TIPS & FAQS
Berkey Canada Troubleshooting Tips:
Priming Issues: Some spray head/custom faucets are not able to properly prime your Black Berkey Filters. If you are experiencing slow filtration after using a spray head/custom faucet to prime your Black Berkey filters, re-prime the filters using your bathtub or an alternate faucet to ensure a better connection and stronger water pressure.
Alternate priming method is as follows:
STEP 1: If your system is assembled, remove the Black Berkey Filters from the upper chamber. Next, fill the lower chamber with water, then place the Black Berkey Filters 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 Black Berkey stem to force the element down under the water. Let the Black Berkey Filters soak in the water for several hours. This will force some of the air out of the stubborn pores. NOTE: Make sure that the opening in the stems of the Black Berkey Filters 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 Black Berkey Filters should now be full of water and significantly heavier. Try to keep as much water on the inside of the Black Berkey Filters as is possible as you reassemble the Black Berkey Filters 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 Black Berkey Filters have water within the bore (inside core), more force is generated to draw water through the filters. This is because the water that drips out of the Black Berkey Filters also hydraulically pulls new water into the purification element as the Black Berkey Filters 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 micropores. The above method is less efficient than priming the Black Berkey Filters with the priming button but should be about 75-80% effective in clearing the blocked micropores.
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.
Recommendations for Optimal Filtration Cycle: Fully fill the upper chamber covering the Black Berkey or Berkey Earth filters, (making sure the lower chamber is completely empty), and allow the upper chamber to completely empty. Use the purified water and empty out the lower chamber before starting the process again.
The 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 micropores 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 micropores. You might have noticed that the system purifies much faster when full than when half full. That is because there is more pressure. 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 departing.
Water Filtration Speed: If you feel as though the water is filtering too slowly, please understand that the water will always filter faster when there’s more water pressure in the upper chamber. Also, priming the Black Berkey filters opens the pores up to allow water in. A priming that has not been fully completed will still have closed pores and thus filter slower. Try re-priming the filters to ensure priming has been fully completed.
Weird Taste to Water: If you’re noticing a chemical taste to the water without the use of PF-2’s, please perform a red food colouring test on the Black Berkey filters to ensure that all are working to specifications. If any fail, please contact us and we will have the manufacturer send you a replacement. Also, try washing out the lower chamber with soap and water.
If using the Berkey PF-2 filters, make sure the manufacturing dust has been fully flushed out of these PF-2’s as this can cause a cloudiness or oily texture to the filtered water and will leave an unpleasant taste.
Spigot Leaking: If leaking occurs around the washers of the spigot, make sure you have washers on both sides of the stainless steel. Tighten as much as you can and leave the spigot about 90 degrees out of phase. Then, grab onto the nut in the back with a wrench, and turn the spigot itself that last quarter turns using the spigot as leverage to get a tighter turn. If this is ineffective, please soak the washers in olive oil for approximately 1 hour. Sometimes the washers can dry out and get hard over time and the olive oil will soften them up allowing for a good seal.
Leaving the System Unused: If you leave the system unused for 5 days, it is recommended that any water left in the lower chamber be discarded. If you plan to leave the system unused for a period longer than 5 days such as a trip or vacation, it’s best to empty both reservoirs and leave them upside-down in the dish rack to dry. Remove your Black Berkey filters and your PF-2 fluoride filters, place them in baggies and put them in the refrigerator. When you come home, remove the filters and install them and they’re ready to filter. Leaving them for more than 5 days will start the drying process and you may have to prime them again when you return. Also placing the sealed bags in the refrigerator keeps them from drying and absorbing odours in your refrigerator. Upon your return, you will need to re-prime the Berkey water filter elements.
To store the Black Berkey elements, place them in a plastic Ziploc bag and get as much air as possible out of the bag. Be sure to store them in an area that is free of any odours or fragrances.
How should I store my Black Berkey® Purification Elements and how long is their shelf-life?
It is best to empty both chambers before storing because anytime water is still it becomes stagnant, which means it can produce bacteria. You may consider washing your chambers with soapy water before leaving them to dry. If you have used your elements, 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 at the same time. Another option for drying your elements is to leave them on a window sill for one to three days and allow them to air-dry. The key is to ensure they are bone-dry before storing them, to prevent any bacterial growth.
For long-term storage, we recommend sealing the purification elements. This can be done with a storage bag such as a sealable sandwich bag. The elements are extremely powerful and can absorb odours and smoke from the air. By sealing them in a storage bag, they will not absorb any odours from the air. When you are ready to use your elements, they will need to be re-primed by lightly scrubbing them clean with a Scotch Brite pad or stiff brush.
To order our Black Berkey Primer™ please click here.
Berkey Canada Frequently Asked Questions:
Comparison of Berkey® Purification to Reverse Osmosis and Distillation
Healthfulness of Reverse Osmosis and Distillation-Based on current research, most health experts are no longer recommending drinking RO or distilled water on a long-term basis because these methods strip out all of the beneficial minerals from the water, making the water an acidic “hypotonic” solution. A chemist will tell you that when a hypotonic (de-mineralized) solution comes into contact with a “hypertonic” (mineralized) solution, the minerals within the hypertonic solution will transfer out of hypertonic solution and into the hypotonic solution until equilibrium is achieved. What this simply means is 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 all of 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 within the source water.
Pathological Removal Capability of a Reverse Osmosis System 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 of 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® purification elements.
Cost and Maintenance 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 that properly maintained typically cost between 35-65 cents per gallon. A Berkey®system typically costs about 1.8 cents per gallon. All Berkey®systems are easy to disassemble and clean. Typically the lower chamber should be washed in ordinary dishwater once per month.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 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 TDS reading of the purified water?
A TDS meter does not register much of a change between the pre-filtered water and the post-filtered water. This is normal, and the answer has to do with what a TDS meter actually measures. According to tdsmeter.com, “Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) are the total amount of mobile charged ions, including minerals, salts or metals dissolved in a given volume of water, expressed in units of mg per unit volume of water (mg/L), also referred to as parts per million (ppm). TDS is directly related to the purity of water and the quality of water purification systems and affects everything that consumes, lives in, or uses water, whether organic or inorganic, whether for better or for worse.”
This statement is both correct and incorrect. It is correct in what a TDS measurement consists of, namely the “total amount of mobile charged ions, including minerals, salts or metals dissolved in a given volume of water”. It is incorrect in its conclusion that TDS is related to the purity of the water and the quality of the water purification system. If the measure of a water purification system was how close it could make water to pure H2O, then maybe it would be correct. But, people need minerals to live. Thus, helpful minerals in your water are actually a good thing. A quality water purification system should filter out things that are harmful to your body but leave in the helpful things such as minerals. Black Berkey elements are designed to leave healthful and beneficial minerals in your water and to extract the unwanted heavy metals such as lead and mercury as well as sedimentary minerals such as iron oxide and aluminum.
So, when our customers use a TDS meter, what they find is that the reading both before and after the water has gone through the Black Berkey elements about the same. And they are correct. The Black Berkey elements do not take out all of the beneficial minerals. Thus, of the things that a TDS meter will actually detect, the Black Berkey elements will only remove 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.
A TDS meter does not measure the amount of biological and chemical contaminants.The important thing is to not simply rely on a TDS meter for your measure of whether your water is good. You can have low TDS count water that has harmful bacteria in it. You can have high TDS count water that is perfectly safe (e.g. – pure, unpolluted ocean saltwater…albeit, you wouldn’t drink it, but that’s only because the mineral is salt). Thus, make sure you know what your TDS meter is actually telling you.
Do you ship outside of Canada?
Yes, just email us directly for a shipping quote.
When do I need to replace the Black Berkey filter elements in my system?
Use one of the 2 methods below:
Take the number of Black Berkey filtering elements in your system and multiply it by 11,000. This number will be the (Total Life) in litres. Estimate the average amount of water you filter through your Berkey per day. This number will be the (Daily Use) in Litres. Then simply divide the (Total Life) by the (Daily Use). This number represents how many days your filter will effectively treat your water before needing to replace them. As a reminder, with a permanent marker write the date that you calculated the need for Berkey replacement filters on the bottom of your unit.
Example: If you have a 2 Black Berkey filter Big Berkey and your used 8.5 litres of water per day. You would multiply 2 (#of filters) by 11,000 = 22,000 litres (Total Life), then divide 22,000 by 8.5 litres (Daily use) = 2588 days the filters will last, That’s a little over 7 years!
- Each Black Berkey filter set has a filtration life of 22,000 Litres = 44,000 500ml water bottles!
- That’s retail cost of over $7000 for bottled water!
The Black Berkey filters in your unit will never stop working; the rate that the filters produce water will slow down, this is an indication that the filter needs to be cleaned. This brings us to the second method. If after cleaning your Black Berkey elements they do not filter any faster; it is time to replace them.
Do I need to replace the Black Berkey elements?
I have been using my system for about six months and the flow rate has slowed down considerably. 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, lightly scrub the exterior of the Black Berkey under running water with a green scrub pad (3M or Scotch-Brite brand, etc.) or stiff toothbrush. It’s simple to do and takes less than a minute per element. Then re-prime each element and re-install them.
How do the Black Berkey® Purification Elements handle beneficial minerals in the water?
Why is my PH level higher after using the Black Berkey® Purification Elements?
When water is filtered through our system, the Black Berkey® Purification Elements increase the PH level of the water. This is healthful because pathogenic bacteria and viruses thrive in acidic environments and 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.
Will a Berkey® system work with a water softener? The Black Berkey™ purification elements are designed to remove heavy metals, but will not remove mineral salts, which are added by the water softener. We highly recommend that you obtain pre-softened water to use in your Berkey® system,
You can use one of our purification systems on a regular basis by bypassing your water softener to get your drinking water. Most water softeners have a bypass valve or way to get water before it passes through your softener. This is where you can obtain drinking water to run through our purification system.
What Colour is the priming button?
I just purchased a Berkey® system but didn’t receive a priming button. Instead, I think I received an extra black washer in the box. The instructions say to use the tan coloured priming button. What gives?
Please check the box which held your Black Berkey® purification elements. The box should contain two (2) elements. Attached to each element should be a rubber washer and a wing nut. Also in the boxes should be what could look like another single black rubber washer. This is your priming button. It is thicker than the washer and the center hole is smaller. This black priming button can easily be confused with a washer; so we asked the manufacturer to change the colour of the priming button back to tan.
Do your filters take out plastic from the water?
There are various plastic materials that can be leeched into the water and the most common are BPA ( Bisphenol A) and 1,1-Dichloroethane (11-DCA). The Black Berkey elements have been tested to remove both of these plastic materials. Please refer to our lab testing results by Click Here
What is the Aluminum Oxide media in our Berkey PF-2™& Arsenic Filters? Click Here
We are on well water. Do we need to add the PF-2 filter elements?
No. The Berkey fluoride reduction filters should only be used if you are on city water, you have confirmed with your city that they are adding fluoride to the water and you want to remove the fluoride. The PF-2 elements are not needed if you are on spring water.
Is there a way to test my Berkey purifier system to make sure it is working properly?
Yes. You can test the Black Berkey filter elements by filling the upper chamber with water and then adding 1 drop of red food colouring for every litre of water within your upper chamber. Be sure to use red as no other colour of food colouring will work. If the food colouring is removed entirely, your system is working properly. If not, make sure the wingnuts on the filters are securely tightened then re-run the test. If you have the PF-2 fluoride filters installed, remove them prior to performing the red dye test.
Can I purify saltwater in my Berkey?
No, this will damage the filters. Removing large amounts of salt from water such as seawater generally requires some form of a distillation system.
Can I run HOT water through my Berkey?
No, this can damage the filters
Do Black Berkey filters remove Fluoride?
Not by themselves, but with the addition of the PF-2 fluoride filter, they will remove about 95%.
I installed my Berkey PF-2 elements but my water is a bit cloudy, and why does it have a bad taste?
Insufficient conditioning (priming) of the Berkey Fluoride elements 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 filters during the conditioning process. Please remove the PF-2 elements and prime them again for no less than 4 minutes (longer may be needed) on both ends. This should remove any residual process dust and fix the problem.
What is the most convenient method for filling the upper reservoir?
Most people use a pitcher to pour water into the upper chamber, however if you have a spray hose on your sink, using it to refill the system is a very convenient method.
I can’t get the Berkey Light chambers to snap together, am I doing something wrong?
Please make sure you are aligning the seams, as most of the systems will not snap together unless the seams are aligned. If that doesn’t solve the problem, please measure the opening on the lower chamber from seam to seam. The diameter should be at least 7 15/16″ or greater. If it is less than that please call our customer service line at 888-803-4438.
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 bacterium?
With respect to the little white floaters in the water, it is not bacteria but rather a problem that sometimes occurs with hard (heavily mineralize) water. 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 your Berkey Sight Glass™ Spigots made out of?
The stopper, shell, nut, and washer for our Standard Spigots and Sight Glass Spigots are made of the following materials:
The stopper inside is “FDA grade silicone”
The shell/nut is FDA grade polypropylene.
The washers are FDA grade rubber.
The Sight Glass Spigot tubes are a buffed aluminum gauge shield with a glass insert tube. The small washers in the top and bottom of the tube to the Sight Glass Spigot are FDA grade Rubber.
Is the Berkey Light™ systems BPA Free
In the past the Berkey Light™ systems were made of food grade polycarbonate that has been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration. Some research suggests that polycarbonate have been known to leach BPA (Bis phenol-A) when either exposed to High Strength Industrial Grade Alkaline Detergents or when they are repeatedly exposed to temperatures in excess of 192 degrees Fahrenheit (over 88 degrees Celsius); neither of which occurs when utilizing the Berkey Light™ system.
New studies concerning the possible leaching of BPA are ongoing. There has also been a wealth of misinformation circulated over the airwaves and the Internet. The FDA stated in April 2008 that it was not recommending anyone discontinue using products that contain BPA while they continue their risk assessment process.
Even with such statements from the FDA, New Millennium Concepts determined that it was in the best interest of our customers to utilize an alternative to the polycarbonate previously used to produce the Berkey Light™ system. Fortunately, in 2008, a new product was developed that is BPA FREE. New Millennium replaced the polycarbonate material with this new material to alleviate any concerns that our customers might potentially have. Not only is this co polyester highly durable and dishwasher safe, it is also scratch, stain, shatter and odor-resistant.
PLEASE NOTE: Over the past year there has been an increasing concern over containers that contain the recycle code #7. The recycle code found on the bottom of plastic containers are called “Resin Identification Codes“. Polycarbonate is simply one type of plastic that falls under the code #7. Code #7 is a catchall code that basically means “Other” and most products that do not fit into categories #1 through #6 are placed into category #7. It is also for products that are made from more than one type of plastic in category #1 through #6. The new co polyester that the Berkey Light™ system utilizes is also categorized into #7 although it is not a polycarbonate and does not contain any BPA.
Red Food Colour Test
Just what is the “red” food colouring test and why do I have to perform this test on my system?
First and most important, the “red” food colouring test is only for the Black Berkey purification elements and not the Berkey Earth ceramic filters, Pf2 and Pf4 fluoride and arsenic filters or other filter elements that do not filter out food colour. This test is also not recommended for the Sport Berkey™ Water Bottle. Your Black Berkey™ purification elements are powerful enough to remove food colouring from water; this feature allows you to make sure your system is operating properly. Simply remove your PF-2™ Post Filter elements (if installed) fill the upper chamber with water and add a tablespoon of red food colouring per gallon capacity of your system. If the food colouring is removed entirely, your purification system is working properly.
What else could be happening if my Black Berkey™ elements seem to be allowing “red” food colouring to pass through them?
There are several things that you can check first.
1. Are the wingnuts too tight? If the wing nuts are on too tight, this could cause stripping on the threads of the stem, preventing a correct seal. If you have inadvertently stripped the threads on your element, please call Berkey Canada for additional assistance, 905-442-4556 or 1-888-803-4438.
2. Are you using actual “red” food colouring or another colour or type of colour? Red food colouring is what is recommended for the test.
3. Is the washer on the stem inside the upper chamber and is the wing nut secured outside at the bottom? If the washer is on the outside of the chamber with the wing nut, you will not have a proper seal which will cause your system to fail the test. Place the washer on the interior of the upper chamber and re-run the test.
4. Is the wing nut tight on each element? If your system fails the test, tighten the wing nuts a bit more and re-run the test. However, please do not tighten the wing nuts using any tools, they should be hand tightened to a snug fit, but not more.
5. Are the blocking plugs properly sealing the unused holes without elements? Are the plugs installed tight with a washer on each side? If the plugs are leaking this will cause your system to fail the test. Tighten the plugs more securely and re-run the test.
6. Are you retesting an element that you think may have failed the test? If so, rinse off and re-prime the element first. Additionally, make sure you pour any excess water out of the bottom tank or whatever you are using to catch the water coming out of the element. Also, if you are using the lower chamber to catch water, run clean water through the spigot to clean it out as well. Now you are ready to repeat the test.
Can I clean the filter in my Sport Berkey™ filtration bottle?
Unfortunately, the Sport Berkey™ filter is not cleanable. Replacement filter, however, are available.
I have a generic Sport Berkey™ filtration bottle, does it work the same as a regular Sport Berkey™ filtration bottle? Yes, both systems function identically; the only difference is the generic version has no silk-screening on the exterior of the bottle. The generic versions of the Sport Berkey™ filters have been designed for organizations, such as missionaries and relief organizations, wherein it is critical to keep their costs to a minimum.
Can I put my Sport Berkey™ filtration bottle in the refrigerator?
Yes, you can refrigerate the Sport Bottle, just don’t let it freeze as freezing could expand the pores within the filter element and could compromise the integrity of the filter element.
I am having difficulty drawing water out of the straw of my new Sport Berkey™ filtration bottle. Is something wrong? On occasion, the straw in the cap becomes pinched. Many times you can actually see where the straw has become stuck together internally. You can fix this very simply by doing the following:
-Open the cap so the straw is sticking up. -Grasp the straw with your thumb and index finger, at the point where the straw exits the cap. -Gently pull the straw out slightly, at the same time rotating the part of the straw that comes in contact with the cap, between your finger and thumb. -This should open the straw up, allowing you to use your new Sport Berkey™ water bottle.
Is the Sport Berkey™ filtration bottle just as powerful as the larger Berkey® systems?
There is a slight difference. The Sport Berkey™, to our knowledge, is the most powerful sport bottle available. However, because the wall thickness of the filter is thinner than the wall thickness of the Black Berkey™ elements, it is slightly less efficient. I doubt, however, that you would be able to discern much of a difference with normal water supplies. If you were to put red food colouring into the water and run it through the Sport Berkey™ bottle, most of the food colouring will be removed. If you were to run it through the Black Berkey™ elements, the food colouring would be removed entirely.
Do you make a fluoride reduction filter for the Sport Berkey™ filtration bottle?
Unfortunately, we do not make fluoride reduction filters for the Sports bottle. Fluoride is very difficult to extract once it has been introduced into the water supply and it requires a large amount of media to remove just a small amount of fluoride. Currently, it would require that most of the room within the sport bottle be used for a fluoride filter leaving next to no room for the source water. Until a more powerful media is developed, it seems to us that it will be unfeasible to develop a fluoride reduction filter for the sport bottle. We do however make fluoride reduction filters for our larger systems because we have more room with which to work.
I am leaving the Canada for a third world country; can the Sport Berkey™ filtration bottle be used instead of bottled water?
Yes, the Sport Berkey™ was designed for use in third world countries and can be used instead of commercial bottled water. The Sport Berkey™ is used worldwide by missionaries and relief organizations to transform otherwise unpotable water into potable drinking water. We always recommend, however, that you use the cleanest water possible as this extends the life of the filters. You may also want to consider ordering several replacement filter elements to bring along with you. These will come in handy in the event that you are forced to rely on very turbid water that can more easily clog the filter elements.
Can I filter boiling water through the Sport Berkey™ filtration bottle for making hot tea?
Hot water can break down the filter element and compromise its efficiency so we recommend that you first filter the source water through the Sport Berkey™ filtration bottle then afterwards boil the filtered water for your tea.