The Public Works Department occasionally receives calls from residents complaining of white particles in their tap water. In all instances reported so far, it has been determined that the water heater dip tube has failed. A dip tube is a plastic pipe inside the water heater tank that delivers cold water to the bottom of the tank, forcing hot water out of the top connection. The plastic can deteriorate over time, forcing plastic chips and smaller particles into the home plumbing system. While these chips do not pose a health risk, they can decrease water flow from household faucets and diminish water heater efficiency.
Dip Tube Function: A dip tube's function is to direct incoming cold water to the bottom of the tank to avoid mixing with (and chilling) the hot water as it is drawn from the top.
Background: This national trend can be traced back to 1993 when the manufacturer of water heater dip tubes changed the formula used to produce the dip tube plastic. Unfortunately, it was later determined that these plastic dip tubes were defective and deteriorated in a relatively short time. In 1997, the dip tube manufacturer improved its plastic formula and, along with water heater manufacturers, agreed to a class action settlement. Although the deadline for filing a claim to replace a defective dip tube was December 31, 2000, some water heater manufacturers continue to pay the cost of replacing a defective dip tube.
Symptoms: All water heater manufacturers were affected, because plastic ages quickly in a heated environment. In this case, it crumbled into a soft white semi-gelatinous mass, and the deteriorated product floated to the top of the tank and out to the faucet. A resident may have a dip tube problem if:
- The water heater was manufactured between 1993 and 1996. The stamped-on code on the data plate should include the year.
- Faucet aerator screens and showerheads suddenly start to clog with white or tan particles and then clog quickly after cleaning them.
- Does it float?
- It takes much longer to get hot water. Also, the water may never seem to be as hot or last as long even though the thermostat on the water heater is set at its normal setting.
If there is a "yes" answer to most of these symptoms, that confirms a dip tube failure. Local plumbers are now familiar with this problem and will replace the faulty tube with one constructed from more durable material.
Remedies: If a resident believes they have a defective dip tube, the City of Eden suggests they contact the water heater manufacturer to find out what assistance may be available. A list of the major water heater manufacturers and their telephone numbers is provided below:
- American Water Heater Company
- 500 Princeton Rd.
Johnson City, TN 37601
- A.O. Smith Company
- FAX: 1-615-792-2163
- Bradford White call 1-800-523-2931
- 725 Talamore Drive, Ambler, PA 19002
- Rheem, Ruud, Richmond
- State Industries call 1-800-365-8170
- 500 Tennessee Waltz Pkwy
Ashland City, TN 37015
- Informative website on broken, missing or disintegrating dip tubes.