Filter Lifespan: How Long Do Berkey Filters Last?

Another common question we get is

How long do my Berkey filters last?

That’s a great question!

Let’s start by clarifying that we carry two different types of primary filters for the Berkey system: the Black Berkey Elements and the Berkefeld Super Sterasyl ceramic filters. (Read more about the differences between the two here.) These two types have very different lifespans.

Lifespan of Filters

For the Black Berkey Elements, which are a very popular choice, the manufacturer recommends that they be changed out after approximately 3,000 gallons of water goes through them. So, when you use 2 filters in your system, that means you should replace them after they have filtered an estimated 6,000 gallons. Under ideal circumstances each filter will effectively clean 3,000 gallons, so if you have two, each is only filtering half the water that goes through your system. If you use 4 filters, you would change them out at the 12,000 gallon point. With a Royal Berkey which holds about 3 gallons, that means you would change them out after about 4,000 refills (yes, that is a LOT).

The Berkefeld ceramic filters have a significantly shorter lifespan. They clock in at approximately 1,000 gallons per pair.

Many people use the add-on fluoride filters, as well, and we highly recommend that you do if you’re on a municipal water supply where the water is typically highly treated with all kinds of chemicals. A pair of the PF-2 fluoride filters that go with the Black Berkey Elements will last for approximately 1,000 gallons of water, while a pair of the PF-4 fluoride filters that go with the ceramic filters will last for 500 gallons of water or 6 months, whichever comes first.

A standard estimate for water consumption is 1 gallon per day per person. So as an example, if the Black Berkey Elements are being used in a household with two individuals, the filters would function for approximately 8 years before needing to install replacement filters. The fluoride (PF-2) filters, at the same water consumption rate, would need to be replaced after just under a year and a half.

In a nutshell:
Black Berkey (pair) – 6,000 gal.
Berkefeld ceramic (pair) – 1,000 gal.
PF-2 fluoride (pair) – 1,000 gal.
PF-4 fluoride (pair) – 500 gal. or 6 months, whichever comes first
We recommend that once you do some approximate calculations and have a ball-park date for when you will need to replace your filters, go ahead and write that down on a sticker and affix it to the underside of your Berkey unit.

All this being said, these numbers are estimates, and the lifespan of your filters depends heavily on what type of water is being run through them. If your water has a higher level of contaminant, either visible or invisible, it could significantly shorten the lifespan of the filters, due to the fact that they micro-pores will eventually get clogged with the sediment build-up.

There are a couple things you can do to extend the life of your Black Berkey or Super Sterasyl Ceramic filters. First, make sure the water you put into your system is as clean as possible. For tap water, this is usually not a problem, but if you use your system to filter out creek or pond water, we recommend that you use a T-shirt or other cloth as a pre-filter. Simply put the cloth over the top chamber when you fill it up and it will filter out all of the “big stuff” such as algae, mud, etc. This allows the Berkey filters to focus on the small stuff.

You can also clean your filters using a very simple procedure. Stayed tuned – we’ll be putting instructions on how to do that, right here on the blog tomorrow!

Send us an email any time if you have any questions! We’d love to get in touch with you!

4 thoughts on “Filter Lifespan: How Long Do Berkey Filters Last?”

  1. If you have used your elements:

    The method of storage depends upon the length of time that the Black Berkey® Purification Elements will not be used:

    If the filters will not be used between 4 to 15 days and you want to avoid the re-priming process, remove the filters from the system, place them into a sealable sandwich bag or container and place the filters in the refrigerator towards the front to ensure that they do not freeze. This will allow the filters to stay mostly saturated so that re-priming is not typically necessary. If for any reason the filters run slower than usual, re-prime them until the exterior wall of the filter begins to sweat beads of water for 10 seconds.

    For long term storage, we recommend drying and sealing the filters. The key is to ensure they are completely dry before storing them long-term to prevent any potential bacterial growth. One option for drying your filters is to leave them on a window sill for one to three days and allow them to air-dry. We also offer a tool to assist in both priming and purging. This tool is called a Black Berkey Primer™. The benefit to purging the Black Berkey® Purification Elements is that they are dried very quickly. Once the filters are dry, place them in a storage bag such as a large, sealable sandwich bag. The elements are extremely powerful and can absorb odors and smoke from the air. By sealing them in a storage bag, they should not absorb any odors from the air. When you are ready to re-use your filters, clean them by scrubbing the outside with a Scotch-Brite® pad or stiff brush. Then re-prime the filters either manually or with the Black Berkey Primer™ before putting them back in the system.

    In theory, the shelf life of the Black Berkey® Purification Elements is indefinite.

    **Please note that the storage methods above apply to the Black Berkey® Purification Elements only.

    If you have never used your elements:

    If the elements are unopened and in their original packaging, please ensure you do not store the elements in an area that also has strong smells to them, such as a laundry room or garage. The elements have carbon as one of their components so it is possible for them to absorb the odors of the room they are stored in. For example if they are stored in a laundry room, it is possible for the media in the elements to pick up the odor of highly scented items such as powdered laundry soap.

    ** When storing the chambers of your Berkey® system, it is best to empty both chambers before storing them, because anytime water is still, it becomes stagnant and can produce bacteria. We recommend washing your Berkey® system with soapy water before leaving it to dry.

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