Why Hotels Don’t Run Out Of Hot Water

by SharonKurheg

Depending on where you live and how your home is heated, you may notice you quickly run out of hot water. You may have a rule in the house that 2 people can’t take a shower at the same time, or no one can take a shower when the dishwasher is running, because you’re sure to run out of hot water if you do.

You’d think hotels would have that problem too, times a bajillion, because so many people use hot water, especially during certain times of the day. Yet they rarely run out of hot water.

What’s up with that?

The average American uses between 15 and 20 gallons per shower. Multiply that by several hundred or even thousand rooms in a hotel and you’re talking about a whole lot of hot water heaters. Hotels in the olden days used huge boilers, but they’d still cross their fingers and hope they’d have enough hot water for everyone, especially for the people on the uppermost floors.

So how does it not happen nowadays?

Well, they oftentimes still use steam boilers. And they’re HUGE!

Screen Shot 2019-05-29 at 11.00.16 PM
And most large hotels have several of them (the Marriott Marquis in NYC, which has just shy of 2,000 rooms, has 3 of them, each the size of a tractor-trailer).

But they get the hot water to all areas of the hotels nowadays with multiple heat exchangers that facilitate water movement. They transfer the hot water from the boilers to the furthest areas of the building via pressure by pumps that circulate the water 24/7, ensuring that the water never gets cold. The mechanics of it allow for the main hot water pumps to rev up to push more hot water from the holding tanks as needed (i.e., when so many people are taking a shower in that first couple of hours in the morning) and slowing down when the need is not as intense.

They also have redundancy built-in, so if one system fails for some reason, there’s a backup.

This video explains it way better than I ever could 😉

And those old hotels that used old systems? Over the years, older boilers have been replaced with ones that use less gas but produce the same amount of heat, which helps to save on energy. Many hotels also have water savers on their shower heads and faucets to decrease how much water comes out at one time, as well as other energy-saving techniques.

And now you know 🙂

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary

1 comment

Glenn February 25, 2024 - 10:50 am

Professional Engineer here: heat exchangers have nothing to do with water movement. Pumps and gravity serve that purpose. Pipes are sized to provide higher pressure at the end of the system (high floors) with some pumps providing flow (volume) and others maintaining equal pressure at all discharge points. Those boilers are impressive!


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