What To Do if Your Water Heater Has a Defective Dip Tube

If your water heater isn’t heating up water the way you think it should, or if you have bits of debris in your faucet screens, the culprit may be a faulty water heater dip tube. It’s not too common of a problem for water heaters made in this century, but one failing is not out of the question.

If your water heater dip tube does go bad, the good news is you might be able to fix it yourself.

“It is relatively easy to do, but people should call a professional when the water heater has multiple valves, you don’t have a lot of experience fixing something like this, or if it’s in a tight space and you can’t access it very well,” says Melanie Powers, president at Goodberlet Home Services.

What Is a Water Heater Dip Tube?

A water heater dip tube directs the cold water coming into the top of the appliance to the bottom, where it then gets heated. The dip tube is typically a long, narrow piece of plastic or metal.

Where is the Dip Tube Located on a Water Heater?

In most cases, the dip tube extends the water intake line and runs from the top to the bottom of the tank. Tankless water heaters do not have a dip tube.

How to Tell if Your Water Heater Dip Tube Is Bad

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There are a few signs your water heater dip tube might be bad:

  • Decreased hot water availability: “When the dip tube breaks, this can cause cold water to mix with the warm water near the top of the tank where the hot water gets extracted for use,” says Josh Rudin, owner of ASAP Restoration in Tempe, Arizona.
  • Plastic sedimentation: If you find small pieces of plastic in your faucet screens, it could be from a failed dip tube.
  • Other sedimentation: Broken dip tubes can cause mineral deposits to dislodge, which can then eventually end up causing clogs at your faucets.

How Much Does It Cost to Replace a Water Heater Dip Tube?

Depending on the size and model of the water heater, the part can range from $10 to $50. If you hire a plumber to install it, the labor will likely run between $100 and $500. “Moreover, if you are replacing the dip tubes, then the age of the system is probably already an issue, and it may be time to replace the entire unit to avoid any potential catastrophes from happening as a result of deterioration,” says Rudin.

How to Repair a Water Heater Dip Tube

Tools

  • Garden hose
  • Pipe wrench
  • Pliers
  • Flathead screwdriver

Materials

  • New dip tube
  • Plumber’s tape
Time Complexity Cost
1 to 4 hours Moderate to easy $10 to $50

While it’s usually not complicated to replace a water heater dip tube, it is important to follow all of the steps precisely and in this specific order, says Rudin.

  • Turn off the power or gas running to the unit.
  • Turn off the cold water inlet valve (the water supply line that connects to the water heater).
  • Drain the water heater completely. Connect a garden hose securely to the bottom, then open the drain valve port. Opening up a couple of hot water faucets in your home will help relieve pressure in the system so the tank drains all the way. “A common mistake is not ensuring the water is completely drained,” says Powers.
  • Remove the old dip tube. Use a wrench to disconnect the inlet pipe fitting from the top of the tank. “Gently remove the old dip tube while being careful to not break it and contaminate the tank,” says Rudin.
  • Install the new dip tube by inserting it into the tank opening at the top of the water heater. Ensure it extends downward, then secure it by tightening the inlet fitting at the top of the tank.
  • Tightly close the drain valve at the bottom of the water heater, where the garden hose was attached.
  • Refill the water heater by turning the water back on at the cold water intake pipe valve.
  • Turn the power or gas back on.
  • Inspect the water heater for leaks that may have popped up. If you see one, tighten the connections until it stops. “If you suspect a slow leak, or an air loss, then get some soapy water and spray the affected area,” says Rudin. “If soap bubbles rise up, then there is a leak. If they don’t, then the unit is pressurized correctly.”
  • Let the water heater run for a few hours, then test the water temperature to ensure it’s heating to the thermostat’s desired setting.

About the Experts

Josh Rudin is the owner of ASAP Restoration in Tempe Arizona. He started the company as a one-man operation in 2008, and today it has grown into one of the city’s top disaster mitigation specialists.

Melanie Powers is president at Goodberlet Home Services, a female-owned plumbing, construction, electrical and HVAC repair company, serving parts of Illinois and Indiana since 1982.

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