Black Berkey® FAQ’S

What is the shelf life of the Black Berkey® purification
The shelf life of the Black Berkey® elements is indefinite.  
In other words they will last until you need them.  We
would advise however, if you intend to store them for a long
period of time, that you store them in a zip-lock bag.  This
is because they are powerful enough to absorb
contaminants from the air, which could reduce their
expected life if you have a lot of airborne contaminants in
the area in which they are being stored.  A zip-lock back will
prevent the above from occurring.

How often do the Black Berkey® purification elements
need to be replaced?
Each element has an expected life of 3,000 gallons or 6,000
gallons for a set of two.

I have been using my system for about six months and
the flow rate has slowed down considerably.  Do I need
replace the elements?
No, unlike other filtration elements Black Berkey®
purification elements are re-cleanable. What typically
causes the filters to drip slowly is turbidity and sediment
clogging the micro-pores of the purification elements.
Simply remove the elements from your system, scrub the
exterior of each element with preferably a white ScotchBrite
pad or stiff toothbrush. Simply scrub a section of the filter
until you see a bit of black on the white pad then move to
the next section.  It’s simple to do and takes less than a
minute. Then re-prime each element and reinstall them.
Your problem should now be fixed.

How do I know when it is time to replace the elements in
my system?
The best way to gauge when to replace the filters is to do
the following:

1)     Multiply the number of filters in your system by 3,000
gallons to get
Total Gallons For All Filters within the system.

2)     Next keep a track of how many times you need to refill
the upper chamber in one week.

3)     Then multiply that figure times the capacity in gallons
of your particular system (for example the Berkey Light™
system is 2.75 gallons) to determine Total Gallons Used Per

4)     Finally divide the
Total Gallons Used Per Week into
Total Gallons For All Filters and that will tell you how
many weeks before the filters should be replaced.

5)     Next calculate the future date for replacement (52
weeks per year) and write that date on a sticker and attach
it to the bottom of your system for future reference.

By the way, if you have been using your system for some
time now, you can still use the above formula to determine
when to replace the elements. Just count forward from the
date you purchased your system.

I will soon be leaving the country. Is there a way to test
my Berkey® system to make sure it is working properly?
Yes, anytime you plan on taking your system out of the
country we advise that you always perform the following
test prior to leaving. You should test your filters by filling
the upper chamber with water then add a tablespoon of
food coloring for every gallon of water within your upper
chamber. If the food coloring is removed entirely, your
filtration system is working properly. If not, check to make
sure that the wing nuts on your elements are securely
tightened then re-run the test.

By the way, always prime new purification elements before
leaving the country, as you may not have enough water
pressure to be able to prime the elements at your

I just purchased a Berkey® system but the system is
hardly filtering any water at all.  Am I doing something
Typically the problem you are experiencing is due to high
water tension, which prevents the air from being purged
from the micro pores of the new purification elements.  
Included with your Black Berkey® elements is a priming
button and instructions for use.  Please remove and prime
your purification elements, reinstall them and that should
fix the problem.
How do I prime the Black Berkey® Purification Elements when water
pressure is unavailable?
The micro pores on the Black Berkey® purification elements are extremely
small, in fact they are small enough to filter food coloring out of water. The
benefit from having such extremely small pores is greater efficiency at
removing pathogenic bacteria and other contaminates. The downside is that too
much water tension can require that the purification elements be primed before
they will flow properly. When you receive the purification elements, they are
dry and air is trapped within the tiny micro fine pores. In certain parts of the
world, water has more water tension than in other places and this can change
from season to season. The higher the water tension, the more difficult it is for
the water to force the air out of the micro fine pores using gravity alone. The
pores that have air trapped within them do not allow water to pass through and
therefore become an inaccessible passage for the water. This then causes the
system to either filter very slowly or not at all.

Before traveling to and using the system in an area without water pressure we
recommend that the purification elements be primed using the priming button.
If this however is not possible and water pressure is not available to use the
priming button method, the elements can be primed approximately 50% by
using the below method. In other words using this method, the elements will
not purify as fast as they will by using the priming button method however they
will run significantly faster than if the elements have not been primed at all.
The alternate priming method is as follows:

STEP 1: If your system is assembled, remove the purification elements from the
upper chamber. Next, fill the lower chamber with water, then place the
purification elements into the water in the lower chamber, upside down with
the stems facing upward, and put a ceramic coffee cup (or something else that
will hold them under the water) on top of each purification element stem to
force the element down under the water. Let the purification elements soak in
the water for several hours. This will force some of the air out of the stubborn
pores. NOTE: Make sure that opening in the stems of the purification elements
are not underwater as we want the water to be forced through the pores rather
than entering through the hole in the stem.

STEP 2: The inside of the purification elements should now be full of water and
significantly heavier. Try to keep as much water on the inside of the purification
elements as is possible as you reassemble the purification element into the
upper chamber by keeping the stems facing upward. Empty the water from the
lower chamber and place the upper chamber back onto the lower chamber.
Immediately fill the upper chamber with water.

When the purification elements have water within the bore (inside core), more
force is generated to draw water through the purification element. This is
because the water that drips out of the purification elements also hydraulically
pulls new water into the purification element as the purification element begins
to work like a siphon. Thus, in addition to the "Push" of gravity, there is also a
hydraulic "pull" and this drastically improves the ability of the water to force
the air from the micro pores. The above method is less efficient than priming
the purification elements with the priming button but should be about 75-80%
effective in clearing the blocked micro pores.

Let the water in the lower chamber run to waste and refill the upper chamber
with water. Your Black Berkey® elements are now primed and ready for use.

What is the Micron Rating of the Black Berkey® purification elements?
With respect to the micron rating, we do 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.
Therefore 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
(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 there purchasing decisions based on a micron rating that can be
legitimately distorted and to a significant degree.

We soon became weary of trying to explain the above to our customers and so
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® 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. In fact, the Black Berkey® elements are so powerful,
they are unique in their ability to mechanically remove food coloring from water.

It is time for me to replace my filter elements but I have a different brand
name of gravity filter. Will the Black Berkey® elements fit my system?
Yes the Black Berkey® purification elements are interchangeable with other
gravity systems and the PF-2 filters can be used as well.

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 1/2" to 1" of water to remain in
the upper chamber.  By design the water must pass through very fine micro
pores within the 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 might have noticed
that the system purifies much faster when full than when half full.  That is
because there is more pressure.  The only way to remedy the problem would be
to enlarge the pores within the filter elements.  That would of course, reduce
the efficiency of the purification elements.  During each cycle the water left
from the previous cycle mixes with the water from the current cycle and is then
purified.  You should not be concerned about the excess water during normal
use however if you discontinue using your filter for a period of time such as
during a vacation, it would not hurt to empty the upper chamber before

It appears that there is a slight dimple in one of my Black Berkey®
elements, is this filter flawed?
No, The Black Berkey® purification elements are about twice as thick as are
standard gravity filter elements.  This is a built in redundancy or overkill, if you
will.  The minor dimple in the filter should not cause any decrease in the
elements efficiency.  However to check its performance, make sure the wing
nuts are on tight and do the following:

Test your filters by filling the upper chamber with water then add a tablespoon
of food coloring for every gallon of water within your upper chamber. If the food
coloring is removed entirely, your elements are working properly. If not, check
to make sure that the wing nuts on your elements are securely tightened then
re-run the test.

I have found that when I boil the water or freeze it into ice cubes, I
sometimes get little white floating things in the water.  What is this?
With respect to the little white floaters in the water, it is not bacteria but
rather a problem that sometimes occurs with hard (heavily mineralized) water.
When water is filtered through your system, the Black Berkey® purification
elements actually increase the PH of the water.  This is healthful as Pathogenic
bacteria and viruses thrive in acidic environments and conversely have difficulty
surviving in alkaline environments.  This is also true inside your body.  When
the PH level of the purified water is raised, the acidity of the water goes down
and the water is no longer able to hold as many minerals in solution.  When
this happens the minerals begin to precipitate out over time and depending on
the mineral composition they will either sink to the bottom or float to the top.  
This process is known as flocculation and the precipitated minerals are usually
referred to as "white floaters".  The bottom line is that this is nothing to be
concerned about, the white floaters are minerals that were already in your
water; they are now simply visible whereas they were previously invisible due
to their suspension in an ionic form.

What are the Black Berkey® elements made out of and how do they 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.

I did a TDS reading on the purified water and was surprised to find that the
reading was about the same with the purified water as it was with the
unpurified water. Is my system working properly?
Yes, a TDS meter measures only Total Dissolved Solids or minerals; dissolved
solids are simply dissolved minerals in an ionic form.  A TDS meter does not
measure the amount of biological and chemical contaminates.  Black Berkey®
elements are designed to leave in your water the healthful and beneficial
minerals and to extract only the unwanted heavy metals such as lead and
mercury as well as sedimentary minerals such as iron oxide and aluminum.  
Therefore, your TDS reading will not change much unless you have a significant
amount of heavy metals or sedimentary minerals in your water.