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Monday, June 23, 2014

Berkey Water Filter

It's now been a couple weeks since we received, and hooked up, our Berkey filter.  And, at the risk of sounding like everyone else on the internet, we love it.

I'm not going to extol the virtues of filtered water, or just how many contaminants and impurities the Berkey filters can remove.  If you value clean water, you'll likely be impressed by Berkey; if you don't, it's unlikely any filtration system will appeal to you. 

There is no shortage of independent articles and reviews on Berkey filters, and although there is a decent amount of good info on their official site, as well as their many subsidiary retailer sites (I bought mine through, you should still poke around online and read what everyone has to say about them.

The internet seems pretty unanimously in favour, though.  And technically speaking (as in, when considering the tech specs of these filters) Berkey filters are pretty great.

I feel this post would be pretty thin if I just said 'we got a Berkey water filter'.  That, or it may even look weird and people would say to themselves "OK, culinary spatter got himself a water filter. Whoopdeedo."  So, I will (just briefly) say why we chose this filter.  
  1. Efficiency.  Of all the readily available consumer water filters I researched, the Berkey systems filter out an amazing amount of nasties.  Including viruses and bacteria!  The one we got also filters out flouride, which is awesome even if it means I'll need to brush my teeth more often.  It is also one of the few that can successfully filter out V.O.C.s (volatile organic compounds).  Check out this link to their filtration specs, if you want to be truly impressed.  There are even some claims about being able to just use pond or river water with Berkeys.  I would worry more about substantiating these claims if I ever thought I'd bring my Berkey camping with me... hmmm... it does collapse for portability...  :)
  2. Cost.  It seems like a hefty price tag up front, but when you do the math (and we did) and realize this will last close to 10 years (yup!) before needing to replace anything, it is a smart choice.
  3. Convenience.  Other than about 5 minutes of routine maintenance every 6 months or so, all we need to do is pour in a pitcher of water once in a while (usually once a day) to keep it filled.

  4. Aesthetic.  It's not like it's a work of art, but the Berkey filter is not ugly.  The stainless steel cannisters are very shiny and we actually don't hate it sitting right out in our dining room.  (We'll likely opt for a better pedestal stand, someday). 

  5. Bunch of other reasons, not the least of which are customer service, online presence, reliability, and environmental impact (not that we ever bought much bottled water, but now there is truly no need).
The negative things I will say about the Berkey Filter, are admittedly few, and minor.
  1. The advertised 'capacity' is subjective.  We bought the "Royal Berkey" which claims to have a 3 gallon capacity.  Really what this means is it can filter 3 gallons at a time.  It can not store 3 gallons of filtered water.  Not a big deal, as I have yet to run the storage compartment dry.
  2. There is no seal between the upper and lower compartments.  Not sure why, really.  I can't think it would have interfered with any of the functionality.  I also can't think it would have even prevented the portability of it (the two compartments collapse and can be nested one inside the other).  Anyway... this means that if you overfill the unit it will literally leak and overflow (see video below).  This can happen even when the top reservoir (filtration chamber) is less than half full, provided the lower half (filtered water) is full up.  I mean, it makes sense, these are gravity-powered filters after all, but I still think some sort of seal between chambers could have been incorporated.  That way you could keep the entire unit full of water and it would just filter as needed, instead of (what I have ended up doing) just topping up a set amount per day.  Oh well. is possible that I did get a bit of a scare recently upon reading how bad most municipal water is... but mostly we were just looking for a change and decided to just jump in full-bore rather than do anything half-assed (lookin' at you Brita pitchers).

I'm not trying to be preachy or judgemental; honestly I've been drinking tap water almost my whole life, so it is not my aim to say you're a terrible person if you drink tap water.  

However, some statements I will feel safe in making (simply because they are my own observations), are these:
  1. The taste is wonderful.  Not just in regular drinking capacities (although it is great), but in tea, coffee, even when cooking rice and pasta.
  2. There are no more water stains in my tea kettle and coffee pot (after initially cleaning them with vinegar, anyway).
  3. It is faster for me to get a drink of water than it used to be. I expected it would be inconvenient; I drink a lot of water, I always have, and I admit I was worried that it would be more bothersome (time-consuming) than just going to the sink to fill up from the tap. Surprisingly, I find it actually more convenient.  Other than initially filling it up - like I said about a pitcher in the morning - it is remarkably quick and easy to just refill my glass at the spigot.  
  4. I feel better drinking it.  I'm not speaking physically, although I'm sure that nothing is being harmed by my drinking cleaner water.  I'm speaking psychologically.  It is a great feeling to just not have to worry about my drinking water.  Little things, like I no longer feel I need to let the tap run for 3 minutes to make sure the dissolved metals from my antiquated plumbing pipes have been flushed.  (Which you're supposed to do, but I mean, who actually has the patience for that?)

I feel like this is going to be a controversial post no matter what I do though.  

I mean, if you're already interested in clean water, and organic living, then you'll likely read this and think ---> "Tap water is not as clean as it could be, so water filtration is cool, and this guy seems to really like Berkey... for whatever his opinion is worth".  Maybe you'll be prompted to do your own research on effective filtration systems?

If you are not of this opinion, however, there is a strong chance that you will think this sort of endeavour to be an expensive and needless frivolity.  Or worse, will judge me and those of the former category, as being alarmists or excessive.

I hope not.

I just drink a lot of water, and decided to try and make that water be the best it could be.