole of the rubber washer. b. 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 on top of the faucet to apply pressure, this creates a better seal. c. 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. d. 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. e. 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.
Our PF-2 filters reduce fluoride and arsenic in your water using the media aluminum oxide (aka activated alumina). As a consumer, it’s important to know that pure aluminum and aluminum oxide have vastly different characteristics. Pure aluminum is water-soluble, it is highly reactive and it is associated with negative health effects. By contrast aluminum oxide is not water-soluble; it is inert, is very stable and is not associated with negative health effects. To learn more about aluminum oxide and separate fact from fiction see here