The Top 9 Best Hot Water Recirculating Pumps

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There’s an old but very relevant study conducted in Palo Alto about how much water a hot water recirculating pump can save. It found the savings to be between 900 and 3000 gallons per year per faucet (source).

For a small, 5-faucet home, the savings add up to whopping 15,000 gallons.

On top of that, some of the states are introducing the pumps into law. Like California, whose Title 24 in the Code of Regulations stipulates that hot-water recirculation is now mandatory if the distance from the heat source to the tap is 50 feet or more.

Bottom line – getting one of these will cut the wait times for that stubborn faucet we all have in our homes and future-proof your home.

Kudos to you for seeking advice

And let me tell you, researching before you buy is smart thinking because a few minutes here can save you both money and nerves down the line.

The market of recirculating pumps is saturated with products from all over the place, making all sorts of promises, but not all of them deliver.

Far from it.

In my long plumbing career, I’ve installed many pumps that simply didn’t work from the get-go, failed within months, or had to be returned/replaced.

Let’s make sure that doesn’t happen to you

The picks you’ll see below are based on my decades-long experience and a massive database I’ve complied since starting this site.

So, it’s more than mere opinion.

These picks are the fruit of data-driven statistical models I’ve developed and, I believe, are THE ULTIMATE source for all the information and reviews you’ll ever need to choose the best hot water recirculating pump for your home.

My Top Picks at a Glance

If you’re in a hurry, let me present the overall winners in the most popular categories – best overall, best budget option, and top choice for larger homes.

These three units have consistently maintained the high-ratings in all of the key quality categories, so there’s little to no chance of going wrong with either of them.

Best Hot Water Recirculating Pump – Top 9

1. Best Overall - Grundfos 99452459

Specs:

Size (in “): 8.7 x 7.83 x 7.6

Weight (in lbs): 6.82

Material: Stainless steel

Features:

  • Timer to control the operation
  • Thermal bypass installation (doesn’t require a separate line)
  • Battery back-up for the whole system – no risk of ‘losing’ the settings
  • The circulator is stainless steel

What makes it better?

This Grundfos is one of the most popular units out there, despite the premium price point.

I’d say that the three main reasons for this are:

  1. Reliable operation
  2. Low incidence of critical failures
  3. Minimal noise level

In other words, this is a simple pump that does its job without any fuss.

PROs:

  • Reliability
  • Simple installation
  • Quality materials

CONs:

  • The timer has to be reset after a power failure
  • Higher price point than similar products from less reputable brands
  • It doesn’t pair well with some tankless water heaters

2. Best Budget Pick - Watts Premier Instant Hot Water

Watts Premier Instant Hot Water Recirculating Pump System with...
  • Kit includes a pump with timer with 10' cord, 2 adapters...
  • Voltage: 120 volts, Item Weight: 8.5 pounds. Overall...
  • Provides hot water at every faucet or shower when needed and...

Specs:

Size (in “): 6.2 x 6 x 5

Weight (in lbs): 8.5

Material: Cast Aluminum

Features:

  • The timer is programmable for a period of 24 hours
  • Complete kit – includes a 115v plug and a 10 ft cord, 2 adapters with rubber washers, and a sensor valve
  • Thermal By-Pass (no need for a return line)

What makes it better?

The Watts Premier is by far the most popular hot water recirculating pump with thousands of user reviews on Amazon alone.

It might not be as sturdy and robust as the top-rated Raufos, but for most homes, it will do the job.

PROs:

  • Budget-friendly
  • Easy to install
  • Complete installation kit included
  • Low maintenance
  • Available with multiple sensor valves

CONs:

  • Reports of it not being compatible with some heaters with heat traps
  • Will not work with tankless heaters

3. Runner Up - APCOM UT1

APCOM UT1 Hot Water Recirculation Pump For Under Sink - Instant Hot...
  • Instantly Experience Hot Water - Enjoy the comfort and...
  • Energy & Cost Efficient - The most energy efficient...
  • Fully Automatic Operation - This under sink recirculation...

Specs:

Size (in “): ‎9.7 x 9.4 x 8.9

Weight (in lbs): 10.58

This APCOM is an excellent option for smaller homes (up to 250 feet of piping) without a hot water return line.

It’s a fully automatic set-and-forget system controlled by sensors and switches, and it boasts one of the most efficient “recircs” on the market.

Features:

  • The thermostat and the timer are built-in and preset (the pump runs a few times a day for 1.5-2 minutes)
  • Equipped with a highly energy-efficient circulator

PROs:

  • Easy to install
  • Fully automatic
  • Reliable controls
  • Well-made, durable brass fittings

CONs:

  • Not as quiet as most of the other units we talked about
  • You may feel some vibration coming from the installation area when the pump is running

4. Grundfos 1/6 Horsepower

Grundfos 52722355 1/6 Horsepower Recirculator Pump
  • 1/6 horsepower
  • Flow Range: 0- 34 GPM, Head Range: 0- 32-Feet
  • Motors: 2 Pole, Single Phase, 115-Volt

Specs:

Size (in “): 8 x 8 x 9

Weight (in lbs): 10

Material: Cast Iron

Features:

  • The motor is single-phase, 2 pole
  • Low consumption of energy
  • Minimal maintenance
  • The head range is up to 32 ft

What makes it better?

This pump is an outlier on the list.

It’s designed to be used in closed heating loops like fan coils, radiator heating, wood-burning boilers, etc.

It comes pre-programmed with usage times which can only be changed if you change the operational timer. Anyone who’s done it knows it’s not a big deal, but it does require some electrical know-how.

PROs:

  • Robust cast-iron built
  • Minimal to no maintenance
  • Quiet operation
  • Second-to-none flow rate

CONs:

  • Cast iron isn’t an excellent choice for potable water
  • Flange-mount only

5. Taco 006-B4 Bronze Circulator Pump

Sale
Taco 006-B4 Bronze Circulator Pump 3/4-Inch Sweat
  • Flow Range: 0-10 GPM; Head Range: 0-9 Feet.
  • Minimum Fluid Temperature: 40F.
  • Maximum Fluid Temperature: 220F.

Specs:

Size (in “): 5 x 4 x 7

Weight (in lbs): 4.55

Material: 3 choices

Head range: 0-9 ft.

Max flow rate: 10 GPM (gallons per minute)

Features:

  • Wide range of temperature – 40-220 degrees F
  • The cartridge is designed to be replaceable
  • Low power usage – direct-drive design
  • Self-lubricating design means low to no maintenance

What makes it better?

It’s one of the most flexible models in terms of use and available types.

The available materials are cast iron, bronze, or flanged steel, while the 1/40 horsepower motor can efficiently deliver up to 10 gallons of water per minute.

This makes the Taco circulator a solid choice for various projects, from typical hot water circulation and open-loop solar systems to potable water systems.

PROs:

  • Replaceable cartridge
  • Low noise levels
  • Maintenance-free
  • Extremely durable
  • Sweat valves instead of threaded valves (typically leak much less)

CONs:

  • The head range could be higher
  • I’ve seen reports of the unit heating up
  • No built-in timer

6. Grundfos GRU-595916

Grundfos GRU-595916 595916
  • TLC = Timer, Line Cord, 6-Foot
  • Flow range: 0 - 9 U.S. GPM, Head range: 0 - 6-Foot
  • Motors: Single phase, 115V. Supply Voltage:115-120 VAC, 60...

Specs:

Size (in “): ‎10 x 10 x 10

Weight (in lbs): 6.84

Material: Bronze or Stainless steel pump, aluminum housing

Head range: 0-6 ft.

Max flow rate: 9 GPM

Features:

  • Single-phase motor
  • Includes a timer and line cord
  • Range of temperature – 45-150 F
  • Both the circulator and the spherical separator made of high-end stainless steel
  • 24-hour timer

What makes it better?

This is the same pump as the top-rated model from Grundfos, with the only difference being the timer. This is the older model that comes without the digital timer.

Everything I said about the top-rated Grundfos applies to this pump, too – from the reliability to the quiet operation and a low number of failures.

PROs:

  • Budget-friendly
  • Comes from a reputable brand
  • Solid warranty (2 years)
  • Complete installation kit included

CONs:

  • The head range could be higher
  • I’ve seen reports of the unit heating up

7. Grundfos SuperBrute Recirculating Pump

Grundfos 59896155, UP15-42F, SuperBrute Recirculating Pump 1/25 HP,115...
  • Sturdy cast iron housing
  • Flow range: 0- 15.5 US gpm, head range from 1 to 15-feet
  • 2 pole, single phase, 115-volt motors

Specs:

Size (in “): 5.25 x 4.19 x 6.5

Weight (in lbs): 6.78

Material: ‎Cast Iron

Head range: 1-15 ft.

Max flow rate: 15.5 GPM

Features:

  • High-quality, tungsten carbide rotor
  • The maximum power input is 85 W
  • PPO isolation valve (also known as a fluid-operated valve)

What makes it good?

This is a small but hefty unit from Grundfos that deserves the name it carries – SuperBrute.

It’s designed for heating systems but works just as well for hot water recirculation. It boasts a solid maximum flow rate of 15.5 GPM and can handle temperatures up to 230 F.

PROs:

  • Good value for money
  • Costs much less online than in stores
  • Quiet, seamless operation
  • Budget-friendly
  • Durable

CONs:

  • No purge outlet
  • No built-in timer
  • Cast iron isn’t a long-term option for potable water systems

8. Laing AutoCirc E10 Series

Laing 6050E7000 E10-BCANCT1W-23 AutoCirc E10 Series Circulator with...
  • Energy effiecient ECM motor
  • Built-in temperature control. No return line required
  • Includes a 6-foot power cord

Specs:

Size (in “): ‎5.97 x 3.98 x 6.76

Weight (in lbs): ‎6.74

Head range: 1-15 ft.

Max flow rate: 4 GPM

Features:

  • ECM/PM motor (stands for electronically commutated permanent magnet motor)
  • Temperature control is built-in
  • No return-lined needed

What makes it better?

This is a unique pump designed to work with tankless water heaters.

If you are savvy enough to pair it with WiFi switches, you’ll have the convenience of controlling the whole system through your phone.

As I said, I prefer tankless heaters that come with a hot water recirculating pump of their own, but if you already have one that doesn’t, this Laing pump is your best bet.

PROs:

  • Solid value for money
  • High-end, reliable motor
  • Simple installation
  • No return line needed
  • Quiet operation (list at 35 dB max)
  • Laing has a great customer service

CONs:

  • Not cheap

9. Laing LHB08100092 AutoCirc

Laing LHB08100092 AutoCirc Recirculation Pump with Timer
  • The auto circ pump ACT E1 is installed under the sink or...
  • Requires only 14 watts of power; Does not require a return...
  • Packaged complete with a 6 ft. long power cord. Noise level...

Specs:

Size (in “): ‎0.1 x 5 x 7.5

Weight (in lbs): ‎62.98

Features:

  • The temperature sensor is built-in and preset to 85 º F activation and 95 º F de-activation
  • Low power consumption – only 14 Watts
  • 24-hour time, built-in

What makes it good?

This Laing pump might be for you if you like the simplicity of preset controls.

Based on what I’ve seen in practice, the 85-95 range is the sweet spot of activation/de-activation that works well for most people.

It’s a well-rounded unit that ticks all the quality boxes and is backed by a solid warranty on defects in materials and workmanship (2 years starting from the manufacturing date or 1 year from the date of purchase).

PROs:

  • Simple installation
  • Smooth operation
  • Light and small
  • No return line needed
  • Responsive customer care

CONs:

  • More on-arrival defects than I’d expect from a brand like Laing

Choosing a Good Hot Water Recirculating Pump

Before we move on to the specifics of making a smart choice, let me go over some basic terminology.

What is a hot water recirculating pump?

It’s a device that you install on your water heater, so you don’t have to wait for the cold water from the pipes to drain.

Its purpose is to keep the hot water circulating in a closed loop between the heater and the appliances and provide hot water on demand.

How does it work?

A hot water recirculating pump replaces the cold water in your pipes with ready-to-use hot water.

The hot water recirculation pump systems use what’s called a ‘sensor valve’ that turns the pump on and off depending on the temperature in the hot water line at the furthest sink of your home.

You set the activation temperature for the sensor valve. Once the water temperature drops below the setting, the pump turns on and pushes the warm water back through the cold water line, leaving your faucets ready to deliver hot water instantaneously.

Most Important Quality Aspects

Material of the pump and the housing

You’ll want to go with either bronze or stainless steel for optimum performance. I prefer stainless steel as it’s the more durable option and pairs better with hard water.

In terms of housing, aluminum is always a great choice, especially for drinking water. There are pumps out there that cost less than our top picks but come with cast iron housing. Beware of those since they will rust and are not a viable option for potable water systems.

The material used will determine the pump’s reliability, durability, and longevity.

Noise level

This is probably the single most telling quality aspect. A good pump will provide solid recirculation without making noise.

It’s the noise (or lack thereof) that makes Raufos my favorite brand of hot water recirculating pumps. They do cost a bit more, but they last long, work as advertised and make little to no noise.

Vibration

With most of the better pumps, vibration won’t be a big deal, especially the inline units. However, you might see significant vibration with under-sink pumps.

If this turns out to be an issue for you, you can always add a silicon trivet under the pump, which is how I solve the vibration problem. It works like a charm every time.

The all-important timer

For a modern home, I strongly advise getting an automatic pump with a timer. It does add to the cost but means the world in terms of convenience in the long term.

However, if you are getting a pump for your summer home or a shed, you might save some money by getting a pump that you shut off manually.

A note about timer settings

If you’re anything like me, you might intuitively want to set the timer by turning the dial. Resist that urge and set the time by turning the hands.

I also feel that the next generation of timers will likely be more intuitive in terms of settings and give the user more flexibility to differentiate between weekends and weekdays.

Finally, most of these units (like the Watts) will have a small button that you can press to have the pump running at all times or turn it off completely.

What’s built-in?

Up until a few years ago, installing a hot water recirculating pump meant adding a check valve (to make sure hot and cold water don’t mix), a timer (to control the running time), and a separate temperature sensor.

Thankfully, the better units today come with all these add-ons included. So, if you stumble upon a cheaper pump, check if it’s fitted with all the add-ons before getting it just because it costs less.

“Smart” pumps

The best hot water recirculating pumps out there might come with sensors that “learn” how much water you’re using at what times of the day and adapt its operation. In other words, these units will program their own timers.

These are a great choice for commercial properties (think motels) where people with different habits go in and out of the space. For an average home, I wouldn’t go that far as to pay for features like these.

They cost a lot but don’t add much since your family’s habits are not likely to change constantly.

Your water heater vs your pump

If you have a tankless water heater, you’ll need a more powerful pump. If you don’t have either at the moment, I’d suggest getting a heater with a built-in pump. It’s the most elegant solution.

Activation

Temperature activated

These pumps turn on and off when the water temperature goes outside of the defined range. For example, the pump turns on when the water temperature in the system falls below 85 degrees Fahrenheit and shuts off when it rises above 95 degrees.

These are the most common of the three groups.

Time-activated

As the name says, you can program these pumps to activate/shut off at a specific time of the day.

A higher level of control typically means lower power consumption.

Always-on pumps

Always-on is the simplest design of the three and typically least expensive. Only one pump in the Top 8 belongs to the ‘always-on’ type – the Taco Circulator.

Top Brands

While the market is saturated and can be confusing, there’s little confusion about the top brands of hot water recirculation pumps. You can see it by the number of models in my top 8, and you can see it by doing your own research – there’s one dominant brand, and it’s the Danish giant Grundfos.

The two brands giving Grundfos a run for their money in some quality aspects are Watts Premier and Laing.

About Grundfos

Grundfos’ domination goes far beyond this market section – the Danish company is the single biggest pump manufacturer globally.

Worldwide, they employ over 19,000 people and make over 16 million pumps a year. As you can see from my list of top picks, they also produce some of the best hot water recirculating pumps on the market.

Cost-benefit analysis

I’ve seen vague questions and even worse answers in my research for this guide on hot water recirculation pumps. So, let us cut through the clutter here and look at some hard data on what you can expect after getting a hot water recirculating pump.

Cost of the unit

These pumps typically cost between $100-400, at least the ones worth mentioning. The total cost here will depend on the type of pump you chose and whether it’s a complete set or requires accessories to install.

Cost of installation

If you have experience in this type of work, you can probably install it yourself.

If, however, you are not entirely up to the task, I’d strongly advise hiring someone to install it professionally. The whole cost-benefit “math” relies on choosing a good pump and installing it properly.

How much does it cost to have a hot water recirculating pump installed?

If you go with professional installation, it will likely cost you somewhere in the $100 and $ 300 range, depending on how much work is involved.

Should you add a separate recirculating water line?

If you’re working with easily accessible appliances or a new home, it might be best to go with a separate line for the recirculation pump.

There is an option to add a thermal bypass valve and install an instant hot water recirculating pump without adding a separate hot water line for the pump system.

Cost of electricity – negligible

The added electricity cost of very small, especially with PSC (Permanent Split Capacitor) motor pumps, and it adds to about $4-5 for an average American home.

One main CON – warm water at the furthest faucet

Since the pump is installed at the faucet furthest from the heater, it will “push” a bit of the warm water into the cold water line, which means that the water at that faucet will come out lukewarm for a few seconds.

In my experience, it’s not a deal-breaker, just something to be aware of.

Benefits

There are two main benefits of having a hot water recirculating pump:

  1. Instant hot water – you don’t wait for hot water to start no matter how far the appliance is from your water heater
  2. You reduce the water waste that comes with letting the cold water out

So, there are two aspects here – the cost and the convenience.

Both rely heavily on choosing the right hot water recirculating system and installing it properly.

So, are hot water recirculation pumps worth it?

Yes, they are worth it, especially with the cost of utility bills rising each year.

A hot water recirculating pump can save you between $50-100 annually, which means they pay for themselves in under 10 years, whichever way you look at it.

And that’s just the actual cost, not taking the convenience of not waiting for hot water to “arrive” to that 2nd-floor faucet.

Types of hot water recirculating pumps

There are three main pump types:

  1. Pumps with permanent split capacitor motors (PSC)
  2. With electronically commutated motors (ECMs)
  3. Permanent magnet Vortex pumps

In my experience, the PSC pumps are superior in terms of balance between cost, performance, and long-term maintenance.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best hot water recirculating pump?

My choice is the Grundfos 99452459.

Are hot water recirculation systems efficient?

The answer to this is, “Yes, if you choose a good pump and install it correctly.”

It also means that the wrong pump will actually waste energy instead of saving it because of the circulation of hot water around the pipes.

How long do hot water recirculating pumps last?

They last up to 15 years.

That’s my experience- provided that you use them following their specs and maintain them well.

With & Without Stats

What’s important to you, the user, is the difference you can expect to see after installing a recirculating pump.

To be specific, three crucial numbers here are:

  1. How long it takes for the system to start delivering warm water (about 85-88 degrees)
  2. How long it takes for the system to begin providing hot water (about 120 degrees)
  3. How long is the cold-water delay (at the furthest fixture)

While gathering information for this guide, I found some interesting research that paints a pretty clear picture of what you can expect (source).

Naturally, the results below are based on one faucet and can vary depending on your system, incoming water temperatures, the number of fixtures, etc., but the data is useful nonetheless.

Without the hot water recirculating pump

  1. It took 1 min and 13 seconds for the water to start delivering water at “handwashing temperatures” – 88 degrees
  2. It took 2 minutes and 7 seconds for the system to start delivering water at 120 degrees
  3. No cold-water wait time

With the hot water recirculating pump

  1. The system delivered water at the 88-degree mark after 2 seconds!
  2. Water started running at 120 degrees after 28 seconds

On top of that, testing showed that, due to the cold water running for two minutes without the system, the water temperature in the heater dropped by almost 10 degrees.

*These differences are based on the before and after stats of our runner-up and the water pump carrying the “best budget solution” badge – the Watts Premiere (source: Todd Harrison on YouTube).

Cold-water wait times

This is where the difference between the top models becomes noticeable, more so than in the other statistical categories.

The Watts Premier recirculating pump resulted in 4 seconds of lukewarm water coming out of the cold water line. That gradually dropped off 80 degrees at the 41-second mark and finally down to 65 degrees only after 1 minute and 48 seconds.

So, in reality, the cold water wait times are more significant than those listed in the specs, especially with the units in the lower price ranges.

Still, based on what I’ve seen, this is not a deal-breaker for a vast majority of people

Installation

I’ll explain the installation using the example of an inline recirculating pump like Watts.

With this type of pump, you install the unit in line with the heater and the sensor valve at the furthest sink from the heater.

Follow these 15 steps to install a hot water recirculating pump:

  1. Shut off the power to the water heater
  2. If you’re working with a gas heater, make sure that the gas is turned off, and the pilot light is out before moving on to the next steps
  3. Find the valve that fills your water heater and turn it off
  4. Empty the water heater tank through the tub faucet (leave the tap in the on position)
  5. Drain any remaining water from the heater through the spigot
  6. Disconnect the hot water line
  7. Insert the gasket of the heater into the ‘female’ fitting of the pump and tighten
  8. Connect the discharge outlet onto the opposite pump fitting (male)
  9. You can check if you installed it correctly by looking for an arrow on the pump – it should be pointing away from the heater
  10. Turn the water back on
  11. Turn off the faucet once you’ve made sure there are no leaks
  12. Plugin the pump
  13. Determine which faucet in your home is furthest from the heater – this is where you’ll be installing the sensing valve
  14. Turn off the water under the sink and disconnect the valves
  15. Connect the sensor valve back to the water lines (to fit the sensor valve, you might need to use a size adapter or a flexible hose)

Final Thoughts

A hot water recirculating pump is one of those appliances that can be a great decision or a source of frustration. If chosen well and installed right, they will make your life much easier, reduce waste in your home and offer the convenience of instant hot water.

Choose wrong, and you might end up regretting the decision. However, if you follow the advice I offered in this guide, there’s very little chance of that happening.

As always, I keep a close eye on what’s going on in the industry, review new units, and update the ratings and recommendations relevant at all times.

Stay smart in your appliance choices,

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