What Causes Air in the Lines of a Well Water System?

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When you turn on a faucet and the water sputters, spits, and flows in spurts, you have air in your water lines. When your water comes from a well water system, air in the lines can indicate a serious problem, or it may be a temporary issue that resolves on its own. If it's a problem that needs to be addressed, you'll almost certainly need a professional.

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Most problems associated with air in a well water line require professional diagnosis and repair. Unless you have experience in installing and repairing well water systems, leave it to a professional.

Air in Lines From Well Pump Problems

Air spitting at the faucet could mean you have a leak in the pressure tank bladder or the well pump is compromised. In this case, air is being forced out of the pressure tank and through the piping into the fixtures.

While this may appear to resolve, the water pressure tank will fill with water and the water pump will likely start short cycling, which indicates a lack of air in the water pressure tank. In this case, you'll need a water pressure tank and bladder replacement.

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Leaks in Piping, Check Valves, or Fittings

Leaks at any connection, fitting, or check valve can quickly pull air into the well piping system. Piping leaks that draw in air can occur just about anywhere between the top of the water column and the water pressure tank.

If the check valve or foot valve is loose, improperly installed, or otherwise defective, it may suck in air. For example, a check valve could be allowing water to drain back into the well, creating negative pressure that can pull air into the pipes or the well itself. There may also be a leak in the well piping. If the leak is inside the well casing, there are plenty of opportunities for air to get pulled into the pipe.

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Symptoms of check valve and piping leaks include falling water pressure too, although a water pressure gauge can also be slow to report changes in water pressure.

Low Water Levels

If your well's water levels have dropped, air can get into the pipes and cause the spitting symptoms you're seeing. If your water is low, there may be other signs as well, such as gurgling noises or water pressure that is lower than normal.

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If the water table is fluctuating, the air intake may be intermittent, meaning that if the water level has improved overnight, for instance, and the air in the pipes has flowed out, you may observe a steady water flow with no air discharge. But then when the water level drops again, the air discharge will return.

If your area has experienced drought, a drop in the water table, or there are several new wells in the area, there may be inadequate water underground to fill your well. Other symptoms of low water levels could include discolored or muddy water and debris. You might notice sediment in the sink or shower after you turn off the water.

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Air Pockets Caused by Heating the Water

Your water heater is sometimes the source of air pockets. If turning on the hot water causes it to briefly gurgle and spurt, it may not be a sign of air in the lines; rather, small pockets of air are erupting just from the act of heating the water. If the spitting stops and the hot water faucet then delivers a steady stream, it's nothing to worry about.

If it continues, however, the hot water system may be dangerously hot, and you could be at risk of scalding or even a water heater explosion. In this case, turn off the power or fuel to the heater and immediately contact a professional plumber.

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