Get a Water Heater to Work Faster
Richard Trethewey gives advice on how not to waste water waiting for the hot water to come from the tap
Our water heater is on one end of the house and the kitchen is on the other. Even though the pipe is insulated, we still waste a lot of water waiting for it to get hot. What would you suggest we do to correct that situation? — Orlando Metz, palmyra, MO.
Moving your water heater closer to the kitchen would certainly help, but relocating and replumbing a water heater is not a practical solution for most folks. There are a couple of easier ways to reduce the waste, and the wait.
One option is to install a point-of-use electric water heater under the sink. These units, which have either a small water tank or an in-line heating element, deliver hot water within a few seconds after you open the tap, then shut off as soon as water from the primary heater reaches it. While they do save water and time, they also guzzle electricity and need to be inspected and flushed regularly, just like a full-size heater.
The approach I prefer is to pull hot water from the existing water heater when it's needed by using a small recirculating pump like the TacoGenie (taco-hvac.com). When activated by a button, a timer, or a motion sensor, the pump pulls cold water from the hot-water supply pipe and pushes it back to the heater through the cold-water supply pipe. The pump, which is installed under the sink, runs until it senses that the water on the hot side is warm enough. When it shuts off, you get hot water as soon as you turn on the faucet.
Yes, there is a short wait while the water recirculates, but compared with point-of-use heaters, the electricity use is minimal and you don't have any of the maintenance. To see how to set up a Hot Water Recirculation Pump.
— This Old House plumbing and heating contractor Richard Trethewey