|Project by Dan Lyke||posted 04-03-2008 09:32 PM||2195 views||2 times favorited||6 comments|
The tag line says “showcase your project”, and I’m not sure that plunking down a couple o’ Franklins and spending half an hour trying to untangle myself from Teflon tape really counts as a project that needs showcasing (especially since I ended up using paste rather than tape on the connections…), but at least one friend has asked about the hot water recirculator, so here’s a little rambling on hot water recirculators, and the one we ended up installing.
We have a tiny little house. It’s intentional, we want something where maintenance is easy, there’s just two of us, and though I work from home and we like having a futon for guests, we live in a climate where we can use the back yard for entertaining, and our hobbies at this point are riding bicycles and woodworking, so cozy wins. However, even with that tiny little space, and even though the bathroom plumbing and kitchen plumbing share a wall, it seemed like the hot water took forever to get to the bathtub. Furthermore, we live in an area where water isn’t unlimited, and we like to be conscious of conservation.
Enter the hot water recirculator: The purpose of this little beastie is to pull water from your hot water tank through the plumbing, and return the water to the tank, until the water is hot somewhere very close to the faucet. This used to mean running yet another return line back to the hot water heater, but someone figured out that on simple residential systems you can do this by just pushing the (formerly hot) water back into the cold water line.
There are two types of such systems: Some put the pump at the hot water heater and a simple mechanical valve actuated by a bimetal at the far end, and some put the pump at the far end.
The advantages of the former type are that they’re cheap, and that if you’ve got a branch line (like two bathrooms at opposite ends of the house) the valve for the extra line is super cheap. So we were initially tempted by those systems, but we came up against two potential problems:
1. If you run the cold water elsewhere, say to water the lawn or flushing the toilet, the valve is open ‘til hot water gets to it, so the process of watering the lawn causes the hot water to get primed to your valves, which means that much more hot water gets heated every time you use the cold water.
2. We don’t keep regular enough hours to turn this device on and off with a timer, so we wanted a button that said “I’ll want hot water soon”. Since our usage points are far away from the hot water heater, switching that pump on and off started to become a big hassle.
Thus we went with the Metlund D'<mand>. It’s small enough that it won’t punch holes in our 50 year old galvanized steel pipes before we have a chance to replace ‘em, it comes with a wireless option, so we didn’t even have to drill a hole to put a button in the kitchen, let alone one in the bedroom, and installation was dead simple.
The left picture is the pump sitting inside the bathroom vanity. Surprisingly, it it didn’t have good mounting holes, and it’s sitting on a piece of foam because otherwise that vanity acts as a sounding box. With the foam, it’s hard to tell if it’s on.
The middle picture is the hoses run to “T”s up near the faucet. This is not the recommended installation method, it comes with fittings for copper pipe to fit before the valves, but I was nervous about unscrewing the valve from the galvanized steel pipe and possibly inadvertently unscrewing parts further back in the wall: No reason for a half hour job to become an all day re-plumbing nightmare.
The right picture is one of the remote switches (we got two) double-sticky taped to the cabinets in the kitchen. The other one sits beside the bed, so when the alarm light goes on (yeah, we’re weird, our “alarm” is a big bank of daylight balanced flourescents) we can mash the button, wake up slowly, and by the time we stumble into the bathroom the shower is warm. It’s also trivial to run wired switches, we’ve got one on the side of the vanity now, and will be incorporating that into the design of the vanity we’re building.
Furthermore, for those extended soaking baths, heating up the water doesn’t mean running a lot of cold water first, just mash the button, wait a minute, and viola! Errr… wait, that’s not right, stringed instruments have nothing to do with this…
Probably not economically justifiable from a “water saved” standpoint, but sure is convenient! Just takes a 3 prong socket and a few minutes.
-- Dan Lyke, Petaluma California, http://www.flutterby.net/