ACI was an interesting conference with a lot of great vendors exhibiting, but one had me stumped. The company was called ShowerStart & they have a product where you turn on the water & as soon as it hits 95 its slows the flow to a trickle. Once you hop in, you pull the lanyard & essentially you have hot water & saved a bunch that would have gone down the drain.

Personally I like recirculating systems & consider water the next big thing to watch (which for some parts of the country it already is) but would love to hear your thoughts - is it something you would recommend / even use yourself or just a gimmick?

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Jim - The last iteration of the chilipepper is what you have heard about. It has been reengineered and is no longer loud and has longer lifespan. I dont know how you can think it is difficult to install. All you do is disconnect the two shut offs and put it between the two. The hardest thing is access to an electrical outlet which may have to be installed if not present, which is the same as the metlund product. Chilipepper was actually created by the guy who originally designed the Metlund system. It is actually on the order of three to four times more powerful which moves the hot water faster. Its also about 4 times less expensive as the metlund and can be self installed by anyone that has any home improvement know how. I'm not affiliated at all, I have just researched this topic extensively and have experience with both. I dont like paying 4 times the amount for a product that does the same thing. The metlund could very well have the durability edge but even if the warranty didnt cover your issue, you could buy 4 more of them!

Thanks for the re-iterations. Early in 2011 a friend, also an energy auditor, slipped a chilipepper into her plumbing. And OH what a relief!

Water bills dropped; kids love it. Even the noisy iterations had value -You KNOW when it's done and the water is hot and waiting because the racket stops! Kids LIKE that. Like when the doggie stops barking, we wag into the shower.

Happy campers are made of this.

One of the obvious problems with the device... is the use on installations in which the owner has previously installed thermostatic valves in the showers.  I use Grohe's thermal (Grotherm) controls.  We generally set the temperature at about 85F and that's where the water stays...  No value in the kit above.   For long runs using a chilipepper using either a dedicated return or the cold water return - works great.   I trigger my chilipepper when any of the bathroom light switches are turned on.  The recirc pump is located near the cluster of bathrooms.   Very little waste water and the shower temps are extremely stable.

Interesting side note... since I'm used to taking cooler showers - that seems to have caused some problems in a few of the German hotels that we've stayed at.  Most of the 3+ star hotels also use thermal controls for the showers.. and I'd set the show temp at about 25C-30C.  Two days in a row we had maintenance people coming up with immersion thermocouple probes and meters to verify the correct observation of the shower... because the cleaning staff noticed the temp was set at 25C instead of the higher temps that many of the Europeans like...  :-)

Any way to save water, especially HOT water, is worth checking out. I would personally be an advocate for more on demand/point usage hot water systems. Or just recycling grey water. In Iowa you are not allowed to collect grey water.

If you travel outside of the US you will see lots of great ways to save and use less water in general. Why aren't double flush toilets required for code. One would think places like California would be all over regulating water usage.  

Grey water can really be a problem if it sits too long in the pipes or the back of a toilet.  That soap or extra stuff that makes it grey water really needs to be filtered out and processed before re-use.  Bacteria such as legionella is not filtered - so you might have to use a UV treatment to sterilize the water.   Then in areas where grey water is used - they often require a unique water line that carries it two the grey water use fixture (toilet tank) and the faucet needs to be clearly identified as non-potable water.  In rural areas the AHJ may not have people trained to look at the system to see if properly installed, they may not have the people to test it,  or they simply feel that water isn't an issue.

As for where the water goes after re-use... that again depends on the region - is the house on a septic field or muni water treatment.  If septic system - that means the water eventually recharges the aquifer.   If going through a waste treatment plant - the water may be processed then reused in agriculture applications. 

In California - the issue is more of who should get priority access to the water:  Agriculture, industry, commercial buildings,  energy production, residential use.... or recreation....  that a political / public policy issue.

The problem is these devices NEVER pay for themselves. Water is cheap, about $3 per 1,000 gallons in our area. Natural Gas is also cheap, you can run a water heater for a month for about $10 in NG.

However the Fixed FEES are expensive for both NG and Water. High monthly service charges that don't go down when you less water/gas are killing the home efficiency industry. Want people to conserve? Charge lower monthly service charges and more for the water/gas.

Water recirc is gaining popularity here in the Toronto area in new construction. Our water price is still very low on a global scale, so it is for convenience rather than savings. Some municipalities have mandatory rough-in for recirc systems, meaning the loop has to be installed during construction, but the pump could be put in later. The recirc system will save on volume of cold water used, but will increase water heating BTU loss, so it is a trade-off, and you have to  do the math based on heating cost versus water cost in your area. 

I agree, water is the next big thing to watch, even here where we have abundant supplies.

On demand recirc or??? If on demand the loss is very minimal, but timer based or always on the numbers climb dramatically

Sean,  if you are in a drought prone or high electric market area... I can see how they would work - if you can't install a demand controlled recirc pump.

FWIW,  Last week (October 2017) I spent a week at a Laquinta hotel near the Denver airport. The Denver area is a dry climate in which water can be precious.  My room was on the fourth floor at the end of the hallway near the elevator.  When I turned the shower on in the morning, there were two problems. 

1.  Hot and cold lines were reversed to the control!!

2.  It didn't have a recirc line,  it was a long way from the water heater or central boiler.  I timed the time to get hot water when the control valve was in correct position --- it took EIGHT+ minutes.   I just got used to turning on the shower, letting it run... make coffee first,  watch the weather channel and then ten or fifteen minutes later check the water temp.

This was in a hotel that was encouraging customers to use less water AND they were installing low flow (1.1 gallon) toilets.

I had a immersion probe along with our gear on the trip,  I measured and took the temps and the rate the temps climbed.   It was slow.  I'm also guessing the lines were not insulated - we had cold snap while I was there (snowed in Denver) and literally within a few minutes of turning off the water - you'd get cold water again.

I can see the device in the original post perhaps helping a little bit in the case of this hotel.

But then if they reverse the hot and cold lines to the value it would also eliminate the confusion and the experimentation needed to get a warm shower!!!

Since others reactivated this thread, I'll chime in. In recent years I been including DHW distribution in my design review conferences. As others noted, each house is different, requiring its own solution.

The device Sean mentioned in the OP (ShowerStart) may save some energy and water if the user typically walks away from the shower while waiting for hot water to arrive. My take on that: if it takes that long to arrive, this approach is nothing more than lipstick on a pig,

My town (Sierra Vista) mandated timer-based recirc systems more than a decade ago. Not surprisingly, that led to a large spike in energy consumption and/or less water savings than expected. Most of the homes built in that era have uninsulated HW pipes running through the attic and as others have noted, hot water draws are often difficult to predict/schedule. The result was that people would either set long run schedules or disconnect the pump altogether when (and if) they realized why their energy bills went up.

The home I bought when I moved here in '07 had a recirc system. I optimized it by wiring the pump 120VAC outlet to a 5-minute Intermatic wind-up timer, mounted between the two baths. Essentially, this converted it to on-demand

Several years ago, local hw distribution expert Dave Grieshop, with Gary Klein's help, convinced the city to change the code. Conventional recirc pumps are no longer allowed. Instead, new homes must either have an on-demand system or structured plumbing, subject to a 3-cup maximum volume between the heater and any hw fixture. Sierra Vista also became the first city in the country to mandate Energy Star WaterSense certification for new homes.

On a side note, I advise clients against using motion sensors for on-demand pumps. Too many false triggers.

Interesting to see that recirc. has been in use for many years in some places. It is still a novelty here in Toronto area. While on the plumbing topic, DWHR (Drain Waste Heat Recovery) is also new here in the last five years or so. It is one compliance option builders can use to achieve their energy points for basic code compliance or beyond. They are "gov't" approved but I am not yet convinced  of the merits of these systems. How about rest of North America, are they in use?


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