What better time to enjoy the steamy relaxation of a hot tub than when the wind is howling and the snow is flying? If you take care of your hot tub, there's no reason you can't take advantage of it during a cold winter -- and if you're smart about it, it shouldn't cost a fortune, either. If you want to forget about your tub until spring, however, you'll still have to prepare it for winter.
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If you don't plan to use your hot tub during the coldest winter months, you should drain the tub before the weather turns frigid. Draining the tub after outdoor temperatures fall below freezing is a much more difficult job than draining it while there's still some warmth in the air -- so do it early. It's also important you drain the tub properly and thoroughly, including blowing water out of the tub's jets; residual water left to freeze in the tub's plumbing can cause serious damage.
If you're going to keep your tub running through cold weather, be sure it doesn't freeze. Some tubs are equipped with freeze protection or auto-heat systems; if yours has one, turn it on when temperatures start to dip below freezing at night. If your tub doesn't have a freeze-protection system, you can set the tub's timer to cycle on periodically to keep the water above freezing. In very cold climates, the tub may need to cycle on as much as a quarter of the time, and if automatic cycling is not an option, you may need to run your tub at a constant low-heat setting. Be sure to monitor the water temperature daily so you know everything is working properly.
Maintain Water Temperature
You might be tempted to heat your tub as infrequently as possible during the winter in order to save energy, but heating the water only occasionally may be more expensive than keeping it warm all the time. In most cases, it takes more energy to heat up a tub full of cold water than it does to maintain a consistently high temperature in the tub; you'll likely save money by using your tub more rather than less often during the winter months.
Hot Tub Covers
Of course, you don't want all the heat you're putting into the water to escape into the air, so you need to keep your tub covered when it's not in use. A well-sealed and well-maintained cover keeps the water from quickly shedding heat, and can substantially reduce your energy costs. A floating thermal blanket also helps to maintain water temperature and protect the underside of the cover from condensation.