If you’ve ever wondered about the intricacies of how your water heater supplies consistent hot water throughout your home, one key component to comprehend is the water heater dip tube. This seemingly small part plays a crucial role in ensuring your water heater’s efficient operation.

Understanding the Role of a Water Heater Dip Tube

Located within your water heater tank, a dip tube is a long plastic tube that extends from the cold water inlet at the top of the tank down to its bottom. The primary function of the dip tube water heater is to direct incoming cold water to the bottom of the tank, where it gets heated. This mechanism ensures that you always have a supply of hot water ready at the top of the tank.

Dip tubes are typically made from durable materials like cross-linked polyethylene (PEX), which can withstand the constant flow of cold water and the heat within the water heater tank.

Signs of a Faulty Dip Tube

Over time, hot water heater dip tubes can deteriorate or become defective. Faulty dip tubes can cause several issues with your water supply. One of the most noticeable symptoms is a sudden decrease in water temperature, as a broken dip tube may dump cold water at the top of the tank, causing it to mix with the hot water.

Another indication is finding small plastic particles clogging faucet aerators or showerheads. This often occurs with defective dip tubes that break down into tiny pieces, which then flow with the hot water.

Interestingly, a significant number of water heater manufacturers released water heaters with defective dip tubes in the early 1990s. If you know the serial number of your heater, you can check whether it’s one of the affected models.

Replacing Your Water Heater Dip Tube

While the task may seem intimidating, replacing a faulty dip tube is doable with some patience and the right tools. Here’s a basic step-by-step guide:

  1. Shut Off Power and Water: Start by turning off the circuit breaker for an electric water heater. For gas heaters, turn the gas control dial to “off.” Then, close the cold water supply line to the heater.
  2. Drain the Tank: Connect a garden hose to the drain valve at the bottom of the tank, and run the other end outside or to a suitable drain. Open a hot water faucet in the house to let in air, and then open the heater’s drain valve.
  3. Remove the Old Dip Tube: Once you’ve drained enough water, close the drain valve. The dip tube is located on the cold water inlet, and you can use a flat screwdriver or similar tool to pry it out.
  4. Install the New Dip Tube: Take your replacement tube, ensuring it’s made from durable materials like cross-linked polyethylene (PEX). Insert the new tube into the cold water inlet, making sure it goes all the way to the bottom of the tank.
  5. Restore Power and Water: Once the new dip tube is secure, refill the tank by opening the water supply line. Once the tank is full, restore power or turn the gas dial back to its operating position.

Remember to check all connections for leaks once the tank is filled and the power restored. If you’re unsure or uncomfortable performing these steps, don’t hesitate to call a professional.

The Lifespan of a Dip Tube

The lifespan of a dip tube can depend on several factors, including the water quality and the specific material of the tube. However, on average, a dip tube can last around 10-15 years before needing replacement.

Choosing a Quality Water Heater Dip Tube

When selecting a replacement dip tube, it’s essential to consider a few factors. First, make sure the tube is the right length. It needs to reach from the cold water inlet down to the bottom of the tank, so measure your tank’s height and match it with the dip tube length. Then, check the material. Dip tubes made from cross-linked polyethylene (PEX) are often recommended due to their durability and heat resistance.

Our water connection dip tubes are curved at the bottom to reduce sediment builup inside your tank. If you are considering changing your dip tube, we suggest installing a curved dip tube.

Moreover, choose a dip tube with a flared end or anti-siphon hole, which prevents backflow. Lastly, if you live in an area with hard water, consider a curved or self-cleaning dip tube. These designs can help prevent sediment build-up at the bottom of the tank, enhancing your water heater’s lifespan and efficiency.


While often overlooked, the dip tube is a vital part of your water heater’s operation. Understanding its function and knowing how to identify and address a faulty dip tube can ensure you maintain a consistent and comfortable water temperature in your home. Whether you’re replacing a dip tube yourself or calling in a professional, keeping your water heater in optimal condition is a worthwhile investment in your home’s comfort and efficiency.