Black Berkey Filter Elements - Flow Problem?

Discussion in 'Functional Gear & Equipment' started by melbo, Jun 11, 2010.

  1. melbo

    melbo Hunter Gatherer Administrator Founding Member

    I've used the Aqua Rain ceramic filters for years with no problems. I'd periodically scour the outsides of the elements when the flow slowed down. At some point in the past 2 years, I read up on the Black Berkey elements and while I don't have the fact sheets for comparison in front of me, felt that the Black Berkey's were superior in what they removed. They are not ceramic and I really don't know what they are made of but they are cleaned the same way: Stiff brush or Scotchbrite pad.

    Now to my problem and why I see them as not viable for a longterm survival situation:

    When you first unwrap them for use, you need to 'purge' them with pressure from your faucet. They come with a 3/8" rubber washer that you stick on the threaded end and hold up to a faucet for 30 - 60 seconds. All fine and the water tasted great and felt 'wetter' when drinking it.

    Every 3 months, my flow all but stops at some point in the upper tank. This could be at 1/4 to 1/2 of the upper chamber capacity. At first I would take them out and scrub the outsides and put them back in and while this would give me 2 to 3 fillings, they would stop again.

    Some Googling led me to attempt another purge under the pressure form the faucet along with a cleaning and this seemed to do the trick for another 3 months. We are running 2 filters in a 2 Gallon system and we drink enough water for me to refill it completely every night. Still not enough to clog the filters in my opinion. I also run the Fluoride removal post-filters but that would have no effect on the main filters.

    My city water supply comes from a reservoir about 2.5 miles away and that reservoir is filled from Mt Hood runoff. It is quite heavily chlorinated and while the filters remove 100% of the Chlorine smell and taste, I do not know if this is what's affecting them.

    What bothers me a little about the Large Berkey system, the Travel Berkey system and the 16 spare Black filter elements I have is that while I have water pressure, I can continue to purge them quarterly. If I lose this pressure and my filters stop up in the manner they are now, I'll have to toss them for lack of a way to purge them.

    Am I somehow building an airlock in them? Is the chlorine or whatever else is in my water adversely affecting them? Does anyone know what they are made of?

    Maybe I should cut one open next time I change them out to see whats happening on the inside. I really want to use them but am afraid that in a SHTF situation, I'll not be able to keep them running.
  2. Bear

    Bear Monkey+++ Founding Member Iron Monkey

    That's why I have several of the garden sprayers... water pressure is a good thing... a couple are black... tried them out for showers... work great... leave them in the sun and the water gets pretty hot... lots of things I can think of where water under some kind of pressure is good....

    Only use them for water... and have them marked as such....

    I like the Berkeys.... and have the black filters as well...
    No problems here...

    Just my suggestion.... pick a 2-3 gallon sprayer up, actually I think mine are bigger and try it... you may need to make up an adapter... but that should be easy enough....

  3. melbo

    melbo Hunter Gatherer Administrator Founding Member

    So, do yours also slow and need a purge periodically? How long do you get out of them in between purges/cleanings?

    Great idea on the pressure sprayer. I bet I run about 3 gallons through them so a little creative adapter from the plumbing isle at Big Box would make it even easier than what I do now.
  4. Bear

    Bear Monkey+++ Founding Member Iron Monkey

    No problems here... maybe once in 6 months... could just be sediment ... yuck[boozingbuddies]

    Yeah... pressure sprayers are a good thing... go to the garden aisle...
    Get the black one and some spare parts and o rings...
    Adapter should be easy... go get the right diameter clear poly hose for the cartridge and step it up or down if you need to ... to get it hooked up to the sprayer... clamps and voila....
    I've 3 that are just water... one for spraying disinfectant etc... you know ... for the dogs.... and a couple extra just for kicks....[lolol]
    Even got a metal one.... can't remember why I went with that one:rolleyes:
  5. fortunateson

    fortunateson I hate Illinois Nazis!

    I haven't noticed that here, but what I have noticed is that the top reservoir water turns brownish with use. That's sediment. Occasionally I'll rinse out the top section.
    I'm only about 3 months into using these things.

    Is your water hard? Have sediment? Try putting a prefilter on your line just to remove sediment.

    As far as water pressure goes - I saw the need to buy a couple of pumps in my situation. If power goes out, so does our water as we're on a community well. I have a bunch of rain barrels and a stream behind the house, but all of that water needs to be moved at some point and that's not easy. Especially if you want to flush upstairs toilets, cook in an upstairs kitchen, bring water up from the stream etc.

    I purchased 2 drill pumps and an 110V electric pump.
    So far, I've tested out the electric and it's not too bad. I was able to water my lawn uphill from my barrels. Of course I'd have to power it, but I've included plans for that in my preps.
    Anyway, something like that would supply your pressure with ease.

    Here's what I got:
    Wayne 115 Volt Transfer Pump — 310 GPH, Model# PC2 | Utility Pumps | Northern Tool + Equipment
  6. melbo

    melbo Hunter Gatherer Administrator Founding Member

    Top chamber stays clear and the ppm is only around 30-34 from the tap. My well in TN was 135-150 and they never slowed like this. I thought about setting a video camera up to watch it while we sleep but I'm afraid I'll find the cat playing some disgusting games with my water supply.

    I'm betting the chlorination is heavy enough to cause a vapor lock of sorts within the filter.

    I'll just poke some holes in them and solve the problem
  7. foust1012

    foust1012 Monkey+

    Check out this site for some answers

    I was wondering the same thing about priming the Black elements when water pressure is not available. I found some great information at Home. Go to their "Berkey Education" page and look kunder "FAQ's about The Black Berkey Elements" There is information there on how to prime the elements without pressure. Also, it is a great place to buy the Systems or replacement parts. I hope that helps.
  8. fortunateson

    fortunateson I hate Illinois Nazis!

    Try boiling to dechlorinate - it's a pain, but in a few days, you'll have your answer.
  9. melbo

    melbo Hunter Gatherer Administrator Founding Member

    Got to test Bear's garden sprayer idea as I packed a Berkey for my 30 day stay in temp housing before my move and forgot to bring the purging washer. I ran the 2 gallon sprayer through each filter twice and it did the trick.

    I modified the sprayer by cutting the 'sprayer' end off of the hose and then stretching some surgical tubing over the hose and the end of the filter, secured with hose clamps for good measure.
    IMG_0038 (Large).JPG IMG_0039 (Large).JPG
  10. fortunateson

    fortunateson I hate Illinois Nazis!

    How are the filters doing at the temporary residence?
  11. melbo

    melbo Hunter Gatherer Administrator Founding Member

    They dried out on the way here so I they ran slow until I purged them. THey ran slow for a few days after that and then started to flow nicely. Tough to say as it took 3-4 months to begin to slow down.
  12. Bear

    Bear Monkey+++ Founding Member Iron Monkey

    Glad that worked out for you... those sprayers are handy tools to have for all sorts of makeshift solutions... water under pressure is a good thing....
    don't forget to get a good supply of the parts if you're going long term and put them in a container or bag... uv is hell on o rings and such...
    Hope all is well... miss our talks.... Take Care
  13. theberkeyguy

    theberkeyguy Monkey+

    Hello to all,

    I will add my 2 cents to this thread in a couple days, just want to do a thorough review of the concerns brought up, and will be happy to share our experience.

  14. melbo

    melbo Hunter Gatherer Administrator Founding Member

    I'd be interested in hearing if other people have this problem.
  15. theberkeyguy

    theberkeyguy Monkey+

    Will add to the discussion next week.

  16. theberkeyguy

    theberkeyguy Monkey+

    Here is my 2 cents on the problem in the first post:

    The Filters need to be primed whenever the flow rate slows down, or every 3 months. While it is ok to scrub the filters, they need to be primed or back flushed. They are made of Coconut shell carbon, and can be primed using a Sport Berkey Water Bottle. Also, the picture on this thread where the filters are primed using a gardening tool is a great idea that i never thought of or have never seen done. Great idea!

    I am glad you were able to get the problem solved.

  17. melbo

    melbo Hunter Gatherer Administrator Founding Member

    It must have been a surface tension condition with my water supply. I just moved and have not had any slow down since. Yeah, a garden sprayer is a good thing to have to be able to pressurize a few gallons of water when you need it.
  18. -06

    -06 Monkey+++

    Would be hesitant to "poke holes" in the filter unless on the very top--and then never fill over the tops. I have scrubbed my black filters once and they need it again. Pressurizing sounds like a very workable plan. Thanks for the tip. We have a kitchen water prefilter but the rest of the home is unfiltered well water.
  19. melbo

    melbo Hunter Gatherer Administrator Founding Member

    The poke holes fix was frustration humor. I didn't actually try it.
  20. Wendell

    Wendell Monkey+

    Hey folks, I've had a problem with my filter that's slowed WAY down. After reading this thread I purchased a sprayer and ran some water through it, but that didn't do the trick. It's only about 19 months old and has had less than 900 gallons through it. The first time it slowed down I was able to get it going good again by priming it but not now... even with the sprayer. It's really running slow.

    Any thoughts what else I can do? Is my hard water killing the filters prematurely?
    Should I just replace the filter? I have a lot of iron and a LOT of calcium in my water.
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