A glass of clean water with osmosis filter and cartridges in a kitchen interior.

Berkey vs Reverse Osmosis: Which Wins in 2021?

In this article, we are going to look at the differences between the Berkey water filter and the Reverse Osmosis water filter. These two very different types of water filters present two very different yet efficient ways of obtaining filtered water, so let us just jump straight into it. You can find any of the water quality improvement products mentioned here on Amazon.

Overview
Big Berkey BK4X2 Countertop Water Filter System with 2 Black Berkey Elements and 2 Fluoride Filters
Title
Big Berkey Gravity Countertop Water Filter
Price
$407.00
Rating
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Overview
Big Berkey BK4X2 Countertop Water Filter System with 2 Black Berkey Elements and 2 Fluoride Filters
Title
Big Berkey Gravity Countertop Water Filter
Price
$407.00
Rating
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

External Properties of a Water Filtration System

This section refers to how the filter is placed in relation to your water supply and the product itself. Whether it is attached directly to your water line or placed inside a self-contained unit, this section goes over (some of) the advantages and disadvantages of different types of water filtration systems before diving thoroughly into reverse osmosis filters and Berkey gravity filters.

There are many different types of water filters. There are water filter pitchers: they are a widespread and affordable solution, they are portable and free-standing, and they filter through and improve the taste and odor of water. However, they also have a short shelf life and need to be replaced more regularly than other types of water filter systems.

There are faucet water filters: they attach easily to any faucet, they are inexpensive, they filter water right at the tap, but they can slow down your water flow rate. There are whole house water filters: they treat all the water in the house, they can remove volatile organic compounds, but they require more professional maintenance than other water filter systems.

There are under sink water filters: they are attached to your kitchen faucet, they can be used for drinking as well as cooking, they have a fast flow rate, and they are very effective and space-saving. There are refrigerator water filters: they can remove bad odors and tastes as well as contaminants, yet they need to be replaced regularly. And finally, there are portable water filters: they have a small design for camping and hiking and can remove microorganisms, though they only filter limited amounts of water at a time.

NU Aqua Platinum Series 100GPD Under Sink Reverse Osmosis Drinking Water Filtration System – Premium Water Filter (7 Stage UV and Alkaline with Pump)
  • PREMIUM QUALITY U.S. BRAND: The NU Aqua Platinum Series has gone through rigorous development and testing in our lab to provide consistent great tasting, clean and healthy water on demand. Featuring...

A Point-Of-Use Water Filtration System

A point-of-use water filter system is a type of water filter that is installed at a single water connection point, meaning that it is connected to your water supply directly, typically either under your kitchen or bathroom sink. These kinds of water filters are especially useful because they filter water at the actual point where it is used, so it is filtered instantly.

Despite being attached to one singular water line, water that is filtered through a point-of-use kind of system can be distributed to more than one outlet, such as different showers and bathroom and kitchen faucets. However, depending on the strength and quality of the system that you purchase, you might notice a slowing down of the water flow rate. You are also required to have a minimum water pressure of 40 PSI.

Different kinds of point-of-use filters will last either only 3 to 6 months or 1 year or more. This will depend on the quality and sturdiness of the filters as well as the type of filtration system it is (under-sink, counter-top, whole-house). An important note is that the two most popular Reverse Osmosis (RO) designs are the under-sink RO system and whole-house RO system. These kinds of water filter systems are quite effective and can remove up to 99% of water contamination and produce quality drinking water, the same high-quality, clean water you have come to expect from bottled water.

Summary of a Reverse Osmosis Water Filtration System:

  • Filters water instantaneously
  • Gives you filtered water through your home’s faucet
  • Removes up to 99 percent of water contamination
  • Can last for a long time if they are of good quality
  • Might lower your water flow rate

A Counter-top Water Filtration System

A counter-top water filter is a kind of water filtration that is placed on your countertop, as the name suggests. It gets filtered through and dispensed at the bottom of the countertop water filtration system. These kinds of systems often have a high capacity and can get through water fairly efficiently and quickly.

Some types of countertop water filter systems require installation (although the Berkey only requires a simple and easy setup). The biggest downside to these kinds of water filter systems often need a decent amount of space on your counter, so if you have a small kitchen or a small home, you might have a lot of trouble finding space for this product in a way that will not crowd your home.

Summary of the Berkey Water Filtration System:

  • It is conveniently placed on your countertop
  • It features a high capacity
  • It requires installation
  • It takes up a certain amount of space on your countertop
Overview
Big Berkey BK4X2 Countertop Water Filter System with 2 Black Berkey Elements and 2 Fluoride Filters
Title
Big Berkey Gravity Countertop Water Filter
Price
$407.00
Rating
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Overview
Big Berkey BK4X2 Countertop Water Filter System with 2 Black Berkey Elements and 2 Fluoride Filters
Title
Big Berkey Gravity Countertop Water Filter
Price
$407.00
Rating
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Internal Properties of a Water Filtration System

This section of the article refers to the type of filter in a water filtration system. It refers to what it is made out of, what it can filter through, and how it filters through it. There is the activated alumina filter: it is one of the only filters that effectively removes fluoride, it is inexpensive and effective, but it can leak a small amount of aluminum.

There is the ceramic filter: it is a natural method that can filter through bacteria and protozoans effectively but is not very effective at removing viruses. There can also be a chance of an increase in bacterial contamination with poor-quality filters. There is water distillation: it is highly effective, it can improve the smell and taste of the water, but it is also a slow process.

There are ultraviolet water purifying systems: they kill bacteria, parasites, and viruses but do not remove contaminants like minerals or lead. There is the activated carbon filter: it removes contaminants, bad odor, and taste and it does not require electricity, but it also cannot eliminate minerals or salts.

There is the granulated carbon filter: it is inexpensive but less effective, and the water pressure in your home has a significant influence on its effectiveness. There is the ion exchange filter: it can soften hard water and it does not require electricity, but it does require regular maintenance.

It is also important to know what kind of contaminants can be found in your water: sediment, microscopic pathogens, lead, arsenic, cadmium, industrial solvents, chromium-6, pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers, pathogenic bacteria, aluminum, ammonia, chloramine, chromium, copper, bacteria, viruses, cysts, sodium, sulfate, calcium, chloroform, potassium, nitrates, nitrites, perchlorate, radium, silver, uranium, iron, zinc, mercury, selenium, phosphate, magnesium, nickel, fluoride, manganese, barium, cyanide, chloride, hydrogen sulfide, TDS (Total Dissolved Solids), and VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds).

The most significant contaminants that you should be watching out for are chemicals (such as disinfection byproducts, solvents, fertilizers, and pesticides), radionuclides (such as radium), and minerals (such as arsenic). These can cause gastrointestinal problems, diarrhea, nausea, intestinal or stomach cramping, intestinal or stomach ache and pains, dehydration, and even death. In the long term, you can experience an increase in cancer risk, reproductive problems, and eye, liver, and kidney problems.

Osmosis and Reverse osmosis diagram

Reverse osmosis is most commonly known for its use in drinking water purification from seawater

What is a Reverse Osmosis Water Filter?

A reverse osmosis water filter is a quite efficient and effective system. This purification system is one of the most popular kinds of water filters for purified water and some of the most sold all over the United States. It is a fairly easy water filtration process to understand. Essentially, this kind of system works by using the movement of the water from a more concentrated solution to a less concentrated solution.

That means that contaminated water (a more concentrated solution) in one vessel will pass through a semipermeable membrane into a separate vessel where there is pure water, or filtered water (a less concentrated solution). In this semipermeable membrane, there are tiny holes only a few microns in size that allow for water molecules to pass through but not harmful contaminant particles, making it so that the end product will be water without any of the unhealthy pollutants that it came through the water supply with.

In these kinds of water filters, the main difference is the size of the openings in the semipermeable membrane, which will dictate how many more contaminants will not be allowed to pass through. Other important differences are that often, reverse osmosis water filters come equipped with either a pre-stage sediment filter, an activated carbon or carbon block filter, or a post sediment filter.

However, even without these additional filters, reverse osmosis filters still have a very high efficiency of eliminating between 95 and 99 percent of all total dissolved solids as well as 99 percent of other contaminants. Another important thing to note is that most reverse osmosis water filtration systems tend to be NSF (National Science Foundation) certified to remove these contaminants from tap water, which shows you how reliable these water filter systems are.

However, there are still some issues with reverse osmosis water filters. They produce wastewater, which contains water with the contaminants flushed out of the system and down the drain, and this can often increase your water usage by a lot (depending on the kind of reverse osmosis system you get). Also, while they are one of the most efficient water filter systems on the market, they are also one of the most expensive water filtration solutions available.

Properties of a Reverse Osmosis Water Filtration System:

  • Often feature pre-stage sediment filter, an activated carbon or carbon block filter, and a post sediment filter as well as an RO membrane
  • Filters are often NSF certified
  • Most popular kinds of water filters
  • Incredibly thorough filtration
  • Durable and long-lasting
  • The average RO system can last for approximately 10 to 15 years
  • The filter elements are durable, lasting between 6 months and 2 years
  • Removes between 95 and 99% of all total dissolved solids
  • Often very expensive systems
  • Produces wastewater, sometimes at high rates
  • Removes beneficial minerals
  • More expensive than Berkey systems
  • More wasteful than Berkey systems
  • Less portable than Berkey systems
A glass of contaminated water on a table.

Drinking water may reasonably be expected to contain at least small amounts of some contaminants.

Contaminants Removed By a Reverse Osmosis Water Filtration System:

  • Ions and metals (arsenic, antimony, aluminum, barium, beryllium, cadmium, calcium, chloride, chlorine, chromium, copper, fluoride, iron, lead, magnesium, manganese, mercury, nitrate, potassium, radium, radon, selenium, silver, sodium, sulfate, thallium, zinc)
  • Organic chemicals (benzen1, carbon tetrachloride, dichlorobenzene, toluene, trichloroethylene, total trihalomethanes)
  • Particles (asbestos, protozoan cysts, cryptosporidium)
  • Pesticides (endrin, heptachlor, lindane, pentachlorophenol, 1,2,4-trichlorobenzene, 2,4-D, atrazine)
  • Radionuclides (radium, uranium)

What Is A Gravity Water Filter?

Berkey uses something called a gravity filter (the Black Berkey) in order to filter through contaminated water. This is a kind of water filtration system that features two chambers: an upper chamber, and a lower chamber. The contaminated water gets poured into the upper chamber, then it is passed through a carbon block filter element with microscopic pores.

After this process, the filtered water is collected in the lower chamber. SImilarly to reverse osmosis systems, the water is also passed through a barrier with small pored that allow water molecules to get through but small enough to not allow harmful contaminants through.

They can impede more than 200 contaminants from getting through to your filtered water, and unlike reverse osmosis systems, the Berkey filters do not require plumbing or electricity, making them much more economic and eco-friendly than RO water filters. Also, considering they do not need to be attached to a plumbing line or electrical line, they are much more portable and can be used in many different kinds of situations, whether indoors or outdoors.

The downsides to the Berkey water filters, however, are that they do tend to take longer to process the water than reverse osmosis systems, and they also have a lower filter life (6,000 gallons of water per pair or four years to the reverse osmosis lifespan of 1 year all the way to 20).

The filter life (as well as its capacity) can obviously differ depending on the type and size of Berkey filter you choose to get, all of which are listed below. Also, although all of these products have been independently tested to both NSF (National Science Foundation) and ANSI (American National Standards Institute) standards as well as the EPA, they have never been certified by them

Different Sizes Of The Berkey Filters:

  • The Travel Berkey (1.5 gallons)
  • The Big Berkey (2.25 gallons)
  • The Royal Berkey (3.25 gallons)
  • The Imperial Berkey (4.5 gallons)
  • The Crown Berkey (6 gallons)
  • The Berkey Light, (2.75 gallons)

Summary Of The Properties Of The Berkey Water Filtration System:

  • Does not need to be connected to water or electricity
  • Filters through a broad range of contaminants
  • Removes more than 200 contaminants
  • Not NSF certified
  • Budget-friendly
  • Eco-friendly
  • Features a lifespan of 6,000 gallons (or four years)
  • Ideal for use at different kinds of homes, in the outdoors, and in emergencies
  • The rubber components give the water a rubbery taste that many people find unpleasant
  • Features a slower water flow rate than reverse osmosis systems
  • Does not last longer than reverse osmosis systems
  • Not as thorough filtration as reverse osmosis systems

Contaminants Removed By The Berkey Water Filtration System:

  • Viruses to over 99.999 percent
  • Bacteria (and surrogates) to over 99.9999 percent
  • Trihalomethanes to over 99.8 percent
  • Inorganic minerals up to 99.9 percent
  • Heavy metals (high and low pH levels) up to 99.9 percent
  • Microorganisms to over 99.9 percent
  • Pharmaceutical drug contaminants to over 99.9 percent
  • Pesticides and VOCs (volatile organic compounds) to below lab detectable limits

So Finally, What Is The Best Water Filter?

In the end, the most thorough and high-quality water filters are reverse osmosis water filters. However, the Berkey water filters are more portable, often cheaper, and easier to maintain. So in the end, it is up to you to see what would fit your home the best!

Overview
Big Berkey BK4X2 Countertop Water Filter System with 2 Black Berkey Elements and 2 Fluoride Filters
Title
Big Berkey Gravity Countertop Water Filter
Price
$407.00
Rating
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Overview
Big Berkey BK4X2 Countertop Water Filter System with 2 Black Berkey Elements and 2 Fluoride Filters
Title
Big Berkey Gravity Countertop Water Filter
Price
$407.00
Rating
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
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Joshua Perkins

Joshua spent ten years as a water systems technician in California before settling down with his wife and two young children in Nashville in 2018. Through all of his experience, he learned the benefits and shortfalls of so many different types of water filtration systems, from pitchers to whole-house installations. He started Water Filter Authority in 2019 to empower other families to make the right decision for their long-term health and wellness.