Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Big Berkey

Recently, in addition to our new Country Living grain mill, I decided I also was ready to purchase some sort of water filtration system. We have always been interested in water filtration for two reasons: 1) we would just LOVE to do rain water collection and even with that "purer" source of water filtering is still necessary. 2) One of our previous homes in the country was well water and we had to filter out what is known as iron bacteria.
During our years of previous filtration we used the paper type filters that you can pick up at just about any local store. The problem is, though they are cheap, is that they constantly need replacement and are just another thing to throw away into the waste stream we humans have done so well at creating.
Of course of the many things we throw away that might be one we can all more easily agree on being somewhat of a necessity in some areas.
So recently....again....we decided that we really needed to filter our water. We have sediment (just regular sand/rock type), heavy chlorine (are we drinking my fathers pool water today?) and of course the other gunk we might not know exactly everything about--- but knew it was there. We considered whole house filtration---but that would just have us on the paper filter ferris wheel again. Though we would like to filter all the water for chlorine we decided to, at least for now, narrow it down to drinking and cooking water. That's were we come to the acquisition of our Big Berkey fitted, in it's most basic form, with cleanable ceramic filters. You can upgrade with different filter---even some for PCPs---but as with all things like this (ie: not quickly disposable) they are a bit on the expensive side initially. Over all---the price works out but you have to basically pay it up front.
Anyway---call it my frugal nature or just plain laziness but, in my search for filters, the idea of a cleanable and reusable filter appealed to me a lot. I hate to have to stock, store and re buy supplies continually. Especially items like water filters, ac filters, and stuff like that requiring you to go slightly out of your way to get it and worse: remember to get it!
So we ordered one on line (actually on Ebay but I found it for the same price in a few other places) and it came not to long ago. The fist batch of water is completely tossed out---then you have to wait a day for it to dry( I believe this is to condition the filters??)---then fill it again. Then you can drink. Ahhhh----no taste. Well minimal. It's not like distilled water that is completely devoid of flavor and kind of weird because of it. BUT, and a big but here, we couldn't taste or smell the chlorine at all. Supposedly it's also removing some other "stuff" for us too. That's really why we wanted it since we could have removed chlorine by just sitting our glass/container of water in the sun.
Also, since no power is involved (another plus for the Berkey) we can have clean water as long as we have access to water---irregardless if a storm knocks out our power or the city shuts off our water because of problems. We can---but hopefully will never need to----use water from our barrels of rain water or even out of our pond! Cool isn't it?
And last but not least---since it's a counter top model---we can take it with us where ever we go.
Now---and here's the clincher. I read that some people save money by making their own. Having never seen a Berkey---I just didn't get it. NOW I do. We would absolutely make our own from now on if we wanted another. However---we would still need to purchase the filters from Berkey/Doulton. But the initial price is reduced by coming up with your own container. A savings of at least $100. The containers (in this case)are thin stainless "pots" that nest together to allow the water to drip from the top one to the bottom one. When the Berkey first comes it is unassembled and so there for all the top "pot" is, is just a basic pot with 4 (or more for the bigger versions) equally spaced holes. A thick rubber gasket on the inside keeps water in, and a nice plastic wing nut on the outside (of the top pot) tightens down the the gasket and the filter so they don't leak. I don't know if replaceable filters come with new gaskets and wing nuts---but they may.
The bottom "pot" has a hole in the side where a spigot, installed with a thick rubber washer on the outside AND inside, is located. Voila---easier than pie.
Just make sure---if you make it yourself---that you use non rusting metal or food safe plastic. Oh yes---and a lid for the top to keep out dust and such.

Last thing here about water filters: sand filters are really the way to go if you want to be "self sufficient" and without relying on electricity. This is the concept---easily done---that is used in many places without potable water.

Now---my next "self sufficient" acquisition: A Reading apple peeler. (click on "more views" to see the parts)
I have had those cheap "other style" apple peelers and broke them. Annoying little things that are flimsy when doing lots of apples and without replacement parts when you break them.
Because this type of peeler is considered one of the best (we have actually seen one used in an old Amish tourist place that was original) and you can still get complete replacement parts from Lehmans----I am saving up or going to buy one on Ebay. This next apple season won't see me without home made sauce again.


Robbyn said...

Congratulations!!! Little do you know how this post of yours generated a small panic over our Berkey looks nothing like yours, and neither do the filters...eeek!!

I didn't think to look to much further afield than a few links I Googled, since the retailers were really reputable, and I thought it odd that others had mentioned the filters being ceramic, but the ones we received looked like black carbon...hmmm. I looked at your blog and thought, "Oh, sheesh! I bought something we just paid XXX dollars for and it's not even the REAL Berkey!! Even the label on yours looks entirely different than ours.

Anyway, it turns out it's all from the same company, but beats me why some are stamped differently on the outside. Berkey offers EITHER type of filter, and both are great, so Whew again! We've gone days between attempts with ours to prime the filters and run more water through, while trying to solve the hydrogen sulfide stink problem...and therefore the filters dried out in between adn we're still not getting in the swing of it all. SO...we'll restart the process AGAIN, and hopefully with more success.

SO SO happy to hear you're getting great water from yours! Hopefully we will, too...soon :)

Hayden said...

Our municipal water switched from Chlorine to Choramine - and I can't find a creditable filter that will cope with it. One more hurdle to overcome....

farmer, vet and feeder of all animals said...

I considered other filters and may buy (eventually since they are kind of expensive) some of the add on filters. Especially now that I have read Haydens comment.

Hayden--wow. Thanks for bringing this up. I never even knew about it and with research found that the government is "forcing" municipalities to switch to this. I will have to find out more about it (asking mine if they use it) and maybe buy an addendum filter or pre filter to deal with it.


berkey water filter said...

I have both built my own and purchased a big berkey. Both work well and both have their pros and cons. While the big berkey is about $250, I at least know that I easily got my moneys worth. I don't think you can go wrong with either option.