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HOUSE & DOCK
Hot Fun In The Wintertime

By Lori Wolak

When we first got our hot tub, we didn’t even think about  whether we would use it year round. The cost of the tub was such that we were concerned about getting the best return on our investment. This is especially true since the tub is at the lake house, and we are only there part time.  So it was clear we would use it year-round.

Four seasons of enjoyment

On a chilly winter's night when our toes have been numb for hours, nothing beats a hot soak in the tub! If there's snow on the ground, it only adds to the enjoyment as the steam rises off the warm water, and we look out at the beauty of the snow-covered landscape. For many of us, the pleasure of winter hot tubbing is eagerly anticipated every year. So, before you decide to winterize your tub, think about enjoying it all winter.

Some people choose to close their hot tub for the summer months. A friend from Michigan closes his tub in May and re-opens it in October every year. His reasoning was that it was not a lot of fun to sit in a tub of hot water when you had been out in the heat all day, and that the mosquitoes tended to dive-bomb them in the tub on summer evenings.  The mosquito problem can be less severe in other parts of the country.  We do set the temperature a few degrees lower than normal for the summer months.  We do not want or enjoy the deep heating effect when we have just been through a 100 degree day.  After a day of hard work around the yard, or a full day of wakeboarding, our muscles do appreciate the therapeutic effect of the hot tub.

Why Does it Work?

Hot tub therapy works by relieving the body's natural pressure from gravity. It also stimulates the nerves and circulatory system. By adding movement and air bubbles to the hot water, nerve impulses are created that enhance the body's immune system, and increase circulation and digestion.

Hot tub therapy also helps relieve pain from arthritis, rheumatism, painful joints, varicose veins and other muscle and back pains. Not only does it feel great, it is actually good for you! For those of us with less than wonderful circulation, bringing that warmth to our extremities in the winter is almost miraculous.

The Right Location

A hot tub under the stars at night is a great experience.  A hot tub under a second story deck is also a great experience, especially when it is raining outside.  My brother suggested we attach a waterproof canopy to the underside of our deck.  It keeps the cold water from rain or snow from hitting us while we are enjoying soaking up the heat in the winter. My brother recommends using corrugated plastic suspended at an angle to accomplish this, but we’ve found that heavy plastic draped at a slight angle can be effective as well. 

Niceties

We like to add a little candlelight to the hot tub experience at night. The soft glow adds to the warmth of the experience. Also, make sure you have a nice fluffy robe and some slip-on shoes handy for your exit from the tub. I put a few hooks on a nearby post to hang robes.

Precautions

If your spa is equipped with a freeze protection system, make sure it is activated and that the heat settings are set higher than the minimum. If you have timer/auto heat mode selector, make sure it is set to the auto heat mode to protect the pipes from freezing. If you do not have freeze protection, set your timer switch to cycle on at frequent intervals. In very cold areas, it may be necessary to cycle on at least 15 minutes every hour. Additional run time is important in very cold weather, around 0°F.

Check your water temperature frequently to make sure the heater is functioning properly. If you use your spa frequently, it actually uses less energy to maintain a constant temperature, than it would to let it cool down and then heat up frequently. It is best to maintain a constant high temperature.

Running the air jets in the winter will greatly increase energy consumption from the injection of the cold air into the water. If you do use your jets in the winter, make sure they are in the off position when you close it up. Keep an eye on the water level, especially if you do not use your spa every day. If your tub loses too much water, the pump will shut down, the water will not circulate, the heater will not run, and your tub could freeze.

Safety First

As always, use hot tubs with caution! Hot tub safety includes consideration of heat. Prolonged soaking in a hot tub at temperatures above 104° Fahrenheit (40° Celsius) can be a safety hazard, as it can dehydrate, scald or cause elevated body temperatures. Most public hot tubs recommend only 15 minutes for healthy adults and many do not allow children under 12 years of age. Most health professionals do not recommend that pregnant women or people with diabetes, high blood pressure or heart disease use a hot tub.

 


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