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Archive for the ‘Winter Hot Tub Tips’ Category

It’s Cold Outside! Winter Hot Tub Tips

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winter hot tubFor many spa or hot tub owners, winter is the perfect time to enjoy a hot soak in your outdoor tub. In warmer places like Southern California, the winter temperatures rarely dip below 50°, which hardly qualifies as cold for the rest of the country.

If you live in colder climates, where 50° would be considered a winter heat wave, you can still safely (and sanely) enjoy your hot tub. The air is crisper and the stars seem brighter during the winter months. Even if there’s snow on the ground, this is the perfect time of year to enjoy your hot tub with family and friends.

To help you enjoy the warmth of your hot tub all winter long, we’ve put together a list of handy tips to enjoy your hot tub in winter!


1. Wear a Hat

For women (or men) with long hair, wearing a hat helps to keep your hair dry. This helps to regulate your body temperature while using the hot tub and keeps you from catching a chill. Not only is a hat important for keeping your hair dry, but as much as 70% of your body heat can be lost through the top of your head. Break out your favorite ball cap, knitted beanie or fluffy double mackinaw to keep your noggin warm and dry.

2. Use Facial Moisturizer

Skin cream or hand lotion will protect your face from bitter winter winds, which can quickly dry the skin. A layer of moisturizer (or even suncreen) helps to keep the moisture locked in your skin. It also forms a barrier over your pores, which reduces the absorption of spa chemicals that may be released at the surface of the water.

3. Wear Sandals or Slippers

Most outdoor spas are at least 10 steps away from the door. And unless you have a red carpet runway from your doorway to the spa, you’ll need something to help you make that mad dash. Slippers or sandals will help keep your spa clean and keep your tootsies warm and dry as you make the trek. Surfaces around a spa can be slippery in freezing temperatures, so wearing something on your feet can also help to keep you from becoming another slip-and-fall statistic.

4. Warm Towels

One of the most popular spa accessories is a towel warmer, which is a favorite for many cold-weather spa owners. It’s a small box or electric towel rack that will keep 2-5 towels nice and toasty and ready for use. Don’t have a towel warmer? No problem! Just pop some towels in the dryer beforehand, and store them in a small insulated box or cooler just inside the door to the house. You can also use a deck storage cube, and place a few microwaveable heating pads inside along with your towels.

5. Cool Umbrellas

If you have a patio umbrella near the spa, have it ready to pop open in the event of rain or snow. If you wear a hat, you may not need to use an umbrella. But if not, it’s nice to have a large umbrella or small parasol to keep winter weather from raining on your parade. Hold on tight in high winds, and if a rare winter thunderstorm develops, it’s best to head indoors.

6. Hot Drinks

In warmer outside temperatures, nothing is as refreshing as a cool beverage to help regulate body temperature. During the winter, however, warm beverages are best. Mix up a batch of hot chocolate, and pour it into an insulated coffee carafe to keep it warm. Thermal mugs with lids are perfect for the cocoa, but be careful to not spill any in the tub!

7. Spa Covers

The colder the weather is outside, the faster your spa will lose heat. Spas without an effective cover will have trouble maintaining the heat during freezing temperatures, and they may not recover fast enough after losing ten degrees while the cover is off. If your cover is struggling to keep the heat in, it may be time to consider buying a new spa cover, and perhaps also investing in a floating spa blanket.


Don’t let the cold weather temperatures drive you indoors! Enjoy your spa or hot tub all year round. Just remember to limit your soaks to 20 minutes and sty properly hydrated.

 

Winter Hot Tub Accessories

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With winter upon us, many new spa owners (and even some seasoned pros) have lots of questions about hot tub winterization and whether or not to keep the spa open all winter. A lot of people also wonder if they can safely drain the spa during winter.

We’ve talked about winter hot tub tips before, including how to get the most out of your spa during the winter months. Today, we’ll show you some handy winter hot tub products and accessories that help protect your spa from harsh weather conditions and make your winter hot tub safer and more enjoyable to use.

Spa Covers

spa-cover-for-winterOf course you need a spa cover during winter! Without a tight fitting spa cover in good condition, your hot tub may have trouble staying hot. Spa tops that are waterlogged can lose half of their insulating properties, and a poorly fitting spa top or one that is not strapped down tightly will quickly lose heat. Replace cover clips that are broken or use high wind straps to pull the cover down tightly and prevent heat loss. If you see steam escaping around the edges or along the fold seam, just imagine it as dollar bills with wings.

Spa Caps

spa-cover-cap-for-winterIt’s a cover – for your cover! Spa covers take a beating over the winter from sun, snow and ice. A spa cover cap is almost like a fitted sheet for the top of your spa cover, effectively protecting your cover from moisture and UV rays. The CoverCap is available in 7’x7′ and 8’x8′ square sizes to fit most hot tub covers. As an added benefit, this cap can improve heat retention performance on covers that are losing heat, and and it helps extend the life of any spa cover. The CoverCap spa cover cap is made from strong woven PE. It features a silver reflective surface to melt snow faster and deter most birds, squirrels and other wildlife.

Spa Blankets

floating-foam-insulating-blanketFor spas and hot tubs in cold Northern climates, a floating spa blanket can increase heat retention by up to 50%. Without a spa blanket floating on the surface of the water, heat rises to fill the air space between the water and your spa cover. Floating spa blankets are available in three types: the durable radiant spa blanket with an aluminum underside, the floating foam blanket made of closed cell foam, and the economy spa bubble blanket made of extruded PE. All spa insulating blankets are sold in square sizes and can be trimmed with scissors to fit your spa.

Spa Enclosure

hot-tub-gazebo in winterYou may have a hot tub umbrella, but do you have a hot tub enclosure? Sometimes called pavilions, gazebos or cabanas, the Japanese were the first to popularize the use of onsens, or small huts built above a hot spring. Hot tub enclosures are available as inflatable domes, retractable domes, or wood structures with large window panels that can be opened. In addition to protecting your spa from sun, snow and wind, enclosures also can improve the efficiency of heating a hot tub in winter, and they can be the best way to add a little privacy to your hot tub.

Heated Floor Mats

heated-mats-for-spa-steps-during-winterUnless your spa is located just steps from the door, on a covered patio, winter hot tubbers often have to cross a frozen tundra to reach their bubbling spa. Ice and snow can be dangerous, and a slip and fall on your way to the hot tub can ruin the whole evening. For hot tubs in snowy winter areas, consider heating patio pavers with floor heat cables placed beneath, or use heated floor mats to keep the path to your hot tub free of ice and snow. You can find them in many sizes, and also find heated stair mats to use on your spa steps, for safe entry and exit.

Spa Handrail

spa-handrails-for-winterSpeaking of safely entering and exiting a spa, spa handrails are the perfect winter spa accessory. Spa steps may be icy from splashing water or rain/snow. However, a spa handrail helps you make that last big, awkward step into the spa without making a fool of yourself. When getting out of the hot tub, while your legs are like jelly and the blood is rushing to your head as you stand up, a spa handrail is ready and available at-your-service. We have several different safety handrails for spas. One type screws into the cabinet, another type is mounted to a large plate that slips under the spa, and the final type is mounted directly to the spa step.

A Good Hat

accessory hatThis is possibly the best winter hot tub accessory to have. A good hat will not only keep you from losing heat from the top of your head, but it will also help keep your hair dry. When your head is cold, you risk catching a head cold! Along with my trusty hat, I also swear by my spa slippers and robe – two more winter wardrobe essentials for hot tubbers.

 

 

Winter-Proof Your Hot Tub

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spa-under-snowThere are two types of hot tubs, those built for hard winters, and those that are not. In fact, many hot tubs models sold in southern markets, such as here in southern California, are built a bit ‘thinner’ – not intended to handle sub-zero or high altitude climates.

A hot tub that works perfectly well in a Tampa or Los Angeles winter will have trouble holding hot temps in Chicago or Colorado. Snowbelt spas are built with better insulation, around the shell, cabinet and plumbing, larger heaters and heat recapture, and a spa cover with thicker and denser foam.

Occasionally I hear about the unfortunate who buys a sunbelt spa, and/or a very cheap model, and installs it at his mountain cabin, only to find out that it tops out around 90° F, spinning the electric meter non-stop just to keep the water warm.

There are ways, however – to improve on poor spa insulation, responsible for most heat loss in hot tubs. Even if your hot tub is a well-insulated model from a well-known brand, you can improve your energy efficiency and improve your R-value.

ADD INSULATION

The number one way, is to increase the insulation inside of the spa cabinet, unless you already have a ‘fully-foamed’ spa where the shell and pipes are buried in spray foam. Don’t block air flow, there needs to be some air intake, but you can line the insides of spa cabinets with pink insulation board or bats of attic foam, held in place with construction adhesive.

Spray Foam is taking it a step further, you can thick layers of spray foam on the back side of the spa shell, the PVC pipes can be sprayed, you can even bury the spa jets in foam. Regular construction foam like Great Stuff can be used on small areas, or to encase 3/4 of a spa in foam, look at Dow Froth 200, fills 16 cubic feet of area with foam! Foam can be cut-out in the future if access to a jet is needed. Just be sure not to encase anything electric, or anything that moves or spins!

FLOATING BLANKET

floating-foam-insulating-blanketA floating spa blanket is an easier economical step to make, but no less as effective! Floating spa blankets are quite effective at reducing heat loss through spas and hot tubs. Especially if your spa cover doesn’t fit quite right, or is put on just slightly ajar – a floating blankets stops the bleeding, or most of it.

There are 3 types of floating spa blankets, which is a perfect example of a good, better and best product line. Our Good PE spa blanket has air-filled pockets on a 12 mil thick polyethylene backing. For better heat retention, our closed cell Foam spa blanket does a much better job, but the best spa blanket is the foam and aluminum, Radiant spa blanket.

NEW SPA COVER

For spas and hot tubs in the very coldest of temperatures, nothing is more important than “The Works” spa cover, made with 2 lb Foam weight, in a 6″ to 4″ taper for the ultimate in heat retention. New spa covers that come with a spa are more often than not the “Economy” spa cover, made with 1 lb Foam and a thinner profile.

When a spa cover foam panels absorb water, the heat retention of the foam is reduced, and the sagging raises the cover from the spa, allowing more heat to escape. A new spa cover is the number one way to increase your efficiency.

SPA COVER CAP

And to protect the important investment that is your spa cover, the Spa Cover Cap is a cover for your cover! Stretches over your spa cover like a fitted sheet. Shields your hot tub cover from harsh UV sun, rain and snow, birds and squirrels and more. 2 sizes are available to fit most spas, 7’square and 8′ square.

Spa Cover Caps are made in silver reflective woven polyethylene to last for many winters to come. Might add a small amount of R-value to your spa, but not much.

PROTECTA-SPA COVER

The Protecta Spa Cover is a cover for an entire spa or hot tub, available in 3 sizes. Rugged protective cover encloses your entire spa to keep wind, rain, dirt, snow, and harmful UV rays from direct contact with your spa cover and cabinet. Protecta-Spa features a Velcro closure for a snug fit, a vented area for the equipment. Like the Spa Cover Cap, Protecta Spa Cover is not marketed as a thermal cover, but every little bit helps!

SPA COVER WIND STRAPS

For spas that are in high wind areas, perched out on a high deck or cliff overlooking a fabulous view, wind can be a large heat thief from your spa. Strong winds at the right angle can work their way under the spa cover skirt and blow across the surface of your hot tub water! Adjust your spa cover clips, so that it is necessary to push down slightly on the cover to latch them. For strong wind areas, our ‘Hurricane’ spa cover straps are over-the-top straps to lock your cover down tight in strong winds of any type. Wind blocks are another good idea, privacy walls or hedges to block wind around the spa.

 

So – if your spa is struggling to heat up fully, or stay warm overnight, improve your insulation to raise your hot tub R-value. And if your spa has trouble maintaining temps when you are using the spa, or when the blower is running, you may want to look into our larger spa heaters.

 

– Jack

 

 

Off Season Hot Tub Maintenance Tips

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spa-closed-for-season
For seasonal users of hot tubs, some adjustment to your maintenance routines can be made, during times of non-use or very low use.

But that doesn’t mean you can ignore the spa sanitation and filtration altogether! Leave a spa to it’s own devices, without intervention, for too long and you’ll have bacteria buildup, damaged filters or at least a very smelly hot tub.

If you tend to use the spa less during warmer weather (or less during colder weather), here’s some tips on protecting your investment and avoiding costly clean-up of a spa gone too long without care.

 

DRAIN & REFILL THE SPA

draining-a-hot-tubIt’s tempting to leave the water in the hot tub or spa after the season, and drain it before using it again, but depending on how old the water is, and how long the tub will sit (all summer?), you may want to drain it now, as a step to ‘summerizing’ the spa. If your spa water is over 90 days old, and has been used semi-regularly, I would advise draining and refilling with water from a Pre-Filter. After refilling, balance the pH, alkalinity and calcium hardness, and shock the spa water with MPS.

 

TURN THE HEATER DOWN TO MINIMUM

A covered spa that is not heated will drop and stabilize to a temperature that is a bit lower than the outside air temperature. During freezing weather, it’s important to keep the spa pump running, to avoid freeze damage. During hot summer weather, even with the heater off and spa covered, water temps can rise into the 80’s. It’s important to keep the spa pump running, to avoid algae and bacteria from growing during hot summer months.

 

BALANCE THE CHEMISTRY MONTHLY

spa-water-testsEven though no one is using the spa, protect your shiny surfaces, cover, filter and rubber bits by checking the pH, alkalinity and calcium hardness levels on a monthly basis. After you balance the water, add a full dose of spa shock, to disinfect and oxidize the spa water, destroying any germs in the hot tub. Keep the hot tub cover open for about an hour after shocking, to allow the water to gas-off. If the water was cloudy during the monthly inspection, increase filter run time and/or sanitizer levels and consider using a clarifier to help the filter.

 

SANITIZING THE OFF-SEASON SPA

Because you aren’t using the spa, you may not need to run a 3-5 ppm level of bromine, because the contaminants introduced to the water are very low. However, you will still need to keep some type of constant sanitizer in the water, to kill bacteria, viruses, algae. A spa Mineral Stick is a good idea to manage daily disinfection, with a monthly balancing and shocking of the spa. An ozonator can also accomplish the majority of the daily sanitation needs for the un-used hot tub, coupled with regular spa shocking. Bromine tubs can also just use fewer tablets in the floater or feeder, just 1 or 2 bromine tabs, to keep a low-range 1-2 ppm of bromine in the water. If you fill a spa floater with 9 tabs and close it the vents all the way, you should be able to deliver about 1ppm of bromine to the spa, constantly. Avoid allowing the spa water to filter only, without bromine, ozone, minerals or shock, it won’t last long without some form of daily sanitation.

 

SECURE THE SPA COVER

spa-is-closed-signA tight fitting spa cover is important not only for spa safety, but also to keep out debris and sunlight. Be sure to clamp all of the cover clips around the spa cover. For protection from summer storms and high winds, use spa cover wind straps, and cover the spa cover with the Spa Cover Cap, to protect the cover from summer sun and rain, and also to make the spa more inaccessible or off-limits. If you want to be more explicit, post a Spa Closed sign, especially for rental properties or commercial spas that aren’t of the single-family type.

 

RUN THE FILTER PUMP DAILY

Just as you need daily sanitation for the off-season spa, you also need daily circulation and filtration of the water. And just as you need less sanitation for an unused spa, you can get by with less filtration for a spa that is sanitized and un-used. Program your circulation pump to run on low speed for 3-6 hours daily, with a daily high speed run of about an hour. With summer weather comes greater possibility of power outages which can affect your pump timer programming or leave the spa in an OFF mode. Keep an eye and an ear towards the spa to be sure that the filter is running like it should.

BONUS TIP: Before putting the spa to bed, remove and clean the cartridge filter, or replace the spa filter if it’s close to 24 months old.

 

Carolyn Mosby
Hot Tub Works

When Hot Tubs lose Power – Strange but True Stories

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Around hereoutdoor-spa-full-of-snow-2, at Hot Tub Works, we get nearly 1000 phone calls per day. Most are sales calls to order spa covers or chemicals, but a good percentage of calls are spa tech support calls. It’s enough to keep several spa techs busy on the phones all day, so I guess it’s about 15% of our call volume.

I was talking to Drake at our holiday party recently, and it was a cold night – so cold that I made a comment about “…a lot of spas freezing up tonight”. He told me some funny stories that he had experienced over the phone with customers or had heard about.

IF YOU LOSE POWER – Strange but True Stories

  1. Do not drain the spa! Most winter power outages are resolved quickly, and most spas with any sort of insulation, and a good spa cover, can hold heat for at least 24 hours. If your spa was 90° when the power went off, it can take a long time for temperatures in the pipes and equipment to cool to near freezing, especially in a spa with a tight cabinet and good insulation.
  2. Do not put flames under the spa! Small fires (true story), or a kerosene heater, or any gas heater placed under the spa can cause a big problem with soot, carbon monoxide and melted spa parts. Keep the cover closed, and lay heavy woolen blankets over top if needed to help old spa covers.
  3. Do not pour antifreeze into the spa. Some of you are laughing, but another true story. “I don’t care if the label says non-toxic antifreeze for pools”, it’s not safe to pour into the spa, plus it wouldn’t work unless you poured in an amount equal to at least 10% of your spa water volume.
  4. Do not stuff blankets or comforters underneath the spa. When the equipment starts up, the pump and heater need the air spaces to keep themselves cool. Besides, who would want to use that blanket again? Not me!

WHAT YOU CAN DO – in an Extended Power Outage

  1. Cover the spa cover with heavy woolen blankets and plastic tarp, wrapped tightly around the edge. This can help hold heat in, especially with older covers or spa covers that don’t fit tightly, or seal up all heat loss.
  2. Check the water temperature with a floating thermometer that you can quickly access via a smartphone app, or by quickly lifting the cover just slightly. The water temperature in the pipes will have to reach a few degrees below 32° for several hours before they expand enough to cause damage. At 32°, most water will just turn slushy and not freeze hard.
  3. Add hot water to the spa. Drain half the water, and refill with hot water from a garden hose connected to a spigot in the kitchen or laundry room. You can find an adapter from kitchen sink threads to garden hose threads at most hardware stores and  home stores.
  4. Use Hot Stones, warmed for 30 minutes in a fireplace or wood burning stove. Put them in a large iron skillet and place them under the spa cabinet. 8-10 large stones can be enough to warm the cabinet spaces for the overnight.

bio-film-hot-tubsOf course, you can drain the spa, as a last resort. It may be the best option for a home that is unoccupied during winter, with no one available to maintain the spa. However, if you plan to drain the spa for longer than a day or two, follow these tips on winterizing a spa – not only to protect the spa from freezing water, but from pockets of water and moisture that can grow into a nasty biofilm.

The best thing to do during a power outage, is the same thing that you do with the refrigerator – keep the door closed, and call to let your power company know that you are without power. If it drags on for days, such as after ice storms, keep adding hot water to the spa, or bite the bullet and drain it completely, especially if you are due for a water change anyway.

 

XOXO;
Gina Galvin

 

Winterize a Hot Tub in 5 Steps

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spa-winterizationWinterizing a spa is simple enough for the average spa owner to perform, with simple tools and equipment. Winterizing a wood hot tub? It is not recommended to drain a wood hot tub for an extended period, or else the wood will dry out and shrink.

To winterize a wood hot tub, you can follow the steps below, but then plug the lines and fill the hot tub back up with water.

To keep the water from freezing solid across a wood tub, use an air pillow like those used for above ground pool winterization, or fill several gallon sized plastic jugs, filled 1/3 full of pea gravel or non-toxic pool antifreeze. Float these in the hot tub to absorb ice expansion. Add spa algaecide or sanitizer to control algae growth and cover tightly.

To winterize a portable spa, one with an acrylic or fiberglass shell, follow these instructions:

1aDrain The Spa

You probably know this drill already, but in this case you need to get all of the water out of the spa – every drop. Open up the drain spigot and roll out the hose, or use a submersible pump (which is hours and hours faster). Shut off the power to the spa before draining and plan your drain – first by making sure the sanitizer level is low, and the pH is balanced. It’s best to run the hose to an open yard, and move the hose often, to increase disbursement. In most cases, spa water is safe to use to water planter beds, trees or lawns, as long as your sanitizer level is under 1 ppm, and you move the hose around often.

2a

Turn on the Blower

Once the water is drained out, you can turn on power to the hot tub, but keep the pumps and heater off. Activate the blower only, and unless you want a fine mist shower, put the spa cover over the tub first. After running the blower for a minute or less, allow the water to drain. If you have air jets in the seats or the floor, turn on the blower again and mop up the mist spraying out with a big towel. Wring out the towel and continue to wipe up any spray that continues to spit out from the small air holes.

3aBlow out the Pipes

This is the part that makes people nervous, but it’s really quite easy. You’ll need a large wet/dry vac, reversing the hose so that it blows air through the hose. Remove the skimmer basket and blow air through the skimmer, thru the filter, thru the pump, heater and back out through the spa jets. Be sure that all of the manual air intakes are open, and that all banks of jets are open. When all of the water has blown out, move the wet/dry vac inside of the spa, and blow air through the jets. You can also reverse the hose, and use suction to suck the water out. Be sure that all lines are open and all water has been removed.

4a

Winterize the Spa Equipment

Remove the spa filter and give it a good deep cleaning, or dispose of it if it has been in service for more than 12 cleanings or 24 months. Open up the union nuts on the pump and heater, to check for any remaining water, and allow it to drain out. When tightening back up, make sure the union o-ring has not slipped out. Look over the system closely, and open any drain plugs that you see on the pipes or equipment, especially those on lower pipes. Keep the spa drain open, in case any water gets in during winter, and be sure to shut off all power to the spa, at the main circuit breaker.

5a

Cover the Hot Tub

If your spa cover is not in the best of shape, invest in a cover cap, or tightly secure a tarpaulin over the spa, using bungee cords to keep it in place during high winds. If your spa cover is in good shape, it still would be a good idea to cover it, to protect the cover and to keep any rain or snow out of the spa. Another good thing to do during a spa closing is to clean and condition your spa cover, using one of our many spa cover care products.

 

~ That’s it! Just 5 steps to close a spa for winter, and a few more additional steps if you have a wooden hot tub. Drop me a line if you have any questions about winterizing your spa or hot tub.

 

Happy Hot Tubbin’

Daniel Lara
Hot Tub Works

 

Frozen Hot Tub!

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frozen-hot-tubWinter is coming! And with El Nino predicted, it could be a cold, snowy winter indeed. That’s good for the spa parts salesmen, I suppose – because it means lots of freeze damage to spas and hot tubs.

But hold on there ~ as long as you have your spa operating, at least on low speed, with all valves/lines open, and the water isn’t allowed to freeze across the surface ~ you needn’t worry about freeze damage to your spa or hot tub.

Most digital spa controllers will have a freeze monitor that will turn on the pump if the outside air temperature reaches 40 degrees. Some will even turn on the heater if the water temperature drops too low. But many air controls or simple hot tubs or inground spas don’t have built-in freeze protection.

WAYS TO PREVENT SPA FREEZE DAMAGE:

  1. Set an Temperature Alert on your Phone: There’s an app for that! Instead of relying on the weather report, you can use one of the many apps that will alert you (via smartphone) that temperatures below a certain set point are expected. Then, make sure the spa is hot and operating.
  2. Install a Digital Spa Pack with Freeze Protection: As mentioned earlier, if you have Air Controls, or an inground spa, you may not have built-in freeze protection. Upgrading to a digital spa pack, or for inground spas, installing a digital timeclock, will allow your system to automatically turn on the pump when low outside temps are sensed.
  3. Keep the Spa hot during Winter: For protection from power outages, keeping your spa hot all winter long will give you the most amount of time. A spa that is kept at 100 degrees and covered tightly can keep it’s heat for 24-36 hours during a power outage. An unheated spa, with very low temperatures, can freeze up solid in only an hour of not circulating.
  4. Keep your Spa Cover Tightly in Place: In some parts of the country, it’s so cold… “How cold is it, Johnny?” – It’s so cold… that leaving a spa cover off for just a few hours can cause the spa water to actually begin to turn slushy… Daiquiri anyone?

STEPS TO UNFREEZE A FROZEN HOT TUB:

Get the Hot Water and Blankets! We’re not having a baby, the hot tub is frozen solid! If you find that the hot tub or spa has ice on the surface, and is not operating…

1. Shut off Power if the pumps are not moving water, until all the ice thaws.
2. Break through Ice on the surface, add hot water from hose, or buckets from the bathtub.
–  Some utility sinks will allow you to attach a hose, or you can connect it to your hot water heater drain.
3. Closely Inspect with a utility light, or large flashlight, the pump, filter, heater, and pipes for cracks.
4. Use a heat gun, or place a small ceramic heater under the spa cabinet that you can monitor.
–  Plug into a GFCI outlet. Raise it up off the ground, and keep away from insulation or wires.
5. Use heavy blankets to help hold the heat in under the spa, if needed.

IDENTIFYING FREEZE DAMAGE:

Most cracking or damage from the expansion of ice happens to the heater body, usually a stainless steel cylinder, mounted horizontally, or the filter body or lid, a vertical plastic cylinder that holds the filter cartridge, or to the pump body or lid. Pipes tend to spider-web crack, not a clean split, but they shatter along long lengths, or through fittings.

As the spa starts to warm up, from the heat beneath and the hot water above, condensation will drip from the spa, don’t be alarmed. But running water… (not slow drips), and you may have some broken equipment or pipe. After identifying that hot tub parts are needed, you can proceed to drain the spa completely, by opening all drain valves or plugs, and using air to blow out pipes and equipment.

smiley---yeaIf you don’t see any running water, and you don’t see any cracked spa equipment or pipes, you can turn the spa back on – to check again for running water while the system is under pressure. If it sounds normal, and looks to be running properly, relax – you caught it just in time!exploded-spa

Most freeze damage is minor – a pump wet end, a bit of pipe, maybe an entire spa pack – but rarely does it total the entire spa. There are cases where a spa has been frozen solid for weeks however, and it’s literally exploded. Even when some parts are reusable, the cost to re-pipe the spa is prohibitive. If you discovered a frozen hot tub early, consider yourself lucky with a few hundred dollars in spa parts.

 

Happy Hot Tubbin!

Daniel Lara
Hot Tub Works

 

Fire up the Spa! How to Open a Winterized Hot Tub

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opening-hot-tub

 

Opening a hot tub is a lot easier than closing, and a lot less stressful, after you see that nothing’s leaking that is! Freeze damage on spa plumbing and equipment is a real possibility, especially with this brutal winter that gripped a lot of the U.S. this year.

If you read Jack Stone’s spa winterization instructions a few months ago to winterize your spa, then opening it back up should be a breeze.

Getting the spa ready for another season is something that I have done many times – and in most cases, it’s an easy hour long process.

 

CLEAN THE SPA

Since you have it empty, it’s a perfect time to polish up the hot tub interior. For wooden hot tubs, use a brush and baking soda to clean the interior. Don’t Ever use stain or sealer on the inside of the tub, but you can use it on the outside. Linseed Oil is a great product for wood, just wipe it on the outside. It’s also great for acrylic spa wood skirts – but it will darken the wood.

spa-care-cleaner-For acrylic spas, wipe down the inside with a moist, soft cloth. If you notice any stains or if you have a few small dirty puddles, use a spa cleaner like our Spa Care Cleaner to clean and polish your spa surfaces. Don’t Ever use household cleaners, they can damage your spa, and put strange chemicals into the spa water that could interfere with water balance or be harmful to your spa users.

Don’t forget to give your spa cover some attention too! While the spa is filling, place the spa cover on the spa and clean and condition to protect the vinyl with Spa Cover Clean, or one of our many other cleaners and conditioners, made specifically for marine vinyl exposed to the elements. Don’t Ever use Armor-All type automotive conditioners, which could damage your spa cover.

CHECK THE SPA

Open up the spa equipment access panel and inspect all visible pipes and equipment for any cracks or obvious damage. Check over any wires that are visible, looking for any rodent chewing damage. Replace any drain plugs that were removed, and check that the drain spigot is closed.

Inside the spa, check over the spa lights, jets and drain covers before filling the spa to be sure that they are all securely attached.

FILL THE SPA

pre-filter-Drop in a garden hose and fill her up! Most garden hoses flow at 5-10 gallons per minute, so a 300 gallon spa could fill as fast as 30 minutes. Keep an eye on it to be sure that you don’t overflow the spa. If your fill water could be improved, our Pre-Filter removes minerals, metals, contaminants, chloramines and odor.

START-UP THE SPA

With the filter cartridge in place and other parts such as a skimmer basket, you can fire up the system, or actually just push the button to start the circulation pump. Test all of your features, like lights, blower, waterfall, high speed pump mode. Check that the heater is on, and set to your favorite soaking temp.

BALANCE THE SPA

brom-booster-htwBalancing the pool water is super important to protect your spa and your spa users. In some parts of the country, tap water actually is pretty good spa water, in terms of the pH, alkalinity, and calcium hardness levels. In other areas, major adjustments need to be done to all 3 to bring them to their proper ranges.

If you use Bromine, you’ll need to build up your bromine bank, to be able to raise the bromine level in the spa. Brom Booster is our most economical way to boost the bromides in your spa, necessary if you use bromine tablets, or you’ll have trouble seeing a bromine level for several weeks, until enough of the tablets dissolve.

You’ll probably want to also shock the spa, after you balance the pH, alkalinity and calcium levels. Just follow the label instructions for the right amount to add for your spa. Shocking the spa is also done to initialize spa mineral cartridges, like Frog and Nature2 when you first add them.

HOT TUB OPENING PROBLEMS

No Power: If the spa is dead – no power, check that the breaker for the spa is on, and check any GFCI outlets for a tripped red Test button. If still no power, check that the wires are intact and all connector ends are pushed firmly in place. Steps beyond these include tracing the power circuit to find the short or end point. The problem lies where the power dies.

Pump Hums: If your pump tries to start, but just hums and possibly trips the breaker, it may be ‘frozen’. With the power off, use straight pliers to turn the shaft of the motor. For pumps without an exposed shaft, the shaft can be turned at the rear of the motor. If the shaft spins freely, but the motor still just hums and won’t start, a motor capacitor is the usual problem.leak-seal

Leaks: Uh-Oh! Pumps that are leaking along the motor shaft likely need a new shaft seal. If there are visible cracks or leaks that you can see on the pipes or equipment, well – you’ll have to get the right materials for repair. Call us if you need assistance. If there are leaks from unseen locations under or behind the spa, they can be hard to find with the spa full of water, especially when they are very small. Try Leak Seal to seal up small spa and hot tub leaks.

No Heat: The first thing to check is that the pump is running and the spa filter is clean and properly positioned for best flow. Beyond that, spa heaters that don’t heat or don’t heat enough could have an issue with the thermostat, temperature switch, pressure switch or flow switch.

No Cover: If your spa cover is looking tired, or has become waterlogged, bent or broken – now is the time to order a replacement spa cover. Spring is when most spa covers are purchased, and after this winter, our spa cover designers sure are busy!

 

Happy Hot Tubbin’

Daniel Lara

 

Preventing Freeze Damage to a Spa or Hot Tub

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frozen-spaFreeze damage  is when water freezes and expands inside of spa pipes or spa equipment, like your filter, pump or heater.

Water expands about 10% when it freezes. For pipes or equipment that have a small amount of water inside, for instance a pipe that is less than half full of water, unused space inside the pipe allows for some ice expansion.

When pipes, pumps or filters are more than half full of water, there is little room for expansion, and even very thick materials can burst from the ice pressure inside.

Today’s lesson centers on how to avoid freeze damage in a spa or hot tub, which can be a complicated and expensive spa repair, and in some cases, could ‘total’ the spa, with repair costs of thousands of dollars.

There are 3 ways to prevent freeze damage in a spa or hot tub

1. Winterize the Spa

We don’t recommend that you winterize your spa, unless you are sure that it won’t be used for at least 3 months, or it cannot be maintained (at a vacation home, for example).

Winterizing the spa is a process that takes a few hours, to drain all of the water from the spa, and use air to ‘blow the lines’, to force water from the pipes, hoses and equipment.

We did an article on How to Winterize a Spa, if you are thinking about winterizing the spa. It’s not difficult, but if you want assurances of a proper winterization, most spa service companies offer this service.

2. Use Freeze Protection

Modern spas packs will have a freeze protection mode on the spa that will turn on the circulation pump when temps get close to freezing. If you don’t see this available in your control options for the spa, you may not have freeze protection.BALBOA-SPA-PACK

Freeze protection works with an air temperature sensor that communicates with a controller, wired into the pump power circuit. Freeze protection is standard equipment on all of our Digital, Flex-Fit and Balboa spa packs, which is the simplest way of adding freeze protection for older spas with air activated spa packs.

For help adding freeze protection to your spa, feel free to call our spa techs with some information about your spa.

3. Run the Pump

As long as water is moving through the pipes – all of the pipes, the water won’t freeze. Open up all of your jets, if your spa has the ability to isolate banks of jets. Low speed can be used, as long as all pipes are utilized.

The water need not be hot, or even heated at all – in most cases. As long as it’s moving through all of the pipes and equipment when temperatures are below 32 degrees. The heat from the spa pump, under a closed skirt, is also helpful to heat up the equipment. Of course, a spa cover should be used during winter to avoid ice forming on the spa surface.

During winter, it may be wise to operate your pump 24 hours per day in cold northern areas, or set the time clock to turn on the pump for 10 minutes every half hour.

 

ALSO HELPFUL TO PREVENT FREEZE DAMAGE: frozen-jacuzzi

  • Adding heat to your spa, a hot spa can give 24 hours of protection
  • Keeping a tight fitting spa cover in place and secure
  • Spa insulation – the more there is, the more protection you have
  • Hang a 100 watt shop light, under the skirt, next to the spa pack

 

FROZEN SPA!

If you discover a spa or hot tub that is solid frozen, and maybe you spot some freeze damage already, the equipment needs to be thawed out. If there are cracked pipes, using electric space heaters could be unsafe, under the skirt.

If you have a camping tent large enough to place over the spa, you can thaw out a spa in a few hours. When I was servicing spas in Colorado, we had a tent we used whenever we’d get a ‘frozen spa’ call. We used a small kerosene heater once the tent was set up over the spa, and monitored it closely. If there was freeze damage, (and there usually was), we would drain it completely, make the repair and fill it back up.

Adding hot water to the spa is another old trick. With a small adapter, a garden hose can be attached to most sink faucets, to bring hot water to the spa, to raise the water temperature for a faster thaw. In some cases, you can gently wet frozen pipes with warm water – just don’t spray any motors, electronics or controls.

 

SPA POWER FAILURE!

COLD!

If your power fails during winter, remember that a heated spa with a good fitting spa cover has enough warmth to prevent freeze damage for 24 hours or so, longer if it’s very well insulated.

To maintain some heat under the spa skirt during a power failure, you could hang a 100 watt shop light in a location close to the spa pack. In some scenarios, a small space heater may be safe to use also, inside the spa cabinet, in a dry location, until power is restored.

 

Happy Hot Tubbin’
Daniel Lara
Hot Tub Works

 

The Winterized Spa – How to Close a Hot Tub for Winter

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hot-tub-in-winter

There comes a time for many hot tub lovers in the north, when they need to ask the question – close the spa for the winter, or keep it operating?

If you think you’ll use the spa occasionally, even if it’s only a few times per month, I would suggest that you keep it open. But, if no one is using it, or worse – maintaining it. You may want to winterize the spa.

For many spa owners, it’s the fear of extended power outages that will warrant emptying the spa. Heated and covered, a hot spa should be able to resist freeze damage for 24 hours, but beyond that you could face  expensive repairs to plumbing and equipment.

How to Winterize an Above Ground Spa or Hot Tub in 4 Steps

 

1. Clean the Spa Filter and Pipe

step1 to winterize a spa or hot tub

Remove the spa filter cartridge, and clean it thoroughly with spa filter cleaner like Filter Fresh, and allow it to dry for winter storage. Next, apply a spa purge product like Jet Clean, to clean biofilm and bacteria from the pipes, which will continue to grow in the moist interior of your pipes, unless cleaned before you drain the spa. Don’t skip this step, or you may have funk and gunk in your pipes when you start up the spa again.

 

 

2. Drain the Spa or Hot Tub Completely

step2 for spa and hot tub winterizing

Now it’s time to drain the spa. Shut off power to the spa, and switch the heater off. Find your drain spigot and allow the spa to drain completely, through a hose, so the water drains away from the spa. When almost empty, turn on power again, so you can turn on the air blower (if you have one), and let it run until no more droplets spray out the jets. Use a sponge or shop vac to get every last drop from the bottom of the spa. If you have air jets in the seat or floor, lay a towel over them to absorb water mist as it sprays out.

 

 

3. Use a Wet/Dry Vac to Blow Pipes & Manifolds Dry

step3 to winterize a hot tub

Use a powerful shop vac, to suck and blow air through the system. Place a sheet of plastic over a group of spa jets and use shop vac suction on one of the group’s jets. The plastic will suck to the other jets, so you can pull water out of one jet. Repeat until all jets are vacuumed. Switch the vac to a blower, and blow air through all the jets. Now blow air through the skimmer and spa drain. Under the spa, open all unions (don’t lose the o-rings), and use the shop vac to blow and suck air in both directions. Remove the drain plugs on the pump(s), and filter.

 

 

4. Secure & Protect your Spa Cover

step4 in winterization of a spa

Spa covers perform an important function during winter, keeping any rain and snow melt from getting inside the spa. Over winter, some areas can receive two feet of precipitation, and it’s important that this doesn’t get into the spa. If your spa cover is a leaker, and in bad shape, cover it with plywood cut to shape, and then wrap it tightly with a sturdy tarp that will repel water. If your spa cover is in good shape, use a conditioner like our Spa Cover Cleaner, to protect it from winter weather. Use a Spa Cover Cap for the best spa cover protection.

 

Other Thoughts on Winterizing a Portable Spa

  1. Consult your owner’s manual, or find it online, to read specific tips for winterizing your particular spa.
  2. Using non-toxic antifreeze is discouraged, but if you must, refill and drain the spa before use.
  3. Draining a wooden hot tub is discouraged, but if you must, leave a foot of water, to resist shrinkage.
  4. Be sure to shut off power at the breaker, so there’s no chance that the pumps will run without water.
  5. If you have doubts and worry, consider calling a spa service company to winterize your spa.
  6. Inground spas require different procedures, not covered here.

 

– Jack