Ask a plumber

Wasting water while waiting for a hot shower


McClatchy-Tribune News Service

Q: My hot water heater is in the garage and my main living area is on the second floor. It takes at least two to three minutes before I can get hot water out of my shower head. Not only is this frustrating, all the cold water going down the drain is being wasted! A friend told me special pump systems are available to help with this issue. Can you please tell me more about these systems?

Deb, Rhode Island

A: When dealing with any hot water issues, I recommend calling a local licensed master plumber to check out your plumbing system for proper operation and repair options.

What I can tell you is that waiting for hot water is a very common issue when the hot water heater is a long distance from the plumbing fixture. The reason for this is that all the cooler water sitting in the pipes needs to be purged from the system before the hot water reaches the fixture. If you have a lot of water that needs to be purged out, as you said, the wait can be stressful and wasteful.

To help get the hot water faster to your plumbing fixtures, your plumber may install a residential hot water recirculating system. Basically, a recirculating pump is installed with a timer and a special mixing valve that moves hot water around your plumbing system at preset intervals. This way when you turn on a fixture like your shower, hot water should already be closer to the fixture to cut down the wait time.

Bottom line: Installing a residential hot water recirculating system can really “pump up” your water savings.

Master contractor and plumber Ed Del Grande is the author of the book “Ed Del Grande’s House Call” and the host of TV and Internet shows. Visit or write

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