Professionally winterizing your spa is an option you may wish to consider. Speaking for me, using my spa in the winter is quite enjoyable, and I do so as often as I have an opportunity to. However, if you find that you rarely use your spa in the winter, you should consider having your spa professionally winterized. The money you save on electricity and chemicals will cover the costs of the service. With your spa winterized you will no longer need to perform routine maintenance and will not have to shovel a path to the spa. Should you choose to winterize your spa, for best results, I recommend you do so before the temperatures fall below freezing. Keep your spa filled and running until the technician arrives on site so he/she can verify everything is in working order before winterization.
Maintain clean filter(s) and the proper water level in your spa. Your spa is designed to monitor proper water flow and shut down the heater for safety if it senses inadequate flow. Water flow can be reduced by dirty/clogged filters, inadequate water levels causing air to be drawn into the pump and/or too many jets in the spa in the closed position. If this occurs, most spas built in the past 15 or so years will display an error code at the spa side control (i.e. FLO, DRY, 3 dots flashing). First, ensure the spa is filled to the proper level and all jets are in the open position. Then shut the spa down and remove the filter(s) from the spa. After ensuring there is nothing floating in the spa that could be sucked into the plumbing (including items such as a chemical dispenser, scum ball, or debris) turns the spa on to run with no filter at all. If the spa begins heating normally again, you probably have a dirty or expired filter; filters should be chemically cleaned often (monthly is a rule of thumb) and replaced annually (not longer than two years). Monitor the spa closely for the next few days to ensure the problem does not reoccur.
Keep your water balanced. Chemical damage due to unbalanced water can cause failure in your heater and pump(s). When your spa’s pH, alkalinity and/or calcium hardness are too low, they cause corrosion damage to your heating element and pump seals. Your heating element will eventually trip your GFCI shutting off power to your spa. Your pump will suffer from water spraying into the motor eventually causing pump failure or an electrical short tripping the GFCI shutting off power to your spa. If your spa’s pH, alkalinity and/or calcium hardness are too high, scale can build up in your heater causing eventual failure. Maintain your pH between 7.2 – 7.6, alkalinity from 80-120 and ensure your calcium hardness is at least 200 and if it is much higher, use chemicals to control scaling. The Hot Tub Store can test your water and recommend best practices.
Keep the temperature turned up. The outside of your cabinet contains the plumbing for your jets and circulation. This area is likely insulated in some way, but is still the most susceptible to the freezing conditions outside. This area is warmed by hot spa water circulating through the plumbing lines and by heat radiating outward from the hot water in the spa. Since water does not typically circulate continuously through all plumbing lines, maintaining the water temperature too low can put your spa in jeopardy; especially if the power to the spa fails or the spa stops heating since a higher water temperature will give you more time to recognize and address any problems. If you turn down the spa temperature due to less usage, instead, consider having the spa professionally winterized during the winter months. Also, make sure your tub is in standard mode and 24 hour circulation for the winter months.
Keep the jets and water features open. In order to allow warm water to flow through all of your plumbing lines, you should keep all jets open when the spa is not being used. Closed jets prevent hot water from running through those plumbing lines. This becomes even more important for features such as water falls that have plumbing lines near the outside top edge of the spa and are most vulnerable to the freezing temperatures. By leaving these open, even just slightly for a slow rate of flow, you allow for hot water to replace the cool water in those plumbing lines when the pumps come on, thereby preventing freeze up in very cold conditions.
Check your spa regularly. Be sure you are checking your spa often. It would be great if you can check it daily, but that may not be possible. Every other day, twice a week, or at least once a week can enable you to identify a problem early making it is easier to prevent freeze damage. During extreme cold, increase the frequency of how often you check your spa. If you find you do not check your spa often in the winter months, consider having it winterized. On the other hand, if like me, you use your spa 3 times a week in the winter, and perform maintenance at least once a week, you are already probably doing a good job monitoring your spa.
Inspect your spa’s equipment at least annually. Unfortunately, most spa owners never, or very rarely, open their spa cabinet to look over the spa equipment. I suggest doing so at least once a year to identify concerns before they become more significant problems. The Hot Tub Store’s service department provides a spa inspection. Things you can easily look for (use a flashlight and get down low) include: evidence of leaks (active dripping, dampness, calcium scale left behind after water had evaporated), evidence of rodents (droppings, nesting material, chewed cords) and strange or loud noises from spa equipment (such as whining or growling from pumps or blowers). You can also measure the water temperature in the spa and compare to your top side control display to ensure the sensors are working accurately. Also, push your test button on the GFCI breaker to ensure it is working properly. A trained spa technician from The Hot Tub Store will also test power to your spa, measure amp draws for your spa and equipment components (which will reveal components beginning to fail) in addition to several other inspection items.