If your hot shower abruptly became icy cold this morning, you probably have a defective water heater dip tube. The good news is a broken dip tube needs only a simple fix.
What is the dip tube? This plastic pipe goes straight down from the cold-water inlet and stops a few inches from the bottom of the hot water tank. This pipe is responsible for dumping the cold water where it can get heated up—at the tank bottom. However, if a crack develops in the dip tube, the cold water will get released early, cooling the hot water that collects at the top of the tank.
How to Know if a Water Heater Dip Tube Replacement is Needed
Needing a new dip tube that delivers the incoming cold water to the bottom of the tank instead of mixing in with the hot water at the top of the tank is one of the most common water heater tank problems. It should be checked when troubleshooting a hot water heater issue. Checking the circuit breaker, and checking for excess sediment, leaking drain valve, or anode rod issues are all part of troubleshooting your gas water heater or electric water heater.
A few signs that you need a new dip tube are:
- If you have a sudden loss of hot water
- You have to add more and more hot water as your shower or bath continues
- You have to adjust the thermostat on the heating element to go as high as it can go
- You get lukewarm water temperature whenever you try to get hot water out of the faucet
For older homes, it’s common to have faulty or defective dip tubes being used in water heaters. If you are a homeowner with an older home that has a water heater made between 1993-1997, it’s possible you have a defective dip tube. Some history into why these years specifically have faulty dip tube issues is because all water heater manufacturers were buying faulty products from the same source. The dip tubes were defective because, depending on the water chemistry, water pipes temperature, and other factors, these defective dip tubes would break or even dissolve. If you think you have an older home with a water heater that has defective parts, look at the serial number. For most serial numbers, the month and the year of manufacture are the first four numbers.
How To Change a Water Heater Dip Tube
Dip tube replacement can be a do-it-yourself (DIY) project; however, if terms like hot water supply, polyethylene (pex) pipe, inlet nipple, aerators, or pilot light make you cringe, then you may want to contact the professional plumbers at A-1 Sewer & Septic to look at your gas water heater or electric water heater.
You’ll need a few tools before you get started, including a pipe wrench, plastic tube, new dip tube, Teflon tape, pipe connectors, or pex connectors, depending on your setup. Step-by-step instructions will vary based on the kind of system you have, but here are some general tips on the process.
- Turn off the water heater’s power, typically at the circuit breaker
- Shut off the cold-water inlet valve to stop water pressure going to the water heater, turn on a faucet, and run the hot water side
- You may want to use a garden hose or a bucket and partially drain the tank a few gallons of water so the water level goes below the connections at the top of the tank through the drain valve
- With a wrench, detach the cold-water supply line (found on the top of the water heater)
- Take out the nipple to access the dip tube (the nipple is a stub of threaded pipe)
- Take out the old dip tube (Put a screwdriver at an angle to pry the dip tube out)
- Slip your new dip tube through the opening. Inspect the new dip tube to ensure there are no cracks or that it’s not a defective dip tube.
Then all you need to do is put the nipple and supply line back in place and switch the water and power back on. Presto! Your hot water should be ready to go.
The peace of mind that comes from using a professional plumbing service to repair your water heater is huge, and knowing that the work was done in a way that is the safest for you and your family lets you rest easy at night.
After Replacing the New Water Heater Dip Tube
If the problem wasn’t the dip tube, and you still are experiencing problems with your water heater, an experienced plumbing technician can help you detect the real trouble and perform fast reliable repairs. As a homeowner, it’s also good to be aware of other common signs of water heater problems. A sign for a water heater dip tube replacement could also mean you need a complete water heater replacement. Especially if your water heater is over 10 years old, it’s nearing the end of its lifespan. Some other typical issues homeowners see with water heaters are:
- Low Water Pressure
- If your water pressure in the shower or any of your faucets is not as strong or full as it used to be, there’s a good chance of sediment buildup in your system that needs to be flushed. Low water pressure could also be an indicator of a connection that is broken and leaking water.
- Clicking Noises
- Water heaters are not supposed to make clicking noises. If there are any clicking noises, it has the potential to be dangerous.
- Rust or Discolored Water
- Even though brown or any non-clear tap water is repulsive, it may just mean your water heater needs to be flushed and drained. This happens typically because of the sediment build-up if it’s not drained often enough.
- Any sign of Leaking
- Any wet or damp areas that surround your water heater are the biggest concern to watch out for. It not only can indicate potential water heater failure, but the leaking water can seep into surrounding areas causing odors, mildew, and mold.
It is also recommended to perform regular maintenance and inspections on your water heater that can ensure your hot water tank is operating efficiently and effectively. When you schedule a water heater tank inspection with a certified professional plumber, they will look for any rust or leaks near or on the system, check to make sure thermostats and valves work properly, and will perform a water heater flush on your system that will clean your system. Another way to create a more effective and efficient water heater system is to properly insulate the unit in order to maintain its heat.
A-1 Sewer & Septic Service plumbers are trained to complete thorough inspections on all water heaters and ensure a water heater is working properly before leaving. A-1 Sewer & Septic Service has more than 45 years of industry experience to help you. Our plumbers can even talk to you about moving to a tankless water heater or any other plumbing home improvement projects you might have.
Call or request service from A-1 Sewer & Septic Service, Inc. today to get the speedy, excellent service that you deserve from a Kansas City plumber! Our customer satisfaction warranty speaks volumes. Trust the top-rated team at A-1 Sewer and Septic for all your plumbing and sewer needs!