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We get asked a lot of different questions on how we make life on the road work. One of the most overlooked questions, though, is where we get our drinking water. There are several different ways to come by clean drinking water, but our hands down #1 way is our Berkey Water Filter.
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Berkey Water Filter
There are tons of different water filters out on the market, everything from Brita to Pur to more advanced filtration technology like reverse osmosis and ultraviolet systems. It’s hard to determine what system is enough for your family when your health depends on it.
We did a lot of research on this topic before we hit the road. While we didn’t want to spend thousands of dollars on a system (or multiple systems combined), we also wanted a product that we could trust as we went around the country to many different campgrounds and water sources.
We came across Berkey water filters and really started to like what we saw. Berkey filters surpassed being just a filter and actually qualify as a water purifier. May not sound like a big deal, but that’s huge. Also looking at the specs of what the Berkey water filters take out (viruses, bacteria, inorganic minerals, metals micro-organisms, pesticides, etc, etc), it made for an obvious choice since the filters were so affordable. Check the actual specs on the filters here http://www.berkeyfilters.com/berkey-answers/performance/filtration-specifications/
When we decided to make the purchase, we went with the Big Berkey Water Filter. This system included a 2.1 gallon stainless steel chamber (upper chamber to put in unfiltered water and lower for the water to filter to), 2 Black Berkey water filter elements, and a plastic spigot. This was a complete filter system for just about $250. That was a small price to pay seeing how some of the campgrounds we’ve been had orange colored water coming from the tap!
Since we have downsized RV’s, we also downsized our Berkey to the Travel Berkey Water Filter. This system is 19″ tall and it fits under our upper cabinet right next to the sink. We actually traded with Bryanna’s mom since they had a little more counter space for our Big Berkey water filter.
Berkey Water Filter Review
Our Berkey Water Filter review is very simple, if you’re looking for a trustworthy product that will filter even the dirtiest water leaving clean, purified water that tastes the same every time, then get a Berkey.
They offer many different sizes to accommodate your family’s water drinking needs from large to small. They also even offer a water bottle called the Sport Berkey which has a small Black Berkey filter at the end of a straw in a blue water bottle. We’ve had these as well and they filter very well, it just became hard to suck through the straw when the filters were getting older.
Each Berkey you buy comes with everything you need to filter water right out of the box. This includes the upper and lower chambers, the filter elements (minimum of 2 filter elements for each size Berkey), spigot and connection hardware. After a quick wash of all the pieces, the set up is super easy. It’s basically putting the filters in place and hand-tightening the plastic wing nuts. The same then also applies to the spigot.
Here’s a quick video showing the components of the Berkey water filter and how to set them up.
Each filter is supposed to last 3000 cycles. We’ve had ours for over 2 years and they are still are doing great. By doing a little maintenance (see below), they’ve lasted a long time and still have some life left in them. You can also do the red food color test Berkey is famous for to see if the filter is still doing its job: Berkey Red Food Color Test
Berkey Water Filter Problems
Even though the product is pretty great, there are definitely a few Berkey water filter problems. Most of them pertain to the design of the dispensing of the water and not the filters themselves.
First, you can overfill the lower chamber. When we first bought our Berkey, we thought if we kept the top chamber filled, it will filter water to the lower chamber until it was full and stop so we’d have clean drinking water all day long. That’s not true. The water in the upper chamber will keep filtering down until it’s empty and will overflow the bottom chamber. So be careful of that. Only put in the top what can fit in the bottom.
Second, there’s not a good way to see how much purified water is left in the lower chamber. It’s a stainless steel tank, so the only way to see is if you lift the top chamber up and peek in. This can be cumbersome if your Berkey is tucked away under a cabinet or something.
Berkey does offer a Water View Spigot, which is a tall sight glass that goes between the lower chamber and the spigot. It’s as tall as the lower chamber and shows how much water is left in the lower chamber as the water in the sight glass will be at the same level as the water level in the chamber. Good ol’ fluid dynamics for ya!
We didn’t purchase this because it was about $40 more at the time and we figured we’d lift the top chamber up and look if we needed to know.
Another odd thing that happens sometimes is that even though there is purified water in the lower chamber, when I open the spigot to fill my cup, the water just trickles out and almost comes to a stop. This has happened to a couple other people who own a Berkey and we all came to the conclusion there is a suction issue going on.
It seems when water is still being filtered from the top chamber there is too much weight bearing down on the bottom chamber to allow air to sneak in through the small gap between the top and bottom chamber. This can be taken care of by slipping a small piece of plastic (like the ring from a gallon of milk that has been cut open) to allow air to get in or to just wait for all the water to filter through.
Cleaning the Berkey Water Filter
The Berkey water filters need to be cleaned from time to time. We notice this when it takes over an hour to filter a couple of gallons of water. Berkey gives instructions on what to do when this happens and they say it is normal throughout the life of the filters. They basically say to take a scouring pad and gently rub the filters. Check out their instructions here http://www.berkeyfilters.com/cleaningfilters.pdf.
I made up my own cleaning regimine for the filters which, along with cleaning the outsides of the filters as Berkey instructs, it also meant taking a large syringe, which you can find on Amazon or at Walmart, fill it with clean water (you can use filtered water from your Berkey) and backflush the filters by firmly putting the end of the syringe to the end of the filter and shooting the clean water through it. Make sure you get a good seal when putting the syringe on or you’ll spray water all over yourself.
I usually do this about 5 times then run tap water over the entire filter to prime it a bit. An easy trick to shooting the water through the filter is to just turn the upper chamber upside down in your sink (with filters still attached in the chamber) to expose the ends of the filters and shooting the syringe in that way. Just be careful not to press too hard and damage the bottom of the chamber.
If you’re looking for a trustworthy water filter at a very reasonable price, definitely check out Berkey water filters. We’re extremely happy with ours and couldn’t recommend them more!
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