Most of us don’t like to wait for things, and hot water is no exception.

In many homes, waiting for hot water to arrive can sometimes feel like an afternoon at the DMV. You might wait so long that you start wondering whether the water heater quit working! And we all know the wait is even longer in winter.

Well, there is a way to get hot water right away, anytime you want it. No waiting. Ever.

And the way to get it might not be what you’re thinking. That’s because…

Not all tankless water heaters provide instant hot water

For some reason, a lot of people think tankless = instant hot water. That’s not true.

Tankless water heaters are beneficial in a lot of ways. They take up less space than water heater tanks and use much less energy than conventional water heaters. Unlike typical tank units, they also never run out of hot water.

With a tank, you’ll always be limited to the water in the tank. Not so with tankless water heaters. They heat water as it enters your home, so there’s no limit to how much water you can heat.

But that doesn’t mean tankless water heaters provide instant hot water. Most units don’t.

Endless hot water? Absolutely. But not instant. You’ll still have to wait for your hot water with a typical tankless unit.

Recirculation pumps do provide instant hot water

Ok, so you don’t care about endless hot water so much as instant hot water. You want the water to be hot right after you twist that red-labeled handle.

To achieve this, you need a recirculation pump for your water heater.

Recirculation pumps ensure that your water is always hot from the moment you open the hot water side of your tap. They’ll work no matter what type of water heater you have, providing reliable hot water goodness without the wait.

Even tankless hot water heaters are compatible with recirculation pumps! Some new tankless models come with recirculation pumps built-in.

How do recirculation pumps work?

Recirculation pumps are simple machines. You might even say the function is evident in the name.

To understand how they work, it’s a good idea to review how hot water gets to your faucets under normal conditions. Any time you turn on the hot water today, you have to wait for it to get hot. That’s because the water that initially comes out of the faucet has been sitting inside your pipes since the last time you ran the water. If it was ever hot, all or most of the heat has been lost.

That’s why you’re always waiting for hot water. Before the hot water can reach your faucet, you have to wait for all of the cooled-off water to cycle through.

Not so if you have a recirculation pump! With a recirculation pump, or circulator pump, you continuously pump hot water directly from the tank through your pipes via a loop. The loop passes right under your faucets and shower heads. Instead of the hot water sitting in your pipes and cooling off, it cycles through your pipes and back into the tank over and over again before it can lose heat.

When you turn on your hot water tap, the hot water is already right there. It’s still hot, so you don’t have to wait for it to arrive.

Basic mechanics of recirculation pumps

When you install one of these pumps it lives at one end of the water heater. The pump continuously cycles hot water through a loop leading back to the water heater.

There are different ways to install these pumps. One option is to place the pump at the water heater with a dedicated return loop that continuously cycles water. Alternatively, you might keep the pump near the faucet itself. The third type of installation involves installing the pump near the water heater but including a bypass valve near the furthest faucet. Either way, you’ll get instant hot water.

That’s really it! Recirculation pumps are pretty straightforward devices.

During retrofits of plumbing systems in existing homes, there may not be a water loop for us to work with. When that’s the case, we will install crossover valves below every faucet or fixture.

These crossover valves allow us to form a loop that runs beneath every sink or shower fixture so that the hot water can always be close.

Benefits of recirculation pumps

Benefits include:

  • Not having to wait for hot water
  • Not wasting water while you wait for hot water
  • The ability to control when the pumps are running

That last one has to do with timing. Many people don’t want the pumps to run (and consume energy) during the night or when nobody is home, so they add a timer to the pump. The timer ensures that the pump only operates at certain times of day.

Downsides of recirculation pumps

There really aren’t any big ones. In some installations, your cold water might be a little bit warm when you first turn it on. This typically goes away in just a few seconds and the water is cold again.

Compared to waiting well over a minute for hot water every time you need it, this little “downside” is negligible. Most people aren’t really bothered by it and love having instant hot water.

Recirculation pumps will increase your energy consumption, but you can mitigate this by adding a timer. With timed recirculation, you will only pay for instant hot water when you really need it.

Do you want instant hot water at your Atlanta home?

We can help with that! At PV Heating, Cooling & Plumbing, our team can install the circulator pump, extra piping, and/or crossover valves you need to enjoy instant hot water.

Contact us today to learn more or get an estimate for recirculation pumps at your home!

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