Water Heater Repair Basics

All water heaters have a protective rod of metal called the sacrificial anode. It attracts corrosion from the tank walls and keeps them preserved for years. If it becomes caked or eaten away, hire a professional like Water Heater Repair Tampa to replace it.

Water Heater

If you aren’t getting enough hot water, it may be caused by a dip tube issue. This is another easy and relatively inexpensive repair to make.

Corrosion is a natural phenomenon that transforms pure metals into unwanted substances like rust and oxides. It negatively affects the useful properties of metallic materials, such as tensile strength and rigidity. It also degrades the structural integrity of structures and systems. While it is not entirely avoidable, there are time-tested methods for its control and prevention.

The oxidation of metallic surfaces occurs when they come into contact with corrosive chemicals. This process is called electrochemical corrosion, which involves the formation of insoluble ions on the surface of the material. The ions combine with oxygen, water, or hydroxide to form oxides that are less conductive than the original material. These oxides can erode and break down the surface of the metal, resulting in pitting and flaking. The resulting corrosion is known as corrosion fatigue, and it can lead to the loss of strength or failure of the material.

Different metals react differently with the corrosive environment, and this is reflected in their reactivity series. Iron, for example, has a high reactivity and thus corrodes quickly. Other metals with low reactivity, such as zinc and magnesium, do not corrode easily. Some metals can be protected from corrosive environments by making them the cathode of a galvanic cell, in which more active metals such as iron are used as sacrificial anodes.

Corrosion is a costly phenomenon that can reduce the performance and safety of structures and equipment. It can also impact the economic competitiveness of industries and nations. To minimize the costs of corrosion, a comprehensive management system (CMS) should be put in place. This involves defining and implementing a set of policies, practices, and procedures that promote corrosion awareness and control.

Dip Tube

If you find small plastic particles clogging your faucet aerators, shower heads or washing machine screen and are experiencing diminished hot water temperatures, the culprit could be your water heater’s dip tube. The purpose of the dip tube is to help direct incoming cold replacement water to the bottom of the tank for heating, segregating it from the warmer and lighter water that floats on top for use in faucets and appliances. When the dip tube fails, dense and scalding incoming water is dumped at the top of the unit and mixes with the hot water that is already present in your tank, producing lukewarm water for household uses.

The lifespan of your dip tube depends on how well it’s maintained and what kind of material it’s made of. Most modern dip tubes are manufactured from non-metallic, corrosion-resistant plastics like cross-linked polyethylene (PEX) that withstand the high temps of your water heater. They are also designed to last on average for about 10 years, but can deteriorate much faster if neglected or exposed to hard water.

To replace your water heater’s dip tube, first shut off the power or gas supply to your unit for safety. Drain the water in your tank, then remove the dip tube by disconnecting it from its inlet nipple at the top of the tank. Use a flat screwdriver to loosen the inlet nipple and gently remove the old dip tube. Once the new tube is in place, reconnect the nipple and water supply line, turn back on your unit for power and water, and check for leaks. You’ll be back to having a steady supply of hot water in no time!

Pressure Valve

Often overlooked, the pressure-relief valve is a crucial safety feature on water heaters. Its purpose is to discharge excess hot water and steam from the tank if the temperature or pressure rises above safe limits, protecting you from severe burns and other injuries. The valve has a metal spring lever that snaps back and forth to release the water into a bucket. You should test this periodically and replace the valve if you notice it doesn’t function properly.

Unlike the dip tube, which can be replaced without draining or powering down your water heater, replacing the pressure-relief valve requires a complete drain and turning off gas or electricity for your heater. This is a job you should only take on if you are confident in your plumbing abilities, as you will be working with high-pressure and hot water. It is also recommended that you have a professional handle this task to protect yourself from injury.

When the pressure-relief valve isn’t functioning correctly, it may leak or not open when triggered. This can cause the pressure inside your water heater to become too high and, in some cases, lead to an explosion. You can try to resolve this issue by opening and closing the valve several times to see if it unsticks. Another option is to spray the valve threads with a penetrating oil and jiggle it a bit, similar to jiggling a toilet handle.

If your valve doesn’t unstick or you find it leaking, shut off the water and turn off the gas for your water heater (if you have one). Open up the cold-water cut-off on your home and close the relief valve by turning the metal spring lever back. If the valve doesn’t reset itself and continue to leak, it should be replaced immediately to prevent flooding and water damage.


In the burner compartment in front of your pilot light is a small cylindrical metal cylinder called a thermocouple. It’s a safety device that senses whether your pilot flame is burning and will tell the gas valve to remain closed if it goes out. This keeps your home from a dangerous explosion.

Thermocouples are made from two dissimilar metal wires that have different electrical properties at different temperatures. One end of the thermocouple is placed at the pilot flame and the other is kept at a constant lower temperature. The difference in electron density between the two metals generates a voltage at the connection point that can be read by a voltage measuring instrument. The voltage is proportional to the difference in temperature at the measurement points.

Often, when your pilot flame won’t stay lit, the problem is a short in the thermocouple connector plug, which is fairly easy to fix. First, make sure the gas is off. Then open the access door and remove the thermocouple. One end of the thermocouple will probably be held in place by clips that have snapped in. The other end will likely connect to the copper tube that feeds gas into the pilot chamber. Take the old thermocouple to a hardware store or home center and purchase a replacement.

Be sure to get a thermocouple that is rated for the environment you live in. For example, the “homebody” class uses base metals (iron, nickel, chromium) that are good for normal residential use, while the “upper crust,” “rarefied” and exotic thermocouples use noble metals such as rhodium, tungsten and platinum, which are more expensive but better suited to harsh environments.

Pilot Light

A pilot light in a gas water heater is used to ignite the gas that is pushing through your hot water heater, allowing the burner to heat up. Without this pilot light, you would need to use a match or cigarette lighter each time you wanted hot water. This is an inefficient way to run your home and wastes a lot of energy.

The good news is that the vast majority of times when a pilot light goes out, it can be easily re-lit. However, there are a few reasons why this may not happen.

First, make sure the gas valve is on and hasn’t been shut off. This should be on the right side of your water heater, near the bottom. Once the gas is turned on, find the reset button (usually a small lever or button that says “reset”). Press and hold the reset button until you see a blue flame in the pilot light window of your water heater.

Another reason your pilot light might not stay lit is if there is dirt or grime build up on the thermocouple. The thermocouple is a sensor that turns the gas off if it thinks the pilot flame has gone out, so it’s important to keep this clean. If there is a lot of dirt on the thermocouple, the instructions that come with your water heater should explain how to clean it.

Finally, it’s possible that there is too much air in the gas line, which will also shut off the pilot light. This is something that a professional will need to resolve by either conducting system maintenance or replacing the gas control valve. Because this is dealing with fire and combustible gas, it’s best to let a plumbing technician take care of it.