This simple device can not only save you money, it can also deliver nearly instant hot water. A hot water circulation pump keeps the hot water constantly moving through the home's plumbing system, so when a hot water tap is opened, the water will be hot right away.
How your home plumbing works without a circulation pump
How your home plumbing services will work with a circulation pump
Here are a few of the benefits:
There are 3 main types of circulation pumps
1. Basic Circulation Pump
This System uses a small pump that is constantly circulating water thru the home's main water lines, also known as trunk lines or supply lines. If the water isn't used, it is returned back to the water heater.
Since this basic system is running continuously, it places a tremendous amount of unnecessary wear on your water heater (and your wallet through the power bill). We do not recommend this type of system.
2. On-Demand Circulation Pump
An on-demand system operates when there is a demand for hot water. If a hot water faucet is opened a motion detector, or flow switch, will trigger the pump to turn on. Once the pump turns on, it will continue to circulate the water through the pipes until the water reaches a set temperature.
These systems tend to be a little more expensive and can range in price significantly depending on the size of your house, however, these are the systems we normally recommend.
3. Timer Circulation Pump
A Timer system allows you to program the pump to match your hot water needs. You can set the adjustable timer to the times you'll need hot water. For example, if you always take a shower at 7am and run the dishwasher at 8:30am, you may want to set the pump to cycle on at 6am and cycle off at 10:30am.
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Today, users don’t want to wait minutes for hot water to arrive at the faucet or shower when they turn it on — they want it in less than 10 seconds. A domestic hot water (DHW) recirculation system can do that as well as prevent lukewarm water from being dumped down the drain by bypassing it into the cold water line. This process saves water, utility costs, and energy and sewer expenses. It also helps reduce the fresh water shortage.
Water savings are hard to calculate because of so many influencing factors. A study estimates water savings of up to 12,000 gallons for four points of hot water use and up to 15,000 gallons for five points of use per year. The savings also depend on the size of the pipes (1/2-inch, ¾-inch or 1-inch copper or PEX), total length of pipe from the heater to the furthest sink, size of the pump and efficiency of the system.
The selection of the correct hardware, controls and pump are important for long service life. Payback depends on the cost of the monthly water utility bill, electricity cost per kW, how many users are in a home, and initial installation cost, though it is typically between 1 and 3 years.
DHW recirculation Homes built before 1980 usually use a one-pipe system. This means one hot-water pipe feeds every sink, and it stops at the last sink in the home. A dedicated return line system uses a return pipe from the last sink back to the hot-water tank or tankless heater. The homeowner needs to know if he or she has a hot-water tank or a tankless system, and a one-pipe or dedicated return line, in order to select the correct recirculation components.
Big operating cost savings are achieved by not running the recirculation system 24 hours and only running it when hot water is needed at the sink. This is achieved by limiting the operating time with a mechanical or digital timer.
Mechanical timers usually have three positions: on, off and on timer. The on-timer tab, with 15-minute run time on the 24-hour clock, can be set to achieve maximum savings. Many prefer the mechanical timer rather than the programmable electronic timer because it is easier to set. These timers are built into the pump or separate plug-ins can be used.
Electronic controls also are available for this function. The controls log the time of hot-water usage and start the pumps based on user history. A simple mechanical timer is easier for a plumber to service and can be less costly and more reliable than electronic timers, which have many more parts. Insulating the hot-water supply pipes or using heat tapes keeps the water hot longer and saves on water-heating costs.
If there is a power outlet under the sink farthest from the heat source in a one-pipe system, the simplest method is to install a kit with pump, timer, two hoses, two tees, and check valves under the sink. Hooking it up takes 10-15 minutes with only a wrench required — no cutting of pipe is needed for systems with up to 250 feet of pipe. Tankless systems may require larger pumps due to minimum flow rates required by the heater.
If there is no power under the sink in a one-pipe system, install the pump on the hot outlet of the water heater. Pumps are equipped with a mechanical timer and line cord. Under the sink farthest from the heater, a plastic thermostatic bypass valve transfers tempered water to the cold-water line. A new stainless/bronze valve is available that has larger water-flow orifices and does not need screens, which can plug up with calcium in areas with hard water.
Pump selection is critical. Choose designs with a large inlet/outlet to prevent calcium deposits at the connections and premature failure. A stainless pump with a replaceable stainless cartridge and rotor sleeve will provide long service in hard water areas. One is available with a flushable cartridge to double the life of the pump without having to pay for a brand-new stainless pump. Selecting a U.S.-built pump system allows for technical support and parts availability.
A hot water recirculation system is a plumbing system that moves hot water to fixtures quickly without waiting for the water to get hot. Rather than relying on low water pressure, common in most water lines, recirculating systems rapidly move water from a water heater to the fixtures.
integrated loop: This system is typically used on retrofits but may also be installed on new construction. It consists of a pump installed under the plumbing fixture farthest from the water heater. The pump contains a sensor which switches the pump on when water temperature drops below 85° F, and switches it off when water temperature reaches 95° F. Newer pumps are adjustable from 77° to 104° F.
In this system, hot water is re-circulated intermittently. Hot water is returned to the water heater via the cold water pipes. This raises the temperature of the cold water slightly, but it returns to the usual cold temperature in a short time.
Hot water recirculation systems are most commonly activated by either a thermostat or a timer. Systems that use a thermostat or timer automatically turn the pump on whenever the water temperature drops below a set point, or when the timer reaches a certain setting. These systems ensure that hot water is always available at the faucet.
Do they really save energy and water?
Regardless of whether they are controlled manually or automatically, recirculation systems reduce the amount of water that goes down the drain while the homeowner waits for the desired temperature. This fact allows for the following three advantages over conventional water distribution systems:
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Hot water heating circulators or circulator pumps: install, troubleshoot, repair details: this article discusses Circulator Pumps: how to find, inspect, diagnose, and repair problems with Hot Water Heating System Circulator Pumps or circulator pump relay switches and controls.
This article answers most questions about Heating System Boiler Controls on central heating systems to aid in troubleshooting, inspection, diagnosis, and repairs.
Circulator pump relay switches & controls on heating systems: Troubleshooting & Repair Guide, How to tell if a heating circulator pump is working, Why do some heating zones work and others not, why does heat come out of zones where thermostats are not calling for heat?
How to fix an air-bound heating system and blocked circulator pump,
How to cure circulator pump noises, Where should a circulator pump be installed on a heating boiler? On the inlet or on the outlet side of the boiler? Use of air exit tanks and circulator pumps on heating boilers.
Heating Circulator Pumps: how are circulators used to control heating zones & how do we Diagnose & Fix Circulator Pump Troubles?
Heating circulator pumps or "zone circulators" are used to force hot water from the heating boiler through radianting devices such as hot water baseboards or radiators. The circulator is switched on as needed or in some designs may be wired to run continuously.
Proper installation, protection from leaks, and lubrication at annual service can give a long circulator life. Poor maintenance or improper installation can give less happy results.
Hot water may be circulated throughout multiple zones using a single circulator pump and individual zone flow control valves, or each heating zone may be built with its own individual circulator pump.
Either approach to individual heating zone control can work just fine - using zone valves or using individual circulators.
Our photo above shows a single circulator system.
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