Winter is on its way, or essentially, is here for much of the country. What does that mean for your hot tub?
For most, it means steamy soaks to soothe achy joints and tired muscles in the crisp air. For others, it means winterizing the hot tub to wait out the winter.
If you’re on the fence about winterizing vs keeping your spa up and enjoying it, these winter hot tubbing tips may make you think twice.
Still, if your spa is too far from the house, hasn’t been maintained or you’re just not going to use it this winter, this post is for you! Let’s examine the steps to preparing your spa for the winter months.
Let’s be crystal clear; winterizing your spa is only necessary if you’re not going to use it until 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 gone before it has the chance to freeze.
What You Need to Winterize
- Wet/Dry Vacuum
- Microfiber towels
- Non-Toxic RV Antifreeze (optional)
- Hot Tub Cleaning & Detailing 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 through the spa before draining. This thoroughly cleans the plumbing to avoid bacteria and mold growth. Allow to circulate with jets on for 15-30 minutes (up to overnight).
- Shut off power – Shut the power off to the spa at the service panel and trip the subpanel breaker for 240V, or unplug the spa for 120V.
- Drain Spa – Fully drain the spa. If your spa lacks a drain valve, use a Draining Pump or a Shake-A-Vac to speed draining and remove grit and debris from the foot well.
- Remove filter(s) – Discard any filter older than one year. Clean newer filters using a filter cleaner. Once dry, store the filter in a clean, dry location (not in the spa!). How to Deep Clean your Hot Tub Filters.
- Blower – If you have a blower, unplug the heater at the control system 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 it has purged all water 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, use a wet vac to remove the water from the jet lines by vacuum/suction (water left in the lines and jets will freeze and damage them). Adequately dry plumbing by closing air control valves, placing 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 ecoTub Spa Clean. Rinse all spa surfaces thoroughly.
- Dry Surfaces – Use a wet vac to remove any leftover water in the footwell and seats. With a soft, absorbent towel, dry all surfaces of the spa, including inside the filter area, cup holders, ice bucket, etc. Apply Gel Gloss (acrylic spas only).
- Non-Toxic RV Antifreeze – This step is optional, but recommended anywhere that temperatures dip below freezing. Dilute non-toxic antifreeze as directed on the bottle, and pour one gallon of 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 a non-foaming cleaner. Apply a layer of silicone-free protectant. Place the cover back on the spa and lock the cover buckles.
NOTE: Some municipalities don’t allow draining into the storm drains or sewer systems, so check local your local codes. If you have a septic tank, avoid draining over the drain field. Learn more about draining your hot tub here.
Additionally, take extra precautions 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’ll want to take extra steps to protect your spa and cover from weather damage.
Snow that accumulates on your spa cover can damage the foam. Just a few inches of snow can weigh over 50 pounds.
Use a broom or other non-sharp object to brush off snow accumulations from your hot tub cover.
If you live in a region with a lot of snow accumulation, consider taking the following steps:
- Store your spa cover indoors
- Place a piece of thick plywood (or similar strong material) with pads or blanket against the spa on the underside
- Place Protecta-Spa Coverall over the entire tub and plywood
- Strap down the plywood and coverall to the spa using ratchet 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 ratchet straps
Two sets of straps will provide even more security for particularly windy locations. The CoverAll or weighted tarp keeps rainwater or snowmelt from seeping through the cover and back into the spa.
Insulate a Hot Tub for Winter
If you’re going to keep using your spa this winter, you can still save some energy by adding extra insulation.
Most of a hot tub’s heat is lost through the top of the spa, you know because heat rises. The cheapest and most effective way to add insulation is to use a floating thermo-blanket – it simply lays on the spa water under the cover to help hold in heat.
Keep in mind that 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.
Replace the spa cover every 5 years or so, it will keep your spa temperature up and your utility bill down.
We do not recommend adding expanding foam insulation to the inside of the spa cabinet. You run the risk of hiding any plumbing that may need inspection or repair later. Other than the spa cover and blanket, there is no other way to insulate a hot tub for winter.
Winter Hot Tub Use
You should only change the hot tub water in winter on a sunny day, preferably above freezing. This prevents the possibility of water freezing inside the plumbing of the spa, in case you are unable to refill the same day.
If you use your spa at least once per week, keep the spa at your preferred temperature setting. Maintaining 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 an Economy 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!