You turn the hot water on… and then you wait while cold water flows and flows.
It can be frustrating when hot water takes its dear sweet time to make it to your point-of-use. For one, the reason you turned on hot water is that you need it now. And two, the water pouring out of your kitchen faucet or showerhead while you wait for it to heat is water wasted: money tacked onto your water bill, literally flowing down the drain.
So how can you get near-instant hot water at each of your faucets when you want it?
Try these steps to get hot water to your faucet faster.
Let’s start with the easy steps and then move on to bigger and more intense fixes.
Think your pipes might be to blame?
If your water is running a far distance from your hot water heater to your sink – or the pipes travel near external walls or through cold-air places like crawlspaces, you could insulate them. Pipe insulation is readily available at most local home improvement stores, and it is a quick and relatively inexpensive thing to try for a homeowner if the initial water making it to your faucets is a little less warm than ideal: perhaps it is cooling off as it travels the distance to your point-of-use.
According to Energy.gov, insulating hot water pipes can raise the temperature between 2 and 4 degrees – allowing you to get hot water faster, or even turn down your hot water temperature to gain energy savings overall. The site also offers step-by-step instructions on how to tackle the task, as well as a video demonstration. Keep in mind to leave an 8-inch distance between the flue of your gas water heater and any insulation you install, with no gap required for electrical water heaters.
Thicker-walled pipes, like galvanized pipes, absorb more heat from the water than thinner ones, like copper, leaving your water a bit cooler when it makes it to you. And if your home is quite old, your pipes themselves may be a smaller diameter and are restricting the flow altogether. Having a professional come out and take a look never hurts if you suspect older, smaller pipes are keeping your hot water from its maximum potential.
Clean or swap out fixtures for a higher flow rate.
First, take any screens off your fixtures at the point-of-use and make sure they are clean and free of sediment build-up – that could be a part of the problem.
Next, consider replacing them with higher-flow options. If you’re not confident in your plumbing skills, you may need to hire a professional plumber for help with this installation, but it’s still a pretty minor upgrade that could make a big difference.. Replacing the fixtures for higher flow rates won’t save you water by volume, but it will move the water through the water lines faster, meaning you’ll have hot water at your fingertips in less time.
Most faucets run a flow rate of between 1.0 and 2.2 Gallons Per Minutes (GPM), with 2.2 GPM being the federal maximum flow rate for energy conservation purposes (note: the states of Georgia and California have a max flow rate of 2.0 GPM, with California soon to lower to 1.8 GPM). If your faucets were made pre-1994, they are likely to have a higher flow rate than that and are grandfathered in. But if your current kitchen or bathroom faucet is only a 1.0 GPM, you could move up to a 1.5 GPM or 2.2 GPM faucet fixture and get that hot water to your bathroom or kitchen sink faster.
Showerheads are federally regulated at a maximum of 2.5 GPM, but anything above 1.5 GPM on up to 2.5 GPM is considered a normal flow rate. If your showerhead is rated lower than 1.5 GPM, it’s an ultra low flow showerhead. Lowering the flow rate will save you gallons of water with each shower, but might mean you wait a little longer to hop in once turning the water on.
Catch up on your routine preventative maintenance.
The health of your hot water system can make a big difference in how hot the water is when it makes it to your faucets and how soon it is getting there.
When was the last time you flushed your water heater? Along with cleaning out your faucet filters or screens, flushing your tank water heater can take care of sediment build-up that might have settled into the storage tank, preventing hot water from making it to your points-of-use – and it might even help your water heater heat water more efficiently. We’ve got step-by-step instructions if you want to flush your water heater on your own, and we are also happy to come and provide the service for you if that is not up your DIY alley.
Flushing your hot water heater will help your gas or electric water heater operate more efficiently, saving you money on electricity or natural gas or propane. It’ll also mean more hot water is available at any given time since there is more room in the storage tank for hot water once the sediment is cleared out.
Install a hot water recirculation pump.
This is a bigger step than swapping out a faucet, but not so big that you have to hire it out if you’ve got some plumbing know-how. Hot water recirculation pumps connect in-line with your hot water pipes and keep the water flowing constantly or during a set time period of the day when you know that point-of-use will be in demand. Once installed, they keep the water moving in the pipes, meaning the water isn’t sitting there and cooling off as it waits for you to come turn the faucet on. Keeping that hot water moving or recirculating in the pipes means hot water is always at the faucet, ready to start flowing when you turn on the tap.
Move your current water heater closer.
An even bigger project might be to move your current water heater closer to the hot water tap where you want water to flow faster. Installing the water heater directly below a bathroom or the kitchen instead of across the basement from them will get the water there more quickly and with a hotter temperature. The same with bathrooms on a second story – the water just takes longer to arrive. Installing the water heater on the first floor would help, as would installing a recirculation pump specific to that second floor bathroom.
This is especially true if your home is older and has been added onto – what used to be a centralized furnace room might no longer be centralized. Shifting a major appliance like a hot water heater to a new area could mean some energy efficiency and related cost-savings – as well as hotter water, delivered faster.
Planning a new home? Plan to put your hot water heater as close to your main points of use as possible! You’ll save money and get hot water faster, year over year.
Upgrade to a tankless hot water heater.
One final (and if you ask us, maybe the best!) way to get hot water to your faucets faster is to upgrade to a tankless hot water heater. A tankless water heater heats the water you need on demand – right away, as soon as you need it. Also called an instant hot water heater, these tankless water heaters wait to make hot water when you open a faucet to call for it, so they are incredibly energy efficient when compared to standard (and certainly older) storage tank water heaters. Tankless water heaters can be electric or gas, and come in a variety of sizes. They are rather compact, and can be a great choice if you’d like to move your water heater closer to your point-of-use since they take up far less space.
Here’s our Complete Guide to Choosing a Tankless Water Heater if you think you’d like to take the next big step in energy efficiency and hot water delivery speed.
And if you opt for a tankless water heater with a built-in recirculation system like the NEW Rinnai SENSEI™ Super High Efficiency Plus (SE+), you’ll get a top-of-the-line tankless water heater with built-in recirculation technology, making it the fastest and most efficient hot water delivery system your home could hope to have.