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Getting the Most Out of Your Berkey Water Filter

Avatar for Gaye Levy Gaye Levy  |  Updated: December 16, 2020
Getting the Most Out of Your Berkey Water Filter

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Water is a survival basic and a recurring theme on every website dedicated to family preparedness.   Where to find, store, purify and filter water are questions that are asked and answered often.  And because disasters that compromise our water are not an everyday occurrence, it is important to keep going back to the basics and reviewing the techniques necessary to insure that the water we drink is pure and clean.

That said, there is still the matter of day to day drinking water. Water is essential to good health and yet if the water tastes bad, is cloudy and unappealing to look at or is laden with fluorides and other chemicals, our beverage of choice might likely be a sugary drink instead of a nice, healthy glass of water.

Win a Royal Berkey

Very shortly after moving to my island location, it became clear to me that while water was abundant, it tasted awful and the treated water barely passed EPA standards for purity.  I knew this because our local water company was required to report deficiencies to us on a regular basis.  (Luckily, the installation of industrial sized carbon filtering devices at the water works solved that problem.)

My answer was to get a Royal Berkey.  That was a great decision and I never looked back.  My water is clean and pure and tastes wonderful.  I am so happy with my Berkey that I am extra thrilled to partner with sponsor LPC Survival to give away a free ROYAL BERKEY to one very lucky Backdoor Survival reader.

More about that in a moment.

The Royal Berkey

The Royal Berkey purifies both treated water and untreated raw water from such sources as remote lakes, streams, stagnant ponds and more.  It removes pathogenic bacteria, cysts and parasites entirely and extracts harmful chemicals such as herbicides, pesticides, VOCs, organic solvents, radon 222 and trihalomethanes.  It also reduces nitrates, nitrites and unhealthy minerals such as lead and mercury.

Whew, that is a lot of stuff.  You can actually read about the Royal Berkey and other Berkey models on the LPC Survival website but just so you know, here is a brief description:

Berkey® systems include an upper chamber which rests upon a lower chamber when assembled. Think of these as two large open-top canisters. The upper chamber (or canister) has holes in its base into which the Black Berkey® Purification Elements are housed. The upper canister is designed to rest on top of the bottom canister. Essentially, the top chamber is where the water-to-be-purified is poured. The bottom chamber serves as the reservoir for the water that has been purified in the upper chamber, by passing through the Black Berkley filters.

Since I do not want to repeat information that is readily available online, I thought I would provide you with some extra information to help you get the most out of your Berkey.

Questions and Answers About the Berkey Water Filter System

What is the shelf life of the Black Berkey elements?

Berkey Black Filters

The Black Berkey Elements have a 20-30 year shelf life.  Although a set of two filters will effectively be good for 6,000 gallons of water, that is referring to standard tap water.  Stream, pond or even collected rain water may be murky and require that the filters work extra hard to turn out clean, drinkable water.  Every situation is different of course, but that means that the practical useful life may be less.

I recommend having at least 1 set on hand for backup.

What type of maintenance is required?

Very little maintenance is needed other than periodically cleaning the lower stainless steel chamber with soap and water and also scrubbing, priming and back flushing the filters when it appears that the flow rate has slowed considerably.

Berkey Scrubbing Priming

Should I wait until the bottom chamber is empty before adding more water to be filtered to the upper chamber?

This question was actually posed by a Backdoor Survival reader. Her thought was that if she added water each time she removed water (say for brewing a pot of coffee), the lower portion of the black filters would get used up more quickly and thus she would be “wasting” the top half, resulting in a shorter life-span overall.

Jeff (the Berkey Guy) responded to the question by saying  “We usually wait till it is empty in the top, but it is not required.  I have never thought about this, but be sure to recommend they prime or back flush the elements every 2-3 months.”

How do I know when it’s time to replace the Black Berkey Elements?

The easiest way to determine that the Black Berkey® Elements are still working properly is to add 1/4 to 1/2 tablespoon of RED food coloring (only red will work) in the top chamber and make sure the water collecting in the bottom chamber is clear and free of the food coloring. It is best to place a glass under each Black Element in the empty bottom chamber so as to differentiate if one/more Black Berkeys are still working properly.

How do I know how much water is left in the lower chamber?

I thought you would never ask!  A Water View Spigot is available that allows you to visually see how much water is left in the chamber.  Before that, I would have to lift off the upper chamber and take a peek – not always easy since I usually did not think of doing so until I had filled the upper tank with pre-filtered water.  The dang thing gets heavy!

Berkey water-level-view

Not only does this water view spigot work great, but I now have the original spigot to use as a spare.  Which, by the way, you can buy for $10 on the LPC Survival website.

Here is another hint for you: if your spigot starts to leak around the fitting where it connects to the chamber, try using a bit of olive oil or a food grade lubricant at the connection point.  This solved the problem for me – perhaps it created a suction, who knows, it just worked.

The Giveaway – A Royal Berkey Just For You

Now for the part you have been waiting for – how to win a Royal Berkey of your own.  Everyone will have 3 chances to win, with the first of the three method being mandatory and the rest as bonus entries.

1.  In the comments section below, answer this question:

Where would you get your water if the tap/running water in your home was no longer available?

2.  Like my Facebook page and come back and tell me about it.  Or, if you do not do Facebook, follow me on Google+.  (If you already Like my FB page, let me know that as well.)

3.  Visit the LPC Survival Blog and sign up for their newsletter here.  Or like their Facebook Page.  Come back and tell me about it.

The deadline to enter is 6PM Pacific on November 28th – that gives you one week.  A winner will be chosen at random so every entry will have an equal chance of winning.  The winner will be notified by email and will have 48 hours to respond or a second name will be drawn.

The Final Word

I love my Berkey and I know you will love yours too.  Whether you are a prepping newbie or an experienced survivalist, having an effective water filtering system should be a top priority along with having plenty of water purification tablets, fresh unscented bleach and as much spare water as you have storage space.  For more information on water, be sure to visit Water – The Survival Basic.

Good luck everyone.

Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!

If you have not done so already, please be sure to like Facebook which is updated every time there is an awesome new article, news byte, or link to a free survival, prepping or homesteading book on Amazon.  You can also follow Backdoor Survival on Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+.

In addition, when you sign up to receive email updates you will receive a free, downloadable copy of my e-book The Emergency Food Buyer’s Guide.

Bargain Bin:  Did you know that LPC Survival has an Amazon Store?  They do and you are welcome to shop there or directly on the LPC Survival website for all of your Berkey needs.

McCormick Food Coloring, Red, 16-Ounce:  After scrubbing and flushing my Black Berkey elements, I wanted to run the red food color test to ensure that my filters were performing property.  I had an oops moment.  The bottle of red food coloring I had in my pantry was empty.  Please, if you use a Berkey, have a couple of bottles of red food coloring with your emergency goods.  If you are called upon to filter raw water, you want to make sure the filters are in tip top shape.

Black Berkey Replacement Elements, 2-Pack: I was late to the party as far as getting some backup filters but I am now all set.  Highly recommended, along with extra food coloring and a spare Berkey spigot.

WaterBrick Water Storage Containers:  I have not tried these myself but I do know that many Backdoor Survival readers prefer these water bricks to 55 gallon water barrels.

LifeStraw Personal Water Filter:  The LifeStraw is considered the most advanced, compact, ultra light personal water filter available. It contains no chemicals or iodinated resin, no batteries and no moving parts to break or wear out. It weighs only 2oz.  making it perfect for the prepper. For more information, see my LifeStraw review.

Potable Aqua Water Treatment Tablets: Potable Aqua Water Purification Tablets make questionable water bacteriologically suitable to drink. Easy to use and the water is ready to drink in 30 minutes. One 50 tablet bottle treats 25 quarts of water.

waterBOB Emergency Drinking Water Storage:  Have you considered storing water in your bathtub?  The Water Bob is a bladder that you can use in your bathtub to store water if you know that a storm, flood, or hurricane is brewing.  Something that surprised me today is that the WaterBob is the #1 best seller in the Amazon First Aid Kits category.

LifeStraw Personal Water Filter:  The LifeStraw is considered the most advanced, compact, ultra light personal water filter available. It contains no chemicals or iodinated resin, no batteries and no moving parts to break or wear out. It weighs only 2oz.  making it perfect for the prepper. For more information, see my LifeStraw review.


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404 Responses to “Getting the Most Out of Your Berkey Water Filter”

  1. Liked, suscribed. Like others have mentioned, season has bearing on availability. Have a lake across the road but ice can be challenge, would do the basics first (drain pipes in home, drink liquid from canned goods, melt snow or capture rain). Have been storing water for a while now. Have a Lifestraw. Would give eye teeth for a Royal Berkey and am saving (spouse out of work).

    PS…love your site. Have bug-in well under way, good deal ready for bug out. You have taught and provided links to many sites where much has been learned. Thank you for your continued dedication to ensuring we’re all as prepared as we can be.

  2. I have a well in the back yard and there are several ponds within sight of my house. A good water filter is all I need for good water but have not gotten one yet.

  3. I just joined the LCP newsletter – their site looks great! The DIY mousetrap works awesome! Thank you SO much for all the great info, the giveaways are great icing on a perfect cake!

  4. (Per instruction #3…) I am a fan of/Like the LPC Survival page on Facebook, and I also receive their newsletter 🙂 All you guys are so awesome and thank you for sharing your knowledge and experience with those of us eager to learn!

  5. Coming back (instruction #2) to tell you that I have “Liked” your Facebook page … And thoroughly enjoy all your posts 🙂 I have been following your page for about 6 months now, and wish I would’ve known about it much sooner! Very grateful for all the work you put into your website and FB page!

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