Full Recirculating Pump System
In this type of system, your plumber will install additional hot water pipes in your home. These pipes can then return the unused hot water to the water heater. As the cooling hot water makes its way back to the water heater, new hot water can take its place so that it is always ready to go when you need it. The hot water flows through a continuous loop throughout your system so that there is a steady supply of hot water, minimizing your wait time and water waste.
If you are concerned about how this constant operation might affect your energy costs for heating the water, there is no need to be. While the system is capable of running continuously, it doesn’t always do this. Most hot water recirculating pumps come with sensors or timers to regulate operation. Sensors can detect the temperature of the hot water in the pipe, only running the recirculation pump when the temperature drops below a specified level. This way, the water won’t keep circulating when the water is already warm, typically stopping itself after one complete cycle.
Timers give you even greater control over when your system operates. For example, you can program your system to automatically turn off after a specified time in the evening so that it isn’t running while you are sleeping. You can also program the schedule to turn the system off when you are at work or go out of town on vacation.
Even if the hot water recirculating pump you choose doesn’t come with a sensor or timer, your plumber can easily install one for you. This way, you’ll get all the benefits of having more control over your system without having to select an entirely new pump system.
During the installation process, your plumber will need to install additional piping throughout your home to carry the unused hot water back to the water heater. This can add to your installation cost considerably, especially if the pipes in your home are difficult to access. If you don’t want to weather the added cost, or if the installation would be too complex, you do have another option.
Recirculating Pump Comfort System
To avoid having to install new pipes, you can opt for a hot water recirculating pump that sends unused water back to the water heater through your cold water pipes rather than through a separate pipe system. This option is much more cost-effective and easier to install, making this style of system accessible to a wider range of homeowners. However, you’ll still get the benefit of fast hot water when you need it.
Comfort systems do come with one major drawback, though. Because the hot water will flow back to the water heater through the cold water pipes, the water that comes out of the cold tap at first will likely be warmer than you are used to. It may also take a few moments for the water to get truly cold. In most cases, this won’t be much of an issue, as lukewarm water is perfectly fine for many applications around the house, like cleaning and cooking. However, if you use your tap to provide drinking water, you may have to wait until the water is cool enough to be palatable.
You can combat this issue when you know you are going to need cold water by turning off the pump temporarily. This method is particularly effective during the summer. Because the weather is warmer during this time of year, you won’t need to run the pump as frequently to get hot water anyway, as the water already in the pipes will stay hot longer.
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