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Hot Tub Cold Weather Concerns

Once winter has arrived, there is always the concern that a spa that has stopped running can be damaged by freezing. A frozen hot tub is among the hardest things for us to be the hero on in terms of a one visit repair. Once a spa or hot tub has frozen, to repair in cold weather we must first thaw the piping on the hot tub, fix or repair anything that is obviously broken or freeze damaged, fill the tub, and try to run it to see if there is other damage that may not be obvious on a visiual inspection. Since parts and labor for repair vary greatly, due to the severity of the damage and accessibility for repair, repairs such as these are impossible to estimate.

The best protection against a freeze damaged hot tub is to maintain the spa at a usable temperature (usually 97 - 104 degrees) at all times during cold weather. If not in use, it should still be checked regularly (daily) for proper chemical balance and to make sure it is still running and heating normally. If you are using and/or checking the spa regularly, you will notice any problems immediately and can, hopefully, schedule repair service before the spa would ever have a chance to cool off and, subsequently, "snowball" what could be a simple problem into a catastrophic repair bill.

Avoid the temptation to "save money" by turning down the temperature too low during cold weather. In our service area, if your hot tub is around 100 degrees and something should fail mechanically or the power goes out in winter weather, the mass of heated water in your insulated, properly covered hot tub can radiate enough heat to usually help prevent freeze problems for at least 24 hours. If you are keeping the spa cooler than that and something happens or the power goes out, you usually do not have long until something (usually the stainless steel heater housing) freezes and develops an ice blockage. Once frozen, even if the power comes back on, the spa cannot circulate and thus cannot heat. All of a sudden, many months or even years of "energy savings" can be quickly undone.

We hope you are among those that love their outdoor hot tub and use it regularly year round, but if you find that you no longer have the gumption to go out and use the spa in winter, you should consider having our technicians come out in the late fall or pre-winter to winterize your spa and again in the early pre-spring to reassemble it and give it a proper start up for use in the warmer weather. Both of these services can usually be performed within the bounds of a 1 hour service call with few, if any, additional materials. Cost for winterization and spring start up are usually less than the cost of running and heating your spa throughout the winter and, once winterized, you do not have to worry about checking the spa and taking a chance of damage from weather, power outages, equipment failure, improper water chemistry, and/or neglect.

We hope things never get this far, but if despite the above, you find yourself suddenly facing a spa that has quit during cold weather and may possibly freeze, we recommend that you don't panic and drain the spa without first looking at the "big picture", especially if the spa water is still warm. Your spa, by nature, is engineered to be energy efficient and retain heat through the use of under-cabinet insulation and a properly fitting insulating spa cover. The large mass of warm water in most modern hot tubs cools amazingly slowly and will help prevent freezing of the spa. Simply draining the spa does not insure you will get all of the water out of the equipment and lower piping and can actually speed freeze damage to your piping, pumps, heater, and controls. If your spa design allows it, try to get a heat source under the spa to keep the area(s) around the equipment and piping above freezing temperatures. The first best choice is a small ceramic electric space heater set under the spa on a low to moderate temperature setting. A second choice would be one or more drop lights with 75w or greater bulb(s). A third choice would be a floating "tank heater" similar to those used to keep outdoor fish ponds from freezing. Feel free to combine as many of these as is possible, safe, and practical. Make sure you follow safety rules for the heater and do not put your heat source (of any kind) too close to plastic piping, the spa surface, insulation, skirting, or anything else combustible or meltable . Since we are dealing with a wet outdoor environment, plug any and all of these items into GFCI protected circuits and use extension cords of the proper size. After all of these precautions have been made, contact us to make a service call so that your hot tub can be properly identified by our experienced service staff.

It is also helpful to periodically replace some of the water in your spa with hot water from your home hot water tank. Again, the idea is to keep the spa water as far above freezing as possible and take advantage of the insulating qualities of your hot tub to keep it thawed until the problem can be corrected.

If your spa is not capable of running and has a top load filter, remove the locking ring and lid to help prevent freezing of the filter canister.

If something has broken underneath and you find the spa has already drained out, you can still help minimize damage and your service bill. Do your best to get all the remaining water out of the spa and piping. Use a wet/dry shop vacuum to suck the water out of the spa, jets, skimmer(s), drain(s), and air blower inlets. Open drains and remove drain plugs from the spa piping and spa pump(s) and, if possible, loosen any unions under the spa near the equipment and heater to allow water to drain. Use your shop vac to suck out as much water as you can! Be careful not to lose or vacuum up any o-rings or gaskets associated with unions and drains, as they will be necessary for a leak free reassembly. Try to keep things from getting worse by utilizing the heat source advice above. In an empty, covered tub, a heat source underneath in the equipment area, and one safely placed inside the covered hot tub, can usually help keep things from getting worse. Even if the piping has already frozen, thawing it out can save time and keep labor costs down as you will not have to pay to first thaw your hot tub.

Regardless of your winter or summer concerns,
Blue Waters, Inc. can help you to maintain and enjoy your hot tub or spa.


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