Water tank repair or replacement guide: The water tank troubleshooting article series beginning here describes how to determine if you need to replace the water pressure tank.
Synonyms for water pressure tank include: water tank, water storage tank, well tank, pressure tank, pressure control tank, Extrol, WellXTrol, bladder tank, bladderless water tank.
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Short cycling of a water pump which is defined
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If this is the problem with your water pump,
We also provide a complete
If you are not sure what "water pump short cycling" means or how it is recognized, read SHORT CYCLING WATER PUMP.
Intermittent water pump cycling which is discussed
Loss of water pressure means that the pressure with which water enters a plumbing fixture has become too slow, or is sometimes too slow or weak in water flow rate, or water flow may stop entirely.
Water tank leaks: repairs for water leaking out of the water tank depend on where and why the leak is occurring. Leaks at threaded fittings might be repairable by draining the system, disassembly, cleaning and drying the parts, and re-assembly with an appropriate pipe sealant or in some locations teflon tape.
Other leaks due to rusting, perforating water tanks can be patched temporarily but you should expect to replace the water tank as soon as possible. That's because corrosion in a water tank usually occurs from the inside out and will be more serious than what you see on the tank exterior.
Watch out: poking at or messing with what seems to be a tiny leak in the surface of a water tank, because the steel is probably rusted thin, risks converting the problem to an instant catastrophe and flood.
This steel water storage tank is leaking. When you see damage like this on a water tank, the perforation has rusted through from inside the tank. A tank that looks like this needs to be replaced.
Watch out: don't poke at rust like this on a water tank - you are likely to change a slow seep or drip into an immediate catastrophe - the steel around the site of rust perforation is usually quite thin.
Emergency temporary repairs to a leaky Water Tank
If the rust perforation on a steel, bladderless water pressure tank is very tiny, 1/8" or so, temporary repair can sometimes be made using a special short lag-type threaded screw with a neoprene washer. Leak repair screws are sold for this use.
In an emergency you can even fabricate one of these water tank leak repair lag bolts, as we did for our photo (left).
We used a 3/4" long lag screw and a thick neoprene washer that happened to be around. If you buy a factory-made version of this device the washer is designed to seat and seal against the curved surface of the leaky water tank.
Watch out: because the steel will be thin around the rust spot, you may find that you need a larger screw than you thought, or bought.
We recommend buying several sizes of water tank repair screws, but start by using the smallest one that will be secure when screwed all the way in to the tank.
Just blob on some sealant to stop a leaky water tank?
A second type of water pressure tank repair that might work in some locations is the use of quick-setting epoxies, caulks, sealants, including those that can work in wet conditions. Details are at CAULKS, NONTOXIC
You still need to replace the water tank but this approach can stop or slow a leak while you wait for the new tank to be installed.
This approach would not work on the horribly rusted water tank shown above - that one is just too far gone.
Water Tank Leaks Leak Water Out or Air Out, depending on the Leak Location
Leaks like the ones in the above photos can also leak the air charge out of the upper portion of the tank when the in-tank water level is below the leak point. A water pump short cycling problem could be due to an air loss in the tank to a leak in the tank itself.
Life Expectancy of Water System Components
Continue reading at WATER TANK PERFORATION LEAK REPAIR or select a topic from the More Reading links shown below.
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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
We just had our pump replaced after 18 years. Total cost with tax was $2400. Project was done on emergency basis on a Friday night and we were really stuck. During his visit the plumber/owner suggested we consider a larger pressure tank than our 20 gallon unit, also recently replaced. The system worked well for many years and I don't see the need to purchase another larger tank. Any thoughts? - Wayne Ouellette
Reply: You may not need a new water pressure tank.
If your water tank is a newer bladder type, even a smaller 20-gallon tank gives the equivalent of a larger old style (non-bladder) tank in the draw-down cycle - the amount of time that you can run the water before the pump has to come on.
As long as your pump is not WATER PUMP SHORT CYCLING (which may shorten pump life), the gain from a larger tank is probably not much. If your tank is an older type with no internal bladder, the reason to go to a newer tank would be reliability and reduced maintenance.
Some Reasons to Consider a New Water Tank
Watch out: before you go to the trouble and expense of replacing a water pressure tank, make sure that you have correctly diagnosed the problem that you are "curing" - you wouldn't want to replace a water tank only to find that you still have the water pressure or quantity problem because another, perhaps less costly, part was at fault.
Question: I installed a new pump because the old one was short cycling on and off - now the problem is back.
I installed new pump in feb. problem of pump going on and off was corrected. it's may, the problem is back. what's the problem now and who should i call..plumber or well guy? -Karen
Reply: short rapid cycling on and off of the well pump is usually a waterlogged pressure tank, a bad pressure switch, or clogged tube that sends water pressure to the switch. But you may have slow intermittent pump cycling.
Karen: About the well pump cycling on and off:
If you mean the pump turns on and off to often when you are using or running water, see SHORT CYCLING WATER PUMP for diagnosis and repair help.
Question: does the color of the water tank matter?
Can you paint the pressure tank a different color than blue?
Reply: no.... and maybe. Don't paint an outdoor tank exposed to hot sun a dark color
Sure you can paint your water pressure tank any color you like.
Question: air keeps spurting out of my faucets
I get a lot of air in my water lines. What can I do to fix that problem? - Dennis
How to diagnose air discharge in water supply pipes or at plumbing fixtures:
Question: I just changed my well pump but the breaker keeps blowing
i just changed the water pump and my pressure tank, the psi is reading correctly but the pump is loud and it keeps blowing the braker, what else could be wrong when i have all new put in? - Sonni
Reply: check the pump impeller assembly or replace the whole unit
it sounds as if your well pump is damaged and needs replacement. I would think that you'd made a wiring error, but I'm not sure that would explain a bad pump. If it's very noisy and is tripping the circuit breaker I suspect it's jamming and the motor is drawing high amps and thus causing the circuit breaker to trip.
Before replacing the pump, consider disassembling the impeller assembly portion of the pump (you'll have to turn off power and remove the pump to do this). A broken impeller or debris that got sucked into the impeller could also be jamming up the water pump or making it sound horrible.
Question: my well pump runs all the time our irrigation system is running
I'm told that when my irrigation system comes on my pump should run the whole time I'm watering. My thoughts were that the well will cycle and turn on at 30-psi and turn off at 50-psi letting the pump rest while the bladder distributes the water until guage drops to 30-psi and the pump turns back on the the cycle keeps going.
Mike: with so little information, I can't promise that I can give the correct answer, but certainly I wouldn't give you an incorrect answer on purpose.
The irrigation pump is a separate unit from your well pump, right?
If so it will run all the time you are watering but your well pump will turn on and off as needed.
If your irrigation system and house water run off of the same water supply system, then either the irrigation system fast enough that the pump never reaches cut-off pressure (entirely possible), or your water usage rate is faster than the well inflow rate and a tailpiece in the well is limiting the flow out - leaving the pump running all the time.
Question: I have no water and the switch or pump keep humming
errr i have no water and it sounds like the switch is trying to kick in by making like a hummimg sound and my pressure gauge says 0 so i have replaced the switch and the gauge and still nothing any thoughts in what i can do next to try to get some water? - Jenn 7/11/11
Is your pump above ground or in the well. If the humming is coming from an aboveground pump and the pump is not running it is either jammed or is having trouble starting.
Watch out: shut off the power to avoid burning up the pump motor.
If it's a motor start problem, a hard-start capacitor kit might do the trick.
Question: My pressure tank has a pinhole leak - can this be repaired?
My pressure tank has a very small pin hole . Can the pressure tank be welded or sealed in anyway , or will the tank need replaced completely ? - Tom A. 8/11/11
Yes, Tom. At your local hardware store you can probably purchase a special screw and washer part (less than $5.00. U.S.) intended to temporarily fix pinholes in water pressure tanks.
Question: in the morning our cold water supply smells funny
why is there odor..in morning on cold side..of faucet but does clear up - Timothy Hannon
Timothy your question doesn't give a lot to go on, like what the odor smells like. If I were to nevertheless GUESS, I'd guess it's a sulphur or rotten egg smell. If that's what you smell in cold water in the mornings, your water supply may contain sulphur gases.
Question: our pressure switch stuck on and the gauge hit 90 psi. Now the water smells like sulfur.
Have a well with a pressure tank and a 20/40 switch The switch stuck on, not sure how long, the gauge read about 80-90 when I turned pump off.. I've replaced the faulty switch.
1st problem - the water now has an oily or sulfur odor, seemed clear but if it sits it becomes clouded. Ran about 50 gallons of water and that seemed to help..The well is only used on weekends.. The smell & some of the cloudiness returns after sitting over night or all week..
2nd problem - the pressure tank now has a high pitched noise just before it cycles off..I think the air pressure is at 30 lbs. Can check pressure again this weekend - Wally 7/25/11
It sounds as if your pump was damaged by overwork. I'm not sure where else in a water system you'd get oil into the water supply (except for a leak into the water well itself).
A lurking sulphur odor may have been disclosed in the actual water supply when the system ran for a long time, perhaps dropping the water table beyond normal, though if the pump was running but water in the building was OFF, that doesn't apply.
Follow-up from Wally:
Thanks, this weekend I did drain the pressure tank & flushed it. After draining, rechecking air pressure & adding more air, it stopped the squeal when the pump stopped .
Flushing the system for a good 10 minutes, changed a sediment filter and flushed it again for 10 minutes. Water tasted & smelled much better even after sitting over night..
Now this Labor Day weekend will check the system again, see what it's like after sitting all week..Thanks again! - Wally 8/29/11
Question: why would the inlet pipe from the well blow off of our pump?
What would cause the inlet piping at the pump (from the well) to blow off. The pvc adapter keeps blowing off the galvanized nipple at the pumps inlet. When I cut off the valve between the pump and the pressure tank, the pump quick cycles (should the valve be after the tank?). - Dennis 10/28/11
Dennis, about blowing apart well piping connections,
If your well pump is a 2-line jet pump, it is sending water down into the well, through a pick-up venturi valve, and then back up through the larger of 2 pipes into the pump assembly and onwards to the pressure tank. So if the pump is at abnormal pressure, or more often if the connection was not properly made, that connector can blow off.
When you heat black PVC well piping and shove it over a male fitting such as a pump connector, you should then use one or two stainless steel clamps to hold that connection in place. But sometimes we disassemble and re-use that same connection several times in the course of working on a pump. If so, the end of the well piping may have become too-enlarged or othewise damaged. The fix, IF that is the problem, is to cut off the well-used, enlarged plastic pipe end and connect to a freshly cut end. If that leaves your well pipe too short to reach the pump, cut off a large enough section, say two feet, to permit splicing in a new section of plastic well piping.
2. if the water pressure is in normal range, then most likely the connections were improperly made
3. I can imagine that problems with check valves could cause a severe water hammer that could also blow apart well piping connections.
Question: we have surging water pressure at toilets, the hose, etc.
I noticed surging at my toilet, faucets, outdoor hose where I have water pressure, then a drop, then water pressure. It seems the pump is cycling, but it is too far from the house to know. I checked my well today, the pressure tank has 0 psi and some water comes out the pressure valve stem. I noticed my in-line water pressure guage at the manifold has no water in it and is also at 0 psi. how could this be if the pressure switch will keep it at least at 40 psi on the 40-60 rating? And does water coming out of my pressure tank air valve mean it is water logged or is there some other reason I would have water in the bladder... moisture... condensation... I just saw a little bit of water come out each time I put the guage on it trying to measure the pressure... which after several attempts, I came up with 0 psi. - Craig 11/11/11
Craig, surging water pressure, on a private well and pump system, is usually caused by a waterlogged water pressure tank - see the article titled SHORT CYCLING WATER PUMP for advice on how to diagnose and fix this problem.
Question: we had no water, tapped the pressure switch and things started working
This morning we had no water. We went down and checked the water pressure gauge, it was at zero. We tapped the pressure switch, it then moved up to 40 and we then had water. Since then, we have had water, and the pressure on the gauge moves from 60 to 35. Could we have a problem with the pressure switch or the pressure tank? - Nina 2/19/12
Yep Nina, you did a great job of discovering most of the problem with the loss of water pressure.
But the root problem may not be the pressur switch contacts themselves. Pressure switches for pump controls mount on a small diameter pipe or tube, often 1/8" or sometimes 1/4" diameter piping. If your water supply includes mud, silt, rust, iron, minerals, or any other crud, it's easy to clog up that pipe, or to clog the still smaller opening in the bottom of the pressure control switch through which water pressure is sensed.
The fix is to try replacing that pipe nipple or replace the switch and nipple at the same time.
Question: is it OK to install a water pressure tank on its side? Does it matter whether a horizontal or vertical water tank is used?
Is it okay for the pressure tank to be on it's side? This is under the house in the crawlspace. Does it matter whether or not a horizontal or vertical tank is used? - Jason
Jason, it depends.
A bladderless water tank can often work in any position provided you can find convenient pipe connection points. But a vertical water tank that uses an internal bladder usually has to be installed upright. Or buy a tank designed to be installed horizontally. Othewise the tank and bladder or diaphragam may not work properly and the tank may be damaged.
Question: Our well pump runs continually even after the tank fills up
We Have a 4.5 hourse power well pump that will continually run even after the tank fills up. We had someone come to diagnose the problem and we were told that because we don't have an inground sprinkler system (we use oscillating sprinklers over approximately 3/4 of an acre) that the pump is going out and eventually the pump will burn up. Could this be the cause of our problem? If so, please explain how watering our property with oscillating sprinklers can do this?
Kathy, at WATER PUMP WONT STOP RUNNING we provide the procedure for diagnosing and repairing a well pump that won't stop running.
The problem could be a bad pressure switch, a pressure switch with the cut-off pressure set higher than the pump can achieve, bad pump, bad pump impeller, a well that has lost its recovery rate, a leak in well piping, a leak in house piping, a clogged sensor on the bottom of the pressure switch (try tapping on the switch to see if the pump stops), or even low voltage that leaves the pump unable to reach the pressure control switch cutoff pressure.
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