Having an at home spa and hot tub involves a lot of maintenance, especially if you plan to keep your hot tub open for the winter. If you want to avoid all the hassle, the best thing to do would be to winterize your hot tub.
Many new hot tub owners wonder if they can leave their hot tubs empty during the winter. The answer is yes! And, for some people, emptying and winterizing their hot tub is even better than having it opening.
There are services that can come out and prepare your hot tub for a winter of not being used and some hot tub manufacturers will offer a service for their hot tubs specifically, but they can often be expensive.
If you’re anything like me and would rather get your hands dirty and save some money, then I have the steps to winterize your hot tub yourself and some great reasons why it’s a good idea to winterize instead of keeping it open!
Of course, if you have an inflatable hot tub, then winterizing will be even easier.
What You Will Need
To start this project, you are going to need a few different things. I suggest getting all of the materials well before you plan to start so that you have time to give everything a quick test to make sure that it is working properly. You will want to avoid stopping in the middle of this process unless completely necessary.
The things you will need are:
- Sump Pump (optional)
- Shop Vac
- Filter cleaner
- Hot Tub cleaner (MUST be for a hot tub SPECIFCALLY)
- Hot Tub antifreeze (MUST be for a hot tub SPECIFCALLY)
- Cover Cleaner
- Garden hose/Discharge hose kit (one or the other would be fine)
- Push broom (preferably plastic)
- Soft microfiber towels
- Designated drainage area
- A Very Helpful Friend
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Finding a designated drainage area is very important! The water from your hot tub could be slowly draining for hours or pushing out a lot of water very quickly, depending on which method you use.
The most ideal place to drain would be one that is away from any private property or a community area. Hopefully, a place that many people won’t be visiting on the day that you decide to do this. If you can find a nearby sewage drain or storm drain that would be a perfect place to point your hose.
By pointing your hose towards the storm drain or sewage drain, most of the water will pool into your local water system but you must do it safely. LAStormwater.org has some helpful tips on how to keep your pool water from being environmentally dangerous, if you chose to drain your water into a storm drain.
Not all states allow you to drain pool water into the street, but if your state allows it, just follow these helpful tips to make sure you are being environmentally safe!
Tips from LAStormwater
- Let the pool water sit for at least five days without adding chlorine or adding de-chlorinizing agents to clear it of potential pollutants.
- Before discharging pool water into a storm drain, check the drain’s corner catch basin to make sure it’s not clogged. Since clogged basins can lead to flooding, call your local government to report basins in need of cleaning.
- Discharge pool water into storm drains only from the hours of 8 p.m. to 8 a.m.
- If rain has recently hit your area, wait at least 48 hours until after the rain has stopped to avoid overwhelming the sanitary sewer system.
- If your pool water contains copper-based algaecides or dyes, it cannot be discharged to the storm drain system. Dyed water can be drained into the sanitary sewer system only under certain conditions which would be outlined in your city’s or county’s municipal code.
If you have any other questions or what to learn more about draining your water in the street, you can visit this website or call your local government for laws and ordnances specific to your district.
Step 1: Turn off the Power
Before you get started, it is very important that you turn off the power to your hot tub. It could damage your hot tub if the power were to accidentally turn on while it was empty or full of cleaning products. To avoid that, don’t just turn off the hot tub. Also, shut of the circuit breaker connected to your hot tub or unplug the hot tub altogether if you can access the power plug safely.
Step 2: Drain the Water
Once you have found a safe place to drain your water, you can start the process of actually draining.
There are two main ways to do this. One is called siphoning which you would use just a hose and good old gravity to drain the water from your hot tub. The other way is by using a submersible pump—also called a sump pump. I will outline both ways for you’re here!
Using a Pump
Using a sump pump is the most preferred way of draining pools and hot tubs since the machine does the work fast and efficiently. However, with the convenience of the pump, comes the cost of the pump itself, powering the pump, and maintaining it.
Step 1: Attach the Hose
Unfortunately, sump pumps don’t come with discharge hoses, so you will have to buy one yourself. You can find a discharge hose kit at your local hardware store or online and the prices can range from about $20 to anywhere near $200. Most discharge hose kits will have several different adaptor sizes, so don’t worry about trying to measure your sump pump.
To save on this cost, you can use an everyday garden hose, but you will need to buy an adaptor unless your sump pump has a connector where your garden hose can fit.
If you want to drain even faster, you can buy a dual sump pump kit. This would allow you to connect to hoses to the sump pump so that double the amount of water would be flowing out!
Step 2: Put the Pump in the Water
The next step is the easiest part: just put it in the water!
Sump pumps are made to be out into water so don’t worry about getting electrocuted or anything else like that. There also won’t be any hassle with an on/off switch either. Sump pumps have something called a float switch. The job of the float switch is to sense when the pump is in water and turn on the device.
When in the water, the float switch will activate the sump pump and immediately start to drain. Though it seems easy, you always have to pay attention to the sump pump as it sits in the pool. Since the float switch uses the water level it floats on to determine whether it should stay on or not, a lot of things could cause it to turn off.
It the float switch turns off the sump pump, its not a problem. You can always grab the float switch and simply lift it above the sump pump to turn it back on.
Step 3: Finishing Touches
Once the water gets down to the last few inches, it may be kind of hard of the sump pump to pick up that water. This is where your push broom comes in handy. You can simply push the last of the water towards the sump pump while someone holds up the float switch.
If you see any dirt or debris down at the bottom of your hot tub, you can get those out yourself, so you won’t damage the pump.
Using a Hose
If you’re just using a garden hose to drain the water from your hot tub, it’s called siphoning. Siphoning is a pretty easy and often cheap way to drain the water from your hot tub.
There are some people who try to do siphoning the very old fashioned way, by sucking the water through the hose to get it flowing through. That is a horrible idea. Not only is it disgusting, since you would end up drinking the dirty hot tub water, it is also not safe because of the chemicals used to keep hot tubs and spas clean.
Please follow these much easier, more sanitary, and overall safer directions.
Step 1: Put the Hose in the Hot Tub
Simply put the end of the hose into the hot tub. This part is simple, just like with the sump pump. The only thing that you have to remember for this part is that you will need to keep the hose connected to the outside tap.
Step 2: Turn on the Tap
I know this step seems counterproductive, but I promise it works. You will only need to have the water from the tap running for a few moments.
Have your very helpful friend looking into the hot tub while you turn on the water. Keep the water running until there are not more bubbles coming up in the hot tub. When the bubbles have stopped, turn off the water and remove the garden hose from the tap.
Step 3: Let it Flow
This next step involves some kind of cool science. When you take the water off the tap, make sure that the draining end of the hose always lays below the water level of the hot tub.
By first pushing water through the garden hose and into the hot tub, you’ve created a connection between the water in the hot tub and the end of the hose outside. When you remove the hose from the tap, gravity will push the water from the higher water level down. That is how the water drains!
Since this way uses gravity instead of a machine, it may take a little while longer. The water should drain at about 6 inches per hour. But, just like with the dual pump adapter for the sump pump, you can use two hoses! Maybe even more, depending on how many hoses you have.
Step 4: Finishing Touches
Same as with the pump, use your push broom to move water towards the hose as it gets lower and be sure to get any dirt or debris that you see.
Step 3: Drain Your Air Blowers
If your hot tub has jets, then that means the air blowers will still have water in them. This step is very important because if this water freezes in the blowers of your hot tub the parts could crack or break and ruin your hot tub. The damages can sometimes be repaired but will be very expensive.
Step 1: Turn off the Heater
Using the hot tub’s owner’s manual, find out where your hot tub’s heating mechanism is and turn it off. The heater should never be on when the hot tub is not full of water. This could damage your heater and cost a lot of money to repair.
Step 2: Run the Hot Tub
Put the cover back on to the hot tub so that the old water from the blowers doesn’t splash out. Turn the power to your hot tub back on. Whether you unplugged it or turned of its circuit breaker, turn the power back on to the hot tub.
Then, turn the jets on to their highest setting and run the hot tub for about 30 seconds. This will force all of the water out of the blowers and into the hot tub.
Step 3: Turn off the Hot Tub, Again
Once you are sure all of the blowers are empty, turn off the jets and the hot tub. Make sure you completely remove power from the hot tub like you did before.
Take of the hot tub cover and if there was a lot of extra water in your jets, you can use your draining method again but if its not too bad, you can leave it since we will be drying the hot tub later.
Step 4: Store Your Filters
Find all of your hot tubs filter and remove them. They won’t be staying in the hot tub during the winter so that they won’t get wet and freeze or covered in mildew. Find a nice dry place inside to store them.
Since you have them out, this is a great time to clean your filters! Grab a soft bristled brush and remove any big pieces of dirty from the filter before soaking it in your filter cleaner. Since you will be storing it for the winter, it’s a good idea to do a nice 24-hour soak so that it’ll be squeaky clean for next summer.
While your filter is soaking, be sure to make sur that the filter area has no water in it, you can use the shop vac to suck out the water or one of your microfiber towels to dry it out. However you decide to do it, make sure that there is no water there.
Step 5: Loosen Fittings
There are a lot of little nooks and crannies in your hot tub that can trap water in the winter. This next step helps to prevent this from happening.
Start by opening up the cabinet to your hot tub and find its pump. Some hot tubs may have more than one, so be sure to have your owner’s manual handy so you can know what to expect. If you see any unions on the hot tub’s pumps, loosen them.
Next, remove all the drain plugs from the pumps. Without the plugs covering the pumps, if any condensation builds up inside the pipes, the water will be able to drip out inside of freezing inside.
After you remove the drain plugs, remember to store then in a safe place that you won’t forget when it’s time to reopen your hot tub.
6. Blow Out the Pipes
Now we get to the all important pipes. The pipes in your hot tub should be empty from when you drained the water from your blowers a few steps before, but there will probably still be water in the pipes and that needs to be gone before you can close up your hot tub.
Start by closing the air control knobs for your jets. Each hot tub is different so, again, be sure to have that almighty owner’s manual in hand so that you can find where your air controls each are. Using your shop vac, get into the empty hot tub and blow air into the facing of each jet. You are going to want to be very thorough here so don’t be afraid to go back around to each jet a second or even third time.
I cannot stress how important this step is. If there is any water left in you pool over the winter, it will freeze, expand, and destroy the plumbing of your hot tub. Please, pay very close attention to this step.
7. Completely Empty Your Hot Tub
Now that we have emptied every area that could possibly be holding water, it is finally time to get rid of the last bit of water. The hot tub should be mostly empty. The only water in the hot tub should be from the blowers and pipes, which should not be a lot.
You should be able to use your shop vac to suck out the last little remains of water or soak it up with some out your microfiber towels. However, if there was more water in your blowers and pipes that you expected, you can use the drainage method you used before to drain the water.
You are going to want the surface of the hot tub to be dry for the next step, so try to get the empty hot tub as dry as you can.
8. Clean Your Hot Tub and Tub Cover
It is important that when you clean your hot tub, you only use hot tub specific cleaners and not any of your household cleaning products in the hot tub.
It may be temping since it is so convenient, but the chemicals in the household cleaners may be too harsh for the shell of your hot tub and damage the surface. Also, it could leave a film around the hot tub that would affect the water of your tub the next time you fill it up.
I recommend using a non-foaming hot tub cleaner, because the bubbles will require you to rinse the hot tub and after going through all of that work to get the water out, it’s best not to get any more water in the hot tub. Non-foaming cleaners are usually spray and wipe formulas, so you don’t need to let the cleaner sit in the hot tub, but you can if you want.
After the hot tub has been cleanef, take some time to clean your tub cover. If the cover you have is thin, I would suggest getting an insulated hot tub cover. The cover will be on your hot tub for the winter to protect it from the snow and ice. If you cover isn’t thick enough it may tear and snow can get into your tub and ruin all of your hard work.
9. Pour Antifreeze into Openings
This step is not widely considered a necessary step. Some hot tub owners think that it may be an unneeded extra step while other believe it to be crucial. I suggest doing your own research, referring to your owner’s manual, or contacting your hot tub manufacturer before deciding to use antifreeze.
If you do decide to use antifreeze in your hot tub, the process is very simple. Simply dilute the antifreeze according the instructions on the label and pour the solution into your jets, the pipes that your filter was connected to, or any other openings that water could get into during the winter.
For your safety, be sure to use hot tub or pool specific antifreeze. Hot tub specific antifreeze will be made with propylene glycol as the active ingredient to keep your pipes safe. You should never use ethylene glycol antifreeze, which is the kind used for cars, because it is toxic.
Using car antifreeze would not only be harmful to the interworking of your hot tub but also to you or anyone who uses your hot tub when you reopen it.
Step 10: Secure the Cover and Everything Else
Now that the inside of the hot tub and all its parts are drained, cleaned, protected, and dry, it is time to cover the entire hot tub.
With your insulated hot tub cover, completely cover the hot tub. If you can lock your cover to your hot tub, that would be even better. However, if your hot tub cover does not come with that feature, you can always use some heavy duty wind straps to secure the hot tub cover. These straps will protect your hot tub by keeping the cover on tight during heavy winter storms.
Remember to put back any panels, coverings, or latches that you may have removed from the hot tub during this process. Unless it is something that you worry about freezing, it should be back where it belongs to ensure that everything is safe.
10. You’re Done!
After the cover is on tight, you are all done! Clean up all of your materials and make sure that you sure any chemicals properly according to their labels and warnings. Also, check your designated draining area to make sure that your hot tub’s water didn’t flood anything or cause any problems.
Congratulations! You can successful winterized your hot tub! This decision will save you money on your energy bills and take away the stress of having your hot tub open all winter long.