Several major U.S. water heater manufacturers are alerting consumers to a potential problem with dip tubes in accordance with a national lawsuit settlement that began in March 1999.

The lawsuit charged that some of the plastic tubes manufactured by Apcom Inc. and Perfection Corp. between 1993 and 1997 were deteriorating prematurely. Homeowners were experiencing the loss of hot water pressure and temperature.

Though this affects a limited number of water heaters, in compliance with a national settlement, consumers can get their dip tubes replaced at no cost, receive reimbursement for related damages and get other related repairs made.

Symptoms of dip tube failure include a decrease in hot water and the appearance of tiny floating white particles in the water supply.

The six major water heater manufacturers participating in the national settlement are American Water Heater Co., A.O. Smith Corp., Bradford White Corp., Lochinvar Corp., Rheem Mfg. Co. and State Industries Inc.

For details on determining how to identify the water heaters with affected dip tubes, call 800/329-0561.