March 2020 EnergyWiseSM Tip: Hot Tubs
By: Energy Efficiency Program Manager Cory Fuehrer
It doesn’t matter what time of year it is (except maybe August); nothing beats a soak in your hot tub after a hard day’s work. Whether you’ve got sore muscles of which only pulsating jets will take out the tension or a tension headache that requires the enveloping warmth and soothing sound of air bubbles rising to the surface, many of us consider a good "soak" the best way to restore our physical and mental well-being. The trusty hot tub can also help us get a few hours of rest before we start our whole routine over again the next morning.
If we’re not careful, this source of rejuvenation can also be the source of high energy costs. Perhaps your hot tub sales representative said adding a hot tub should only add $10 to $20 per month to your electric bill. That may be so if you install yours in a climatically-controlled room using perfect energy management practices. In reality, installation location along with a lack of attention to maintenance and temperature settings often create energy cost surprises five to 10 times greater than this during Nebraska’s winter months. So much for that "relaxing " feeling!
Today’s initial cost for a new hot tub can range from $2,000 to more than $20,000. Mid-grade hot tubs have an average lifespan of about 10 years. Lower quality models, improper installation or inattention to maintenance may only provide you five years. Better warrantied, higher-quality and well-maintained systems can surpass 25 years of active use. Here are four important considerations in keeping the "hot " in your hot tub throughout the years without breaking the bank:
1. Location – If your hot tub is outside, insulate and seal around it well. If possible, provide some sort of shelter from cold winds. While most lower-to-mid-level tubs come with their own insulated housing, some may not give consideration to heat loss from the bottom of the unit. If it’s inside, significant air-quality and air-conditioning issues need to be addressed to avoid molds, mildews, etc. Check your owner’s manual or reach out to the manufacturer, as location has the largest influence on energy usage.
2. Cover – Install and use a quality cover whenever the tub is not in use. Since the water surface loses the most heat, uncover only when using it. To further reduce energy losses due to evaporation, install a secondary "thermal blanket," which floats on the water’s surface. Neglecting to cover and seal up your hot tub when not in use will have a major impact on energy usage regardless of where it is installed.
3. Settings – Check your owner’s manual or ask your dealer how low you can set your tub’s temperature and have it heat up to your comfort level in a reasonable amount of time. The lower you can leave the temperature when it’s not in use and the longer between uses of the tub, the more you can save. Usually, hot tub thermostats come preprogramed at 104°F. A rough rule-of-thumb is that it will take 15 to 20 minutes to regain each degree you turn the thermostat down. Contrary to urban legend, you don’t lose the savings when you turn the temperature up again.
4. Maintenance – If it says, "Replace filter after 18 months", DO IT! Replace more frequently if your tub takes in more dust, is exposed to more airborne particulates or if it’s used by numerous people. When in doubt, refer to your owner’s manual.
Southwest Public Power District and Nebraska Public Power District want to help you make the most of the energy you need. That includes the electricity needed to run your hot tub: your magical revitalization machine! For additional ways you can become EnergyWiseSM, contact Southwest Public Power District or visit www.nppd.com.