Water Pressure Tank Problems (2024)

Reviewed by: James Layton
Updated on:
March 8, 2024

A refreshing shower that suddenly becomes a trickle, a dishwasher that takes forever to complete a cycle, a once-efficient well water system that seems to have lost its rhythm — all of this can be a sign that your well water pressure tank is failing.

I’ll uncover the common culprits behind low water pressure, short cycling, and other hiccups that can leave you reaching for the wrench or, perhaps more wisely, the phone to call in the plumbing cavalry. 

This article will guide you through the quirks and quandaries of well water pressure tank conundrums, helping you restore normal water supply to your home.

Well Water Pressure Tanks Troubleshooting

The well water pressure tank is an essential component of your well water system, helping to maintain consistent water pressure throughout your home. However, like any mechanical equipment, pressure tanks can experience problems over time. 

Here are some common well water pressure tank problems or issues:

1. Waterlogged tank

Over time, the air-filled space within the entire tank can diminish due to various factors, such as a faulty air volume control device or insufficient maintenance. Your tank becomes more like a water storage container than a pressure regulator.

When your pressure tank is waterlogged, it struggles to maintain consistent pressure levels. The tank becomes filled with water, leaving less room for air. As a result, your well pump ends up working overtime, turning on and off more frequently, and causing fluctuations in water pressure. 

So, if you find yourself dealing with lackluster showers and unpredictable water flow, it might just be time to investigate whether your pressure tank has taken on a bit too much H2O.

Determining if a well pressure tank is waterlogged involves a straightforward test that checks the air pressure inside the tank. Follow these steps to assess whether your well pressure tank is indeed waterlogged:

  • Turn off the pump: Before performing any tests, ensure the well pump is turned off to prevent any potential safety hazards.
  • Drain the system: Open a faucet or valve connected to the well system to drain water from the pipes and reduce pressure in the tank.
  • Check air pressure: Using a pressure gauge designed for well systems, check the air pressure inside the tank. Locate the air valve on top of the tank — it should be similar to the valve on a car tire.
  • Compare readings: Compare the pressure reading you get from the gauge with the recommended pressure level for your well water system. The recommended pressure is usually listed on a label on the tank or provided by the manufacturer. It’s typically in the range of 2–10 psi below the pressure at which the pump turns on (cut-in pressure).

Now, here’s how to interpret the results:

  • If pressure matches: If the pressure you measure matches the recommended pressure, your tank is likely not waterlogged.
  • If pressure is significantly lower: If the pressure reaches significantly lower than the recommended level, your tank might be waterlogged. A considerable difference indicates that the air bladder or air cushion inside the tank has lost its proper air charge, causing the tank to fill with water.

2. Well pump short cycling

Short cycling occurs when the well pump rapidly turns on and off in quick succession. This frequent cycling can create several problems for the pressure tank. 

First, it prevents the pressure tank from reaching and maintaining the appropriate air-to-water ratio. When the pump turns on and off rapidly, the tank doesn’t have sufficient time to fill with water and compress the air, which results in an imbalanced pressure environment within the tank.

Second, the constant switching on and off strains the pressure tank’s diaphragm or bladder, potentially leading to premature wear and tear. This wear weakens the tank’s structural integrity and reduces its overall lifespan. 

Additionally, the repeated surges of pressure caused by short cycling can cause the pressure switch to wear out more quickly, leading to inaccuracies in pressure readings and further exacerbating the cycling problem.

For a full guide on how to avoid short cycling in a well pump, read this article.

3. Air volume control issues

Air volume control (AVC) issues can significantly impact the performance of well pressure tanks, potentially leading to disrupted water pressure, pump inefficiency, and overall system problems. 

The air volume control device is responsible for maintaining the correct air-to-water ratio within the pressure tank. If the AVC malfunctions or fails, it can result in an inadequate air charge or an imbalance between air and water, affecting the tank’s ability to regulate pressure effectively.

When the AVC fails to maintain the proper air volume, the pressure tank may become waterlogged or lose its ability to store energy in the form of compressed air. This can lead to issues like inconsistent water pressure, frequent pump cycling, and even premature wear on the pump and other system components. 

Additionally, an AVC that is not functioning correctly can cause the pressure switch to receive inaccurate pressure readings, further complicating the system’s operation.

Troubleshooting air volume control (AVC) issues in a well pump system involves a systematic approach to identify and address potential problems. 

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you troubleshoot AVC issues:

  • Safety first: Before beginning any troubleshooting, ensure the well pump is turned off and there’s no power running to the system.
  • Visual inspection: Inspect the AVC device for physical damage, corrosion, or any visible signs of wear. Make sure all connections are secure and there are no obvious leaks.
  • Check air pressure: Use a pressure gauge to check the air pressure within the pressure tank. The pressure should match the manufacturer’s recommended settings, typically a few psi below the pump’s cut-in pressure. If the pressure is significantly off, it could indicate an AVC problem.
  • Tap on the AVC: Gently tap on the AVC device. Sometimes, the float or mechanism inside the device can get stuck due to debris or sediment buildup. Tapping may free up any stuck components.
  • Inspect air release valve: Some AVCs have an air release valve. Ensure it’s functioning properly and not clogged. Release any excess air if necessary.
  • Flush the system: If there’s sediment or debris affecting the AVC, flushing the system might help. Turn off the pump, open a faucet to relieve pressure, and then drain water from the system. This may dislodge any obstructions affecting the AVC.
  • Clean or replace: If you suspect sediment or debris is causing the issue, clean the AVC if possible. If cleaning doesn’t resolve the problem, you might need to consider replacing the AVC.
  • Professional help: If troubleshooting doesn’t resolve the issue or if you’re uncertain about how to proceed, consult a professional well water system technician. They can perform more advanced diagnostics and recommend appropriate solutions.

4. Corrosion 

Corrosion, like a silent invader, can slowly compromise the integrity of well pressure tanks, leading to a host of problems within the well water system. Over time, the metal components of the tank can succumb to rust and deterioration due to exposure to water, minerals, and other elements, and lead to your well pressure tank leaking water. 

This corrosion can weaken the tank’s structural integrity, potentially resulting in leaks, fractures, or even complete failure. As the tank corrodes, sediment and rust particles can also accumulate, diminishing the tank’s capacity and affecting its ability to regulate pressure effectively.

Corrosion-related issues can manifest in various ways, including reduced water pressure, water discoloration, and increased energy consumption due to the pump working harder to compensate for pressure losses. 

Furthermore, the presence of rust and debris can clog pipes and plumbing fixtures, leading to costly repairs and compromised water quality. Regular inspection, proper maintenance, and addressing corrosion promptly are vital to extending the lifespan of the pressure tank and maintaining the overall health of the well water system. 

If your tank is affected by corrosion, you may need to look into getting a new tank.

5. Pressure switch malfunction

A malfunctioning pressure switch in a well water system can disrupt the delicate balance of pressure regulation within a pressure tank, leading to a range of problems. The pressure switch serves as the communication hub between the pump and the tank, signaling when the pump should turn on or off based on pressure levels. 

If the pressure switch is faulty or inaccurately calibrated, it can misinterpret pressure readings, causing the pump to behave erratically. This can result in issues like frequent pump cycling, inconsistent water pressure, and even short cycling, where the pump turns on and off rapidly.

Moreover, a malfunctioning pressure switch can prevent the pressure tank from maintaining proper pressure levels, impacting the overall efficiency of the system. If the switch fails to signal the pump to turn on when pressure in the tank drops below the desired level or fails to signal it to turn off when pressure rises, the pressure within the tank can become imbalanced. 

This can lead to over-pressurization, waterlogged tanks, and excessive wear on the pump and other components.

Troubleshooting a pressure switch malfunction in a well pump system involves a methodical approach to identifying and addressing potential issues. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you troubleshoot a pressure switch problem:

  • Safety first: Turn off the well pump and ensure there’s no power running to the system to prevent any electrical accidents.
  • Visual inspection: Examine the pressure switch for any visible damage, loose wires, or corrosion. Ensure all connections are secure and in good condition.
  • Pressure adjustments: Check the pressure settings on the switch. The cut-in and cut-out pressures should be set according to the manufacturer’s specifications and your system’s requirements. Adjust if necessary.
  • Pressure gauge test: Use a pressure gauge to measure the actual pressure within the well system. Compare the gauge reading to the pressure switch’s cut-in and cut-out pressures. If the switch is not activating the pump within the expected pressure range, it might be faulty.
  • Switch operation test: Manually activate the pressure switch by gently pressing the contacts or lever. Observe if this triggers the pump to turn on and off as expected. If the pump doesn’t respond, the pressure switch may be defective.
  • Electrical test: Use a multimeter to test the continuity of the pressure switch contacts. Ensure the switch is disconnected from power while performing this test. If the switch fails the continuity test, it’s likely malfunctioning.
  • Replacement: If you’ve determined that the pressure switch is faulty, consider replacing it with a new one. Make sure to get a compatible switch for your well pump system.
  • Professional help: If you’re unsure about any of the steps or if troubleshooting doesn’t resolve the issue, it’s wise to seek assistance from a professional well system technician. They can perform more advanced diagnostics and ensure proper replacement if needed.

Conclusion

When managing a well water system, understanding and addressing pressure tank problems are key to restoring your pressurized supply of water. From the mysterious world of waterlogged tanks that seem to have lost their way to the enigmatic dance of short cycling pumps, these issues can leave you scratching your head. 

Yet, armed with knowledge and a dash of persistence, you can unravel these challenges and embark on a journey to a well-watered paradise once more. 

With proper maintenance, occasional troubleshooting, and the occasional helping hand of a well system professional, you can keep these issues at bay and ensure your well water system flows smoothly for years to come.

Curious to discover more about the significance of the well water pressure system? Gain extra insights to help you grasp its importance in guaranteeing a dependable water supply.

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