Having strong, reliable water pressure is important for carrying out many of the tasks you take for granted throughout your home. When your water pressure is less than expected, it's time to take action. Getting rid of debris buildup within the plumbing system can take care of most low water pressure issues. But if you're dealing with low water pressure at the source, such as a weak municipal water supply or a low pressure well, you may need to use a pressure tank to help maintain normal water pressure.
How Pressure Tanks Work
To get an idea of how a pressure tank works, think of a squirt gun that's filled with water. The classic squirt gun uses a small pump to force water through a narrow nozzle as it exits the gun. The end result is a small, concentrated stream of water that shoots out of the gun and onto whatever your target is.
Pressure tanks work on the same basic principle. The tank uses compressed air to force the water out of the tank whenever the outlet valve is opened. This results in a steady, reliable stream of water. Whenever the water level inside the tank drops below a certain threshold, a nearby pump turns on, drawing water into the tank until it's filled to the correct level.
There are two types of pressure tanks to choose from:
- Bladderless pressure tanks use a single tank to hold both the water supply and the compressed air charge needed to force the water out of the tank. Most pressure tanks of this type are glass-lined or epoxy-coated for corrosion resistance.
- Bladder-type pressure tanks separate the compressed air charge and the water via a rubber diaphragm. The compressed air inside of the tank pushes down on the diaphragm, which forces the water out of the tank. When the water inside the diaphragm reaches critical levels, a pressure switch activates and causes the pump to refill the diaphragm.
The average cost of a pressure tank ranges from $80 for the least expensive model to $750 or more. Submersible pumps for well water systems can cost $200 to $870 depending on the model and gallon per minute (GPM) output. Shallow well jet pumps designed for in-building use can cost $150 to $200.
Test Before Taking Action
Before deciding to have a pressure tank installed in your home, it's a good idea to test your home's water pressure and make sure it isn't due to blockages within your plumbing system.
The most accurate way to test your home's water pressure involves using a simple pressure gauge. Attach the gauge to an outdoor hose faucet and make sure all of the other faucets and water-dependent appliances are turned off. Turn on the outdoor hose faucet and check the reading. A normal water pressure reading should be anywhere from 30 to 80 pounds per square inch (PSI). If you have less than 30 PSI, you'll definitely want to take action.
If you don't have a pressure gauge nearby, there's another way you can test your home's water pressure. Open the shower and sink faucets in your bathroom and then flush the toilet. As you flush, keep an eye on the water flow from the shower head. If the water pressure at the shower head drops significantly while flushing the toilet, it may indicate low water pressure issues.
If you're having water pressure problems only when you use hot water, you may want to make sure your water heater tank's shut-off valve is fully open. If that doesn't resolve your low hot water pressure woes, then you'll want to have your plumber check out your water heater before deciding on a pressure tank. For more information or assistance, contact companies like Laroc Refrigeration-Metal Division.