Building America Case Study: Control Retrofits for Multifamily Domestic Hot Water Recirculation Systems, Brooklyn, New York

Stacey Rothgeb, J. Dentz, E. Ansanelli, H. Jr., K. Varshney

Research output: NRELFact Sheet


Domestic hot water (DHW) heating is the second largest energy end use in U.S. buildings, exceeded only by space conditioning. Recirculation systems consisting of a pump and piping loop(s) are commonly used in multifamily buildings to reduce wait time for hot water at faucets; however, constant pumping increases energy consumption by exposing supply and return line piping to continuous heat loss, even during periods when there is no demand for hot water. In this study, ARIES installed and tested two types of recirculation controls in a pair of buildings in order to evaluate their energy savings potential. Demand control, temperature modulation controls, and the simultaneous operation of both were compared to the baseline case of constant recirculation. Additionally, interactive effects between DHW control fuel reductions and space conditioning (heating and cooling) were estimated in order to make more realistic predictions of the payback and financial viability of retrofitting DHW systems with these controls. Results showed that DHW fuel consumption reduced by 7 percent after implementing the demand control technique, 2 percent after implementing temperature modulation, and 15 percent after implementing demand control and temperature modulation techniques simultaneously; recirculation pump runtime was reduced to 14 minutes or less per day. With space heating and cooling interactions included, the estimated annual cost savings were 8 percent, 1 percent, and 14 percent for the respective control techniques. Possible complications in the installation, commissioning and operation of the controls were identified and solutions offered.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages2
StatePublished - 2016

Bibliographical note

Work performed by ARIES (Advanced Residential Integrated Energy Solutions) Collaborative, New York, New York

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/FS-5500-64542

Other Report Number

  • DOE/GO-102016-4704


  • Building America
  • central domestic hot water systems
  • demand control
  • DHW
  • domestic hot water
  • multifamily
  • recirculating pump controls
  • Residential
  • Residential Buildings
  • temperature modulation


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