Taco’s SmartPlug Recognized as a Smart Idea

Taco SmartPlug 1

At this year’s AHR Expo, the SmartPlug hot water recirculation control, introduced by Taco Comfort Solutions, won the Expo’s Innovation Award recognition following rigorous review by a panel of third-party ASHRAE experts.

A hot water recirculating system can save homeowners a significant amount of water – up to 12,000 gallons per year. But continuously running circulators and improperly programmed timers can waste energy by operating the circulator and hot water heater at times when hot water isn’t needed.

With the patented SmartPlug, using less water just got a lot more efficient. The SmartPlug upgrades a hot water recirculation system to a “Smart” system. SmartPlug technology makes any corded circulator up to 94% more energy efficient by learning hot water usage patterns and delivering hot water only when needed. This increases hot water comfort, reduces energy use and helps to extend the life of the hot water heater.

Installation is quick and easy. There’s no programming or use of timers or aquastats. Simply plug the SmartPlug into a 110V outlet, then plug the circulator power cord into the SmartPlug.

Smarter than the average plug

Using a sensor that mounts to the hot water supply pipe, the SmartPlug will learn the daily hot water usage pattern in a home or business and adjust the circulator run time automatically to delivery hot water only when needed. When usage patterns change, the SmartPlug adjusts run time automatically.

The SmartPlug also includes a “pulse” mode option that continuously cycles the circulator on for 5 minutes, then off for 10 minutes, as well as a “vacation” mode that shuts the circulator off after 36 hours of no hot water use. While in vacation mode, the SmartPlug’s exercise function cycles the pump for 10 seconds every seven days to prevent corrosion or scale build up.

According to Taco’s Doug Bird, Product Manager, Water Circulation, the SmartPlug increases hot water comfort, reduces energy use and helps to extend the life of the hot water heater.

“SmartPlug gets its ‘smarts’ from our SmartPlus recirc system, with the same functionality. The product – similar to ‘Nest’ technology – learns and adapts to homeowner use. It continuously records usage patterns. If use of hot water in the home changes, the device changes. In plug n’ play fashion, the control learns when hot water is typically used and operates to maximize the availability of warm water within those times. That’s pretty smart, right?

“We simply took the microchip logic from SmartPlus – our latest hot water recirc system – and placed it into SmartPlug so that other, not-so-smart recirc systems can improve their ‘IQ,’” added Bird.

SmartPlug also offers a “pulse” option for homes or buildings where usage patterns are hard to track – say, for a facility that’s almost always in use. Pulse operation simply recirculates for 5 minutes every 10 minutes.

There’s also a vacation mode. After 36 hours of no hot water use, the SmartPlug automatically turns the pump off. While in vacation mode, the SmartPlug’s “Exercise” function will operate the pump for 10 seconds every 7 days to prevent scale or corrosion buildup.

About power outages + daylight savings . . .

SmartPlug isn’t thrown off by power outages and daylight savings time.

When a power outage occurs, a normal 24-hour analog timer gets all out of whack and needs to be reset to the correct time when power is restored.

Likewise when time changes in April and October for daylight savings time. The timer gets pushed off by an hour twice a year.

But with SmartPlug, these jabs are taken in stride. When power is restored, the device simply starts up automatically and begins pulsing on + off every 5 minutes, for 10 minutes while it relearns the home’s daily usage pattern. The stopwatch basically goes back to zero and begins re-learning/re-recording usage data.

Light commercial, too

SmartPlug can be applied for light commercial use because it’s rated for connection to domestic hot water recirculation pumps at up to ½-HP in size, or 6 amps. But its key application will be in the residential retrofit market.

Today, more and more homes and businesses have hot water recirculation, yet many of those systems have no intelligence to improve operation (convenience + comfort) or to conserve water or energy. This product – just by plugging it in and connecting an existing hot water recirculation pump into it – quickly avails all of that.

Key benefits

  • Easy to install, upgrading any recirc pump to “smart” operation. No timers or programming required.
  • Water conservation: The average residence can save up to 12,000 gallons of water per year by eliminating the wait for hot water to arrive at fixtures and taps.
  • Improves comfort and convenience: hot water is available in seconds.
  • Efficiency: “Smart” setting maximizes hot water comfort and energy savings.
  • Uniqueness: there’s no other product like it on the market today.
  • It’s not based on timer or an aquastat. It’s got microchip logic to save gas (to heat the water) + electricity (to circulate domestic how water).
  • Reliability: The SmartPlug, when combined with a domestic hot water circulator, offers quiet operation, performance and dependability.

Contractor’s friend

One of the best pieces of news for installing contractors is that such an important upgrade can happen so quickly. Literally, the product is plugged into the wall, and an existing “dumb” hot water recirc pump is plugged into the SmartPlug. Then, a sensor is also connected to detect temperatures in the recirc loop. That’s it.

It’s affordable, and fast. It’s a quick, homeowner-noticed upgrade in short order. There’s no more guesswork as to when the recirc system will work because it’ll “know” when homeowners need hot water for use within the home. And the energy saved will be noticed, too.


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