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Should I drain my spa for winter?

Before we begin with the draining & winterizing procedure, please pause for a moment to ponder the question... After all, you bought your spa for relaxation and enjoyment, so why not use it year 'round? Many families actually prefer to use a hot tub when weather is the coldest. On a chilly winter's night when toes are numb, nothing beats a hot soak in the tub! If there's snow on the ground, it can only add to the pleasure.. as the steam rolls off the warm water onto the white blanket below.

There are practical concerns as well. While a properly drained spa will save you money on energy costs and supplies, most spa damage in cold climates is actually caused by freeze damage due to improper draining/winterizing (or none at all!)

Residual water after draining may cause damage far exceeding any savings realized in closing the spa. And don't forget, besides the chore of draining & closing, there will be the same chore in reverse come spring. Summer use - winter use

  If you decide to run all year long, then be sure to read Winter use of spaWinter Use below.

Draining for Winter

If you're still reading, then you are at least still considering draining & winterizing your spa or hot tub, so let's see how it is done right!

NOTE: If you don't feel comfortable closing down and winterizing a spa yourself, you may wish to contract a local professional to do the job for you. Remember, a good service company should guarantee their work against freeze damage. If they don't, pick a different company. Also note, the following procedures are primarily for above-ground spas and hot tubs. In-ground installations are a different breed, and their systems are often better left to the pros for winter service.
  • Cut the power

    Circuit breaker box Always start any service procedure by shutting off the heater and then powering off the spa. Then switch off the power service at the breaker panel or disconnect box for safety.

    Tip: Before disconnecting power, now is a good time to check the GFCI to make sure it is functioning properly by pressing its "test" button.

  • Flush your system, then drain your spa
    We recommend that you flush your plumbing system with spaSpa System Flush.   Then with cover still off, empty your water by opening the drain valve. Some spas allow you to hook up a garden hose to carry the water away. A spa vac such as the spaShake-a-Vac or a submersible pump may also be used to speed the draining and to remove remaining water and debris from foot wells.

  • Air blower?
    If your spa is equipped with an air blower, you should purge it of water as well. This can be done by first shutting the heater off to prevent damage, and then with cover back in place and power restored, running the blower for 15 to 30 seconds. When complete, trip the GFCI again, shut off the spa circuit at your breaker panel, and unplug your spa as before. Obviously if you have no blower, you can skip this step!

  • Remove your filters
    With cover off, remove your filter(s). Now is a good time to clean and soak them in filter cleaning solution, so that they can be put away in a dry location for the winter. If they've had a year or more of use, they should be replaced with new spa filter replacementsClarathon Premium Spa Filters. Never store a dirty filter. Make sure to remove any remaining water from filter compartment-- terry towels are often helpful here. Clean the filter compartment, and skimmer basket if so equipped. If your spa has a separate filter canister, make sure it is completely drained.

  • Loosen fittings
    There may be several fittings on your spa's plumbing system that can be loosened enough to allow water to drain. Open any unions on the inlet and outlet of your pumps and heater. Your pump housing may have drain plugs. These should also be opened as pumps can easily be damaged when water freezes.

    If you have an external gas heater, shut it down per the manufacturer's instructions. Your main concern now will be to remove all water from the unit by opening drain valves, pipe fittings, and by blowing out remaining water with a GFCI-protected wet-dry shop vac. Gas heaters which are shut-down for the winter will often require a cleaning or "tune up" in the spring.

  • Blow your jets
    It is also important to get any remaining water out of your jet plumbing.

    Wet-dry shop vacuum This can be accomplished by first opening all jets (with topside jet controls set to the off position) and with your wet-dry vac set to the blowing mode, forcing air into each of your jet fixtures.

    Work your way around the spa clockwise, and when you have gone all the way around, go back around counter-clockwise and blow out each jet again. Repeat until no significant amounts of water can be purged.

  • Clean your shell
    Cleaning your spa shell is very important, and will make the job of opening your spa in the spring a lot more pleasant. Use a non-foaming cleaner such as spa cleanerClean All. Wipe down all surfaces and rinse with clean water.

  • Mop up
    Any remaining water inside the spa should now be mopped up with terry towels. Applying spa wax or spa cover protectant303 Protectant to inside surfaces is a good idea, and will make start up and cleaning of your spa in the spring easier.

  • Protect your cover
    Clean your cover both inside and out, and apply a quality protectant such as 303 to both inside and outside surfaces. Never apply any product containing silicone oil to a vinyl spa cover, as it will promote deterioration. Replace cover, and secure & lock the straps. If you live in a high-wind location, you might consider the addition of additional tie-downs, such as our Spa cover strapsHurricane Straps.

  • Secure your cabinet
    If your spa has an enclosure with doors, make sure all are closed and any thumbscrews or latches are secured.

  • Check Wooden surrounds
    If your wooden cabinet needs a coat of finish, this should be applied before weather dampens the wood, or the temperature gets too low.

  • Consider a Spa Coverall
    Many people cover their entire spa for the winter, if in a location exposed to the weather. This prevents rain water or snow melt from seeping back into the spa and causing potential freeze damage.  Far better than hard-to-manage tarps is our Spa coverProtectaSpa Coverall.

  • What about Antifreeze?
    Although there are pipe antifreeze products on the market, we do not recommend them because of the difficulty of removing the residues in the spring.


To Spa coverdrain water or vacuum debris from your hot tub, check out the amazing Shake-a-Vac! Nothing else quite like it.

care of wood hot tubs Wooden tubs are different!

Ideally, wooden hot tubs should never be allowed to remain empty for an extended period of time. As the wood dries, it will shrink or crack, and this can cause leaks when refilled. Any remaining moisture in the wood which is allowed to freeze can also cause cracks.

Nevertheless, a wooden tub can be winterized. Follow the procedures outlined above for purging water from plumbing and features, then leave a couple of inches of water in the bottom. This water may freeze, but leaving it there will help prevent shrinking and cracking of the tub bottom. Check the tub from time to time to make sure this level is maintained.

There may be some shrinkage come spring, and the tub may need re-tightening. Tarping a winterized wooden tub is usually a good idea.

Enjoy your spa all year 'round!

Winter Use is More Fun! hot tubs and winter go together!

Set your controls

If on the other hand, you decide that draining & winterizing your spa is more trouble than it's worth, you can enjoy your spa in the winter providing proper precautions are taken.

First, read and familiarize yourself with the operating instructions that came with your spa, if you still have them. If your spa is equipped with a freeze protection system, make sure it is activated and that the heat settings are set considerably higher than the bare minimum. Some spas have a timer/auto heat mode selector. If you have one of these, make sure it is set to the auto heat mode to protect from freezing. If you do not have freeze protection, you can 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. This additional run time is important in very cold weather. Remember, if you use your spa daily, it actually may use less energy to maintain a constant temperature, than to let it cool down and then heat up daily. So keep it warm, and constant.

Air jets

cold outside air Running your air jets in the winter will greatly increase energy consumption from the injection of the cold air into the spa water. If you do use your jets in the winter, make certain that they are in the off position when the spa is not in use.


Since it is not fun to drain and clean your spa in the winter, make sure to do this chore before the weather gets miserable. You'll be glad you did!  We also recommend that you flush your plumbing system with spa pluming cleanerSpa System Flush to remove accumulations and buildup from the spa's plumbing..

Worn-out covers are expensive!

A waterlogged or deteriorated cover will cost you a lot of money in lost energy, as it has no doubt lost most of its insulating properties. Being heavy, it may also be difficult to remove, may leak rain water or snow melt into the spa, and may even collapse. If your cover is in good condition, apply spa cover protectant303 Protectant.

Ideal covers for hot tubs
If it needs replacing, do it now and save yourself from grief later. You will pocket the energy savings all winter long!

Floating Thermal Blanket

For energy savings, a floating thermal blanket is a good investment. Lower heat loss by reducing evaporation and help keep moisture buildup on the inside of your spa cover to a minimum.

The ThermoFloat blanket will save you money!

We recommend our quality spa blanketThermoFloat spa blankets.

Watch the water level

Keep an eye on your spas water level, especially if you do not use your spa every day! If your spa should lose enough water so that the pump shuts down, the water will not circulate, the heater will not run, and your spa could freeze.

Monitor your water temperature

monitor water temperature In very cold weather, check your water temperature at least daily to make sure the heater is functioning properly.

Reasonably-priced remote digital thermometers with low-temp alarms are now available which allow wireless monitoring of your water temperature from inside the home.  An audible alarm can be set to alert of temperature problems.

Protect your Cover and Woodwork

Harsh weather--  rain, snow, wind and sun can extract a heavy toll on any spa.  The Spa coverProtecta-Spa Coverall is inexpensive protection for your valuable investment. You'll rest easier knowing your cover and woodwork is completely shielded. ProtectaSpa Installs in 5 minutes!

Spa Side Unbrella in beige If you like the open feeling that an outdoor spa provides, but would like some shelter from rain or weather, consider a spa umbrella.

spa umbrellaSpa Side Umbrellas

If you lose power

Downed Lines If you ever lose electrical power where you live, have a contingency plan in place. If the loss is for a short duration, then your risk of freezing is low. Keep the cover on tight until power is restored.

But in very cold locations, with the loss of power for more than a few hours, you will have a possibility of freeze damage-- if you do nothing.  You may wish to follow the spa proceduresdraining procedures above.

If you have a generator, you may be able to run your spa off of it to keep the water circulating until power is restored.  If your generator is of sufficient wattage, you may even be able to run the spa heater.  If the power outage is expected to last for an extended period of time, you may wish to use the generator to perform the draining operation explained in spa drainingDraining for Winter.

spa customers write  Consumer Reviews
Tubbing in Winter
"I just read about the winter care/prep of outdoor tubs, and I agree with you on the winter use. I live in Kenai Alaska, and use the tub 10 times more in the winter than the summer. Freezing here will probably bring on a different understanding... In January, and February, we see temps to -30 below zero. I have never had a freeze up problem, even in those temps. Tubbing in the great north is second to none! The snow, the stars, and the Northern Lights!! Tubbing is comfortable down to around zero, but any colder, and you ears start to get cold, and your hair freezes solid..."

J. Kipp
Kenai, Alaska



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