What You Need to Know About Hot Water Recirculating Systems


Shower Head – Seattle, WA – Quality Plumbing


No matter how high your water heater is turned up, the hot water can take a while to reach your farthest bathroom and may lose quite a bit of heat along the way. When searching for solutions to this inconvenience, you may come across the idea of a hot water recirculating pump and loop system.


Although they’re not for everyone, hot water recirculating loops can be very convenient and can even be modified to be eco-friendly. Here’s what you need to know about hot water recirculation systems.


Recirculation Systems Save Time and Increase Convenience



A hot water recirculation system typically consists of a long loop of pipe throughout your house with a pump to cycle hot water through it. This can be a great way to solve the problem of waiting for your water to get hot.


If your water takes a couple of minutes to get hot in the bathroom even though other rooms don’t take so long, the distance from the water heater is the likely cause. A recirculation loop cycles hot water on a regular basis so you always have hot water ready in the bathroom. This can be a huge time saver if you normally spend several minutes per day waiting for hot water.


Recirculation Loops Typically Use Less Water but More Energy


Sometimes, a recirculation loop is marketed as more eco-friendly because you don’t have to run the water for an extra minute or two when trying to get hot water to come out. This can save a lot of water over time. However, because of heat loss from the pipes (and energy used by the pump), a typical recirculation system will offset the water savings with increased energy usage.


Recirculation Loops Require Good Insulation


Since one of the ways a recirculating loop can lose energy is via heat loss, pipe insulation is a must. It won’t completely keep your pipes from losing heat but will slow the process down to reduce the expense.


Insulating any pipes with hot water running through them is generally a good practice, but insulation is even more important in this instance. Since hot water is constantly circulating through these pipes, they have more potential for heat loss.


Recirculation Systems Can Be Modified to Use Less Energy


Instead of an entire recirculation loop, you can install a modified system such as an on-demand circulation system (not to be confused with an on-demand water heater). This type of system doesn’t constantly cycle hot water through your house, so it doesn’t waste energy while you’re not using it.


Instead, this modified system brings hot water to the fixture at the push of a button without having to run the cold water down the drain while waiting. This solves the original problem of wasting water and time but without using as much energy.


Recirculation Loops Aren’t Needed With a Compact Plumbing System


If you’re designing a new home or addition right now, you can sidestep the need for a recirculation function by simply using compact plumbing design. You can either keep all your plumbing fixtures and appliances very close to your water heater or have separate clusters with separate water heaters.


For instance, you could cluster your kitchen and laundry room around the main water heater. You could then install a smaller point-of-use on-demand water heater for a bathroom that’s several rooms or floors away from the main water heater. This allows you to avoid running hot water pipes all the way across the house.


As you can see, a hot water recirculation system can be the answer to a plumbing design that uses the same water heater to supply every far-flung bathroom. And although not every recirculation system is as eco-friendly as you may have heard, you can ensure that yours is eco-friendly by choosing an on-demand pump and ensuring all your pipes are well insulated.


For more information on pipe insulation, hot water recirculating loops, or even installing a secondary hot water heater for on-demand hot water, get in touch with Quality Plumbing today. Our expertise ranges from plumbing repair and services to hot water heater care, troubleshooting, and replacement.