How Can A Pressure Tank Break After A Freeze?

Ryan Womeldorf
by Ryan Womeldorf

Depending on the location of a home or vacation home, there may not be municipal water lines that run into the property. When this happens, there is usually a well system that is built to provide water to the home.

The pressure tank is what delivers water pressure to the well system. But what happens when there is a freeze? Well, if there is a small amount of water left in the tank, it can damage the pressure bladder or even result in the tank rupturing. In the most extreme instances, the tank can even explode.

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Why is My Pressure Tank Damaged After a Freeze?

When you have a pressure tank in your home or in a vacation or summer home, it is important to ensure that the water level is either completely empty or filled up. Just make sure that there is enough that it there won’t be any damage done to the tank.

If you leave water to dwell in the tank over the winter, the pressure bladder is the most likely portion of the tank to become damaged. In some of the most extreme of situations, the tank itself can completely rupture due to the contraction of the materials in the tank. Thankfully, there are ways that you can prevent your tank from becoming damaged by winterizing it.

How to Winterize Your Pressure Tank

Winterizing your pressure tank, particularly for vacation or summer homes, can prevent these catastrophes from happening. Start by turning off the electrical power that runs into the well pump. You can locate the breakers somewhere in the home’s main service panel; just make sure they are set to the “off” position.

Locate the drain valve; it’s at the bottom of your pressure tank. Attach a garden hose to the drain valve and then place the end of your house outside of the house. Now it’s time to open up the tank valve on the pressure drain, allowing all of the water to run out until your tank is totally empty.

Leave the drain open but take the house off of the drain valve. The purpose of this is to get rid of any additional condensation or moisture to escape. You can even put a small container or bowl underneath of the drain if it hangs over a surface that could be damaged by whatever dripping water is leftover.

Do I Need a Pressure Tank?

For the most part, a pressure tank is required on properties that don’t have access to the municipality’s local water and sewer lines. Those lines provide the necessary pressure that water needs to operate at 100%.

If you have a water-well in particular, you will need that pressure tank to provide pressure to toilets and showers. Without that pressure, you can’t take showers or flush the toilet and that can lead to some major inconveniences.

It is also important to realize that the accumulator tank or pressure tank is there to provide relief to the pressure switch or controller. Without the tank, the controller may begin to fail far earlier than it would otherwise.

You can also opt for a bladderless pressure tank. This will help to decrease the risk of freezing during the winter, so that you don’t have to spend the money on expensive replacements and repairs.

How Do You Know if a Pressure Tank is Bad?

There are a few telltale signs that there is something seriously wrong with your pressure tank. The first is if you notice that the water quality or pressure has changed. When the tank is bad, the pressure in particular will become noticeably bad. Low water pressure is the number one symptom of a bad pressure tank.

You may also notice that the pressure pump and switch will constantly cycle off and on. The main reason for this could be due to corrosion to your well casings, screens, or liners that can cause holes that compromise the quality of the water entirely.

The tank itself may also lose captive air pressure but this is a relatively easy thing to check. Just turn the power off to the pump and then run the water to ensure that there is no longer any water pressure left. You can then use a tire pressure gauge to check out the valve that is on top of your tank. It should be about 2 PSI less than the lower or cut-in pressure. IE: If the well turns on at 30 and shuts off at 50, it should have 28 PSI left in it.

Can a Pressure Switch Freeze?

It is entirely possible that the pressure switch winds up freezing into place, particularly the on position. When the pressure switch gets stuck, it can lead to potentially extreme high pressures. It can even rupture the pipes connected to your pressure tank.

To make sure that the pressure switch doesn’t get stuck in place, you need to make sure that any pipes that run from your pressure tank to the home are properly insulated. This will help protect them from becoming damaged by freezing weather, getting stuck open, or potentially bursting.

How Do I Keep My Well Pump from Freezing?

If your full-time residence has a well on the property, it is important to take the proper steps to ensure that the well doesn’t freeze during the colder months of the year. When the well freezes over, it can greatly compromise your home’s ability to get tap water, shower water, and water for the toilet. This can be a major inconvenience in your life. Here’s how you can keep the pump from freezing.

Step-by-Step Guide for Preventing Freezing

  • First, grab your camera. The first thing that you should do is take a picture of the tag that is on your well pipe. This is the metal plate that you will see that has the water level, well-depth, and any other important information on it. Having this information can be essential so that you know how old the well is and what the depth is so that you can address any potential issues with the well in the future.
  • Preparing the pies. The pump is actually pretty deep inside of your well. So, you will be looking at the associate pipes as well as the extension of the well casing. Measure the pipes that are exposed or out of the ground. This is so that you can provide the proper level of insulation. If the pipes are already partially frozen, you can use a hairdryer to warm them up. Make sure that you then wipe the condensation off of them.
  • Insulate Your Pipes. The good thing about this is that there are a huge array of insulation types out there. Foam is perfectly fine, but you can even go with a homemade option like a thick fabric (sweatshirts or thermal blankets). If you go with the latter, just make sure that you double wrap it so that you can ensure proper insulation. Then, use heat tape to keep the material secured into place. This should help prevent freezing in the pipes.
  • Install a heat lamp. It is a good idea to install a heat lamp on the inside of the well. You will have to keep it plugged in, so go with an extension cord that is safe for outdoor use. The heat lamp will keep the interior of the well wall warm. That means that it won’t freeze over during the coldest months of the year.
  • Cover the well. You can also simply cover up the well. After you make sure that the well is properly insulated, you can either buy a pre-constructed cover (something of fiberglass is fine) or purchase a brick or framed well house. These are specifically created to protect the well throughout the year.

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Can a Water Pressure Tank Explode?

In extreme circumstances, if the pressure gets to be too great in the tank, it can spring a leak and then burst all together. If the pressure gets to be ridiculously high, the tank can actually explode, becoming part rocket, part bomb.

Even with the valve on the pressure tank, the extra pressure that the tank faces can wear down the unit over the years of use. This requires it to be replaced sooner than the life expectancy dictates. That’s why it is important to provide proper maintenance. Make sure that water levels are consistently where they need to be.

Ryan Womeldorf
Ryan Womeldorf

Ryan Womeldorf has more than a decade of experience writing. He loves to blog about construction, plumbing, and other home topics. Ryan also loves hockey and a lifelong Buffalo sports fan.

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