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4 Common Hot Water Recirculation System Problems And How To Fix Them 

Note: This post may contain affiliate links. This means that at no cost to you, we may receive a small commission for made purchases.

If you are constantly waiting for hot water to flow from your faucet, a hot water recirculation pump can help.

These devices also have other advantages, such as being easy to operate and reducing the amount of wasted water your household produces.

Despite these advantages, hot water recirculation pumps can encounter problems, which can be frustrating if you don’t know how to fix them.

If you already have or want to install these hot water pumps in the future, keep reading! 

You’ll find the most common issues you may encounter with hot water recirculation systems below, including methods of fixing them yourself. 

By the end of this article, you’ll have a greater understanding of how these circulation pumps work, common problems that can occur with the system, and how to solve these problems by yourself at home. 

What Are Hot Water Circulation Pumps?

Households that don’t use circulation pumps may have found that hot water takes time to flow from the spout.

The water will only heat up when warm water from a heater reaches the faucet.

Over time, a lot of water becomes wasted from waiting for the water to heat up.

Wasted water is bad for the environment and can cost you more overall.

You can solve these issues by installing a hot water recirculation pump (see also ‘Hot Water Recirculating Pump: What You Should Know‘).

These devices will let hot water continuously circulate through your pipes so that hot water can be used immediately when required.

Instead of waiting for the water to heat up, hot water will flow once the pipes are opened, rather than a few seconds later.

Here are some more advantages of installing a hot water recirculation system:

  • Convenient system
  • Reduce the amount of water that’s wasted
  • Simple to install in the home
  • Straightforward to use
  • Available in several different models

These devices may have their benefits, but like anything, it comes with their drawbacks. You might run into a few issues with the system, including:

  • Costs a lot of money
  • Uses a lot of energy
  • Contributes to heat loss
4 Common Hot Water Recirculation System Problems And How To Fix Them

Common Hot Water Recirculation System Issues

As is the case with any type of device, a hot water recirculation pump can run into problems.

For the most part, you won’t need to contact a plumber to fix these issues, as these are relatively simple to resolve by yourself.

The following problems are the four most common issues that can occur with a hot water recirculation system, including how you can fix these issues on your own.

Too Much Noise

There are reasons why you may choose to leave your hot water recirculation pump on continuously, for instance, if you don’t own a hot water circulation pump check valve. 

If it’s left running all the time, you’ll notice if the device starts producing too much noise. Here are a few reasons why a buzzing noise might occur:

  • The circulation system has air within
  • Wrong size pumps
  • Old or well-worn bearings
  • The system is blocked

If there is air inside the structure, you’ll need to bleed it out. If you don’t, the excess air can cause even more damage to the pump. 

The wrong size pumps can also be an issue. If your pump is too big, you’ll need to throttle the pressure-side valves.

Monitor the noise as you do so. The sounds will stop once the size is correct.

If your pump is too small, you’ll simply need to install a bigger pump. If you skip this, the system will become too hot to handle.

If your circulation pump becomes too hot, the pump’s size is probably the issue, so you’ll need to get a bigger one. 

If your system’s bearings are well-worn, the only solution is to replace the whole device.

A blocked system is easier to solve, as this just needs to be cleaned. 

Poor Flow Rate

A low flow rate is a common problem that you may run into with your hot water circulation system.

This usually is down to the motor within the pump, as they tend to be on the smaller size.

If your water heater is tankless, your recirculating pump’s motor might not be large enough to start it in the first place. 

You can solve this problem by ensuring that your pump and water heater are compatible with each other before you install them.

If it’s too late to do this and your motor can’t handle the pump, the only thing you’ll be able to do is to buy a new pump.

These pumps can cost a lot of money, so try to prevent this problem before it occurs. 

If you do want to uninstall the whole system, check the manufacturer’s guidelines before doing so.

You might find advice in the troubleshooting guide that might solve your problem. 

Keep in mind that if your water pressure lowers when using a recirculating pump, this may indicate the system is blocked. 

Decay & Corrosion 

Any system that uses water can run into corrosion issues, including hot water recirculation systems.

If water comes into contact with metal, corrosion is likely to occur.

Many updated plumbing pipes are now lined with plastic for this reason. However, this is usually not the case with circulation systems. 

If you have corrosion problems, you’ll need to contact a plumber for assistance.

It’s best to resolve this right away, as corrosion can cause more problems later, including:

4 Common Hot Water Recirculation System Problems And How To Fix Them
  • Water pollution
  • Poor water pressure
  • Spills and leaks
  • Fractures

These issues can cost a lot to fix later, so always contact a professional for assistance before the problem becomes too hard to handle. 

Wasted Energy

Hot water circulation pumps can waste energy, even if they are used frequently.

They usually switch on whenever the water within the pump becomes too cold.

This may occur when no one in the household is using water, for instance, at night, or while on vacation. 

If you notice that you have been using more energy than normal, the problem may lie within your recirculation system.

This may be due to a leak, or issues with the initial installation. Examine the whole system to find out what the problem might be.

If left unchecked, you may spend more on your utility bills, or let a serious issue become much worse. 

Common Reasons For Hot Water Recirculation System Issues

Hot water recirculation problems can occur for many reasons. The most common ones include:

  • Water speeds over 2fps
  • Circulating pumps that are too big
  • Distribution lines that aren’t big enough
  • Sudden alterations to the fitting direction
  • Joint issues
  • Incapable of flushing waste out
  • Irregular maintenance
  • Incorrectly balancing throttling valves

You should also aim to keep water flowing at the best temperature, which is roughly 140°F.

If the temperature goes over this, there’s a greater chance of corrosion occurring.

Corrosion can happen inside colder pipes, but it’s much more likely to happen inside hotter ones. 

Hot Water Recirculation Pump Failure Indications

Noticing any failure signs and acting quickly is the best way to stop circulation system problems from becoming worse.

Prevention is the best way to ensure your unit is kept in its best condition. Here are a few signs that your recirculation pump is failing:

  • Hot water doesn’t flow instantly
  • Hot water inside the cold pipes
  • Pumps producing a cracking sound
  • Water leaking from the walls or spills around the pump

All of these issues are indications of problems with your recirculation pump.

If you notice any of these, contact a plumber for assistance. They will be able to identify what the problem is and fix it safely.

4 Common Hot Water Recirculation System Problems And How To Fix Them

The Bottom Line

A hot water recirculation system is one of the best investments for a household.

You’ll be able to access hot water whenever you need it. This wastes a lot less water, which is better for the environment and your wallet.

Despite these advantages, like any system, you may run into problems with your recirculation system from time to time.

If you notice any issues, it’s best to solve them as soon as you can. Leaving the problem to fester can lead to the damage worsening over time.

You might encounter water damage, corrosion, and burst pipes, which can cost a lot more to fix. 

Plumbing issues are serious, but some issues may be basic enough to fix at home.

The guidance above should be able to help you solve some of the most common problems that may occur with a hot water recirculation system.

If the issue is more complex, or you aren’t confident in your abilities, don’t hesitate to contact a plumber for assistance. 

Waiting for hot water to flow from the faucet may not seem like a huge issue, but if you have a recirculation pump installed, this may be indicative of a greater problem.

Always try to solve these as soon as possible, this will prevent further issues from occurring within your household. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Do All Hot Water Recirculating Pumps Run All The Time?

The recirculation system can run continuously, but it won’t do this all the time.

Many recirculation pumps are equipped with timers that manage their operation.

A sensor will test how hot the water is inside the pipe, so the recirculation pump only runs if the water isn’t hot enough. 

How Long Is A Hot Water Recirculating Pump’s Lifespan?

Most recirculating pumps will last anywhere from 10-15 years, though this will depend on the brand and make that you buy.

Factors that affect its lifespan are the total amount of water used and the model’s quality.

author avatar
Anthony Barnes
Anthony Barnes is the founder of Water Heater Hub and a second-generation plumber by profession. Before developing Water Heater Hub, Anthony Barnes was a full-time plumber, and he has undertaken a wide variety of projects over the decades. As a second-generation plumber, it was easy for Anthony to get used to the technicalities of all from a tender age


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