How to Replace a Water Heater Dip Tube - DIY Tips

Water heater dip tubeWater heater dip tube

Learn how to inspect and replace a water heater dip tube and solve the problems related to "not enough hot water" or sediment buildup.

Check out the symptoms of the malfunctioning dip tube so you can change it on time and keep the performance and efficiency high.

What is a water heater dip tube and how does it work?

A water heater dip tube is a long plastic rod that runs from the top of the heater and ends a few inches from the bottom of the tank. A dip tube is also another name for the cold water inlet extension, as it brings the cold water to the storage tank, allowing the proper flow and heat transfer.

It is designed to deliver cold water to the bottom part of the tank so it can be heated faster by the gas burner or the main heating element.

When the hot water tap is open, the pressure inside the plumbing pushes the cold water through the dip tube and further into the heater's tank. At the same time, the pressure pushes hot water out of the tank and toward the hot water faucet.

Some manufacturers are designing dip tubes in a way to ensure better heater performance by reducing the sediment deposits at the bottom of the tank and increasing the turbulence.

A dip tube has to be checked (inspected) regularly, and if you notice a cracked or broken tube, it is time to replace it. A broken tube can affect the heating operation and efficiency, as the cold water will go directly to the hot tap without being heated.

The dip tube is made of polypropylene material where the ones with the lower quality can start falling apart after only a few years of service, but that depends on the usage, temperature, and water characteristics.

Built from a plastic material, it can deteriorate into chips or white sludge that sticks to the interior of the tank and plumbing while clogging the faucets, reducing the water flow, and lowering the heater's performance and efficiency.

What are the symptoms of a bad water heater dip tube?

As we can see, dip tubes are important for the proper operation of both electric and gas water heaters.

Unfortunately, they can malfunction or disintegrate over time.

So, how do I know if my water heater dip tube is bad?

With a broken dip tube, your water heater could have one of these problems:

  • Not enough hot water
  • Weak water diffusing action
  • Interference in heat transfer
  • Lower tank capacity
  • Inability to make a turbulence flow and keep the system efficient
  • The appearance of white flecks of plastic in your hot water supply
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How to replace a water heater dip tube: DIY instructions

A dip tube is located at the top of the heater, where it is easy to approach for inspection, repair, or replacement.

To replace your broken water heater dip tube, you need a new tube, a garden hose to drain a unit, and tools such as the pipe wrench and the Teflon tape.

Follow the steps below for the successful dip tube replacement:

  • Turn the power off on the heater.
  • Close the water inlet on the main valve.
  • Drain the cold water supply line.
  • It is not necessary to completely drain the tank. Drain only a gallon or two to avoid accidental spilling on top of the heater.
  • Using a pipe wrench, unscrew the pipe connector. If a dip tube is attached to the steel inlet nipple, simply remove the nipple, and the tube will come right out. Sometimes it is difficult to remove the nipple if the heater is old and there is heavy corrosion.
  • Remove the ring gasket.
  • Take the dip tube from inside the cold water intake hole and pull it out (you can use pliers).
  • Install the new tube but in reverse order, and don't forget to bring the rubber ring gasket back inside the connector sleeve. Apply the Teflon tape to secure the connection.
  • Resume power.

Note: Do not apply heat to the hot or cold water connections to permanently damage the dip tube. You can also follow this wikihow.com guide.

How different dip tube design solves sediment problem

All big manufacturers of heaters like AO Smith, Bradford White, Rheem are now using its patented technology to solve or reduce problems with hard water and deposits at the bottom of the tank it creates. This new design tube is much better than the standard water heater dip tube.

Bradford White, for example, uses the Hydrojet dip tube with a series of concentric "jet ports," to create turbulent action inside the tank. The primary purpose of these specially designed and located ports on the dip tube is to redirect the water flow with the dynamic action.

AO Smith utilizes the Dynaclean system with an innovatively designed dip tube made of long-lasting PEX cross-link polymer.

Rheem uses the Everkleen system.

All manufacturers have a similar system for protection and enhancing performance; when water is drawn through the dip tube, turbulent action puts dissolved minerals and lime into suspension, preventing them from settling to the bottom of the tank and other elements.

How long does a water heater dip tube last?

Under normal circumstances, dip tubes can last as long as your water heater, which is between 8 and 12 years.

However, the lifespan varies because it depends on the element quality, water temperatures, and chemistry.

For example, water heaters made between 1993 and 1997 had low quality tubes installed, resulting in premature failure. The disintegrated tube would cause small white plastic particles to come through the plumbing system, clogging the filter screens and aerators.

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