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Hot Water Recirculating Pump: Efficient Home Solution for Instant Hot Water

A hot water recirculating pump is an innovative device designed to provide instant hot water at every faucet and shower in a home. This pump connects to your water heater and circulates hot water throughout the plumbing system, eliminating the need to wait for water to heat up at each fixture.

Hot water recirculating pumps operate by moving hot water from the water heater to the farthest plumbing fixtures and back again. This ensures that hot water is constantly available at every faucet when needed. Installation is typically easy, requiring no additional piping, and these pumps offer a quiet, maintenance-free operation.

Key Takeaways

  • Hot water recirculating pumps provide instant hot water at every faucet, reducing waiting time and water waste.
  • They are easy to install and maintain, offering a quiet operation and compatibility with most water systems.
  • Choosing the right pump can lead to increased energy efficiency and long-term cost savings.

Understanding Hot Water Recirculating Pumps

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A hot water recirculating pump is a device that attaches to your water heater and circulates hot water throughout your pipes. This ensures that hot water is readily available at the faucet, reducing wait time and saving water. They are affordable solutions that can help homeowners save money on energy and water bills [1].

These pumps work by moving hot water through a recirculation line, which is a separate water pipe that runs off the hot-water line from the farthest plumbing fixture back to the water heater. Any cold water in the recirculation line is returned to the heater [2]. The speed at which water is circulated depends on the size of the pump, with a typical circulation rate of 12 to 15 gallons per minute [3].

Hot water recirculating pumps are especially beneficial for those who value quick access to hot water and want to minimize the waste of water due to long wait times. Some of the key advantages of using a hot water recirculating pump include:

  • Energy efficiency: By reducing the amount of water wasted while waiting for hot water, these pumps help in conserving energy required to heat the water.
  • Convenience: Hot water is readily available at all faucets, eliminating the wait time for the desired temperature.
  • Water conservation: As water is recirculated rather than discarded, it helps to save water and contributes to environmental sustainability.

When considering the installation of a hot water recirculating pump, it’s important to evaluate the specific needs of your household and consult with a professional plumber. This will ensure that the right size pump is selected, ultimately benefiting both comfort and water efficiency.


The Mechanics of a Hot Water Recirculating Pump

The Pump

A hot water recirculating pump is a device installed in a home’s plumbing system to ensure that hot water is readily available at faucets and showers. It works by constantly circulating hot water through the pipes, so that when a homeowner turns on a tap or shower, hot water is immediately available. These pumps are often used in larger homes where the wait time for hot water would otherwise be too long. The pumps typically come with a small motor and are designed for efficiency and energy conservation. One common issue with these pumps is a low flow rate, mainly caused by the small motor size, which could be problematic for tankless water heaters (Plumbertip).

Recirculating System

The recirculating system operates on a simple principle: a pump installed in the plumbing lines creates a loop that slowly and constantly circulates the water in the hot water pipes back into the water heater for reheating (The Spruce). These systems can either work with an additional plumbing line to send unused water back to the heater after it drops below a set temperature or can use existing cold water pipes to return the unused heated water (Family Handyman). New constructions commonly use the first type, while retrofits can accommodate the second.

Hot Water Line and Cold Water Line

In a hot water recirculating system, the pump sends hot water from the water heater through the hot water line, circulating it through the home’s plumbing. When a faucet or shower is turned on, the hot water is already in the line and readily available. For systems that use the existing cold water pipes, the unused hot water is sent back to the water heater through the cold water line, conserving water and energy in the process. In systems with a dedicated return line, the hot water flows through a separate loop exclusively designed for hot water recirculation (Legacy Plumbing). Both types of systems help to minimize water waste and energy consumption, while providing efficient and immediate access to hot water for the homeowner.


Installation and Control of a Hot Water Recirculating Pump

Sensor Valve

A key component in a hot water recirculating system is the sensor valve. This valve is typically installed near a fixture, such as a sink, where a user would want instant hot water. The sensor valve helps control the flow of water through the recirculation line and ensures cold water is returned to the water heater. To install a sensor valve, you should follow the manufacturer’s guidelines and recommendations. Usually, this involves attaching the valve to the hot and cold water lines with adapters and mounting screws provided.

Check Valve

Another important element in a hot water recirculating pump system is the check valve. This valve ensures that the hot water only flows in one direction through the recirculation line, preventing any mixing of hot and cold water. Installing a check valve typically involves connecting it to the pump and the hot water line according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Proper installation of the check valve is crucial for maintaining the efficiency and integrity of your hot water recirculating system.


To ensure optimal performance and energy efficiency, it’s essential to have control over the hot water recirculating pump. This can be achieved with the help of various control methods, such as timers, thermostats, or smart controls. A timer allows users to program the pump to run during specified hours when hot water usage is highest in the household. An aqua-stat, in turn, regulates the pump based on the water temperature, activating it when the hot water cools below a certain point. With the advent of smart technology, you can also control the pump remotely through Wi-Fi-enabled devices and smartphone apps. By implementing a control method that best suits your household’s needs, you can benefit from a consistent supply of hot water while minimizing energy consumption.


Benefits of Hot Water Recirculating Pumps

Instant Hot Water

One of the primary benefits of hot water recirculating pumps is that they provide instant hot water to all the faucets in your home. This means no more waiting for the water to heat up every time you take a shower, wash your hands, or do the dishes. These systems pump hot water through the piping system, ensuring a constant supply of warm water when you need it.

Energy and Time Saving

Hot water recirculating pumps are not only convenient but also energy-efficient, saving time and money. By eliminating the need to run water until it gets warm, you significantly reduce the amount of energy required to heat the water. This, in turn, leads to lower utility bills. Additionally, with instant hot water at your disposal, you save valuable time that would otherwise be spent waiting for the water to heat up.

Water Conservation

Water conservation is crucial, and hot water recirculating pumps contribute to reducing water waste. An average family of four can expect to save $50-$75 a year on water costs by using a hot water recirculating pump. This is because the system prevents the need to run tap water until it reaches the desired temperature, ultimately reducing the amount of water wasted. Using such a pump is an environmentally friendly choice, as it helps conserve water resources and reduce the overall impact on the environment.


Potential Issues with Hot Water Recirculating Pumps


Leaks can be a common issue with hot water recirculating pumps. These can occur in various parts of the system, such as the pipes, connections, or the pump itself. A leaking pump not only wastes water but can also lead to damage in the surrounding area. To prevent leaks, it is essential to properly maintain the pump system and regularly check for signs of wear or corrosion.

Issues with Timers

Another potential issue with hot water recirculating pumps is related to the timers that control when the pump operates. Timers are often used to schedule the pump’s operation during specific hours to save energy and prevent unnecessary heat loss. However, if the timer malfunctions or is incorrectly set, it can lead to inefficiencies, wasted energy, and even cold water when hot water is desired. Ensuring the timer is functioning properly and adjusting it as needed is crucial to maintaining an efficient hot water recirculation system.

Inefficiency in Large Buildings

Hot water recirculation pumps can sometimes be less efficient in large buildings with extensive plumbing systems. As hot water travels through the pipes, heat loss can occur, especially over significant distances. This can lead to increased energy consumption and a slower delivery of hot water to the faucet. In some cases, multiple pumps or specially designed recirculation systems may be necessary to address the inefficiencies in large buildings. Proper insulation of the pipes and regular maintenance can also help to reduce heat loss and improve the system’s overall effectiveness.


Choosing the Right Hot Water Recirculating Pump

Consider Your Plumbing System

When selecting a hot water recirculating pump, it is essential to consider your plumbing system. Some pumps are designed for specific types of plumbing systems, and choosing the right one can improve their efficiency and performance. Determine whether your home has a dedicated return line or not, as this will affect the type of pump you need.

Comfort System or Full Recirculating System

There are two main types of hot water recirculating pumps: comfort systems and full recirculating systems. A comfort system is a simpler, more affordable option that provides hot water to your faucet quickly by using an additional water line or a crossover valve. These systems are perfect for homes without a dedicated return line.

On the other hand, a full recirculating system, also known as a dedicated system, requires a dedicated return line, connecting the furthest fixture from the heater back to the heater. These systems are often found in new construction or larger homes, and they provide more efficient hot water circulation.

New Construction or Existing Plumbing

Choosing the right hot water recirculating pump also depends on whether you have new construction or existing plumbing. Upgrading an existing plumbing system can be more challenging and costly, as it may involve installing additional plumbing lines. In contrast, incorporating a recirculating system in the planning phase of new construction allows for easy installation and better integration with your home’s design.

In conclusion, when selecting a hot water recirculating pump, consider your plumbing system, the type of recirculating system that suits your needs, and whether you have new construction or existing plumbing. Keeping these factors in mind, you can choose the most suitable recirculating pump for your home, ensuring efficient distribution and conservation of hot water.


Cost Analysis: Is a Hot Water Recirculating Pump Worth It?

Energy Costs

A hot water recirculating pump consumes energy to keep the water in the pipes consistently heated. However, the energy consumption is usually minimal. These pumps are designed to be energy-efficient, ensuring that they work only when needed. The energy costs associated with running a hot water recirculating pump are generally quite low, which makes it a reasonable investment for homeowners concerned about their utility bills.

Potential Savings

Installing a hot water recirculating pump can lead to significant savings on water bills. On average, a family of four can expect to save $50-$75 a year on water costs. For larger families, the investment in a recirculating pump can pay for itself within just two years. Additionally, these pumps can save homeowners $50 per year on their energy bills, making it a cost-efficient solution for households aiming to reduce their ecological footprint.

Losses due to Leaks

While hot water recirculating pumps can bring about substantial savings, they are not immune to potential issues. One such concern is the possibility of water leaks in the system. If leaks occur, the pump’s efficiency can be compromised, leading to water and energy waste. Homeowners should be aware of this risk and be prepared to address any leaks promptly to ensure the continued efficiency and effectiveness of their hot water recirculating pump. Regular inspection and maintenance can help mitigate this risk and protect the homeowner’s investment.


Professional Installation Vs DIY

Pros and Cons of DIY

Installing a hot water recirculating pump can be a DIY project for those with basic plumbing knowledge and the right tools. The benefits of doing it yourself include cost savings and the satisfaction of completing a home improvement project. However, there are potential drawbacks, such as the risk of improper installation or damage to your plumbing system. DIY installation may also void any warranties provided by the pump manufacturer.

When installing a hot water recirculating pump yourself, it’s crucial to follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully. This Old House provides a helpful video and instructions on installing a recirculating pump. Also, consider that some systems, like the Watts Hot Water Recirculating Pump, are designed for easy installation in existing homes where running a new recirculation pipe might be difficult.

When to Call a Plumber

There are situations where hiring a plumber is the best choice for installing a hot water recirculating pump. If you have limited plumbing experience or lack the necessary tools, it’s safer to have a professional handle the installation. Additionally, if your home has multiple fixtures or a complex plumbing system, a plumber can help ensure proper setup and connections, minimizing the risk of future problems.

A plumber can also provide guidance on which type of recirculating pump is best suited for your specific needs. For example, some pumps require an additional plumbing line, while others utilize existing cold water pipes. By enlisting a plumbing professional, you can have peace of mind that your hot water recirculating pump is installed correctly and efficiently.


Hot water recirculating pumps have become an increasingly popular solution for homeowners seeking to save time and money related to their hot water usage. These systems work by keeping the hot water constantly circulating within the pipes, ensuring that hot water is available on demand.

One of the primary advantages of installing a hot water recirculating system is the reduction of water waste. The average household in the United States wastes 11,461 gallons of water each year while waiting for the water to heat up. By eliminating that waiting time, homeowners can considerably reduce their water consumption and ultimately save money on their utility bills.

In addition to the cost savings, recirculating pumps can also save time. This is particularly beneficial for those with large households or homes with multiple stories, as the wait for hot water can become notably longer. By providing instant hot water at the tap, these systems can improve the daily routines of homeowners and their families.

Keep in mind, however, that the efficiency of hot water recirculating systems can depend on several factors such as the climate, size of the home, and the specific needs of the household. Homeowners should thoroughly research and consider their options when determining whether a recirculating pump will be a worthwhile investment in their particular situation.

In summary, hot water recirculating pumps offer numerous benefits, including reduced water waste, time savings, and monetary advantages for homeowners. These systems can be a significant enhancement to any home but should be carefully considered on a case-by-case basis to ensure their effectiveness and relevance to the homeowner’s specific needs.


Frequently Asked Questions

How to choose the best hot water recirculating pump?

When selecting a hot water recirculating pump, consider factors such as the size of your pipes, compatibility with your existing plumbing system, and the device’s flow rate. Additional features such as a timer or an on-demand activation system may also be important for your specific needs. Always consult a professional plumber and research different brands for quality and efficiency.

What are the pros and cons of a hot water recirculating pump?

Hot water recirculating pumps offer several advantages, including immediate access to hot water, reduced water waste, and potential energy savings. However, they come with some disadvantages as well. The installation may require professional assistance, and the pump and accompanying components can be expensive. Moreover, while some pumps can save energy, others may consume more electricity, especially if they continuously circulate water.

How much does it cost to install a hot water recirculating pump?

The cost of installing a hot water recirculating pump varies based on the complexity of the system, the type of pump, and labor fees for professional installation. A simple system may cost a few hundred dollars, while more complex setups can exceed a thousand dollars. It’s essential to get quotes from multiple plumbers to ensure you’re getting a fair price.

Are smart hot water recirculating pumps more efficient?

Smart hot water recirculating pumps can offer increased efficiency through features such as on-demand activation, temperature control, and integration with home automation systems. These features allow users to customize the pump’s operation, potentially reducing energy consumption and lowering utility bills.

Does a hot water recirculating pump with timer save energy?

A hot water recirculating pump with a timer can save energy by allowing you to schedule when the pump activates and circulates water, ensuring that hot water is only circulated when you need it. Timers can be set for peak usage times to minimize energy consumption and prevent unnecessary wear on the pump.

Can a hot water recirculating pump be combined with a water softener?

Yes, a hot water recirculating pump can be combined with a water softener. The water softener treats the water before it enters the recirculation system, reducing the buildup of minerals and impurities throughout your plumbing system. Integrating these systems can help extend the life of your pipes and appliances while also providing continuous hot water access.

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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