Winterizing hot tubs
Improper winterization methods are the main cause of damage to hot tubs installed in cold-climate regions. Should a hot tub freeze in the winter, the damage that can occur can be quite costly for the consumer to repair.
While some homeowners will attempt to close their hot tub themselves, many prefer to leave this task to their local retailer or service professional. To winterize a hot tub properly, a service professional should follow these steps:
- Turn off the power to the unit (at the breaker box and the main circuit on the home panel).
- Attach a garden hose to the spout on the bottom of the hot tub and drain the water. The drain should be kept open all winter. A submersible pump or shop vac can be used to help remove any remaining water in the foot well and plumbing lines. Towels can be left in the foot well to soak up lingering water.
- Remove the filter(s) and dry the filter compartment. Instruct the customer to store the filter(s) in a dry location until spring.
- Access the hot tub’s equipment behind the cabinet and loosen/unscrew all visible quick disconnect fittings on both sides of the heater and pump(s). Leave these fittings disconnected to allow water to come out all winter. Remove any other drain plugs to prevent cracking.
- Blow out any residual water from the jet piping using a reversible shop vac or air compressor to clear each jet. If the hot tub has topside air controls, close them.
- Do not use anti-freeze in an acrylic hot tub. Anti-freeze is only necessary if water is left in the plumbing; however, there are better alternatives (see ‘Preventing the hot tub from freezing’ above). Anti-freeze can be problematic to remove before opening the hot tub in spring.
- Completely cover the hot tub—including the cabinets. Keep in mind, water can still pass through the middle seam of the hardcover, as it is not waterproof. Therefore, to prevent this from happening, an additional winter cover or large marine-grade tarp should be placed on top, draping it over the edge down to the ground. The cover should be cinched tightly around the cabinetry at the base using a cable, rope, or bungee. Then, secure the extra cover or tarp with bricks or stakes. A winter cover that encompasses the hot tub also prevents animals from seeking shelter in the unit.
Ready for the spring
With methodical guidance from a retailer or service professional, those homeowners who take care of their hot tubs over the course of the winter will be happy come spring.
However, a retailer’s assistance does not stop here. Customers should be advised to start the season by topping up their hot tub and performing a plumbing line purge. After purging, the hot tub shell should be cleaned, but make sure the customer uses a cleanser that will not damage the acrylic surface.
Finally, to ensure there is no lingering buildup in the plumbing, the hot tub should be drained and refilled. This step will help remove the winter water and help clean out the maze of plumbing lines that run beneath the unit.
At the start of every season, retailers should remind their customers what water values they should maintain, which are essentially the same year-round. Whichever way the customer chooses to use—or not use—their hot tub, following the procedures outlined in this article will ensure they enjoy a fresh start-up in the spring.
Colin Taylor, B.Sc., MIScT, is a chemist for SilkBalance, a hot tub water care company based in Vancouver, B.C. He has been involved in addressing several hot tub water maintenance problems and focuses on resolving and simplifying them. One example is the reduction of hot tub cleaning time from one day to one hour. Taylor also answers many e-mail questions from hot tub users around the country. He can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com.