Electrical considerations are key to the safe and efficient operation of most hot tubs. There are several electrical factors to consider when choosing the best hot tub for you and ensuring it doesn’t break the bank.
Hot tub voltage
Hot tubs have traditionally operated on 220 volts of electricity. Today, consumers have the choice between a hot tub that operates on 110 volts and the traditional 220-volt hot tub. There are inherent pros and cons with each option.
Hot tubs that operate off of 110 volts are most common in milder climates, but can be used in colder climates if they are not used year-round. They are also a good option when the usage is just an hour or two per day. These hot tubs take longer to heat up, and do not maintain their heat as well as those operated on 220 volts. When the jets are on, little if any electricity will be directed toward the heater. This type of hot tub requires less money upfront, as they do not require an electrician to hook them up and can simply be plugged into an exterior outlet.
Hot tubs that use 220 volts to operate are able to supply a greater load of electricity to the heater and the pumps simultaneously. These systems are able to operate in colder climates and are the only option for larger hot tubs. This hot tub’s ease with running the jets and heater at the same time provides enhanced temperature control. An electrician is required with a 220-volt hot tub installation to hard-wire them to your home’s electrical system.
Contrary to some claims, both of these systems are equally expensive to operate. The 220-volt hot tub uses the same amount of electrical watts as the 110-volt hot tub to heat the water, it will just do so more quickly. The 110-volt hot tub takes twice as long to heat, but uses the same amount of energy to accomplish the task.
Ways to save
Conserving the heat in the water is key to conserving energy and reducing the cost of operation. As soon as the cover of the hot tub is removed, heat escapes.
The jets also cause heat loss. As the jets pull outside air in to be pushed out, the water is cooled. The colder the surrounding temperature and the longer the use, the more quickly the heat escapes.
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Just like the roof on our homes, a good cover is essential to keeping in the heat. A standard cover for a hot tub is 3 inches thick. In colder climates, such as ours, opting for a cover that is 5 inches thick in the middle and 4 inches on the sides will pay for itself in energy savings. If you have an older cover that has become heavy, chances are it is water logged. A water-logged cover will have little to no insulation value, and a new one needs to be purchased.
The placement of the hot tub also makes a difference in its operating costs. A privacy fence placed around the hot tub that blocks the prevailing wind will do wonders in decreasing associated costs. Placing the hot tub in a sunny spot or with south-facing exposure will also help maintain heat by reducing snow and ice buildup on the cover. Keeping it out from under the edges of the house will prevent water and ice from dropping down onto the cover.
Monitoring the heat setting will also save energy and money. Most manufactures set the heat at 104, but lowering it just 2 degrees will result in energy savings while still keeping the tub warm and toasty. Lower that heat setting even more when it’s not in use. Setting the heater timer to come on 15-20 minutes before you get in and turning it down or off altogether when you get out works great and will save you money by not heating it on high at all times.
Some utility companies offer “off-peak” hours, usually between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. During this time, electricity is less expensive. If you are serviced by a utility company that offers this, it is recommended that the hot tub heater be placed on a timer and as much heating as is possible be scheduled during this time period. Unfortunately, this is not an option in the Billings area as Northwestern Energy and Yellowstone Valley Electric do not offer “off-peak” hours.
Go off the grid
Disregard energy costs and electrical factors altogether by opting for a wood burning hot tub. Wood-powered hot tubs provide a low-cost alternative to traditional hot tubs. While sales of traditional hot tubs plummeted nationwide during the recession, wood-powered hot tubs saw an increase in popularity. These hot tubs are heated by a wood-burning stove that is typically positioned on the outside of the tub. These hot tubs are free of chemicals as the water is drained after just a few uses.
The only operating cost of these tubs is wood; a $150 cord of wood potentially lasting several years. If you’re looking for an inexpensive, “return to nature” feel, and have easy access to wood for fuel, this might be the perfect option for you.