What is a Recirculating Pump?

Imagine a cold wintery morning, and you’re excited to have an amazing hot water shower to get you rejuvenated for the day. You let the shower on and wait?!

What?! Coldwater?!

Yes, it is utterly frustrating and irritating. Even when you know you have a water heater system installed in your home.

But why do you get cold water when you first turn it on? You may wonder.

Here’s what happens. When you have a large home, the water may need to travel hundreds of feet before it reaches the furthest corners of your bathroom faucets and showerheads. Therefore, it may take several seconds or even minutes for the hot water to get there. By the time the hot water reaches, you waste a lot of water and yes, this is no doubt inconvenient.

You may wonder what if I turn the showerhead off for few seconds, well, it doesn’t really help as the water that stays between the plumbing lines doesn’t go back to the heater, hence, when you turn it back on, and you’d still get cold water.

Now, you are really thinking, what’s the solution?

Yes, when there’s a problem, there’s always a solution!

And the solution is to have a hot water recirculating pump installed.

Let’s now learn what actually is a recirculating pump, how does it work, what types of such pumps are available, the benefits it offers, and the drawbacks and the installation process of a recirculating pump.

What is a Recirculating Pump?

Simply put, a hot water recirculating pump is a pump that helps provide hot water on demand and instantly.

The recirculating pump is installed alongside your existing water heater system and assists in returning the cold water and the unused hot water in the plumbing lines back to the water heater. It does it either continuously or just when you turn it on and need the hot water, depending on the option you choose.

Additionally, the recirculating pump can operate on a dedicated plumbing line or can use the existing cold water pipeline to recirculate water back to the heater.

How Does a Hot Water Recirculating Pump Work?

If we set aside all the complicated engineering process, the way a hot water recirculating pump work is really simple.

Imagine we have a greatly simplified water system with just a shower and a water heater. Typically there will be a single line that goes out from the water heater to the shower. Now, if instead, we can create another branch of pipeline that carries the cold and unused hot water back to the heater, creating an endless looping system where we will always be getting hot water on demand and instantly.

This will allow you to get that desiring hot water in your showerhead instantly without having you to get wet with cold water or wait a while to get that hot water.

what is a recirculating pump

Types of Hot Water Recirculating Pumps

There are two main types of options when it comes to hot water recirculating pumps depending on the plumbing line.

Option #1 – Using a dedicated additional plumbing pipe

Option #2 – Using the existing cold water plumbing pipe

Option #1

By installing a dedicated additional plumbing pipe that allows it to carry unused hot water back to the water heater creating an endless loop by the pump, lets you enjoy hot water on demand and instantly.

The result is that you don’t wait for hot water and you save money by reducing water wastage.

You may ask, isn’t that going to increase my gas and energy bill since it’s going to be running all the time with endless water looping?

The answer is not necessarily.


Because many of these recirculating pumps are designed to be equipped with smart sensors and also comes with a timer.

Once the hot water makes a complete loop from the water heater to the faucet and back to the heater, the sensor turns the pump off.

The timer allows you to set for how long and when to remain active, giving you the flexibility to save energy by choosing when to let it run and when to be off. For instance, you may choose to set the timer to make the pump to remain shut off at night, while you’re outside of the home or during your vacation.

The initial setup cost for additional plumbing pipe can be a bit expensive. However, it will definitely save you hundreds in the long run and give you hot water on demand.

If however, you aren’t ready to make that expense and still want to have hot water instantly when you need it, you may choose to install it with your existing cold water pipeline.

And that’s in option #2.

Option #2

This option allows you to utilize your existing cold water plumbing line. The pump helps carry the unused water back to the water heater. This is relatively inexpensive than option #1. This system also sends hot water to the furthest end of your home fixtures such as shower and kitchen faucets. Without the pump would have taken a long time.

Not needing to install an additional dedicated pipe, allows you to save the initial cost.

However, there is a downside with this option and that is unlike the first option where you always get hot water instantly and on-demand since this system shares a single pipe for both hot and cold water, you may get lukewarm water at times.

How to Install a Hot Water Recirculating System?


Despite the initial setup cost, and regardless of which option you choose, having a hot water recirculating pump gives you the luxury of enjoying hot water on demand and instantly especially during cold winter when you need it the most. Most luxurious hotels, hospitals, and shops have them installed. And if you have a large home and you have to wait long for your water getting hot, you can’t go wrong installing hot water recirculating pump. In the long run, you would save thousands of gallons of water a year and thus save a lot of money as well.

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