How to Replace Dip Tube on Electric Water Heater: Essential Guide!


Debarghya Roy

Replacing the dip tube on an electric water heater is a duty many homeowners may have to do. Dip tubes direct cold water to the bottom of the tank for heating. Over time, they can become worn or damaged, reducing hot water flow and causing other issues. So, here’s how to replace one:

  1. First, switch off the circuit breaker that controls the water heater. Make sure there is no power running to the unit before starting.
  2. Next, find the cold water inlet pipe valve on the top of the tank. It should be labeled and easy to spot. Turn it clockwise to shut off the water supply.
  3. Then, drain any remaining hot water from the tank by attaching a garden hose to the drain valve and opening it fully. Direct the hose away from plants or landscaping to avoid damage.
  4. Now, replace the dip tube. Unhook any hoses or pipes attached to the top of the tank. This could require a wrench or screwdriver. Lift the old dip tube from inside the tank. Check it for wear or damage like cracks or discoloration. Insert the new one into place. Make sure it’s properly fitted and aligned.
  5. Reattach the hoses and pipes. Double-check that the connections are tight and secure. Inspect the tank for leaks or corrosion.
  6. Turn the cold water inlet pipe valve back on by turning it counterclockwise. Restore power to the water heater by flipping on the circuit breaker. Give the water heater time to heat up. Then, test hot water at various faucets in your home.

Dip tube in an electric water heater


The dip tube is key for an electric water heater. It directs cold water to the bottom of the tank and makes sure hot water rises to the top. Here’s a comprehensive overview of how it works and why it matters.

Components:

ComponentDescription
Dip TubeA plastic tube stretching from the top to the bottom of the water heater.
Cold Water InletThe pipe bringing cold water in.
Hot Water OutletThe pipe taking hot water out.
Water Heater TankThe container holding and heating the water.

The cold water inlet directs water down the dip tube to the bottom of the tank. This contacts the heating element or gas burner at the bottom, so it gets heated. The hot water then rises naturally through convection, giving us access to hot water.

Signs that indicate a dip tube replacement is needed


A dip tube in an electric water heater can wear out or become damaged over time, which may require replacement. Check for these signs to know if you should replace the dip tube:

  • Sudden drop in hot water temperature: Could be due to broken or defective dip tube. This carries cold water from the top of the tank to the bottom for heating. If it’s broken, cold water mixes with hot, reducing temperature.
  • Reduced hot water pressure: Worn-out or cracked dip tube can cause pieces or particles to enter hot water supply line, clogging shower nozzles or faucet aerators.
  • Inadequate amount of hot water: Dip tube not allowing enough cold water into the tank for heating could be the problem.
  • Noise from inside the tank: A defective dip tube may cause popping or strange sounds as cold water mixes with heated hot water.
  • Sediment buildup in faucets and showerheads: This indicates a failing dip tube. As cold water mixes with sediment, particles might travel throughout plumbing system.

These signs may also point to other issues, so best to ask a professional plumber for an accurate diagnosis. When replacing the dip tube, turn off the power supply and drain the tank first. This is for safety and to avoid damaging the heating elements. 

Preparing for the dip tube replacement


Before you replace the dip tube in your electric water heater, follow these steps for safety:

  1. Turn off the power supply at the circuit breaker.
  2. Find the cold water supply valve and shut it off by turning it clockwise.
  3. Attach a garden hose to the drain valve at the bottom of the tank and open the valve by turning it counterclockwise.

It’s important to note that dip tubes may become brittle over time due to hot water exposure and can break during removal. To avoid this, run hot tap water for a few minutes before replacing the dip tube. This will help soften any plastic particles that may be present.

Dip tubes were invented to separate cold water from hot already present in electric water heaters. This ensured heated water was delivered through pipes until it reached the usage point. In the mid-80s, people reported hot temperature rising issues when they opened their bathroom showers. CBS even confirmed this.

As a result, the maximum tank temperature was decreased from 120ºF to around one inch submerged depth downstream. Newspapers, college authors, and a radio program called “Home Improvement for Dummies” all discussed this issue.

Removing the old dip tube


  1. Turn off power supply. Make sure you’re safe by flipping the breaker box switch off.
  2. Shut off water supply. Locate the cold water shut-off valve at the top of the water heater and turn it clockwise. You may have to open a hot water faucet to release pressure.
  3. Drain tank. Connect a garden hose to the drain valve at the bottom of the tank and drain all the water out.
  4. Disconnect cold inlet pipe valve. Use a wrench to loosen and disconnect the union nut from the cold inlet pipe valve and the nipple on the top of the tank.
  5. Take out the old dip tube. Carefully wiggle and pull out the old dip tube. Don’t damage any components or fittings.
  6. Clean and replace if needed. Check both ends of the old dip tube for cracks or plastic pieces. If broken, replace it with a new one.

Installing the new dip tube


1. Installing the new dip tube: To fit your electric water heater with a new dip tube, do the following:

  1. Switch off the power at the circuit breaker for safety.
  2. Tie a garden hose to the drain valve at the bottom of the tank and place the other end in a bucket or drain to capture water. Then, open the drain valve to get rid of all the water.
  3. Find the cold water inlet pipe valve at the top of your water heater tank. Unscrew it using a wrench or pliers. You’ll then see a plastic pipe called the dip tube connected to it. Detach the old dip tube using a screwdriver or pliers.
  4. Push the new dip tube into the opening where you removed the old one. Make sure it’s secure by giving it a gentle tug.
  5. Fasten the cold water inlet pipe valve firmly, without any leaks. Turn on the water supply line and fill the tank back up. Check for any leaks around both ends of your new dip tube.

2. Testing the new dip tube: It’s like taking your water heater for a spin, but without the sweet tunes and leather seats.

Testing the new dip tube


  1. Turn off power supply to electric water heater and let cool for safety.
  2. Attach garden hose to drain valve at bottom of tank.
  3. Open valve and drain gallons of water into drain or bucket.
  4. Locate cold water inlet pipe valve at the top.
  5. Place small container or towel underneath to catch excess water.
  6. Unscrew old dip tube from inlet pipe valve with a wrench or screwdriver. Be careful, as it may contain plastic particles if faulty.
  7. Also, check for any signs of damage on new dip tube. This will help ensure performance and avoid hot water problems.

Conclusion


To replace a dip tube on an electric water heater, it is important to follow all necessary steps and precautions. First, turn off the power supply – by switching off the circuit breaker or disconnecting the power source. Then, use a hose to drain the water from the tank. Locate the cold water inlet pipe valve at the top of the water heater and, using a wrench, disconnect the cold water supply line.

Detach the nipple with a screwdriver or pliers that connects the old dip tube to its location at the top of the tank. Pull out and remove the old dip tube from its position inside the tank, checking for any signs of damage or wear. Install a new dip tube. Insert one end of the tube into the opening at the top of the tank where the nipple was previously attached. Secure the tube in its proper position, reconnect the nipple and turn on the power supply.

FAQ


1. What is a dip tube in an electric water heater?

A dip tube is a plastic tube that directs cold water from the top of the tank to the bottom, ensuring that the water is heated evenly.

2. Why would I need to replace the dip tube on my electric water heater?

Over time, dip tubes can deteriorate or break, causing cold water to mix with hot water at the top of the tank. This can result in reduced hot water supply and lower efficiency.

3. How can I tell if my dip tube needs to be replaced?

If you notice a decrease in hot water temperature or if you find pieces of plastic in your faucets or showerheads, it may indicate a broken or deteriorated dip tube.

4. Can I replace the dip tube myself?

Yes, replacing a dip tube is a relatively simple DIY task. However, if you are not comfortable working with electrical appliances or plumbing, it is recommended to hire a professional.

5. What tools do I need to replace the dip tube?

You will need a screwdriver, pliers, a pipe wrench, Teflon tape, and a new dip tube that matches the specifications of your water heater.

6. How do I access the dip tube in my electric water heater?

To access the dip tube, you will need to remove the cold water inlet pipe located on the top of the water heater. This may require disconnecting electrical connections and draining the tank.

7. How do I remove the old dip tube?

Once you have accessed the dip tube, use pliers or a pipe wrench to unscrew it from the water heater. Be careful not to damage any other components during the removal process.

8. How do I install the new dip tube?

Apply Teflon tape to the threads of the new dip tube and carefully screw it into the water heater. Ensure it is securely tightened but avoid over-tightening.

9. Are there any precautions I should take when replacing the dip tube?

Before starting the replacement process, make sure to turn off the power supply to the water heater and shut off the water supply. Additionally, take necessary safety precautions to avoid burns from hot water or electrical shocks.

About the author

Debarghya Roy: A heating systems author, Passionate about energy efficiency and sustainability, Sharing insights and empowering readers through informative blog articles.