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What is Water Heater Recovery Time?

Troubleshooting from George Brazil

Here’s the official definition: A water heater’s “recovery time” (also called “recovery rate“) is the amount of hot water (in gallons) a tank water heater can provide in just one hour after being completely drained.

Recovery rate basically gives you an idea of how fast a water heater can heat water. Now, knowing the recovery rate of a water heater is important for 2 big reasons:

  1. If you’re preparing to buy a new unit, the recovery rate will tell you whether the unit will meet your hot water needs.
  2. If you have a water heater (and aren’t necessarily looking to buy a new one), recovery rate will tell you whether the unit needs maintenance or a repair.

In this article, we’ll explain:

  • Where to find a water heater recovery rate
  • How to use this knowledge to your advantage

Where to find your water heater recovery rate

Whether you’re preparing to buy a new water heater, or you already have one, the easiest way to check for the recovery rate is to look it up on the manufacturer’s website. Search for your water heater model number and then you’ll find the specs, which includes recovery rate.

For example, below is a screenshot of the specs for Bradford White gas water heaters. Look for verbiage that reads recovery 90F rise* then look for the gallons per hour number (we’ve circled it below). That number is the recovery rate.

*Note: If you use a higher-than-average output temperature (over 120), or your incoming cold water is especially cold then the recovery rate may be slightly lower than what’s on the label.

Specs for a Bradford White water heater. Source:

As you can see in the image above, 2 water heaters of the same size (in gallons, see the very first column under “Nominal Capacity”) can have very different recovery rates. That’s because recovery rate largely depends on the strength of the burner (for gas) or wattage of the heating element (for electric water heaters).

Now, let’s say you have the first 30-gallon water heater in the example pictured above. And let’s say you ran the dishwasher, washed clothes AND took a long shower at the same time, so you drained the water heater of all its hot water.

Based on the specs above, after waiting 1 hour, your water heater will almost be at full hot water capacity again (it’s a 30-gallon water heater, and the recovery rate is 29 gallons).

So, now that you know how to find recovery rate, let’s look at how you can use that information…

If you’re buying a new water heater

…you should use the recovery rate to determine whether the unit can meet your home’s hot water needs.

The higher your hot water demands, the higher the recovery rate you’ll need for your water heater.

For example, if you have a large household and you use a lot of hot water at once, the recovery rate should be at least equal to the size of your water heater. So, a 60-gallon water heater should have a recovery rate of at least 60-gallons.

If you already have a water heater

… the recovery rate listed on the unit should give you a good idea of how long it should take the water heater to come up to temperature after your hot water runs out.

So, if you don’t think your water heater’s performance matches with its listed recovery rate and it’s taking a long time to come up to temperature, you either need a:

  • Larger sized water heater
  • Water heater repair/maintenance

Here’s how to tell which of those is your problem:

  • If your water heater has ALWAYS taken a long time to reheat since it was first installed, you’ll probably need to upgrade to a bigger water heater. Contact a professional to give you an estimate on the cost to replace your water heater.
  • If your water heater has only RECENTLY taken longer to reheat water, you may need a repair or maintenance. You see, over time, sediment can build up in your tank which reduces the efficiency of your burners/heating elements (and also cuts down on the amount of hot water the tank can hold). If you have sediment buildup in your water heater, you’ll need a professional to drain and flush out your tank. Additionally, your burners or heating elements may have gone bad, which means they’ll need to be repaired by a plumber.

Need help from an Arizona plumber?

Just give us a call.

We’d be happy to answer any water heater questions you have. Whether you need a repair or a new water heater, we’ve got you covered.

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