DIY Chatroom Home Improvement Forum

DIY Chatroom Home Improvement Forum (
-   Plumbing (
-   -   Well tank has no pressure -- PLEASE HELP (

supitch15 06-20-2009 09:46 PM

Well tank has no pressure -- PLEASE HELP
I lost pressure in my well bladder. I have very low cold water pressure throughout my house, and no hot water pressure at all.

I'm assuming my well pump is still working (since I'm getting SOME water), but I'm suspecting the pressure tank switch is the culprit.

Any suggestions on what/how to test this?

Mike Swearingen 06-20-2009 11:48 PM

With the power to the pump OFF and the water pressure totally drained down, check the air pressure in the pressure tank with a tire gauge.
It should read two psi below your pump cut-on pressure. If water spews out of the air valve, the bladder is shot and you need to replace the tank.
If the air pressure is too low, try airing up the tank with a bicycle pump or portable air tank or compressor to the two psi below cut-on pressure. If it doesn't hold, you probably need to replace the tank.
Good Luck!

supitch15 06-21-2009 07:15 AM

Thanks for the response.

I just tested the pressure in the bladder, and it's only reading 10+ PSI.

HOWEVER, I should note that after I made this post, I learned that I'm not getting any water from my well pump, either. I'm not sure if it's the pump or the switch. The pump is just over 5 years old.

Is there a way I can bypass the switch to trigger the pump (to see if it's dead)? I have the typical 4-post switch. The wires to my pump are on the outside two posts, and the "juice" is going to the center two posts.

post 1 - black wire to well pump
post 2 - black feed wire
post 3 - white feed wire
post 4 - yellow wire to well pump

Any thoughts? Would the low pressure in my tank contribute to the pump not pumping? I don't have much knowledge with this stuff (yet)...sorry for the naive questions.

Thanks for your time!


Mike Swearingen 06-21-2009 07:30 AM

The 10 psi indicates to me that your problem is probably with the bladder. The bladder may be shot, which means that the tank should be replaced.
The pressure tank senses the water pressure in your system. As you run water, the pressure goes down to the pump cut-on level, which should be two psi below the low setting. Say someone has a 1/2 hp pump and the cut-on/cut-off pressure is set to 20 psi cut-on/40 psi cut-off. The pressure in the pressure tank should be 18 psi.
When it hits 18 psi, the pressure tank pressure is read by the pressure switch which cuts the pump on and runs it until it shuts maintain water pressure and to build it back up to cut-off pressure until water is used again.
Air up the pressure tank as suggested. If it won't hold pressure while not in use, then the bladder is leaking.
Don't worry about going to the pressure switch until you eliminate the pressure tank.

Gary Slusser 06-21-2009 11:42 AM

Pressure is the resistance to movement of the water. The pump moves water, the resistance increases pressure and the switch opens to shut off the pump. You open a faucet, the pressure decreases to the cut in switch setting and the pump moves water.

The only thing the pressure tank does is to allow the pump to be shut off during water usage. To be able to do that, the tank has to have a volume of compressed air to provide 'pressure' (actually power) to be able to move the water to the fixtures. So the volume of air with no water in the tank, and, the correct psi is required for things to all work as designed. Having too little air at the wrong psi means the pump has been cycling on/off far too many times while water is being used and that overheats the motor which kills motors very quickly. It also makes the electric meter spin faster and more often. The tank air pressure not being right is the primary cause of bladder failures/bad tanks.

So you need to check the voltage in the switch to make sure the points are conducting it through the switch and then at the well to make sure it is getting out there and then, check the ohms and amps and conductivity of the power cable and motor windings to be in spec. If all that doesn't check out correctly, you need to pull the pump and replace the motor or whole pump. If all that does check out right, then you have a blocked inlet, stuck check valve, serious leak in the drop pipe or something busted in the pump's wet end that prevents the impellors from spining and that cause no water movement, 0 psi pressure and no water up at the pressure tank and pressure guage.

Assuming you have a submersible pump in the well, here are instructions on troublshooting:

piercekiltoff 06-22-2009 08:13 PM

Well pump
Additionally, if you can get a hold of an amp meter, that will tell you a lot. If the motor is turning, it will pull amperage - amperage that is really high means that the motor isn't turning, but it really wants to. Amperage that is low means that motors turning, but it's not actually doing any work (such as lifting the water). Amperage right in the middle is the best. Again, reference the spec's that Mike linked to above.

General rules - high amperage is bad, low amperage is bad, continuity to ground is bad.

My bet is that the controller went bad. When the bladder tank gets low, the pump cycles more often, and then the controllers tend to see more heat. Usually the controller will go out before the motor, and once it has blown, the motor is typically next on the list. 9 times out of 10, if anything other than the pressure tank totally fails in a well pump system, there's a cause some how related to that pressure tank.

Also, if you're going to pull the pump - replace the wire, motor, and pipe - it's out of the ground, there's no better time to do it. If the pipe is anything other than black poly pipe, hire a professional with a pump truck to pull it. I've seen home owners take their fingers off by trying to pull galvanized pipe with rigged up pump pullers.


supitch15 06-24-2009 07:09 AM

We had to pull the pump...turns out we had a broken wire about 250' down.

Better than a burnt up pump, I guess.

Thanks for everyone's input!


supitch15 06-24-2009 07:12 AM


I didn't replace the's only 5 years old, and would have tripled my expense. If it were a marginal price increase, I would have replaced it.



Gary Slusser 06-24-2009 11:41 AM

Thanks for the feedback, it's always nice to know the outcome; which few people bother to do.

piercekiltoff 06-25-2009 09:33 PM

My thoughts exactly.

Interestingly enough, the day he posted this - I pulled a pump with the twisted style submersible cable wrapped around the torque arrest at the bottom of the hole. The wires had rubbed through and caused a short across two hot leads...Strange coincidence, given the volume of work we're doing these days.

supitch15 06-26-2009 06:45 AM

Just out of curiousity....what other options are out there other than the twisted cable? I'm a little bit concerned about this being a recurring issue, since the wire was replaced when the pump was replaced only 5 years ago.

Gary Slusser 06-27-2009 12:49 PM

I only and always used flat ribbon submersible power cable. You buy it at pump and any plumbing supply houses that sell pumps. And then don't let it twist as you go down the hole; flat against the drop pipe. A cable guard every 20' and tape every 10' between them, no torque arrestor or rope.

robapacl 02-21-2013 02:56 PM

I just lost my pump. The bladder perforated and because of other problems, I hadn't tested the pressure in the tank. I did the original installation myself, all of it, and am an engineer so I am familiar with the theory as well as practice. Were I to do it all over again, I would get a small inexpensive compressor with a pressure regulator set to a few pounds below the pressure switch cutoff, put it on a timer for running once a week, and if the bladder goes, so what. Maybe another check valve in the air line, a premium one to protect the against the el cheapo on the tank, and a damn good seal at the connection. My first pump lasted 16 years, and I might still have it if I had done the preceding. Before bladders, that's how they did it I have read, except they didn't automate it. Too bad that oil burners and wells are still such an antiquated design. If autos improved at the same rate, we'd still be hand cranking to get strted

AllanJ 02-21-2013 04:32 PM

Pressure tanks may be an antiquated design for wells and pumps but they work very well. A compressor will not work as a substitute for a pressure tank.

The purpose of a pressure tank is to allow a reasonable large amount of water to be used without having the pump switch on and off in short intervals to follow the demand from the faucets.

When the pump does turn on it can run for a few to several minutes while the water is stored in the pressure tank.Then the pump can shut off and stay off for a few to several minutes even if water usage is continuous. The air in the pressure tank provides the pressure for the entire system and makes it unnecessary to have an air compressor.

It is not proper or correct to put a check valve in the pressure tank connection. The only use of a check valve is in the line from the pump so water cannot flow back to the well. Your pump may already have such a check valve.

A failed (perforated or torn) bladder is not a significant problem unless it herniates into the pipe connection at the bottom and water gets trapped in the pressure tank. To properly pressurize the tank you need to empty it out and the easiest way is to turn off the pump and open a cold faucet or two while maintaining some pressure. Wait for the faucet to stop running. Set the pressure in the pressure tank to the correct amount (the pump turn on pressure minus 2 psi) at this time. Then close the faucet(s) and turn the pump back on. (For non-bladder pressure tanks, turn off the faucets after water stops flowing and then increase the tank pressure to the correct amount.)

robapacl 02-21-2013 06:08 PM

I'm not arguing about the normal functions.
If everything is working the way it should, no problem. If the bladder leaks and the air dissolves, the pump short-cycles and is soon gone. My bladder was perforated and I could either replace the tank ( expensive ) or repressurize the tank by hand or automatically by a compressor. Compressors are not leak-proof generally, hence the check valve in the air line and a tight seal at the tank. Check valves in pneumatic circuits are not uncommon. The compressor could be built into the tank with water level and pressure sensors eliminating the bladder also. Considering our primitive housing, slightly better than a cave, I'd like to see a little creativity. A guy built a house of foam plastic with walls 2 feet thick and heated it in the winter with 300 watts of electricity. I consider that a benchmark to surpass. Fat chance.

All times are GMT -5. The time now is 11:26 PM.

vBulletin Security provided by vBSecurity v2.2.2 (Pro) - vBulletin Mods & Addons Copyright © 2017 DragonByte Technologies Ltd.
User Alert System provided by Advanced User Tagging (Pro) - vBulletin Mods & Addons Copyright © 2017 DragonByte Technologies Ltd.

Search Engine Friendly URLs by vBSEO 3.6.1