It’s time to fight the drought with hot water, we’ve done we could about the cold water!
At first it might sound odd, but if you stop and think about it, you realize you run a lot of water down the drain while you wait for hot water to reach the fixture. Not something you want to do when you are fighting a drought.
A typical family of four wastes up to 15,000 gallons of water per year running water down the drain while waiting for hot. You could collect the water in containers and use it for something else like watering plants or flushing the toilet. Oh boy, doesn’t that sound like fun!
Hot water delivery systems to the rescue
There are however low cost, easy to install systems that you can purchase for your home which will eliminate running all that water down the drain. Several types of systems are available, and they all save you water, but they all have pros and cons. We shall examine several of these systems and you can decide if such a system, and specifically which type of system would best suit your needs.
There is really only one basic way to get hot water to a distant fixture without running water down the drain, circulate the water in a loop back to the water heater inlet. The way in which the water is circulated and how it is controlled varies with the different types and brands of hot water delivery systems.
Delivery systems using a dedicated return line
The first system we shall examine is the circulating system that uses a dedicated return line to get water from the fixtures back to the water heater inlet. The hot water piping should be looped from fixture to fixture, and at the last fixture a pipe is run back to the inlet of the water heater. A pump is included in the line either at the water heater outlet or between the return line and the water heater inlet.
The circulating pump is very low power and pumps only a very low flow, but it doesn’t take much flow to keep the entire hot water piping system full of hot water. This type of system provides the fastest hot water of any system when plumbed properly. Truly instant hot water when you turn on the tap. A big drawback however, is the amount of energy that this system uses.
To keep the piping full of heated water requires a lot more energy and makes your water heater work a lot harder. The cost of the energy to heat water is much greater than the cost of the water itself. In some states including California it is not legal to install such systems anymore due to the energy conservation regulations for new home construction. Installing such a system would probably be very expensive since it would most likely involve serious plumbing to add that return line.
One more problem with circulating systems is that they can not be used with tankless water heaters. Since tankless heaters take longer to get you the hot water, they waste more water than traditional heaters. They are not however compatible with circulating systems.
Delivery systems using the cold water line as the return
Other systems use the cold water line as the return. All water heaters have a cold water inlet, and thus the cold water supply at each fixture connects back to the water heater inlet. By placing a pump at the fixture the cooled off hot water left in the piping after the last use can be pumped into the cold water line, until the hot water reaches the fixture.
There are basically two types of systems that utilize the cold water line as the return. One type of system controls the pump that’s located at the fixture by temperature. When the water at the pump (fixture) reaches a pre-set temperature the pump shuts off. Typically it’s about 80 or 90 degrees. There are several problems with this type of system. One problem is that you don’t have instant hot water, you have instant warm water. So if you want hot water you still have to run water down the drain, although you will get hot water more quickly than with a normal plumbing system.
Another problem is that your cold water line is now going to be full of warm water, and some people like cold water from the cold water tap, not warm water. In that case you would have to run water down the drain to get cold water. Laing makes such a system; the autocirc system, which retails for around $230.00. RedyTemp makes one with a manufacturer’s suggested retail price of over $500, but I’ve seen it for sale on the RedyTemp site for $325.
Hot water on demand systems are the best hot water delivery systems
A better system, in my humble opinion, is a demand system. A demand system is similar to the Laing and RedyTemp systems in that the pump is placed at the fixture furthest from the water heater, and connects to the hot and cold water lines.
The difference is in the control method. With a demand system the user must demand hot water by pressing a button. Pressing the button starts the pump which pumps the water from the heater to the fixture at high speed, so that one gets his water faster than normal. When the pump senses a sudden increase in water temperature is shuts off, preventing the cold water line from filling with warm water. Once the pump shuts off you have nearly instant hot water at the tap.
Demand systems have more powerful pumps so that you get your water faster. Since demand pumps only run for a few seconds, they use very little power, typically about $1 – $2 dollars per year in electricity. Some demand hot water systems will work with tankless water heaters; it depends on whether the pump is powerful enough to turn on the heater.
Hot water on demand systems are manufactured by Metlund and Chilipepper Sales. Metlund has several models, and vary in price from about $350 to over $800. If you have a tankless heater you should make sure the pump you’ve chosen will operate the flow switch. The smaller models will not.
Chilipepper Sales manufactures only one model, the Chilipepper Model CP6000. The CP6000 has the most powerful pump on the market and will run any tankless water heater made. The CP6000 sells for about $180.
On demand hot water systems are the only ones that provide faster hot water without running water down the drain, and are energy efficient. These systems are truly green products and friendly to the environment. Fight the drought and feel good when you use your hot water, install a demand system in your home today!