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Thread: GE/Rheem hot water heater fails after 5 years??

  1. #1

    Angry GE/Rheem hot water heater fails after 5 years??

    I'm growing increasingly frustrated with the water in my house so I hope someone out there can help. Here's the deal...

    Started losing hot water pressure to the point where the upstairs shower pressure would fail. More and more spots through the house were getting worse by the week.

    Had a plumber out who wound up finding some type of debris (looked like tiny pieces of white plastic) in the hot water side of faucets. Once cleaned out the pressure was fine.

    Plumber said it was the dip tube breaking down but ours was not replaceable and we'd have to buy a new hot water heater. (He didn't try to sell us a new one).

    Is it possible that a hot water heater would break down after barely 5 years? This seems insane to me. Living in the NY area, it will cost me a fortune to have another plumber out to fix the dip tube, if it's even possible. Should I just buy a new water heater? Could something else be wrong? ADDITIONALLY, it seems like we're running out of hot water after just 1 ten minute shower. It's a 50-gallon tank and the model is a "gas residential SG Series" sold through Home Depot.

    Thanks for any advice.
    Last edited by fleetwood; 05-04-2009 at 08:17 AM. Reason: added model number at end

  2. #2
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer jadnashua's Avatar
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    It definately sounds like the dip tube is shot. There are ways to replace it. If I'm right, what's happening is the cold water coming in, instead of being directed to the bottom of the tank by the dip tube, is showing up right at the top, diluting the hot which normally would rise to the top.

    There was a big problem with DIP tubes about 10-years ago, so unless yours was old stock, it is somewhat unusual for it to go bad. If you have flexible lines feeding the WH, you may be able to replace the dip tube yourself. Otherwise, it would require some cutting and rebuilding the supply piping. One company makes a nipple with a dip tube in it, if yours can't take a more conventional one. Note, this assumes you have enough height above the WH to install it. If not, then you'd have to disconnect the whole thing, drain it, tip it over so you'd have enough room to insert the new dip tube. While you have that, you might as well replace the anode rod. If people replaced their anode rods periodically, the tank should last much longer. Note, if it comes to that, you might consider just replacing the whole thing since the labor is nearly the same as installing a new one. You might call the manufacturer to find out what your options are since it should still be under warranty (normally parts only, a very small part of the cost to repair).
    Jim DeBruycker
    Important note - I'm not a pro
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer; Schluter 2.5-day Workshop Completed 2013, 2014

  3. #3
    In the Trades Gary Swart's Avatar
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    I agree with the assessment of the dip tube failing. I have a Richmond heater (made by Rheem) that is from the era that had the big dip tube failures. The tube was very easy to replace, but I can say that every heater would be the same. One think I would note, while the tank will continue to function just fine for many years, those flakes of dip tube will be with you forever. Learn to clean the screens in the faucets. My biggie is the washer. Ever so often my wife says there is no hot water coming into the washer. So I know it's screen cleaning time again. Other fixtures clog too, but less often.

  4. #4
    Moderator & Master Plumber hj's Avatar
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    Default heater

    The only dip tube that could be hard to replace might be a Marathon model because of the plastic tank. Otherwise, they ALL screw into the tank although they can be difficult to remove.

  5. #5
    Plumber jimbo's Avatar
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    The so-called "dip tube era" was approx. 1992 to 1996, so you are not in that area. It is possible but not so likely that your dip tube is deteriorating, but only taking it out for inspection would tell. I believe all the GE water heaters have the dip tube on the cold inlet and it is easy to remove, after disconnnecting the water line and removing nipple.


    Your symptoms could be dip tube, but could also be other things.

  6. #6
    In the Trades Gary Swart's Avatar
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    I agree the problem could very well be something other than the dip tube, but the dip tube is very easy to check and if that isn't the problem, then you know to look else where.

  7. #7

    Default Follow up question

    Thanks for all of the help. For any of you that may be following up, I have an additional question:

    How do I remove debris that is stuck in the "hot water side" of our tub/shower combos? With the sinks it was easy enough to get to the hot water supply pipes and clean out the gunk. I don't think it's as easy as cleaning the shower head or tub spout, because the cold water is still running full force. Hope this makes sense.

    Thanks in advance.

  8. #8
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer jadnashua's Avatar
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    Depending on the shower valve you have, it may have a filter screen on the inlet. You'd have to look at the parts breakdown. From that, you should be able to figure out how much needs to be removed to clean it out. It may end up being replace the cartridge, but if you remove that, you may be able to flush it out.
    Jim DeBruycker
    Important note - I'm not a pro
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer; Schluter 2.5-day Workshop Completed 2013, 2014

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