Having used hot tubs for many years, I can understand why you might be apprehensive about using one during the coldest months. But here is what I’ve learned from my experience.
While it’s safe to use a hot tub in winter, there are certain precautions that need to be taken. Do not raise the temperature too high nor spend too much time in the spa. There is no danger of the pump or pipes freezing if the hot tub has constant power and is in good working order.
Throughout this article, I cover your most common questions:
- How to avoid getting ill
- Safest temperatures and soak time
- How to prevent freezing
- Tips to enjoy winter hot-tubbing
- Whether your inflatable hot tub is suitable for winter use
Can you get sick from going in a hot tub in winter?
We were all told by our moms not to go outside in the cold without first wrapping up warm. With that firmly etched in our brains, it makes sense to worry about becoming sick by using a spa in cold weather.
If used safely, you will not get sick from using a properly maintained hot tub in the winter. Raising the temperature to an unsafe level or bathing for too long can lead to dangers such as heatstroke, light-headedness, and faintness. Extra precaution needs to be taken for the elderly and those suffering from heart disease.
When the cold weather hits, the first thing most people do is raise the temperature a few degrees and extend the time they spend soaking.
The thought of getting out of the hot tub into the freezing cold isn’t very appealing, but extended soaking can soon lead to very real dangers. If you’re soaking alone, you could even become unconscious and drown.
Both the temperature and amount of time you can soak safely depend on certain factors such as your age, health status, and if you’re pregnant.
Best temperature for hot tub in winter
Experts suggest hot tub temperatures between 97 and 104°F (36 – 40°C) during the winter. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, spa water should never exceed a temperature of 104°F in order to prevent your body from overheating.
The good thing is that most hot tubs are not able to exceed 104°F anyway. Personally, I like to raise the temperature by 2 – 4°F (1-2°C) in the winter months.
As tempting as it may be during extremely cold weather, I don’t recommend raising the temperature as high as 104°F if your usual soaking temperature is well below 100°F (38°C).
Always leave your hot tub running when it’s not in use
If you’re not going to use your hot tub regularly, you may be tempted to cut the power to save money. You must never do this, and especially not during the wintertime.
You should leave your hot tub on all the time when the spa is being used once or more a week. The best temperature to leave your hot tub when it’s not in use is 10°F (5°C) lower than your preferred temperature. This saves on your energy bill and allows you to heat your hot tub in as little as an hour.
Any longer than a week, and you should turn on economy mode, which lowers the temperature by around 20°F (11°C).
For an in-depth guide on running your hot tub, I wrote the best practices for hot tubs while not in use.
My guide features information on what to do with your spa when you go on holiday and when it’s necessary to turn the power off. Knowing these best practices will you save money and prevent damage to your spa.
How long can you stay in a hot tub?
For healthy adults, it’s advised to limit the temperature to 100°F (38°C), with a soak time of 15 minutes.
If you’re elderly or pregnant, have an existing heart condition, or you’re using medication, you need to be even more conservative.
Do not raise the temperature above 100°F and avoid staying in the hot tub for more than 10 minutes.
Spending more than 10 minutes in a hot tub can raise your body temperature to dangerous levels. Some research has shown this to cause abnormalities in the unborn child and miscarriages in pregnant women.
Accurate temperature readings are important
It’s not a good idea to rely solely on your hot tub thermostat for the temperature reading. I recommend using this spa thermometer for accurate readings from Amazon.
It’s fully waterproof (IPX7) with a very precise temperature display accuracy of 0.1 degrees. But what I particularly like is the wireless receiver that comes with the thermometer.
While the water is heating up, I can see the temperature on the receiver without having to go outside and physically check. It has a range of 300ft (91m) and is worth its weight in gold in the winter.
Will a hot tub freeze overnight?
You don’t need to worry about your hot tub piping freezing up overnight during the winter because the water circulating through the piping eliminates all risks of freezing.
High-quality, modern hot tubs have a freeze protection mode that turns on the circulation pump when the temperature gets close to freezing, so you don’t need to worry.
A fully-foamed outdoor hot tub would need to be without power for 36 hours straight at temperatures below 28°F (-2°C) before it even started to begin freezing.
Make sure that your cover is tightly sealed when not in use. If you’re still concerned, get yourself a thermal spa jacket (Amazon) that houses the entire hot tub to put your mind at rest.
If you’re planning on winterizing your hot tub, it’s always best to do so before the harsh weather hits.
If it’s extremely cold outside and you don’t act quickly enough, the remaining water inside the hot tub plumbing may freeze up during the winterization process.
Tips for enjoying your hot tub in the winter
It’s a good idea to wear a hat when using a hot tub in winter to avoid losing body heat. It’s particularly important for those with long hair to keep it dry.
Wearing a hat helps you to regulate your body temperature and keeps you from catching a chill.
Applying facial moisturizer is also of benefit to protect from harsh, bitter winds that can quickly dry out your skin.
It also forms a barrier over the pores in your face, which helps to reduce the absorption of chemicals from the hot tub water.
One thing I couldn’t live without is my winter towel warmer from Amazon. The thought of having to get out of a lovely, warm hot tub into the freezing cold isn’t fun.
This towel warmer heats several large bath towels or bathrobes in just 5 minutes and keeps them nice and toasty for an hour, which is more than enough time.
With a hot towel to look forward to, you avoid the dangers of spending too much time in the hot tub and don’t run the risk of slipping over while running frantically back to the house.
Can you use an inflatable hot tub in the winter?
You can use an inflatable hot tub in the winter providing the temperature doesn’t fall below 40°F (4°C). This is because most inflatable hot tubs are not rated for air temperatures below 40°F. Using an inflatable hot tub in extremely cold weather can damage the motor.
Just as with normal hot tubs, using an inflatable version in cold weather can be very relaxing.
Most inflatable spas will struggle to maintain their temperature if the weather becomes too cold. Your tub is constantly losing heat if it’s in direct contact with the ground.
I recommend making use of this insulating foam ground mat (Amazon) to prevent heat loss. It’ll save on running costs and prolong the life of the internals as they won’t need to work so hard to keep the tub warm.
Using an insulating jacket (Amazon) is also a good idea to protect and trap the heat in, which keeps running costs down while the tub isn’t being used.
If you live in an area that experiences harsh winters with temperatures falling below freezing for extended periods of time, then it’s best to drain the hot tub and pack it away.