Charlotte Plumber Answers: How Do Hot Water Recirculation Systems Work?

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Wondering how hot water recirculation systems work? A hot water recirculation system provides hot water almost instantaneously to all fixtures in the house.  The system keeps hot water in the pipes, so the hot water is sitting at the fixtures.  The cool water is returned to the hot water heater through a return pipe instead of released down the drain, saving water.

There are many advantages to a hot water recirculation system.  

  1. It saves the homeowner time since it provides hot water immediately.
  2. The system helps the environment by conserving water.  The homeowner can save thousands of gallons of water each year.  It also limits the amount of water that has to be retreated at water treatment plants.

There are two types of recirculation systems.

  1. Demand-controlled system:  The demand-controlled system is controlled by a switch, thermostat or motion sensor and uses a pump to move the water from the water heater to the fixtures. There are two types of demand controlled-systems:
  • Dedicated loop:  The pump for the system is attached to the hot water heater.  Then a pipe is installed throughout the house to circulate the hot water.  A small pipe attaches each fixture in the house to the looped pipe.  This system is generally installed in new homes.
  • Integrated loop:  The pump for this system is installed at the fixture farthest from the water heater.  The pump has a sensor that tells the water heater to heat the water when the water in the pipe has cooled to a selected temperature.  This system is most commonly added to existing homes.  
  1. Gravity-fed system:  The gravity-fed system utilizes the fact that hot water rises and cool water sinks.  This process is called thermosiphoning. In order for this system to work properly, the hot-water heater has to be installed below all of the fixtures that it supplies water to, which means that it can’t be installed in all homes.  This system runs 24 hours a day, so it uses more energy, but it does not require a pump, just the return pipe for the cool water to return to the hot water heater.  

The average home wastes 31 gallons a day—that’s more than 11,000 gallons a year—waiting for hot water, and the average wait is 60 seconds. When you add in the expenses of both water waste and sewer charges, the typical home pours approximately $120 down the drain waiting for hot water.

E.R. Plumbing is a Charlotte hot water heater expert.  Let us install an ACT Hot Water D’Mand Kontrols recirculation system in your home.  

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Article Summary

Quick question & answer: How many types of hot water recirculation systems are there?

There are two types of hot water recirculation systems. Demand-control systems are controlled by a switch, thermostat, or motion sensor and use a pump to move water from the water heater to the fixtures. Gravity-fed systems utilize hot water rising and cool water sinking, a process called thermosiphoning. For efficiency, a hot-water heater must be below the fixtures it provides water to.

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