Hot tubs and swim spas are designed for all-year round use. Despite the fact that most hot tubs are purchased and installed during the summer in the UK, most new hot tub owners report that they really come into their own during the colder months, especially if there is frost or snow! Hot tubs offer a unique experience on the senses – the contradiction of your eyes telling you it is freezing cold, whilst at the same time your body is telling you it is warm – which is virtually impossible to describe, unless you have experienced it for yourself.
Modern hot tubs from respected manufacturers, employing the latest materials and control systems are highly energy efficient compared to hot tubs of even a few years ago, therefore running costs, even during the winter, are not as high as they used to be.
First of all, to dispel a commonly-held belief, many people are put off by the idea of using a hot tub when the temperature is very cold, because they believe they will get chilly once they leave the water. They have actually got this the wrong way round, it is getting into the water that is more of an issue if you are worried about feeling the cold. This is because, after a few minutes in the hot water, the outside of your body heats up to a temperature on a par with your core body temperature. So, when you get out, unless there is a strong wind blowing, this heat takes a short while to dissipate, giving you time to put a robe on, put the cover back on the spa and get your things together before you start to feel cold.
Using a hot tub in the winter months is not that much different to using one during the summer, but with a few additional points to bear in mind.
• Ensure pathways between the hot tub and the house are cleared of snow and frost, to minimise the risk of slipping over. Use a proprietary path-clearing salt/grit combination if necessary.
• Always wear suitable footwear to protect feet from the cold and minimise the chance of contamination being transferred from feet to the hot tub water.
• If a hot tub cover is covered in snow, sweep the snow off completely with a soft brush first before trying to move the cover. Snow is heavy and trying to lift the cover may potentially cause damage to the cover (and potentially the person trying to lift it). Secondly, you don’t want freezing snow dropping off the cover and into the hot tub water! A cover lifter is recommended to assist with lifting and replacement of the cover.
• Only remove the cover immediately before getting into the hot tub, and replace it again immediately after getting out. This is good practice at any time of year in order to minimise heat losses and, therefore, running costs. However, it is absolutely imperative when the weather is cold, as the difference between water temperature and air temperature is much greater than it is in the summer, and so therefore is the rate of heat loss.
• Always remove the cover completely when using the hot tub! Even in cold weather. The gap between the water surface and the underside of the cover is very small and suffocation could occur quickly, so NEVER be tempted to use the hot tub with the cover on.
• Invest in good quality heavy towelling robes, and place a towel tree to hang them on close to the hot tub. That way your walk to and from the hot tub will be as warm as the time you spend in the water, regardless of how alpine the conditions get.
• Wear your favourite winter hat! OK, you may not win any awards for sartorial elegance, but the only part of you that will be exposed to the cold (and also the bit you lose the most heat from) will be your head, so insulate it!
If your hot tub breaks down, get it fixed as soon as possible. As long as a hot tub is working correctly, heated water is circulating and filtering and built-in freeze protections are operating, modern hot tubs can deal with the absolute worse that the winter can throw at it. However, a breakdown could potentially lead to circulation and heating stopping, and the risk of freezing conditions affecting pipework and equipment, leading to damage being caused. By calling out an engineer and asking for a visit as soon as possible will ensure that the chances of damage being caused are minimised.
Keep up a good water care maintenance regime. Just because it is winter, it does not mean you can step back from a good water care programme.
Winterising Your Hot Tub
If you are not planning on using your hot tub during the winter months, (indeed at any time that we may get a frost), it must be properly winterised or potentially severe damage could be caused to the pipework and equipment in freezing conditions. Here’s how you go about doing the job, but you may prefer to get a BISHTA member to do the work for you.
1. Turn off all air control valves and open all jets. If the hot tub is a couple of years old or more, it would be a good idea at this point to use a proprietary pipe cleaner and biofilm eliminator immediately before draining the hot tub.
Drain the water from the hot tub, using the hot tub’s inbuilt drain valve or a submersible pump (which will empty it out much faster). There will normally be a few inches of water left in the bottom of the hot tub which can be bailed out using a plastic bucket or similar plastic container.
Switch off power to the hot tub both at the local isolator switch (if fitted) and the MCB in the consumer unit.
2. Take off the cabinet panel at the front of the hot tub’s equipment bay. Undo the unions connecting the pipework to the pumps and allow the water in the pipework drain away.
Use a wet and dry vacuum cleaner to clear the pipework of any remaining water. If the hot tub is fitted with an air blower, disconnect the end of the pipe from the blower, and suck as much water as possible from the blower lines with the wet and dry vacuum.
Remove the drain plugs from the pumps and let the water drain from the pump bodies. When all the water has drained from the pump bodies, replace the drain plugs.
3. Replace the cabinet panel. Wipe the hot tub’s interior and exterior with a clean cotton towel. After it has completely dried out, place the cover back on the hot tub, close it and secure it.
4. As the hot tub is not going to be used for a while, it is better to cover it up properly to ensure it does not attract dirt and insects, and protects the exterior from the elements. Cover the hot tub with a tarpaulin or large plastic sheet and tie it down securely so it remains in place.
If your hot tub is still within its warranty period, before you begin any hot tub maintenance yourself check your manufacturer’s terms and conditions as, sometimes, the manufacturer may only provide warranty coverage if it has been winterised by an authorised service professional.
5. Your hot tub is now winterised!
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