Want to save water and energy? Meet the pump that can

| by Dave Grieshop

Remember the classic story “The Little Engine That Could” and the famous line: “I think I can! I think I can!” as the little steam engine moved a string of railroad cars over the mountain? Well, permit me to tell you about a “pump that can” – can save thousands of gallons of wasted water a year and reduce your home energy costs at the same time. Unlike the famous little engine, few people know about the on-demand pump that can.

Every day, homeowners go through the ritual of waiting for hot water. Independent studies have documented that the delay while “it’s getting warm now” wastes about 20 gallons a day in a household of three – and that adds up to thousands of gallons a year down the drain. And what most people don’t realize is that this water had been heated once before. To fully appreciate the value of an on-demand pump, you must understand that your water usage and your energy bills are inextricably linked.

When do you want hot water at a sink or shower or dishwasher? Obviously, just before you need it - no sooner and no later. Unfortunately, most homes in America have plumbing systems that are designed to keep the water temperature in the hot and cold lines at about the same level. Once hot water is needed, all the water from the water heater (WH) to the faucet goes down the drain until the hot water finally flows.

An on-demand pump does not heat water – it moves only the water that’s already hot. And electronically smart, it only moves water when a homeowner asks for it. This obvious convenience saves water and energy and the unit will pay for itself over a period of time, depending upon installation costs, energy and water source, and size of household.

On demand pump

An on-demand pump installed under a bathroom sink. Note the electrical power outlet for the pump. The receiver unit above the electrical outlet permits pump activation from other locations in the home.

On-demand pumps are unique in the today’s marketplace of recirculation pumps. Several types definitely reduce wasted water, but only on-demand pumps save energy costs as well. Many satisfied customers express the wish they had adopted the system years ago, and new homeowners fitted with on-demand pumps are delighted with the results.

The on-demand pump is installed in between the existing hot and cold water lines (establishing a loop) normally at the most distant hot water fixture from the water heater. It requires an electrical power source. The homeowner makes a demand for hot water by activating the pump from anywhere in the home a hard-wired button switch or wireless transmitter was installed. The electronic “brain” in the pump measures the water temperature and proceeds to move hot water at a high flow rate, then shuts off automatically when the hot water is about 2-5 feet from the pump. All fixtures in between also have hot water. Water that is displaced during this circulation is returned to the water heater via the cold water line – therefore little, if any, water is wasted. In an average home, the entire process takes about 20-30 seconds or about 10-15 minutes per day. Multiple studies show that wasted water down the drain is reduced by anywhere from 60 to more than 80 percent.

Other types of pumps that circulate hot water when it isn’t needed are wasting energy – because circulating water loses heat and then must be reheated. Only the on-demand pump can reduce energy costs associated with wasted water, and reduce it by 50 percent or more.

How do you begin to enjoy the benefits and how much will you save? An installation can range from $375 to $900 depending upon the pump and accessories you select, if an outlet needs to be installed, and if you hire a plumber or do it yourself. Payback will also vary, with a typical home recouping the investment in four to seven years, and faster for a home with a private well. In new home construction with plumbing codes requiring a dedicated recirculation loop, the payback of an on-demand pump is consistently less than one year. A new pump included in a mortgage can result in lower overall costs because the energy and water savings more than offset the additional mortgage expense.

On-demand pumps are available from two American manufacturers. All have been independently tested and certified to rigorous standards for performance, safety and durability by Underwriters Laboratories and the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials. Consumers can research each company’s products from their web sites: ACT D’Mand (www.gothotwater.com) and Uponor (www.uponor-usa.com).

Energy costs today are expensive and will only go up. Andrew Liveris, the CEO of Dow once said, “Water is the oil of the 21st century.” Just as the little engine chugged his way up and over the mountain on rails, on-demand pumps can succeed in reducing your carbon footprint, the burden on your city’s effluent treatment plant, and conserve important resources – including your money.

Read more about water-saving devices.

Topics: Bathroom, Kitchen, Plumbing & Fixtures, Sinks & Toilets, Water Saving Devices

Companies: ACT D'MAND Systems

Dave Grieshop
David Grieshop is Managing Partner of Reality LLC and has been exploring solutions to standard recirculation and/or running water down the drain. His work has led to local plumbing code changes and pending rebate authority for on-demand pumps in new and retrofitted homes from his local electric cooperative. His research was presented last year at a national hot water symposium. He and his wife are the very satisfied users of a demand-controlled pump in their Arizona retirement home.

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