Hot Water Recovery Rates: A Guide

by Jessica Sawyer | Water Heaters

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Hot water is an essential part of everyday life, from morning showers to washing dishes after dinner. Let’s face it, cleaning just isn’t the same with cold water, and it certainly isn’t as comfortable. So, if you find that your hot water recovery rate isn’t keeping up with your household’s demands, it can put a real wrench in your daily routine.

Hot water recovery rate refers to how quickly a water heater can start providing you with hot water again after you’ve used it all up. It’s measured in gallons per hour (GPH), and is crucial for ensuring that you have enough hot water when you need it most. By understanding your water heater’s recovery rate, you can plan your most important hot water-related tasks around it, and keep the cold showers to a minimum.

In this guide, we’ll break down everything you need to know about hot water recovery rates, including factors that affect them, how to calculate them, and tips for improving them.

Factors Affecting Hot Water Recovery

There are a few factors that can influence your hot water recovery rate. Let’s break down some of the most common ones below.

Tank Size

As you may imagine, the size of your water tank plays a significant role in recovery rates. Of course, larger tanks can hold more hot water, but they also require more time and energy to heat. This can slow down your recovery rate.

But while smaller tanks heat up faster, they may not meet the demands of larger households. This makes finding the right balance between tank size and household needs essential when choosing a water heater.

Fuel Type

The type of fuel your water heater uses – whether it’s gas, electric, or solar – also affects recovery rates. For example, gas heaters generally have faster recovery rates compared to electric models because gas burners can produce more heat quickly. 

But that being said, there’s also good reasons to go with electric options. They may take longer to heat water, sure, but they’re typically more energy-efficient.


Finally, the quality of your insulation impacts not only how long the water stays hot, but also how quickly the heater must work to reheat it. Well-insulated tanks lose less heat, which means they can maintain hot water longer and recover faster. 

So, if you’re looking for a straightforward way to improve your water heater’s performance, then upgrading your insulation could do the trick.

What’s a Good Hot Water Recovery Rate?

Wondering what kind of water heater recovery rate you should be shooting for? Well, considering the factors above, the answer can vary depending on household needs and water heater types. 

But generally speaking, a rate of 40-50 gallons per hour (GPH) is considered a good hot water recovery rate for most households. If you have a large family or use multiple hot water appliances at the same time, though, you may need a higher recovery rate to ensure a consistent hot water supply.

How to Calculate Your Hot Water Recovery Rate

Is your recovery rate reaching that 40-50 mark? By understanding how to calculate your hot water recovery rate, you can get a better idea of whether your current system meets your needs. 

Here’s the formula to determine the recovery rate for water heaters:

Hot Water Recovery Rate = (Tank Capacity × Temperature Rise) / (Heating Element Power × Efficiency)

If you’re not a math person, don’t panic! The formula isn’t as complicated as it looks. Let’s break this down step-by-step:

  1. Tank Capacity: The total volume of your water heater tank, measured in gallons. You can typically find this information on the tank label or in the instructions that came with the unit.
  2. Temperature Rise: The difference between the incoming cold water temperature and the hot water temperature you’re after.
  3. Heating Element Power: The power rating of your heater’s heating element, usually measured in BTUs (British Thermal Units) for gas heaters or watts for electric heaters.
  4. Efficiency: The efficiency rate of your water heater, expressed as a decimal. Another number that you should be able to find in the manufacturer’s instructions.

How to Use the Hot Water Recovery Rate Formula

Now, let’s try using this formula in an example. Let’s say you have a 50-gallon electric water heater with a 90% efficiency rate, a heating element power of 4500 watts, and you need to heat the water from 50°F to 120°F (a 70-degree rise).

Your calculation would look like this:

Recovery Rate = (50 × 70) / (4500 × 0.9) = 3500 / 4050 ≈ 0.86 GPH

So, in this example, your hot water recovery rate would be 0.86 GPH. Not too bad, right? 

If you’re ready to perform these calculations yourself, just remember to adjust the formula based on your specific water heater’s specifications.

Tips for Improving Hot Water Recovery Rates

Is your hot water recovery rate where you’d like it to be? If not, here are some tips to help you enjoy a more efficient and reliable hot water supply:

Upgrade Your Water Heater

If your current water heater is outdated, consider upgrading to a newer model with a higher recovery rate. A plumber can help you ensure that your new water heater will be installed according to local codes and safety regulations.

Insulate Your Tank

Adding or upgrading the insulation around your water heater tank can reduce heat loss and improve recovery times. Check out your local hardware or home improvement store for specially designed insulation blankets.

Schedule Regular Maintenance

Regular maintenance, such as flushing the tank to remove sediment build-up and checking the heating elements, can keep your water heater running efficiently and improve recovery rates. This is another area that can take some technical know-how, so schedule an appointment with a plumber to ensure the job gets done correctly.

Optimize Hot Water Usage

It’s not just the water heater that can help your recovery rate – some simple changes to your daily routine can help too. For example, staggering showers and running appliances at off-peak times can prevent overloading your water heater.

Need a Hand with Your Water Heater? Water Pros Plumbing Can Help!

Not happy with your hot water recovery rate? Well, whether you’re ready to upgrade your hot water system or need expert advice on optimizing your current setup, we’ve got you covered! 

At Water Pros Plumbing, we can help you with all of your water heater installation, repair, and maintenance needs. Click here to schedule a Water Pros Plumber online, or call (480) 459-4424 today.

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