To prevent costly damage.
With the snowy, bitterly cold weather most of the country has been experiencing lately, it seems like a steamy hot tub is the perfect fix. Stiff, achy joints and tired muscles welcome hot spa water in the cold seasons. With the proper cover and maintenance, it doesn’t cost significantly more to run a hot tub during the winter months, either.
But if your spa is too far from your front door, hasn’t been maintained or you’re simply just not using your hot tub this winter, then this post is for you! Most damage caused to hot tubs during the winter result from not winterizing an unused spa properly. We break down the steps to preparing your spa for the winter months.
Winterizing your spa is only necessary if you will not use the spa until the spring. If it’s already frosty where you are, you can still winterize your spa, but choose a sunny day, preferably above freezing. This will ensure any water residue is cleaned out before it has the chance to freeze.
What You Need to Winterize
- Wet/Dry Vacuum
- Microfiber towels
- Spa Antifreeze (optional)
- Spa Pro Cleaning Kit (comes with all items listed below)
How to Winterize a Hot Tub
Here are the steps we recommend to prepare your spa for the winter.
- Spa System Flush. Run a hot tub system cleaner in the spa before draining, to thoroughly cleaning the plumbing to avoid bacteria and mold growth. Allow to circulate with jets on for a few minutes (up to overnight).
- Shut off power. Shut the power off to the spa at the service panel and disconnect the breaker.
- Drain Spa. Fully drain the spa. If no drain valve is on or inside the spa cabinet, a Shake-A-Vac or submersible pump may be used to speed draining and remove grit and debris from the foot well.
- Remove filter(s). Any filter older than a year should be discarded. Clean newer filters using a Filter Cleaner, dry and store of out of the tub, in a clean, dry location. How to Deep Clean your Hot Tub Filters
- Blower. If you have a blower, unplug the heater at the pack or disconnect the heater terminals, then power the spa on. With the spa cover on, turn the blower on in 15-30 second intervals until all water is purged from the air lines. Turn the spa off at the panel and breaker again.
- Spa heaters and pumps. Loosen unions and drain plugs, allowing water to drain from the pump(s) and heater. Retighten all except the pump discharge unions.
- Vacuum Plumbing & Jets. After the spa has drained, you MUST also use a wet-vac to remove the water from the lines by vacuum/suction. Water left in the lines and jets will freeze and damage them. To adequately dry plumbing, place the wet-vac for 10-15 seconds over each drain; each union; each jet face; each suction; and the filter cavity.
- Clean Spa Shell. Clean the spa shell with a non-foaming, pH balanced cleaner such as CleanAll. Rinse all spa surfaces thoroughly. Apply Gel Gloss (on Acrylic spas)
- Dry Surfaces. Use a wet-vac to remove any left over water in the foot well and seats. With a soft, absorbent towel, dry all surfaces of the spa, including inside the filter area, cup holders, ice bucket, etc.
- Spa Antifreeze. This step is optional, but recommended anywhere that temperatures dip below freezing. Dilute non-toxic Spa Antifreeze as directed on the bottle, and pour one gallon prepared antifreeze into the filter area, and one gallon into each pump discharge. Tighten pump discharge unions.
- Close Access Panels. Replace cabinet panels and secure all cabinet screws or latches.
- Clean Spa Cover. The final step is to clean the top and underside of the cover with non-foaming cleaner. Apply a layer of silicone-free protectant. Place cover back on spa and lock the cover buckles.
NOTE: Before draining a spa, look into your local codes on where waste water can be dumped. Some municipalities don’t allow draining into the storm drains or sewer systems. If you have a septic tank, avoid draining over the drain field. Learn more about draining your hot tub here.
Additionally, take extra precaution when emptying the spa in the winter. Use a gravel or soil draining location to prevent the water from freezing into a skating rink on your driveway, sidewalk or street.
Protecting Your Winterized Spa
After winterizing, you may want to take extra steps to protect your spa and cover from weather damage.
Snow that accumulates on your spa cover can be damaging to the foam. Just a few inches of snow can weigh over 50 pounds.
Use a broom or other non-sharp object to brush off excess snow from your hot tub cover.
If you live in a region with a lot of snow accumulation, please consider the following steps:
- Remove and store your spa cover indoors
- Place a piece of thick plywood (or similar strong material) with pads or blanket against spa on the underside
- Place Protecta-Spa Coverall over the entire tub and plywood
- Strap down the plywood and coverall to the spa using Hurricane Straps
If you live in a region with not so much snow but frequent winter storms and high winds:
- Place Protecta-Spa Coverall over the entire tub and cover
- Strap down cover and coverall to the spa using Hurricane Straps
Two sets of straps will provide even more security for particularly windy locations. The CoverAll or weighted tarp keeps rainwater or snow melt from seeping through the cover and back into the spa.
Insulate a Hot Tub for Winter
If you don’t want to drain your spa or are not able to, you can still save some energy by adding extra insulation.
Heat rises, so most heat is lost through the top of the spa. The most inexpensive and easiest way to insulate a hot tub for winter is by using a floating thermo-blanket to lay on the spa water under the cover to help hold in heat. These blankets prevent evaporation, so the water stays warmer without much effort.
But, a thermal blanket might not make much of a difference if your spa cover is old and heavy. Once the air pockets inside the foam fill up with water, your cover no longer has any insulating value. Replacing the spa cover every 5 years or so will keep your spa temperature up and your utility bill down.
Adding expanding foam insulation to the inside of the spa cabinet is not recommended due to the risk of hiding any plumbing that may need to be accessed later. Other than the spa cover and blanket, there is no other way to insulate a hot tub for winter.
For more tips on how to winterize a spa, check out our Cold Weather Preparation & Winterizing Guide.
Winter Hot Tub Use
Changing the hot tub water in winter should only be done on a sunny day, preferably above freezing. This would prevent any possibility of water freezing within the plumbing of the spa.
If you use your spa at least once per week, the best temperature for the hot tub during the winter would be your preferred setting (i.e., 100°). Keeping a consistent temperature reduces the amount of time it takes to heat up when you want to use the spa and saves energy.
Some newer hot tub models feature a freeze protection or Sleep mode. This is the ‘vacation’ heater setting which maintains a cooler temperature, about 20° below your desired temperature. This setting protects the spa water from freezing and uses 50% less energy to operate compared to standard mode. Use this setting if you’re unable to use the spa for any length longer than 1 week.
Do you have any other hot tub winter tips you want to share with us? Let us know in the comments below!