Evaluating Domestic Hot Water Distribution System Options With Validated Analysis Models

Stacey Rothgeb, E. Weitzel, M. Hoeschele, Stacey Rothgeb (NREL Technical Monitor)

Research output: NRELSubcontract Report


A developing body of work is forming that collects data on domestic hot water consumption, water use behaviors, and energy efficiency of various distribution systems. A full distribution system developed in TRNSYS has been validated using field monitoring data and then exercised in a number of climates to understand climate impact on performance. This study builds upon previous analysis modellingwork to evaluate differing distribution systems and the sensitivities of water heating energy and water use efficiency to variations of climate, load, distribution type, insulation and compact plumbing practices. Overall 124 different TRNSYS models were simulated. Of the configurations evaluated, distribution losses account for 13-29% of the total water heating energy use and water useefficiency ranges from 11-22%. The base case, an uninsulated trunk and branch system sees the most improvement in energy consumption by insulating and locating the water heater central to all fixtures. Demand recirculation systems are not projected to provide significant energy savings and in some cases increase energy consumption. Water use is most efficient with demand recirculation systems,followed by the insulated trunk and branch system with a central water heater. Compact plumbing practices and insulation have the most impact on energy consumption (2-6% for insulation and 3-4% per 10 gallons of enclosed volume reduced). The results of this work are useful in informing future development of water heating best practices guides as well as more accurate (and simulation timeefficient) distribution models for annual whole house simulation programs.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages53
StatePublished - 2014

Bibliographical note

Work performed by Alliance for Residential Building Innovation, Davis, California

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/SR-5500-62848

Other Report Number

  • DOE/GO-102014-4515


  • arbi
  • Building America
  • demand recirculation
  • DHW
  • distribution systems
  • domestic hot water (DHW)
  • hot water
  • hot water distribution systems
  • plumbing
  • residential
  • residential buildings
  • water heating


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