What is a Hot Water Recirculating Pump?


Have you ever wondered why your hot water faucet gives you cold water when you first turn it on? Depending on the size of your home, you may wait a few seconds or even minutes for hot water. This is not only inconvenient, but wastes a lot of water.

The distance hot water needs to travel is the reason cold water comes out first. When the faucet is on, hot water is drawn to the sink through your plumbing. Turning it off stops the water, but doesn’t return it to the water heater. It stays in the pipes and gets cold. The next time you need hot water, the cold water in the pipes has to be pushed out by fresh hot water from the water heater. The more piping between the water heater and the faucet, the more cold water there is and the longer it takes.

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But there are some solutions.

You can have your plumber install a recirculating pump. A hot water recirculating pump is installed on your water heater, returning unused hot water back to the water heater. It is designed to provide hot water on demand.

Two Types of Recirculating Pumps

Option #1

Full Recirculating Pump System

With this option, an additional pipe that is designated for hot water is installed in your home’s plumbing. This system creates a loop from the water heater to the faucet and back again. The unused hot water is drawn back through this loop by the pump, so when you turn on your hot water faucets, you get hot water quickly. Water is not left in the pipes to get cold and you waste less water because you don’t have to wait.

You may be wondering how this effects your gas and energy costs. If the water heater is running continuously with water looping endlessly, doesn’t it cost more? Not necessarily.

Many pumps are designed with sensors and timers. The sensor shuts the pump off once hot water has made a complete loop. A timer allows you to control when the pump is active. You can set it to shut off automatically at night, while you’re at work, or when you’re on vacation. If your pump does not have these features, a plumbing professional can help you add them.

This is option is not for everyone. The cost of the pump and the additional pipe needed can be pricey. In addition, many New Mexico home designs make it difficult to add the pipe needed for this system. If this solution is difficult for your home or budget, there is still another option.

Option #2

Recirculating Pump Comfort System

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This system uses the existing cold water pipe to send the unused water back to the water heater. This is a cost effective solution for homeowners who are frustrated with the wait for hot water but are unable to install the first option. The Comfort System can bring hot water quickly to areas in your home that take a long time to get hot water. For example, if your water is far away from your shower or kitchen, the recirculating pump will solve this problem.

You also won’t need to install additional pipe. This lowers the initial cost. These pumps typically cost somewhere in the $500 – $800 range, though exceptions do apply. However, this system does have its drawbacks.

The problem with this option is, due to hot and cold water sharing the same pipe, the water from the cold faucet may be lukewarm or take time to get cold, especially if you have a swamp cooler. Some homeowners turn their pump off in the summer to solve this problem.

You may not realize that you already have a recirculating system. A previous homeowner may have unplugged the pump. It is worth checking to see if you already have one, especially if you’re frustrated with the time it takes to get hot water to areas of your home. Your plumbing professional can help you locate your pump and make it functional. You can also check for it yourself near the top or bottom of your water heater.

What’s the Bottom Line?

A recirculating pump will end the wait for hot water. Whatever the size of your home, you can save your family time, money, and water. TLC is here for you to have our expert plumbers in Albuquerque today to see if a recirculating pump is a good solution for you and your family. Have more questions? Ask our plumbers.