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daluu 03-22-2012 08:39 PM

Water heater solutions to get hot water in timely manner
The old owner of home moved the water heater out from garage to the back of the house, built a new enclosed storage area for it, and rerouted the piping for this.

This extends the incoming water supply to water heater and outgoing hot water pipe back to house approximately 42 feet each.

The hot water at faucets/outlets take quite some time to get from cold to warm then hot. 3-10+ minutes, depending on outside temperature and previous usage of hot water I guess.

Wonder what my best course of action(s) are at this point. Trying to go with best option without spending too much money.

I live in California, the heater is wrapped in blanket (though the home inspector says that's not necessary here). However, they didn't wrap the hot water pipes (located in exterior of home is how they're rerouted) in foam insulation, etc. That's 42 feet of exterior piping.

I did some searching online, and I see the following options:

* turn up water heater thermosat/heat setting for hotter water
* insulate the hot water pipes to keep them from loosing heat
* add circulation pump(s) to piping to get faster hot water and not waste running water to get the hot water
* Reroute water heater back into garage or closer location to have it behave how it normally should.

Frankly, I'd rather avoid rerouting and repiping until home's overall pipe condition calls for a complete repipe, and/or water heater needs replacement. The piping from garage is also mostly covered up for remodeling/conversion changes to a room (later converted back to garage). But will consider if that's really the best solution.

Just asking for feedback here. Will insulating 42 feet of piping help much? What about circulation pump, does that help? And where does that get installed? The piping is hidden in walls/attic (of concrete slab house) except for the piping connections in the bathrooms and kitchen, and exterior rerouted pipes. Would I need a pump for each faucet/shower connection or just a single pump for the whole house? Obviously I'd get a plumber to do the job rather than myself unless it's real easy.

And yea, should of thought about this when looking at the house, but as a newbie homeowner, sometimes you never know everything until things happen to you the hard way.

gregzoll 03-22-2012 08:45 PM

You are in California, get a OnDemand water heater, and get rid of the holding tank one you have now. Only way to keep what you have and get hot water quickly, is by installing a recirc system, or hybrid that uses the home a/c or heatpump to help heat the water.

If it was me, I would go with the first option, and go with Ondemand for heating potable water. You can go with small units for bath & kitchen sinks, and a larger unit for the shower/tub & clothes washer & dish washer.

daluu 03-23-2012 12:58 AM

gregzoll, thanks for advice. Some follow up questions:

What should one do with the existing heater though? It still works...sell it, give away, recycle for some rebate/credit?

Oh and by the way, the heater is gas one, do the ondemand ones come in gas and electric or electric only? Otherwise, I may have to up the home from 100A to perhaps 200A electricity, also don't have much outlets, would need new wiring.

Do the ondemand heaters require some replumbing/piping of the sink/tub water connections?

How much would it cost on average for a small unit and a large unit for the ondemand heaters? Have 2 baths but figure can skip on the sink and just install for shower, tub, kitchen sink, and perhaps laundry hot water connection.

What are good places to get the heaters from? Any recommendations on brand and model?

And for recirculation system install, what would you estimate that to cost? I see the part itself goes for ~$200.

gregzoll 03-23-2012 07:21 AM

Knowing California, you would probably get in trouble selling it on Craigslist, or giving to Habitat. If the unit is over five years old, I would send it on its way, your plumber could probably take care of it.

As for the Ondemand units, they come both in Electric & gas. The electric ones range from 120 for the smaller units, to 240 to the larger whole house types. Your plumber can help you with choice. Rinalli is a widely chosen one. There is a large discussion on these units over at the Terry Love webforums, on the Pro's and Con's, and have also been discussed on here off and on.

NitroNate 03-23-2012 10:23 AM

the issue you have is the run from the water heater to the faucets. an on demand heater will actually probably take a bit longer, since it heats up the water inside the tank on demand and even though this happens relatively quickly, it still takes longer than a normal water heater that has hot water already in the tank. it does not do anything about the long run of cold water sitting in your pipes between the heater and the faucets and will in no way decrease the time to get hot water.

you either need to move the water heater back into the garage and reroute again or install a recirc system. upgrading to an on demand is something of a choice for energy efficiency as well as taking up a lot less space and weight. but once again, the on demand itself will not do anything for getting hot water to the faucets faster. my parents have one and it takes plenty of time to get hot water out of the faucets.

daluu 03-23-2012 11:32 AM

Which is cheaper & easier, move & reroute back or install recirculation pump?

I'm guessing the pump as moving back means I have to tear up some wall & put back a vent for the heater.

TheEplumber 03-23-2012 11:41 AM

199 Attachment(s)
You mentioned in your opening post that you didn't want to spend a lot of money. I suggest a recirc line and or moving the heater back.
There are a couple of ways to do recirc pumps. Install a pump at a remote sink that pushes hw into the cw line, This makes the loop to the heater complete. No new pipe needed.

daluu 03-23-2012 12:48 PM


Originally Posted by TheEplumber (Post 883734)
You mentioned in your opening post that you didn't want to spend a lot of money. I suggest a recirc line and or moving the heater back.
There are a couple of ways to do recirc pumps. Install a pump at a remote sink that pushes hw into the cw line, This makes the loop to the heater complete. No new pipe needed.

But the recirc pump still requires pipe or rather hose connections from the fixture pipe connections right? Just less work involved to connect.

Is the link you post the brand/model you recommend? As there are others out there as well.

I'd consider moving heater back, but that's like a partial remodel, removing pipes, and tearing up wall to access original pipes, and we have junk in the garage to clear out for that (just moved in a while back). How much do you estimate it would cost to move back to original location?

NitroNate 03-23-2012 01:30 PM

the recirc pump attached to the furthest faucet is what i would do in my house if i wanted something similar. it's pretty cheap and connects inline with only the need for a couple of hoses. you do need an outlet available, something to consider.

daluu 03-23-2012 06:19 PM

NitroNate, you mean an electrical outlet?

Interesting that I got a quote for a plumbing company for a much higher price:

"It would cost you about $2,000.00 to install a proper recirc system."

Inflating price, or there can be more to it than a simple recirc pump at farthest faucet?

Also, how to figure out farthest faucet? Water line comes in at front of house, and garage is to the side of it and back of house has kitchen, laundry, and master bath. Easiest hookup access to faucet connections would appear to be at laundry area.

Homerepairguy 03-26-2012 04:36 PM


Here's a youtube video showing a DIY system that can solve your problem.

The guy in the video is obviously not a plumber since he wraps teflon tape on compression fittings (not needed) and also wraps the teflon tape in the wrong direction. But the basics of the DIY aspect of this system is intact.


daluu 03-26-2012 09:33 PM

Thanks for the link homerepairguy.

I figure the estimate from the plumber meant including a dedicated return line for recirculation pump rather than circulating to the cold water line.

jaydevries 03-27-2012 04:49 PM

just hook up under a sink

on demand will need same thing but with a switched pump

Homerepairguy 03-28-2012 02:11 PM


Originally Posted by daluu (Post 886268)
Thanks for the link homerepairguy.

I figure the estimate from the plumber meant including a dedicated return line for recirculation pump rather than circulating to the cold water line.

A dedicated return line is definitely better than circulating using the cold water line.

Using the cold water line to recirculate, the disadvantages are:

1. Warm water will be pushed into the cold water line until the hot water line gets hot enough. While taking a shower, the warm water in the cold line will be sent back to the shower so the temperature will gradually get colder until all of the warm water in the cold line is used up. This will require adjusting the shower temp until that happens. This may or may not be annoying.

2. If just a little bit of warm water is used to quickly wash face or hands in the bathroom sink, then there can be some warm water left over in the cold line. Anyone wanting cold water to drink will have to wait for the cold water to push the warm water out of the line first.

3. In item-2, say no one wants a drink for a while. The warm water in the cold line cools off. Later when someone does take a drink, he/she will be drinking water from the water heater. Knowing how dirty water in water heaters can get (try draining and flushing a water heater), I personally don't want to drink water from the water heater. The water is still potable to drink but may not be as clean as in the cold water line. This water can also be feeding the ice maker and cold water dispenser on the refrigerator.

The advantage of using the cold line to recirculate is that it is cheaper than installing a dedicated return line. It can also be a DIY installation that does not require soldering skills.

One needs to decide which method will be suitable for their own use.

daluu 03-29-2012 01:24 AM

Thanks for the details homerepairguy, I've read through posts elsewhere and I know of those trade-offs.

One of the other reasons to decide between the two is also, not just the cost factor (or in addition to it), how hard is it to feed a return line back to the heater. May be harder w/o an adequate crawl space, basement, or attic. Then perhaps patch through walls and even route outside the home as external piping...

As for water heater being filthy to drink, funny I haven't read any discussion addressing this:

what if you don't drink directly off the tap (whether recirc system to water line in place or not), but rather have a (lets say "good" for sake of arguement) water filter that the tap passes through before you drink or cook with it. In that case, the dirty water heater water then shouldn't be that bad if it's filtered. Granted one can say cold water is still cleaner, but the filter should mitigate some of the filth (chemicals, dirt, bacteria, lead).

Don't people use filters these days? Or most still go straight from tap?

Also, modern fridges, or good ones, allow you to patch a filter to the icemaker/water dispenser as well.

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