Water Heater Dip Tube
Inspecting and Replacing Tips

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.

What are the symptoms of the malfunctioning dip tube and what to do?

A water heater dip tube is the long plastic rod that runs from the top of the heater and ends 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 the cold water to the bottom part of the tank as the gas burner or main heating element is situated there.

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

The dip tube is made of the 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.

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How to replace a water heater dip tube

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

Note: Do not apply heat to the hot or cold water connections as it can permanently damage the dip tube.

The problem with conventional dip tubes is a weak water diffusing action, interference in heat transfer, lower tank capacity, part failure and its inability to make a turbulence flow and keep the system efficient.

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", in order to create the turbulent action inside the tank. The main 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 of the manufacturers have a similar system for protection and to enhance the performance; when water is drawn through the dip tube, turbulent action puts dissolved minerals and lime into suspension, preventing from settling to the bottom of the tank and other elements.

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