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Hot Water Recirculation System Pros and Cons

Hot Water Recirculation System — Is it Right for You?

Depending on the size of your home, the distance between your bathroom and the water heater, and how many faucets are in use at the same time, it can take several minutes for hot water to reach your fixture. During that time, gallons of water flow down the drain. Over many showers, this adds up to a significant expense.

The solution to this problem? Install a hot water recirculation system. This system helps hot water reach your fixtures in an instant, cutting down the time you must wait, and thereby saving you water as well.

What Is a Hot Water Recirculation System?

A hot water recirculation system is a system that keeps the water in the hot water supply pipe hot by constantly recirculating the water. When the hot water in your hot water piping cools down beyond a certain point, this system pulls it back to the hot water heater to reheat it, while bringing fresh hot water from the tank into the hot water line. These systems can be incorporated into your plumbing system when building a house, or they can be added later on.

There are a few different types of hot water recirculation systems on the market. Most of these systems use a pump to force the water through the hot water supply pipe. More energy efficient models utilize passive circulation. The other primary difference between these systems relates to how the water is transported back to the hot water tank; in some cases, an extra pipe is used to run the complete circuit, while in others, the hot water will cross over to the cold water pipes to be circulated back to the hot water tank.

Energy Efficiency of Hot Water Recirculation Systems

In general, the most energy efficient options on the market will be those using passive circulation; however, not all homes are compatible with these systems. Among the models that use pumps, there is a lot of variation in the ways the pumps run, and therefore their energy efficiency. The least energy efficient models have pumps that run non-stop, using energy around the clock.

There are also energy efficient models that run on timers. To use them, you determine the times of day when you are most likely to need hot water and set the timer to run the pump during those hours. Equally energy efficient are those that use thermostats to determine when the water has cooled too much, kicking in to heat it once more.

However, the most energy efficient option among the pump-based systems is the on-demand pump. These pumps start to work when the user presses a button, indicating that hot water will be needed shortly. It will continue working long enough for a typical task to be completed before shutting itself off.

Who Should Purchase a Hot Water Recirculation System?

While there are many factors to consider, the main reason you should choose to add a hot water recirculation system to your home is convenience. The time you save should be more valuable than the cost of the unit and energy cost of operating it. Besides adding a small amount to the value of your home, convenience is the only real benefit these systems bring to most homeowners.

However, there are exceptions. If you live in an area that is prone to droughts and where water use is closely monitored and restricted, purchasing one of these systems can be a great benefit to you. Rather than wasting water while you wait for the hot water to reach you, you can instantly use your water, letting none of it go to waste.

Should you be on the fence, the more energy efficient options may offer enough in energy savings to sway you towards owning one. Ask a plumbing or HVAC company whether passive circulation is an option for your home. If it is not, look into the possibility of an on-demand pump.

Who Should Not Purchase a Hot Water Recirculation System?

If you are building a new home, your best option is to work with your plumber and architect to design your home’s water system in a way that quickly and evenly distributes hot water as needed. Done properly, your design will enable you to avoid paying for installing and maintaining such a system. It should also reduce your energy bills.

For homeowners whose biggest concern is keeping their energy bills low, hot water recirculation systems are not the best choice. Even the most energy efficient options will raise your electric or gas bills, and the money you save on your water bill is unlikely to make up for the increased costs. Still, saving water and saving time are key considerations that cause many to opt for such a system.

Still Not Sure?

If you are having a hard time making a decision, contact a local plumbing or HVAC company. They can send a technician to your home to determine which systems would work best in your home and if the benefits outweigh the costs. Orange Coast Plumbing has decades of experience installing and maintaining these systems, and are available to advise you in their use to help you make the best possible decision.