The better you understand how your water heater works, the easier it will be to recognize when something goes wrong with your unit. With that in mind, one important water heater part that Bay Area homeowners should familiarize themselves with is the dip tube. Today we’re going to explain how this vital part works and what can possibly go wrong with it by answering the question, “What is a dip tube in a hot water heater?”

What happens inside your water heater’s tank?

In order to heat water, your water heater has a burner that’s located under the tank. Cold water rests at the bottom of the tank near that burner until it warms up and floats to the top where it exits the tank and travels to your home’s taps.

Because cold water also enters your water heater’s tank from the top, you wouldn’t want it to mix with the hot water that’s already up there. If it did, the hot water would cool down and you would get lukewarm water out of your showers and faucets. That’s where the dip tube comes in.

What is a dip tube in a hot water heater?

A dip tube is a plastic rod that attaches to your water heater’s cold water inlet and extends down to the bottom of the tank. When cold water enters your water heater’s tank, it travels down the dip tube and is delivered directly to the bottom near the burners. Not only does this allow the cold water to be heated quickly, but it also avoids mixing the cold water with the hot water at the top of the tank.

What can go wrong with the dip tube in a hot water heater?

There are a few things that can go wrong with a water heater dip tube. First, the dip tube can develop a crack or leak and allow cold water to seep out of the tube before it gets to the bottom of the tank. This will cool down your home’s hot water. In addition, the dip tube can begin to disintegrate if it’s nearing the end of its life. When this happens, small white pieces of the tube can break off and get trapped in your faucet aerators.

If your home’s water is not getting as hot as it used to or you’re noticing any white plastic pieces getting caught in your faucets, contact Cabrillo so that we can inspect your water heater and replace the dip tube if necessary. In addition, schedule annual maintenance for your water heater with Cabrillo so that we can inspect your dip tube regularly and make any repairs before they cause problems down the line.

If you have any questions about what a dip tube in a water heater is, or if you’d like a plumbing system serviced or installed in your home, contact Cabrillo, your Bay Area plumbing, heating and air conditioning contractor.