Simplify Your Family's Emergency Preparedness

How to Decide the best size of berkey water filter

melanie papworth smiling holding a glass of water from Berkey Light

What I wish I had known BEFORE purchasing a Crown Berkey

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When I purchased a Berkey water filter, I just figured since we had a family of 7, we would want the biggest one.  I didn’t realize that there were so many factors to consider. I’m hoping this will help you make the right decision for your family!

I originally purchased a Crown Berkey, but then switched to a Berkey Light after using it for a while.

In this post, I am going to give you some things to consider, and I will be comparing the Berkey Light and Crown Berkey specifically, to illustrate these points.

Things to Consider When Determining Choosing Between a Crown Berkey & Berkey Light


How many gallons of water will you be using in a day?


Something I didn’t realize, was that the top chamber of a Berkey ought to be refilled on a daily basis.  The reason for this, is that the filters need to stay “primed” in order to function at full capacity.  This means that you’ll want to be using the capacity of the system you choose, within a 24-hour period.


When determining how many gallons of water you’ll use each day, you want to take a few things into account.

  • Realistically, how much water does your family go through in a day?   
  • Are you going to fill your pots with water from your Berkey, or will you still be doing that from your sink, out of convenience?
  • Do you host or entertain regularly? 
  • How many pets do you have? 
  • Do you want to be able to share water with others in an emergency situation?

Here is a contrasting example of my family compared to my brother’s family, and why it’s not just about the number of people in the household…

Berkey Light for MY Family of 7
(2.75 gallon capacity)

  • Kept in the dining room

  • Easy to carry after filling

  • Not used for cooking- too much effort to go into another room

  • Uses ice from the fridge ice maker

  • Only beverage requiring water is crystal light

  • Can monitor the water level from across the room

  • Most of the family is gone during the daytime

Crown Berkey for HIS family of 5
(6 gallon capacity)

  • Kept right next to the sink

  • No need to carry because it doesn't move to be filled

  • Used for all cooking, home humidifiers, diffusers

  • Fills ice cube trays- does not use fridge water at all

  • Other beverages- smoothies, tea and coffee

  • Has a sight glass spigot to conveniently monitor water level

  • Most family members are home most of the day (plus a dog)


Each filter works at the same speed. So if you have 2 black Berkey filters in a Berkey Light, and 2 black Berkey filters in a Crown Berkey, you are going to get the same amount of filtered water after “x” amount of minutes.  In this case, the difference is just in the amount of water each chamber holds, but filtering speed is the exact same.


Almost all of the Berkey systems come with 2 Black Berkey Filters, but many of the systems can accommodate more than 2.  For example, the Berkey Light can accommodate up to 4 filters, and the Crown Berkey can accommodate up to 8 filters.


The more filters you have going in a system, the faster your filtered water will accumulate.


 You do not have to use the maximum amount of filters, but having the option in unique situations is nice.  


Determine where you will actually keep your Berkey and how you will dispense the water.


Keep in mind that you will need room for the cup/water bottle/stock pot to fit underneath the spigot at the bottom of the system. There are a few options to make this happen:


  • You can place the Berkey with the spigot hanging over the edge of a countertop or table
  • Position the Berkey in a place where it can easily be scooted to the edge of a counter when in use
  • Get a stand to go with your system, to raise the height of the spigot by about 6″.  Bonus for the moms: It will reduce messes when your independent little people want to fill their own glasses. 

The location of the Berkey in your home can actually directly affect how convenient it is to fill it, as well as how much water you go through in a day. 
Let me explain…


Once I had the Berkey in my kitchen, I realized I didn’t have anywhere for it to go on my counter, so I moved it to a little table in the corner of the dining room.


This proved to be problematic for a few reasons:


  1. My sink faucet wasn’t able to reach all the way to the dining room, so I had to bring the Berkey over to the sink to fill it.  This worked great with the Crown Berkey until I had to carry an open chamber with 6 gallons of water in it all the way across my kitchen and dining room, and then hoist it up on top of the bottom chamber that was sitting on the table. I am 5’2″. I will let your imagination do the rest.  Let’s just say I had to change my clothes because I was drenched by the time I got the top chamber situated.  I resorted to filling pitchers from the kitchen sink and filling up the top chamber 
  2. I am lazy and always in a hurry.  Translation: I do not have the patience to run a stockpot over to my dining room to fill it with 12 cups of water when I’m making soup. I just use our tap water. Obviously I wouldn’t be doing this if our water was dangerous, but generally speaking, our water isn’t horrific, so I take the lazy way out and just use tap water for most of my cooking. Once I took out all the water I had factored in for cooking, I realized we were not going through 6 gallons of water a day like I had imagined we would.
  3. This led to the filters working slower, because they would dry out and filter at a slower speed, because I was only filling the top chamber once every 3 days or so.


Let’s be honest, most people find stainless steel more aesthetically pleasing than plastic.  So you might assume that it’s a no brainer that the Crown Berkey would win out in this category. But the other major variable with the appearance is that you can actually SEE the water level in the Berkey Light.  So you don’t have to guess when it needs to be filled.  

Let me save your floor from an unfortunate discovery- it is possible to overflow the Berkey!  Once the water is filtered, it is stored in the bottom chamber.  An empty top chamber can be misleading, especially to a well-meaning but un-informed spouse.

If you go with a stainless steel Berkey, you will need to lift off the top chamber to see the water level inside bottom chamber.  It’s kind of a pain.  There is a work around for that if you upgrade to the really cool Sight Glass Spigot.  It is an extra $50-$70 depending on the style.  But it solves the problem of the Crown Berkey not being see-through.

Things to Keep in Mind When Considering a Berkey for Emergency Situations

Your priorities might be different if you are investing in a Berkey Water Filter primarily for emergency use.


  • Space – Storage space in your home, as well as space in your car in an evacuation
  • Capacity – How much water do you plan on going through in a 24-hour-or-less period in an emergency situation with sketchy water? (and are you only taking into account your family, or do you want to be able to share?)
  • Filtering Speed – How quickly will you want to be able to get clean water? The more filters you have running, the quicker you will get your water
  • Cost – Generally speaking, the larger the system, the more it costs

Berkey Light Vs Crown Berkey

Berkey Light

Berkey Light Water Filtration System sitting on a counter
  • Smaller footprint and height

  • Lighter to carry when full

  • Smaller capacity (2.75 gallons)

  • Not as pretty, but visible water line

  • 2 filters get the same amount of water in a given time

  • Can accommodate up to 4 filters

  • High-quality, BPA-free, food-safe, copolyester container

  • 6 Lbs Empty Weight

  • 30 lbs full weight

  • 9 x 9 x 22 Total Dimensions (add 6" for a stand)

  • Filtration Speed: About 1 GPH with 2 Black Berkey Filters, About 2 GPH with 4 Filters (Max it can accommodate)

Crown Berkey

Crown Berkey Water Filtration System sitting on a counter
  • Larger footprint and height

  • Awkward to carry when full

  • Larger capacity (6 gallons)

  • Prettier but not see-through

  • 2 filters get the same amount of water in a given time

  • Can accommodate up to 8 filters

  • High polish 304 stainless steel

  • 10 lbs empty weight

  • 62 lbs Full Weight

  • 11 x 11 x 31 Total dimensions (add 6" for a stand) 10 x 11 x 19 Nested

  • Filtration Speed: About 1 GPH with 2 Black Berkey Filters, About 4 GPH with 8 Filters (Max it can accommodate)

Other Berkey options that might fit your needs

Maybe you’re a ‘need to see all my options’ person – nothing wrong with that! There are plenty of systems for you to choose from. Here’s a brief rundown on the different sizes Berkey has to offer

Go Berkey Kit

  • 1 element
  • 1 Quart capacity
  • 1 person

Travel Berkey

  • 2 elements
  • 1.5 Gallons
  • 1-3 people


Big Berkey

  • 4 elements
  • 2.25 Gallons
  • 1-4> people

Royal Berkey

  • 4 elements
  • 3.25 Gallons
  • 2-6 people

Imperial Berkey

  • 6 elements
  • 4.5 Gallons
  • 4-8 people

One important thing to remember is that size is literally the only difference in all of these systems. They all use the same technology and filter water the same way. The bigger systems can simply house more elements, which means the water filters more quickly and they last longer because one element isn’t doing all the work.

Conclusion: Learn From My Mistake

We have a lot of people in our family.  Go big or go home, right?  A Crown Berkey just made sense.  But in reality, we weren’t going through that much water. I love the Berkey Light so much that we switched out our Crown Berkey for it, and I’ve never looked back.  

As you can see, it’s not one-size-fits-all situation.  And while I can’t tell you which specific system to get for your family, I can tell you that there is a system for everyone with Berkey! 

Related Posts:

5 simple things you can do to get your family prepared if you don't have thousands of dollars or hundreds of hours


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