Berkey Water Filter Systems

The best taste of water that I have experienced was the fresh mountain spring water but I don’t live close by a mountain so I need to look for a more practical solution.

I have been using the Brita water filter pitcher and then boil the water before drinking for the last 5 years while living in Sunnyvale and it was good enough. However, I just moved into an apartment in Santa Clara a month ago and just recently realized that there is something other than a hard water stain been left in the bottom of the electric glass kettle (see photo, note that color is from tea, not beer, LOL).

So I ask around to see what my friends are using to filter water.  I learned that basically, there are three different types – the filter system is on the countertop, connected to the faucet (a certain type of faucets), a water pitcher with a filter inside, and the third one is the filter system is connected under the countertop.

My kitchen faucet is pull-out type so I can’t use the on-the-countertop type of filter system. I don’t have a lot of space under the counter and I don’t want to bother the landlord to install that either. So I need to look deeper and I found another option, similar to the Brita but “better”, the Berkey Water Filter System.

Let’s see what other people say about Berkey System.

The Berkey Water Filter System: What Is It? And Is It Worth It? By Food Network.

The Big Berkey Water Filter System: Uncertified and Inconvenient. By New York Times

BERKEY WATER FILTER – OUR REVIEW AFTER 6 YEARS OF USE by Crazy Family Adventure

Let’s compare other common water filter brands on the market with Berkey.

For me, since Brita is longer good enough and I couldn’t do the other options (the countertop connected to the faucet nor the under countertop) so I give the Berkey a try. I got the smallest they have which is the Travel size 1.5 Gallon bundle (come with two black filters and Stainless Steel Spigot, and I ordered two extra fluoride water filters to pair up).

What you need to do after you received your Berkey

The instructions that come with it are mostly in texts which is a bit hard to read and understand so I search on Youtube and here are the steps for setting up the new water filter system.

1. Prime the Black Filter

2. Prime the Fluoride Filters and how to install

And then, I filled the water into the Upper chamber and let it filter through to the Lower chamber. I did that twice before I start drinking it (this just in case I didn’t prime the filters correctly).

3.  Clean your chambers and black filters. (the first video using distilled vinegar water, the second video using scotchbrite)

For household use, they suggest cleaning the stainless steel chambers monthly, the black filters every 6 months (depends on how much water you run through and how dirty is your water). The black filters can be cleaned up to 100 times before a replacement (about 4-6 years); the fluoride water filters should be replaced after 1,000 gallons (3,785 liters), or 1 year whichever comes first.

4. Ten Mistakes you want to avoid.

1) BUYING THE WRONG SIZE 
I personally don’t believe the bigger the better; especially when you don’t want to let the black filter stay dry for too long, and you don’t want it to take up too much counter space. I would say, find the right size depends on how many people in your household and how much water do your family use. If you need to choose between two sizes, I might go with the smaller one and just including refill water into your Berkey in your daily schedule and put filtered water into big water bottles or pitchers, etc. so you will always have water ready to use. 
2) FILLING THE TOP CHAMBER BEFORE THE BOTTOM CHAMBER IS EMPTY
3) LEAVING THE SPIGOT ON
4) FILLING THE BERKEY PARTIALLY
5) LETTING YOUR FILTERS STAY DIRTY
6) LETTING YOUR FILTERS GET DRY 
If the black filters will not be in use between 4 and 15 days,  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.

If you will not be in use for longer than 2 weeks, you should fully air-dry them for 1-3 days 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 black filters with a storage bag to prevent the filter from absorbing any odors from the air.

Place the used Fluoride filters in a resealable zipper storage bag and be placed on the door of your refrigerator or towards the front for up to two weeks. It should never be allowed to air dry to prevent any bacterial growth.

Always re-prime the filters before using them.
7) LETTING YOUR FILTERS GET TOO OLD
8) BUYING A USED BERKEY WITHOUT REPLACING THE FILTERS
9) SKIPPING THE PRIMING OF YOUR ELEMENTS OR THE RED FOOD COLORING TEST
10) CLEANING YOUR FILTERS WITH A DIRTY SCRUBBING PAD OR WITH SOAP

 

I am new to the water filter system world and new to Berkey so I can’t really say which one is better.  However, as for my current needs, I think Berkey is the right fit.  Will update my experiences after a few weeks.

3/22/2021:

After using the Berkey filter for a few weeks, I noticed that the hard water stain been left in the bottom of the electric glass kettle again, as well as some white stuff floating on the top. This only happens after I boiled the water.

So I emailed Berkey to ask about it, and here is their response – “Floaters sometimes occur with hard water (heavily mineralized) and water that is exposed to extreme heat. 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 the solution. Because of this, the minerals begin to precipitate 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”. Rest assured this is not to raise a concern and the floaters are not harmful. They are minerals that were already in your water and now they are simply visible whereas they were previously invisible due to their suspension in an ionic form.”

Does this mean that my Brita water filter pitcher was doing fine? Now I wonder.

I felt even Travel size Berkey is more than I need because I noticed that sometimes I don’t fill the upper chamber for 2-3 days (or I don’t drink water fast enough when I am home), and both filters shouldn’t be left dry for more than 4 days. . . . so after giving it more thought, maybe the Brita is good enough for what I need since the hard water stain will happen when I boil the water anyway.  So I decided to return it while I am still under 30 days return policy.

What I learned is that “Temporary hard water is hard water that mostly contains calcium bicarbonate. Boiling precipitates the dissolved minerals out of the water. Since boiling removes the water’s calcium content, the result is softer water. Boiling is a quick and cheap way to fix hard water for consumption purposes. However, it only addresses temporary hardness and not permanent hardness. The latter contains dissolved calcium sulfate that boiling will not remove.” – from 7 easy ways to manage hard water issues article.

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