How To Check The Bladder In Your Well Pressure Tank

Checking the bladder in your well tank is important if your well pump is running frequently with only a small amount of water being used. The well tank is used to store water for use between pumping cycles. When the well pressure tank is not working properly the pump will run frequently on short cycles and burn out.

There are two basic types of well pressure tanks, which you may find in your home, the first being a tank, which does not have a bladder and the second, which has a bladder. The non-bladder is easily recognized by its typical galvanized steel construction, lack of an air valve on the top of the tank, and an air control valve mounted on the side of the tank which controls the air/water level in the tank. Non-bladder pressure tanks require more frequent maintenance and replacement with a bladder type pressure tank should be considered. The bladder type tank is easily recognized by its painted steel construction, and having an air valve on top of the tank similar to an air valve on a tire. The bladder tank will have a single pipe into the tank and will not have an air control valve mounted on the side. Some of the typical names you will see on the tank are Amtrol Well-X-Trol, Well-Rite, Flexcon, WellMate, and Sta-Rite, but there are many others as well. I personally favor the Amtrol Well-X-Trol, and the Flexcon and there are many that I would avoid such as Flo-Tech.

Bladder tanks have two separate sections of the tank separated by the rubber bladder. The air section should be pressurized when there is no pressure on the water side of the system to 2-psi less than the pressure where the well pump turns on, if the system has pressure the tank will read only the system pressure and not the air pre-charge. When the well pump turns on the pressure on the water side of the tank increases and water flows into the tank and to wherever you are using water, until enough water has flowed into the tank to allow the system pressure to reach the pressure at which the pump cuts off. The water then flows out of the tank until the low-pressure setting is reached, and the pump turns on again. If the air pre-charge is not high enough the tank will over fill with water or, become waterlogged, and the water will not push out of the tank, this will cause the pump to short cycle, turning on virtually every time water is used, and cause the pump motor to overheat and burn out. If the tank air pre-charge is set too high not enough water will enter the tank and the pump will also short cycle.

To check the pressure on your well pressure tank and refill the tank you will need a tire pressure gauge, and an air pump. The first thing you should do is make sure that you know the pressure at the point where the pump turns on. Make sure the pressure gauge on your well pump system is working correctly, I like to lightly tap on the gauge with my fingers to make sure the gauge is not sticking giving a bad reading. Your air pre-charge will be 2-psi less than the pressure where the pump turns on. While the well pump system is at its maximum pressure I go to the air valve on the top of the tank. Sometimes the air valve might have a plastic cover that has to be removed first to see it. I press the pin in the center of the valve and see what comes out. If air comes out the bladder in most cases is good. If water comes out the bladder has failed and the tank requires replacement. If the bladder is bad it is not an emergency where you are without water, you may wait for a weekday or, until payday, or even a little longer. But the tank does need replacing, once the bladder has failed the air pre-charge will be absorbed by the water, making frequent recharging necessary to avoid damaging the pump. The air section of the steel tank will also start to rust and water quality will start to suffer. If the bladder has failed simply pump enough air into the tank that the cycles are normal length and get the pressure tank replaced as soon as possible.

Once you have checked the tank air valve, made certain the bladder was okay, and noted the low pressure where the pump turns on, you are ready to pressurize the bladder. Turn off the well pump and open a faucet at the lowest point in the house. Allow the water to run until it stops coming out of the faucet, leave the faucet on. Once the water stops coming out of the faucet use the air gauge to take a pressure reading at the air valve on the top of the tank. The air pressure should read 2-psi less than the pressure at which the pump turns on. If the pressure is low attach the air pump to the air valve on the top of the tank and pump air into the tank until the pressure reaches the correct pre-charge setting. Once that is done place the cap back on the air valve and turn the pump back on then close the faucet. If you cannot get the pressure in the bladder to increase and air starts coming out of the faucet the bladder has failed and you should follow the instructions in the paragraph above. If the air pre-charge is high when you check the pressure you should press the center pin and allow air to escape until the proper pre-charge pressure is reached then replace the cap on the air valve, turn on the pump and turn off the faucet.

Comments

  1. Scott says

    Hi,
    I have a Flotec bladder tank & there is no water coming out the air valve when I press the center air pin just air. I have the right pressure pre charge on the tank, no air coming out any faucets, the pressure switch, & gauge are good, I tested them by pumping enough air into the tank that it cuts off at 60 & on at 40 & the pressure guage reads properly as well. The pump is pumping water. But the motor never shuts off & it never climbs above 45psi on a 40/60 switch. Even when I put more air into the tank it losses pressure & stays about 45psi thus causing the pump motor to never shut off. I have a jet pump motor. I also put soap & water around the air nossel to see if there were any leaks, there were non. I don’t see any water leaking out from any pipes anywhere either. The foot valve seems to be working properly or I wouldn’t hold any pressure at all. I disconected my well for about a year so it sat dormant & when I reconected it worked fine for 24hrs. The next day I started losing pressure & now it won’t go above 45psi. Any idea what the problem might be?????

  2. says

    Your tank and it’s air pressure; nor your pressure switch has anything whatsoever to do with the maximum pressure your pump is capable of. It is my opinion that your pump is simply not able to make more than 45 lbs.

    You described what you have done to the tank, but you haven’t said what kind of pump you have. Is it a jet pump or a submersible? If it’s a jet, is it a deep well or a shallow well jet pump?

  3. Scott says

    Thanx speedbump,
    I was in Lowes yesterday & a gentleman there hinted that it may be my pump as well. I have a dual jet pump, it’s a half horse power. I think my well may be 100ft or so. I picked up a new pump Sunday it’s a 1 horse power. So I’m going to try my luck with a new pump. I think you & the guy from Lowes may be right. It is an old pump that’s never been replaced since I’ve lived here for about 15 years now. So maybe it’s time. Well thank you so much for taking the time to reply to my question you’ve been very helpful.
    Thanx : Scott

    • says

      There are other things that can be wrong. Like the water level in your well being lower than normal, the jet plugged in the well or trash in the impeller. The only thing the new pump may solve is the trash in the impeller issue. Usually, the jet will plug before the impeller will plug however.

      Keep in mind, the pump you bought from Lowes is way over rated compared to your old half horse. You will be lucky to be getting a true 1/2hp out of the so called 1 hp big box pump.

      Good luck…

      • says

        Hey Speedbump,
        Sorry to bother you again. Hooked the new pump up & still encountering the same problem? When I’m running the pump & forcing water thru the system everything seems to be free & clear of a clog? And I’m not pumping any dirty water, it’s all clear? So now it lets me get about 30 to 35lbs of pressure & sometimes less? I have no idea what’s going on?

    • says

      Hi Scott,

      Speedbump is 100% right about the jet pump possibly being the issue. Years ago at my mom’s house she had an issue with her well pump it was a Goulds if I remember right and it was loud with the pressure dropping off. My younger brother worked for a company that sold pump parts and we got together and figured we’d rebuild the pump. We put in new bearings, seal and impeller, sand blasted the housing and made it like new. We put it back in place and primed it up the thing ran like new for a couple of cycles then the pressure dropped off again. We dug the well and pulled out the rustball at the bottom of the pipe and the jet had the side blown out from all the pressure that like new pump was making. I leave you back in his wise hands as He is the true expert on wells here and I have just a good basic understanding of these well pump systems.

      Redwood

      • says

        Sorry I took so long to get back to you. I have been up North for almost two weeks. I’m still here but am doing this remotely. My netbook developed a blue screen of death, so I had to borrow a computer to get back to reality.

        In my opinion, the lowes pump is probably no stronger than your old pump and the main issue is probably in the well not the pump. Possibly holes in the casing. That problem can diminish your pressure capabilities and also means your casing is on it’s way out.

  4. Bill says

    Hi
    A water hammer has developed in my well pump – Bladder pressure tank system. It has been quiet for many years and now for a week when the tank fills and the pump shuts off at 55 PSI the tank/system goes “bang” waits a fraction of a second and another bang then sometmes a third bang. I have checked the precharge and it is set for 2 PSI less than the punp cut-in pressure. The system seems to run normally with nice long drawdown times… Just the annoying hammer. Seems strange that a large bladder tank can Hammer? Isnt that what hammer arrestors do (use an air space)??

    I am thinking to replace the check valve at the end of the pump hose (as it meets the header) because the time delay between bangs seems like a time for the water pulse to travel to the pump and back (probably 200 feet). Seems to me the water pulse should not be flowing back and forth after the pump turns off.

    • says

      Hi Bill,
      I would suspect that the bangs you are hearing are related to the check valve. You may have multiple check valves in the line. If you need additional help I’d suggest joining my forum at http://forums.411plumb.com/ where my friend SpeedBump will be able to answer any of your questions. He’s my “Go-To Guy” when I have pump questions.
      Redwood

  5. Richie says

    Just bought a house that was vacant and improperly winterized. I think the bladder tank probably froze, as the water pipe to it froze and broke. After replacing the pipe, the pump was turned on with the downstream valve to the house closed; pressure quickly built to 100 psi and we shut the pump off. Water leaked from the base of the bladder tank (Flexcon), and the pressure gauge on the water line slowly declined to about 65 psi (however, the gauge may not be correct as the needle was stuck at 45 psi with no water in the line, despite tapping on it). Is the bladder tank dead? Thanks.

    • says

      Hi Richie,
      If water is leaking from the shell of the tank it is dead. A big concern I have is the pressure going to 100 psi as the pump should have shut off long before that.
      Redwood

  6. shawn says

    We recently purchased a new red lion shallow well jet pump 1 HP. It overhearts and turns off after about 2 minutes and I’ve checked the pressure tank which continues to stay at 30. Our old pump did this so we replaced it thinking it was the pump.

    • says

      Hi Shawn,
      I’ve got a few questions and suggestions for you. The first is a question, Is the pump primed and pumping? Next is another question, Is the pressure gauge accurately reading the pressure, and is the pressure switch accurately seeing the pressure?

      If both of those questions are yes then the next thing to do is make sure the pump has adequate electrical supply. If the pump has electrical power problems such as a bad connection somewhere in the circuit creating a voltage drop the motor will have problems running and overheating. If you need additional help I’d suggest joining my forum and posting a thread about your problem, my friend SpeedBump is on there and he is my “Go To Guy” for well pump systems.

      Redwood

  7. Alan Wills says

    My bladder tanks is in my dry, climate controlled basement. How many years use can I expect to get? I’m on year 17 now.

    • says

      Hi Alan,
      It’s very hard to say for sure, generally speaking I’ve seen failures in the 1st year which I’d probably attribute to a poor installation or, defective tank. Failures in the 5-10 year period I’d attribute to many factors mainly maintenance or, water quality. It is not uncommon to see tanks over 30 years old still going strong. One thing I will say is when you replace it that you get what you pay for.
      Redwood

    • says

      Hi Christine,
      With the pump turned off, and a faucet open, you should be able to connect a tire pump or, compressor to the schrader valve on the top of the tank and pump in air. Eventually as the water is expelled from the tank by the bladder being filled again you should be able to reach a pressure that is 2 psi. lower than the pressure the pump turns on at. If you can’t do that and air starts coming out of the faucet then the bladder is compromised and the tank needs to be replaced.

      Can you be more specific with what you mean by the tank won’t take air.

      Redwood

  8. jason says

    I have a flowing artesian well and up till a few days ago i had zero water issues. (22 GPM before).The other day my water quit coming into the house completly. After checking the obvious (ex. filter system, leaks etc.) i looked at my pressure gauge and had zero pressure all of a sudden the pump started again and pressure built an i now have water. The problem is now anytime i turn the water on The pressure drops rapidly an the pump starts for just a moment till pressure is back up it makes the right pressure then cuts off again. This cycle will repeat (on again off again)till the water is turned off. Im thinking this has something to do with my presssure tank any ideas?

    • says

      Hi Jason,
      Yes it certainly does sound like the pressure tank is waterlogged. If your pressure tank has a schrader valve valve on the top I would shut the pump off, open a faucet to bleed the system pressure to 0-psi, then check the air pressure in the tank. The air pressure in the tank should be 2-psi less than the pressure set point where the pump turns on.

      Chances are though that if you have no pressure reading the bladder in the pressure tank has failed, and if you turn on the pump repressurizing the system then depressing the valve core in the center of the schrader valve water will come out. This indicates that the tank requires replacement or, the pump will fail as well from the frequent starts.

      If your tank does not have a schrader valve on the top of the tank I would encourage you to join the 411Plumb Forum and discuss this with Speedbump our resident pumps & tanks specialist.

      Hope this helps,
      Redwood

  9. Mark says

    I have a well water tank that has started whistling when water is flowing out of the tank. What would cause this? Thanks

    • says

      Hi Mark,
      My 1st thought is that there is a restriction or, debris in the path of water discharging from the tank, with the water passing the restriction causing the noise. Do you have Galvanized Pipes that may be clogged with rust?
      Redwood

  10. evangeline says

    I have problem my well, the pump working but the tank cant get water do you know what cause ..

    • says

      Hi Evangeline,
      It is hard to give you a cause based on what you have described. I’ll take the statement “The pump is working” to mean that the pump is in your home, rather than a submersible pump in the well, and you hear the pump running. Do you have running water in your home at this time or, no water at all? Is there pressure showing on the gauge? I’m afraid without much more information I can’t give you answers. If you don’t have running water in the home you might be better served calling a well pump service company.
      Redwood

  11. Nina says

    We have a pressure tank, that lately, has been coming on and off a lot when calling for water! Usually the pump would kick on(Tank Refill) only once during a toilet flush, now it comes on 7 times!! The Gauge read’s accurately. The pump comes on and off when it is suppose to. No leaking water, or rust anywhere. The tank never loses pressure. Could the bladder be covered with sediment, and being “strangled” so to speak?? If you have any idea’s or pointer’s we would really appreciate it!!!

    • says

      Hi Nina,
      Does your pressure tank have an air valve on the top of the tank? If it does I would follow the procedure outlined in this article to check the air pressure in the bladder of the pressure tank. If the pressure isn’t correct use an air pump to set it correctly. It sounds like your tank is full of water and doesn’t have enough air to push the water out. If you don’t shut off the dump and drain down the pressure in the system you will always see the system pressure vs. the air pressure in the bladder.
      Redwood

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