water heater recirculation

water heater recirculation

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A standard hot water heating system only heats water at the tank, and from there it has to travel through your pipes to reach an outlet. This results in a delay between turning on the hot water and getting hot water out of the faucet.

To reduce waste and increase efficiency, a hot water recirculating system will keep the hot water moving through your pipes (in a loop) so that the water is ready to use as soon as you turn the faucet on. Keep reading to see if this system is right for you.

Where Are Recirculating Pumps Used?

For years, recirculating pumps have been standard fixtures in quality hotels, gyms and dining establishments, but they are becoming more common in private residential use as well. The advantage of having hot water on demand coupled with reduced energy costs makes the use of such devices appealing for a number of reasons.

Where they were once provided as a convenience to clientele, they are now being used as a way to cut costs around the home. Some of today’s best tankless water heater models even include a built-in recirculating pump.


When a hot water valve is opened, hot water is never more than a few seconds away. Instead of hot water having to be pushed all the way through the system from the hot water tank, it only has to be pushed through the line leading from a primary water line to the faucet itself.

The recirculating pump keeps hot water moving through your home’s hot water pipes at all times, on demand, or set for specific hours via a timer (different from a water heater timer). If the hot water is not used, it simply returns back to the tank.

This primary cost savings comes from less water going down the drain before the temperature is suitable for use. Recirculating pumps reduce usage in water sensitive regions, and winter savings has the potential to be substantial.


Initial cost is the primary disadvantage to a hot water recirculating system. A new unit can be equal to many months of water usage bills, and installation increases the cost even further. The good news is that most recirculating pumps can be installed fairly easily, and most home hobbyists will have the tools and skills necessary for the job.

A new pump is crucial to your savings as well, since older models tend to operate continuously rather than on demand. Furthermore, well insulated plumbing pipes can prevent energy loss and increase the efficiency of any water heating system.

Installation Considerations

Installing a water recirculating pump will require you to add some piping to allow water to flow continuously through the hot water system. Typically, the pump is installed in close relation to the holding tank, but you can also install recirculating pumps near faucets which are used often to provide instant hot water at that location.

On the other hand, spot-heating water may be more affordable with the use of an inline water system that can be mounted under a cabinet or in a nearby closet.

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A hot water recirculating system may be a big investment for small families, but it can be a great way to save money in a large household where hot water is in greater demand through a larger area.

As a rule, if it take more than 5 seconds for hot water to reach a faucet, installing a recirculating pump could save you money in the long term, but it may also be a good idea to look at other heating methods as well.

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BY M. Kogan

Hello, I am Marcio. I am an architect and designer, alma mater is Mackenzie. Retired in theory, but an architect never retires completely. Along with architectural projects, I am a filmmaker and have completed some short documentaries. Filmmaking and design are my passions. In HomeQN I write about home decoration and foundations. The goal is to teach homeowners to DYI as much as possible, and when this is not possible, enable them through knowledge, to evaluate service quotations and choose the best service technicians.

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