Oct 13, 2015

Pumps: Hot Water Finds a Way

Hot water recirculation systems save homeowners water & money

With water shortages in many parts of the country, more homeowners than ever before are looking for domestic hot water solutions.

Larger homes mean longer waits for hot water at the faucet, requiring impatient Americans to—gasp—wait. And if there are two things that unite Americans, they are that we are becoming much more attuned to the need to preserve valuable natural resources and that we want to save money.

Fortunately, technology—and water quality professionals—have a solution.

Offering hot water recirculation is well within a water treatment professional’s basket. It avails greater reach within the home environment, and greater profitability, too. 

But before you call your wholesaler or representative, here is some quick insight into domestic hot water (DHW) recirculation technology that will help you sell and install intelligently.

You may be surprised to learn that:
• There are three types of DHW customers you are likely to encounter.
• The wait for hot water may be 18 times longer now than it was in the 1970s.
• Homeowners could fill a pool with the water they waste each year just waiting for hot water.
• DHW recirculation systems can help customers save significant amounts of money on water heating annually.
• Different DHW recirculation solutions work better for new construction, retrofits, and systems with or without cold water return lines.

It is common even for smaller homes to waste 12,000 to 14,000 gal of water each year simply by waiting for hot water at the tap or shower. Does your customer have teenagers? Or dogs? If so, the wasted gallons increase. Let’s look at two applications for a few further insights.

Case Study: Massachusetts

Massachusetts homeowner Lincoln Kaiser and his wife decided it was time to enlarge their home. The remodeling project added a second floor with four new rooms.

Because the new second-floor bathroom was so far from the water heater, the Kaisers asked their water quality specialist, Mike Casey, to address the need for DHW recirculation. Because their home was older, with trunk-and-branch plumbing piping, the Kaisers knew their wait for hot water in the new bathroom would be at least four to five minutes September through March. 

Being environmentally conscious, the Kaisers wanted to meet or exceed the state’s stringent “stretch building codes”—some of the nation’s most demanding energy efficiency requirements.

The solution was to install a dedicated return line to the water heater, with a smart recirculation system that sensed when sufficient hot water was in the plumbing lines, which also “learned” the family’s hot water usage.

The Kaisers have proclaimed the new system “the most noticeable enhancement to our quality of life,” and dubbed Casey their “hero.” They noted that this inexpensive improvement allows them to have instant hot water in the showers each morning.

“The advantages of hot water recirc are many,” Casey said. “Of course, it eliminates the wait time for hot water at showers and taps. It also saves energy. But—a surprise to many—it saves thousands of gallons of water each year.” 

Many homeowners not only pay for water as it enters the home and pay to heat it up, but they also pay for it to go down the drain into the municipal sewage system. Electrical consumption for hot water also can be reduced by up to 94% when compared with traditional, continuously run DHW recirculation pumps.

A new generation of smart recirculation system technology “learns” a family’s water use patterns and keeps hot water at the tap for use at a moment’s notice.

Case Study: Rhode Island

Water professional George Fantacone was working on a retrofit job in Rhode Island at about the same time the Kaisers were doing their remodel. “We do everything we can to shrink energy expenses while providing greater comfort, convenience and safety for homeowners,” Fantacone said. Both hot water recirculation and a tempering valve were high on the list for this job.

A 40-gal water heater was left in service, but its hot water output significantly improved with the addition of a 3/4-in. Taco 5000 Series mixing valve.

“We install mixing valves on all our indirect tanks, standard water heaters or where a point-of-use valve is required by code,” Fantacone said. “It’s a safe, simple way to temper water down for any reason. We install hundreds every year.”

By maintaining a 140°F tank temperature, Fantacone eliminated the threat of Legionella bacteria and increased the thermal capacity of the tank by up to 50%. The 40-gal tank with the mixing valve has the useful water volume equivalent of a 60-gal tank without a mixing valve. Despite the high tank temperatures, the mixing valve, set at 120°F, eliminates the risk of scalding.

The next step was adding a recirculation system. Fantacone’s customer was paying a lot for city water, and although she hated to waste water and energy while waiting for heated shower water, she said, “There was no way I was going to ‘camp out’ with cold shower water in my own home.”

The retrofit recirculation system was installed quickly using the cold water line as a return to the water heater.

Water, resources, dollars and time all can be effectively saved with technology that is easily installed and affordable—yet profitable, too.

 

About the author

John Vastyan, owner of Common Ground, is a journalist whose work focuses on the plumbing and mechanical, HVAC, geothermal and radiant heat industries. Vastyan can be reached at cground@ptd.net or 717.664.0535.

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