There is nothing I like better than using the hot tub first thing in the morning when there is a frost, and the steam from the hot tub beautifully frames the garden. However, I hear that many people decommission their hot tub during the winter season and I think they might be missing out. In this article, I will tell you how to use your hot tub in winter and give you some top tips along the way.
Check the limitations of your hot tub first!!
Some hot tubs are not designed for cold climates. Take the Lazy Spa inflatable hot tub for example. This great starter hot tub is only rated to be used in temperatures above 40° F (or 5° C) because the inflatable hot tub struggles to maintain its water temperature in winter weather. There is also a severe risk of pipes freezing as the central unit that powers the hot tub sits next to the tub. The unit and associated plumbing have no insulation which adds to the freezing risk. Solid moulded hot tubs have their pipes under and around the hot tub which offers better winter protection. Some have specific winter protection, and you can also purchase extra insulation at the time of purchase for many of the popular brands.
Make sure you have a good quality hot tub lid
Having a good quality cover is essential for the whole year as it protects the water from contaminates and makes your hot tub more energy efficient. Good quality covers offer excellent insulation and can be secured tightly to ensure the maximum amount of heat is retained. The lazy spa, for example, has a poor lid that consists of an inflatable section that rests on the water. This offers limited insulation, and if it snows, the cover cannot cope with the extra weight. When I had my Lazy Spa, I cut two half circles of insulating foam that I put under the manufactures cover to help with the insulation during winter. I also put lagging around the pipes and wrapped insulation around the pump too. It all looked dreadful, but it meant I could continue to use the hot tub in the British winter. Unsure if an inflatable hot tub is right for you – click here!
If it does snow significantly you will have to remove the snow from the top of your hot tub. Please do not use a shovel to do this! I have had friends who have made this mistake, and they have then ripped the top of their cover
Is it safe to use the hot tub in cold weather?
For most people, the answer is yes. If you have an underlying medical condition, then you will most definitely need to consult your doctor before you use your hot tub in any season. When you exit the hot tub, do so slowly especially if you have been in a reclined position, to allow for your blood pressure to stabilise – in the same way people sit on the side of the bed following a good nights sleep before they stand up to avoid feeling faint.
Health Benefits of winter hot tubbing – what the Scandinavians say…
Being half Norwegian, I could argue that winter hot tubbing is in my blood! Scandinavians have long believed in the health benefits from shocking the body from hot to cold. It is true that running from the sauna and then rolling in the snow, releases endorphins, which make people feel good, but I am not going to advocate such wild behaviour.
What I can say is watching the winter birds feed on the bird feeder while I slowly wake up in the hot tub is a great feeling!
Can children use the outdoor hot tub in winter?
I do not think that anyone would recommend children use an outdoor hot tub in winter. Their smaller bodies cope less well with maintaining core body temperature so winter outdoor hot tubbing could be dangerous. Children can use the hot tub in summer, and I have written another article on this.
Important things to consider when using the hot tub in icy weather.
In summer, we might have a pair of hot tub slippers on hand, but often we will step straight on the decking/lawn barefoot. However, in winter, you will need foot protection and possibly foot protection that has good grip. My wife uses an old pair of slip-on trainers (that do not have a back), I use a pair of slippers I got free when I visited a spa (not very grippy!).
Towel or dressing gown
Make sure this is close by so that when you leave the hot tub, you have some protection during the mad dash to the house!
Leave the covers!
If you have a cover that is easy to flip on the tub, then you can do that. But, if you have clips or buckles to fasten, then leave that until you have dried off and have suitable outdoor clothes on. You may need to add some sanitiser depending on your sanitiser routine – again this can wait until after you are dry and dressed! For more information about how to keep your water fresh and crystal clear click here.
Consider the path back to the house
As the weather is cold, this may be icy or wet. I have to cross a lawn and some decking before I get back into the warm. On the lawn I lay wooden stepping stones which I regularly move, so the grass is not damaged. The decking is slippery even with the anti-slip paint. I ensure that it is kept clean and free from leaves. There is a step built in, and this has a handrail for added safety. But the best way to say safe in icy conditions is to wear suitable footwear
Don’t carry out a water change if the outside temperature is below freezing.
Water changes are necessary, and I would recommend you do this every 3-4 months to maintain the highest water quality. But completely changing the water when temperatures are below freezing puts the pipes at risk of frost damage. You will also not be able to flush the pipes with a pipe cleaning solution and leave it to work, as it might freeze and damage your spa. If you are struggling to maintain your sanitiser level or there are other signs that your water needs changing (cloudy etc.) then consider doing a partial water change. This is likely to help with your problem, and there is no risk to your hot tub. (top tip!) For more information on hot tub maintenance – click here
Is it expensive to use your hot tub or spa in the winter?
It will cost more to use your hot tub in the winter because the heater will have to work more to keep the water temperature nice and warm. However, in the summer months, you will probably turn the temperature down, so over the year, the cost will probably balance out. This is assuming that you have a good quality, well insulated solid moulded hot tub. Inflatable hot tubs cost much more to run during cold weather.
Inflatable hot tubs cost significantly more to run in cold weather
Inflatable hot tubs are not insulated very well against the elements. They lose heat very quickly, and if you use the bubbles, the water temperature can drop down to below 96 F ( ~36 C) because the air to produce the bubbles is taken from the cold outside air. Solid hot tubs use water jets to agitate the water, and air bubbles can be added, but these are optional and should be turned down or off for winter use. The heaters in solid hot tubs run in conjunction with the water pumps, so a constant temperature is maintained. I have never calculated how much it cost to run my inflatable hot tub through the winter months, but some dealerships have said it could have been as much as $50!!
Do not use heat lamps!!
It is difficult to regulate your temperature in a hot tub during routine use, and until you have become accustomed to your hot tub, you should limit the amount of time you spend in it. In cold weather, this problem is exacerbated, and your internal body thermostat gets confused because your head is cold and your body is hot. Adding heat lamps may seem like a good idea, but the reality is you are more likely to overheat. If you are using the hot tub in summer you would generally lower the temperature of the water to compensate for the increased temperature outside, If you are using heat lamps then I would recommend you do the same, but this will take away from the point of hot tubbing in winter – you may as well take a bath instead!! If you do use heat lamps, make sure they are far enough away from the water. Electricity and water are not your friends!
The last tip is to stay hydrated (I can’t stress this enough!)
Staying hydrated in summer is obvious, but it is just as essential in the winter also. You may not fancy a refreshing cold drink when you go out to the hot tub, but after being in there for 5 min you might, but the hassle of getting out in the cold and going back indoors, will probably mean you will not go and get that much-needed hydration.
Top Tip: as part of your hot tub routine, keep a large bottle of water in the refrigerator and take it out with you every time you use the hot tub. Keep a few reusable plastic glasses next to the tub, so when you, family or friends need a drink, you will have one ready.
Okay – now go and get hot tubbing!!