Cold Weather Hot Tubs: What Should I Be Looking For?
Cold Weather Hot Tubs: What Should I Be Looking For?
If you live in a colder climate, you’re going to have legitimate concerns about whether any hot tub you purchase can actually stand up to the cold weather that comes every winter.
If there is any question we understand at Hydropool, it’s this one! We’re based in Canada, and our weather is internationally recognized as being among the chilliest in the world. In part, that’s why we sell hot tubs, because they are a great way to stay warm all winter.
But can hot tubs last all winter? What will they cost you in the winter? What should you look for when buying any hot tub you want to use in the winter? These are all questions that come regularly to our retailers in Canada or Sweden or in the Northern U.S. or anywhere the mercury dips around the world.
There is an answer we always give to this question, in whatever form it comes in: You should buy from a manufacturer with a long history of building and selling hot tubs in cold markets. Because any such company that has managed to survive a long time in the hot tub business has lasted because it has served a cold-weather market and has had many satisfied customers.
That answer, of course, is self-serving in a way, because Hydropool is one of the companies that has a long history of selling in cold weather markets, as we have built and sold hot tubs for more than 40 years. We acknowledge that, but we also believe it to be true. And we know we are not the only cold-weather company that exists. That’s why in this article we will suggest other companies building hot tubs known to work well in cold weather.
So in this article we will:
• Look at the types of hot tub insulation available and how efficient they are in cold weather
• Have a look at some of the brands that build hot tubs in cold weather areas that you might want to consider
What is the Best Hot Tub Insulation?
There are three main types of insulation in hot tubs today, and each of these types of insulation are all capable of being considered energy efficient. What is interesting is that at different times Hydropool has used all three of these systems, before opting for the thermal blanket, which is what it uses today.
The three types are:
• full foam,
• perimeter insulation
• thermal blanket
Foam is sprayed, filled or poured into the base or cabinet of your hot tub, surrounding all the components and completely enveloping the bottom of your tub and all its parts. Should you see it in a showroom, it is easily the most visually impressive, as your hot tub is clearly chock full of insulation. All that insulation helps hold your hot tub together, so it doesn’t move at all when working, which saves on wear and tear.
But this not actually how most things are insulated. If you insulated your house this way, you wouldn’t be able to live in it, because it would be completely filled with insulation. Scientifically, full foam often surpasses what is called “the law of diminishing returns” – at some point you have enough insulation to do the job, and any more isn’t accomplishing much but getting in the way.
When it comes to hot tubs, full foam isn’t as efficient as it could be either:
• With some manufacturers, too much heat is trapped within the base of the tub, and often must be released or vented into the air, which ultimately doesn’t fully make use of the heat energy available in the summertime.
• The second problem with full foam is that it restricts access if you ever need to get to the internal parts of your hot tub. If you ever have a leak, trying to find where the water is draining requires the removal of a lot of the insulation.
Hydropool used this form of insulation up until the 1990s. Many companies today continue to use this method. It will work in cold weather conditions, but there are other methods as well.
Hydropool switched to perimeter foam as its method of insulation in 1996. With perimeter foam insulation, the hot tub’s walls, floor and cover provide the bulk of the insulation. It can be sprayed in, the same way it is done with full foam. Or it can be built in, with sheets of rigid foam surrounding the base of the tub. The idea here comes from how your house traps heat within its walls: We don’t stuff our entire houses with insulation. We just insulate the walls, because then warm air is captured inside.
If done properly, perimeter insulation can provide sufficient insulation to make best use of your hot tub’s energy. It is also one of the methods that allows easy access to working parts, which everyone needs over the lifetime of their hot tub.
While it solves some problems, perimeter foam can’t supply the support for hoses that full foam hot tubs do. When the motor runs in your hot tub, that creates vibration, and with perimeter foam, hoses will rub against each other as a result. Over time, that friction will cause your hoses to wear out sooner than they would if supported.
The thermal blanket is designed to make the most of reflective heat, with the heat-trapping technique of a modern triple-paned window.
This is Hydropool’s current method of hot tub insulation. In our method, the hot tub is wrapped with a thermal blanket that has a shine on it, just like aluminum foil. The insulation first traps warm air within the hot tub’s cabinet. At the same time, the foil points the heat back at the hot tub, so it is retained by your water. That way it remains inside the hot tub’s cabinet, making best use of the heat generated by the hot tub. Layers of plastic are also used to surround the hot tub, holding all the plumbing in place, and just like with a modern triple-paned window, that plastic further traps the warm air within the hot tub’s cabinet.
You’re able to service a thermal-blanket insulated hot tub, because you can just lift the blanket out of the way to access any moving parts. It’s also cheaper than full-foam insulation – there’s less of it, but it is used more effectively is a good way to think about it.
Which Companies Make the Best Cold Weather Hot Tubs?
Here are three from Canada. It might seem unusual for a company to openly discuss other brands, but we know that people will comparison shop. We understand that, which is why we don’t mind discussing the companies you’re most likely to consider. We hope everyone could find a Hydropool hot tub they like, but there’s also a chance another brand is better for you. You’ll note that although we’re talking about Canadian companies here, we didn’t put ourselves on this list: That would be self-serving!
Artic Spas: If you put Arctic in the name, you have to back that up. The company’s slogan is “Hot tubs engineered for the world’s harshest climates.” Arctic emphasizes its form of insulation, which is a perimeter-style insulation modeled after the way we insulate our homes, designed to trap the heat from the hot tub’s pumps in the cabinet of the tub, where it can be used to heat the tub’s water (Hydropool uses a similar technique, but we employ a thermo blanket for the same effect). Artic Spas is based in Edmonton, with its major production facility in nearby Thorsby, Alta. Relatively unique in the market is that the company offers a real wood cedar cabinet as an option. The current Artic published price range is from $8500 – $28,250.
Beachcomber: Around since 1978 (the same time Hydropool was born), Beachcomber’s head office and production facilities are based in Surrey, B.C. Beachcomber often emphasizes the longevity of its tubs – as an example, the company points out “we do not use pillows, metal rails, or pop-up speakers, prone to wear and tear” on its website. On its Hybrid product lines, Beachcomber moves the plumbing and motor of the hot tub underneath its steps, which allows for easier access for repairs over time and lets the company insulate all four walls of the tub the same way (Hydropool’s blanket achieves the same effect, we agree it’s a good idea!) Its current published price range is $8,299 to $23,000.
Coast Spas: A second-B.C.-based hot tub company, Coast operates out of Langley, B.C., just outside of Vancouver and has since 1997, around the same time that Arctic Spas opened up. The company also offers an “Infinity Edge” which is a lip around the tub that catches water and reduces any clutter around the top of the tub. It uses perimeter foam, with the option to get full foam if you want it. We couldn’t find pricing on Coast’s website.
And two more from the United States:
Viking: This hot tub maker is based out of Michigan, which is so cold it might as well be in Canada! Like Hydropool, Viking uses a reflective shield form of insulation. You’re also able to add foam board as additional insulation if you choose. We couldn’t find pricing on Viking’s website but do know it’s a third-generation family business that began in the 1970s.
Nordic: Nordic is based out of Grand Rapids, Michigan. Tubs are assembled there, at its corporate location (Hydropool does the same, with all of our tubs being made in Mississauga, where our corporate headquarters are). It bills itself as a builder of “affordable luxury,” rather than as a premium brand. Nordic’s reputation and purpose is to sell solid, well-built, simple tubs. Nordic sprays in insulation and then adds an optional wrap on top of it for cold-weather customers. We couldn’t find pricing on its website.
These are Great, but What If I Need One Where It’s Super Cold?
There is one other class of hot tubs: Wood burning, old-fashioned hot tubs meant to be used off the grid and that can function without electricity. One such company that sells these hot tubs is called Firewater Hot Tubs, which has been in business for more than 30 years in northern Saskatchewan, Canada. These wood-panelled hot tubs warm water with “a unique wood burning aluminum stove” within a polyethylene tank. They sell for less than $7,000, with foam in the bottom, sides and seats. It takes about three-five hours to get the water to above 100F, but if you’re cold, off the grid and that far up north, we’re entirely sure it’s worth the wait.
So Which is the Best Hot Tub to Buy for Cold Weather?
Our advice hasn’t changed from the top of this article and it hasn’t changed in the 40 years we have been in business: You should buy from a manufacturer with a history of building and selling hot tubs in cold markets. Because any such company that has managed to survive a long time in the hot tub business has lasted because it has served a cold-weather market and has had many satisfied customers.
We know that line could be considered self-serving, because we have been in business so long and are based in Canada. But there are many companies that fit that distinction, and we have gone through several of them in this article. Each of the companies we have discussed here makes hot tubs that are well-suited for cold weather environments, with each using insulation slightly differently, from full-foam to perimeter to thermal blanket. Hydropool has used each of those forms, and today uses thermal blankets as its method to keep your hot tub running its best in cold weather conditions.
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