You might not think much of spitting water or air spurts when turning on a faucet, and it’s usually no cause for concern. Sometimes, the air gets caught in your plumbing and can dissipate on its own, causing no damage. However, you should take this issue more seriously if you rely on a private well system for your water needs.
What causes air in water pipes with a well? Air in the pipes can occur due to low water pressure and can also be a sign of system malfunction, valve and pipe damage, or low water levels.
In this article, we’ll explain the most common issues that lead to air in the pipes, a problem also known as sputtering.
Is Well Water Sputtering Dangerous?
Spitting and sputtering faucets can be a sign that your well system isn’t working properly. You might be dealing with malfunctioning well equipment, possible cracks in the piping, or a water quality problem. While these issues may not be a health hazard in the short term, they can damage your water infrastructure and cost you a lot of money if not properly addressed.
Additionally, if the sputtering water has a different taste, odor, color, or texture than you’re used to, then the issue might be more serious.
If there is a noticeable difference in the water quality, or if there are sediment particles, you should immediately send a water sample for testing to find out precisely what you are up against. The sputters might be due to dissolved gasses in the water or other contaminants that are wreaking havoc to your pipes.
These contaminants can pose a health hazard if left unattended. If the tests prove the water has been contaminated, reach out to a certified well contractor.
Causes of Air and in Well Water Pipes or Sputtering
Here are a couple of possible scenarios that might be contributing to air getting stuck in your piping:
- Pump malfunction
- Pump pressure switch malfunction
- Sand and sediment
- Ruptured pressure tank
- A leak in the piping
- A valve malfunction
- Low water levels in the well
- New wells in the area
- Dissolved gasses in the water
In the next section, we’ll discuss these issues in more detail so you can pinpoint the cause of sputtering well water. However, it’s always a good idea to consult a professional to get an accurate diagnosis.
An Old and Worn Out Pump
One of the first signs of an old and worn-out pump is a decrease in the water pressure. When the water pressure drops, all the faucets start spitting water when turned on instead of letting the water flow.
The pump may not be the culprit if you only have one or two spitting faucets. But if all the faucets in your home sputter water, you should contact a professional who can inspect your pump.
Sand and Sediment Infestation
If you notice sand or sediment in the water, your well might be silting. If the pump is too far down the well, it could be pumping sediment. The sediment gets in the pump, damages the pump components, and clogs the piping. The overall effect is low water pressure across the house and sand in your water tank.
If that’s the cause of sputtering water, you might have to hire a contractor to move the pump up the well and install sediment filters that trap the sand before it can get into the pump.
Pump Pressure Switch Malfunction
The pump pressure switch can degrade over time. A malfunctioning pump pressure switch can signal to your pump that there is not enough water in the tank when that isn’t the case. This increases water flow when the system pressure is already high and causes air bubbles.
Pressure switches are pricey and can cost between $200 to $400 per piece.
Pressure Tank Problem
A leak in the pressure tank can lead to sputtering or pulsing water when you turn on the faucets. The leak decreases the air pressure and the water levels in the tank, causing the pump to keep pumping incessantly to make up for the loss. That can eventually lead your tank to a short cycle.
If the pressure tank leaks, you are due for a tank replacement. Depending on the size and brand, pressure tanks cost from $40 to $600.
Leaks and Valve Damage
You should check the valves to ensure they’re in good condition. If the valves are working correctly, the problem might be a leaking pipe.
Start with the valve farthest from your well to minimize pressure on your system. Tighten it up, and then loosen it. Does it work as it should? Does it proportionally stop and let the flow of water? If so, move on to the next one until you find the faulty valve.
It’s easier to spot a leaking pipe. They usually cause puddles around the piping and leave water stains over the walls.
Unfortunately, there are no good fixes for damaged pipes and valves; replacing them is the best course of action.
You can expect to pay $10 to $25 for a new valve. Piping replacement is often more expensive and depends on the state of your infrastructure.
Low Water Levels
If you’re noticing gurgling sounds accompanied by a drop in the water pressure, the problem could be low water levels in the well.
Keep in mind that water tables constantly fluctuate. The groundwaters can eventually stabilize and return to their standard levels, however, if the issue continues, call a professional to check the water levels of the well.
Professionals can move or deepen the well depending on the nature of the problem. Deepening existing wells is often cheaper than drilling a new well, but you should still consult a contractor to get an informed opinion.
New Wells in Your Area
Another thing that can contribute to the presence of air bursts is new wells in your living area. If many new wells are built simultaneously, then there simply isn’t enough water to go around for everyone.
Luckily, there’s an easy way to tell if this is the cause. You will notice discoloration and debris-filled water when new wells are built in your vicinity.
This is also a consequence of the water table being thrown into disarray, but this time, it’s due to new wells rather than natural fluctuations. The only solution is to hire a contractor to lower your pump further down the well to reach fresh water.
As you have probably noticed, when water is boiling, pockets of air appear on its surface. The same principles apply when you have a water system with a boiler.
If there are air pockets and spurts when you turn on the hot water faucet, but they stop shortly after, there is nothing to worry about.
However, if the issue persists, you should contact a professional to check out your water heater.
Gasses In the Well Water
While it isn’t very common, there might be dissolved gasses in the well water. Methane or other dissolved gasses may cause spitting and sputtering, cloudy water, and visible bubbles. These symptoms might be more visible when you turn on hot water faucets. If the water is cloudy or tinted, or if you see bubbles, send a water sample to a certified lab for testing.
Methane can be dangerous since it displaces oxygen in the air. It also hurts the water pump, so you should take measures immediately.
If there are dissolved gasses in the water, you may have to invest in a degassing system or a gas shroud to solve the problem. Contact a professional to inquire about the best solution.
How to Remove Air From Your Pipes (Temporary Fix)
If you’re looking for a momentary fix for the sputtering, this method should help with that. Just remember that removing air from your pipes this way won’t fix the underlying issue.
Start by shutting off your main water valve. Then, open all the faucets in your living area, starting with the one nearest to the main valve, and keep going until you reach the furthest one. A simple turn or two is enough to let all the air out—you don’t need to open them all the way.
Don’t forget to flush the water from your toilets and boilers so that air can pass through.
Once all your faucets are open, go back to your main water valve and turn it all the way up. Make sure there is a steady stream of water from every tap, and let the water run for about ten minutes. If there is a constant flow uninterrupted by air, you have probably fixed the issue.
When turning off the faucets, remember to do it in the opposite sequence, starting with the one furthest from the valve so that the pressure doesn’t damage your system.
If the problem persists, you might be dealing with low water pressure problems. As we mentioned above, this could be due to tank rupture, faulty pump switch, leaking pipes or valves, or problems with the water table.
How to Prevent Well Water Sputtering
The best way to prevent air from getting into your pipes is to run regular maintenance checks on your well system and its components.
You should pay attention to the condition of the piping and make sure that the pressure valves are holding up and the joint seals haven’t weakened. Ensure the well-system infrastructure isn’t crowded by tree roots that can wrap around the pipes.
However, you should avoid doing maintenance other than cleaning on your own. It’s always a good idea to have your well checked out by a certified professional annually to confirm it’s working properly.
An annual checkup should consist of:
- a water quality test for bacteria and nitrates,
- a water flow test,
- a visual inspection,
- a complete valve check-up.
After the testing, you should receive a written report, advice on how to proceed with the maintenance process, and notes on any problems that need to be addressed.
Depending on the contractor and your water system, an annual well check-up can cost around $300 to $500.
In most cases, you’ll realize there is air in the pipes due to sputtering and pulsating water. This is often due to low water pressure in the system and can be caused by many things, including a low water table, a malfunctioning pump pressure switch, a leak in the pressure tank, or valve and pipe damage.
While you can temporarily fix the issue by emptying the air from the pipes, you better address the root cause of the problem before it seriously impacts your well infrastructure.
If you’re trying to find the root cause, you can inspect the valves and piping for leaks and ask the neighbors whether any new wells have been installed in your vicinity. It’s a good idea to contact a professional who can evaluate the well system and pinpoint the issue.
Depending on the exact cause, you might have to replace specific system components (the pressure tank, the valves, faulty piping, pump pressure switch) or deepen your well.