Homemade Berkey Water Filter

This article will guide you through the construction of a filter equivalent in performance to the Imperial Berkey that sells for about $300. My total cost was $122

Gather the necessary components. You will need the following:

  • two 5-gallon food grade buckets (got mine from Lowes for $5 each)
  • two lids for the buckets (got mine from Lowes for $1.50 each)
  • a pair of Black Berkey filter elements (ordered mine on Ebay for $99 which included free shipping and a free Sport Berkey filtered bottle)
  • a food grade spigot (the kind used for large coffee pots or water coolers is perfect, ordered mine from jamesfilter.com for $10)

Homemade Berkey Water Filter
Drill two 1/2″ holes in the bottom of the upper bucket and two matching holes in the lid of the lower bucket.
Homemade Berkey Water Filter

Drill a 3/4″ hole in the side of the lower bucket toward the bottom. Make sure that the hole is up just far enough for the spigot to clear when the filter is sitting on a flat surface
Homemade Berkey Water Filter

Assemble the lower bucket by installing the spigot and the lid with holes.
Homemade Berkey Water Filter
Install the filter elements in the upper bucket through the holes in the bottom.
Homemade Berkey Water Filter
Assemble the filter by placing the upper bucket on the lower. Be sure to line up the holes so the tubes extend through the lid of the lower bucket. Place the remaining lid on top.
Homemade Berkey Water Filter
To use the filter, fill the upper bucket with water and wait. If you are starting with dry elements, it will take quite a while before the water starts dripping into the lower bucket. It takes up to several hours for the clean water to drain into the lower bucket. This process can be sped up considerably by frequently topping off the water in the upper bucket. This maintains maximum pressure on the elements.

Notes:

  • I had no scientific way to test the water quality; however, the filtered water was clear, had no odor, and tasted similar to distilled.
  • The specifications of the Black Berkey elements can be found here: http://berkeywater.com/BerkeyLight/BB_Purification_Elements.html
  • There are a number of ways to make this even cheaper: Use free buckets from a grocery store bakery or restaurant. I have found the same type of spigot for $5 since making this one. Super Sterasyl elements can be substituted for the Black Berkey elements. They cost about $84 a pair.
  • The filter can be made considerably larger by using any two stacking containers suitable for water, trash cans or 30-gallon water barrels for instance. The flow rate can also be increased by adding more filter elements.
  • The filtered solids remain on the outside of the filter elements and will eventually interfere with the rate of flow. Therefore, it is important to prefilter through a dense cloth (we use cloth diapers) if your source water is particularly cloudy. The elements can be scrubbed clean with a plastic scouring pad. The Black Berkey elements last for about 3000 gallons each (6000 gallons for the pair)

[Via Alpha Rubicon, by Daire]

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22 Responses to Homemade Berkey Water Filter

  1. Survival Time January 26, 2010 at 6:11 pm #

    Fantastic!!…I've posted this to my blog and facebook as well as my survival website so my viewers can find it!
    You may want to check out my site too, I have instructions on making a solar oven that costs over $300 with things you may already have around the house!

  2. PeterAV March 18, 2010 at 2:28 am #

    To save even more money, one can replace the filter with natural products such as sterilized sand black Charcoal [never brickets] other porous materials such as grasses. Not the very best, but will do in a pinch.
    Simply fill the top bucket with 1/3 purified sand, 1/3 Grasses and 1/3 Charcoal on top.

  3. PeterAV March 17, 2010 at 7:28 pm #

    To save even more money, one can replace the filter with natural products such as sterilized sand black Charcoal [never brickets] other porous materials such as grasses. Not the very best, but will do in a pinch.
    Simply fill the top bucket with 1/3 purified sand, 1/3 Grasses and 1/3 Charcoal on top.

  4. starkpatriot March 25, 2010 at 6:52 am #

    I use a Berkey water filter now. I wish I had found this article earlier could have saved a couple of hundred bucks. I had an idea that you could also use 55 gallon drums with the same set up. Seems like a lot of fly by night dealers for the berkey out there. Here is a reputable place to shop for a Berkey Water Filter . You can find them on Ebay, but try getting ahold of someone if something goes wrong.

  5. starkpatriot March 25, 2010 at 1:52 pm #

    I use a Berkey water filter now. I wish I had found this article earlier could have saved a couple of hundred bucks. I had an idea that you could also use 55 gallon drums with the same set up. Seems like a lot of fly by night dealers for the berkey out there. Here is a reputable place to shop for a Berkey Water Filter . You can find them on Ebay, but try getting ahold of someone if something goes wrong.

  6. Healthnut March 30, 2010 at 8:43 pm #

    My only concern with this setup is the fact that it's using plastic. I didn't purchase the berkey light for this very reason even thought they state it's BPA free. I can't imagine this plastic is any better, but I could always store the filtered water in glass to save a couple hundred bucks. I was going to order a Royal berkey water filter because the Imperials are out of stock, but this solution is worth giving some thought.

  7. Healthnut March 30, 2010 at 8:43 pm #

    My only concern with this setup is the fact that it's using plastic. I didn't purchase the berkey light for this very reason even thought they state it's BPA free. I can't imagine this plastic is any better, but I could always store the filtered water in glass to save a couple hundred bucks. I was going to order a Royal berkey water filter because the Imperials are out of stock, but this solution is worth giving some thought.

  8. midge April 23, 2010 at 5:28 pm #

    A couple of inexpensive aluminum (or stainless steel if you insist) stock pots would be perfect for this. I would like to first filter through layers of sand and activated charcoal, possibly even boil first if water source is really suspect (floodwater). But I'm paranoid. what's your excuse? : )

  9. Chad June 10, 2010 at 5:42 pm #

    Hey everybody, just wanted to let you know that I found a good source for the parts and all the Black Berkey elements online. Check out http://www.berkeyproducts.com . They have great prices and excellent service. They all seem to have similar prices on the systems, but these were the best prices on the parts and elements.

  10. Sharon August 28, 2010 at 10:50 am #

    Save yourself some money and get a complete Do It yourself System for under $30.00 at the following website http://www.emergency-h2o.com/index.html
    I have ordered for my kids to put in the survival kits. They recommend that you use a food grade bucket but when times are real tough I think anything even a trash can that has been thoroughly cleaned can be used. Hope it is of benefit to all to visit this site. It has some real good information and a CNN link showing the filter in action.
    Sharon

  11. Alkaline Water December 18, 2010 at 10:23 pm #

    Scary to think that times could get tough enough to require this.

  12. Jeff Wise December 29, 2010 at 3:02 pm #

    In a survival situation I think this solution is awesome! Thank you for the detailed pictures as well. I definitely think the black berkey water filter is the best one out there.

    In a 5-gallon bucket I would probably want to use four filters though.

  13. randy water filter January 19, 2011 at 10:29 am #

    Hi there, I found your blog via Google while searching for a related topic, your site came up, it looks good.

  14. jon toiletseatcovers January 19, 2011 at 10:45 am #

    Youre so cool! I dont suppose Ive read anything like this before. So nice to find somebody with some original thoughts on this subject. realy thank you for starting this up. this website is something that is needed on the web, someone with a little originality. useful job for bringing something new to the internet!

  15. BJ Armstrong August 30, 2011 at 6:23 am #

    I was just about to buy a berkey light… wow, thanks for this post… now I don't have to!

  16. Bob C September 29, 2011 at 8:36 am #

    You can get a fully configured Bucket Berkey at DisasterStuff.com for $73.50 and you don't have to do anything but screw it together. Pretty good deal and it has the spin top buckets so the top chamber won't tip over. You can get it with 1, 2, 3, or 4 Black Berkey water filters. Go to DisasterStuff.com and then choose Berkey Water filters. Then scroll down to the Bucket Berkey.

    Here is the link: http://www.disasterstuff.com/store/pc/Bucket-Berk

  17. Kevin November 4, 2011 at 6:59 pm #

    If you hook up a rubber hose like for an aquarium air bubbler to the bottom of the filter, it will increase the flow rate. Seperate your top chamber from the bottom chamber by several feet and it'll be 3-4 times faster in filtering the water.

  18. Jack Johnson January 21, 2012 at 3:01 pm #

    That was so cool. It looked simple to make. This would be great to take with my family and I when we go CAMPING!! We could have healthy clean water. Thanks

  19. filtered water March 15, 2012 at 6:18 am #

    Bottleless water cooler provides many advantages over bottled- water coolers. Moreover, the choices of bottle-less water cooler assists consumers to go for environment friendly technologies. These services are accessible at ibottleless along with services of bottleless water dispenser. For more details: http://www.ibottleless.com

  20. Amy Cray October 27, 2013 at 1:52 am #

    If you have been in the market for some type of portable water filter, then you have undoubtedly heard about Berkey filters. These are considered to be the leading high-quality water filters in the world because they are able to take virtually any outside water source and quickly turn it into pure, good tasting, drinkable water. But, in order for the water to always be safe, you will need to utilize replacement black Berkey filters from time to time.

  21. Peter VA April 3, 2012 at 2:33 pm #

    That will filter the water, but it won't purify it.

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