Water is a major part of our health and well-being. Due to this, you need to be very careful when it comes to sourcing your drinking water. Unfortunately, the water that you get in your homes may contain harmful contaminants and other impurities that are bad for your health.
So, to tackle this issue, you will have to get a water filtration system. Two most used filters are Berkey water filters and a reverse osmosis system. Due to their popularity, you may have a hard time wrapping your head around the two, Berkey Vs Reverse Osmosis.
Considering Berkey Vs Reverse Osmosis systems, both are intended for the removal of contaminations and impurities from your source water.
While both are excellent in terms of removing contaminations from water, they have a quite different working mechanism which is the primary factor that decides which one would suit your needs better.
Related Post: Reverse Osmosis vs Distilled Water
To help you understand this better, here is a brief insight into Berkey Vs Reverse Osmosis.
Berkey water filter is ideal for removing contaminations from your water on a small scale. It only filters out the impurities and leaves most of the essential minerals that our bodies need.
Now, on the other hand.
Reverse osmosis is a complete package and efficiently removes harmful contaminations including disease causing pathogens and bacteria as well. A reverse osmosis system is so effective that it strips off the healthy minerals from water as well. Don’t worry, these are then reintroduced into the water before it reaches you.
Related Article: Cheap Reverse Osmosis Systems
Finally, the secondary factors that you need to consider when comparing Berkey Vs Reverse Osmosis systems include purchase cost, operating costs, maintenance, and the quality of water.
Here is a detailed insight into this to help you choose a water filter based on your requirements.
How a Berkey Works?
Berkey water filters are basically countertop filter systems. Berkey filters rely entirely on gravity to remove contaminations from the water. A Berkey water filter has a cylindrical body identical in shape to a large tin can packed in a stainless steel body. It has two main chambers, with Berkey filter elements spaced between them.
Water is poured into the upper chamber of the Berkey filter which then passes through the Berkey filter elements. No pressure pumps are used in the Berkey filter, so no electricity is required for its operation, thus it simply uses the force of gravity to drive the water across the filter.
The Berkey filter elements filter out the contaminations and allow only purified water to pass through the next chamber (towards the bottom). Since no pressure pumps are installed in the Berkey filter, the overall filtration process is time consuming, and you will have to wait for the water to be purified.
There are two main parts of the Berkey filters, an activated carbon filter, and the ultra-filtration system. The carbon filter removes harmful pesticides, chlorine and other contaminations present in the water. Whereas the ultra-filtration system removes bacteria and cysts from the contaminated water.
After the filtration process, purified water is stored in the bottom chamber of the Berkey filter.
How does Reverse Osmosis Works?
Reverse osmosis systems are entirely different from Berkey filters. A reverse osmosis system either goes under your kitchen sink, on the countertop or connected directly to the source of the water. It comprises of multiple filters and does not simply rely on a carbon filter like in a Berkey filter
An RO system comprises a pre-stage sediment filter, carbon filter, and a post filter to re-mineralize your water. A reverse osmosis system works on the basic principle of osmosis.
It is a naturally existing process in which the pollutants are forced through a membrane which filters out the impurities.
Keep in mind, for reverse osmosis to work, the membrane must be semipermeable. It should have the ability to prevent harmful contaminations from going through while letting clean water pass through the filter.
As mentioned earlier, an RO system is the complete package and can help remove a wide range of chemical elements, heavy metals and VOCs from your water. All of these end up in the wastewater while providing you with a constant supply of purified water.
What Are The Advantages And Disadvantages Of Reverse Osmosis Vs Berkey?
Unfortunately, not many people realize the fact that a reverse osmosis system does not only filter out the contaminations but also improves the taste and quality of the water.
Let’s look at the advantages and disadvantages of reverse osmosis:
Advantages OF A Reverse Osmosis System:
- High amounts of TDS (total dissolved solids) including excess minerals are removed from tap water thus making it safer to drink.
- An RO system effectively removes harmful chemicals including lead, chlorine, heavy metals, fluorides, aluminum, and nitrates from your water.
- Pesticides, and other disease causing pathogens are also removed from your water.
- Over 100% of the total dissolved chlorine is removed from your water; thus, providing you with clean, fresh, and safe water to drink.
Disadvantages Of A Reverse Osmosis System:
- Since chlorine is removed from the filtered water, bacteria may grow back in the water if left for longer periods.
- A significant amount of wastewater is produced when filtering out water using a reverse osmosis system.
- Reverse osmosis systems are quite expensive and requires periodic maintenance to ensure 100% efficiency.
Now, comparatively, here are the advantages and disadvantages of a Berkey water filter:
Advantages OF A Berkey Water Filter:
- Significantly cheaper than a reverse osmosis system
- Portable and easy to move since it does not require any electrical supply
- Easy to install
- Purifies the water up to a great extent
Disadvantages OF A Berkey Water Filter:
- Lacks the ability to remove heavy metals from your tap water
- Water containing a high concentration of TDS may not be made potable
- Limited flow rate since no pressure pumps are used in a Berkey water filter
- Most of the harmful microorganisms are left out in the water
- Prone to leakages
Related: Is Berkey Water Filter Making You Sick?
Detailed Comparison: Reverse Osmosis Vs Berkey
Now that you have an idea of the two filter systems and how they work, lets look at the secondary factors mentioned earlier when choosing between Reverse Osmosis Vs Berkey.
Filter Comparison (Filter Lifespan & Replacement Costs):
Ø Berkey Filters
Surprisingly, Berkey water filtration elements last very long. Once set up, a Berkey water filter can provide clean water for up to a whopping 6000 gallons before requiring a replacement.
If used primarily for drinking purposes, a Berkey water filter can last up to 4 years for a family of 4 (approximated on the basis of 2 gallon consumption per day).
You can see that you won’t have to spend much on a Berkey filter for a very long time after your initial purchase cost. Like most things, there’s a catch.
Berkey filters do not come cheap and cost over $120 for a set of replacement filters.
Related: How to Clean Berkey Filters?
Ø Reverse Osmosis System
A reverse osmosis system has multiple parts, and each has its own lifespan. Considering the membranes themselves, they will work for over two years before requiring a replacement. Whereas the carbon and pre-sediment filters would have to be replaced every 6 – 12 months depending on your usage.
Compared to Berkey filters, it requires more maintenance and look after. This is mainly because a reverse osmosis system uses multiple stages of filtration, each having its own filter.
RO membranes cost around $30 – $50, replacement filters (pre-sediment and post filters) cost around $10 – $40. The prices vary on the brand and the quality of the parts, so make sure you consider these factors when getting replacement parts.
Although the cost is relatively smaller compared to Berkey’s but remember that an RO system requires frequent maintenance whereas the basic pre-installed filters of a Berkey are good for over 4 years. So, in the long run, a Berkey system would not put a big dent on your wallet.
But then again, you get what you pay for and
Comparing Berkey vs reverse osmosis, they both are capable of removing a high degree of contaminants. Basic contaminants like chlorine, VOCs, pesticides and disease causing bacteria are removed from the water using both filters.
For a full list of the contaminants removed, go through the links below:
- Complete list of contaminants removed by Berkey systems
- Complete list of contaminants removed by reverse osmosis systems
Ø Berkey Filters
Berkey filters are relatively slower (in terms of flow rate) compared to reverse osmosis filters which provide you with an instant supply of filtered water. This is mainly due to the fact that Berkey filters rely on gravity and do not have any pressure pumps installed.
Considering the slow flow rate of the water, you will have to wait for longer periods just to filter your drinking water. For instance, a 2.75 gallon Berkey system would take over 170 minutes to filter out a full chamber.
But, if time isn’t an issue for you, you will be satisfied with the results of the Berkey filter.
In terms of the performance, Berkey systems are widely tested, in fact, they even provide the test results online. All contaminants claimed by the company are efficiently removed using the filters, including heavy metals, fluoride, chlorine, and other impurities.
Whereas the healthy minerals are successfully retained during the filtration process, including calcium and magnesium.
While the filters are effective, the company does not have an NSF certification of contaminations removal. Due to the lack of this certification, there are many controversial reviews regarding the filters that claim the company is a scam.
If the company were to obtain this certification, it will put an end to the controversial reviews.
Ø Reverse Osmosis Systems:
Reverse osmosis system is the absolute winner in terms of the overall speed and performance of the filter. Provided that your water source has a minimum pressure of at least 40 PSI, it wouldn’t take the filter more than a second to filter out water and provide you with instant access.
Generally, RO systems are highly efficient and offer quality results; capable of removing up to 99.9% of contaminants including pesticides, viruses, heavy metals, chemicals, TDS and even the physical characteristics of water such as turbidity and hardness. Wondering what is the PH of reverse osmosis water?
Well, a reverse osmosis water has a pH of 5 – 7. Based on this pH level, it is safe to assume that an RO system is one of the best filtration systems in terms of providing readily pH balanced, the highest quality, and the best tasting water.
Besides, RO systems are also NSF certified so you do not have to worry about that as well.
The only downside to RO systems is the fact that they produce a lot of wastewaters during the process of filtration. If you have a limited water supply or you’re worried about maintaining your levels of tap water use, it will be wise to stay away from RO filters.
The installation process of Berkey and Reverse Osmosis system varies greatly.
The Berkey system requires no installation or specific expertise. Any layman can install the system since it is standalone and does not have to be connected to your plumbing.
On the contrary, a reverse osmosis system is a little difficult to install if you do not have any plumbing knowledge. It also depends on manufacturers and most of them would install them for free in your house, whereas some are DIY based on the size of your RO system.
Reverse osmosis system typically requires more frequent maintenance compared to a Berkey system. This is because it has multiple filter elements, and each has to be changed after a specific interval ranging from 4 months up to 24 months.
For a replacement job in a reverse osmosis filter, you will have to dismantle it completely and the water pressure would also need to be turned off. In addition to this, the wastewater tank also needs to washed after every 6 months.
Now, on the contrary, a Berkey system requires less maintenance. The filters are good for up to 4 years until a replacement is needed. However, the fluoride filter in your Berkey system needs to be changed after every 1000 gallons. In addition to this, the lower chamber of the filter also needs to be washed every month and that’s it.
Electricity usage is where the two filters differ significantly.
A reverse osmosis system requires a constant supply of electricity to be able to filter out contaminated water. Whereas a Berkey system does not require any electricity since it mainly operates using the force of gravity.
In case of any emergency such as power outage or a natural disaster, a Berkey filter will not leave you stranded.
Taste Of Water:
In a reverse osmosis system, the taste of the water depends on whether your RO system has a remineralization filter or not. If it does not have a post filter (remineralization filter) it will have no taste. Whereas if your RO system has a post filter, it will have a mineral flavor.
Comparatively, Berkey water has a very good taste. However, if the ionized minerals are in a greater concentration in your source water, the Berkey system will not be able to remove it so there is no guarantee that your water will taste good after being filtered through a Berkey system.
Comparing the operational cost of the two system, here’s an insight into it.
- Reverse osmosis system: It costs 20 to 65 cents per gallon to filter out contaminated water.
- Berkey water filter: It costs as little as 2 cents per gallon to filter out contaminated water since it does not require any electricity or power source for its operation.
Conclusion | Is Berkey Better Than Reverse Osmosis?
Comparing Berkey vs Reverse Osmosis systems, each has its own set of pros and cons. Due to this, it makes it a hard decision to pick one over the other. At the end of the day, it comes down to your personal preference and your needs.
Is one filtration method better than the other? For sure! An RO system is comparatively better in terms of removing harmful contaminations from your water. But that certainly does not mean that Berkey filters are bad.
Berkey’s filter elements in fact have a longer lifespan and are easy to install which may be what you’re looking for if you need an easy to use and maintenance free filter that simply does the job.
But if you’re looking for a more complete solution to your filtration needs and require filtered water for cooking purposes as well, you’ll be better off with a Reverse Osmosis system. When purchasing a filter, make sure you consider your needs first.