7 Important Reminders for Winter Hot Tub Fun

One of the most enjoyable aspects of owning a hot tub is being able to use it outside during the cold winter. But as temperatures drop, you want to be sure you're using—and maintaining—the hot tub properly.

There's nothing quite like going from the frigid outside air into a blissful 100-degree bubbly paradise. But simple mistakes can spoil everything by skyrocketing your energy bill, creating a hazardous area for your family or even damaging the hot tub.

Here are some important things to keep in mind as you prepare for your winter hot tubbing.

1) Prevent slips, spills and injuries.
First thing's first: make sure you are creating safe conditions for using your hot tub. Snow and ice around the hot tub are accidents waiting to happen – even if the hot tub is only a few steps from your back door. Try to remove any hazardous conditions first and create a safe, slip-free path to the tub. Sandals or slippers are also a good idea.

2) Keep the hot tub covered.
A high-quality spa cover is extremely effective at trapping heat, so that there's minimal heat loss during the winter months. But if you forget to cover the hot tub after using it, or don't secure it properly, it will work overtime to keep the water hot – and you'll feel the pain on your next energy bill. An additional thermal blanket underneath the cover is also a good idea.

3) Choose a steady temperature.
Many people make the mistake of keeping their hot tubs at around 80 degrees during the winter and only heating it up to 100 degrees on the days they plan to use it. But dramatically upping the temperature like this drains more energy than if you simply left the water at the same temperature all the time. For maximum energy efficiency, find your most comfortable temperature and leave it there.

4) Activate the freeze protection setting, if applicable.
Most hot tubs have some kind of freeze protection or auto-heat setting that should be activated during the winter months. This is generally designed to monitor temperatures (often the external temperature) and run the pump occasionally to prevent components from freezing if temperatures begin to drop.

5) Draining the hot tub?
Do it early. Depending on usage, many people prefer to drain and clean their hot tubs in early- to mid-December, when temperatures are still somewhat mild. Be sure the vents and filters are also clean. A good cleaning in December should get you through the whole winter without having to drain the hot tub again.

6) Check the water level.
This is especially important if you're not using the hot tub often. If the water level is getting lower, there may be a leak, or water may even be evaporating due to a poorly secured cover. Both of these scenarios will cost you, but also: the lower the water level, the greater the risk of freezing.