What is it about Berkey Water Filters that makes them so popular among survivalists, off-grid folks, and even third-world aid programs?
I asked myself that exact question not long ago. I wondered if it was just good marketing, or if the Berkey (I thought they were called Berkley water filters at the time for some reason) water filtration systems really were just leaps and bounds above the other options. Here’s what I came up with…
Berkey water filters are made by a company called New Millennium Concepts based in Arlington, Texas. They do most of their business through distributors / dealers, and you can even get great deals on their products through popular sites like Amazon.com (click here to compare prices). In other words, you’re not dealing with some disreputable company in China.
The thing that makes Berkey water filters superior, in my opinion after doing several hours of research on water filtration methods, is that they combine the oldest, most reliable water filtration techniques with some of the newest, advanced systems.
Most modern water filters force water through a filter at 60-90 PSI. It happens fast. These are the kind that sit on top of, or under, your sink and a filter the water between the pipes and the tap.
Berkeys don’t do that. They let gravity pull the water down through the filtration system, which leaves the water in contact with the filtration media for a long period of time. Think about the bacteria, heavy metals, sediment… in the water and how much more difficult it would be for that stuff to make it through a series of filters if it had no pressure pushing it from behind. It simply settles and sticks in the filter.
The Big Berkey water filter is my favorite Berkey system. I don’t like the Berkey Light because it’s plastic and I don’t trust storing my water in plastic.
Made from stainless steel and selling for about $250-$350 (depending on how many filters you get with it), the Big Berkey water filter completely removes pathogenic bacteria, cysts and parasites. It also extracts harmful chemicals like herbicides, pesticides, VOCs, organic solvents, radon 222 and trihalomethanes, and reduces nitrates, lead and mercury.
It holds about 2.25 gallons (8.5 liters) of water at a time. Berkey claims it can purify about 3.5 gallons (13.3 liters) per hour, but that’s only if you keep the upper chamber full the entire time to provide more force. As the chamber empties of water the flow rate slows. How many gallons of clean drinking water are you going to need each hour? For a small family in a homesteading or survivalist situtation, 2-3 gph is plenty.
$250 might seem expensive for a water filter to some, but I’ve compared prices on systems and they get plain outrageous. For instance, water ionizers (see price comparisons in this review) cost thousands of dollars, most under-the-counter systems cost as much or more than the Berkey, and whole-house water filtration systems can be as much as a car!
Overall, I am convinced that my choice in water filters was a wise one, and I’m hoping some of our readers will share their Berkey water filter experiences as well.