Gone are the days of running our faucets at “full blast”. Now flowing water is costing us serious money. Water has become much more valuable, and all kinds of devices are being implemented to conserve water and conserve energy. These days all fixtures have flow restrictors, showers reduced to 2 gallons per minute and the bathroom sinks to about ¾ gallon per minute.
Years ago it was common in expensive homes to find hot water circulating systems that provided the home owner with instant hot water at any fixture in the house. The plumber would run the hot water piping in a loop from the water heater outlet to a fixture and from that fixture to the next and so on until he reached the last fixture. From the last fixture he would run a pipe back to the inlet of the water heater where a pump and check valve were located.
The pipe from the last fixture back to the water heater is known as a dedicated return line. A check valve located between the return line and the water heater inlet kept water from being drawn backwards through the return line when a fixture was in use. A pump located at the water heater would circulate the hot water through the piping, allowing hot water to always be ready at all the faucets. That way when ever a hot water tap was turned on there would be instant hot water. An additional benefit of instant hot water is the conservation of water. You don’t run thousands of gallons per year of water down the drain waiting for hot water to arrive.
Instant water is wonderful, but the cost of installing a dedicated return line is expensive. This type of dedicated return line also does not work well with tankless water heaters, which are becoming very popular. The problem is that tankless water heaters are turned on when water flows through them. Since the circulating system continuously circulates the hot water, the water heater would be on all of the time. That just wouldn’t work out very well. It’s unfortunate since tankless water heaters take a little longer than storage heaters to deliver your hot water.
Considering the high cost of a dedicated return line and the increasing costs of both energy and water these days, there are now recirculating systems that you can install yourself (without a dedicated return line-these systems use the cold water piping as the return line). These recirculating systems are have tree types of controls: “Timer” controlled (which only provide hot water at certain times of the day and require electrical connections to operate the pump), “Demand” controlled (which require the user to push a button near the pump before hot water will be provided and require electrical connections to operate the pump) and “Temperature” controlled (which allow hot water to circulate only when the water temperature drops below the adjustable temperature setting, is all mechanical and requires no electrical connections).
Use of these systems can save a typical family of four up to about 17,000 gallons of water per year, and because the warm water is recirculating to your water heater (instead of cold ground temperature water), you also save heating energy.
By installing a recirculating hot water system you will not only have the convenience of fast hot water, but you will be saving a whole lot of water and energy-reducing your carbon footprint.
For more information about hot water recirculating systems, visit: Faster Hot Water