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Bladder Tank vs Pressure Tank: What are the Differences?

Scott Winfield
Written by Scott Winfield
Last Updated on

There are three types of pressure tanks: standard stainless steel tanks, bladder tanks, and diaphragm tanks. Diaphragm tanks are still a novelty and have seen little use as of yet, but that’s not the case with stainless steel and bladder tanks.

Standard stainless steel tanks have seen so much use that they’ve become synonymous with the term pressure tank. That’s also the term we use in the title of this article. 

However, bladder-based pressure tanks outperform regular, stainless steel tanks when it comes to overall efficiency, size, and production cost, which is why they’re becoming so common in homes nowadays.

Let’s explore exactly why that is in more detail as we go over their differences and give you a general overview of both types of tanks.

Difference Between Bladder Tank and Pressure Tank

The main difference between a standard stainless steel pressure tank and a bladder pressure tank is the extra balloon system inside the latter.

The differences between the two expand beyond just the balloon, but with the simple addition of the bladder, the system sees a massive increase in performance.

The first significant difference is the size of the bladder tank. Since a bladder tank doesn’t need the entire tank to create pressure, it allows for a considerable reduction in size compared to a standard stainless steel pressure tank.

The size is important because of the drawdown of both tanks. Even though the inside of a standard stainless steel tank is expansive, its drawdown is significantly weaker and less efficient than the drawdown of a bladder tank.

The next difference is in terms of maintenance. A bladder tank has significantly less upkeep than a standard pressure tank.

Stainless steel tanks are prone to waterlogging. Since the water and air are in constant contact with each other all the time in a standard tank setup, the air might escape through the water over time, and its prevention requires regular inspection.

This issue doesn’t pose a threat to bladder pressure tanks. The bladder plays a vital role in preventing waterlogging by not allowing water and air any contact with each other.

Lastly, while stainless steel and galvanized metal are corrosion-resistant, they aren’t completely immune to corrosion. Eventually, the steel will rust, especially when the water supply is rich in minerals, and the water quality will decrease.

Even if the metal components of a bladder-based tank corrode, the water never makes contact with the metal, so the risk of contamination is basically nonexistent. Additionally, since the water never touches the metal, the corrosive process is slower in a bladder tank compared to a standard one.

What is the Purpose of a Bladder Tank?

The purpose of a bladder tank is to store and create pressurized water for houses and appliances that require power or water as a resource. It does this by utilizing space inside the tank to create pressurized air. That pressurized air then pushes water at 20-40psi, depending on the configuration and intended use.

Bladder Well Pressure Tanks
Bladder Tank

Galvanized pressure tanks, while bigger, are less efficient at creating pressure because of the volume of water it takes to generate compressed air inside the tank.

The more water a pressure tank loses, the less powerful the air pressure is. The air pressure in a bladder pressure tank remains stable because of the vacuum created by the tank and balloon.

Another important thing to note is the compact nature of bladder pressure tanks, which allows them to serve multiple purposes, thanks to their size. Someone living in a smaller home with less space will find it challenging to find a suitable space for an entire galvanized pressure tank.

Related Comparison: Expansion Tank vs Pressure Tank

Do All Pressure Tanks Have a Bladder?

There are three popular variants of the pressure tank: 

  • standard stainless steel,
  • bladder, 
  • diaphragm pressure. 

The first, as we’ve already covered, doesn’t feature a bladder; and neither does the diaphragm.

A diaphragm pressure tank operates as an in-between solution to the bladder and stainless steel variants. The volume of water and air that goes into a diaphragm-based system is higher than a standard tank but comes at the cost of the inside of the tank being inaccessible.

While the diaphragm tank uses a similar system to the bladder-based, if the internals of the pressure tank are damaged, there is no chance of repairing them.

However, that’s the only drawback of a diaphragm tank. Currently, it’s the most efficient pressure tank and requires the least amount of maintenance out of the three.

The low maintenance requirement is thanks to the locked internals and the actual lack of a bladder. Instead of a bladder, the diaphragm pressure tank has a rubber lining inside that separates the air and the water.

This rubber lining acts as a bladder, in a way, but its connection is permanent to the tank. This particular component isn’t interchangeable.

Can You Replace a Bladder in a Pressure Tank?

You can replace the bladder in a bladder-based pressure tank. If need be, most, if not all, components on a bladder tank can be repaired or replaced.

However, there’s always the chance that your tank is an old model, which means there wouldn’t be replacement bladders on the market. Moreover, if you have an old system, investing in a new one might be a more logical decision as the price of a new bladder might reach up to $300.

Replace a Bladder in a Pressure Tank
Tank Maintenance

Additionally, considering that replacing a bladder isn’t an easy job and might require the services of a professional plumber, a new tank might as well be the more economical step. Of course, you’ll also need a plumber to have a new tank installed, but at least its life expectancy will be longer since it’s a whole new system.

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How Much is a Bladder Tank?

Depending on where you look, bladder tanks can range from $150 upwards to $1500, but their average cost is $500. Traditional pressure tank systems are more affordable while diaphragm ones are more expensive than bladder ones, so it’s possible to say that bladder tanks are the middle ground between them.

How Long Does a Bladder Tank Last?

Typically, a bladder tank will last 5 to 7 years, depending on its usage. Since its components are mostly replaceable, you can increase the tank’s longevity by only investing in problematic parts.

Stainless steel tanks have a slightly longer life span since they have no bladder that can be damaged, but it ultimately depends on how well you maintain them. Diaphragm pressure tanks last the longest because they are made from the highest-quality materials.

There are tricks used in the making of a bladder tank that are designed to prolong its life. For example, the tank’s ability to store a significant amount of water allows for fewer pumps and activation of the tank.

Where you place the tank also plays an important role in its expected lifespan. For instance, a well-based system may last less than a house-based bladder pressure tank.

A pressure tank that sees outside use will always degrade faster because of the mineral buildup and debris that may damage the pressure tank over time.

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To sum up, bladder tanks are superior to standard stainless steel ones.

The former don’t use the contact between air and water to produce pressure. Instead, a balloon called the bladder applies pressure.

Thanks to this design difference, bladder tanks are more efficient and compact than stainless steel ones. Additionally, they eliminate the possibility of waterlogging completely, their corroded components can’t touch your water, and they corrode more slowly.

A bladder tank may serve you 5 to 7 years, but as long as you have a new system, you can replace the bladder inside the tank as well and prolong the lifespan of the system. That is simply impossible for stainless steel systems.

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Scott Winfield
Scott Winfield
My name is Scott Winfield and researching and writing about water filters and other strategies to purify water has become my full time passion in recent years. I'm glad that you found our site and you can look forward to authoritative and well researched content here to help you get the best in water.
  1. Wow 5-7 years only?
    I live in minnesota on the jordan aquifer and our pressure tank is 35 years old just thinking of replacing it, not because it isn’t working just because it is that old.
    I’m pretty sure its a bladder type tank.

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