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How to diagnose & fix air coming out of faucets: this article describes the causes of air discharging from building water supply piping or plumbing fixtures or the sources of excess air in water pressure tanks, water supply piping, or other plumbing fixtures.
If air blasts out of your faucets or fixtures we explain what's going on, why it's a problem, and how to diagnose and fix the trouble. Some air discharge or bubbling issues in building piping are not serious, while others could spell expensive trouble. We list the various causes of air discharge at faucets or shower heads and how to correct each one.
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Air blasts or air bubbles coming from plumbing fixtures such as faucets, showers, or toilets may be a temporary problem that cures itself or it may be a sign of a deteriorating water well. Here we list various causes of air in building water supply piping and fixtures to help in diagnosing and repairing this problem.
Question: Why is air coming out of my faucets, what does it mean, and what can I do to diagnose and fix the problem?
For a couple months now we've had excessive air in our water lines, similar to after there has been a power outage and the water spurts out of the faucets. I'm trying to figure out a solution to our water issues. We continuously have air in our water supply at all faucets, toilets, and showers; the air is intermittent, and spurts out while water is running, anywhere from immediately after faucet is turned on to a couple minutes later (in shower, for instance). Flushing the toilet results in the pipes or toilet valve banging. we have a well that's 204' deep, and the submersible pump was replaced in July 2005 (five years ago).
Our water pressure tank is working fine, turning on/shutting off at 30/60. After shutting off, with no water running, the pressure holds steady at 60. When the pressure tank is drawing water from the well, you can hear and feel the pipe from the well drawing in a lot of air from the well the cold water has the air problem much more than the hot water for whatever reason (please advise!), on two of our faucets with separate hot/cold handles, the cold water won't come out anymore.
Did the spurting of the air/water lodge mineral deposits in the valve or something to prevent cold water from coming out, but allowing hot water to flow? the flow rate out of our faucets varies from normal at times to very low pressure we don't have a water treatment system we don't have a venturi valve that I know of (we bought the house 5 years ago) or that I can find
I don't know the static level or the recovery rate of the well, and with our air/water problem, I'm not confident that I'd get a good reading.
A licensed plumber came out yesterday (very kind, offered a free estimate) and looked at the pressure gauge on the pressure switch (between the incoming supply line from the well and the pressure tank) and concluded that it's something to do w our well or well pump. He suggested that either the well may be running dry or that the screen may be clogged up. He suggested I get some friends and pull up the well pump and examine it. - T. C., Purcellville, VA
From your description it sounds as if your well water level is dropping and the pump is sending a mix of water and air into the building piping. If that turns out to be the case, it might be possible to increase the well yield - a step less costly than drilling a deeper or new well. But first take a look through the causes of air in building water piping that we describe just below. If the problem were simply a leak in the water piping between well and house, for example, that would be less costly to repair.
List of common causes of air in water, or air coming out of plumbing faucets and fixtures:
Consider that because under normal conditions building water supply piping and fixtures are pressurized with water, a leak or opening in a pipe or fixture would be expected to leak water out, not air in to the plumbing system. But there are some exceptions that we describe below. Air blasts, or air sputtering out of plumbing faucets means there is air in the water supply system. Below we diagnose the most likely causes and thus the cures for this problem.
Watch out: a hole or leak in a well pipe or a defective or improperly installed check valves on a private pump and well system can also cause air discharge from the building's faucets. A faulty check valve that allows water to drain back into the well causes negative pressure or "suction" that can draw air and contaminants into the well piping or into the well itself. See details at CHECK VALVES, WATER SUPPLY.
Experts note that when the pump shuts off, if there is a hole or leak in the well piping, the hole allows air into the well line; when the pump is running, water sprays out of the same hole, possibly adding to rust and debris in the well and the pumping of silty or dirty water into the building.
This condition only occurs if the tank is one that does not separate water from air using an in-tank bladder. In this case the problem is self-correcting, typically in just a few minutes of running water at each fixture, as excess air flows out of the tank, through piping, and out at fixtures.
As the water pump cycles back on and water is pushed back into the water tank, operations will resume normally.
But in this case the water pressure tank will become waterlogged and the water pump is likely to be short-cycling before long (see WATER PUMP SHORT CYCLING).
A new water pressure tank or a bladder replacement will be needed. We discuss captive-air water tank bladders, their maintenance, bursting, and repair, at WATER TANK BLADDERS & CAPTIVE AIR.
A defective or improperly installed check valve on a private pump and well system can also cause air discharge from the building's faucets. A faulty check valve that allows water to drain back into the well causes negative pressure or "suction" that can draw air and contaminants into the well piping or into the well itself.
See details at CHECK VALVES, WATER SUPPLY.
Watch out: when diagnosing the cause of air discharge from building faucets, it's easy to misdiagnose the cause: from inside the building the symptoms of a bad check valve (loss of prime, possibly air discharge at plumbing fixtures) can look a lot like a hole in the well piping, especially if the hole is in the pipe rising inside the well itself (also causing loss of prime, air at faucets) - as we discuss further just below.
Experts note that when the pump shuts off, if there is a hole or leak in the well piping, the hole allows air into the well line; when the pump is running, water sprays out of the same hole, possibly adding to rust and debris in the well and the pumping of silty or dirty water into the building.
While water piping is under pressure and water leaks out rather than air leaking in, if we have the combination of lost water pressure (for example during an electrical power loss or a well system being shut down), and leaks in the well piping, as water drains backwards into the well air may be drawn into the water piping through piping leaks.
If the piping leak is inside the well casing where plenty of air is available, and if the well piping includes a defective (leaky) foot valve or check valve in the well, this cycle could repeat and building occupants may see recurrent air discharge from plumbing fixtures. See WELL PIPING FOOT VALVES.
You may be able to diagnose this problem by turning off all water supply in the building and watching what happens to the water pressure gauge at the pressure tank.
If the water pressure falls slowly even when you are sure no water is running in the building, there is probably either a bad foot valve or check valve in the well, or a leak in the water piping between the well and the building. But watch out - water pressure gauges can be inaccurate or slow to respond to changes in water pressure - see WATER PRESSURE GAUGE ACCURACY.
If there is a severe well piping leak or a water piping leak or running plumbing fixture in a building the well pump may begin to run continuously - see WATER PUMP WONT STOP RUNNING.
See Water Supply/Drain Pipe Leak Types for details on diagnosing types of water piping leaks. Also see PUMP PRIME, REPEATED LOSS of for additional diagnostic help with well piping and foot valve leaks.
A falling water table or decline in well recovery rate may cause the well pump to send a mixture of water and air into the well piping and building. If this condition is occurring you might notice that the air discharge at plumbing fixtures is intermittent: when no water has been run overnight and the well has recovered, once existing in-piping air has blown out, the water flow may appear normal, without air discharge.
But as well water level drops and the well is slow in recovering, the air discharge problem will return. In sum, these well or well and pump conditions can cause air to be delivered by the well pump into the building's water supply piping:
The combination of a too-small STATIC HEAD, WELL DEFINITION (water reserve) in the well and a poor flow rate make this problem more likely. A well that has performed adequately in the past may no longer have an adequate yield for a variety of reasons: drought, a drop in the water table, drilling of new wells nearby, or yield loss due to mineral clogging of rock fissures that feed water to the well.
If the well pump is too large incapacity (pumping rate) for the well's safe yield then air may be drawn into the well pump and water piping when the pump drops water level in the well too low.
The safe yield for a well may change if the water table drops. Then, if the well pump output rate exceeds the safe yield for the well, air may be injected into the building water piping and the well pump may be damaged.
See WELL YIELD DEFINITION where we define safe well yield.
See WATER PRESSURE COMES & GOES - for symptoms of loss of water in the well and slow well recovery rates.
See WATER PRESSURE LOSS DIAGNOSIS & REPAIR for our complete article series on diagnosing loss of water or water pressure at a building.
It is possible that a failing well pump may introduce air into the water supply piping system due to cavitation (a vacuum forming inside the well pump mechanism), causing dissolved gases to come out of solution. Cavitation and air leaks into a water pump may be more likely with an above-ground jet pump and less likely with a submersible in-well pump that would be expected to be always submerged in water. See WATER PUMP LIFE EXPECTANCY.
If a new well pump has been installed and is over-sized, the level of water in the well may be drawn down too rapidly when the pump is running, resulting in air entering the pump and being delivered to the building. This condition can also occur in times of drought or if your well is running dry.
An air volume control device may be installed on some bladderless water tanks to attempt to keep the proper air charge in the water tank. If the air volume control is leaky or not working properly it may be overcharging the water tank with air. If this is the case the air discharge from plumbing fixtures will be chronic. See WATER TANK AIR VOLUME CONTROLS.
In some areas gases, including potentially dangerous explosive methane gas, may leak into the water supply and may be delivered into the building water piping from a well.
Watch out: methane gas in well water is a pollutant and may be explosive. According to experts such as the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services,
Dissolved gases may also be present in water but would not normally appear as bubbles or air blasts at a faucet. These include radon, carbon dioxide, hydrogen sulfide (rotten egg smell), or other gases from dissolved organic matter or chemicals. But in some deep wells water at the well bottom, at higher pressure, may hold dissolved gases that convert to bubble form when water pressure is reduced to ambient air pressure at building faucets.
Changes in water temperature also affect the amount of gases that remain dissolved in water - warming water drives gases out of solution.
Watch out: if you find air discharging only from your hot water faucets a dangerous condition may be present: the hot water heating system may be too hot, risking scalding or even water heater explosion. Turn off power or fuel to the water heater itself and call a licensed plumber immediately.
Water treatment equipment can also inject air into a building water supply. Water treatment to remove odors or gases from the water supply may use venturi air injectors intended to remove iron, manganese, or odors. Properly installed these devices should not send air out of faucets. But the following conditions can cause air injector treatments to place excess air in the building water supply piping:
There may be other causes of air discharge from building water supply piping, including the ones we list below.
If a bladderless water tank that used a snifter valve system is replaced with a new internal-bladder tank you may need to have a plumber pull the well piping to remove the (now no longer used) drain and vent found inside the well.
Even if the bladderless water pressure tank was replaced with a new bladderless tank, if the snifter valve system was left in place but the excess air vent was not installed on the new tank (or is not working) you'll want to provide or repair these components.
If your well tank is a "captive air" or bladder type pressure tank such as the Well-X-Trol™ series see WATER TANK BLADDER PRESSURE ADJUSTMENT.
CONTACT us to suggest other causes of air in water supply systems.
Continue reading at AIR INLET VALVES or select a topic from the More Reading links shown below.
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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
(Nov 15, 2012) Jim Rotella said:
Question: Air bursts coming out of plumbing, & my well pump won't shut off
I have a 3/4 Hp 120v single line shallow well pump for my house. The well head is located about 50ft from pump. I also have a well mate water pressure tank with good pressure in it. I have live in this house for 3 years and have had no problems with water supply or pressure to the house. I have check the pump pressures in the past being 30psi for pump to turn on and 53psi to turn off pump.
I can hear the pump run while taking a shower as its just on the other side of the wall. and normally the pump will run once and shut off while the shower is still running. It was normal up until 2 days ago.
Now my pump with come on and will not shut off while the shower is running. Also I am getting air busts out of every fixture. I have turned down the off pressure to the pump to 45psi and this seems to help sum. I can hear the pump cavitating and the cavitation and air busts seam to be worse the higher the pressure goes higher.
I have a check valve in the supply line to the pump about 10inchs from the pump. I have no drop in pressure after 4hrs of running no water. My question is where is the air coming from? Could my pump be going bad and cavitating that much air into my system? Or does there have to be an air hole in my pipe somewhere between my pump and foot valve? or could my well low on water? How do I diagnose this problem? - Thanks Derek
Reply: deteriorated well flow rate, well piping leak, or other?
Derek, regarding your question about well pump not shutting off:
Take a look at our diagnostic suggestions at WATER PUMP WONT STOP RUNNING
Question: air discharge in plumbing traced to well piping leaks
I got same problem last time it turned out to be leak in the threads on the pipe between he well and intake side of my pump having problems again about a month still cant figure it out might have to call a well pro. - Shu
Thanks Shu. Indeed leaks in well piping between the well and the building can introduce air into the piping. We've added this tip to our sources of air discharge at fixtures.
Question: air out of fixtures - artesian well feeds holding tank pumped then into building
I have been getting air out of my fixtures for the last month. My system is "unique" I have a artesian well that constantly drips water at a low volume/pressure into a underground holding tank then a shallow well jet pump sucks that out of the tank and fills an old bladder-less tank. Normally when my underground tank is full my runoff line drips out the excessive water, but lately my jet pump has not been cycling on and off it seems like it is just pumping water somewhere and running my underground tank empty, if I unplug my pump the tank will fill and runoff after 2 hours or so.
I have replaced my pump and my air volume control with very little or on change. When I unplug my pump and turn it back on after 2 hours it runs fine and with good pressure for a few hours and reverts back to staying on and sucking my underground tank dry. Got any Ideas? - Devin Snyder
Devin I'd check for a leak on the water supply system piping. Start looking carefully at the piping between the water storage tank and the building. I'm guessing that your shallow well jet pump is located in the building where it pressurizes a bladderless water pressure tank.
A leak in water piping on the inlet side of the jet pump can suck air into the water lines when the pump is drawing water from the storage tank.
Or of course there may be some other snafu we haven't thought of. Keep us posted - what you find will help other readers.
(Dec 26, 2011) ray said:
well shut down no water pressure pump will not run
Ray, at another web page we made some suggestions about testing the pressure switch = also see WATER PRESSURE LOSS DIAGNOSIS & REPAIR
Question: air in the deep well system only shows up at one hot water faucet
(Mar 21, 2012) Jerry said:
I, too, have air in my deep well system but it only shows on ONE hot water faucet. 5-8 seconds of blowing air with little water. Not noticable on the cold side or in the adjacent bathroom fixtures. Can a faulty hot-water faucet be the cause.? I've had the entire system examined and no one can find the problem. Rust filter tank, water softener and well pump all check out.
This makes me think that the problem is in the hot water tank and piping and perhaps the closest hot water fixture.
Question: air from flushing toilets, taking a shower, turning on faucets,
(Apr 21, 2012) Tara said:
Hi, We have air coming from our pipes. We experience the air from flushing the toilets, taking a shower and turning on faucets. It happens on a daily basis although not every time we run the water. We had our bladder tank replaced in August because the well pump would cycle on when there was no water running in the house. The plumber said we had a bad tank and valve, so he replaced both the tank and the valve.
That seemed to fix the problem of the well pump running when it shouldn't; however, ever since the plumber did his work we now have air in our lines. The plumber's only response was that he would have to pull the well pump up to investigate. That seems extreme to me. The plumber did not respond to any further contact I tried to make with him, so we've just been dealing with the air in the line hoping it would correct itself. Thank you.
(Oct 5, 2012) SUZ said:
I have the same problem with periodic Air - Water spurting from ALL faucets, but then there is NO Water at all..anywhere in the house. This could go on for an hour or as little as a few minutes.
My Husband thinks it is because we have more people in the house, but even on days, we may do only 1 Load of Laundry and 1 Shower..there it is all over again.. What could it be? We have a Well And a Water Softener of course.
Tara, This sounds like an air volume control that is intermittently sticking, perhaps a float type. What valve was replaced by the plumber?
Suz: the correlation with increased air in the plumbing system when there are more people using water argues for a problem with the air volume control or air loss at the pressure tank, or both. Your water tank is losing air and the AVC is not restoring it.
If your well uses a shifter valve and is also low on water, perhaps due to heavy usage, the condition you describe might be explained. Take a look at Richard's comment just below.
Question: well system full of air, hissing found at well cover near the pitless adapter
(June 25, 2012) Richard H. said:
My well/water system in my home is full of air. My well water is low PH, acidic. It does not like carbon steel. The well is about 180' deep, and the pump should be at about 140'. The water level in the was at 100', but has not been checked recently. My well pump is 1 HP, 2 wire. My bladder tank is a 60 gallon size. The well switch is set at 40-60 PSI. The tank pressure is about 2 PSI less than cut in pressure. I still have air pressure in the tank and no water at the air valve. I was told by the plumber that replaced the current pump, about four years ago, that he installed a check valve on the pump side of the pitless adapter.
I can remove the well cover and it sounds like a hissing noise, probably near the pitless adapter, so you would assume a leak. Last night I tripped the pump breaker and isolated the pressure tank from the house. The pressure gauge read about 50 PSI. If there was a leak back to the pump, the tank should bleed down over night. It didn't. The gauge was still at about 50 PSI. I opened the supply valve to the house and tripped the breaker on.
The pump ran once the water pressure dropped, but the line was full of air, lots of air. Once the pump ran for awhile, the air noise went away and the pump then reached pressure and shut off. The house lines are still full of air. I assume there was a built-in check valve on the pump. If so, could this have failed, causing water to run back to the pump? Maybe the check valve at the pitless adapter is bad too, or can't hold that amount of water in the pipe. I'm kind of lost trying to figure this out.
Reply: check the snifter valve
Richard, search InspectApedia for "snifter valve" or for the article titled "How to Find & Repair the Water Tank Air Volume Control Device " - hissing could be at that device if one is installed in your well.
I agree with the test you performed, but a check valve in the well piping could prevent pressure from falling in the system.
I'm guessing (from afar with little info) that there is a snifter valve in the well that allows makeup air into the system but there is no vent to remove excess air from the system at the pressure tank - that snafu can occur when an older bladderless water tank (that used a snifter valve and vent at the water tank) is replaced with a new internal bladder pressure tank while forgetting to remove the snifter valve on the well piping - that will keep injecting excessive air into the system.
Dec 14, 2012) Altitude Problem? said:
I had to replace amixing valve faucet in one bathroom yesterday and since then the jet pump goes on & off every 10 mins.Ihave purged all air from the lines to no avail.I supect a problem with the 40 gall blue tank next to the pump.There is water in the pressure tank,but I am not sure if I need to introduce air to correct this problem.Please advise.Altitude here is 6500 Feet.Thanks,Mike B
Altitude - Mike B.
I can't figure how changing a mixing valve on water supply piping would trigger a rapid cycling of the water pump unless you left a leak flowing somewhere. But about adding air, and short-cycling well pumps,
take a look at the two diagnostic articles in the Related Links section above, titled
WATER PUMP SHORT CYCLING
SHORT CYCLING DIAGNOSIS TABLE
Question: Air discharge from faucets - second opinion
(Dec 20, 2012) cornelius said:
I would appreciate a second opinion. I have been having off and on air discharge in my faucets. I have a well and also municipal water supplying my property. The well has a submersible pump and a tank similar to a Wellmate. The tank is less than a year old, I don't recall the size. The pump is 1.5 hp. The municipal water is only pressured on the town's end. The only pressure it would get from my side would involve the tank. My property is like a rental and has 8 full bathrooms, plus a few extra sinks being supplied. Not sure if that info is important. The discharge has been in faucets, toilets, and showers so it shouldn't be a fixture or aerator issue.
I have shut the valve off just outside my tank on the section of pipe that feeds my property. Leaving only the pipe that is connected to the pump open. In about one hours time I have only seen a pressure drop from about 50psi to maybe 48 or 47psi, and most of that was right after I shut off the valve.
With only municipal water supplying the property right now I don't have air discharge. But no pressure drop from the tank is leading me to believe the check valve between my well and pump is fine. Is there any other isolating I could do that would give me an idea of a leak in the pipe from the pump or the foot valve at the pump?
I have on occasion been successful by allowing the tank to refill fully before opening the valve up. Then after a power outage it may go back to air discharge. It's possible it doesn't even require a power outage. I do also have to cut off the connection between the municipal line and my well from time to time as I have a pool, and when it needs water if the well is running it often leads to sediment in the pool water.
You may also want to know that all pipe is pvc as I live in a tropical climate and there is no issue with freezing. I have had leaks in the pipe heading into the well before but generally it would short cycle when that was the case. Thanks.
I just noticed after re-opening the valve from the tank that when the pump is on and the pressure is rising there seems to be an addition of air in the pipes. I have two concerns regarding the well. First, that we are coming off a very dry year where I live, secondly we had a massive earthquake that was reported to have raised a large amount of actual land an entire meter. So, I'm concerned about the well being either dryer(lower) or the pump being raised in comparison to the well water.
Or worst of all that the aquifer is losing water since the earthquake. I didn't bring those issues up first as I wanted to see if there wasn't more local ways to isolate and diagnose. Obviously there could be air entering through other means and I would be gracious to hear how I can figure out which means exactly. Thanks, again.
Question: spurting water, poor water pressure or flow, air discharge at some taps or fixtures
(Jan 23, 2013) John Smith said:
Mobile home on well, we have almost no cold water and hot water spits and sputters when running only at the kitchen sink any idea why it has been this way for months
(Jan 29, 2013) Evelyn j said:
We have spurting water and air at the hard water tap but not the other taps. The hard water line is the first line off from the well and this line goes straight up. When the power goes off all the taps have spurting issues for a while so this is different. This issue with the hard water tap occurred once before about eight weeks ago and then quit after a few days. We were away for six weeks and turned the water off to the house. Have been home for four days and yesterday would have been a higher water usage day, but the spurting only started this morning. The hard water tap worked fine at ten last night. It seems like the bladder tank is working fine. Any suggestions re likely cause?
(Mar 4, 2013) Jason said:
I have air that surges out of my cold hard water faucet's. Started happening shortly after a Culligan Water softener was installed. Called Culligan and they see the softener has nothing to do with it. Thanks for help
(Mar 25, 2013) Matt said:
I have a simIar problem. About 30 seconds after my well pump cuts on at 40 psi there is spurt of air. Shortlt after that spurt the tank rebuilds pressure and everything is fine. The spurts though are a problem in the showers and at appliances in home. The Problem started after I replaced the old water tank And the joints seem tO be air tight. Cut in is 40 cut out 65 and psi in tank set at 38. What would the reason for the air in lines?
Jason, they're probably right in that a softener would not normally introduce air into the water system piping; and if there were a leak that let air in, I figure it would probably let water out - you'd see a water leak.
Can you confirm that your system is on a private well?
Sometimes I see this problem when there is a submersible well pump that used a snifter valve as part of the air volume control system- that approach has an air inlet on the well piping inside the well that needs to be removed when changing over to a captive air tank. There may also be an above ground air volume control to be removed.
Question: water supply stops, then continues, lots of air in water
(May 30, 2014) Melissa said:
Your well could be running low - the fact that the well was hydro-fractured suggests that it has a history of running out of water.
As it's a deep well, probably using a submersible pump, a second source of air could be an old snifter valve on the well piping inside the well (something to ask your well repair company about if they pull the well piping), or the companion vent and air volume controls back at the pressure tank could be allowing excess air into the system.
Unfortunately, given the history you cite I speculate it's the first problem
A very rough diagnostic might be the following: if you see that your water is not air-filled and seems more normal after the well has rested over night (or longer, giving it time to recover), that'd suggest a low flow rate problem in the well .
Other problems such as a leak in well piping can also cause this trouble (though less likely)
One more thing: some hydrofracking companies warrant their work (promising an increased yield) - but I don't know for what period. Something to check into.
Keep me posted.
Question: sputtering faucets when toilet is flushed - air blamed on washing machine, municipal water supply
7/24/14 Christina said:
I'm not sure how a washing machine could insert air into a building water supply.
Have you checked or tried replacing the pressure regulator for the building?
Thanks Dan, we had a new pressure reducing valve installed by a plumber. It reduced our pressure to a safer level, but the problem continues. Another plumber suggested that when the valves of an old washing machine open and close the water, it can create an air pocket. We will try to replace the washer but what if that doesn't work. What is left…what don't we see? I contacted our water co. and they suggested to open all faucets….bleed the system….been there…problem comes back.
On municipal water supply this is a tough one Christina - I'm continuing to think about it. If the air problem shows up ONLY after running the washing machine then indeed the plumber may be on to an answer. So let's try opening faucets, bleeding air, and leaving the washer off for a day or so. Let me know what happens.
Have you confirmed that no neighbors have problems with air in their water supply?
Question: pressure drops, pump kicks on, no water pressure, then air comes out. When water returns it's dirty
7/28/14 Myles said:
Myles I think you are describing a well running out of water.
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