How to Have Hot Water in the Morning
We automate our hot water circulator with a smart plug and Alexa.
We’ve all been there in the morning, standing outside the shower waiting for the water to warm up. Depending how far your shower is from your water heater, this could be quite a while.
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For most regular water heaters, there’s a standard solution for this – a hot water circulator with a manual timer. Set it for your preferred wake up time, and the hot water will circulate every day at that time, so by the time you get to the shower you will have a shorter wait and waste less water.
The problem with these timers is that when we change our clocks back and forth for daylight savings time, or if we have a power outage (we have had quite a few in California recently), the timer gets out of sync, and it’s not exactly convenient to get up to the top of the water tank to change it, at least in our house.
Since we work at home and don’t stick to a standard routine and regular shower time, even if the timer was accurate, it wouldn’t work for us. Plus, it’s even worse in our kitchen where the sink is farther away from the hot water heater.
Hot water on demand
To fix this problem, we turned to smart home automation of course. Thanks to a smart outlet and Alexa, we can just say, “Alexa, turn on hot water,” and the circulator will go for five minutes. That gives us plenty of time to get ready to shower or get some hot water for cooking or washing up.
In this article, we will show you two options to set this up yourself, as well as a way to add it to your morning routine with Alexa.
Adjust your hot water circulator
First – find your hot water circulator and timer. In our case, it’s at the top of our hot water heater.
Next – set your circulator to always ON.
This is how it looks on ours – check the device manual or the Internet for your specific model if it’s not obvious.
Wi-Fi Solution – Smart Plug only
For the Wi-Fi solution, we’ll use a Wyze Wi-Fi smart plug. We like Wyze but most any Wi-Fi plug will do.
Plug in the smart plug to the wall outlet used by the pump and plug your circulator plug into it.
Open up the Wyze app and add the smart plug to your app if you haven’t already, and give it a name, like “hot water heater.”
In the Wyze app, set a schedule for the plug so that when you turn it on, it turns on and turns itself off after five minutes.
For the device, go to schedules and automations, click “+” then select device trigger. Under device trigger, select your plug, select “has been on for” and set to five minutes.
Five minutes should be enough time for the water to circulate, and you want to make sure it goes off eventually, otherwise you are wasting energy. You can make it longer or shorter for your particular situation.
You can also set up the plug on a timer in the app so it turns on the hot water at specific times, like in the morning when you usually wake up.
Wi-Fi Smart Plug Plus Alexa
If you have an Alexa, after you have set up the Wyze smart plug in the app, ask Alexa to discover devices. Then just say, “Alexa, turn on Hot Water Heater,” or whatever you named it. Now you can have hot water whenever you like.
Make your hot water a part of your morning routine
If you set an alarm with Alexa every night, You can create a routine so the water will circulate automatically when you get up. We created a routine that will turn on the Wyze smart plug when we dismiss the morning alarm.
Here’s how you set it up:
In the Alexa app, select Routines from the main menu and click “+” to add a new routine.
Name your routine – in this example we call it “wake up shower on.”
For when, choose, when an “alarm is dismissed.”
We set it for just weekdays and between 5 and 10 am.
Use the plus sign to add three actions for Alexa in this order.
- Select wyze plug hot water heater and set it to on.
- Add a wait of 5 minutes
- Then add an action to turn off wyze plug hot water heater
Don’t worry if the actions are out of order, you can drag them into the order you want.
We also had the routine turn on the nightstand light, with a Wyze smart bulb and set the light to ramp to full brightness over the next ten minutes. If we lounge in bed for an extra 10 minutes, by the time we get up the shower should be ready to go.
Optional: Z-Wave setup
We use a lot of Z-Wave devices in our home with our SmartThings hub, so we created this same routine using SmartThings.
Instead of using a smart plug, we installed a GE/Jasco in-wall smart outlet in the garage next to the water heater and plugged in the circulator. Remember with this outlet only the bottom outlet is smart.
We paired the outlet with our SmartThings hub and named it “Hot Water.”
We created a new lighting automation in Smart Apps/Smart Lighting for the outlet that watches the power usage. If it’s on for more than 5 minutes it automatically shuts off the outlet.
Once the outlet is set up in SmartThings and you discover it with Alexa, you can control it in exactly the same way: “Alexa, turn on hot water.” If you want, you can set up the same Alexa morning routine we described above.
Since this outlet is now controlled by SmartThings, you could also create routines and automations directly in SmartThings, different timers, triggers, motion sensors, etc.
Our hot water circulator works great, but it’s hard to reach and even harder to program. Whenever the time changes or the power goes out, it gets thrown off and we can never get a hot shower when we need it.
With a smart plug or smart outlet, we’ve been able to automate our circulator so we can get hot water when we need it – in the shower or in the kitchen, or by just asking Alexa.