Last Updated on June 1, 2021 by Michael
The Big Berkey water filter is meant to purify water. Whether what you have is treated tap water or untreated raw water from a pond, Big Berkey can purify it. The system rids the water of almost all known contaminants. It improves the appearance of the water: making it look genuinely good to drink. It also improves the smell and taste of the water. That makes the water truly nice to drink. Further, the Big Berkey rids the water of solid impurities, pathogens and heavy metals: making it truly safe to drink. Big Berkey has power to output potable water from an input of even the most unsafe of waters. It is in the category of gravity-fed water purification systems. This means that is uses the power of gravity alone. It doesn’t need a pump or any other equipment of that sort.
Why use a gravity-fed water filtration system?
There are times when you find yourself in places where safe treated water is hard to get. In such places, you have to find ways of purifying the available water: to make it potable. While boiling the water is an option, that process only kills the pathogens in the water. It does nothing about the water’s color, taste and smell. That is where a gravity-fed filtration system, like the Big Berkey, can come in handy. Besides getting rid of pathogens like e-coli and coliform, Big Berkey can also remove colors, tastes and odors. So what we end up with is water that one can drink without wincing.
Even in places where ‘treated’ water is available, it tends to come with a heavy smell of chlorine. That is because chlorine is the main chemical for treating water. It doesn’t smell nice. One wishes there was a way of removing the chlorine smell from the water. That is something the Big Berkey water filter can help with. It removes chlorine smell completely. Besides chlorine, Big Berkey water filter also helps get rid of fluoride. It is further useful at eliminating pathogenic elements that escape treatment at the water treatment plant. It is even capable of removing heavy metals like lead and mercury. On top of those, it has efficacy at removing pesticides and pharmaceutical residues from the water.
Big Berkey Water filter Review: Do Berkey Water Filters Really Work?
The Big Berkey water filter has a good number of noteworthy features, including:
Stainless steel canister
This ensures that the water stored in the Big Berkey water filtration system doesn’t get contaminated. It is well understood that stainless steel is one of the most sterile storage materials. Further, the stainless steel canister ensures that the water stored in Big Berkey system doesn’t acquire a taste. This is important, because one of the goals in filtration is to rid water of ‘strange’ tastes. So the last thing you want is a storage medium that is capable of giving the water some taste. Thankfully, stainless steel isn’t capable of doing so.
Capacity for multiple filters
Big Berkey is not one of those filtration systems that can only accommodate one filter at a time. On the contrary, the Big Berkey is capable of accommodating up to 4 Black Berkey filters, for enhanced filtration. Those go into the upper chamber. Then in the lower chamber, it has capacity to accommodate 4 PF-2’s. The latter can be useful if, for instance, you wish to rid your water of fluoride.
This capacity for multiple filters also translates into flexibility in filtration. When you are dealing with very grimy water that needs very thorough filtration, you can increase the number of filters. Conversely, when dealing with pre-treated water that only needs basic purification, you can use fewer filters. This makes it an i deal choice to help filter well water.
The Big Berkey is sold with a standard spigot. It is unlike some other filtration systems, for which you have to buy a spigot separately. The fact that the Big Berkey comes with a standard spigot is critical. It means that you can start using the system immediately after purchase. You won’t face the situation where you go through the installation motions, only to lack a spigot at last minute. Besides the standard spigot, the Big Berkey also comes with blocking plugs. This is to say that it comes with everything you need for installation and immediate use.
Advanced filtration capabilities
The Big Berkey improves the appearance, smell, taste and actual safety of the filtered water. The Big Berkey therefore offers a complete water purification solution. It is capable of removing heavy metals (such as lead and mercury) which are often beyond other filtration systems’ reach. It is also capable of removing food coloring agents and pharmaceuticals that may have found their way into the water. And it is capable of removing fluoride, which again many filtration systems are usually incapable of.
2 free filters
The Big Berkey comes with a couple of free filters, to start you off. This means that it may be a while before you need to replace the filters. Each of the 2 filters you get for free is capable of purifying up to 3,000 gallons before losing power. So upon purchasing a Big Berkey filter, you often have to do 6,000 gallons of filtration. That is before thinking of filter replacement.
This means that the Big Berkey water filter doesn’t use a pump. It doesn’t consume artificial/synthetic power: it uses gravity. Being a gravity-fed system also means that it is less prone to malfunctions.
Good tank capacity
The stainless steel canister with which the Big Berkey comes has capacity for 2.25 gallons. When you convert that to liters, it comes to about 8.5 liters. That is decent capacity for most household needs. It is also good for portability.
How to install Big Berkey water filter
The first step in installing Big Berkey water filter is that of assembling the lid. This is just a matter of fixing the knob onto the lid, then screwing together. To help you with this, you are given a knob washer and a knob screw. Tightening is by hand.
The second step is to insert the Black Berkey filter at the appropriate spot. There are spaces in the upper chamber for the Black Berkey filters. Yours is simply to place the filters there, then secure by way of tightening.
You can then proceed to insert the fluoride filters into the appropriate space, if you so wish.
The third step is to fix the hole plugs.
The final step is that of affixing the spigots.
You then need to fill the system with water, and let it flush out. After that you can start real usage. So you then fill it with water that needs actual purification. After passing through the filters, the water will be purified.
How Big Berkey water filter works
The material responsible for Big Berkey’s efficacy is to be found inside the Black Berkey filters. All the water that is undergoing filtration passes through the Black Berkey filters. The filters absorb all impurities in the water. The filters are made of a highly activated material. It absorbs such impurities from the water. The entrapped/absorbed impurities can later be cleaned using a Scoth Brite pad and rinsed. Then you re-use the filters, until they lose power (after which you replace them).
If you wish to also rid the water of fluoride, you install special filters for that. Those go into the Big Berkey’s lower chamber. The water that has passed through Black Berkey filters would then have to go through the fluoride filters as well.
- Good flow rate. The Big Berkey is capable of delivering a maximum flow rate of 7 gallons per hour. Under regular conditions, it can deliver an average of 3.5 gallons per hour. This is very decent performance, especially when you compare it to other filtration systems in the market.
- Comes with free (Black Berkey) filters to start you off. In this regard, Big Berkey is unlike other filtration systems that don’t come with free filters. In those other filtration systems, you first have to buy the main unit. Then go looking for compatible filters. That can be hectic. With the Big Berkey, you have assurance of at least a few month’s service. That is before replacement filter need arises. Sometimes it may even be years before you need to replace the filters. The initial 2 filters you get can deliver up to a total of 6,000 gallons of water before requiring replacement.
- Gravity-fed filtration. This means that there is no pumping mechanism to be set up. It also means that the whole device is simple and less prone to malfunctions. Very few things can go wrong in a gravity-fed filtration system, once you install it. Being gravity-fed of course also means that it spares you from power bills.
- Easy to find replacement filters. Big Berkey is one of the most popular brands in the water filtration niche. Thus finding replacement filters for it isn’t a hassle. This is important, because some filtration systems have hard-to-find replacement filters. One of the considerations to be made while shopping for a water filtration system is therefore on replacement filters. That is, the ease with which compatible filters can be found. For the Big Berkey, replacement filters are all over: online and in brick and mortar stores.
- Easy to find support. This too is a function of the Big Berkey being one of the popular brands in water filtration niche. It means that finding people who know how to install/repair Big Berkeys is relatively easy. That is because such machines are all over, and many technicians have experience handling them. Moreover, there are lots of online resources on installation, use and maintenance of Big Berkey water filters. There seems to be a thriving community of Big Berkey water filter users out there. Whichever question you may be having about the Big Berkey water filter, you just search. Chances are that someone has already answered it online. This is important because there are other ‘rarer’ water filters for which almost no information is available online.
- Advanced filtration output. Big Berkey promises to rid water of unwanted colors, tastes and odors. It also promises to rid water of pathogens, heavy metals and pharmaceutical residues. Very few other water filtration systems dare to make such bold promises. To the extent that Big Berkey has repeat buyers, it means that it actually delivers on the promises.
- Easy to install/maintain. Big Berkey’s design is such that even a person who is not a plumber can install it. Most of the tightening is done by hand: without need for major tools. That is the case while assembling the lid, installing the Berkey Black filter(s), installing hole plugs… and so on. Maintenance is similarly easy. Cleaning the Black Berkey filter, for instance, is just a matter of scrubbing with Scotch Brite pad. Then rinse with running water. So it is easy to install first time and easy to maintain on ongoing basis.
- Portability. The design of the Big Berkey water filter is such that it can easily be moved from place to place. It is unlike certain other ‘static’ filtration systems. The latter are only suitable for use within the home (as they are affixed to the sinks). The Big Berkey is capable of being ferried almost everywhere. In spite of its canister being made from stainless steel, it is actually remarkably light. More remarkable is the fact that its height can be reduced from default 21 inch to 13 inch by nesting. The Big Berkey water filter actually has two chambers: the upper chamber and the lower chamber. Now the system’s design is such that part of the upper chamber can go into the lower chamber. This is how you end up reducing the height from 21 inches to 13 inches for easy transportation. And portability is important for these systems, because one needs them most when traveling. For instance, suppose you are going to a place whose water quality you are unsure of. In that scenario, this sort of filtration system can be indispensable. So a portable system is better.
- It is relatively costly. Compared to certain other filtration systems in the market, the Big Berkey is relatively expensive. For someone whose budget allows them to pay more for a quality product, this may not be an issue. But for someone whose budget is very small, this can be a real challenge. All in all, the Big Berkey is certainly not the cheapest water filtration system.
- It takes quite a bit of space. The Big Berkey is one of those filtration systems that come with canisters. In this case, the canister has 2.25 gallon capacity. That takes some space. You can’t even start comparing it with the tank-less water filtration systems. Some of the latter can even fit under the sink!
- It can only filter little water at a time. In other words, the Big Berkey may not be ideal for use in big restaurants. Or in big office complexes where gallons upon gallons of filtered water are needed. It is certainly not for industrial use. It is most suitable for family use – and even then, ideally for small families with 2-4 members.
- Can be tricky to tell when filter loses power. Some other water filtration systems come with filter power monitoring screens. Through those you see color changes when the filters lose power. With the Big Berkey though, the mechanism for telling when the filter exhausts power is somewhat ambiguous.
How many gallons is Big Berkey?
The capacity for the Big Berkey’s canister is 2.25 gallons. When you convert that into liters, it should work out to about 8.5 liters. In terms of the Black Berkey filter capacity (in gallons), the indications are that it should filter about 3,000 gallons. So that is what is should filter, before exhaustion. And in terms of flow rate, we have around 3.5 gallons per hour. That is under regular conditions—and can go up to 7 gallons per hour max.
Is Big Berkey NSF certified?
Yes, the Big Berkey appears to have undergone NSF certification.
How tall is the Big Berkey?
The total height of the Big Berkey is around 21 inches. That is the full total height: with the lid and knob counted in.
Are Berkey Water Filters Any Good?
Looking at the level to which it filters water, we would say that the Big Berkey is worth it. It is capable of turning grimy water from a stagnant pool into potable water. Unlike other filtration systems that only remove pathogens and chlorine odor, Big Berkey also removes unwanted color and taste. And it seems to have some effect at removing heavy metals like lead and mercury from water. So if you can afford it, the Big Berkey water filter is definitely worth its while.
The Big Berkey is one of the water filtration systems with proven efficacy. It rids water of unwanted colors, smells and tastes – on top of pathogens. It also seems to have some efficacy at removing heavy metals (like lead and mercury) from water. That is on top of getting rid of chlorine smell and fluoride. More remarkable is its selective working: it removes bad elements while preserving good ones like magnesium and calcium. On account of those factors, we would term the Big Berkey as a good investment and proceed to recommend it.
Michael is a plumber and expert with years of experience in water heaters and water filters installation. Join me and my readers in identifying water problems and solving them with ease.