Can I have help finding a Wi-Fi controlled ON/OFF Timer for my water heater's recirculator pump?

Discussion in 'Plumbing Products' started by Jeff Davis, Jan 20, 2020.

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  1. Jan 20, 2020 #1

    Jeff Davis

    Jeff Davis

    Jeff Davis

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    I realize this is a long question and if I’m wasting my time with what I’m asking about since it probably won’t cure the issue, please tell me. Also if there's a much easier or better solution, please tell me.
    I'm just a homeowner and I'm looking for a way to control my home’s hot water recirculator pump with a smart phone, either an iPhone or an Android to keep it from destroying the copper pipe again and causing water damage to our home. My thought is that I don't necessarily want the recirculator pump running full-time or even only running for a specific time every day (using a timer) and yet I want nearly instant hot water whenever I want it during the day. I'm OK with waiting a few minutes for the recirculator pump to get the hot water to wherever I want it in the house after I tell it to start with my smart phone and yet I'd like a timer on it so that it turns itself off automatically.
    I used to have a simple timer on this but it had to be set to run the pump about 18 hours a day to make it so that hot water was always available. We have a somewhat big 3,100sf house so it's no fun wasting cold water waiting for the hot water to get to you.
    Is anyone aware of the make and model of one that will do this for me? If you find it on Amazon, that's even better. I've seen lots of DEWENWILS parts on Amazon & a few seem like they'd work for me, but I can't find what I think I want with the limited info they give a customer.
    I would be OK with one of these that had little remotes that I could buy to put in a few rooms if they weren't too expensive but using smartphones would be better.
    The reason for my messing with this is because I've had two pinhole leaks form with in a few months in the same copper hot water pipe just a few feet past that recirculator pump in the last six months and I've read that the churning hot water can cause water pipe failures like that on the inside of pipes so I'd like to not have the pump running full time. That pipe is as old as this house, 27 years old.
    Obviously I'd like to keep that from happening anymore if possible. Dehydrating the mess and then fixing the drywall and repainting was costly since one of the leaks was in the wall behind the hot water heater.

    I found this info at https://georgebrazilplumbingelectrical.com/pinhole-leaks-in-copper-pipes-explained
    Pinhole Leaks in Copper Pipes Explained:
    ..... Another reason why your copper pipes have leaks is what’s called pitted corrosion, an extremely localized type of corrosion that attacks small areas on the inside surface of copper pipes.
    Well, there hasn’t been a conclusive study on what causes pitted corrosion, here are some possible theories:
    * High levels of chlorine in the water supply
    * Corrosion particles from rusted water heaters
    * High water pressure
    * High pH levels in the water
    * Other chemical factors in soil and water (microbial activity)
     

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    Last edited: Jan 20, 2020
  2. Jan 20, 2020 #2

    Jeff Davis

    Jeff Davis

    Jeff Davis

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    I finally did figure out how to add a File (image) into a Reply so here it is but the I did figure out how to do that in a Question so it's now in there too since I don't know who sees what when.
    Here's my recirculator pump. One of the holes was only inches from that copper pipe at the top and the other was 3' away in the wall. Maybe that had all been the same piece of tubing originally and it was a bad piece?
     

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    Last edited: Jan 20, 2020
  3. Jan 20, 2020 #3

    Diehard

    Diehard

    Diehard

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    First off, I would not confuse the best approach of controlling the hot water recirculation system with your pinhole leaks in the copper lines.

    EDIT: Assuming you have an acceptable, 3rd pipe, recirculation line, I would incorporate BOTH a timer function as well as an Aqua-stat function into the normal control scheme. Timer would allow when the pump would operate just to bring the water temperature to a preset temperature on the aqua-stat


    A manual override can be incorporated, by way of smart phone, or whatever, to switch timer signal to allow control by the aqua-stat.

    They do have many pumps that incorporate these functions or they could be added to your current setup with a small amount of electrical work.

    See 1:30 in video.
     
    Last edited: Jan 28, 2020
  4. Jan 21, 2020 #4

    Jeff Davis

    Jeff Davis

    Jeff Davis

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  5. Jan 22, 2020 #5

    Diehard

    Diehard

    Diehard

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    In brief, I guess I was confusing the pin hole leak problem with you method of controlled.

    And basically it is my opinion you should treat them separately.

    Pin hole problem...yes there are a lot of different reasons this can happen.

    In your case, I would simply replace the copper piping out to a convenient point from the circulating pump. with 3/4" PEX

    There are a couple of basis hot water recirc system types.
    One where you have the typical HW feed line to each fixture as well as a CW feed line to each fixture.
    A dedicated recirculation line is where you have an ADDITIONAL(a 3rd) pipe line dedicated to recirculating the water back to the hot water source, in order to have the convenience of near instant hot water at each fixture. But then you get into the best control to minimize the pump running time and/or power usage.

    If all you want to do is start and stop the pump from your smart phone, simply get one of those many power outlet devices that can be plugged into an electrical outlet and controlled from you phone.

    *BTW...There are recirc systems that use the typical 2 pipe household piping that adds a device connected between the HW and CW feeds to a fixture, such as a remote sink, that will sense the HW temperature at the fixture and allows the water to be recirculated, by using the CW pipe line back to the HW source, with a small pump.
    Based on your picture I only assumed you had a dedicated 3rd pipe system and offered what I felt to be the better for control and flexibility.

    Just for the record(for other interested parties), I don't consider using the existing CW line, which is considered POTABLE WATER and subjecting it to contaminates picked up in a hot water storage tank. It violates the Clean Water Act. It is not a high health hazard but a violation non-the-less. But these are decisions made at the federal level(then at the lower levels) based on level of protection vs health hazard & cost.
     
    Last edited: Jan 22, 2020
  6. Jan 22, 2020 #6

    Jeff Handy

    Jeff Handy

    Jeff Handy

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    And when you want a nice drink of cold water, or want cold water for any reason, instead the cold tap gives you warm or fairly hot.

    Stupid idea, all day long.
     
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  7. Jan 22, 2020 #7

    Jeff Davis

    Jeff Davis

    Jeff Davis

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    That worries me when you say it since I don't know what exactly you're referring to as being stupid. Can you tell me? Were you just messing with me since I'm no plumber? ;-)
     
  8. Jan 22, 2020 #8

    Jeff Handy

    Jeff Handy

    Jeff Handy

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    You are not stupid!

    Sorry if I was too vague.

    I meant that I think taking over the cold water supply line to use it as a hot water recirculation line has always seemed stupid to me.

    Better to run a third, dedicated line for the hot water recirculating pump.
    Flex lines like pex make that easier than ever before.

    Otherwise, you have no real cold water available at your faucets.

    And you have already shown you are not stupid, by trying to understand your plumbing and not just throwing money at the problem, you are using your noodle before your wallet!
     
    Last edited: Jan 22, 2020
  9. Jan 22, 2020 #9

    Jeff Davis

    Jeff Davis

    Jeff Davis

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    I guess I could do that, particularly since even though one of the pinhole leaks was inside the wall behind the water heater, we haven't repaired the drywall that needed to be cut so there's still a 2 sq ft piece out of it in the closet of the bedroom. I'm not a plumber so I'd need to have one come out and do that. That would cost a few $.
    As far as the type of system we have, I'd need to guess based on what I know that there are dedicated return lines for the recirculation to bring water back and dump it into the hot water heater.
    I say that since I'm guessing that if the system used the cold lines to return water to the hot water heater, we'd have noticed warm or even hot water when we turned on the cold water anywhere in the house until it pushed all the hot out. Right?
    I'm really not trying to save water or electricity, I just trying to make sure that there's no more pin hole failures, especially if we might have renters living here who might let water make a mess for way too long since it's not their problem or the just aren't paying attention, you know?
     
    Last edited: Jan 26, 2020
  10. Jan 22, 2020 #10

    Jeff Davis

    Jeff Davis

    Jeff Davis

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    This is an expensive tract home in southern California in a neighborhood of 286 homes built in the early 90's. We bought new for $540,000 and ours is the smallest model in the 'hood. So I'd need to guess that Standard Pacific, who built all the homes including the plumbing, didn't go stupid cheap on the recirculating systems they had installed.
    home pic from phone garage open.png
     
  11. Jan 22, 2020 #11

    Diehard

    Diehard

    Diehard

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    Yes I'd say you have the original dedicated 3rd pipe to do your hot water circulation.
    I edited my previous comments to add what I left out due to the late hour of the evening I wrote it.
    Getting a plumber to replace that section of copper pipe all the way to the furthest section, inside the wall behind the water heater, with 3/4" PEX tubing should eliminate the concern for pinholes and not cost a lot of money.

    EDIT: So what is your current control of the pump?
    Does it run based on some timer setting?
    Is it plugged into an electrical wall outlet for power?
    If you have an arrangement that can simply start and stop the pump operation by powering the pump on and off just a device as shown here should work . All depends on exactly what you have to adapt to.
    https://www.homedepot.com/p/Commerc...cF9G2_bfk-pnQvg8dexoCjB0QAvD_BwE&gclsrc=aw.ds
     
    Last edited: Jan 22, 2020
  12. Jan 23, 2020 #12

    Jeff Davis

    Jeff Davis

    Jeff Davis

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    Angels game 8-12-2018.jpg
    This was at an Angel's game by our house last year.
    Thanks. I wouldn't really know how much of that one piece of copper tubing was used and where in my house. I guess I could assume that it was used starting at the recirculator pump but I don't even know how long a full piece of tubing is.
    Also, it's all buried inside the wall in that closet except for the first few feet from the pump to the wall. The other recent leak had been just a foot beyond where it enters the wall.
    So, drywall would need to be removed to replace tubing in the closet wall.
    I think it's crazy that those 2 pinhole leaks happened within months of each other after living here for 27 years since the house was new. That's just way too much for it to be just a coincidence. Something must have made it happen.
    Maybe the city changed something in the water? I wouldn't think so.
    I don't remember when the one time was that we replaced we water heater but that's been awhile.
    I had messed with the timer on the recirculator pump recently so maybe that somehow caused this. It had some really old and expensive timer in the power supply cord that needed to be reprogrammed if you went to replace the power failure battery backup battery and that was a pain.
    I was told that any old X-mas light timer would do, it didn't need to be anything special since that recirculator pump doesn't draw much amperage. I got a simple timer and it just wouldn't work for some reason. So for the past few months and I think for lots of years before that (not sure), it has run 24/7.
    I can't see that causing these pin holes since if water flow was causing were inside the tube, it would have happened long ago, regardless.
    I'm open to any ideas. I'd love to be able to stop worrying about leaks.


    EDIT: So what is your current control of the pump? PLUGGED IN & RUNS 24/7
    Does it run based on some timer setting? NOT RIGHT NOW
    Is it plugged into an electrical wall outlet for power? YES, IMMEDIATELY BEHIND WATER HEATER THERE'S A DEDICATED SOCKET THE BUILDER MUST HAVE PUT THERE FOR A TIMER.
    If you have an arrangement that can simply start and stop the pump operation by powering the pump on and off just a device as shown here should work . All depends on exactly what you have to adapt to.
    You gave me this link so I looked at it:
    https://www.homedepot.com/p/Commerc...cF9G2_bfk-pnQvg8dexoCjB0QAvD_BwE&gclsrc=aw.ds
    Wi-Fi Smart Plug. No Hub Required. Works with All Major Voice Control Platforms $ 9.97
    • Control devices remotely
    • Schedule convenient times of operation
    • Works with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant
    Pretty decent price and that's something I'd thought of trying to find. Thanks. I don't know if I'll go that way.
    I still need to learn about that PEX tubing. What is it? Can it be easily connected to the copper tubes in my system and how?
    View attachment 23050
     
    Last edited: Jan 26, 2020
  13. Jan 23, 2020 #13

    Jeff Handy

    Jeff Handy

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    There have been other recent posts on here from folks who are getting repeated pinhole leaks in copper pipes.

    And apparently some are caused by corrosive water supply, in California.

    So investigate that locally somehow.
    Through social media, local news, ask plumbers.

    Meanwhile, as copper fails, replace with pex, it is fairly inert.
     
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  14. Jan 23, 2020 #14

    Diehard

    Diehard

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    There are numerous reasons that can contribute to copper pipe corrosion. Sounds like in you case, at least one of the reasons that likely contributed to it was the velocity( along with age).
    Here's a good video on it.
     
  15. Jan 23, 2020 #15

    Mitchell-DIY-Guy

    Mitchell-DIY-Guy

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    I don't know if this applies to you, but if your hot water recirculation system includes recirculation from the second floor, in most cases you do NOT need a pump. One word: thermosiphon.

    Hot water rises. It's physics. Hot water will rise to the highest point in your home, and then you provide a return path to your tank. To do a thermosiphon system, you need just a few things: you need "head" or the start of the return line well above the hot water source. An ideal situation is found in many two-story homes in the NE and Midwest: a water heater in the basement, and a bathroom on the second floor. Now you need just two other very cheap parts: a swing check valve mounted HORIZONTALLY with the flow to the bottom of your hot water tank (typically the drain port), and a full flow ball shutoff valve in line with the check valve. It's important that the check valve be a swing type (no cracking pressure, no springs, and full flow).

    So, the hot water rises naturally through the magic of science, goes to the top, where it finds a return path back to the hot water tank. The check valve ensures flow in the correct direction. The ball valve allows you to shut it off, if you don't need it or if you need to change the hot water tank. The flow is slow, but it is there.

    Now before any naysayers pop up, let me tell you I lived with this for 27 years in a new home I built in 1992. The system worked exceedingly well. No failures even of the 27 year old check valve, and no pin hole leaks. The plumber back then did this as standard operating procedure. "You don't want to wait for hot water up here, right?" was his comment. He didn't "charge extra" for it, he just did it in every two story home he plumbed.

    Recently I was under contract to build a new home in the south. I asked for this in the home and the plumbing contractor--that claims to be the largest plumbing contractor serving new constructions in two states--could NOT understand this, and despite repeated attempts to explain it, could not wrap their head around it. After many weeks of sending photos and various stories from around the country, they finally understood it, but then again--I'm not sure. They ended up pricing this "upgrade" of maybe 75' of 1/2" PEX for the return line, and some insulation, along with $15 for the valves at a usurious price such that no fool would pay for it. It was their way of maintaining the status quo. What they really wanted me to do is install one of those Watts thingies with the cross connection that uses the cold water line as a return line, a plug in pump and timer. No way, I said--not necessary.

    But ignoring that for a moment, you do not need a pump if you have those conditions I mentioned.
     
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  16. Jan 23, 2020 #16

    Dan the Plumber

    Dan the Plumber

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    Lots of long replies here so I don't know if this was addressed... In my experience, 42 years and counting, Most pinhole leaks in dedicated copper line recirc systems are caused by a combination of turbulence, velocity and excessive use. Turbulence is due to the use of normal 90's instead of long sweep 90's. Velocity is due to more pump than is necessary and the almost universal use of 1/2" type M pipe. In the earlies we used to use the series 100 Bell & Gosset pumps... They could wear out a pipe in just a few years. Excessive use is caused by timer abuse.

    Solution... switch to pex when repairs are made or when entire return needs to be replaced. In a SFD, use your timer or install point of use control. In a MFD use an aquastat. and make sure you're using the smallest pump necessary for your loop.
     
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  17. Jan 23, 2020 #17

    breplum

    breplum

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    Well said Dan. I am utterly stunned how many "plumbers" still oversize pumps and do not use long sweep 90s !
    I am personally only aware of velocity erosion in elbows, have never seen pinholes in pipe from recirculation.
     
  18. Jan 23, 2020 #18

    Mitchell-DIY-Guy

    Mitchell-DIY-Guy

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    With all due respect to the professionals and DIYers who do it right, I'll tell you why, @breplum. Price and availability. When I needed them for a project, I could not find long sweep ELLs at the typical places people buy plumbing parts these days...Lowes...Home Depot...Menards...there had been a really well stocked Ferguson near me, but then they shut down that part of the business. A regular commercial "plumbing supply house" really doesn't want some homeowner walking in the door wanting to buy a few little parts. In fact some won't sell unless you are commercial, have a tax id, etc. and thus forcing people who need perhaps obscure parts to buy online.

    I ended up having to order them online; this was for a radiant heat system I designed and installed.

    Then there is the pricing issue...a regular ELL may cost $0.45 to $0.90 online or at a home center. A long sweep ELL in 1/2" copper at SupplyHouse is over $2.00. Yes, penny wise and pound foolish perhaps, but whoever is installing this will be long gone by the time something fails. It becomes somebody else's problem.
     
  19. Jan 24, 2020 #19

    Jeff Davis

    Jeff Davis

    Jeff Davis

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    I couldn't find any way to Delete what I'd thought of posting as a Reply so I just Erased it all and typed in this garbage. Sorry.
     
  20. Jan 24, 2020 #20

    Jeff Handy

    Jeff Handy

    Jeff Handy

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    We all have done that.
    I guess once you post, you need to keep something in there.

    Often you will see, “EDIT, ignore or delete this post.”

    Or something similar.
     

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