although optimal amounts to use might vary depending on what kind of yeast you use (fresh, instant, etc.), essentially, yeast is yeast and any kind you use should make the dough rise. hot water from the tap is fine, as long as it's not so hot that you can't keep your hand in it.
i've always made bread by hand, and never bother with recipes. my understanding is that there is little that can go wrong if you use a bread machine. if you post your recipe, we can get an idea if the problem lies there or not. typical causes for bread not rising would be, kitchen temp. too cold, yeast soaked in water too hot, too much salt. too much sugar can also slow down rising.