It’s happened to all of us: our water pressure drops, leaving us with little or no running water, and our pressure tank is to blame. Does that merit calling a professional, or should you risk trying to fix it yourself? The problem is, pressure tanks are frequently very difficult to fix, and more often than not, you need a straight up replacement. But if you know the signs of pressure tank problems and pay close attention, you can prevent damage earlier on.
How well are your pump and pressure tank working?
Your pressure tank and well pump are a bit like a battery and a generator: the well pump creates (or generates) pressure, and the pressure tank then stores that pressure, like a battery. When one of these two isn’t working properly, the system starts to break down. If your pump starts to switch on and off rapidly, it means that your pressure tank is damaged…and that could cost you 3 times more to fix than it needed to be.
How long should your pressure tank last you?
The most common type of pressure tank is a bladder tank; they reduce pump cycling, protect from water hammer, and help keep the water pressure in your home steady. The life-span of your bladder pressure tank depends on a few different things. First, the quality of the pressure tank to begin with. The cheaper the tank, the less time it will last. Cheap tanks tend to last about 5 years, whereas more expensive, but higher quality tanks could last up to 30 years. If your water is clean and you’re using the right size tank, the average life-span is around 15 years.
The quality of the water that is being pumped also factors into the equation. If you tend to have sand or rocks in the water you draw up from the well, this will rub the diaphragm in the tank and cause a hole to form, effectively rendering your tank useless.
The other factor that will affect the length of life for your tank is cycling. Pressure tanks are designed to keep a layer of air above the water inside the tank in order to limit the cycling of the pump. When a person in your house turns on the water, the air inside the tank will expand, and this will reduce the amount of air pressure on the tank. When the pressure reaches approximately 40psi, the pump will be turned on in order to refill the tank with water and return the air pressure to normal. If the cycling process is too fast or frequent, the bladder in the tank could be damaged or destroyed.
What issues to look for
If any of these signs start to appear, you should immediately contact a professional.
1.-Your pressure begins to vary erratically – if the needle on the pressure gauge is going crazy, bouncing between low pressure and high pressure every 20 seconds to 2 minutes, then your pressure is swinging. You can verify this by turning on any faucet in the house and see if the water pressure increases and decreases rapidly. Sometimes, pumps are loud, and you will be able to hear the pump turning on and off. If the cycle for a pump turning on and off is more than once every 30 seconds, this could be a much bigger issue.
2.- The top of the tank feels cold and full – if you knock on the top of your tank, it should have a hollow sound. If it sounds full, then there is a problem with your water pressure and the tank may not be working correctly. Be careful not to slosh the tank around too hard! It could break or damage a pipe!
3.- The pressure in the water tank is off – this one is a little tougher to check. First, disconnect the electricity connected to your water pump. Then, drain all of the water from the tank by opening a valve. When all the water has been drained out, your pressure indicator should mark 2psi less than the cut-in pressure, or the pressure when the pump turns on. The most common psi is 38, but depending on your tank or what your pressure switch settings are, you could see 48 or 28. Again, if you don’t feel capable of handling this, call a professional.
a4.- The diaphragm is blown – if the pressure gauge on the tank reads lower than 10 psi, then it’s likely that the diaphragm is blown. You should contact a professional to assist you.