Tweaking and Living With a Berkey / Berkefeld Water Filter

I probably haven’t spoken of it in detail, but we’ve been living with a Berkey water filter now for the past three or more years.  It’s been the exclusive source of our water for cooking and drinking.  Since the new well went in last year, we’ve had a fairly large problem with iron, and as such, haven’t really pursued testing the water for contamination, as we’re not prepared to drink it with the mineral content as is.

We purchased the Berkey (a clone of the British Berkefeld) water filter from a company in Canada, where it was available more cheaply than could be ordered from overseas.  Although there are American filters available for it, there are reports that they are really made in China, and of dubious quality.  Besides, they seem to be more marketed towards people concerned about fluoride and chlorine in their municipal water supplies, rather than the more immediate hazard of bacteria or viruses.  With that in mind, we have been ordering genuine Berkefeld filters from the United Kingdom at rather a high price.  Fortunately, they seem to last a long time.

Interestingly, this past summer Lowes hardware has opened in Thunder Bay, giving us a second option after Home Depot.  While I have always been happy with Home Depot, I don’t believe it is anything but beneficial for everyone to have multiple options for home improvement stores.

So I found myself wandering through their selection of items shortly after opening to see if they would have anything of interest to offer.  In the plumbing aisle, while looking for whole house filter options that may improve my iron situation, I happened upon some “Rainfresh” ceramic filters that looked strangely familiar.  Upon closer examination, I discovered that they had fittings nearly identical to the Berkey ones.  The price was also about half what we and been paying, and they were advertised as being made in Canada!

I purchased two and shelved them until today – my cleaning routine put me in the kitchen today, which includes a complete teardown and cleaning of the Berkey.

I washed all the fittings and set aside the current Berkefeld filters.  They were heavily caked in orange goo.

Pretty covered.  Still finding it interesting how one candle gets coated higher up than the other.

I then unpacked both a new Berkefeld filter from our supply, as well as one of the Rainfresh filters to do some side by side comparisons.

Packaging doesn’t look too special.
The Rainfresh has a white washer and nut at the base, and comes with this cleaning mesh, as well as the plastic “caliper” for checking wear.
The Berkefeld has a black washer, black nut, no cleaning or measuring devices, and is only 7″ tall.

The Rainfresh filter is much taller than the Berkefeld.  We have been ordering 7″ filters, this one must be slightly more than 9″ I would think, although I haven’t taken a tape measure to it.

The Rainfresh filter also has a cap on top, rather than the Berkefeld which is simply domed ceramic.

The Rainfresh filters come with their own scrubby pad – almost like a drywall sanding mesh. Conveniently, they also come with a plastic gauge for determining if too much ceramic has been sanded off, and the filter needs to be replaced.  I never really knew how far down I could sand the Berkefeld filters, and coincidentally enough, had purchased a cheap caliper for just such a measurement.  Now it’s probably not going to get much use.

The wear indicator seems sized just fine for the Berkefeld.
And of course the indicator looks normal on the Rainfresh filter.
Surprisingly, the old filters still seem to have enough ceramic to go around at least one more time.

I installed both Rainfresh filters, and that’s when I noticed that they actually extend beyond the top of the Berkey unit about a quarter inch.  Sigh.

Looks nice from here.
And underneath it looks fine.  Note the white nuts?
Oh wait, they are out past the top of the reservoir!  A problem?  Only if I decide it is…
The lid is going on whether they like it or not.
To quote Jacques Parizeau – Like Québécois lobsters, trapped in the pot!

The lid rests lightly on them though, and still completely seals the top reservoir, so I’m not thinking that is a big issue.  If someone had a smaller sized Berkey though, these filters would likely be unsuitable.

One other substitution I have had to make with the Berkey is in regards to the plugs in the base of the upper reservoir.  There are four holes in the upper reservoir, so that you can install four filters for maximum flow.  We have really only ever used two filters at a time, which seems sufficient for our needs.  The Berkey came with threaded plugs for sealing the holes one doesn’t use – but they become brittle over time, and I recently broke my last ones.  Ordering new ones was a tremendous hardship fiscally – and for some reason I couldn’t think of a good substitute.  That is until opening a bottle of wine and realizing that a simple cork would work!

At K-W surplus while on vacation, I purchased a small handful of ones I felt would fit, and they work divinely.  This is a MUST use trick for owners of these filters!  They are so much easier to install and clean than the multi-part threaded plugs that were originally supplied.

A cheap solution to a nagging problem.
Looks good from inside.  Perspective sure makes these candles look HUGE!

And a view from below, ready to go…

With everything put together, I’m excited to fill it with water, once it all dries out later today.

Bonus shot of the hunters moon at night – photo credit to Donna.

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