The Hot Tub in Winter


Surprisingly, it is a question that doesn’t get asked all that often. When we do hear it, the question usually comes from a customer who is from a more tropical climate, is new to hot tubbing, or, usually, both.

The question is not a silly one. I once knew an exchange student from Costa Rica. He had seen pictures and heard stories about snow, but until we took him inner tubing at the Summit at Snoqualmie, the concept of snow was completely strange to him.

So we try not to smile too much when someone asks us what to do with their spa in the winter. Sometimes I even manage to not sound facetious when I say that if the snow gets too deep, dig your way through it so you can enjoy a soak.

In my humble opinion, winter is actually the best time to enjoy a hot tub. There are a few things that the winter-time hot tubber should keep in mind, however. Something else that our Southern neighbors don’t always appreciate is that sometimes it has to warm up to snow.

A winter time high pressure can mean several days of cold, clear, very COLD weather. This is pipe freezing weather, when some municipalities instruct people to leave the sink dripping. Why? Because of the water in the pipes is moving, it is less likely to freeze. If the water in the pipes freeze, it can expand and burst the pipes, and that can be a mess.

The hot tub holds a large enough mass of water that the tub itself is unlikely to freeze, but the water in the piping and pump casing is more exposed, and could freeze with tragic (or expensive) results. Most hot tub timers can be set to operate for a few minutes, every hour or so, to prevent pipe freezing.

hot tub winter © Copyright Usspa and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons License

The question often comes up whether or not it is worthwhile to drain the hot tub and winterize it. This is a concern for people who will be out of town for an extended period during the winter months, and who want to avoid the cost of having the hot tub running while they are gone. It is largely a judgment call; if the well-insulated spa is closed, and only runs long enough to maintain temperature (and avoid pipe freeze), the energy cost will probably be less than the cost to drain the tub, have it professionally winterized, and then refill and retreat the water in the spring.

If you do decide to let the tub go through the winter dry, it is worth the expense to have in professionally winterized. Modern tubs can have complicated piping and as many as three pumps. EVERY BIT of water needs to be removed to avoid the possibility of freezing damage. Be sure that your Hot Tub technician will stand behind the winterizing job.

If you are going to stick around for the cold months, you are in store for some of the best hot tubbing of the year. There is little to compare with the feeling of snowflakes melting on your face while the rest of your body is being warmed and massaged by the warm, bubbly water.

The biggest problem of winter hot tubbing is getting into, and more importantly out of, the tub. Snow may be the least of your worries. During “pipe freezing” weather, any water that splashes out of the tub will freeze almost immediately, causing a slipping hazard that may not be obvious until it is too late.

Another, less common cold weather hazard is the “tongue on the flagpole” effect. We know one man who was enjoying his tub in minus 10 degree weather. Everything was fine until he grabbed the aluminum handle of his patio door. A half hour later he was still screaming, half naked, when the fire department showed up to pour warm water to unfreeze the hand from the door.

To learn more about enjoying hot tubs, any time of the year, contact the good folks at Black Pine Spas and Billiards today!


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