Making Your Hot Tub Winter-Ready
One of the most common questions we get is if hot tubs can be used in the winter. Our answer is always the same; absolutely! In fact, we think that winter is one of the best times of the year to enjoy your hot tub. Winter does bring some challenges to hot tub owners, however. Fortunately, with a little bit of preparation, these challenges are easily overcome. Here are a few things you can do to ensure your winter hot tub experience will be an enjoyable and worry-free one.
Drain and Refill The Hot Tub
Although hot tubs are very enjoyable to use in the winter, there is nothing worse than having to drain and refill them in the middle of the winter. Not only is it a cold job, if you’re not quick enough refilling the hot tub you also run the risk of the leftover water in the pipes freezing and potentially damaging the plumbing or the hot tub’s equipment (pumps, heater, etc).
Even if you’re not due for another few weeks or months, we recommend draining and refilling your hot tub in late November or early December. While it is cold at this time of year, it isn’t yet cold enough to freeze the leftover water in the plumbing before you’re able to refill the hot tub and get it running again.
Waiting until early December ensures that you won’t have to do another drain and refill until mid to late March; completely avoiding the need to do so in the colder months of the year. It also guarantees that you will get the freshest water possible over the winter hot tubbing season.
Check Your Hot Tub Cover
As we’ve previously covered, worn-out hot tub covers can dramatically increase your hot tub’s energy costs. No time is that truer than during the winter. In fact, continuing to use a worn-out hot tub cover can cost you $100s in added energy costs over the course of a single winter. The first thing that you should do to prepare your hot tub for winter, therefore, is to look over your hot tub cover. There are two things you should be paying attention to:
- If the cover is still sitting flat around the edge of the hot tub. To do their jobs effectively, hot tub covers need to form a tight seal around the edge of the hot tub. Without this seal, there will be significant heat loss around the edge of the cover.
- If the cover has started to take on water. Water is a very poor insulator. If the air pockets in the cover’s insulating foam start filling up with water, the efficiency of the cover will drop significantly; increasing your monthly energy costs.
How can you tell if a hot tub cover isn’t sealing properly or has started to take on water?
Not only is air a much better insulator than water, it is also significantly lighter! If your hot tub cover is significantly heavier than when you bought it, chances are that it has become waterlogged. If placed on a cover lifter, you should be able to lift your hot tub cover with one arm fairly easily. If your cover is more difficult to lift than it is full of water and should be replaced.
Checking the seal of the hot tub can be a little more challenging. One of the easiest ways to tell if the seal around the edge is broken is if you notice ice building up around the edge of the cover in the winter. By the time you notice that though it is already too late and you’ll already be spending much more than you need to to heat your hot tub.
Another clear indication that your hot tub cover seal has been broken is if it is allowing water to pool on the centre of the cover. This is a clear indication that the cover has begun to “cup”. Cupping is a term that describes when a cover begins to dip in the centre. This dipping also forces the edges of the foam to rise slightly; breaking the seal around the edge of the hot tub.
Although a quality new hot tub cover can cost several hundred dollars, you can save that much in heating costs in as little as one winter; making it a very worthwhile investment.
Add A Floating Thermal Blanket
Buying a floating thermal blanket is another way to ensure a lower monthly energy bill over the winter months. These are simply thin sheets of insulation that float on the surface of the water.
Most of the heat loss in a hot tub is lost through the cover (even if the cover is relatively new). By adding a 2nd layer of insulation to between the water and the cover, you can dramatically reduce this heat loss and decrease your monthly energy bill.
Get A Cover Cap
Cleaning off the hot tub cover after a winter storm can be a chore. It is also a potential cause of damage to the cover. Every year, we replace hot tub covers that were damaged when someone tried to clean off their cover with a shovel or other tool that then gouged into the cover. Once the outer skin and vapour barrier of the cover have been gouged open, the foam underneath will begin to take on water; quickly becoming waterlogged.
Falling debris like tree branches and icicles are another common way that covers become damaged. This potential for damage is even greater in the winter as the vinyl skin that surrounds the foam becomes harder and more brittle in the cold weather.
To avoid this potential damage, and make removing the snow and ice from the hot tub cover easier, we recommend buying a cover cap. Cover caps are woven polyethylene covers that fit over your existing hot tub cover. Their durable construction partially protects the cover from falling debris as well as minimizes potential damage from snow and ice removal.
Repairs / Leak Fixes
Probably the most important thing that you need to do to get your hot tub winter-ready is to fix any leaks or other known issues that your hot tub may have. Although small leaks are often not a bid deal in the warmer months, in the winter they can cause much larger issues. It is, therefore, very important to ensure that your hot tub is leak-free before going into the winter season.
To check your hot tub for leaks, simply look in the cabinet to see if there are any wet spots in the insulation or on the bottom of the hot tub. If you notice any wet spots, contact your local hot tub retailer to get the issue dealt with.
Other common issues such as loud pumps should also be dealt with before winter hits. Even minor repairs can turn into emergencies in winter as the threat of the water freezing grows larger and larger as the temperature drops. Better safe than sorry!
Get A Space Heater
Fixing leaks and doing other minor repairs on your hot tub before the winter hits is the best way to ensure that you have a smooth, stress-free winter hot tubbing season. On the off chance that something does go wrong, however, you’ll need a backup plan. If your hot tub does lose power for more than a day, a small space heater inserted into the cabinet of the hot tub and set to low can keep the water in the pipes from freezing until the hot tub can be repaired.
Hot tubs can be just as enjoyable (or even more enjoyable) in the winter as they are in the summer. In fact, relaxing in a hot tub on a cold winter’s night is one of the best parts about owning a hot tub. However, the cold weather can also cause some unique challenges for hot tub owners. Following these tips can help ensure that you get the most enjoyment out of your hot tub this winter, without the headache!