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Berkey Water Filter FAQs

I'm about to order an Imperial Berkey, where does it ship from and how do you ship it?

All Berkey items ship directly from the manufacturer located in Colorado. And, unless otherwise requested, all Berkey items shipped to Continental U.S. addresses are shipped via UPS Ground with Signature Required (except for replacement parts that may ship via Postal Service). All other destinations are shipped to via Postal Service.

In case I don't like the Berkey I choose or something and want a refund, what's your return policy?

As long as the Berkey items you purchased are not used, you are welcome to return them for a refund within 60 days of the purchase date. However, please be advised that, unless there was a shipping error or shipping damage by UPS, a 15% restocking will be deducted from your refund (imposed by the Berkey manufacturer). A used item that is not working properly, will be warranted as stated in the following answer (below this one).

Is there a warranty with these Berkey water filters? You know, in case one is not working right.

Yes, the Black Berkey purification elements have a two-year prorated warranty calculated in six months intervals. Our guarantee is prorated similar to the guarantee on tire tread. In other words, if you have used the filters for six months, 75% of the guarantee still applies and so you can get a replacement set for 25% of the normal cost.

The systems themselves (Big Berkey, etc.) and their components have a six-month warranty as stated below.

New Millennium Concepts, Ltd. (the manufacturer) warrants Berkey Products to be free from defects in materials and workmanship for a period of 6 months from date of purchase. Black Berkey purification elements have a two-year prorated warranted calculated in six months intervals. New Millennium Concepts, Ltd. will replace or repair any product that it deems is not properly functioning during the stated warranty period. Relief under this warranty is limited to the replacement or repair of defective materials or workmanship only. New Millennium Concepts, Ltd. shall not be held liable for incidental or consequential damage to personal property from, but not limited to, a defective unit, improper use, abuse, accident, or neglect, etc. No warranty will apply to units which have been used for purposes not intended, which have been altered so as, in the manufacturers judgment, to affect adversely its performance. This warranty is for the original retail purchaser only, and cannot be transferred. Repair or replacement of parts will be made upon delivery to manufacturer’s plant or authorized service dealer at customer’s expense. The laws of the State of Texas, USA, will govern any disputes regarding this warranty or claim made. This warranty, which is given expressly in lieu of all warranties, expressed or implied, or merchantability and fitness for a particular purpose, constitutes the only warranty made by New Millennium Concepts, Ltd.

We would like to get a Berkey system but don't know which size to buy. Can you help?

There are 3 factors to consider when choosing the best size for your needs:

1) How many gallons of water do you consume per day? As a rule of thumb, one person consumes 1 - 2 gallons per day. That adds up to 2 - 4 gallons per day for a couple, and so on. Once you have that figure, you'll want to purchase a system that will NOT require you to refill it more than twice a day to produce the amount of water you need. For instance, if you determine you consume about 6 gallons per day, the Royal Berkey will be the smallest system you'll want to purchase as it holds 3.25 gallons. Refilled twice in one day, it would produce about 6.5 gallons.

As you can read in our Customer Feedback, many of our customers find they drink more water when they start using a Berkey system for the simple reason that the water tastes much better. They also use the "Berkey water" for all their cooking needs as well. "If you wouldn't drink it, don't cook with it." Naturally, this use increases the amount of water they consume per day.

2) Emergencies: a natural disaster or simple power outage can temporarily render you without water. In such occasions, you'll be glad to have purchased a Berkey system with a holding capacity greater than your average daily need.

3) An increase in users: after a number of years, you may find that your Berkey system is needing to be refilled more often to keep up with a growing family (more members and/or children have grown into adults). You'll be glad to have secured a Berkey system with this in mind as it is a lifetime purchase.

Go Berkey - 1 Quart
Travel Berkey - 1.5 Gallons
Big Berkey - 2.25 Gallons
Berkey Light - 2.75 Gallons
Royal Berkey - 3.25 Gallons
Imperial Berkey - 4.5 Gallons
Crown Berkey - 6 Gallons

What is the filtration rate per hour for the various Berkey systems?

The chart below shows the gallons per hour for each system, when configured with 2 Black Berkey elements and when expanded to accommodate the maximum number of elements. Flow rates calculated with upper chamber full to top. Flow rate decreases as water level declines.

Travel Berkey - 2.75 Gallons - n/a
Big Berkey - 3.5 Gallons - 7 Gallons
Berkey Light - 4.25 Gallons - 8 Gallons
Royal Berkey - 4.0 Gallons - 8 Gallons
Imperial Berkey - 5.5 Gallons - 16.5 Gallons
Crown Berkey - 6.5 Gallons - 26 Gallons

A family in our area recently purchased a Crown Berkey from you with 8 elements, and they love it. I'd like to buy one too but don't know how many elements I need. How do I figure that out?

The more elements that you have in your Berkey system, the faster the water is filtered. For instance, a Royal Berkey with 4 elements can filter water twice as fast as one with 2 elements. A Crown Berkey with 8 elements will filter water 4 times faster than a Crown Berkey with 2 elements. This can make a big difference when you need water NOW, and there is no filtered water in the Berkey.

Picture this, you walk up to your Berkey to get some water only to find it is near empty because someone forgot to refill it. At such a time, the more elements your Berkey has, the sooner you will have water available. Your friends' Crown Berkey with 8 elements will provide them with gallons of filtered water in just a few minutes vs. waiting a while for the water to be filtered using, say only 2 elements.

More elements in a Berkey will not only filter the water faster but you will also have less need to clean the elements as more elements "share" the load of purifying the water. Moreover, more elements is like having more than one pair of shoes in that one pair of shoes will wear out faster if that is all you use.

You also save on the purchase of a system with 4 elements or more as each pair of elements are $7 less ($100 vs. $107).

The Travel Berkey can only use 2 elements at one time. That means the rate at which they filter the water is fixed (not upgradeable). On the other hand, the Big, Royal, Imperial and Crown Berkeys are all capable of using more than 2 elements at one time. This option is critical considering that Berkeys are a life-time purchase.

How do I know when it is time to replace Black Berkey elements in my system?

The manufacturer suggests 2 methods. The first method is:

1) Multiply the number of Black Berkey elements in your system by 3,000 gallons to get Total Gallons for all Elements within the system.
2) Next keep track of how many times you usually refill the upper chamber in a 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 Week.
4) Finally divide the Total Gallons Used per Week into the 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), write that date on a sticker and attach it to the bottom of your system for future reference.

Your Black Berkey elements will never stop working; the filtration rate just slows down. This brings us to the second method. If after cleaning your elements they do not filter any faster; it is time to replace them. This is the simplest way to decide, and the one we use ourselves.

We are going to be traveling to a third world country and will require a system for a large group of people. Which system would you recommend?

As a rule of thumb, you will need 2 gallons per day per person for sustained use and 1/2 to one gallon per day per person for short-term emergency use. The difference being that for sustained use more water is required for drinking, cooking, cleaning, and hygiene whereas for short-term emergency use, drinking water alone is calculated. Please make a determination as to the number of people within the group and whether or not the system will be used for sustained or for emergency use, then review the above FAQ’s to make a determination as to the best system to meet your group's needs.

You might also want to consider taking several Sport Berkey purification bottles as well. These systems are very compact personal purification systems and were developed for use in third world countries. They often come in very handy when travel requires that you be away from the location of your larger purification system.

What are the basic differences between the Berkey Light and the other stainless steel systems?

The Berkey Light system is designed for outdoor use therefore it is about three pounds lighter in weight than the equivalent capacity of our stainless steel system. The Go Berkey system is also designed for outdoor use and is the smallest of the stainless steel systems. It is compact enough to fit within a suitcase because unlike the Berkey Light system, the upper chamber nests within the lower chamber during travel. This is the preferred system when mobility is a big issue.

The four-multi use systems are designed for indoor everyday use so they are of a heavier construction than the above systems but these systems can also be used outdoors or during unexpected emergencies when a source of potable water may not be available.


I have been using my system for about 6 months and the flow rate has slowed down considerably. Do I need to replace the elements?

No. Unlike other filtration elements, the Black Berkey elements and the ceramic elements 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, scrub the exterior of each element under running water with preferably a green pad (3M or ScotchBrite brand, etc.) or stiff toothbrush. It’s simple to do and takes less than a minute per element.

Many news stations have reported that pharmaceuticals have been found in the water of many cities in the U.S. Do the Black Berkey elements remove drugs from the water?

There are simply too many varieties of pharmaceuticals that a water filtering system could be tested for to see how it performs. By too many I mean it is impossible to test for them all. However, we do know from testing, that the purification process used by the Black Berkey elements remove more pollutants than any other system available on the market today. In other words, if there are any systems that remove pharmaceuticals from the water, the Black Berkeys are one of them.

I just started using my Berkey system but it is hardly filtering any water. 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 purification elements. Included with your Black Berkey elements is a priming button and instructions for use. Take out the Black Berkey elements, prime, and re-install them when you finish.

Is there a way to test my Berkey system to make sure it is working properly?

Yes. You can test the Black Berkey elements by filling the upper chamber with water, and then adding a tablespoon of food coloring for every gallon of water within your upper chamber. If the food coloring is removed entirely, your system is working properly. If not, make sure the wing nuts on the elements are securely tightened then re-run the test.

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 in the box which held your Black Berkey elements. The box should contain two elements. Attached to each element should be a rubber washer and a wing nut. Also in the box, should be what could look like another single black rubber washer. This is your priming button. It is thicker than the washers and the center hole is smaller. This black priming button can easily be confused with a washer (we asked the manufacturer to change the color of the priming button back to tan).

What are the differences between the Super Sterasyl Ceramic elements and the Black Berkey elements ?

The ceramic elements were developed and are made in England since the early 1800’s, and are what gave the Berkey systems their world renowned reputation. The Black Berkey elements were developed and are made in the U.S. since around 2000. As you will see below, they are very similar. However, after using and selling them for 11 years, experience has taught us that the ceramic elements are trouble-free (more likely to perform for several years with no issues).

1) Longevity: Both elements are re-cleanable, but the ceramic elements may last longer.
2) Price: About the same.
3) Filtration Rate: About the same.
4) Post Filters: Both elements can be enhanced (when needed) by the use of post filters (PF-2 for the Black Berkey elements and PF-4 for the ceramic elements). Post filters slow the filtering rate by 15 – 20%.
5) Filtering power: The Black Berkey elements remove slightly more chlorine, lead, and other heavy metals, and completely remove MTBE. The ceramic elements need to be combined with the PF-4 to accomplish this. Both elements need the use of their post filters to reduce fluoride.

Both the Black Berkey elements and the ceramic are far more powerful and last longer than any other filtering systems available today. Whichever one you choose, you made the right choice. Again, after hearing from our customers for 11 years, we recommend the ceramic elements over the Black Berkeys.

Do the PF-2 elements replace the Black Berkey elements?

No. The Black Berkey elements and the PF-2 elements are used together at the same time. The top of the PF-2 elements screw onto the bottom of the Black Berkey elements (similar to installing a light bulb). The water flows through the Black Berkey elements, then the PF-2 elements. "PF" in PF-2 stands for Post Filter.

We are on well water. Do we need the PF-2 elements?

Not likely. The PF-2 elements should only be used if you have confirmed with your municipality that they are adding fluoride to the water OR you have tested the water and found it to have fluoride and you want to remove it. The PF-2 elements are not usually needed if you are using spring or well water.

Keep in mind that use of the PF-2 elements slows the filtration rate of your Berkey system by 15 – 20 %. They also displace water which means your Berkey system will hold (store) less water in the bottom chamber.

I installed my PF-2 elements but my water is a bit cloudy, and why does it have a bad taste?

Insufficient re-conditioning (priming) may result in an undesirable taste and/or cloudiness in the water. The odd taste is from process dust that may not have been washed free from the elements during the conditioning process. Please remove the PF-2 elements and re-condition them for no less than 60 seconds (longer may be needed) on both ends. This should expel any residual process dust and fix the problem.

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.

I have a water softener installed in our house, can I filter that water through my Berkey?

Some folks 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 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 Berkeys can make chlorinated pool water safe for consumption. However, keep in mind that such a use will cause the elements to wear faster. So, I would only do so in case of emergency.

Which of the three methods of water filtration, reverse osmosis, distillation or Berkey purification is the healthiest for drinking purposes?

With respect to the healthfulness of the water, most 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 reading will not typically change much unless there are a lot of heavy metals or sedimentary minerals in the source water.

With respect to maintenance, how does reverse osmosis, distillation and Berkey systems compare?

All Berkey systems are easy to disassemble and clean. The lower chamber should be washed in ordinary dishwater occasionally. The elements may need to be cleaned typically after 6-12 months of use.

Distillation systems need to be soaked and cleaned with vinegar solution to remove the scale, typically after each gallon or two.

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 be 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 Berkeys?

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 for bacteriological contamination that is never exposed to UV. Additionally, the carcasses of the dead bacteria remain within the drinking water with an RO system whereas they are removed by the Black Berkey elements.

With respect to cost, how does reverse osmosis, distillation and Berkey systems compare?

With respect to upfront 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.

With respect to cost per gallon of water, 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 1.6 cents per gallon.

Is there a replacement element for the KDF Shower Filter ?

No, the KDF Shower Filter do not have a replacement element.

We would like to spend the least amount of money for a system that can meet the needs of a larger group, what would you recommend?

When determining the best size for your situation, please consider that the larger the systems capacity, the less often it will need to be refilled. All of our systems are available configured with two Black Berkey Purification elements however; the four larger stainless steel systems are expandable which means that your first consideration should be to purchase the system, which has the capacity to best meet your groups needs. If at a later date you determine that you require more gallons per hour, you will not have to invest in another system, you can simply order additional purification elements to expand your current system. Below is a list of our various two element systems, their capacities and the maximum number of elements each system can accommodate.

Travel Berkey - 1.5 GALLONS - 2 Elements
Berkey Light - 2.75 GALLONS - 2 Elements
Big Berkey - 2.25 GALLONS - 4 Elements
Royal Berkey - 3.25 GALLONS - 4 Elements
Imperial Berkey - 4.5 GALLONS - 6 Elements
Crown Berkey - 6 GALLONS - 8 Elements
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