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Hot Water Recirculation Systems

Last Updated Dec 7, 2010 · Written by Craig Gibson

Are you sick of waiting for the water from your hot tap to heat up?  Sick of watching water go down the drain needlessly?  Then a hot water recirculation system may be the answer for you.  Read on to find out more.

What is a Hot Water Recirculation System?

Hot water recirculation systems deliver hot water to the taps in the home without having to wait for the water to heat.  They use pumps to quickly move water from the heater to the taps.  The pump pulls hot water from the water heater while simultaneously sending cooled water from the hot water lines back to the hot water system to be reheated.  These systems save water and can save energy.  These hot water recirculation systems can be activated by the push of a button, or by a thermostat, timer, or motion sensor.  The systems that use a thermostat or a timer automatically turn on the pump when the water temperature drops below a certain level or when the timer reaches a setting.  This ensures that hot water is always available at the tap.  However, systems that use a thermostat or timer may use more energy than an on/off button or switch operated system due to the more frequent recirculation cycles and hot water constantly being left in the pipes to cool off.

Types of Hot Water Recirculation Systems

Passive hot water recirculation systems use an electric pump that is placed on the hot water heater outlet, pressurizing the system slightly.  This allows you to install a bypass valve at remote locations where necessary – such as at the kitchen sink, or shower tap.  The bypass valve bleeds some hot water into the cold water system periodically to maintain the hot water at a satisfactory level.  The main advantage of this system is that it can be retrofitted to existing homes.  Another type of passive hot water recirculation system is where small pumps are placed directly at the remote locations instead of at the main hot water system.  One potential problem with this type of system is that you need an electrical power outlet near each pump.

An active hot water recirculation system is a hot water line that runs throughout the house and then returns back to the water heater, and has a pump attached.  This type of system is more expensive to buy and install and to have it running all the time is energy-inefficient.  These systems should be fitted with timers and the pipes need to be well-insulated.

Installing a Hot Water Recirculation System

Recirculation systems can be easily installed by a plumber.  The system can be installed in both existing and new homes, although the type of system may vary.  Hot water recirculation systems work with any style or brand of hot water system.

You might also like: Hot Water Heat Pumps

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