Internal bladder type water pressure tank troubleshooting:
This article describes the diagnosis and repair of internal bladder type water pressure tanks: how they work, what goes wrong, how to fix it.
We explain how internal bladder type water pressure tanks work, what goes wrong, how to diagnose the trouble, and how to repair it.
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These questions and answers were posted originally at WATER TANK BLADDERS - the home page for this topic.
On 2017-06-05 by (mod) re: diagnose leak at a pressure tank used for ground source heat pump
Smart to have turned off the system. Clearly there is a leak somewhere nearby. It could be at the water tank, in piping connections, in a length of piping itself, and even (less likely) outside the building and leaking into it from the water / well piping when the pump runs.
I would not replace anything before we find out just where the leak occurs. Maybe we'll get lucky and find it's a simple loose connection on a pipe.
What I'd do is have one or more people looking with care at the water system when everything is dry - then switch on the power to the pump and note as quickly as possible just where the water is entering. Follow the water to the leak.
let me know what you find.
On 2017-06-05 by Marie
I have a water-sourced heat pump and my submersible well pump and pressure tank are used solely for the water-sourced heat pump and not for anything else. I only use the water-sourced heat pump to provide air conditioning in the summer. Thus I have not used it since September of last year. In March, after several months of disuse I found a considerable amount of water on my basement floor (a path ¼” deep extending around the well and pressure tank and covering all low-lying areas of the basement floor). The pressure tank sounds hollow when I knock on it, and air comes out the Schrader valve on the top of the pressure tank. I can easily wiggle the pressure tank and it doesn’t seem to have any weight to it.
Over the past couple of months the well pump will come on periodically and when I later go to the basement I will find water on the floor again. I finally switched off the electrical breaker to the pump to prevent the pump coming on. I now need to turn on the system and start using the air conditioning, but I am afraid to do so. I’m afraid water will cover the basement floor again.
I don’t know if the water on the basement floor is coming from the pressure tank (maybe it’s not accepting water?) or if there’s a leak in the piping to the tank (there’s just 8 inches of CPVC piping from the well to the pressure tank.
Do I need to replace the pressure tank? Do I even need a pressure tank if my well is only used for the water-sourced heat pump?
The water table is 8 feet below my basement and the well and pressure tank are right next to each other. The pressure tank was manufactured in 2004. The submersible pump was replaced in Jan 2014.
On 2017-05-28 by (mod) re: solution for pressure booster pump that cuts on and off at high pressure and too rapidly
When I recently installed a pressure-operated pressure booster pump (WATER PUMP PRESSURE SENSITIVE at http://inspectapedia.com/water/Water_Pump_Pressure_Sensitive.php) I used a Grundfos SCALA2 because of its ability to maintain an adjustable water pressure. I learned from the product specifications that the SCALA2 includes two intergral check valves - at its inlet and at its outlet. Both valves are pressure-operated, opening when the pump runs and closing when it stops.
You don't absolutely need a check valve on the inlet side of your pump. But a check valve combination like the one I just described prevents a possible leak-out of the water from your water tank should a leak develop either in the pump itself or at its outlet piping.
The 90 and 110 psi water pressures you describe are unusually high for a residential building and risk leaks at faucets and fixtures; You should also check the pressure rating of your water pressure tank as a system pressure that exceeds the tank's rated pressure range can cause the tank to burst - injuring or even killing someone nearby as happened in New Paltz NY some years ago when a plumber was leaning over such a tank that burst.
The pressure tank in your installation should stop rapid pump cycling on and off. A 4 second "off" interval would normally tell me that the pressure tank (even a small one should work in that position) was water-logged. But in your case because you are running at such a remarkably high pressure, a 10 litre pressure tank will be emptied in just seconds.
As a "ballpark" estimate or sanity check on your numbers I figured this way, using TLV's water flow calculator (http://www.tlv.com/global/TI/calculator/water-flow-rate-through-orifice.html)
If my calculator use is right, at 95 psi, with
- an estimated 5 psi pressure on the outlet side of a pump (there is some back pressure from resistance of the piping and faucet orifice)
- a 95 psi pump pressure
- a 1/2" diameter water pipe
the flow rate would be about 60 GPM or 1 gallonper second
So a 10 litre tank (about 2.6 gallons) would indeed be emptied in just a few seconds.
You could install a MUCH larger water pressure tank but to me that seems like a wasteful approach adding cost and complexity to the system.
I would review the pressure settings, they seem way too high. A home residential pressure system usually operates between 20 and 50 psi, 60 or 70 psi tops (to avoid leaks). And with a rooftop water tank that is already giving some (low) water pressure to a short building (say 1-3 floors high) you do not need much pressure boost from a pump and absolutely you don't need 110 psi.
My SCALA2 was set to its lowest pressure output and I still see about 35 psi at the highest fixtures in the building (lower fixtures will see more pressure).
On 2017-05-28 by Sanat
Hi.1st of all let me congratulate u on such a wonderful and informative website.Great work guys.
I have a few questions about water pressure pump installation. Mine is connected to an overhead tank which is about 8 feet above it.This pump has a diaphragm tank attached to it (10litres). Since the pump is gravity fed,do I need any check valves on the suction?
Also, can i install a spring check valve on horizontal piping? Does the discharge side of the pump(before or after the expansion tank) need a check valve too if i have already installed one on the suction?) .
I increases the water pressure when I installed a new pump(2HP) to 90psi & 110psi (cut in and cut off).Do i need a bigger expansion tank than the current 10 litte one?
The pump starts at 90psi and reaches 110psi in 3seconds. It stays off for 4 seconds approx while showering (3 body jets and an overhead rain shower) before kicking back again as pressure drops from 110 to 90psi. Is tbis short cycling normal for a small sized expansion tank(10 litres)?
Whhat shoud i do to overcome this and also I have 2 spring checks and one disc check on the suction holding 110psi as the pump kept losing pressure initially.Now it holds but still 3 checks on the suction.Is there a better set up? Pump supplies water to just 1 washroom 10 feet below it
On 2017-05-20 by (mod) can I fix a small leak in the bottom of my pressure tank?
It depends on a pressure tank brand and model. Some water pressure tanks use a bladder that can be replaced. Thou can use the search box above to find our article on WATER TANK BLADDER REPLACEMENT
On 2017-05-20 by Stacey Black
My well water bladder type tank in the basement has a small water leak coming out from the bottom. Can this be repaired or does the tank have to be replaced
On 2017-05-14 by (mod) re: can I add a larger pressure tank to increase the pressure in our shower - we have a broken well pipe
As your home is already served by a private well it must already have a pump and pressure tank. You might get a longer drawdown time of water with a larger tank, but it sounds as if your system uses a submersible (in the well) pump; so the pump is already giving you as much flow as it can through a leaky pipe.
With the leak in place between pump and house, you'd need a check valve at the pressure tank to keep from losing the water and pressure backwards out the same leak when the pump cuts off. In my opinion all of such an installation is not worth the cost: you need the pipe excavated and repaired promptly.
If there is a neighboring home close enough you could turn off your water system and connect by hose bibb to a neighbor's supply to get by until the repair.
On 2017-05-14 by Chris
We have a well and have a pipe deep under the ground that has broken this giving us a "trickle" of water inside the house for showering, washing, everything! We have someone coming out next week and hope to have it fixed soon!
In the meantime, I bought a 120 gal pressurized tank to use In a remote cabin but as of now, it is still in the box in the garage!
I am thinking that maybe we could get AT LEAST some shower pressure if we hook it up and allow it to fill up completely! My husband says this will not work! I know how he is about taking on home "projects" so he tells me that nothing will ever work! Lol!
Anyway,I am just curious to know if this could help us until the pipe gets repaired????
Thank u for your time!
On 2017-05-11 by (mod) re: should I drain the pressure tank in our New Hampshire camp when we're away for weeks?
I would not normally drain a water pressure tank when it's out of use for a few weeks, but I would consider that option if the cabin is exposed to freezing: search InspectApedia using the box above for WINTERIZING PROCEDURES to see details.
On 2017-05-11 by Denis L
I have a camp in northern NH. I typically use it on weekends. But there are times when no one is there for three weeks. When I leave I shut the we'll pump. Should I drain the water pressure tank ?
On 2017-05-10 by (mod) re: getting black water from kitchen sink and outdoor spigots
It seems strange to me that I water test would find everything within normal limits if you have thick black sediment in your water something was wrong with that test. It would be helpful to understand what the material is.
Are we looking at a sulfur residue, find clay soil, rust and debris from the interior surfaces of galvanized iron water pipes, or contamination in the well Source. If you can obtain a water sample directly from the well that might help diagnose the problem.
On 2017-05-10 12:07:24.357348 by Linda
I am getting black water from my kitchen sink and outdoor Spicket's. It appears to be a fine black sediment and when we let it dry it feels like dry powder and a bit oily and has magnetic properties. When I take off the aerator there are bigger pieces that will attract to magnet as well. Two events happened prior to this water issue. We turned on our outdoor irrigation system and found some burst pipes. We also had a power outage the day The water appeared black. We have had our well guy add air pressure to the tank and adjust the gauge and he purged the holding tank as well.
After that things were fine for a couple days. then we started working on the broken irrigation lines. It could be coincidental but our water started turning incredibly black when we dug out the broken irrigation pipes. We have since tested our water and everything appears within normal limits. We have turned off the irrigation system and we have run our faucets that have the black water and it is slightly improved, not as black, but it still coming out black days after. All faucets that run through the water softener or not black.
A little sidenote… We fixed the broken irrigation line and ran the sprinklers while simultaneously running the three faucets that have black water, they bypassed the water softener, and when The well is running the water is clear. If the irrigation system is not running, When we draw water from the holding tank it turns black and gets really black just before the well pump kicks in. It will stay black for a couple seconds during the well pumps initial cycle but will clear up for a minute afterwards and then the whole process starts all over. We are stumped an our well guy is stumped too which is not a good situation. Any ideas would be very welcomed!
On 2017-04-11 by (mod) re: farm with 3 wells for a commercial hog operation: tanks are losing pressure
If the water pressure tanks do not continue to lose pressure, then it's possible that the small change you saw was due to a temperature drop. If the pressure continues to fall then there is probably leaking systems such as a bad check valve or foot valve, or water is running somewhere,
On 2017-04-11 by Phillip
I bought a farm that has three wells on it that were used to water a commercial hog operation. There were two well trol tanks that were left but the system hasn't been used in five years. I've taken the two tanks out and tried to cap the line where I can pressure up the tanks. I put 40 lbs in each tank and waited 24 hrs to check them. Both tanks lost about 3 lbs of pressure. Can I still use those and do you have a suggestion of what I should try and do. Thanks
On 2017-03-28 by (mod) re: relationship between priming the pump and seeing water pressure at the toilets
I may not quite understand the question but basically, when you've primed a pump (search Inspectapedia using the box above for HOW TO PRIME THE PUMP for details) then assuming the pump runs normally it delivers water to the building from the well. Depending on the size of the building's water-pressure tank, it may take a few minutes or longer for the pump to re-pressurise the system.
Certainly if the pump runs until the pressure control switch senses that full system pressure has been reached (that's the pump CUT-OFF pressure, usually 40 psi or 50 psi) then you should have water flow at all of your plumbing fixtures.
If you are using power-flush toilets that use a pressurised tank in the flush tank, the added water pressure and volume to re-charge those tanks is trivial and wouldn't explain no water pressure in the building.
On 2017-03-28 by Tammy johnson
Once you prime a well does the bladder in your toilets have to feel it before you get pressure
On 2017-03-11 by (mod) re: why we use a water pressure tank on most water systems
Yes Bill that's right. Without that pressure in the bladder tank, since water isn't very compressible, every time you opened a faucet the pump would cycle on and off rapidly -like mad.
To be clear
When you turn on water pressure in the tank pushes water into the building and out at the spigot or whatever plumbing fixture is using water.
Water pressure in the whole system begins to fall.
When water pressure falls to 30 psi the pressure control turns the pump on
The pump builds-up water pressure until pressure reaches 50 psi, then turns off.
So actual water pressure in the building will vary between 30 and 50 psi if your pressure control is a 30/50 switch.
And of course if so much water is run very fast that the pump can't "get ahead" of the water usage rate, then the pump will just keep running until you stop running water in the building, Then when you stop using water the pump will bring pressure back up to 50 psi and cut off.
On 2017-03-11 by bill
ok do I get this right on your pressure tank for your water you have to have 30 lbs in your blater to push water when your pressure switch kicks off your going to have on 50 lbs on your tank then when you turn fosett on it will go down to 30 lbs then build back up to 50 lbs again on the gauge and tank pressure if you have a 30-50 pressure switch
On 2017-03-02 by (mod) re: water is off but I hear water running at the pressure tank
If you are on well water perhaps water is running backwards out of your home into the well - a combination of bad check valve or foot valve and lost power or damaged pump.
On 2017-03-02 by Max Stribrny
Water is off in house,been off a day,sounds like water is running in tank (bladder) why?
On 2017-02-11 by (mod) re: pump kicks on "late" when water is being run
I often see that problem if the pressure switch is debris-clogged.
On 2017-02-11 by Jimbo T
I am having problems with the pump that is attached to the bladder tank. I have excellent water pressure. However, the pump seems to be kicking in late so the water will almost stop running a second or too then kick back in.
On 2017-01-10 by (mod) re: found nipple connecting pressure switch was totally mud-clogged
Thanks so much for this note, Steve, that's just what I've found too. I add that some water pumps communicate water pressure not through an iron pipe nipple but through a flexible copper tube - small diameter and more prone to debris clogging. -
If you come across this again I would sure appreciate some sharp photos of the clogged pipe nipple or tubing. That'd help other readers understand the probelm.
On 2017-01-09 by Steve N
Changed the well pump pressure switch today. Surprised the old one worked at all, due to the fact that the 1/4" x 4" nipple, connecting it to the tank tee, was plugged SOLID with mud!
Good thing for relief valves! ALWAYS CHECK THIS NIPPLE WHEN CHANGING YOUR PRESSURE SWITCH.
(June 10, 2015) art said:
I recently replaced my flexcon bladder with the exact one I had I immediatlly noticed my water had a smell onion or rubber smell.
my well is fine pressure is fine, but the smell won't leave. I shocked the well twice.
I'm certin its the new bladder tank. Your thoughts suggestions helpful.
Art this is an issue I've not come across; did the bladder smell before it was installed? Could there have been a contaminant such as a sealant or lubricant from the installation? Try draining and refilling the tank.
Most plastics and rubber products that do have an odor offgas early in their life, a process speeded (for air-exposed rubber and plastic products) with warmth and ventilation. Unfortunately there are some products whose composition will continue to off-gas or "off-taste" for months or even years. I can't predict about your water tank but here are some things you can do:
(Aug 24, 2015) ricky said:
water pressure goes up down tank pressure 45
Search InspectApedia for WELL PUMP SHORT CYCLING to diagnos and repair this problem.
(Sept 30, 2015) scott said:
i have a pressure water pump tank with bladder. i have air in it and a lot it seems. when it spits air out it's pretty hard. and a lot. every now and then it's spurts out brown water. and it also has tiny air bubbles to the point that the water is white or cloudy. i've drained it, i've let it run for hours it' seems to work then about 2 days later here we go again. i don't have money to cll for help and i always try to fix things myself. can you help me please
Scott it sounds as if your well water level has run quite low, so the pump is drawnig up mud and air.
and also see WELL FLOW RATE
(Dec 5, 2015) Mike said:
My pressure switch is a 40/20 I doubled my pressure take and not sure what the pressure in the tank should be set at
Doubling the tank capacity in volume need not change the cut-in/cut-out nor air pre-charge setting; rather it gives you a longer draw-down cycle before the pump has to run.
Chances are the tank bladder has burst. On some tanks the bladder can be replaced, otherwise it's time for a new water pressure tank.
(Feb 9, 2016) firstname.lastname@example.org said:
We need to know how to replace the air valve on the top of my dads bladder tank.It will let air out but won't take any in.There is no air in the tank right now as we let it out trying to replace the valve core ( the little thing that lets the air in or out when pressed)
The air valve can be replaced on SOME pressure tanks but may require disassembly. While the manufacturer recommends using their part, some readers report success matching the removed valve with an equal one from a auto supplier. (That will not work on snifter valve systems which should not be your case as your tank uses an internal bladder). The old valve is cut away and pulled out of the tank and new one inserted using soapy water and pressure.
Details are at WATER TANK AIR INLET VALVE
Also see WATER TANK AIR VALVE REPAIRS
(Feb 9, 2016) Anonymous said:
how to fix bladder tank if the pressure gauge turns to zero?
pressure gauge of bladder tank turns to zero
Check for a clogged pressure control switch or just replace it.
(Mar 3, 2016) Nick Wellenstein said:
I have a leak steady under my bladder pressure tank. we are constantly losing water and I believe we are getting it straight from the well pump rather than the 85 gallon pressure tank. I had to install a new water heater last week.
The new water heater blows the pressure relief valve every time it has to reheat water as did the old one. even before the water heater has heated the water. therfore extreme pressure fluctuation problems. Do I need a new bladder pressure tank or is it due to the leakage? I can see it dripping from the bottom where the pipe goes in.
Do you think that perhaps the tank bladder has collapsed, torn, broken, or stuck to itself? That might render it inoperative. IN turn that might explain rapid pressure drop when the water turns on and rapid pressure cycling when the pump is running.
If the leak is from a damaged tank bladder you'll need to see WATER TANK BLADDER REPLACEMENT
But more likely the leak is at a plumbing connection. Try draining the system, disassembling and then re-making the plumbing joints taking care to use proper pipe sealant or teflon tape.
Watch out: a leaky water heater relief valve is unsafe and risks a BLEVE EXPLOSION (Search Inspectapedia for that term).
(Apr 19, 2016) Anonymous said:
How can I tell if my tank has a bladder, it says glasslined ? What dose that mean?
Good question. If the tank label says "glass lined" your water tank does not contain an internal bladder. Instead it's a metal tank with a glass or equivalent coating on the interior surface of the metal - put there to resist corrosion. Glass-lined steel tanks are indeed much more corrosion resistant than a plain steel or galvanized steel tank. A.O.Smith, who shipped their first glass-lined water heater in 1954, produces a Perma Tank for water storage and that is glass lined, as do other manufacturers.
Use the page bottom CONTACT link to send me a photo of your water tank and its labels and we may be able to comment further.
(Apr 26, 2016) Ali said:
A horizontal bladder pressure tank Elbi AC25 GPM failed due to the propagation of crack in the air supply head after working 8 years without replacing bladder. I cut the air supply head of the tank for observing what happened inside. I saw the bladder was stuck to the steel body tightly and there is no space between the bladder and the steel body and the propagation of the crack took place on the extra piece of rubber under bladder. I have several pictures to show these observations but I do not know how I can attach here. My question is what phenomenon can create such a large crack in the steel part of the pressure tank?
Overpressure in the system or a defective tank.
(May 18, 2016) Gene said:
My bladder tank is leaning sideways. Can I staighten it? Is it a problem leaning?
Gene: most bladder tanks need to be upright: check the installation manual for your brand and model.
Slightly out of dead vertical - say up to half an inch, shouldn't affect the tank operation, at least for a time. But a bladder type water tank that's much out of plumb may, over time, find uneven stressing of the internal bladder-to-tank-wall connection, rupturing the bladder.
Plumb vertical is best. If the tank is leaning more than slightly, I'd fix the problem even if it means having to re-make the plumbing joints.
(May 18, 2016) wayne said:
further to Gary's post of 5/26/14. What would be the problem when that outside tap (in my case tapped off from between the well and pressure tank just ahead of check valve) will continue to flow and stop/stop the pump as any other tap in the house (on 40 off 60) and it has a "snifter Schrader" installed on a bladder type system. thx. Wayne.
Wayne, not sure I understand the question, but if you mean is it ok to leave a snifter valve in place when a new internal-bladder pressure tank is installed, no; the valve will continue to admit air into a system that is now not designed to get rid of it.
See SNIFTER & DRAIN BACK VALVES for details.
(July 16, 2016) ok wright said:
My Cottage Water Pump runs constantly. Bladder type from lake. Ist I found foot valve fell over into lake bottom. Removed & cleaned it. Foot valve ok.
Still runs, won't stop. Pump seems to hold water. Tubing seems to hold water.? Could it be a leak? Tubing buried for 30 + feet before it reaches lake 6 feet lower than pump.
OK W. If you search InspectApedia for PUMP WON'T STOP RUNNING you'll see a sequence of diagnostic and repair steps that ought to work for you.
Also take a look at pressures: if the pump is not able to pump up to the cut-out pressure and as you're in a lake so not running out of water, I'd be looking for a piping leak or a damaged pump impeller.
(Aug 10, 2016) John said:
Pressure seems good and water is delivered for maybe 5 min at a time with no problem; then pressure drops off over a minute until it stops delivering water. About a minute and a half later it will resume, starting with excellent pressure.
I have adjusted the large,'range' screw somewhat (clockwise) and possibly that helped some, not much.
Sorry, comment did not accept what I thought was title: Wellmate WM6 air bladder water pressure tank cuts out for ~90 secs every 5 minutes.
If the pump is able to reach cutoff pressure then I don't think the problem is in the pump itself. Usually. An exception is a pump motor that's overheating and shutting off on an internal thermal overload switch, cooling down while off, auto-resetting.
More common is a well running out of water and a pump that's protected by a switch that includes an automagic pump protection circuit or feature.
Check the well recovery rate - search InspectApedia for WELL FLOW TEST to do that.
(Sept 3, 2016) Mel said:
Pressure tank started cycling in 10 second bursts today. Drained tank and found zero air pressure. Tried adding air, hear it going in and sounds normal but no pressure appears in tank after adding lots ,zero air, zero water from valve. Where could it going to as its added?
Mel see WATER PUMP SHORT CYCLING to diagnose and fix this problem.
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(May 4, 2015) Matt said:
Fantastic Article. Very clearly written. Extremely thorough yet concise and ultimately very useful in helping me to fix my pump.
Thank you very much!
Thanks so much, Matt. We work hard to make our information reliable and useful and so are thrilled when you find it clear. We also welcome questions, criticism, and content suggestions.
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