Water Heater Dip Tube Replacement Tips

How to replace a water heater dip tube. How it works and how regular inspection can affect your heater's performance. A dip tube problems and solutions.

How does the dip tube work

When looking at the top of the tank-type heater, either gas or electric type, you will notice two plumbing lines; incoming and outgoing pipe. 

The incoming line inside the water heater is actually the dip tube or cold water inlet extension. This system consists of the plastic tube and the metal head, and it goes from the top of the heater, inside the water tank, and it ends only several inches from the bottom of the tank.

Fighting the sediment buildup problem

The dip tube is used to bring the cold incoming water from the home plumbing into the heater - lower part of the tank. Some manufacturers use this plastic tube as a solution for the sediment build-up problem. Such "sediment fighters" systems utilize ports to create turbulent flow inside the heater's tank while preventing the deposits on the heating elements and the bottom of the tank. This advanced design can be found in Rheem and Ruud water heaters as the Everkleen system, Hydrojet in Bradford White and Dynaclean in AO Smith water heaters.

Why the inspection is important

Inspection of the hot water heater dip tube and potential replacement should be done carefully. The first symptoms of the broken tube or incorrectly sized inlet tube are "no hot water", slow recovery and high operating costs. In such cases, cold water really enters the tank from the top of the unit, but doesn't reach the bottom part; it goes directly into the outlet pipe without being heated (it is diluting hot with cold water).

Another problem is associated with the material quality used for building these tubes. As the dip tube is being exposed to the water condition for the longer time, it might start falling apart so small particles will affect the water flow.

How to replace a water heater dip tube

  • Turn OFF the gas valve and/or electricity.
  • Turn OFF the water supply to the heater.
  • Use the garden hose and attach one end to the drain valve and other to the open drain. Before draining, open the nearby hot water faucet to vent the heater. Drain several gallons only (or below the inlet connection nipple), but be careful water might be hot.
  • Unscrew the dip tube and inlet nipple by using the pipe wrench and take it out. If dealing with the old heater you might use some help, such as WD-40 or any other substance for the rust.
  • Inspect the dip tube by looking for the cracks, obstructions, and any damage.
  • Install the new element in reverse order and do not forget to put a Teflon tape on the threads, to prevent leaking, when the heater is full and works under pressure.

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