If your water heater isn't making the water hot enough, one possible explanation is a damaged dip tube. However, other things could be to blame, too, so you may need a plumber to figure out the exact problem and get your water heater working properly again.
If the dip tube is to blame, the plumber can replace it and you'll be enjoying hot baths again soon. Here's a look at the purpose of a dip tube, what causes it to go bad, and water heater repairs that might be needed.
Not All Water Heaters Have Dip Tubes
If your water heater has a cold water inlet on the top, then it probably has a dip tube. If the cold water enters your tank on the bottom, then your heater probably doesn't have a dip tube, and a dip tube won't be to blame for your lack of hot water.
Also, if your heater is fairly new, there's less of a chance of problems with the dip tube, especially if the heater has a tube made of PEX plastic.
The Dip Tube Forces Water To The Bottom
The purpose of a dip tube is to force incoming cold water down to the bottom of the tank where the heating elements are. The cold water is then heated before it rises to the top of the tank where it flows out of the heater and to your shower.
If this process didn't happen, cold water would stay in the top part of the tank, mix with hot water, and result in a shower that isn't hot enough. When the dip tube system works as it should, your water heater is efficient and the water temperature is reliable.
Why The Dip Tube Goes Bad
If you have an older water heater, the dip tube may be made with plastic that can break down due to soaking in hot water over the years. This happens due to exposure to high temperatures, water turbulence, and the chemistry of the water.
A dip tube can disconnect from the top of the tank. It can also develop small holes and cracks. It's even possible for the dip tube to slowly disintegrate and disappear. In that case, the heater will probably be full of small white plastic particles, and you may notice the debris coming out of your hot water faucets.
Water Heater Repairs You Might Need
When a dip tube is bad, your plumber will replace it. This is a simple job that requires disconnecting the old tube from the top of the tank and pulling it out. Then, a new tube can be put in.
However, the plumber may also need to flush out the tank if plastic particles are present. The plumber may also check for other damage to make sure the broken-off parts of the tube didn't harm the heating elements or other internal parts of the water heater. If so, additional repairs could be needed.