How to Diagnose Water Tank Problems
How a Bad Water Tank Causes Loss of Water Pressure or No Water
- WATER TANK DIAGNOSIS & REPAIR - CONTENTS: How to diagnose problems with the water pressure tank or water storage tank. How does the water tank affect building water pressure & how does the water tank affect building water quantity? How does the water tank affect well pump life & how to decide if water pressure tank replacement is necessary & Typical cost of various well, pump, and water tank repairs.How a Bad Water Pressure Tank Can Cause Water Pressure Loss or Complete Water Supply Loss. Shaking the Water Pressure Tank to Diagnose its Condition
- POST a QUESTION or READ FAQs about troubleshooting well water storage tanks or water pressure tanks.
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Water pressure tank or water storage tank troubleshooting guide:
This article describes how and why to diagnose problems right at the water tank in order to help distinguish among intermittent water pressure loss, total water pressure loss, and poor water pressure or flow in a building.
The process of water tank troubleshooting starting with simple visual clues is explained.
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How do we diagnose poor water pressure or loss of water pressure in a building, and what are the common causes and repairs for this problem?
Easy Steps to Troubleshoot Water Pressure & Water Pressure Tank Problems for Homes on a Private Well
This article explains how a bad Water Pressure Tank\s Can Cause Loss of building Water Pressure or No Water at All.
[Click to enlarge any image]
The process of diagnosis and the costs of the repair are explained.
Consumer advice on saving money on well repair costs
includes a review of the parts and labor costs of a typical well pump and pressure tank replacement case.
How a Bad Water Pressure Tank Can Cause Water Pressure Loss or Complete Water Supply Loss
If the building water supply stops and takes minutes to hours to recover,
you may have problem with the well flow rate. But the problem of lost water supply and pressure could be
more mechanical: a bad well pump.
The well pump, in turn, could have been damaged or hastened to the end of its
life by a bad water pressure tank which has caused well pump short-cycling. Short cycling of the pump motor can burn up
the pump relay control.
- Water tank short cycling: A bad or defective water pressure tank which has lost its air charge or which cannot keep its air charge
will cause well pump short cycling - rapid turning on and off of the water pump. This frequent pump switching on and off
is hard on the pump (damages the pump) and also on the pump switches and controls (switch contacts can become burned).
Short cycling is especially risky with an older water pump, and might push it over the edge of failure.
When the water pump fails the building will simply lose water pressure (and water supply) completely (unless it by luck the building is served by an artesian well).
Our photo (above left) illustrates a conventional internal bladder water pressure tank. As no water pump is in view we infer that this system may support a well using a submersible well pump.
- Old water pumps may stop when hot: A water pump might be at end of its life and about to burn up but still work after a cool-down cycle.
In other words when the pump has been working hard and the motor is hot the pump may stop running. Since the water pump may have been
overheated due to short cycling, the actual root cause of its stopping may be the water tank (loss of air or a bad pump control) not
the pump itself.
After the pump has been off for a while it may magically start working again: some water
pumps have an internal thermal overload switch that shuts them off combined with an automatic thermal switch reset.
This is most likely to be found on water pumps that are inaccessible such as a submersible water pump.
In this case water pressure and supply will stop completely but will return after the pump cools down. But this failure is likely to be recurrent.
- More on short cycling, water tank air, and how to fix the problem:: To review loss of air charge, water pump short cycling, water pump pressure control settings, and other water tank repairs be sure to
see WATER PUMP & WATER TANK REPAIRS
- Water tank air bladder problems such as a burst bladder or one which has become collapsed and stuck to itself can also cause
water pump short cycling and the loss of water pressure or flow shown above. Less common in our experience but possible is water tank inlet
clogging due to a high level of sediment in the water supply, leading to similar symptoms.
More often water sediment clogs the sensor of
a water pressure regulator or it may clog a water filter, both of which lead to reduced water pressure and ultimately complete loss of water supply.
- See WATER PRESSURE TANK DIAGNOSIS to continue in diagnosis of apparent problems with water tanks.
- Our complete list of causes of loss of water pressure is discussed and water problems are diagnosed in detail at WATER PRESSURE LOSS DIAGNOSIS & REPAIR where we review
the all of the things that can cause loss of water pressure or loss of water entirely in a building.
Shaking the Water Pressure Tank to Diagnose its Condition
Testing a home water tank: Some plumbers or homeowners check to see if their water tank contains any water
by simply "shaking" the water pressure tank. Be careful: moving an empty water tank around can cause plumbing leaks or
even a burst pipe. There may be a trick to this but shaking the water pressure tank alone is not going to reliably
diagnoses a ruptured bladder in a captive air water tank). Shaking the tank can tell you that the water tank is empty but not why
the water tank is empty.
Why is there no water in the tank?: The water tank could be empty simply because you ran all of its water out into the home and
the water pump never came on to replenish the water supply. The possible causes of an empty water tank and no water in the home include
causes we list in detail just below:
What are the Causes of Low or Poor Water Pressure or Loss of Water Pressure in a Building?
- Loss of electrical power (pump does not run) to the pump or pump control - nothing is running the water pump. Is power turned on? Is there power at the pump control and is there power to the pump?
Bad water pressure control switch (pump does not run, pump does not respond to changes in water pressure, pump won't shut off) a failing pressure control switch on the water pump - perhaps the switch is not turning on the pump.
This can be checked by manually closing the pump relay - DON'T TRY THIS YOURSELF - SHOCK HAZARD - unless you are qualified and trained. Pressure Control Switch problems are discussed further
at CAUSES OF SHORT CYCLING.
Also be sure to
review WELL PUMP PRESSURE CONTROL ADJUSTMENT for instructions on how to adjust the water pump pressure control switch.
Our photo shows a new switch we installed on a one line jet pump in 2005.
Bad water pressure regulator: (poor municipal water pressure) if the building is connected to a municipal water supply there may be a water pressure regulator installed, usually close to the water meter or where the water supply pipe enters the building.
A detailed guide to water pressure regulators and diagnosis and adjustment advice for these devices are
at WATER PRESSURE REDUCER / REGULATOR.
- Clogged water filter (pump cycles on and off very rapidly, reduced water pressure in the building) a clogged water filter can cause rapid pump cycling on and off - discussed further
at CAUSES OF SHORT CYCLING
- Clogged water supply piping (reduced water flow) can cause poor water flow in a building. This can occur suddenly from debris clogging a delivery pipe, often at a turn or "elbow" in the piping, but that's not common. If the building water supply piping is blocked usually this is a long-standing problem. We discuss how to diagnose clogged water supply piping or blocked pipes as a cause of reduced or poor water pressure in our article
at WATER PIPE CLOG DIAGNOSIS.
Bad water tank: (pump cycling on and off or "short cycling water pump") where buildings use a private pump and well and on some buildings with poor municipal water supply quantity or pressure, a water pressure tank is installed.
See WATER TANKS HOW THEY WORK
- Gently moving or "shaking" the water tank can tell you if the tank contains any water at all. The water tank could be empty simply because the well ran out of water (water was pulled out of the well faster than it could recover), or perhaps because the water pump never came on to replenish the water supply.
- Some of the possible causes of an empty water tank and no water in the home include other symptoms discussed in this list of loss of water pressure. Water tanks that use
an internal bladder can have a ruptured bladder.
- Steel water tanks may not be as badly rusted as the rusty water tank in this photo, but they may have pinhole leaks that result in lost air charge in the water tank.
See WHAT IS SHORT CYCLING or a bladder that's stuck to itself (pump always comes on immediately).
- Well water supply pipe failure (pump runs, reduced or no water flow into the building) A well water supply pipe failure in the well or between the well and the building, so water is not being delivered to the home. (Or in cold climates, the line may have frozen)
Examples of this problem include frozen pipes, pipe leaks causing loss of water (inside the well or underground between well and building), or air leaks into the well piping, causing loss of prime (with jet pump systems). Even when a submersible pump is located in the well (and there is no loss of prime problem), if the water piping is leaking between the pump and the building water pressure may be reduced or lost.
Loss of water pump or well pump prime (pump runs but no water is delivered) in an in-building pump, or an internal pump failure such as broken vanes - the pump motor runs but no water is delivered. An in-building pump could also run and no water be delivered if the well has run dry.
- A shallow well jet pump well line could have a bad foot valve (in the well) and so be losing prime. A leak in the well line can also lead to loss of prime as it lets water out or air into the well piping.
Some water pumps, particularly jet pumps, include a removable plug atop the pump assembly, giving access to the water pumping chamber in order to add
water to "prime the pump" in the event that the water pump has become air bound. This photograph shows such a plug on top of our one line jet pump.
- Water Pump Internal Parts Failure: (pump runs but no water is delivered) a pump failure such as broken vanes in the pump assembly, worn out and leaky internal pump bearings or parts, or clogging with sediment or minerals can result in a pump whose motor runs but whose water output is reduced.
- Water Pump Motor Failure: (pump motor stops or does not start at all): A failed or failing in-well submersible water pump stops delivering water at all, or periodically overheats and temporarily stops working. Such a pump is probably at end of life, unless the problem is traced to a voltage, switch, or wiring problem.
- Water Table Level Fluctuations: (seasonal reduction in water flow or water quantity): in some areas, fluctuations in the level of ground water such as a drop in the level of groundwater during the dry season or during droughts, can result in a reduced well recovery rate or complete loss of well water.
- Water Pressure Intermittent Bad or Lost: When you lose water pressure or lose all water supply for some time period but later it returns, check the possible explanations outlined
at How to Diagnose Loss of Water Pressure which later Returns or Recovers "on its own".
- Water Pressure Totally Lost: If you lose and do not recover water pressure in the building
see Diagnosis of Loss of Water Pressure which Does Not Recover on its Own.
- Well is Failing: (reduced or no water flow, increasingly slow well recovery rate) the well itself may be deteriorating, with less water flowing into the well or water flowing into the more slowly than in the past.
Reductions in well flow rate occur over time when minerals clog the rock fissures that lead water into the well, or sudden reductions in well flow rate (and total water quantity) can occur if the well casing is cracked (perhaps by nearby blasting or equipment movement) or if someone drills another well nearby and happens to tap into the same water aquifer.
See WELL LIFE EXPECTANCY
Here are The Key Water Tank Diagnostic Articles
If you have no water pressure at all, see NO WATER PRESSURE
If your water pressure is intermittent, starts and stops, or varies in pressure, see WATER PRESSURE INTERMITTENT LOSS
Is there some water pressure but the pressure and/or flow are poor?
- Water supply piping problem?
See Bad water pressure Clogged Pipes
WATER PIPE CLOG REPAIR
The following articles pertain if you have a private well, pump, and tank system for your building
- Water Tank Problems?
See WATER PRESSURE TANK REPAIRS
- Water pump problems?
- WATER PUMP PRESSURE CONTROL ADJUSTMENT
- WATER PUMPS & TANKS & WELLS
- WATER PUMP CONTROLS & SWITCHES
- Bad water pressure regulator?
See WATER PRESSURE REDUCER / REGULATOR (not usually installed on private well and pump systems, often present on municipal water supply systems that use an in-building local water pump and pressure tank to boost pressure)
Continue reading at WATER TANK REPAIR PROCEDURES or select a topic from the More Reading links shown below.
Or see WATER PUMP SHORT CYCLING
Suggested citation for this web page
WATER TANK DIAGNOSIS & REPAIR at InspectApedia.com - online encyclopedia of building & environmental inspection, testing, diagnosis, repair, & problem prevention advice.
Green link shows where you are in this article series.
- AIR DISCHARGE at FAUCETS, FIXTURES
- CHECK VALVES, WATER SUPPLY
- COSTS: WATER PUMP & TANK
- PUMPS USED in BUILDINGS
- TANK TYPES: EXPANSION, OIL, SEPTIC WATER, ALL
- WATER CONSERVATION MEASURES - home
- WATER HEATERS - home
- WATER PRESSURE LOSS DIAGNOSIS & REPAIR - home
- WATER PUMPS, TANKS, TESTS, WELLS, REPAIRS - home
- WATER PUMP REPAIR GUIDE - home
- WATER SOFTENERS & CONDITIONERS - home
- WATER TANK: USES, TROUBLESHOOTING - home
- WATER SUPPLY & DRAIN PIPING - home
- WELLS CISTERNS & SPRINGS - home
- FAQs below discusses field reports of problems & solutions for this topic
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Click to Show or Hide FAQs
Question: I suspect that there is a setting mismatch between the pressure switch and the pressure in the tank
(June 4, 2011) jim said:
This series of aritcles talks about everythinh except what I need to know. I changed the switch, but now I suspect that there is a setting mismatch between the pressure switch and the pressure in the tank. I need to know how to check the system to make sure the the pressure in the tank is correct for a new pressure switch pressure setting?
The pressure gauge on your well pump and tank system is giving you the water pressure and also the air pressure in your water tank. When the pump stops running, the pressure on the gauge is the static water pressure in the system; at that point, the air pressure in the water tank will be at exactly the same psi.
If you want to make an INDEPENDENT check on water pressure (and thus in-tank air pressure) in your system in case your installed water pressure gauge might be broken or inaccurate, it's easy to do. You can buy or make a water pressure gauge that connects to a hose faucet hookup such as is found at the water tank drain or at a nearby laundry sink faucet or outdoor hose bib.
If you click on WATER PRESSURE & FLOW MEASUREMENT (see article links at page left) you can see how to buy and use a water pressure gauge on your plumbing system.
If you need to adjust the air pressure in your water tank, see WATER TANK BLADDER PRESSURE ADJUSTMENT which is also among the links shown above at page left or in More Reading - links above.
Question: my well pump short cycles
(Sept 7, 2011) Larry Hunter said:
my well pump short cycles. goes up to 58 lbs of pressure, shuts off, then drops to 38 lbs and comes back on. We were without power for 8 days due to hurricane Irene. This problem did not occur before loss of power.
Larry my first suspicion is that you've got a leaky check valve or foot valve. It may have always been there but could have gotten worse from mud and debris stirred up in a well by floodwaters. If the system loses pressure after the pump shuts off and you are dead sure there is NO water running in the house, I suspect water is running back down into the well (bad foot valve or check valve).
Larry it's also possible that your water pressure tank has lost its air charge; I'd check on that second; you can of course try replacing the pressure switch on the theory that it got wet or corroded during its idle time.
Question: should the pressure tank be empty?
(Dec 9, 2011) Gerry said:
I have a jet pump that has performed normally for about 5 years. Recently the breaker switch on the electrical supply panel has started to kick off when the pump is runing (toilet flush or when water softener is cycling) Loss of power occurs only intermittently. While the pump performs normally, I have replaced the pressure control switch, cleaned the pressure switch feed line and switch diaphram, checked for silt inside the pump body and around the impeller, and replaced the electrical breaker. There have been no changes recently to the total load on the electrical circuit. What other difficulties would cause the electrical/pump failure?
(Sept 1, 2012) herman said:
intermitten water flow and water comes out whenthe bladder air valve is press
(Mar 8, 2014) Allen Ravenscraft said:
My system consists of a inground well pump then a pressure switch and pressure tank going into an airator tank. From there a pump in the airator tank sends the water past another pressure switch and pressure tank to a softener system and to the house. The well pressure tank doesn't seem to store any water while the tank going to the house does. Is this normal? My neighbor has the exact system and his well pressure tank also remains empty. Also what is the purpose of the well pressure tank because the main well pump is controlled by a water level arm in the airator tank? Thanks.
I just realized what the purpose of the well pressure tank is. It's there to operate the sprinkler system and the hose bibs that are on the well side of my system. Sorry, it was late, but I'm still at a loss as to why that pressure tank is always empty and doesn't store water like the house pressure tank does.
pressure tanks are there to smooth the delivery of water as the pump cycles on and off; if a tank is always empty it may be an internal bladder type with a collapsed, stuck-to-itself bladder. The tank is NOT normally empty.
(Mar 12, 2014) Allen Ravenscraft said:
My system is working OK for now. I found out that the pressure switch for the well pressure tank is a 30/50 psi and the house pressure switch is 40/60 which is a normal set up for homes in my area in Florida. I’m not sure why though. So I drained the whole system and tanks then set one at 28 and the other at 38 psi. The well tank filled with small amount of water but the house tank didn’t. I reduced the house tank to 30 psi and then it also took in a small amount of water. I don’t think either tank has its maximum amount of water in them, but the system is operating normal now so I’m going to leave everything as it is. Thank you for your help.
Thanks for the follow-up Allen, though it's confusing to me. I'm not familiar with water delivery systems using two different pressure switches. A pressure control switch turns a pump on and off in response to water pressure. It would be a conundrum to install multiple switches all controlling a single pump. Perhaps your system uses a different design with multiple tanks and a booster pump and tank at the building?
(June 9, 2014) Anonymous said:
Water was coming out of boring pump. But motor was unable to pump ground water to tank. Replaced new washers. Not able to find fault. It is troubling us from very long.
(Sept 16, 2014) Dave Beynon said:
When i check the PSI valve on the top of the water tank, water shoots out of the valve. Is the tank shoot?
Dave, as my good friend Mark Cramer (Tampa FL) says, "It Depends ..."
If the water tank is one that uses an internal bladder, then yes the bladder has burst and needs replacement - or replace the whole tank assembly.
If the water tank is one that does NOT use an internal bladder then the tank is waterlogged.
(Sept 17, 2014) Dave Beynon said:
Thanks Dan, it has an internal bladder. Time for a new tank.
Question: filament looking something clogging screen strainers
(Oct 1, 2014) Mike said:
we have a water pressure tank, we have a submersible pump in well. We are having problems with a filament looking something clogging screen strainers on washing machines and water faucets. Where could this be coming from. We suspect it might be fiberglass residue, accordiung to local hardware guy.
I've seen white debris clogging faucet strainers and shower heads when a plastic dip tube in the water heater was disintegrating.
(Nov 3, 2014) Anonymous said:
We have a shallow well in the basement, a pump and a pressure tank. We are having an issue with water pressure when we have more than one water supply running. For instance...if someone is taking a shower in one bathroom, and someone else flushes a toilet in a different bathroom.....the water supply either quits completely or goes down to just drops. What could be wrong?
continuous of and on every 2 seconds
Anon in the More Reading Links above please see the artitcle titled
WATER PUMP SHORT CYCLING
Question: not getting enough water from the pressure tank - small draw-down volume
(Nov 9, 2014) Ron said:
I have a 20 Trident water tank. The pressures cut in and out correctly. However, the tank dispenses less than 2 gallons of water before cutting back in. How can I correct this?
Is the tank waterlogged?
(Nov 13, 2014) Ron Burton said:
I have drained the tank and restarted the pump. Still only get about 1.5 gallons before the pump cuts in again.
Question: whistling water tank
(Nov 24, 2014) Rusty said:
my son's water pressure tank is whistling. any ideas
Rusty often a whistling noise at a water tank is caused by vibration in piping at the tank or at its entry point. Slightly closing a supply valve may stop it. More details are at
Question: pressure switch drops quickly to zero
(Jan 12, 2015) Linda said:
My husband replaced the pressure tank and switch today because the tank was running continuously. The switch has a 30/50 cut in cut off.
The switch approaches the 50psi then drops to about 30psi at which time it drops quickly to zero. We are not drawing any water in the house and he has to use the low pressure switch lever to get the reading back up to 50psi, but he doesn't feel like any water is going into the tank. He has double checked the main water valve and the electrical connections since it was all replaced today but he has no idea what to do. Can you make any suggestions?
From your description I don't quite understand what's happening either.
If no water were entering the pressure tank I'd expect the pump to short-cycle on and off rather rapidly.
If the new water tank was not properly charged the pump might also short cycle: it's starting pressure when empty should be 2 psi below the pump cut-in pressure.
If the pressure control switch is what's acting erratically I'd replace both the switch and any connecting tubing as I suspect there is clogging that's keeping the switch from properly sensing water pressure.
Question: pump kicks on but pressure still drops with no water running in the house
31 Jan 2015 David said:
I have a bladder water pressure tank. It's set at 20/40 and will not hold pressure. The pump will kick on and slowly lose pressure without water running in the house. It even does this when the water ball valve to the house is off. I turned off the well pump and ran the water dry. The pressure in the water pressure tank reads 0. I tried filling it with air and it will not accept it. When I turn the well pump on, the reading in the tank is the same as the reading on the pressure gauge (somewhere between 20 and 40). What could be wrong?
If the pump runs and pressure continues to drop it sounds as if there is a piping leak, a failing pump, or loss of water in the well.
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Technical Reviewers & References
Publisher's Google+ Page by Daniel Friedman
Click to Show or Hide Citations & References
- Life Expectancy of Wells & Water Tanks how long should a water well and its components last?
- Smart Tank, Installation Instructions [ copy on file as /water/Smart_Tank_Flexcon.pdf ] - , Flexcon Industries, 300 Pond St., Randolph MA 02368, www.flexconind.com, Tel: 800-527-0030 - web search 07/24/2010, original source: http://www.flexconind.com/pdf/st_install.pdf
- Typical Shallow Well One Line Jet Pump Installation [ copy on file as /water/Jet_Pump_Grove_Elect_Jet_Pumps_1.pdf ] - , Grove Electric, G&G Electric & Plumbing, 1900 NE 78th St., Suite 101, Vancouver WA 98665 www.grovelectric.com - web search -7/15/2010 original source: http://www.groverelectric.com/howto/38_Typical%20Jet%20Pump%20Installation.pdf
- Typical Deep Well Two Line Jet Pump Installation [ copy on file as /water/Jet_Pump_Grove_Elect.pdf ] - , Grove Electric, G&G Electric & Plumbing, 1900 NE 78th St., Suite 101, Vancouver WA 98665 www.grovelectric.com - web search -7/15/2010 original source: http://www.groverelectric.com/howto/38_Typical%20Jet%20Pump%20Installation.pdf
- Water Fact Sheet #3, Using Low-Yielding Wells [ copy on file as /water/Low_Yield_Wells_Penn_State.pdf ] - , Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences, Cooperative Extension, School of Forest Resources, web search 07/24/2010, original source: http://pubs.cas.psu.edu/FreePubs/pdfs/XH0002.pdf
- Water pressure tanks - how to diagnose the need for air, how to add air, stop water pump short cycling to avoid damage - water storage water pressure tank safety.
- WATER PUMP REPAIR GUIDE an specific case offers an example of diagnosis of loss of water pressure, loss of water, and analyzes the actual repair cost
- Water pressure tank failures & water pump short cycling diagnosis and repair
Books & Articles on Building & Environmental Inspection, Testing, Diagnosis, & Repair
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