a closeup of a water recirculation pump with a black background and water running to and from both ends of it

A hot water recirculation pump is an excellent investment to reduce household expenses. Not only will you save water, but you’ll also cut down your energy bill since you won’t have to wait as long for hot water to reach your fixtures. But what exactly is a hot water recirculation pump?

A hot water recirculation pump is a device that instantly circulates hot water from the water heater. A timer or a thermostat operates the pump, which distributes the water in the system and maintains the water temperature at a set point.

In this article, I’ll help you understand how a hot water recirculation pump works, its benefits, and where you should install it. I’ll also give you a step-by-step guide on how to install a water heater recirculating pump.

What Is a Hot Water Recirculation Pump?

A hot water recirculation pump is a device that moves hot water to the faucets in your home without a storage tank.

The pump is installed on the main water line and has a timer that turns the pump on and off as needed. Some models use a thermostat, so the hot water recirculation pump only runs when the water is cold.

a white hot water recirculation pump attached to an undersink piece of wood, showing the plumbing running to it

How Do You Recirculate Hot Water in a House?

You can recirculate water in a house through a process known as a “hot water loop.” You can create a hot water loop by installing a small pump in the water line that runs to the hot water tank. The pump circulates the water in the line and keeps the hot water at the top of the tank where it’s used.

A timer usually controls the pump, so it only runs when necessary. However, some pumps can run continuously, which can drive up your energy consumption if you’re not careful.

Do Hot Water Recirculation Pumps Work?

Hot water recirculation pumps do work.

The pump kicks into action when your water temperature falls below a certain level. Since they allow you to use hot water immediately, hot water recirculating pumps can significantly reduce water consumption.

A hot water recirculation pump sends hot water via a dedicated return line or the existing cold water line throughout your house. Consult a plumber or a similar expert if you need help deciding which line to use.

How Much Does a Hot Water Recirculation Pump Cost To Install?

A hot water recirculation pump costs between $200 and $800 to install. The price depends on factors such as the type of pump you choose, the pump’s size, and the installation’s complexity.

Let’s look at these factors in more detail.

  • Type of hot water recirculation pump: You can choose from two hot water recirculation pumps: electric and non-electric. Electric recirculating pumps are more expensive to install than non-electric recirculating pumps. The former also consumes more energy than the latter, though it’s also easier to use.
  • Size of the recirculating pump: The size will determine the flow rate and the amount of hot water that can circulate. The larger the recirculating pump, the costlier it will be to install.
  • The complexity of the installation: The further the recirculating pump is to the plumbing fixtures, the more installation will cost.
  • The installation of additional pipes: I should note that these may not be essential since you’ll often use the existing cold water line over the dedicated return line.

Since hot water recirculation pumps require heaters, you may be interested in this article on how much tankless water heaters cost.

A low-flow showerhead in a shower dispensing water
You can reduce your household water usage with a hot water recirculation pump.

Where Should a Recirculating Pump Be Installed?

The recirculating pump should go close to the water heater. The closer the pump is to the heater, the faster and more efficiently the water will circulate through the system.

In some cases, the recirculating pump may also be installed near the areas they’re most likely to be used, such as the bathroom and kitchen sink. This is usually the case if the house’s water system only uses the existing cold water line.

According to research by Energy Solutions, circulator pumps that run continuously consume as much electricity as two standard refrigerators and increase the energy required to heat water by 50 percent.

On the other hand, if you have a circulator pump designed to operate on a timed basis, you only need to turn it on for a specific period each day. These circulator pumps are typically used in smaller homes or apartments.

How Long Do Recirculating Pumps Last?

Recirculating pumps usually last between five and 10 years.

Some pumps have been known to last for 20 years. You can maximize the lifespan of a recirculating pump by performing regular maintenance and keeping an eye out for any potential problems.

The lifespan of a recirculating pump is directly related to the quality of its parts and the environment in which it operates.

A man maintains a hot water recirculation pump
Maintaining a hot water recirculation pump can increase its lifespan.

A properly installed and maintained pump can last many years, while a neglected pump will have a much shorter lifespan.

For example, suppose your water heats less than it used to. In that case, that’s a good indicator that you need to give your recirculating pump a second look.

How Much Electricity Does a Recirculating Pump Use?

A typical recirculating pump uses about 80 watts of electricity per hour. This means a recirculating pump uses 1,920 watts per day or 57,600 watts per month. Your recirculating pump will account for about 10 percent of your total electricity usage.

The amount of electricity a recirculating pump uses depends on several factors, including the pump’s size, efficiency, and the length of the loop the pump is circulating. The greater the size of the pump, the greater the energy consumption.

You can also save electricity by using the right kind of water heater. To know which water heater suits your needs best, read this article.

Do Circulator Pumps Run All the Time?

Circulator pumps run all the time if they’re designed to run continuously. These pumps are typically used in larger homes or commercial buildings. However, some circulator pumps operate on a timed basis.

In other words, the type of circulator pump you have will determine how often it needs to be run.

Can I Turn Off My Hot Water Recirculation Pump?

Since the pipes are insulated, you can turn off your hot water recirculation pump. This means you don’t need to worry about your hot water pipes losing heat if you turn off your recirculating pump.

Also, turn off your recirculating pump when you know you won’t be using hot water for an extended time (e.g., if you’re going on vacation for a week or two). This way, you can keep your energy bills in check.

How Do I Install a Hot Water Heater Recirculation Pump?

Here are the steps to install a hot water heater recirculation pump in your home.

Switch Off the Water Heater Breaker

Locate the correct breaker to the water heater and flip the breaker to the “off” position.

This will cut power to the water heater, preventing it from operating and keeping you safe while you install the pump.

If you’re unsure where the switch is or can’t find it, you can always shut off the power to the house at the main breaker. This will shut off all power to the water heater and everything else in the home, so be sure you know how to turn the power back on before you flip the switch.

Also, let everyone in the house know that you’ll be shutting off power at a specific time.

Turn Off the Water Valve

First, locate the water valve. This is usually above the water heater.

Once you’ve found the valve, turn it to the “off” position. If the handle is hard to turn, you may need a wrench.

If using a wrench, ensure you exert enough force to turn the handle without breaking it off.

A man wearing a light blue shirt, dark blue hat, and dark blue overalls looks at a white hot water recirculation pump
Make sure you turn off the water valves before installing a hot water recirculation pump!

Drain Hot Water From Fixtures and the Water Heater

To drain the hot water in your house:

  1. Find the lowest fixture in the house and turn on the hot water.
  2. Allow all the hot water in the house to drain.
  3. Connect to the drainage spigot on the water heater.
  4. Open the valve and allow the water to drain to a sink utility.
  5. Once you’re done draining, use the flat-head screwdriver to close the valve.

Disconnect the Hot Water Pipe From the Water Heater

Use a wrench to loosen the pipe fitting at the heater. Once the fitting is loose, you can unscrew the pipe from the heater.

Be careful not to damage the pipe or the fitting as you disconnect them.

Connect the Pump to the Hot Water Outlet Threaded Nipple

To connect the pump to the hot water outlet threaded nipple:

  1. Choose the right kind of copper tee. If your recirculation pump has a 3/4-inch (1.91-centimeter) hose barb outlet, use a 3/4-inch (1.91-centimeter) copper tee. If your recirculation pump has a one-inch (2.54-centimeter) hose barb outlet, use a one-inch (2.54-centimeter) copper tee.
  2. Attach the tee to the hot water outlet threaded nipple. Use Teflon tape and two wrenches to get it tight.
  3. Attach the recirculation pump to the tee. Make sure the pump is always below the water level in the tank.

Link the Hot Water Line With the Pump and Turn the Water On

Connect the hot water line to the pump with a wrench. Use Teflon tape to ensure the connection doesn’t leak.

Next, turn on the water to the water heater and run a plumbing fixture in your house until all air is removed from the house piping system.

Install the Sensor Valve

The purpose of the sensor valve is to help your hot water recirculation pump do its work. Specifically, the valve detects temperature changes that warrant hot water use.

To install the sensor valve:

  1. Locate the flex line where you will install the valve. The flex line should be between the water supply and the fixtures or appliances where you want to control water flow.
  2. Cut the flex line at the desired location for the valve. Use a sharp knife or cutter so the line is cleanly cut and there are no jagged edges.
  3. Once the flex line is cut, wrap the threads of the valve with Teflon tape and screw it to the flex line. Ensure you use the wrench to tighten the nut that secures the valve to the flex line.

Note: If you have a larger house, you may need to install more than one sensor valve.

Turn On the Water Supply to the Flex Line

After you’ve finished the installation, turn on the water heater breaker and open the water supply to the flex line to test out the new hot water recirculation pump.

Check if it runs at a comfortable temperature. Watch out for concerning issues like leaks or strange sounds.

Do Circulation Pumps Push or Pull?

Circulation pumps both push and pull.

The pumps pull water into them through their inlet and push water out via their outlet. You can check the flow direction using an arrow on the pump’s casing.

In a closed-loop system, circulator pumps are designed to transfer water or other fluids. They are commonly used to circulate hot or cold water through a piping system in HVAC systems.

In addition, circulator pumps are featured in hydronic heating systems to circulate water and other fluids through the pipework.

Do Circulator Pumps Go on Supply or Return?

Circulator pumps usually go on the return side of the system after the last heat exchanger. This is because the temperature of the water in the return line is cooler than the water in the supply line, and the circulator pump is designed to operate at a specific temperature range.

If the circulator pump is installed on the supply side of the system, the water in the supply line will be too hot for the pump, and it will not work correctly.

Does the Circulating Pump Go on Flow or Return?

Circulating pumps go on the flow side since they are responsible for supplying water. Therefore, circulating pumps will always function well when placed in the flow.

However, in the return line, they might not work correctly and cause difficulties.

How Can I Make My Hot Water Faster?

You can make your hot water faster by insulating your pipes. You can also check the system’s pressure and ensure it’s not too low.

Of course, you can always consult a professional if you have questions about making your hot water faster.

How To Insulate Your Pipes

Foam pipe sleeves are an easy and inexpensive way to insulate your pipes and make your hot water faster.

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to insulate your water supply pipes using foam pipe sleeves.

  1. Measure the length of your pipe. You need one foam pipe sleeve for each foot of the pipe.
  2. Cut the foam pipe sleeves to the appropriate length.
  3. Slip the foam pipe sleeve over the pipe.
  4. Secure the foam pipe sleeve in place with tape.
  5. Repeat for all of the water supply pipes in your home.

The video below shows how to insulate your pipes using foam pipe sleeves.

Is a Recirculation Pump Worth It?

A recirculation pump is worth it. When you don’t have a hot water recirculation pump, your pipes can cool off, and you’ll have to wait for the hot water to reach your fixtures. This wasted water can add up over time and increase your water bill.

Where Do You Buy Hot Water Recirculation Pumps Anyway?

The good news is that these units generally aren’t that big. This means that retailers won’t pay a ton for free shipping, and it opens them up to be able to sell online. I took a look at my local Home Depot and Lowes (affiliate links to hot water recirculation pumps they offer), and they actually didn’t have many in stock locally.

Walmart seems to have a good selection, and so does SupplyHouse.com. You can also find them at your local plumbing supply house or other smaller online plumbing supply stores.

For Amazon, here are the 5 bestselling hot water recirculation pumps currently listed, so you can get a good idea for prices and options:

Bestseller No. 1
Watts Premier Instant Hot Water Recirculating Pump System with Built-In Timer 6' X 6'
4,497 Reviews
Watts Premier Instant Hot Water Recirculating Pump System with Built-In Timer 6" X 6"
  • Kit includes a pump with timer with 10' cord, 2 adapters with rubber washers, valve mounting screws, sensor valve, and two 12-inch supply lines
  • Voltage: 120 volts, Item Weight: 8.5 pounds. Overall Dimension: 6.2 x 6 x 5 inches
  • Provides hot water at every faucet or shower when needed and helps eliminate wasted water
  • Easily installs to existing plumbing and is maintenance-free
  • 24-hour programmable timer activates pump when you need it
SaleBestseller No. 2
PROZRTED Smart Instant Hot Water Recirculating Pump System 3 speed with Bulit-in Thermostat HBS24-12
276 Reviews
PROZRTED Smart Instant Hot Water Recirculating Pump System 3 speed with Bulit-in Thermostat HBS24-12
  • Smart Pump: Three modes are available. Smart mode: Instant hot water always available. Energy-saving mode: If you don't use the hot water for some time, the pump will decrease the temperature setting point automatically. Manual mode: the most energy saving mode, just start the pump few minutes before you need the hot water. 3 running speed. Smart memory function. The pump can remember the last settings when it was powered off. Work well with the smart plug.
  • Can work with tank less and tanked water heater. Super energy saving application recommendation: Set the pump in “manual mode”. Start the pump by push remote control middle button. The pipe water will reach the setting temperature in few minutes. And then the pump will shut off in 60 minutes. There will be no 60 minutes extension if you start the pump by the pump “HAND” button. Care your water heater (Longer life no more frequent start). Save gas, save water.
  • Advanced high speed recirculating pump. High flow (6.1GPM/366GPH max) and high lift (39.3ft max). It only takes a few minutes from turning on the pump until the hot water in the pipe reaches the set temperature. HBS24-12 was designed to be installed under the farthest faucet from the water heater in each loop. Lead free grade copper pump body and connectors. NSF certified. Lead free copper. Safe for drinking water. Maintenance-free. 1/2" NPT. With 10 ft cord and easy to install.
  • Advanced hot water recirculating pump with digital permanent magnet brush less 24v DC motor makes the pump (maintenance-free)more safe, more powerful and more durable. Super quiet pump and you almost can’t hear the pump running voice. 12 inch length connection hose 3/8-Inch Compression x 1/2 inch FIP (You can remove one cap to reveal the smaller fitting.). Up to 10% of your water bill will be saved. No more water wasted in waiting.
  • Built in check valve. The pump default temperature is 38 ℃ off and 33 ℃ on. When the water temperature in pump is below 33 ℃ (91.4F), the pump will push the cold water back to the water heater. As the temperature hits 38 ℃(100.4F), the pump will shut off automatically. Remote controller was used to set higher or lower water temperature (From 32 to 42 ℃ ). This remote controller is not included in this package and needs to be purchased separately.
Bestseller No. 3
ZeroPone Recirculating Pump, 93W Water Circulator Circulating Pump BSP 3/4' w/NPT 1/2' Adapter, 15-6C 3-speed Control Recirculation for Electric Water Heater System
2 Reviews
ZeroPone Recirculating Pump, 93W Water Circulator Circulating Pump BSP 3/4" w/NPT 1/2" Adapter, 15-6C 3-speed Control Recirculation for Electric Water Heater System
  • 【Premium Material】- The recirculating pump consists of cast iron pump head and aluminum pump housing, featuring high efficiency & fluidity, low consumption, and good airtightness. The pump is heat and wear-resistant.
  • 【Main Parameter】- BSP 3/4 inch (19.05 mm) inlet/outlet. Voltage/Frequency: 110-120V, 60Hz. Rated power: 93/67/46 W. Max pressure: 145 psi (10 bar). Three speed modes. Flow: 40/29/20 LPM (10.4/7.66/5.28 GPM). Max head: 6/4.9/4 m (20/16/13 ft). Fluid temp range: 0℉ -+212℉.
  • 【Humanized Design】- Low noise (around 25dB) and less energy consumption; less cold water waste and waiting time. Instant hot water now enables you to get hot water about 15 seconds compared with 2-3 minutes in the past (note: the kitchen takes about 1 minute to get hot water for the flow restriction).
  • 【Easy installation】- Just a wrench to connect the pump to pipeline, saving the cost of plumbers. Extraly equipped with a common NPT1/2” adapter. The pump with constant circulating hot water prevent the pipe from freezing, which is especially useful for extremely cold areas in winter.
  • 【Wide Application】- Our hot water circulation pump is suitable for a wide range of application scenarios: city buildings, suburban villas, houses, industrial equipment, air conditioning, boilers, solar circulating water and so on.
Bestseller No. 4
Grundfos 595916 1/25 Horsepower Comfort Series Recirculator Pump, Model: 595916, Outdoor & Hardware Store
50 Reviews
Grundfos 595916 1/25 Horsepower Comfort Series Recirculator Pump, Model: 595916, Outdoor & Hardware Store
  • TLC = Timer, Line Cord, 6-Foot
  • Flow range: 0 - 9 U.S. GPM, Head range: 0 - 6-Foot
  • Motors: Single phase, 115V
  • Connection: 3/4-Inch M by 3/4-Inch FNPT
  • Maintenance-free, low energy consumption, easy to install, quiet running
Bestseller No. 5
ZeroPone Hot Water Recirculating Pump, 93W Water Circulator Pump BSP 3/4' w/NPT 1/2' Adapter, Stainless Steel Head,15-6S 3 Speed Control for Electric Water Heater System
1 Reviews
ZeroPone Hot Water Recirculating Pump, 93W Water Circulator Pump BSP 3/4" w/NPT 1/2" Adapter, Stainless Steel Head,15-6S 3 Speed Control for Electric Water Heater System
  • 【Premium Material】- The recirculating pump uses heavy-duty stainless steel pump head, aluminum pump housing and PES impeller, featuring high resistance to stain, water, corrosion, leakage. Brass fittings and water-stop also included, which enbales several years of good resistance.
  • 【Main Parameter】- BSP 3/4 inch (19.05 mm) inlet/outlet. Voltage/Frequency: 110-120V, 60Hz. Rated power: 93/67/46 W. Max pressure: 145 psi (10 bar). Three speed modes. Flow: 40/29/20 LPM (10.4/7.66/5.28 GPM). Max head: 6/4.9/4 m (20/16/13 ft). Fluid temp range: 0℉ -+212℉.
  • 【Humanized Design】- Low noise (around 25dB) and less energy consumption; less cold water waste and waiting time. Instant hot water now enables you to get hot water about 15 seconds compared with 2-3 minutes in the past (note: the kitchen takes about 1 minute to get hot water for the flow restriction).
  • 【Easy installation】- Just a wrench to connect the pump to pipeline, saving the cost of plumbers. Extraly equipped with a common NPT1/2” adapter. The pump with constant circulating hot water prevent the pipe from freezing, which is especially useful for extremely cold areas in winter.
  • 【Wide Application】- Our hot water circulation pump is suitable for a wide range of application scenarios: city buildings, suburban villas, houses, industrial equipment, air conditioning, boilers, solar circulating water and so on.

All these options should hopefully give you a good idea of what’s out there.

Final Thoughts

A hot water recirculation pump is a great way to save energy and water since it only heats the water up when you need it. Also, these pumps are easy to install and can save you money on utility bills.

Sources

 Family Handyman: Hot Water Recirculating Pump: What To Know Before You Buy |  Learn Metrics: Hot Water Recirculating Pumps Explained: Why, How, Costs (+Tankless) |  Home Inspector Secrets: Hot Water Recirculation Pump Installation (12 Step Guide) |  Ask Dr. Power: What Does a Recirculation Pump Do and Does It Cost Me Much to Use? | Horne: Circulator Location – Flow vs Return | Bola Systems: Installation of circulator pumps

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