Why do I need a shower heat exchanger?
Although hidden on your energy bill, heating water is a large energy cost in most homes. Showers are the major consumer of hot water in the typical home (up to 80%) and are ideally suited for heat recovery since there is no delay between the time that hot water is used and the time it is drained. It is the simultaneous flow of new fresh water to the shower and waste water to the drain that makes heat recovery efficient.
I use hot water in the dishwasher and clothes washer; will the EcoDrain recover energy from these appliances?
No. The EcoDrain only provides performance in applications in which water is being drained without a delay as in a shower. By contrast, dishwashers and clothing washers are batch processes in which there is a lag between the time the water is drawn from the water heater and the time it is drained.
If you are concerned about the hot water consumption in your clothing washer, a solution exists which is to use cold water with a detergent specially designed for cold water cleaning. The dishwasher is typically a minor user of water compared to the shower and the clothing washers.
I take a lot of baths. Will the EcoDrain save energy in this application?
No. The EcoDrain only provides performance on applications in which water is being drained without a delay as in a shower. By contrast, in baths there is lag between the time the water is drawn from the water heater and the time it is drained.
The bath is not a good candidate for heat recovery because whereas shower water enters the drain at approximately the same temperature as it left the showerhead, by the time a bath is drained, the water has typically cooled off to the point that heat recovery is not significant. If you are concerned with the recovering waste heat from the bath, the best option is to wait until the water has cooled off to room temperature before draining the tub. The heat will have transferred to the room. Note that this will only save energy during times of the year when you are paying to heat your home.
Is the EcoDrain patented?
There are patents pending for key design features of both the horizontal and vertical EcoDrain. The EcoDrain was developed after extensive research, testing, simulation, and analysis of the flow of fluids through pipes. The developers learned that the key to gaining high performance heat exchange in a compact and simple device lies in controlling the flow patterns of the drain water and the fresh water. All of the EcoDrain heat exchanger technology is derived from this research and the aims to optimally control the flow patterns of the heat transfer fluids.
Does the EcoDrain recycle water?
No. The EcoDrain is a passive heat exchanger. It makes possible the transfer of heat from hot waste water to cold fresh water. The warm drain water passes through the device without stopping as does the cold fresh water.
Can the EcoDrain mix the fresh water with the waste water?
No. Both the horizontal and vertical EcoDrain have been designed with a double wall of separation between the fresh water and waste water. This double wall is vented to the atmosphere. This means that there are two walls separating the fresh water and waste water. If one wall were to pierce, the device would leak to the atmosphere. The two fluids would not mix.
My drain clogs regularly with hair, soap, toothpaste, and other debris. Won’t the horizontal EcoDrain clog as well?
No. The contact area of the horizontal EcoDrain drain is coated with a very slippery environmentally friendly non-stick coating. This prevents anything from sticking to the device and makes it self cleaning. For further assurance, it is possible to purchase a hair cover for the drain which dramatically reduces the amount of hair that ends up in the drain. For best performance results, it is important not only that the EcoDrain does not clog but also that the p-trap and the rest of the drain remain clog free so that the shower drains normally.
When my drain clogs, I use chemical and/or bacterial cleaners to unclog it. Is it safe to use these with the EcoDrain?
The EcoDrain is corrosion resistant and it is as safe to use chemical and bacterial cleaners with the EcoDrain as it is for the rest of the piping.
How much does it cost to install the EcoDrain?
The EcoDrain provides the most economic benefit when it is installed in a new construction project or a bathroom remodeling project. In these situations, when the required piping is exposed, the incremental cost of installation is negligible.
Does the EcoDrain need to be installed by a plumber?
The EcoDrain is designed to be easy to install. It simply requires connecting the device to the shower drain line and the fresh cold water line feeding either the hot water heater or the shower mixing valve.
We recommend that it be installed by either a plumber or general contractor.
When does it make sense to retrofit the EcoDrain?
Typically, the EcoDrain will be installed as part of a larger construction or remodel project. In some cases, it may also be practical to do a dedicated retrofit. The key to a retrofit being practical is either that the cost of installation is low or the energy savings are high.
The largest challenge in installation is accessing the drain pipe and fresh water pipe. If you live in a home with accessible crawl space, then the piping might be readily accessible making retrofit cost effective.
If you have an application in which many hot showers are taken per day, for instance a commercial gym, the cost of retrofitting may be small compared to the savings.
I am building a home on a concrete slab and the drain pipes will be in the slab, how can I install the EcoDrain?
The EcoDrain is available with an optional concrete drop-box. This box allows the EcoDrain to be installed quickly and cost effectively in concrete slab homes. For more information, please contact us.
Will the EcoDrain work with my tankless water heater?
The EcoDrain will work with most tankless water heating systems provided that it is installed correctly.
If the tankless heating system is connected in-line, then the EcoDrain would be used to preheat water directly entering the water heater. In this configuration, it is important to verify that the in-line heater can adjust its heating capacity to provide a constant output temperature as the intake water temperature increases.
If the tankless water heater is connected to the shower using a mixing valve and a combination of hot and cold water is feeding the shower, then the EcoDrain can be used to preheat the cold water leading to the mixing valve in the same way that it would for tank heating system.
Do I need a special valve in order to use the EcoDrain?
If the EcoDrain is used to preheat water to the water heater, then it makes no difference what valve is used.
If the EcoDrain is used to preheat cold water directly feeding the shower mixing valve, then although it can work with any type of valve, the valve that is used will make a difference.
The best option is to use a thermostatic shower valve.
This is a valve that maintains a constant temperature output regardless of the temperature of cold and hot water feeding the valve. Since the EcoDrain will be heating up cold water leading to the mixing valve, a thermostatic valve will automatically maintain a constant temperature by restricting the flow from the hot water side. The result is a shower of the same temperature and flow but using less of the water from the heating system and more of the preheated water.
If the EcoDrain is connected to a shower with individual cold and hot water valves, then the shower user will need to manually adjust the valves once the shower is running. This means that the user will need to turn down the hot water valve and turn up the cold water valve once the shower has started running and hot water has reached the showerhead.
Can a single EcoDrain be installed on multiple showers?
A single EcoDrain can be used for multiple showers provided the showers are rarely used simultaneously. There is a limit to the maximum flow on the supply side and also an optimal flow on the drain side. If multiple showers drain at the same time, there will be diminishing returns in terms of savings because the heat exchanger capacity may be exceeded resulting in some water just passing through the heat exchanger without transferring any heat.
I have a solar system, why would I want the EcoDrain?
The EcoDrain boosts hot water capacity for showers, which is the primary consumer of hot water in typical homes. By combining the EcoDrain with a solar water heater, the homeowner can install a smaller and less expensive solar heating system. This will accelerate the payback of the combined system.
Additionally, in many areas, solar power is intermittent or insufficient to supply adequate hot water for all of the household needs on a daily basis. The end result of this is either getting stuck with cold showers or installing a back-up electric, gas or fuel water heating system. By combining a solar heating system with an EcoDrain, a back-up heating system may become unnecessary.
What is the pressure loss through the EcoDrain? Is this significant?
The pressure loss through the EcoDrain is typically less than 5 psi at a flow rate of 2.5 GPM (10 LPM).
Is there a certain type of showerhead that I should use with the EcoDrain?
The EcoDrain will perform regardless of the type of showerhead.
I have an on-demand or instant hot water recirculating system. Will the EcoDrain work with it?
The EcoDrain should work with most on-demand or instant hot water systems provided that it is installed properly. The EcoDrain is designed to preheat cold water leading either to a shower mixing valve or to the water heater. An on-demand system is designed to recirculate hot water in the hot water circuit. The two operate on different circuits and should not interfere with each other.
Should I use the EcoDrain to preheat water to feed my water heater or to feed my shower directly?
The EcoDrain can be installed in any one of the following three configurations:
- Preheated water goes to water heating system only.
- Preheated water goes to both the water heating system and the shower mixing valve.
- Preheated water goes to shower mixing valve only.
In configuration A, the savings come from the fact that the water entering the water heater will be preheated. The heater will then consume less energy heating the water to the set output temperature.
In configuration C, the savings come from the fact that the cold water leading to the shower mixing valve is being preheated. As the cold water increases in temperature, less water from the hot water heating system is required for a shower of the same temperature.
Configuration B is a combination of the A and C.
Any of the above configurations will provide energy savings. In theory, configuration B will provide more savings because it preheats a greater volume of water since it is feeding both the shower and the water heater. However, configuration B will require more installation piping and equipment.
Configuration C allows for the least heat loss since it can be connected directly at the shower to preheat water going back to the shower. This minimizes the heat loss in the drain water before reaching the EcoDrain and in the preheated fresh water before reaching the shower mixing valve.
Why is there a range of savings for the EcoDrain? What are the factors that the affect EcoDrain energy savings rate?
There is a range of savings because:
- The factors that affect savings vary based on location, installation and how hot water is used in your home. (i.e. the factors vary according to the city you live in, the specifics of your home and how you install the ecodrain, and the specifics of how you manage the hot water in your home)
- There are several models of the ecodrain with varying levels of effectiveness. In general, there is compromise between size and performance. A larger heat exchanger will generally have more savings at the expense of cost and installation ease. More information on product specifics will be available on our products page which is coming soon.
The factors that affect savings that vary based on location, installation and how hot water is used in your home are:
- The average temperature of unheated municipal supply water in your area will impact the savings. The colder the average temperature of water in your area, the more energy that you consume to heat water, all other things being equal. For this reason, the savings may also vary over the course of the year if you live in a region in which the temperature of unheated municipal supply water varies greatly.
- The installation in your home will affect the savings based on what you use the preheated water exiting the heat exchanger for. The heat exchanger preheated water output can be connected either to the cold side of a shower mixing valve, directly to a water heater, or both. For more information on this, see FAQ question Should I use the EcoDrain to preheat water to feed my water heater or to feed my shower directly?
- The temperature of the water heater will also affect the savings. Water heaters can be set to an output temperature, typically between about 120F to 140F (approximately 50C to 60C). The higher the temperature of the water heater, the greater the potential for savings.
- The average temperature of showers in your home will affect energy savings as well. The higher the temperature of your showers, the more hot water is needed for showers, and the greater the potential for energy saving.
What are the factors that affect the dollar savings of the EcoDrain?
The factors that affect the dollar savings are:
- The rate of energy savings of the installed EcoDrain. For more information, see FAQ question What are the factors that the affect EcoDrain energy savings rate?.
- Hot water usage in your situation. Hot water usage depends on the showerhead flow rate and the number of minutes the shower is used per day.
- The cost of heating water in your situation. The cost of heating water will depend on the efficiency of your water heater and the cost of energy used in your water heater.
I have hard water; will this affect the performance of the EcoDrain?
The EcoDrain is a simple passive device that is susceptible to the same blockage concerns as other piping. If hard water is a problem in the household, then it is recommended that the EcoDrain be used only if a filtration system is installed as well.
How far can I install the EcoDrain from the shower without significantly losing performance?
If the pipes are insulated, then the EcoDrain can be installed further away from the shower without significantly losing performance. To get the greatest possible performance, the EcoDrain should be installed as close as possible to the shower and all pipes should be insulated.
Does the EcoDrain comply with plumbing and building codes?
The EcoDrain is a new product. In some cases, it will conform and in others, officials will need to review the device in order to accept it in the codes. We are committed to getting the EcoDrain approved in your area. Please contact us if you require code approval in your area.
Does the EcoDrain qualify for LEED for homes?
The EcoDrain is a new product. It saves energy in homes and so is very relevant for the LEED for homes program. We are working to see how the EcoDrain will fit into this program. Please contact us for more information.
Does the EcoDrain qualify for Energy Star for Homes?
The EcoDrain is a new product. It saves energy in homes and so is very relevant for the Energy Star for Homes program. We are working to see how the EcoDrain will fit into this program. Please contact us for more information.