Berkey Water Filter Review Title Image

Big Berkey Water Filter System Review: My Money-Saving Investment!

After using a water filter pitcher for years, I finally made the switch to the Big Berkey water filter system!

My family (extended) has actually been using this system for about ten years, but I just recently purchased my own. Prior to this, I was using a radiation filter due to living in California; but that’s a story for another day!

Image of Big Berkey water filter in box

Please note: This post may contain affiliate links, but at no additional cost to you. For my full disclosure policy, click here.

If you’re like me, sometimes you just want a quick answer on if this will be a great buy. 

Well, I think it is. The Berkey system may seem expensive, but it breaks down to about 2 cents per gallon of water. It lasts about 4 years per filter if you’re using 2 gallons per day. It has also really come in handy during hurricane season and power loss!

Click here to buy your water filter system!

But if you’d like to make a more informed decision before purchasing, here are some useful things to know!

What is it?

Berkey is a gravity filter manufactured by New Millennium Concepts, Ltd. (NMCL). Here is the official website. (They only manufacture the products now and do not directly sell them.)

It comes in a variety of systems that hold 1 quart of water to 6 gallons but they all use the same purification element (black filter). The other difference is the total number of elements that they can use. 

For instance, the Go Berkey uses one element, while the largest system, the Crown Berkey, can use up to 8 filter elements.

The more elements equipped, the faster the rate of filtering.

What does it filter?

According to NMCL, these powerful water purifiers get rid of contaminants such as viruses, pathogenic bacteria, protozoa, trihalomethanes, inorganic minerals, BPA, heavy metals, pharmaceuticals, pesticides, VOCs, petroleum products, perfluorinated chemicals, rust, silt, sediment and radiologicals.

Click here for the purification elements test results.

Reasons To Filter Water

The Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) was enacted in 1974 by Congress to ensure the quality of Americans’ drinking water. It authorized the EPA (United States Environmental Protection Agency) to set standards to protect against health effects from contaminants.

With that, one would assume that tap water is safe to drink, right?

Well, tell that to the people of Flint, Michigan who had water with 7 times the allowable limit of lead. (Wikipedia)

In one study, 9–45 million were affected by water quality violations between 1982 and 2015. These violations were for elevated levels of contaminants such as coliform, nitrate, arsenic, lead, copper, DBPs, and radionuclides.

I choose to filter my water so that I’ll know my family is not drinking toxins every day.

Your body is about 70% water. It needs clean, healthy water to function properly.

Do Berkey Water Filters Really Work?

I’m no rocket scientist, but based on taste alone, I would say that the filter is doing something good. But, I’ve also found a lab test run by an independent company. 

Independent Lab Testing

In early 2019, Mike Adams, the director of Consumer Wellness Center Labs (CWCLabs.com), tested different brands of filtering sports water bottles, pitchers, and gravity-fed systems. 

He wanted to test the effectiveness of these water filters in removing glyphosate, a cancer-causing chemical.

According to the test results, the worst filters are sports bottles (the best performer only removing 52.9%).

The best performers with over 90% removal of glyphosate are:

  • Big Berkey – 100%
  • Aquapail – 100%
  • Zen Water System – 91.4%
  • ZEROWATER Pitcher – 100%
  • Seychelle Radiological Water Pitcher –  96.9% (This is the one I used in California)

The Berkey water filter scam

There is some controversy around the product that has made a number of internet users refer to this system as the “Berkey Water Filter Scam“.

On the other hand, there are MANY people that attest to the health benefits and great taste of the purified water. 

Some of the doubt centers around knock-off and damaged products that are sold by unauthorized sellers. To counter this problem, the NMCL has posted a list of authorized dealers (and known unauthorized ones) around the world. You can also call their customer service team at (888) 803-4438 to verify. 

The company I recommend is not on the list (weird!), but I called them to verify it was authorized. I originally found them as the first result when searching Google.

Another reason people doubt it’s effectiveness is due to the berkey water filter California ban and being banned in Iowa as well. 

However, both states have laws in place that require certification by an independent, third-party testing agency, such as NSF, before they can be sold. Due to the increased costs for certification and the maintenance of it, NMCL has decided not to sell certain Berkey products in those states. 

For more information, click for California, or here for Iowa.

How long does a Berkey filter last?

When I realized how long these filters last, is when I decided to make the switch from my water pitcher. Each filter purifies a whopping 3,000 gallons (approximately) of water before replacement is recommended! 

If you’re using 1 gallon per day, that’s 3,000 days of use, and 8 years!

However, the flow of water through your filter might start to slow down before then; this can happen depending on the quality of your water.

It’s suggested to clean your filter every 6 months, or whenever it starts to slow down.

If you are using water with debris, such as muddy water, it is also advised to pre-filter it through a cloth first. 

Are Berkey water filters worth the money?

YES!!! This Big Berkey is definitely worth the money that I spent on it. 

I bought the blemished system (with 2 filters) for $220 (3 cents per gallon initially) and each replacement filter (set of 2) will cost $120 (2 cents per gallon).

My previous water pitcher (purified 150 gallons) was $80 (53 cents per gallon initially) and each filter costs $45 (30 cents per gallon). 

That means to get 6,000 gallons with my previous water filter, I would end up paying $1,800! That’s a 1,680 dollar savings! What do the young kids say nowadays? I am shooketh!

Berkey Best Water Cost Infographic

The Berkey seemed like it cost more, but it really saves so much money in the long run!

Choosing a System

It is recommended that you completely fill the upper chamber every day, so you should pick your system depending on usage. 

SystemGallonsPeople
Served
Max
Elements
Dimensions
Travel Berkey1.51-3 27.5 x 7.5 x 19.0 inches
Big Berkey2.251-448.5 x 8.5 x 21.0 inches
Berkey Light2.752-549 x 9 x 22 or 28 inches (with stand)
Royal Berkey3.252-549.5 x 9.5 x 24.0 inches
Imperial Berkey4.54-8610 x 10 x 27 inches
Crown Berkey66-12811 x 11 x 31 inches

Unboxing

I chose to buy a factory blemished Big Berkey to save $50. Any cosmetic defects it has do not affect the performance, and it still comes with the 2 filters.

It does not have the lifetime warranty of full-price systems; however, the filters still carry a 2-year warranty.

Assembly

The setup was SO much easier than I initially thought it would be. The amount of information on the manual and other provided sheets was just overwhelming to look at. 

I suggest just going over it with a highlighter if you need help focusing. 

Priming

I didn’t realize it at first, but there are two different ways to prime the element: with the Berkey priming button (thick, tan washer) or the Prime Rite kit (blue silicone sleeve).

Priming the black Berkey purification elements

Once I realized that, the instructions became clearer. 

Red Dye Test

The Berkey red dye test makes sure that your filter is set up correctly and that your filters are working efficiently.

Berkey Red Dye Test

I found it so cool to see the clear water filter through!

Taste

I have not drank the tap water in my home since moving here. I use filtered water for everything, including cooking.

For the sake of this review, I got a cup of it to compare to the water filtered through the Berkey.

And let me say, 3 hours later, my throat is still hurting!

The tap water really didn’t taste bad, but I could detect a slight taste of something that wasn’t in the filtered water. Then after about 30 minutes, my throat started to bother me.

Add-ons

Berkey Fluoride Water Filter- PF2: I wanted to get this filter attachment, but it’s sadly out of stock. It removes fluoride, arsenic, MTBE, and other heavy metal ions. At the current price of $60 (set of 2), it will cost 6 cents per gallon of water. 

There are also a lot of other optional purchases you can make to customize your water filter, such as a(n):

  • Stainless Steel Spigot: The included one is plastic
  • Stainless Steel Stand: Adds a 6” clearance If you’d like the room to put something, such as a cup, beneath the system. I have my own hanging over the counter. 
  • Water View Spigot: Allows you to see how much water is left in the system. Or, you could just pick up the canister to check.
  • Tote – Carrying Case
  • Berkey Shower Filter: Reduces chlorine in hard water
  • Assortment of other water bottles and tumblers.

Conclusion

I really, really recommend the Berkey. If you haven’t read any other posts by me, you should understand that I LOVE saving money. 

Showing others how to frugally live on a budget and lower their monthly expenses is the point of this blog, so I would not suggest spending your hard-earned coins without reason. 

If you’re going to buy a Berkey, don’t delay! It’s recently had shipping delays and low stocks due to the recent pandemic. However, I received mine in a week after ordering!

Do you have a Berkey water filter? Share your experiences below! Or if you have questions about anything I didn’t cover, I’d be happy to answer them.

FAQ

Is Berkey better than Brita?

Judging by just the glyphosate test in the video above by CWCLabs, the Berkey system performs better than Brita.

Why are Berkey filters so expensive?

The Berkey is expensive in upfront cost, but it is cheaper in the long run than other water purifiers. With this system, you would have to replace the filters less often.

Where Are Big Berkey water filters made?

NMCL is a USA based company. Their stainless steel for the Berkey systems is sourced from India, but they are assembled and packaged in the US. The Black Berkey Purification Elements and Fluoride and Arsenic Reduction Elements are made and assembled in the USA as well.

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