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Winter is coming! And with El Nino predicted, it could be a cold, snowy winter indeed. That's good for the spa parts salesmen, I suppose - because it means lots of freeze damage to spas and hot tubs.
But hold on there ~ as long as you have your spa operating, at least on low speed, with all valves/lines open, and the water isn't allowed to freeze across the surface ~ you needn't worry about freeze damage to your spa or hot tub.
Most digital spa controllers will have a freeze monitor that will turn on the pump if the outside air temperature reaches 40 degrees. Some will even turn on the heater if the water temperature drops too low. But many air controls or simple hot tubs or inground spas don't have built-in freeze protection.
Get the Hot Water and Blankets! We're not having a baby, the hot tub is frozen solid! If you find that the hot tub or spa has ice on the surface, and is not operating...
1. Shut off Power if the pumps are not moving water, until all the ice thaws.
2. Break through Ice on the surface, add hot water from hose, or buckets from the bathtub.
- Some utility sinks will allow you to attach a hose, or you can connect it to your hot water heater drain.
3. Closely Inspect with a utility light, or large flashlight, the pump, filter, heater, and pipes for cracks.
4. Use a heat gun, or place a small ceramic heater under the spa cabinet that you can monitor.
- Plug into a GFCI outlet. Raise it up off the ground, and keep away from insulation or wires.
5. Use heavy blankets to help hold the heat in under the spa, if needed.
Most cracking or damage from the expansion of ice happens to the heater body, usually a stainless steel cylinder, mounted horizontally, or the filter body or lid, a vertical plastic cylinder that holds the filter cartridge, or to the pump body or lid. Pipes tend to spider-web crack, not a clean split, but they shatter along long lengths, or through fittings.
As the spa starts to warm up, from the heat beneath and the hot water above, condensation will drip from the spa, don't be alarmed. But running water... (not slow drips), and you may have some broken equipment or pipe. After identifying that hot tub parts are needed, you can proceed to drain the spa completely, by opening all drain valves or plugs, and using air to blow out pipes and equipment.
If you don't see any running water, and you don't see any cracked spa equipment or pipes, you can turn the spa back on - to check again for running water while the system is under pressure. If it sounds normal, and looks to be running properly, relax - you caught it just in time!
Most freeze damage is minor - a pump wet end, a bit of pipe, maybe an entire spa pack - but rarely does it total the entire spa. There are cases where a spa has been frozen solid for weeks however, and it's literally exploded. Even when some parts are reusable, the cost to re-pipe the spa is prohibitive. If you discovered a frozen hot tub early, consider yourself lucky with a few hundred dollars in spa parts.
Happy Hot Tubbin!
Hot Tub Works