In today’s fast-paced society, people want everything now. We are equally impatient when it comes to instant hot water — and for good reason: a lot of water is wasted down the drain, as we wait for the warm water to arrive. Whether you are washing your hands, the dishes, or taking a shower, you want hot water immediately.
By now you may have heard about tankless water heaters and how they provide instant hot water “on demand.” You may interpret this as meaning that as soon as you turn on the faucet, warm water will begin flowing like a geyser.
It is an understandably common myth. Although tankless water heaters do provide hot water on demand by detecting when you turn on the faucet and instantly heating incoming water, they cannot make that water move any faster through the piping.
“The speed at which you get hot water is wholly dependent on the location of the tankless water heater relative to the fixture,” says Jason Fleming, marketing and customer care manager at Noritz America. “If your fixture is right next to the heater, you will hardly have to wait at all. But if you are showering at the other end of the building, that wait time is not going to decrease.”
With tankless, once the hot water does reach you, however, it will never ever run out, unlike a tank-type heater, which contains a finite amount of water.
Those who want immediate hot water have the option of installing a hot water recirculation system. Recirculation operates through a “loop” created in a home’s or building’s plumbing system. In addition to supply lines connecting the water heater to each outlet, a recirculation system also has a return line back to the heater— either from each hot-water outlet or from only the farthest fixture. A circulating pump moves hot water through this loop — in some systems, constantly, even when there is no demand for hot water — resulting in “instant” hot water when the tap or shower is turned on.
The Noritz NRCP line of residential water heaters offers immediate hot water, but without the energy consumption and expense of an always-on circulator. Instead of having hot water flow through the system continuously, an integral display on the front of the water heater allows homeowners to program its arrival at the outlet with a precision down to the half-hour.
An alternative, “auto” setting permits the system to “learn” a household’s water-usage routines quickly and automatically control the recirculation loop-activation times, allowing for immediate hot water when it is needed most.
In a sense then, a hot water recirculation system is the high-speed internet of indoor water supply. Combined with a tankless water heater, it truly will allow for instant, unlimited hot water.