Water heater dip tube gone...

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Old 04-01-03, 10:38 PM
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Question Water heater dip tube gone...

Hello plumbing wizards.

I'm pretty sure that I have an eroded dip tube in my water heater. A while back my hot water temp seemed to be cooler, and I run out of hot water quicker. Thought it was an element, but they both checked fine. Then a bit later I noticed a considerable drop in water pressure from the hot side at all outlets. From this forum it would seem that the symptoms indicate that the dip tube has disintegrated. I have the small white bits of plastic in ll of my aerators, which I originally thought was calcium since I'm in an area that has very hard water, but I determined it's indeed plastic. I found out that there was a class action suit a while back, against a certain manufacturer of the defective dip tubes, and the settlement filing date expired in Dec. 2001. Apparently the effected models were manufactured between 1993 and 1996, mines a 1994. Only thing is that my water heater is a US Craftsmaster, which isn't specifically listed, and I couldn't find anywhere that craftsmaster was affiliated with A.O. Smith or Rheem, or any of the other water heaters that were mentioned to have had the defective dip tube. Anyway, I know it's too late to be rectified by the class action settlement, so I'm stumped with a repair problem. I can't seem to find anyplace that sells a dip tube so I can replace mine. I know the water heater is getting to that age where I should probably just replace the whole thing, but I'm not sure about what route to go. I know through this forum, that other had this problem, and bought dip tubes, but I checked Lowe's, Home Depot, Ace hardware, and a few internet sites, and no one seems to sell them. I'm wondering if it's because the demand for them has declined since most everybody found their problem earlier than I did. So I'm wondering if anyone would advise locating a dip tube, if I could even find one, or if I should replace the water heater. (I plan on taking the cold inlet off to verify the dip tube is the culprit, but I'm positive it is. I read that if you put the white bits that get cleaned out of the faucets in vinegar it will confirm that they are plastic or not. Calcium will dissolve in vinegar, plastic wont..). Anyway this brings me to my second quandry: I have a home warranty that covers plumbing and water heater. Would this help toward replacing the dip tube, or the water heater. The water heater isn't really bad, but would ythe warranty cover replacing it, if I can't locate a replacement dip tube??

VISSER
 
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Old 04-02-03, 04:50 AM
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Cool

I don't know if your warranty covers your water heater for a dip tube problem or not. Usually, the only thing that can't be repaired on a water heater is the tank, and once that goes, then the water heater must be replaced.
You can check.
As for finding a dip tube, look in the Yellow Pages for Plumbing Suppliers. You should be able to find a dip tube.
Good luck!
Mike
 
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Old 04-02-03, 06:04 AM
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DIY

If you absolutely can't find one and want to fabricate one yourself, let us know and I(we) can tell you how to do so. Not a big deal and saves a perfectly good heater.

Ken
 
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Old 04-02-03, 06:13 AM
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DIY

If you absolutely can't find one and want to fabricate one yourself, let us know and I(we) can tell you how to do so. Not a big deal and saves a perfectly good heater.

Ken
 
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Old 04-02-03, 07:14 PM
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Thanks very muvch getting back to me Old Guy and KField.

KField, I would really appreciate it if you could tell me how to fabricate a new dip tube. It seems that I've heard of people doing that. It would bide me some time to decide if I should replace the whole water heater. As Old Guy mentions, I'm sure I could find a replacement tube at a plumbing supply store, but the closest to me are far enough away that I can't get to 'em before they would close on a weeknight. So I wouldn't be able to go out and get one till the weekend. It would be quicker for me to get what I need from one of the local hardware stores and make one, so I can get my water pressure back. (FYI- I took the cold inlet off already to find that indeed the dip tube is mostly gone.)
I'm going to flush it out good when I put the replacement in and decide then if I need to get a new water heater.

If you have a second, I'd love tohear how to fabricate a get by dip tube!

Thanks,

Visser
 
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Old 04-03-03, 10:04 AM
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My preferred method is to use a 5/8" holesaw and run it clean through the male or female adapter that goes on the inlet of the heater. Then determine the proper length for the dip tube and add 6". Cut a piece of 1/2" copper that length and slip the adapter over it to the 6" mark. Solder the adapter (after cleaning and fluxing both) to the pipe. Drill 4 holes 1/4" diameter all the way through in the bottom 6" of the tube about 1" apart. Turn the tube 90 degrees and drill 4 more holes. It will begin to look like a flute. Ha Ha. The reason is to discharge the water horizontally. Solder a 1/2" cap on the bottom of the pipe and you are ready to go. Install a valve or union on the 6" stub sticking out the top of the heater.

Second method. Prepare the bottom end the same way, but flare the top to drop in the heater like the original dip tube did. You wil have to enneal the copper to be able to flare it. You must heat it up as hot as possible. Almost white and let it cool gradually. It will then be soft. Best way is to flare it with a flaring tool but if you are careful, you can do it with a ball-peen hammer. It only needs to catch inside the top of the heater, not too critical fit.

You may also be able to fashion something with plastic. I have not used plastic but the o.d. is similar to copper.
 
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Old 04-03-03, 03:34 PM
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Well, The Home Depot and Lowes in my area carry them by the hundreds... They are very cheap and are very available... They usually are on the shelf right over the water heaters with the elements and thermostats... I will send you one if you can't find one there... As for making one, KFIELD goes all out, but when you see how the one in the heater is made, you will find that you may not have to go to such great detail... Just buy about 4' of soft copper so that you don't have to heat any... Then flare the top and drill a small hole in the diptube about 4" from the top (to prevent siphonage)... Now just stick the tube down in the heater and reconnect the heater... I would not generally cap the bottom...
 
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Old 04-03-03, 07:19 PM
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Dip Tube ???

I would not normally disagree with these guys but on this I have to. Their ideas are right in theroy but wrong in principal. You have already stated you have lost pressure on the hot side, lets not make it worse. The defective dip tubes you referenced were not only disintegrating they proved to be self closing. Which caused low pressure on the hot side. All dip tubes are 3/4" ID in order to match the inlet size of the tank. I'm sure that none of these guys would let a plumber properly size and rough-in their cold water lines and then rough-in the entire hot water side with half inch, which is exactly the effect you will have by installing a 1/2" copper dip tube. This is a common error in water heater repair until the light bulb goes off and you say DUH! I'm not aware of any code that allows more then three fixtures off a 1/2" line and if there is one I would suggest not. Sounds like your best bet is to take Ragnar up on His offer if you just cannot find one.
Again, I certainly mean no disrespect to the others posting here. I have read many, many of their replies and they are all very knowledgeable and experienced. Just on this matter I will professionally disagree.
Good Luck
 
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Old 04-03-03, 07:39 PM
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KField, Ragnar, wrmiii, thanks to all of you for the great feedback.

wrmiii, thanks for the comments. I wouldn't have known that the lack of hot water pressure was caused by the dip yube closing. I assumed that the lack of pressure was merely a result of the dip tube not being the full length that it is suppossed to be.

Ragnar, thank you greatly, for the offer to get a dip tube for me. Please don't be suprised if I take you up on it. I'll try here this weekend and I'm sure I'll be able to find one. Originally I was more concerned with replacing it as quickly as possible, knowing that I wouldn't be able to get out to where I might find one until this weekend. Since it's just about here anyway I can hold out. I have a couple of Lowe's and several Home Depots that I exhausted here in illinois. I can't believe that they don't have them. I'm near St. Louis, Mo, and the Home Depots are all in the city, so I couldn't beleieve that thery didn't have them. Anyway, thanks again, and I'll let you know if I need help. A replacement dip tube seems the way to go.
 
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Old 04-04-03, 04:49 PM
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Well, I recognize that using a 5/8" diptube can be a little more restrictive than a 3/4" diptube, but it is more than sufficient to serve the fixtures in the house... If you look at the globe valves that used to be used on the water heater, they easily cut the volume down to half of the diameter of the pipe, and yet the volume was more than sufficient... Ideally you would have a 3/4" diptube but I don't know of an effective way to get 3/4" copper to fit into the inlet of a water heater... As for the "self-closing" diptube, I am not familiar with the concept... The plastic diptubes that were recalled simply disintegrated until there was nothing left of it... It created a two-fold problem... First, all the debris would work its way into the hot shutoffs and the aerators in the house, and second, once the diptube was mostly gone, you would effectively have cold water feeding into the top of the heater causing you to seemingly have much less hot water or erratic hot water at best... And one more thing, I don't believe feeding a tank with a 1/2" diptube has the same literal effect as downsizing the hot water line directly (i.e., in the middle of a run of 3/4" copper...) I believe that the actual effect because of having the tank in the middle is that you effectively decrease the flow pressure of the water coming out from what it would be if you had 3/4" feeding it but essentially the volume is very nearly the same... I will have to do some calculations and study my physics book a little to explain my reasoning... Any Physics professors out there wanna chime in???
 
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Old 04-04-03, 05:52 PM
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I understand what Richard is saying (not the part about the code) but I agree with Ragnar. When I built my house, I plumbed the hot water with 3/4" pipe and all the branches were 1/2". The last branch went to the second floor and I reduced to 1/2" before going up. It took forever to get hot water upstairs and I got tired of hearing about that from my wife so I took out the 3/4" and put in 1/2". I have never had another complaint and I still have the same wife. I have 3 teenagers and it seems like one or the other is in the shower at all times of the day. Washing machine, dishwasher, kitchen, 2 full baths. There is a high likelyhood that multiple fixtures are in use at one time and pressure drop in 1/2" pipe is not a problem in my home. Nor do I get complaints from my customers that is caused by 1/2" pipe. I have seen 3/8" copper run to multiple fixtures from the basement to the second floor and some of those people complain and I can believe it is a problem to try to use the shower when someone flushes the toilet in a second floor bathroom plumbed with 3/8" pipe.

When you double a pipes diameter, you multiply the volume by 4 so why wouldn't it be OK to serve 4 faucets (whose supplies are 1/4"i.d.) with one 1/2" pipe?

It is also like the electrical code requiring no more than a distance of 6' to an outlet from any place on a wall. If they required that and said no more than 3 outlets on a circuit, we would need 80 circuit panels. It is for convenience. Only one or two outlets in a room ever get the big draw items even though there are 8 outlets in the room

People used to be happy that they had indoor water, then hot and cold running water, then lots of hot water, now it is lots of hot water at every faucet simultaneously. We need to be responsive to the requirements of our customers but overkill is just a waste of money.

Hope I didn't bore or offend anyone. This probably could have been started as a new thread.

Ken
 
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Old 04-04-03, 09:57 PM
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Don't shoot me!

Well spank me and stand me in a corner. How could I have guessed this would stir the pot? Lets start with the older globe valves cutting the volume down by half. Assuming we are talking about 3/4" ID having an area of 1.1775 sq. in. and half of this being 0.58875 or the equivalent exactly to that of 3/8" ID copper tubbing, it never happened! Secondly, the idea that the dip tube is in the middle of the system rather then the beginning of a new system is wrong. The quote“I believe that the actual effect because of having the tank in the middle is that you effectively decrease the flow pressure of the water coming out from what it would be if you had 3/4" feeding it but essentially the volume is very nearly the same”
is the exact opposite of your statement. Where as your pressure will remain steady, short the friction loss caused by the smaller diameter pipe,(and your neighbor filling his swimming pool) you will lose your volume availability due to the decrease in pipe size.
Just as a professional would size a gas system using the longest developed length of the system and working backwards towards the meter, a water system is also sized accordingly. Of course taking in account length, friction loss through pipe , fittings, valves, fixture unit values etc. you will come away with a well designed system.
Ken, Im not certain what your saying about the pipe sizing on your branch lines to the upper floor. Did you remove the 3/4" below? This solved the long wait for hot water? To make a short story short, You size by either one of two accepted methods. Pressure Loss Method or the Velocity Method.
Though I am not a physicist, I do hold a double doctorate from MIT (Engineering-Mechanical Design) Im currently employed by a university contracted with The Department of Justice. I have also held a Master Plumbing License for the past seventeen years. I do not toot my own horn often, BUT, I would have to consider myself one of the best of the best.
OK, that being said, don’t case on me to much. I do enjoy visiting here. It helps me keep in touch with what got me here. If I seemed short with attitude please forgive.
Well alright, go ahead and let me have it
Ya’ll have a good one.
 
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Old 04-05-03, 06:37 AM
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Okay Richard, here goes! By the way, I love friendly debate... I don't mean any offense, but I really like to here all sides of an issue... My point about the globe valves is that if you look into an old globe valve designed to serve a 3/4" feed, you will see that the bottom half of the valve is restricted with the seating area for the washer... So the volume coming through that valve would be no greater than what is allowed by the restriction which appears to be very close to half, relative to a gate valve or ball valve that is considered a full-port valve... My point about the 1/2" diptube is this...: When hot water is called for from the heater, water effectively pushes through the heater in the amount and pressure provided by the inlet... in this case, 1/2" copper... However, lets say hypothetically, that you had 200 psi coming in on the cold side (I know that is extreme...) Now when you open the hot on every fixture at the same time, effectively calling for the most volume, then the cold would be filling the tank at whatever rate 1/2" copper at 200 psi provides.... However, on the outlet side, the 3/4" hot would not only fill up with 1/2" worth of water volume... The pipe would remain full, but it would not be at the full flow pressure that it would be if the pipes were the same size... In other words, you would still have a full 3/4" pipe feeding the system, but it would be at a reduced flow pressure due to the decreased diptube size... Now in a standard home, the pressure coming in is closer to 60 to 80 psi, and the flow pressure with one fixture open might drop to 40 psi and it will continue to drop as each fixture opens,... With a 1/2" diptube, the flow pressure on the hot would drop below 40 psi, and would continue to drop more drastically with each additional opened fixture but in my opinion the difference would be very minimal...
 
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Old 04-05-03, 07:14 AM
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Toot Toot

I don't toot my own horn either, I let my customers do it for me. I am not ashamed to admit that I don't have a college education but I also consider myself the best of the best. Not because I understand the physics of water pressure and flow, but because I give my customers what they expect at a price they can live with. My reputation secures me a place in the plumbing/HVAC industry as long as I want it. I take comfort in that.

We don't all have to agree on all points, but we need to pay attention to what works well and what does NOT. I have customers who have problems getting a sufficient quantity of hot water from a domestic coil in an aging boiler. Usually after installing a flow restrictor and a tempering valve they are satisfied (not usually elated). Comparing that system to a water heater (even one with a 1/2" i.d. diptube) is ridiculous. Yet those people shower and wash clothes and dishes with that volume of water. When it comes to replacement, I always suggest an indirect water heater and even then, some people can't (or won't) pay for one. The person who signs the check has the ultimate say on what goes in their home and no matter how much we know they need, we can only install what they'll pay for. That's why education is a large part of our job and understanding what we are discussing here makes it easier for us to educate our customers. So no spankings and you can come out of the corner right now because neither of us was chiding you. Simply disagreeing on the practical application of plumbing devices and pipe sizing.

I did remove about 40 feet of 3/4" pipe and replaced it with 1/2" in my house. It made a big difference in how long it took to get hot water upstairs, but no problem with pressure drop.

Ken
 
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Old 04-06-03, 05:39 PM
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What would cause the pressure loss? Just curious for learning sake...

Hey all, I had to work this weekend and was unable to attempt to locate a replacement diptube. That being the case, I decided to pick up a 1/2" copper to replace the erroded one as this would be the quickest way for me to get back to as much of a "normal" operating water heater as possible. As I mentioned, I would like to solve the problem as best as possible, in order to buy some time to put thought into seeing if I can afford a new water heater.

Now, since I already know that I can open up the cold water inlet to the water heater easily, and I'm not going to break any pipes doing it, I know that I can put in the 1/2" copper quickly, and do not mind doind it to get my hot water back to being "closer to normal" than it is now. If the 1/2" diptube causes any pressure or volume decrease, I'm sure it will be less noticable than the problem that exists now, which should be corrected by replacing the erroded dip tube. I'll let you know how it turns out.

This brings a question to mind. It makes sense to me as to why an eroded dip tube would cause the hot water to be eratic, or not as hot as it should be, since the cold water is mixing with the heated water in the tank and quickly passing to the hot supply side. My question has to do with the loss of hot water pressure. IT seems that everyone that has discovered that they have an eroded dip tube, has had a noticeable loss in hot water pressure, or volume on the hot water side. This was one of the original clues that started me to thinking I had a problem. As I noticed hot water pressure or volume was getting lower and lower at all of my hot water fixtures, but not the cold side, I then recalled that the temperature had been a problem a while back, but I assumed it was becasue it was a very cold winter. The two indicators led me looking into the situation, and then I heard mention of the plastic bits that were clogging the aerators, that I had thought was calcium. Tested them to find out it was plastic, and decided to check the dip tube.

So assuming a water heater has an eroded dip tube, why would pressure, or volume decrease at the hot water fixtures? I know wrmiii mentioned that he thought the dip tube is collapsing, but to me I would think that if it gets so soft that it would collapse, than it should just desinigrate more, shouldn't it?

Visser
 
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Old 04-06-03, 07:37 PM
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There is only one reason that the volume drops... The diptube does not collapse, and even if it did, the water would easily push through it when called for... The diptube causes erratic hot water, PERIOD... The symptom that usually draws it to your attention, however, is that all the little pieces that wash through the hot system get stuck in all the hot stems, filters, and valves in the house... When you fix the diptube with the copper, you will likely still have to go through and clean some valves and stems out to clear the debris.... Two separate symptoms of the same problem...



Remember, by the way, that the tank does not go all the way down to the floor, so the diptube should be cut accordingly... Just stick the test piece in until it bottoms out against the bottom of the tank, and mark it at the inlet, and then take off about 2 inches from that to get the final measurement... and don't forget the small hole (like 1/8") about 6" down from the top to prevent siphonage...
 
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Old 04-07-03, 05:44 PM
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Thanks Ragnar. that answers my question. It made sense to me that the plastic bits may be causing the volume loss at the fixtures, and I had thought of that, but I couldn't think of where they would be causing a restriction. I hadn't thought of the valves. I fully expected you to say that there might be a restriction built up in the hot water outlet at the water heater. I'll check that the lines are clear when I replace the dip tube, and I'll clean the valves and aerators as I need to once the new dip tube is in.

Thanks again, and I'll let you know in the next day or so how the water pressure/volume is with the home made dip tube.

Visser
 
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Old 04-08-03, 11:28 PM
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Question New Dip Tube installed...working well...one last flushing question..

Thanks again to everyone who chimed in to helkp me out. For those that are curious I have no noticable volume loss at any of my fixtures. This after installing a fabricated copper dip tube. I cleared the valves and aerators and it seems to be the same as when I bought the house years ago!

Ragnar, I have actually located an authentic replacement tube from one of the MANY plumbing supply stores in the greater St. Louis area. 4 Bucks!! Don't have any idea why they are so few and far between here in Illinois. I may put it in once I have it, but it doesn't really seem that I need too. The fabricated one seems to be working great. Thanks again.

I'd appreciate a last bit of input from anyone who might have an idea with an associated issue. I know it would be common sense to flush the water heater so I attempted to do so as I do every so often. Without shutting down, I let several gallons flow from the bottom spigot. I've been in this house with the same water heater for 5 years, and have never seen anything but clear water flow out, even from the start. Still, I let several gallons out. I attempted to flush after my repair job, and noticed that the flow is very very slight. It would make sense that it is a result of the plastic bits from my eroded dip tube clogging the lower drain valve. While it was flushing, I saw very few plastic bits at first, and then got several gallons of clear water, with no plastic whatsoever. It is draining much slower than I remember it draining, so I'm wondering if I should drain the entire water heater, and take the drain valve off, (no cleanout), and get the remainder of the plastic bits out. (The eroded dip tube was literally only a few inches long, thus is in pieces in the tank, or a big chunk is floating in there, which will probably keep getting in my fixtures and valves for a while if I don't try to get anything out). If I should do this, here's my delimma. I tried to drain the tank after shutting the water supply to the heater down, and I get no flow from the drain valve at all. Even with a hot water faucet open. The tank should drain this way, correct?? Any thoughts on how to get by this hurdle, as I can't clean out the tank if I can't drain it. What if I take a wet vac and apply some suction to the valve? Would this hurt anything??

Thanks,

Visser
 
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