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Bladder Tank vs Pressure Tank: What are the Differences?

Scott Winfield
Last Updated on
by Scott Winfield

Standard stainless steel pressure tanks have seen a plethora of use, but the favored choice belongs to the bladder-based pressure tank.

Bladder pressure tanks are common in homes because of their overall efficiency, size, and production cost.

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 bladder pressure tank.

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 the bladder pressure tank doesn’t need the entire tank to create pressure, it allows for a considerable size reduction over the standard stainless steel pressure tank.

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

The next difference is the maintenance of each pressure tank. The bladder tank has significantly less upkeep than the standard pressure tank.

The upkeep of the stainless steel pressure tank happens because of waterlogging. Since the water and air meet inside a standard pressure tank, the air will escape through the water over time.

Waterlogging requires the galvanized pressure tank to be inspected and reset every few months. This issue doesn’t exist at all for the bladder pressure tank.

The bladder in the bladder pressure tank plays a vital role in preventing waterlogging in the pressure tank. Waterlogging is impossible since the water and air never touch inside a bladder pressure tank.

Degradation is another difference. While stainless steel and galvanized metal are corrosive resistants, they are not corrosive immune.

Eventually, the steel will rust inside a standard pressure tank, and the water quality will hit. Even if the metal of a bladder-based pressure tank corrodes, the water never makes contact with the metal, so concern for water pollution is nonexistent.

Additionally, since the water inside a tank never touches the metal, the corrosive process inside the bladder tank is slower than a standard pressure tank.

The corrosion process tends to happen faster for well-based pressure tanks because of minerals absorbed into the tank. Even though most, if not all, minerals are filtered, this process slowly damages the pressure tank.

What is the Purpose of a Bladder Tank?

The purpose of a bladder tank is to efficiently store and create pressurized water for houses and appliances that require power or water as a resource.

Bladder Well Pressure Tanks
Bladder Tank

The bladder tank manages to do this by utilizing space inside the tank to create pressurized air. That pressurized air then pushes water at 20-40 psi, depending on the configuration and intended use.

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 continues to thrive because of the vacuum created by the tank and balloon.

Another essential thing to note is the compact nature of the bladder pressure tank. It’s able to serve multiple purposes because of its size.

Smaller homes with less space will find it challenging to fit an entire galvanized pressure tank casually in their home.

Related Comparison: Expansion Tank vs Pressure Tank

Do All Pressure Tanks Have a Bladder?

Not all pressure tanks have a bladder system. There are three popular variants of the pressure tank.

The standard stainless steel or galvanized pressure tank is the first and most outdated. The second is the bladder pressure tank, and finally, the diaphragm pressure.

The 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 bladder pressure tank but comes at the cost of impossible access to the internals.

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

The drawbacks to the diaphragm pressure tank end there. Currently, it is the most efficient pressure tank and requires the least amount of maintenance of the three.

The lack of maintenance comes with the locked internals and actual lack of a bladder. Instead, the diaphragm pressure tank uses a rubber lining inside that separates the air and the water.

This rubber lining acts as the bladder would, but its connection is permanent to the tank. This particular part of the diaphragm pressure tank is not interchangeable.

The diaphragm pressure tank essentially functions the same way as the standard bladder pressure tank but with a different type of bladder system. The diaphragm pressure tank is more efficient since the lining doesn’t take up as much space as the balloon.

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, parts on the bladder tank can be repaired or replaced.

Replace a Bladder in a Pressure Tank
Tank Maintenance

If the bladder does wear over time, the process to replace it is also painless and straightforward. The similar yet more expensive diaphragm pressure tank is a different story.

Unfortunately, while being made of a higher quality and more efficient than a bladder pressure tank, the parts inside a diaphragm pressure tank are not replaceable without ruining the pressure tank.

Similarly, the standard galvanized pressure tank has very few interchangeable parts as it utilizes the whole tank.

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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 the average cost is $500. The cheapest option would be a traditional pressure tank system, and the most expensive would be a diaphragm pressure tank.

The quality of the materials used affects the cost of the bladder tank. Generally, the material on the bladder tank can take a hit in quality over a galvanized and diaphragm pressure tank.

It can afford to take a hit in quality because the tank’s intended purpose revolves around the bladder, typically isolated from metal and air.

The stainless steel pressure tank must ensure high quality in metal and parts because maintenance is nearly impossible if parts inside the tank are damaged.

The same worry is applied to a diaphragm pressure tank, as the internals are permanent and irreplaceable. Since this is the case, the diaphragm pressure tank cannot skimp on quality.

How Long Does a Bladder Tank Last?

Typically, a bladder tank will last 5-7 years, depending on its usage. Since parts are replaceable in the bladder tank, you can increase the tank’s longevity.

Stainless steel pressure tanks have a slightly longer life span, depending on maintenance. Diaphragm pressure tanks last the longest because they have the highest quality materials.

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

The use of the pressure tank also affects its 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 minerals and materials that may damage the pressure tank over time.

A damaged bladder isn’t as concerning, but it’s more complicated if the tank itself is punctured. Patchwork on pressure tanks tends to fail over time, so usually, the solution would be to replace the tank.

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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. Thanks for your question, Corban. We’re in the midst of research around these items now and once we’ve completed our testing, we hope to publish some interesting guides soon.

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