• When do I know that I need to change my filters? 

Unlike most filters, Black Berkey elements are cleanable and they will never stop producing safe, contaminant-free water.  They will eventually get clogged and flow rate will decline to the point that they must be replaced.  The particulate matter removed from the water can be cleaned on the surface of the filters, time and again, but once the sediments migrate further into the core of the filter, the flow rate cannot be restored and filters need to be changed. 

  • Will Berkey filters discharge contaminants back into the water when they become saturated?

The Black Berkey patented technology locks all the heavy metals, chemical compounds, and other contaminants into the filtration media in a one-way bond through two phenomena known as “adsorption” and “absorption” (See How do Berkey Systems Work?). Filters will become clogged with sediments well before they could ever be saturated and no longer capable of removing harmful contaminants from water.  As for pathological decontamination, the Black Berkey’s micro-pores are smaller than the smallest bacteria or virus, and as such, if the system is properly installed, you never run the risk of drinking unsafe water with a Berkey system. You will just know it’s time to change your filters when the water no longer flows well through the filters, even after cleaning them.

  • I just installed my Berkey, but water is not flowing through the filters

Black Berkey elements must be primed before first use. The purpose of priming is to saturate the micropores of the filter with water and initiate the flow of water through the filtering element. Due to the inherent surface tension of water, gravity alone will not be enough to purge the air from the micro-pores.  Refer to Priming your Black Berkey elements for details.

  • Water in the upper chamber does not fully empty into the lower chamber

If the water starts filtering through your elements, then stops before the water fully empties out of the upper chamber, then that is a sign that there is still some air left in your filters.  To get proper output from your Berkey system, your Black Berkey elements must be properly and fully primed. Refer to Priming your Black Berkey elements. To test whether the air has been fully purged from your Black Berkey elements, fill the lower chamber of your Berkey system with tap water and place the elements, stems facing upwards, in the water chamber.  Fully purged elements should sink to the bottom.  If your elements float, then you have to redo the priming procedure till the filters sink.

  • I have been using my filters for six months and my system’s flow rate has decreased.  Do I need to replace the filters?

No, unlike most other filtration systems on the market, the Black Berkey elements are cleanable. As such, you do not need to change your filters for several years.  If you notice that your system’s flow rate has decreased over time, simply remove the elements from your system by unscrewing the wingnuts, scrub the exterior of each element under running water with a green nylon scouring pad or a stiff toothbrush and reassemble the system.  It’s simple to do and the whole procedure takes less than 10 minutes.

  • How do I test my Berkey system to ensure it’s working properly?

You can test the Black Berkey elements by performing the Red Food Coloring Test. Fill the upper chamber with water, and then add a tablespoon of RED* food coloring for every gallon (4 liters) of water.  If the food coloring is removed entirely, your system is working properly. If not, make sure the wingnuts on the elements are securely tightened then re-run the test. Beware that over tightening can strip the wingnuts, and under tightening may not secure a water-tight seal. 

  • The wingnuts on my Black Berkey elements are stripped, they won’t secure the filters in place.

Use Teflon tape around the stem of the Black Berkey element and fasten with the wingnut.  The Teflon tape should help to secure the wingnut in place.  If this doesn’t work, contact us and we’ll send you replacement wingnuts.

  • Can I filter sea (salt) water through my Berkey system?

No. Berkeys do not remove minerals from water.  Furthermore, the concentration of salt in seawater will ruin the elements.

  • Can I filter water from my salt-based water softener?

If you use a salt-based water softener to reduce the problems associated with hard water in your home, just as with sea water, Berkeys will not remove salt present in the treated water.  If you want to eliminate salt from your drinking water, you must either

a) use your Berkey with water taken on the water line before the softener,
b) change your water softener for a salt-less system or
c) use a membrane treatment filtration system after the softener to remove the salt.

  • I have noticed water on the floor near my Berkey. What could be causing it to leak?


Water could be dripping from the spigot.  If this is the case, make sure that the spigot is installed correctly, with one washer on either side of the chamber body, and properly tightened.  When installed properly and hand tightened, they form a water-tight seal. The washers for the (plastic) Berkey Light spigot need the slanted sides facing each other.

You may have overfilled your Berkey. You can only put as much water in the upper chamber as there is empty space in the lower chamber.  If your lower chamber is already half full and you fill the upper chamber, water will continue to filter through the Black Berkey elements even after the lower chamber is full, and water will be forced out of the system where the upper and lower chambers meet. 

  • I have a water softener installed in our house, can I filter that water through my Berkey?

As Berkey filters do not remove minerals and salts from water, we do not recommend Berkey for use with a water softener.  It is better to use your Berkey water that has not gone through your softener. 

  • Can I use PF-2 elements instead of Black Berkey elements?

No, the PF-2 elements are post-filters that are screwed onto the bottom of the Black Berkey elements, just as a lightbulb.  They hang below the upper chamber and sit inside the lower chamber of the Berkey system.  The PF-2 elements are for fluoride and arsenic removal from municipal tap water.

  • I have high pH in my water; will that reduce the efficiency of the PF-2™ Elements?

High or low PH impedes the ability of the media to remove fluoride. For maximum removal efficiency, maintain the water being treated between a PH level above 5 and below 7.

  • In case of an emergency, can I take water from our pool and filter it with my Berkey system? Will all the chlorine be removed?

Yes, Berkey systems will remove chlorine from pool water and make it safe for consumption. However, keep in mind that such a use will cause the elements to wear out much faster. So it is best not to use pool water with your Berkey on an ongoing basis unless it is in case of an emergency.

  • Does reverse osmosis remove pathogenic bacteria?

Reverse Osmosis systems do not remove pathogenic bacteria. 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 to the light. Typically, the UV lamp 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 for 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 completely removed by the Black Berkey elements.

  • Will my existing shower head fit the Berkey Shower Filter?

Yes, Berkey Shower Filters fit any shower head that is sold in North America, as the thread is standard across all shower products. Simply unscrew the shower head from the pipe coming out of the wall and screw the Berkey Shower Filter between the pipe and the shower head.  If you have a hand shower, the filter can be installed at the beginning of the flexible tube, near the wall outlet.