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Why Does My Pressure Tank Feel Empty?

Scott Winfield
Last Updated on
by Scott Winfield

If you’re here, you probably searched something like “why does my pressure tank feel empty?”

Maybe the pressure tank sounds or feels empty, or it’s suddenly less efficient even though the pump keeps running. Thankfully, we can help you sort things out.

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

  • The pressure settings are too low.
  • There’s no electricity 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, it’s not always straightforward and might require some trial and error to troubleshoot your root cause.

Pressure Tank
Pressure tank

Determining What’s Causing Your Pressure Tank to Feel Empty

Aside from checking the well, it’s likely that you can determine the cause of the trouble with a step-by-step approach.

Water Pressure Settings

It’s easiest to start with the pressure settings to make sure it’s between 30 and 45 psi. Try upping the level slightly to see if that solves the problem.

Water Pump

Water pump
Water pump

If your pressure tank still feels empty, move on to the pump. Make sure your pump is receiving power and fully functional.

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

Regulator and Pressure Switch

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

Regulator and Pressure Switch
Regulator and Pressure Switch

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 just need a pressure gauge to test it.

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 and can impact the pressure in the tank.

Water Tank
Water Tank

The Well

Once you rule out everything except for the well itself, you should contact a professional to check it. However, there are some indications that you have well problems.

The Well
The Well
  • 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.
  • You have higher than usual energy bills.

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

Is a Pressure Tank Supposed To Be Full of Water?

No. Pressure tanks should have more air than water to maintain proper pressure through the system.

We use pressure tanks for three reasons. First, they serve as a reserve during high use periods. Second, they store water to reduce pump usage to extend its life.

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

The first two purposes make 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 compression into a smaller space. As water fills the tank, the air compresses and applies pressure to the water.

That’s the primary reason we don’t fill tanks 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 no more than a few minutes.

Tank size and the 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 through faster.

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

As you can see, discussing the finer points of fill times can involve complex mathematics that the average homeowner might not want to perform. Just remember that your tank should not take more than two minutes to refill and anything longer could indicate a problem.

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.

It’s called an air valve for a reason, therefore water coming out of that valve means trouble. The most likely culprit is a ruptured tank bladder, meaning you either need to replace the bladder or the entire tank.

To understand this issue, it helps to know how the tank works. 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 the maximum pressure, triggering the pump to shut off.

If the tank bladder ruptures, splits, or develops a hole, the water fills the tank. This condition is known as a waterlogged bladder and results in limited to no water pressure from the tank.

Aside from water coming out of the air valve, there are some additional red flags that you have 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.

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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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