We recently were given the chance to do a review of the Big Berkey Water Filter System. How could I say no? I had heard about these systems for years, but had never gotten my hands on one. If you are interested in an system that will remove everything bad (including lots of maintenance), while leaving you with pure great tasting water at an affordable price, then the Big Berkey water filter system is what you are looking for. Lets take a look.
Big Berkey Water Filter Systems are built upon the Doulton tech of the Super Sterasyl Ceramic filter, which was heavily used by military forces, relief organizations, and missionaries who lacked access to clean water. Later these filters were developed into the classic black berkey filters used in Big Berkey Water Filter Systems today.
Features & Benefits of Big Berkey Water Systems
These are the features and benefits of Big Berkey Water Filter Systems as stated on their website:
- Highly polished 304 stainless steel shell
- Will filter bacteria to a 99.99999% leve land viruses to a 99.9999% level.
- The black berkeys filter out Chlorine to undetectable levels
- Removes Lead, MTBE’s, and other heavy metals up to 95% levels.
- PF-2 filters remove Fluoride and arsenic.
- Black berkey filters exceed EPA log 7 ANSI / NSF protocols for filtration and are rated as water purifiers.
- Gravity fed systems that require no plumbing or water hookups for use
- Black berkey filters have 3,000 gallon life (6,000 used in pairs)
- Allows red dye testing to know when filters need replacing (no expensive water tests)
- In emergencies allows use of non-public water (stream, lake, etc.)
Our Review of The Big Berkey Water Filter System
We tested the Royal Berkey Water System, which has a filter capacity that would easily meet the demands of a family of four to six people. The Royal Berkey arrived double boxed, to insure there would be no damage to the water filter system. When I started to unpack the system I realized these units are heavy duty, for years if not decades of use. The housing is polished 304 stainless steel that is not whipy (a real man’s system), but the workmanship is nice enough that you (your wife) will not mind having this water system on your counter in plain view.
Assembly, Use & Specs
Assembly did not take long and easily within less than 30 mins. we were putting the Royal Berkey through the paces of giving us some clean fresh water. Some of that time was used washing the entire system. The only part of assembly that most people will not have experienced before is the charging of the water filters, which is simply done by holding the filter against a water faucet using a gasket supplied while forcing water through the filter. A process that is used to insure the filters are clean and ready to filter water. We disposed on the first 3 batches of water the unit filtered as the instructions recommended. This was done as we had installed the optional PF-2 fluoride and arsenic filters that are simple screwed onto the bottom of the black berkey water filters after both a water primed. The Big Berkey Water Filter Systems website does have a great help section. Our assembly time was so fast because we watched the videos on the website before the unit came, I would suggest doing this as it answers all your questions.
It took less than an hour for the Royal Berkey to filter each batch of around 3 gallons of water. By dinner we were enjoying our first water from the system. The water tasted so clean and good. It was very surprising that this came from a unit that is so simple to assemble and use.
Royal Berkey Water System Specifications (as tested)
Constructed of highly polished 304 stainless steel, the Royal Berkey comes complete with two purification elements and utilizes the latest technological advances.
- Storage Capacity = 3.25 gallons (12.3 liters)
- Height = 23″
- Diameter = 9.5”
- Portability = The upper chamber nests within the lower chamber for transport and stands only 15.25” in height.
- Flow Rate
- Configured with 2 Black Berkey purification elements the system can purify 4.0 Gallons per hour.
- Fluoride Removal = 2 PF-2 Fluoride and Arsenic Filters installed in the lower chamber of this system
- Tested with optional Sight Glass Spigot
- Lid, Washers, Nuts, 2 Blocking Plugs, and Rubber Gasket
- Cost as tested $275 + $53 for optional sight glass spigot = $328
Taking The Dirt Out
As I researched the Big Berkey Water Filter Systems, the more excited I became at what a well developed unit this system is. This system removes pathogenic bacteria, cysts and parasites entirely and extracts harmful chemicals such as herbicides, pesticides, VOCs, organic solvents, radon 222 and trihalomethanes. It also reduces nitrates, nitrites and unhealthy minerals such as lead and mercury. This system is so powerful it can remove food coloring from water without removing the beneficial minerals your body needs. Also, the red food coloring test can be used at anytime to know that the filters have not exhausted their filtering ability.
The heart of the Big Berkey Water Filter System is its black berkey filters. These black filters are near a foot long and are made from a proprietary combination of approximately 6 different types of media. They exceed EPA log 7 ANSI / NSF protocols for filtration and thus are rated as water purifiers. Water purifiers take water filtering to a whole new level. Units of this level often cost well over a thousand dollars. I was realizing this water purifier was respectably priced well within the reach of many people.
Here is how the Big Berkey Water Filter Systems Work
Without getting too complex, several methodologies are utilized by the Black Berkey purification elements. The elements are composed of a formulation of more than a half dozen different media types constructed into a very fine matrix creating millions of micro-fine pores. The pores are so small that pathogenic bacteria, cysts, parasites, sediment and sedimentary minerals are not able to pass through them. The media formulation both “absorbs” some contaminates and “adsorbs” other contaminates. Next, heavy metals ions (mineral molecules) are extracted through an Ion exchange process where they are essentially electrically bonded to the media. Finally, our filter elements are designed such that each water molecule can take several minutes to pass through the filter elements whereas these molecules passing through other filtration systems pass through those filters in literally microseconds. The longer the water molecules are in contact with any media, the greater the removal of the various contaminates. – BigBerkeyWaterFilters.com
Keeping it simple from a filtration perspective the Black Berkey’s filter out the same chemicals and contaminants that the Super Sterasyl Ceramic Filters do, but go above and beyond by removing up to 95% of the Lead, MTBE’s, and other heavy metals. In addition, since the Black Berkey’s are water purifiers, they will filter bacteria to a 99.99999% level and viruses to a 99.9999% level (e-coli, etc.). Also, the black berkeys filter out Chlorine to undetectable levels, while the ceramics will only remove > 90% of Chlorine.
PF-2 Fluoride and Arsenic filters came with our testing unit to remove the fluoride that is in our public drinking water in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. Activated Alumina is the medium used in these filters to remove fluoride and arsenic. These units can be purchased separately from the unit as their filtering life (1,000 gals) is shorter than the black berkey filters. Read more about Activated Alumina in Fluoride In Drinking Water = Poison
Our family is very pleased with the Royal Big Berkey Water Filter System. The taste of the filtered water is simply clean. I know that sounds funny but you once you have experienced it you will know what I mean. When looking at cost the unit is affordable ($225-$350) out of the box and cheap to operate over a 5 year period. The 2 base filters (black berkeys) in the unit tested do not need to be replaced for about 3 years, (family of 4 using 5 gallons water daily). If you opt in for the PF-2 Fluoride and Arsenic filters it will cost you around $55-$110/yr as their filtering capacity around 1,000 gallons. For the quality of water you are getting out of the Big Berkey Water Filter System the costs are cheap. A nice plus is when we take our summer trip to Galveston Beach we can easily bring the water filter unit along.
Big Berkey Water Filter System – Overall Grade A+
- Filters bacteria to a 99.99999% leve land viruses to a 99.9999% level.
- Removes Lead, MTBE’s, and other heavy metals up to 95% levels.
- Removes fluoride and arsenic. (see Is Chlorine In Drinking Water Safe?)
- Removes chlorine. (see Fluoride In Drinking Water = Poison)
- Easy to clean, and maintain unit.
- Long lasting filters, (3,000 gal/black berkey filter).
- Easy to assemble.
- No plumbing needed to install.
- Attractive look on counter.
- Small footprint about the same as the average coffee maker.
- Convenience of getting filtered water in the home.
- Affordable price.
Big Berkey Water Systems are units that once purchased one would keep for a lifetime. I highly recommend them! If you want a water system that is solid, is on the level of a purifier and has low maintenance then Big Berkey Water Filter Systems maybe for you. These units are very popular so don’t waste time if you are thinking of getting one as they sell out quickly. Big Berkey Water Filter Systems does work hard to get them back in stock quickly. Look into trying this water filter system for yourself and recommend it to all your friends and family.
You can purchase Big Berkey Water Filter Systems at: Big Berkey Water Filters
UPDATE: 2 years after first review
It has been a little over two years since we did the review on the Big Berkey Water Filter System and I though it might be good to share what we have experienced. After testing the Big Berkey Water Filter System we decided to get one. As a family we liked the taste of the water from it and enjoyed the knowledge that it was helping to provide us with a clean source of water.
Berkey Water Filter System Filter Life
A few months after running the Big Berkey Water Filter System we noticed that the amount of time it took to produce a full tank of clean water started to increase. After we noticed the slow down, the Berkey seemed to take even longer to clean the water. What used to take less than a couple of hours started taking overnight. I checked with the seller and found that the filters may need to be cleaned, since we had only used maybe a few hundred gallons of water. With an average life use of 6,000 gallons for our setup we were way in the normal use period. The filters that get clogged first are usually the black berkey filters I learned from their website. We were running the PF-2 floride filters with the black filters, so I figured an easy test would be just to remove the PF-2 filters and see if the system was still slow, which it was. Now that we had figured out which filter was clogging we just had to clean it.
Cleaning The Black Berkey Filters
I found there are two methods of cleaning the Big Berkey Black Water Filters the both require removing the filters from the unit. One method called for scrubbing away the clogged surface of the Berkey Black filter using a scotch brite cleaning sponge while holding the filter under running water. Think of just sanding away the outside layer of the filter, the idea being that the filter material that has absorbed the pollutants is removed and fresh unclogged material is uncovered for use. Now I will tell you I was concerned that I was going to wear a hole through the filter, but Dan at Big Berkey Water Filter Systems assured me the filters were thick and I would have to scrub for a long time to wear through it. He was right! I kept scrubbing the filter while rotating it under the running faucet and I got tired of this process before I saw any holes. LOL. After putting the system back together quicker than you can say, “Tom is your uncle.” I had water flowing through the filters again. Don’t ask me why I said that stuff about Tom, guess it is something you say after cleaning your filters.
We ran the system and it was back to its old speed of cleaning the water. Or so we thought! A few weeks later we noticed that the cycle of water cleaning was taking longer again. After checking the Big Berkey Black Water Filters web site again we found an FAQ that dealt with the same issue we were experiencing. From what we understood at different times of the year water quality changes as the quality of the water changes in the reservoirs that hold our drinking water. The article also mentioned a different method of cleaning the filters.
Using a POTATO PEELER, yes you read that right! You use a normal potato peeler to peel away the outside layer holding the contaminates while rotating the filter under running water. I will tell you it sounds a lot more than it is. The layers that came off the filter were very thin, thinner than paper. When I was done with both filters they were reinstalled back into the berkey water system and no they did not look like lopsided cucumbers that were just black. The filters are harder than they look and it is actually quite easy to keep them round looking.
The water was flowing again and all without mention of Tom being someones uncle. Our Big Berkey Water Filter System after that kept running strong.
Berkey PF-2 Heavy Metal Filters
In a few months we noticed that the water was slowing down again, but this time I figured it was the PF-2 floride filters that needed to be changed out. From the useage we had been giving the system we knew it was about time for these filters to be changed. I learned that the amount of water the PF-2s will clean was all dependent on the level of floride, lead, etc. in our drinking water. These filters were easy to unscrew and change out, no cleaning this time.
We have recommended the Big Berkey Water Filter System to many of our friends and they have all been happy with the system. One or two of our friends have commented on the taste of the water. At first they did not like the water taste, but later enjoyed it. We talked about this with them and found that they were used to drinking bottled water. Now I don’t know about you, but I think bottled water is ghastly as it often has a strong plastic taste, wonder why? Later those same friends thought bottled water tasted bad too, humm.
Feelings So Far…
After about a year we needed to clean the black filters again. I used the peeler method again and everything is going strong. We figure in the two years we have had the system we are somewhere around halfway through the life of the filters, based on the amount of water we consume, 1.500 gallons/year. Not bad at all. We have only had to buy a $50 set of PF-2 filters since we got the berkey water filter system. Other than cleaning the filters all we have done with the water system is to take it apart and clean the tanks with soap and water to keep any water slime away. We are very pleased and have taken the unit on road trips and vacations. When we were in Houston last year teaching classes for a month it was great to know we had drinking water that was healthy and tasted great.
I will follow up with any additional cleaning or issues with our Berkey Water System as they happen….
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