Hot tubs have been in the news recently. The Guardian published an article this past week questioning the environmental cost of a hot tub. While we acknowledge there is a footprint for anything you plug in or fill up, but you can certainly be a conscientious owner who can help their hot tub save energy.
If you missed our previous post, see how you can conserve water in your hot tub.
The article brings up concerns about an increased electricity bill being anything but relaxing. It also remarks on how hot tubs are constantly trying to maintain a constant temperature while in a variable climate, simultaneously operating heaters and pumps.
While these concerns are quite valid, you are not helpless as an owner. You are plenty capable of taking some steps to make your hot tub more energy efficient.
1) Buy a Good Cover
It’s something we preach over and over here at Sunplay—INVEST IN A QUALITY HOT TUB COVER! Not only will it keep water from evaporating, but it is your number one defense in keeping heat from escaping. Good covers may cost a little more, but are incredibly energy saving.
Heat rises, so when we build a home, we insulate our attics. The same is true of hot tubs and having covers. Many modern spas have well-insulated shells, which helps with heat loss problems,but most of the heat will still go out the top if not protected. Even if you have a hot tub cover that is not up to snuff, you are doing yourself a disservice. If a spa cover is deteriorated, heat leaks will occur at the fold in the middle and above the rim due to the edges not sealing properly. If your cover is heavy, the foam core could be water logged which greatly affects its ability to insulate any heat.
If the cover is in good condition, make sure you have the straps secured on the cover and it’s latched when not in use to reduce the chance of heat escaping.
2) Use a Thermal Blanket
Much like a cover, adding a thermal blanket to the surface of your hot tub water will be greatly beneficial. Thermal covers (also called solar blankets or solar covers) keep evaporation down and keep the heat in. The less your water heat fluctuates, the less your system will work to try and regulate the temperature which saves you energy (and money). Ultimately, a thermal blanket is a small investment with high return possibilities. It also keeps moisture and chemical buildup off of the cover to increase its life.
3) Adjust Your Settings
If you want to save power, you will want to become familiar with your owner’s manual. See if your hot tub unit has an “economy” or “standby” mode that will allow your hot tub to be cooler to save energy. Typically, hot tubs come programmed to run at 104°. Setting this at a lower temperature (like 101°-102°) will reduce your overall energy consumption since it takes disproportionately more energy to heat even one degree.
4) Use Vacation Mode During Times of Light Use
If you’re actually leaving on vacation or there are times when you know you aren’t likely to use your hot tub as much, turn down the temperature. If you will be gone for more than a week during the warm months of the summer, set the temperature to the lowest possible setting or turn off the heater. If you have freezing weather, you must maintain some heat so the water doesn’t freeze and harm your pipes unless you’ve winterized your spa and removed all water from the plumbing system.
5) Smart Construction
When you’re picking a location for your hot tub, try to pick a spot where it’s obstructed from winds. If there isn’t a natural wind break, consider building a privacy panel or a fence. Getting it out of the way of the wind can help with losing heat and will be a great energy saver. Shrubs, privacy panels, fencing, and enclosures all make effective windbreaks.
Make sure when you’re looking for a spot to put your hot tub, you put it somewhere that it isn’t getting ice or dripping water on the cover (like right under a roof or canopy edge). This not only wears on the hot tub cover and will affect your hot tub water temperature.
Adding some foam board insulation under the tub before you set it in place will also help you not lose heat through the bottom of the hot tub.
If you can position your tub on a south-facing exposure or a sun-exposed corner of your hard, you’ll do yourself some favors in the winter time. Snow needs to be cleared off of hot tub covers to help extend their longevity and it’ll save your back (and help keep your spa temperature up) if the vinyl stays clear with help from the sunshine.
6) Take it Easy on the Blowers
Blowers inject air into the water for a soothing effect—a complement to your jets. But when you turn on these features, the introduction of air into the water will lower the temperature of the water which will have to be compensated for by your heater. Blowers in particular are particularly energy consuming and will rapidly take a toll on your water temperature. If you insist on using the jets and blowers, try doing it at short intervals to keep as much heat in the water as possible.
Some brands of hot tubs have adjustable hydro jets which introduce warm air from the equipment cabinet into the water instead of outside air.
7) Inspect Your Cabinet
Take a peek into your spa cabinet. See if there’s any space for you to add some insulation or foil-faced bubble wrap (available at most home improvement stores). It’s waterproof, cuts with scissors, and is easy to stuff or staple into place.
Take a look along the bottom and top of your cabinet. Make sure there aren’t any gaps where heat could escape or where something like small vermin could enter and make a home (and harm wiring/plumbing in the process).
8) Know Your Energy Consumption
It’s hard to know which appliances or habits are affecting your energy bill, but check your bill from month to month (especially during months of heavy use) and see if you get any abnormal spikes. Talk to your power company and see when their off-peak hours are. Try to run your heater cycles during these hours and then keep your hot tub covered in the meantime. See if that makes a difference on your hot tub.
9) Keep Your Filters Clean
Clogged or worn out filters greatly affect your circulation which puts strain on your motor and heating elements. Cleaning your filters every other month along with each water change using a cleaning compound will keep them performing properly. Replace every year (or two if you alternate between two filters), even if it looks clean. This will save you energy and money by keeping your water clean.
10) Buy an Energy Friendly Spa
If you have an older unit that is a sap on your power bill, sometimes the only thing you can do is replace it with a better model. If you do look for a new hot tub unit, here are some things you should keep an eye out for:
- Don’t get distracted by the number of jets it has—that means more to power from your motors and energy sapped trying to keep up with the horsepower required to run them. Design and engineering is more important than jets.
- Hot tubs have an R-value that represents the insulation in the shell and floor of the unit. The higher the R-value, the slower heat escapes from the shell. Keep this in mind when shopping.
- Look for efficiency in the circulating pump. The lower the amps, the less it will cost to operate.
- See if they have hot tub lights that are low energy LEDs. If not, you can always replace the lights in your existing units.
11) Extra Tips
The energy impact isn’t necessarily the highest when in use seeing as hot tub bathing sessions are usually short in relation to the 24 hours it runs. Just remember to shut off the blowers, jets, and lights when the spa isn’t in use to save energy.
When you change your hot tub water, flush the system to keep your water flowering properly and keep your heating element running efficiently.