Most of us have had someone tell us “make sure to drink enough water” at some point in our lives. If you are a sports fanatic, you may have witnessed your favorite athlete hobble off the field or court during a game, with severe muscle cramps brought on by dehydration. Water is essential for all living things and even make up over half of our body content. An adult human body is composed of 50-65% water, and an infant’s body is more like 75-78% but drops to 65%, by their first birthday.
The bottom line is everyone needs H2O to maintain optimal health, but a lot of our drinking water has become contaminated with toxins, viruses, and bacteria. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Cyanobacteria, another name for blue-green algae, naturally occurs in lakes, rivers, ponds and other surface waters. Sometimes conditions are perfect for Cyanobacteria to grow harmful algal blooms (HABs). Some of those HABs produce toxins called cyanotoxins which can pose health risks to both humans and animals. There are a lot of other ways drinking water can become contaminated with chemicals, such as corroded pipes, damaged plumbing, or a company may illegally dump pesticides onto the ground.
This is exactly why a top-notch water purification system is needed for homes, RVs, camping trips, and much more. Let’s take a closer look at the different types of water filtration systems, before analyzing the Berkey method, which is the leader in gravity-fed purification systems.
5 Types of Water Filtration Systems
- Activated Carbon (AC) Filters: These types of filters are called carbon filters or prefilters, and they are great at removing large particles like sediment and silt from water. AC filters attract and absorb particles and get rid of them from your tap water. They can work as a standalone filter or work with another filter. They are very good at removing carbon-based organic chemicals, chlorine, and other microorganisms. However, they are not effective for removing chemicals that are not attracted to carbon, which includes: sodium, nitrates, heavy metals, and fluoride to name a few.
- Reverse Osmosis (RO): In this system water is forced across a semi-permeable membrane and the pollutants are caught in a filter before being flushed down a drain. The clean drinking water is collected in a tank or reservoir. These types of filters remove most bacteria and pathogens from your tap water. For example, Giardia and Cryptosporidium are bacteria that cause gastrointestinal illnesses, but will be removed your water through this type of filtration. RO water filters demineralize the water, which includes getting rid of all the healthy minerals naturally found in water. These types of filters have to be changed frequently to remain effective in filtering your water.
- Alkaline/Water Ions: These filters use a process known as electrolysis. The process starts with water being passed over plates that are electrically charged. Next the water is separated into two streams. One steam will be alkaline and the other is acidic. The alkaline stream contains various positively charged ions like magnesium, calcium, and sodium. This water is ideal for drinking and cooking. The acidic water is composed of ions such as fluorides, chlorides and nitrates, an is not suitable for drinking. Ionizers are only basic water filters and are nearly as efficient as other water filtration systems.
- Ultraviolent Filters (UV): UV water purification is mainly effective for disinfecting bacteria from the water. Ultraviolet rays destroy harmful pathogens in water by attacking the DNA of the bacteria. This stops the pathogen’s ability to reproduce or replicate dead in its tracks. However, this method alone is not able to purify water for drinking purposes, because the UV radiation only eliminates bacteria and viruses. UV light does not destroy contaminants like chlorine, heavy metals and VOC’s (Volatile Organic Compounds).
- Distillation: This process involves capturing water from steam that comes from boiling water, which turns to liquid form again through condensation. A vapor trap or carbon filter should be used with a distiller, to ensure make sure all pathogens are removed from drinking water. This process gets rid of organic and inorganic chemicals, as well as heavy metals. It also kills all bacteria and pathogens, but long hours are required to get decent amount of water. For example, it may take half an hour or longer to get eight ounces of distilled water. This method uses a lot of electricity and will not work unless you have an electrical supply.
Are Berkey Filters Any Good?
Berkey is one of the top selling brands in water filters and purification systems all over the world. It is the filter of choice for organizations such as: UNICEF, Peace Corps, and Red Cross Societies Internationally, and sets the Gold standard for superiority. Berkey are highly effective at removing contaminants from polluted water, and will even purify water collected from streams, lakes and rivers. The Berkey filtration system is classified as a purification system, because it removes up to 99.999% of viruses and 99.9999% of pathogenic bacteria. Berkey also get rid of impurities such as: protozoa, trihalomethanes, inorganic minerals, heavy metals, pharmaceuticals, pesticides, VOCs, petroleum products, fluorinated chemicals, rust, silt, and sediments.
How does it work? The Berkey system uses a gravity-fed water purification system which does not need water pressure, electricity, or special plumbing to work properly. Berkey systems are equipped with an upper chamber and a lower chamber, which includes two Black Berkey purification filters for the upper chamber. Gravity does all the work! This is great if you don’t want to use electricity or do not want the cost associated with using electricity. The lower chamber catches the purified water which is dispensed through a water spigot at the bottom of the lower chamber. This type of filtration is a lot slower than other types of filters but eight times faster than other gravity-fed systems. Slower filtration means that the system is more efficient at removing impurities but leaving minerals in the purified water needed for your body.
More Benefits of the Berkey Gravity-Fed Water Filtration SystemBerkey filtration systems provide purified water at a cost of about two cents per gallon which is a lot less expensive than purchasing bottled water at $1.50 per gallon. The Berkey system is a standalone which ideal for the home, but due to its portability can be just as effective on camping trips. They are also ideal in times of emergencies when water quality may have been compromised or drinking water is unavailable. A pair of Black Berkey purification elements are designed to last for up to 6,000 gallons, and do not have a time limitation. This means these systems and their elements are long-lasting and may provide many years of use before needing replacement, depending on the amount of use. Berkey systems have a six-month manufacturer’s warranty while the elements have a pro-rated two-year warranty.
How Many Berkey Filters Will I Need?Berkey filters are composed of high-quality, stainless steel or ceramic. Other companies use plastic filters which may absorb chemicals over time, even if they are BPA free. All Berkey gravity-fed water filter systems come with the two black filtration elements in the upper chamber. However you can add additional Black Berkey filters to the two black elements in the upper chamber, depending on the Berkey size (the GoBerkey is the one system that has only 1 black element). Also, if you want to eliminate arsenic and fluoride from your drinking water you can add a PF-2 Arsenic/Fluoride filter in addition to the black elements. You connect one fluoride filter to each black element.
How Do I Choose A System?
You should choose a system based on the size of your space, the number of people you want to serve, and the reasons for which you will be using the water. For everyday use multiply the number of people in your household or group by .5 gallons, and in an emergency multiply the number of people by 1 gallon. This is the recommended minimum amount of water you can anticipate using every day. Berkey’s entire line of water purification systems typically works the same but differs in the amount of water it purifies.
The Big Berkey unit is the most popular and is one of the best sellers in the Berkey range of filters. Big Berkey is a perfect choice for a home. It is ideal for small and medium sized families but can also be used for home, travel and outdoor use for purifying both treated and untreated raw water. If you have a large family or just want a larger capacity system the Royal Berkey may be more ideal. Royal Berkey is recommended for up to six people and typically does not cost any more than the Big Berkey. The two largest Berkey's are the Imperial and the Crown, these can be used in the home and are large enough for bigger events or venues.
Outdoor systems can also be used indoor. They make a travel version made of stainless steel called the Travel Berkey or the Berkey Light which are both ideal for outdoor use due to their size and the Berkey Lights material being plastic as opposed to Stainless steel. When I say plastic I mean a high impact strength, non BPA copolyester, which is shatter resistant and virtually unbreakable.
The reality is we can all benefit from filtering our drinking water to prevent consumption of nasty pathogens and other contaminants. The cost of ingesting contaminated water can be detrimental to our health and even cost more money in the long-run. The Berkey gravity-fed water filtration system is the most advanced, economical system out there that does not require additional energy. Remember, Berkey’s line of water filters are so powerful that they are classified as a purification system. Buying a Berkey system will be an excellent investment.