I just want to wash my hands with warm water!
February 5, 2012 8:55 PM   Subscribe

[plumbingfilter] My bathroom and kitchen faucets don't give cold water until they've been running for at least one minute. The shower runs hot much quicker (10-20 seconds). Is this something that can be fixed? My landlord says no.

I live on the 3rd story of a 3-story building with 6 apartments. My landlord (who lives in the building and does the super work as well) says that it's because of the water heater and said something about being on the top floor means hot water takes a while to come up (the water heater is presumably in the basement). While this makes some sense to me, the fact that the shower runs hot quicker argues against it. Can this be fixed? My LL pays for the water, and I have to run more water because of this, so it seems that he'd have an incentive to fix it, particularly if it didn't require a new water heater.
posted by benbenson to Home & Garden (12 answers total)
I would guess that the shower runs at 3-6 times the volume of the faucet and thus clears the cold water out of the pipes in 1/6-1/3 of the time.

Might also have to do with who else is using the hot water lines at certain times of the day. Does your apartment have a dedicated water heater in the basement, or does each apartment branch off of one line?
posted by supercres at 9:01 PM on February 5, 2012

The shower pipes might run through conditioned space that is warm, while the faucet goes through an unconditioned space that isnt, so the water has to warm up the pipe before it feels warm to you. This is more likely if you live someplace cold. If that's the case the answer it probably can't be fixed without some very major renovation. Just a wild guess.
posted by RandlePatrickMcMurphy at 9:02 PM on February 5, 2012

I have no idea. I understand that the answer to this question depends on how the building's plumbing is set up, but I'm trying to figure out if I should pursue it or just let it be.
posted by benbenson at 9:03 PM on February 5, 2012

I assume you mean that the bathroom and kitchen faucets don't give hot water until they are running for a minute. The faucets are probably putting out a max of 1.5 gal/min, and as little as .5 gal/min, while the shower may be putting out 2.5 or more gal/min.

You could put higher-flow faucets on, but that is not in your landlord's or the environment's best interest. to actually solve the problem, you need a recirculating hot water system, which your landlord will never spring for.
posted by rockindata at 9:03 PM on February 5, 2012

Yes, I meant to say that they don't give hot water to start :)
posted by benbenson at 9:05 PM on February 5, 2012

I agree with the rockindata and supercres. Based on the information you've give us you're at X distance (assuming same pipe size/water pressure between two devices) from the water heater and the flow rates of shower is, respectively, Y and Z make the following equations valid.

time_for_hot_shower = (X volume^3) / (Y volume^3/time) = n time
time_for_hot_hands = (X volume^3) / (Z volume^3/time) = m time

The easy way to test things is to fill a gallon jug from a faucet at full hot water flow and note the time it takes to fill the jug. Next, take the same jug and fill it from your showerhead/bathtub faucet and note the time it takes to fill it.

To go one step further you could figure out what fraction of full flow in the bathtub yields the same 'time to full' as the sinks yield.

That was probably a bit much on the information side, but oh well.
posted by RolandOfEld at 9:29 PM on February 5, 2012

It also depends on how far away the faucet or other outlet is from the water heater. Out bathroom is next to the water heater so showers heat up fast. Our kitchen is a long way from the heater and we wait ages for hot.
posted by anadem at 9:33 PM on February 5, 2012

Yes, there is a solution! A Instant hot water system.

I don't have any experience with the linked product, it's just the first one that popped up.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 9:38 PM on February 5, 2012

There's nothing you or the landlord can do about it. Depending on what aerators are installed, your shower might be pulling 2x or more volume from the pipe (2.5 Gal/min for a low-flow shower vs. 1 Gal/min for a sink), so I would expect it to be faster. A foot of standardish supply pipe contains (roughly) 1/20th of a gallon of water, and it's unlikely there are multiple hot water access points in your apartment. If the shower is also located right on top of the supply and the sink is 20 ft away, that would make a full minute to get hot water, again making a guess at what flow rate you have.
posted by wnissen at 7:36 AM on February 6, 2012

If all you want is HW at the sink in less than aminute you could try running the tub at full blast until it runs hot, then switch over to the sink. Assuming the tub and sink are on the same HW line.
posted by Gungho at 7:44 AM on February 6, 2012

If you can figure out which pipes are yours, you can put some insulation wrap on them so that the water in the pipes doesn't cool back down to room temperature as quickly, but this isn't going to give you HOT water any faster, particularly after no water has been drawn for an hour or two.

What you want is a convection loop, but, unless your landlord is planning on gutting and replumbing much of your bathroom (and whatever is between them and the basement) some time soon, and just happens to have a lot of extra pipe laying around that he needs to get rid of, don't hold your breath. I've been in REALLY nice houses that didn't have this amenity.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 8:29 AM on February 6, 2012

There are several solutions to this, but whether your Land Lord (LL) will pay for them is another question.

1) You can have an instant water heater installed (which was mentioned previously).
2) You can have a small point-of-use regular water heater configured perhaps under your sink. This is a regular type water heater but much smaller. My mother has one of these for her kitchen sink because the main water heater is at the far end of the house from the kitchen.
3) The LL could install a recirculating hot water system which uses a pump to keep hot water recirculating through the pipes and provides much quicker hot water to all taps.

All of these options would save on your landlord's water bill so you may be able to "sell" the ideas that way. Everyone in the building probably has to run the water for awhile to get hot water, probably more so in winter since most water pipes run through unconditioned space. If you pay for electric and gas then you would bear the cost of the water heating for your BR sink with the first two options, rather than the LL footing the bill for that tap.
posted by RussianBlue26102 at 1:23 PM on February 6, 2012

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