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Why Does My Pressure Tank Feel Empty?

Scott Winfield
Written by Scott Winfield
Last Updated on

A well air pressure tank should feel empty at the top because that’s where the air is. But if it’s also making a hollow sound when you tap the bottom of it, then you have a problem.

Several factors can cause a water pressure tank to feel empty:

  • The pressure settings are too low.
  • There’s no electricity coming to the pump, or it’s defective.
  • You have a faulty regulator or pressure switch.
  • The tank is failing or leaking.
  • Your well is problematic.

While some of these issues seem like common sense, identifying your particular issue is not always straightforward, so you should expect some trial and error when troubleshooting hollow well water tanks. 

Pressure Tank
Pressure tank

Reasons Why Pressure Tank Feels Empty

Apart from checking the well, here’s how you can get to the bottom of the problem step by step:

Water Pressure Settings

The first step is to check that the water pressure settings is within the range recommended by the manufacturer. You can use a manual or digital pressure gauge to measure it.

The specifications on what the pressure should be are generally written inside the pressure switch cover. If that’s not the case, you’ll need to consult the instruction manual of the tank or contact the manufacturer. for guidance on how to adjust the pressure.

Water Pump

If adjusting the water pressure didn’t fix the problem, move on to the pump. Make sure your pump is receiving power and is fully functional.

Water pump
Water pump

Water pumps should last 10 to 15 years, but that depends on the type of water pump you have and how well you take care of it. If you notice inconsistent pressure, odd noises from the device, or high energy bills, your pump could be the culprit.

To fix a dysfunctional pump, we recommend you seek assistance from a water well service contractor.

Regulator and Pressure Switch

Next, examine the water pressure regulator and pressure switch to see if they are failing your system.

Unfortunately, you can’t just look at a water pressure regulator to determine if it’s faulty. You may not even notice any issues at first, or you could be pleasantly surprised by a sudden increase in water pressure.

Thankfully, you can test it with a pressure gauge.

A faulty pressure switch doesn’t alert the system to pump water into the tank, and you’ll know pretty quickly if that’s the issue. The system could either cycle on and off too often or not at all.

Water Tank

Finally, check your water tank for air and water leaks to make sure it’s fully sealed. Water leaks should be noticeable, but air leaks are tougher to locate, which is why they impact the pressure in the tank in a sneakier way.

Water Tank
Water Tank

Regardless, if you suspect that there’s a leak in the water tank, you need to contact a professional. They’ll determine whether the tank can be resealed or if you need to replace it.

The Well

An empty pressure tank might stem directly from the well itself.

That’s likely the case if:

  • Faucets spit out more air than water,
  • You get sediment or debris with your water,
  • There’s a noticeable change in water quality,
  • The water pump keeps cycling even though everything else is in order,
  • Your energy bills are higher than usual.

If you share a well with neighbors, you can also check with them to see if they are experiencing similar issues. 

In the end, we recommend that you consult with a well service contractor.

Is a Pressure Tank Supposed To Be Full of Water?

No, a pressure tank shouldn’t be full of water since it operates on air pressure. It should have more air than water to maintain proper pressure through the system.

Pressure tanks are used for three reasons. First, they serve as a reserve during high-use periods. Second, they store water to reduce pump usage, which extends your pump’s life.

Finally, they keep water pressurized, so the pump doesn’t have to activate every time we need to use water.

The first two reasons above makes it sound like the tank should remain full of water to maximize efficiency. However, pressurizing the water requires at least some air in the tank.

Water pressure tanks need sufficient air because, unlike water, the air is capable of compressing into a smaller space. As water fills the tank, the air compresses and applies pressure to the water.

That’s the primary reason why tanks shouldn’t be filled with just water.

How Long Does It Take for a Well Pump To Fill a Pressure Tank?

It depends on the pump’s power, the pressure setting, and the size of the tank, but in normal circumstances, it shouldn’t take more than a few minutes.

Tank size and pump pressure have the most impact on how fast a tank fills. Larger tanks can take longer unless they have sufficiently high-powered pumps that can push water faster.

Additionally, there’s a slight difference between setting your pump pressure at 30psi versus 40psi. It will take slightly longer to fill the same size tank at 30psi than at 40psi.

Should Water Come Out of the Air Valve of My Pressure Tank?

No, you should never see water escaping the air valve of your pressure tank. Water coming out of that valve mostly signifies a ruptured tank bladder, meaning you either need to replace the bladder or the entire tank.

The tank bladder is essentially a bag inside the tank that holds the water. Air fills the rest of the tank, and as the water fills the bag, the air pressurizes until it reaches its maximum, triggering the pump to shut off.

If the tank bladder ruptures, the water fills the tank. This condition is known as a waterlogged bladder and results in little or no water pressure from the tank.

Aside from water coming out of the air valve, there are some additional red flags indicating a ruptured tank bladder:

  • Tip the tank slightly to check the weight. It should feel noticeably heavier since it will have more water than air.
  • Listen to the pump for continuous cycling to indicate that it cannot regulate.
  • Tap the tank to figure out where the water ends. It should sound more like a thud near water.
  • Rusty water from the faucets indicates the presence of corrosion in your tank.


If you feel that your well water pressure tank is empty altogether, that might indicate that there’s a problem in some well component. The potential culprits are low water pressure settings, a dysfunctioning well pump, a faulty pressure switch, a damaged tank, or the well itself.

If the water pressure settings are the faulty part, you can easily determine it by gauging the pressure and readjusting it to the required levels. However, for other problems, it’s best to seek the services of professionals.

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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.
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