A pressure tank is an indispensable part of a well system. It is just as important as the pump and pressure switch to keep things functioning as they should. Without a pressure tank, your home’s well water would not get pumped at the correct pressure.
However, it can be confusing to understand which types of tanks are better for getting your well water under pressure.
A pressure tank uses compressed air to push water inside the tank through your pipes and deliver it at the appropriate water pressure, whereas a bladder tank uses entirely separate chambers for air and water.
We have compiled important information for you to know the difference between a bladder and pressure tank to help you make the right choice for your household.
What Does a Pressure Tank Do?
A pressure tank’s purpose is to store water from a well and deliver it to a dwelling at the proper pressure. Some pressure tanks have balloon-like bladders while others do not.
A conventional pressure tank works with water at the bottom and compressed air at the top. When you need water in your home, the compressed air uses air pressure on the water to push it out at an appropriate pressure.
The pump in a well system gets water into the entire tank. The rising water causes the air to compress and does not stop until 50 to 60 psi is reached. Turning on a faucet in your home will cause the compressed air in the tank to push out the water.
The pump will start getting water in the tank again when the pressure goes down to 30 to 40 psi, and the whole process repeats.
Differences Between Bladder Tanks and Pressure Tanks
The first difference anyone will notice between bladder tanks and pressure tanks is the size. Pressure tanks are considerably bigger than bladder type tanks, but there is more to them inside.
Aside from how much space these tanks will take up in your home, they also differ in how they store water, the risk of corrosion, and their longevity.
Bladder Tanks Take Up Less Space
Pressure tanks have been around for over 50 years. These tanks were initially introduced as an improvement to air-over water tanks used at the time.
Pressure tanks were used for decades before better solutions with a bladder system were tested. These newer tanks had many issues, but eventually, someone figured out that using carbon steel bladders was even better.
A bladder tank stores water much more efficiently. On top of this, these tanks are much smaller than traditional pressure tanks, so less space is needed for installation. The bladder can also be cleaned and replaced.
Both Tanks Are Rust-Resistant (But Not Rust-Proof)
Since the air in a bladder tank is separated from the water, corrosion is less of an issue. Both bladder tanks and pressure tanks are made to be rust-resistant, but that does not make them rust-proof.
As time goes by, rust affects every water tank. However, a bladder tank will rust more slowly than a pressure tank because it separates air from water and eliminates water logging, making bladder tanks maintenance-free.
Pressure Tanks Can Last Decades Longer
Bladder tanks certainly have considerable advantages over pressure tanks when you consider that they are more efficient and require no maintenance. But that does not mean that they will last longer.
You can expect a bladder tank to last about 7 years. Depending on how you use and repair it, you might get a few more years out of it—maybe 10-15 years.. A pressure tank, on the other hand, can last decades if you maintain it well.
Should I Get a Bladder or Pressure Tank?
To make an informed decision about which tank you should get, consider the following pros and cons:
Despite being older technology, pressure tanks are not necessarily the least desirable choice. The bulky tank size might put some people off, but that should not matter if you install it in a place with sufficient room.
A pressure tank might be perfect for you if you have a lower budget. These tanks tend to be less expensive than bladder tanks, which can be over $1,000 in extra costs to install. However, pressure tanks require regular maintenance—every few months at least.
This is because of water logging, in which air gets lost through water absorption or escapes through valves. Such frequent maintenance can be a challenge for some. Yet it will usually last longer than a bladder tank if you perform this maintenance.
The differences we have discussed here between bladder and pressure tanks make most people opt for the former these days.
Perhaps the two best reasons to choose a bladder tank over a pressure tank are the tank size and rust resistance. A bladder tank will take up less space and generally corrode much slower, if at all.
When you choose to install a bladder tank, you will avoid having to do maintenance on it every few months and can count on higher water efficiency and flow.
However, this does not necessarily mean that you will save money in the long run. The price of water draw per liter is similar at the end with these tanks, despite a bladder tank being more efficient.
Do I Need a Tank Anyway?
The biggest reason you would need either a tank is if you live in a place where you rely mostly or exclusively on a well. Not having access to water supplied by a town or city means you have to deal with the situation yourself.
The differences between bladder tanks and pressure type of tank are considerable.
If you are not concerned about maintenance or space, installing an old-style stainless steel pressure tank might be the best option for you. A bladder tank will save you space and time since there is no maintenance, but you will most likely have to replace it sooner.