Got bluish - white gunk blocking my hot water faucets
23 September 2006
A. A probable culprit might be a bad dip tube. The dip tube is the long pipe that feeds cold supply water into the water heater so that the cold water enters the tank near the bottom even though the intake pipe from the source is at the top of the tank. Hot water leaves the tank near the top. You want cold to enter the water heater tank well away from heated water near the top. If the dip tube goes completely bad you will seem to lose hot water just as if the heating elements were bad but rather the cold supply water is entering the top of the water heater tank instead of the bottom, cooling heated water as it leaves the tank.
It seems that many water heaters manufactured from about 1994 through 1997 used a defective dip tube material from the same supplier. The plastic tube used inferior plastic and exposure to constant hot water caused the plastic to crumble. That’s the stuff you see in the aerators. To prove it place the tip of a lit match to a pile of the stuff after it has dried. If it melts it’s the dip tube.
I called the water heater manufacturer, Rheem®, to check and learned there had been a class action suit supervised by a court but claims had to be made by December 2000. Well, you missed out on that but the dip tube costs about $10 plus shipping. That sure beats buying a new water heater! The customer rep also faxed me instructions on how to flush out the system, pull out the old dip tube, and replace it with the new one. He was very helpful. By the way, the Rheem customer service number is 1-800-432-8373.
To solve the problem for only $10 is truly a happy ending however at this point the water heater is getting some age on it and water heaters are normally listed as having seven to twelve years expected service lives so replacing the dip tube may not buy you all that much time.
Sometimes replacing the dip tube is a pain as the tube is nearly the height of the water heater and if you are cramped for overhead room then you might have to completely disconnect the water heater tank from its connected pipes and wiring to lay it on its side to get the new tube in. This is work. And every time I put a wrench in my hand and go after a nut or fitting that hasn't moved in years, I can always count on losing some skin from my knuckles. I've been told that in so doing the quality of my language declines.
Maybe the thing to do it to watch the paper and when you see water heaters going on sale go ahead and buy a new one. Then you’ll be starting fresh.
Q. I moved into new construction in 2003. I recently had a sunroom built on the rear of the house. Last Friday a County electrical inspector came to inspect the line added to the circuit box. The inspector would not pass the sunroom for occupancy because he said that code now requires hard wired smoke detectors in each bedroom. My smoke detectors are located in the hallways. My builder said he is not responsible. Isn’t this type of code requirement grandfathered in?
A. It would seem to me the builder should to have known of this requirement or at least his electrician, if he used one with a license, would have noted it. Piggybacking upgraded safety requirements when work is done to a structure isn’t all that new. It’s now a fact of life and consider it cheap life insurance because the locations of required smoke alarms was determined the hard way.