Let us preface this article with a warning, it is our belief that the repair and replacement of an electric or gas fired water heater should be done by a trained and licensed plumbing professional. The potential repairs being performed on the water heater are being d on a piece of equipment that is being heated by a combustible gas (propane or natural gas) or electricity (electricity and water really don’t mix) and is under pressure. Quite simply, it’s a recipe for disaster. However we feel the consumer or novice plumber should be well aware of the repairs that can be accomplished on a standard water heater.
Water Heater Repair Scenarios You May Encounter
- Thermal Couple Repair – Probably the most common repair on a gas fired water heater is the thermal couple. Thethermal couple is responsible for the safe ignition of the burner. It consists of two dissimilar metals that sit inside the pilot flame. The heat from the pilot creates a small current, if the flame goes out from the pilot orifice being fouled or is blown out by a draft, the metals cool decreasing the amount of current triggering the the gas control valve to shut off. As you can see the functionality of the thermal couple is pretty important.
- Anode Rod Replacement – The sacrificial anode rods basically stands guard and because of electrolysis will corrode before any exposed metal in the storage tank. Once they corrode the water will attack the rest of the exposed metal and your tank will eventually fail. They screw into the top of the tank and are really easy to replace. One thing to point out if your anode rods need to be replaced it’s possible there are other problems going on with your heater. Most times you find out you need a new anode rod after it’s too late. It’s our opinion that if it’s determined you need a new anode rod you should ask the plumbing professional to inspect the rest of the heater.
- Dip Tube Replacement – We hesitate to call this a fix however they can be replaced. Dip tubes are usually made of plastic. There are only two reasons for dip tube replacement; one the dip tube somehow disengages itself from the top of the heater and falls to the bottom. What is on the bottom of the tank? We’ll answer for you “the burner”. We can all guess what happens to a plastic tube when it gets heated over and over again though out the day. It turns into a big plastic blob on the bottom of the tank. Two, the dip tube disintegrates. You ask how can the dip tube become disengaged? There are a couple of ways this can happen but first we should explain what the dip tube looks like. It is a long plastic tube with a slight flare on one end. It is inserted into the cold water inlet side of the heater with the flared end at the top of the heater. The end is flared so it doesn’t fall into the heater. The purpose of the dip tube is to force the incoming cold water to go to the bottom of the heater where the gas fired burners are located. The cold water is then heated rises up and becomes evenly dispersed throughout the tank. If there weren’t a dip tube the incoming cold water would constantly be cooling down the heated water and you would think that something is wrong with the heater because you are quickly running out of hot water.