You know the drill: You turn on the shower and busy yourself with other morning rituals — brushing your teeth, choosing your clothes for the day, maybe even ironing a shirt — while you wait for the hot water. By some estimates, this routine wastes 12,000 gallons a year — much, much more if, say, yours is a household of five. That’s a lot of water disappearing down the drain. Fortunately, there’s a solution: A hot water recirculation pump.
What’s a Recirculation Pump?
A hot water recirculation pump eliminates the wait and the waste by keeping hot water in constant circulation so it’s there when you need it.
A pump at the water heater sends water to a bypass valve at the furthest point from the tank — say, a bathroom on the second floor. The bypass valve senses the hot water coming in, closes a valve and keeps the warm water on standby. Once the water in the pipe cools, the valve opens to let in more warm water.
There’s no need to run the pump 24/7. You can program the recirculation pump to operate during the times of day when you’ll most likely use hot water.
Is a Recirculation Pump Easy to Install?
Installing a recirculation pump can be complex and it’s a job best left to a plumber. To accommodate a recirculation pump, your home may need a third line to carry the unused hot water back to the water heater. This would require a significant retrofit. Alternatively, a plumber could configure a system to send unused warm water back through the cold water pipes. This option presents one obvious drawback: when you turn on the tap for cold water, the water will come out lukewarm. You may have to wait a bit for the water to become cold — probably not a huge dilemma. After all, how often do you need cold water? Lukewarm water is fine for most applications — cooking, cleaning, etc. Your water savings far outweigh this one minor inconvenience.