spa winter use & non-use


Please note, the information contained here is not intended for in-ground spas and owners of such should consult a local professional for such services. Also, due to the many different configurations of spas, this page is basic information and consultation with a local spa professional is advised. Improperly winterizing your spa could cause extensive damage due to water freezing in the piping and/or equipment. The goal of winterizing is to remove every drop of water from the spa, piping and equipment.


Many people particularly enjoy using their outdoor spa or hot tub during the cold winter months. While the wintertime can be the most enjoyable time to use an outdoor spa, if you live in an area of freezing conditions, there are some things you should do to ensure the proper operation and maximum energy efficiency of your spa.

Protect From Freezing:

The greatest danger of using your spa in the winter time is that damage will occur from water freezing in the piping system. Most portable or self-contained spas have a system designed to prevent this from happening. Many spas have a "mode" switch on the main control box labeled, "timer/thermostat" or "timer/no-freeze" (or something else to that effect). When the switch in in the timer mode the spa will generally heat only during a preset time throughout the day. During the rest of the day, the heating system is off and the spa can be prone to freezing. The switch should be in the 'thermostat' or 'no-freeze' setting so that the spa will always maintain a constant temperature. The thermostat should also be turned up to the normal operating setting.

If your spa does not have a "mode" switch and operates only by a timer, you'll need to reprogram it to give  the best possible protection against freezing. It's a good idea to set the timer to come on for at least 15 minutes each hour. This will ensure hot water circulation through the pipes and equipment (the piping is the place most prone to freezing). Please note, in areas of intense cold, i.e. -10 or below, 15 minutes per hour may not be a long enough time to keep things from freezing.

Keeping it hot:

Remember...the colder it is outside, the longer it will take for your spa or hot tub to heat up. Spas will need to run longer during the winter to maintain the same temperature as in the warmer months.

The most important thing for reducing the energy requirements of your spa in wintertime is a good insulating cover. Your energy requirements can be further reduced with the simple addition of an inexpensive floating thermal blanket. Not only will a floating blanket help to keep in the heat, but it will also reduce your hot tubs chemical consumption and increase the life of your primary insulating cover.

Remember also to regularly remove the snow from atop the cover. Most spa covers are not designed to hold the added weight of snow. Laying a plastic tarp over your cover will help prevent damage from a snow shovel, and light snow can be removed by simply pulling off the tarp.

Draining and cleaning your spa:

The middle of winter is defiantly not the most joyous time to drain and clean your spa (is there ever a 'joyous' time?). If you take care of this in the late fall you most likely can get by till the end of the colder months before needing to clean your spa again.

A story of warning:

This is a true story told to me by a customer. It was the coldest day on record in Minnesota, -30 degrees. Wanting to have "Macho Bragging Rights" (hey, these are his words) he decided to use his spa. As he was going back into the house, he touched the aluminum frame of the sliding glass door with his damp hand. Well, ten minutes later, half-naked and still screaming, the fire department poured warm water over his hand to unfreeze it from the door.

Enjoy your spa this winter. There's sometimes nothing more exhilarating than sitting in hot bubbling water while snow is falling all around you.

WINTERIZING YOUR SPA (shutting it down)


I always wonder why folks want to winterize their hot tubs. There's nothing more invigorating than soaking in a hot spa on a cold winters night, snowfall can make it even better. However if your spa is not well insulated your heating bill could be upwards of $120 per month. Even with a moderately insulated spa  your winter use of electricity for a spa could be $30 to $40 or more per month.

Different spa set ups will require different forms of winterizing. Please note, the information contained here is not intended for in-ground spas and owners of such should consult a local professional for such services. Improperly winterizing your spa could cause extensive damage from water freezing in the piping and/or equipment.

The three different types of spa configurations these instructions cover are, self contained spas (spas with a skirting around them and the equipment located directly under the skirt), above ground spas where the equipment is located remotely, and wooden hot tubs.

The purpose of winterizing a spa is to remove virtually every last drop of water from the system so that no freeze damage will occur. Once again, improperly winterizing your spa could cause extensive damage from water freezing in the piping and/or equipment and due to the many different spa configurations the suggestions on this page may not perfectly accurate. If in doubt, please consult with a professional.

The most important tool for winterizing a spa is a good wet/dry shop vac. Dry towels will also be of help. Remember that the idea is to remove all the water out of the system.

Once you've drained all the water out of the tub, continue with the following for self contained and above ground spas. For wooden hot tubs, continue with the following and the special section for wood hot tubs at the bottom of the page.

Remove the filter cartridge and clean it as you normally would, then soak it over night (12 hours minimum) in a filter cleaning solution. Rinse the filter thoroughly and let it dry. The filter cartridge, filter canister, and any parts you remove from the spa should be store indoors until you're ready to start up the spa again in the spring.

Remove any and all drain plugs on the pump, filter and heater, then open any unions on the heater, pump(s), and any other unions there may be.

If your spa has an air blower, turn it on for about 3 to 5 minutes, then vacuum any water out of the spa.

Place the shop vac hose over each of the pipe fittings (where you disconnected the unions) and draw out as much water as possible. Let the shop vac run. 5 to 10 minutes should surfice, but more is better.

Apply the vacuum to each jet, one at a time (start with the highest jet and work down to the lowest). Using plastic sheeting, cover all the other jets, and vacuum out all of the water. The vacuum will hold the plastic sheets in place over the jets. Don't let it suck the plastic into the piping.

Now vacuum out the drain fitting(s) at the bottom of the tub. If your spa has a skimmer, cover it's opening with the plastic sheeting. When your done with the drain fittings, vacuum out the skimmer.

Return to the equipment and again place the vacuum over each of the pipe fittings (where you disconnected the unions) and draw out as much water as possible. Let the shop vac run. 5 to 10 minutes should surfice, but more is better.

Remove any remaining water from inside the spa with the vacuum then completely dry it with towels.

Now is a good time to remove any stains from the surface of your spa. Dirt and stains tend to penetrate some types of plastics if there's no water in the spa. If you wax or polish your spa, now is a good time to do so. Not only will it protect the surface from staining, but come spring time all you'll have to do is fill the tub and hop in.

Covering. While most insulating covers are designed to hold up under all weather conditions, below freezing temperatures will still shorten their life span. If you have the room to store your old cover and use it for protecting your spa in the winter so much the better (store the good cover indoors). With the cover on the spa, cover it with a heavy waterproof plastic to prevent any water from getting into the spa. Be sure to attach the plastic in such a way that it wont blow off. If you can lay plywood over the plastic that's even better. Not only will the plywood help hold down the plastic, but it will increase the snow load of the cover and protect it when you shovel off the snow. And yes, you need to shovel off the snow on a regular basis. The weight of the snow can cause the cover to sag and allow water to get into the spa. Worse yet, the weight can break the cover.

Wood Hot Tub

With a wooden hot tub follow the above steps and......

Generally speaking a wood hot tub should never be left empty. As the wood dries out it tends to shrink and can be somewhat difficult to reseal. However, done correctly a wood hot tub can also be winterized. After following the above steps you'll need to tightly plug all the holes and openings in the hot tub. There are what's called "test plugs" that can be used to seal the jet and drain openings. Once all the openings are sealed, put about 2 inches of water in the tub and let it freeze. The water will keep the all-important bottom from drying out and shrinking (the tub should be check at least once a month to be sure the water is still there). When spring comes and you're ready to fill the tub, tighten up the bands first.

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