A Guide to Safely Use an Outdoor Hot Tub in Winter
While hot tubs can be enjoyed year-round, nothing beats a soak in the middle of winter. But using a hot tub in winter comes with some extra precautions to protect the hot tub and have a safe soak.
So to keep your hot tub protected from the cold and make the most of your winter hot tub therapy time, here’s a guide on what to do and what not to do when using a hot tub during wintertime.
DO CLEAN YOUR HOT TUB
Before winter arrives, clean your hot tub thoroughly, draining the water and flushing the plumbing system, so you don’t have to do this in the middle of winter.
During winter, follow a regular maintenance schedule for your hot tub to keep the water clean and safe to use. This routine maintenance should include cleaning the filters and testing and balancing the water.
DO LOCK YOUR COVER
Your hot tub cover will keep your hot tub well-insulated if locked since the straps pull down the edges of the cover to form a tight seal. If the cover isn’t locked, it is at risk of lifting and letting the heat escape. And if the heat escapes, you will have to spend more money on:
- Electricity to maintain the temperature of your hot tub;
- Water to refill your hot tub after losing water to steam and evaporation; and,
- Chemicals to rebalance the hot tub water chemistry.
DO TURN OFF AIR CONTROLS
When you’re not using your hot tub, turn off the air controls. The air controls force cooler air from the hot tub cabinet through the jets, slowly lowering the temperature of your hot tub water over time.
If the jets are left open, your hot tub heater will have to work harder to maintain the temperature of the water, which will cost more in electricity and wear down the heater faster.
The air will also push up the bottom of the hot tub cover when closed, breaking the insulating seal and costing more in energy bills to heat.
DO OPEN THE JETS AND WATERFALL VALVES
To prevent the pipes in your hot tub from freezing in winter, open the jet and waterfall valves. Opening these valves will allow the heated water to flow through the pipes, keeping them warm and reducing the risk of freezing.
So keep these valves open when you’re not using your hot tub to protect your pipes from freezing.
DO MONITOR THE WATER LEVEL
Monitor the hot tub’s water level regularly to make sure it doesn’t drop too low. And refill with a hose if you notice it dropping. Otherwise, the pump could stop working, and the components of the hot tub will be at risk of freezing and experiencing costly damage.
DO WEAR A TOQUE
Toques are a must when you’re spending time outdoors in Canadian winters since they help your body regulate its temperature in frigid temperatures.
So even though your body is staying nice and toasty in an outdoor hot tub in winter, your head is still exposed to the cold temperatures and wind.
A toque will also help keep your hair dry while in a hot tub, preventing your hair from freezing while exposed to the steam.
DO WEAR SLIPPERS OR SANDALS
Slippers or sandals can protect your feet from cold snow and sharp ice when walking from your home to your hot tub. Covering your feet will also prevent your feet from tracking dirt and debris into your hot tub, helping to keep the water clean.
DO KEEP THE HEAT IN
As an extra measure to keep your hot tub water warm and prevent freezing in winter (along with hefty energy bills for heating the water) use a thermal blanket under your hard hot tub cover. Thermal blankets float on the water, trapping in the heat.
DON’T CHANGE WATER IN FREEZING COLD
Although you should change the hot tub water every three to four months, do not change the water if it is freezing cold outside. Draining the water will put your hot tub’s pipes at risk of freezing in sub-zero temperatures.
If you must change the water in the middle of winter, consider replacing small batches of water at a time—about six to 12 inches—refilling and reheating the water after each partial drain.
DON’T USE A SHOVEL TO REMOVE SNOW FROM THE HOT TUB COVER
While you shouldn’t let snow build up on your hot tub cover, you shouldn’t shovel the snow off either. The blade of a shovel could tear the cover and vapour barrier, allowing water to soak into the cover and significantly reducing the cover’s ability to insulate the hot tub.
So instead of using a shovel to remove snow from the cover, use a broom or a brush—like the brush you use to clear snow off cars.
If there is freezing rain or an ice storm, place a tarp over the hot tub to collect the ice. And once the weather warms up, remove the tarp.
DON’T NEGLECT THE HOT TUB
Neglecting your hot tub can lead to water quality issues. So even if you are too busy to use your hot tub, still check on it once a week and add chemicals to balance the water when needed. Otherwise, you could be greeted with cloudy or foaming hot tub water that takes much more time, money, and energy to fix.
DON’T LET THE WATER GET TOO COLD
When hot tub water gets too cold, it risks freezing and damaging the hot tub and pipes. Cold hot tub water also takes longer and uses more energy to heat up, costing more in energy usage. So it’s better for your hot tub and your wallet to maintain a consistent temperature throughout the winter.
If your hot tub has an auto heat or freeze-protect system, turn it on so the heater is activated when the temperature drops. And if your hot tub has a thermostat control, set it way past the freezing section, and on the ‘heat’ or ‘high’ setting.
Otherwise, if your hot tub has a timer system, have it set to go on for 15 minutes every hour, or 15 to 30 minutes every two hours, in freezing temperatures.
These features will keep your hot tub warm in freezing temperatures, preventing the pipes and water from freezing.
But if you don’t have any of these features, keep your hot tub running on low-speed heat mode 24 hours per day until there is no longer a risk of the water freezing.
Using a hot tub in winter is a true luxury. But you will need to take some precautions to keep your hot tub and your health safe in the frigid winter weather. So keep these tips in mind to protect your hot tub and enjoy it to the fullest all winter long.