Updated: April 2024

Nothing keeps things cleaner and more sanitary than fresh hot water. It can do many things, from washing to cleaning and cooking. Hot water is your lifeline to a home that’s clean, sanitary, and functioning. But when the water heater malfunctions, it can disrupt daily living in your home. But before you panic, you may want to consider if the problem lies in a small part known as the dip tube.

What is a Broken Dip Tube

A dip tube is a small plastic device inside your water heater that separates the cold water from the hot water. A dip tube has a rhythm of its own within your water heater. It does this by pushing the cold water towards the bottom of the tank while keeping hot water on top. It then heats the cold water and allows it to rise to the top for immediate use.

A dip tube is attached to the inlet, which is where cold water comes in during active use. The dip tube then suppresses 8 inches of cold water by pushing it right to the bottom near the burner, where a burner heats it up. The hot water rises to the very top for immediate consumption. The process repeats itself during active use so that you can have a constant supply of hot water.

Does The Water Heat Up During Active Use?

When you turn on your faucet, you automatically create enough water pressure to activate the dip tube. New water comes in, which is then pushed down by the tube towards the bottom where it’s heated. The heat causes your water to rise to the top as more cold water gets pushed down. The tube churns out hot water through your system in a consistent manner. This is how you get a constant supply.

What Are The Signs of a Bad Dip Tube?

If you have an electric water heater or a water heater that was built after 1990, chances are it’s powered by a dip tube. It keeps your supply going on a daily basis. But like most parts, a dip tube gets worn from constant exposure to changes in water temperature. Minerals break down the tube and cause it to disintegrate over time. Knowing the signs of a malfunctioning dip tube can help you ease the burden of replacing your water heater.

1. There Are Sudden Changes in Water Temperature

Your water should remain hot at all times during use for your comfort. A good dip tube will keep your water temperature at a comfortable level.

A dip tube that’s defective fails to keep your water hot when you need it. It will try and push cold water towards the bottom, but the water will not heat up well. Cracks inside the plastic allow cold water escape to the top and mingle with the hot water. This is why lukewarm water comes out.

Remember that anytime cold water mixes with hot water, it impacts your supply. And when this happens, it’s time to call a professional plumber.

2. You Notice The Sudden Appearance of Tiny Plastic Bits Around Fixtures

Constant water exposure erodes your dip tube and eats away at the plastic. Sometimes sediment creeps in and impacts the plastic of your dip tube. You may barely notice it at first when you see tiny white particles forming around your faucet and shower heads. At first glance, they resemble dust or soap residue.

But if you take a closer look, you’ll find that they are bits of plastic that come right from the dip tube. Your water won’t come out as strong or as fast because it transports these particles into your fixture.

3. Your Water Comes Out Hot Then Gets Cold

When cold water sneaks out of a crack, it mixes quickly with hot water and causes the temperature to drop immediately. Dip tubes that are chipped, broken, or worn are no longer able to keep hot and cold water separate during heating. Because the dip tube is constantly under water, erosion results and water builds up.

If your water remains lukewarm or fails to heat up, you’re most likely dealing with a defective dip tube in need of attention. Getting it replaced will help you restore your supply quickly.

What Is The Lifespan of a Dip Tube?

Most dip tubes should last as long as a water heater, which is an average lifespan of 10 years. Sometimes they last a little longer, and other times they don’t. The good news is that you’ll know right away when something is wrong. You’ll get cold water at the very worst, and at the very best you’ll end up with a lukewarm supply.

What Causes a Dip Tube to Break?

A dip tube is affected by the health of your water heater. The constant push and pull of the dip tube eventually causes it to break, which results in loose parts that run loose inside your water heater.

Corrosion is another culprit that shortens the lifespan of a dip tube. Minerals from hard water build up inside the plastic and cause it to fade or break over time. Your dip tube acts as a shield for your water heater in that it protects it from rusting due to hard water buildup. Unfortunately, the minerals eat up the plastic and can shorten the tube’s lifespan in as little as two years.

Other Water Heater Issues

Hot water deficiency isn’t always relative to a defunct dip tube. There are other issues lurking within your water heater that impact hot water supply. Some have to do with inefficient power supply. If you own a gas heater, the issue may be your pilot light. If it’s out, all you have to do is light it. If that doesn’t work, it’s time to call a professional. At Bacon Plumbing Heating Air Electric, we can assess the problem and fix it.

Water heaters powered by electricity work differently. They rely on a current to function properly and heat your water. A lack of hot water can be attributed to two things: a tripped breaker or the heating element. You can always reset your breaker box if it trips, all you have to do is reset it. Your hot water will immediately kick back in. But a heating element requires professional attention because it might need to be replaced or repaired.

Other Important Considerations

Losing hot water is stressful, but it can be fixed. The problem of cold water is simple to repair. If you see a residue of plastic bits around your faucets or shower heads or notice water suddenly turning cold, the problem lies within your dip tube, which is easy to replace.

To learn more about water heater services or for tankless water heater services for your home in Dallas or Fort Worth, give Bacon Plumbing Heating Air Electric a call today.

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