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Pressure Tank Maintenance: Step-by-Step Guide

Scott Winfield
Last Updated on
by Scott Winfield

if the water pressure at your faucets is lower than usual, it might be time to inspect your pressure tank.

In this article, we’re going to explain why pressure tanks need maintenance and provide you with a step-by-step guide on how to clean the tank.

Do Pressure Tanks Need Maintenance?

Yes, a pressure tank needs to be looked at by yourself or a professional at least once a year. 

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What is a Pressure Tank?

A pressure tank is an important component of well water systems. It stores the water that’s drawn from the groundwater source by the well pump and supplies it to your faucets whenever needed.

How Long Can a Pressure Tank Last?

The average lifespan of a pressure tank is fifteen years. Factoring in the quality, maintenance, and frequency of use, they can last as little as five years or as long as thirty years.

In addition, tanks that are larger than you explicitly need for your household might last a bit longer than smaller ones. It’s because the larger tanks store more water, so they operate less.

Why Does a Pressure Tank Need Maintenance?

The pressure tank is in control of your running water. Without routine maintenance, a worn-out pressure tank can lead to leakage, faulty appliances, and little to no water pressure.

Replace a Bladder in a Pressure Tank

Moreover, it can also get contaminated by bacteria due to damage to the well or a natural change that occurs in the water source. Although most well systems have a sediment filter, the tank may still have some sediment buildup after a year of use.

Lastly, if your water supply is particularly rich in minerals, your tank will likely suffer from mineral buildup.

How Long Does Pressure Tank Maintenance Take?

Depending on the pressure tank’s condition, maintenance could take a couple of hours or a few days. However, we recommend you consult a professional for additional help if you have little or no experience in plumbing.

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How Much Does Pressure Tank Maintenance Cost?

For experienced DIY-ers, cleaning a pressure tank will only cost you your time. In rare cases, you may need to chlorinate it as well, which will only cost you the price of the amount of bleach you’ll use.

If you seek professional assistance, on the other hand, the cost for pressure tank inspections and repairs can be about $250. If the inspections indicate that you need to replace the tank, the tank replacement will cost you about $500.

What Does It Mean When a Pressure Tank is Waterlogged?

A waterlogged pressure tank means that the whole tank is filled with water.

The pressure in pressure tanks refers to air presence inside the tank that pushes the water into the piping system when you turn on a faucet. Normally, this air makes up ⅔ of what’s inside the tank, with the rest being water.

When the tank’s diaphragm breaks, the air can no longer stay inside the tank, causing water to fill it up.

What Does Short-Cycling Mean?

Short-cycling is when a water pump turns on and off frequently. It’s a clear sign that there’s something wrong with your pressure tank.

When a pressure tank is short-cycling, there will be less water stored inside the tank. So, the water pump will start working more frequently to compensate for the lost water, and, in the end, it’ll wear out more quickly than expected.

What Other Signs Tell You The Pressure Tank Needs Maintenance?

Here are the most common signs of a faulty pressure tank:

  • Low or no water pressure
  • Air blowing through the faucets and fixtures
  • visible leaks or puddles
  • Pressure gauge needle bouncing back and forth
  • Flickering lights

How Do You Maintain a Pressure Tank?

Checking the pressure and the pressure switch of your tank is the first step during routine maintenance, as it tells you if replacements are needed or if the pressure tank is still working properly.

What is a Pressure Switch?

Pressure switch is an electric mechanism that activates and deactivates depending on the water pressure.

For instance, the pressure switch of a 30/50psi pressure tank will turn on when the water pressure inside the tank is down to 30psi. When there’s enough water inside the tank, meaning that the pressure is up to 50psi, it’ll automatically turn off.

How Do You Check The Pressure?

The best way to check the pressure of a pressure tank is by using a digital pressure gauge:

  1. Turn off the breaker to disconnect the tank from power.
  2. Turn on a faucet at your hose to drain the stored water from the tank.
  3. Find the air valve that’s usually on the top of the tank and is covered with a cap.
  4. Remove the cap. Sometimes, there might be a metal cap over the valve as well. If that’s the case, unscrew it.
  5. Press the digital gauge to the valve to have a reading.

What Are Cut-In and Cut-Off Pressures?

Cut-in pressure is the low-pressure setting that activates the well pump, while cut-off pressure is the high-pressure setting that ceases the activities of the well pump.

Pressure tanks usually have a 20 PSI (pounds per square inch) difference between the cut-in and cut-off pressure.

How Do You Read The Pressure Gauge?

If the tank is 2-5 PSI below the cut-in pressure, no further action is necessary, and you can close all the faucets back up.

If the pressure tank is over 5 PSI below the cut-in pressure, the tank will require an air charge since it means that there’s more water than it should be in the tank.

How Do You Air Charge The Pressure Tank?

To charge air into your pressure tank, connect an air compressor to the valve stem and raise the pressure until it’s 2-5 PSI below the noted pressure.

How Do You Check The Pressure Switch?

To check the pressure switch, follow these steps.

  1. Turn off the breaker for the pump.
  2. Unscrew the nut from the pressure switch’s plastic cover and take it off.
  3. Examine the switch arm. If there’s no sign of copper or the switch arm is burnt, it needs a replacement. The switch arm should be able to move back and forth.
  4. Check the bottom of the switch for any signs of leaking.

How Often Should You Flush Your Pressure Tank?

The pressure tank should be checked and flushed at least once a year.

Why Should You Flush Your Pressure Tank?

Over time, natural minerals and sediment can settle at the bottom of your pressure tank. This build-up gets in the way of the tank and will shorten its lifespan if not drained.

The sediment can also break free from the tank and clog connecting pipes. The running water in your home or facility will slow down due to the mineral blockage.

How Do You Clean Your Pressure Tank?

To clean your pressure tank, follow these steps:

  1. Turn off the pump at the breaker.
  2. Use a garden hose to connect one end to the boiler drain under the tank and lead the other end someplace to empty the water.
  3. Turn off the main shutoff valve.
  4. Open the drain and let the water run until empty. Use a bucket to dump water into and check the sediment that has been discharged with the water.
  5. When the water runs out, turn on the pump for 30 seconds.
  6. Turn off the pump, drain the water again, and repeat this pattern until the water inside the bucket appears clear and free of mineral or sediment buildup.
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Conclusion

Well pressure tanks are responsible for maintaining and supplying the water flow from the well pump to the household. If you don’t maintain them regularly or properly, you will likely have water-related problems.

To prevent such problems from ever occurring, you need to flush the tank at least once a year. Additionally, you should regularly check the tank for signs of leaks, damage, or mineral and sediment buildup and ensure that the pressure settings and switch function how they should.

If you suspect that there’s a problem after your routine inspections but have no experience in plumbing, we recommend you contact a professional plumber to assist you. If you do have experience, on the other hand, you can easily flush and clean the tank by yourself by following the steps we provided above.

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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 Comment
  1. I appreciate you mentioning that your flowing water is controlled by a pressure tank. My mother complains that her tank is unable to regulate the water flow. I’ll advise her to get a pressure tank so she can manage her flowing water.

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