Two year old GE hot water tank suddenly doesn't have enough hot water

Discussion in 'Water Heater Forum, Tanks' started by nekoian, Jan 9, 2013.

  1. nekoian

    nekoian New Member

    Messages:
    3
    Location:
    Ontario
    We purchased a GE (made by Rheem) 50 Gallon Gas tank (12 year warranty) from Home Depot about 2 years ago. It has been working fine but last weekend I ran out of hot water in the shower after my wife's shower. Last night my son had a medium length shower and I went to draw a bath for my daughter and the water was cold 1/2 way through. No other appliances had been running recently either time.

    I flushed the tank last night. My wife said she ran out of water by the end of her shower this morning after me.

    I'm suspecting maybe the dip tube? Why would it crack or break on such a young hot water tank?

    The flame looks fine, mostly blue. Temp setting hasn't changed. No sediment was found during flush. I checked the water meter and there doesn't appear to be any leaks.
    Last edited: Jan 9, 2013
  2. jimbo

    jimbo Plumber

    Messages:
    8,997
    Location:
    San Diego
    Well, since this apparently happened all of sudden, it is very possibly due to a leak somewhere, or a failure in a recirc system if you have one..

    NOW, you should know that by "rule of thumb" a 50 gallon heater will deliver approx. 35 gallons of water at suitable shower temperature. A 'medium long' shower will use up most of that, leaving little for that tub! And this situation is based on some assumptions: heater set at ~125 degrees, ground water ~55 degrees, so it will vary in the winter.

    Certainly the dip tube would cause that. This is not a common problem, but is fairly quick to check.
  3. nekoian

    nekoian New Member

    Messages:
    3
    Location:
    Ontario
    I thought about the winter water but we never ran out of water last winter. I mean *never*. Now it seems very frequent. I checked to see if the water meter was moving at all with nothing going and it's not.

    I found a youtube video that talked about timing when the heater turns on after you start opening hot water faucets. His tank registered over a minute before the heater turned itself on which indicated a bad dip tube. I'm going to try that tonight.
  4. Gary Swart

    Gary Swart In the Trades

    Messages:
    7,386
    Location:
    Yakima WA
    Several years ago, there was a lot of failed dip tubes. A manufacturer that provided dip tubes for several brand of cold water heaters used some faulty materials that cause the tubes to fall apart. This problem was fixed and the problem went away. That is not to say that a dip tube still can't fail. The are easy to check and easy to replace if necessary. They are located directly under the nipple in the intake. Just remove the nipple and you can fish the tube out with your finger. They should extend clear to the bottom of the tank. If it does, then the dip tube is not your problem. If it is broken off, then just get a new tube, cut it to length if necessary, slip it in, and replace the nipple. May not be the problem, but it's so easy to check, it's what I'd look at first.
  5. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    27,048
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    Unless the heater was over 10 years old, it is NOT a dip tube issue. However, I had exactly the same problem with a customer this week and his problem was a defective shower valve balancing spool which was mixing "a lot" of cold water with the hot, so he only had "warm" water even though the heater was up to temperature.
  6. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    Messages:
    22,268
    Location:
    New England
    FWIW, gas WH come with different sized burners, so one 50-gallon tank may not be the same as another, even from the same manufacturer - it all depends on the model.
  7. nekoian

    nekoian New Member

    Messages:
    3
    Location:
    Ontario
    So I timed how long it took for the burner to come on with two hot water taps running. 35 seconds. Seems too long to me.
  8. jimbo

    jimbo Plumber

    Messages:
    8,997
    Location:
    San Diego
    I have never seen this test recommended by a manufacturer. I don't think all the parameters..incoming temp, heater setting, piping, GPM of taps, etc,....are well enough controlled to make a meaningfull interpretation of "35 seconds". You can settle the dip tube by simply disconnecting the cold water inlet and removing the nipple. Find out from your manufacturer ( Rheem, your 12 year is essentially the Fury 42VR50 series) if the dip tupe is "drop in" or integral with the cold nipple.
    Again,, nothing is impossible, but the "bad dip tube era" was 1992/1993. Since that was fixed, dip tubes are rarely on the radar. Lets stop guessing and get some answers.
  9. MACPLUMB 777

    MACPLUMB 777 TROJAN WORLDWIDE SALES RP

    Messages:
    679
    Location:
    Houston, Texas, United States
    I have fixed this the same way ! you have a single handle valve that is mixing cold like
    hj posted, in the old days Moen fixtures were famous for doing this !
    now with pressure balancing spools then that is your problem forget about water heater
  10. Hackneyplumbing

    Hackneyplumbing Homeowner

    Messages:
    66
    Location:
    Alabama
    First check for a hot water leak. If no leak is detected perform a draw test. Both test could be done in under 30 minutes.
  11. DD

    DD New Member

    Messages:
    1
    Location:
    Maryland
    Help re: your post

    Hi HJ. My Rheem 75 gal gas hotwater heater is 4 yrs old and I am noticing the same problem of all of a sudden not having enough hot water for my tub. I've lived in my house for 20 years and have never experienced this before... when you mention the "defective shower valve balancing spool", is this something that is in each device on say shower/tub/faucet? if yes, does this mean that possible my faucet/valves on my tub are defective and it is not the hotwater heater? Sorry for the ignorance, just don't know where this is located and where we should begin looking. the faucet to the tub (which is where i have noticed the hot water issue) is 20 years old and drips every 20 secs or so... Thanks in advance for your help
  12. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    Messages:
    22,268
    Location:
    New England
    Some single handle valves when worn (by no means all), can allow a cross-over between the hot and cold supplies. This, depending on where it is and the length of the piping, and lots of other things, can result in other valves getting diluted hot from that mixing elsewhere. Another big reason for a drop off in hot water supply is a leak...this can go unnoticed if your hot water line runs underneath the slab, but can mean the WH can't keep up. That is fairly easy to check...make sure no water is being used in the house, and then monitor the water meter to see if it records water use. Also, note if the WH is running frequently when nobody is using hot water. One way to help isolate the worn single handle valve is to shut the hot supply off to it. If your problem goes away, you've isolated the problem child. Do this one valve at a time and check. It may not help on a tub/shower valve, since many of those are not installed with in-line shutoffs, but may help with other valves fitted with them.
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