Knowing when to replace a hot tub cover can be tricky. New hot tub covers may cost hundreds of dollars but the inefficiency of old, worn out covers can cost much more in the space of a few winter months. In this article we will cover how you can tell when it’s time to change your cover, what to look for in a replacement hot tub cover, and how to properly maintain your cover to extend its lifespan.
When Should I Replace My Hot Tub Cover?
In general, hot tub covers have a lifespan of around 4-5 years. UV radiation from the sun, falling debris (like tree branches or ice), and user inflicted damage can all drastically reduce this lifespan however.
Most hot tub covers need to be replaced when their foam core becomes saturated with water. To slow this process down, hot tub cover manufacturers cover the foam core in a plastic vapour barrier wrap. Over time however, the plastic vapour barrier wrap around the foam deteriorates and the foam begins to absorb water. This process dramatically reduces the hot tub cover’s ability to insulate.
Foam insulation works by trapping warm air within the bubbles of the foam. Since water is a poor insulator (water transfers heat 32 times faster than air), if those air bubbles fill with water the cover loses much of its insulating ability. This causes a dramatic increase in your monthly electric bill, especially in the winter.
How can you tell when a hot tub cover has become saturated with water? It will start to get heavy, very heavy. If not replaced the cover will eventually become too heavy to lift. At this stage you run the risk of either causing damage to your cover lifter or splitting the cover in half along its centre seam.
Another sign a hot tub cover needs to be replaced is if water starts to pool on it. This is a sign that the cover has begun to “cup”. Hot tub covers can start to cup when subjected to heavy loads, usually from snow or ice sitting on them over long periods of time.
Another way you can tell if a hot tub cover has cupped is to check its corners. If the corners of the hot tub cover have started to lift away from the hot tub shell, the cover has started to cup.
Cupped hot tub covers are a problem because they break the seal around the edge of the hot tub, allowing a substantial amount of steam and (more importantly) heat to escape. This leads to a higher energy bill, more water needing to be added (and heated), and more money spent on balancing chemicals.
What Should I Look For When Buying A New Hot Tub Cover?
Now that you know why covers need to be replaced, it’s time to consider what to look for in a replacement hot tub cover. Knowing what cover to purchase can be tricky as most retailers offer many different options at many different price points.
When determining the quality of a replacement hot tub cover, there are a few things you need to ask yourself:
How Thick Is The Outer Skin?
A cheap, thin vinyl cover skin will rapidly degrade from the UV radiation given off by the Sun.
How Good Is The Stitching?
Poor stitching can result in the cover ripping, even under normal use.
How Thick Is The Foam?
When it comes to the thickness of the foam, the thicker the cover, the better it will insulate. Replacement covers can be anywhere from 3″-2″ thick up to 6″-4″ thick. Thicker hot tub covers are also heavier though.
Once these covers become waterlogged they put even more stress on both the seam of the cover and the cover lifter. This means that thicker covers usually don’t last quite as long as thinner covers will. The added insulating ability of the thicker cover can therefore negated by having to buy a new cover sooner. Overall, we’ve found that covers between 4″-3″ and 5″-4″ thick tend to be a good compromise between energy efficiency and lifespan.
Does The Cover Have A Full Foam Sealer?
A full foam sealer is a piece of insulating foam that fills the area between the two sides of a hot tub cover. Without a full foam sealer, hot tub covers have a 1″ gap that is not insulated when the cover is closed. Many replacement hot tub covers come standard with either two small pieces of foam on the sides of the cover or a rubber bar. Both of these are only really useful for preventing evaporation and offer no real insulation.
What Is The Thickness Of The Vapour Barrier?
As we previously mentioned, the vapour barrier is what stops water from absorbing into the cover’s insulating foam. Vapour barriers in replacement hot tub covers typically range in thickness from 2ml to 10ml. The thicker the vapour barrier, the better it will stop water from absorbing into the foam, and the longer it will last before deteriorating.
Automatic Hot Tub Covers
Automatic hot tub covers like The Covana offer the longest lifespan and best insulation of any hot tub cover. They are also the most expensive cover replacement option.
Automatic hot tub covers are made from aluminum and thick polymers, and styled to look like a gazebo. Rather than being custom made for each hot tub, automatic hot tub covers will work for any hot tub within a set size range. They offer:
- Automatic opening and closing with a special key.
- Added security. Nobody can use your hot tub without your key.
- Built-in lighting.
- Privacy screens to block out nosy neighbours and bug screens to keep bugs away.
- A rubber gasket that prevents evaporation and provides the best seal of any hot tub cover.
- The thickest foam to give the best overall insulating ability of any hot tub cover.
- A hard polymer top that is not affected by the UV of the Sun.
Tips To Extend The Life Of Your Cover
Now that you’ve replaced your cover, here are a few tips to make sure that you get the longest possible life out of it!
- Use the built in clips to lock your cover down and prevent it from being carried off and damaged by high winds. This will also form a better seal, reducing the amount of heat loss and increasing the energy efficiency of the hot tub.
- Try not to rest anything heavy on your cover. Heavy loads can cause your cover to cup. Remove any heavy loads of snow or ice in the winter, being careful no to damage the cover in the process. Avoid using shovels as their blades can catch on the cover and tear open the vinyl skin.
- Leave your cover fully open for at least 30 minutes after shocking your hot tub. After you shock the hot tub, strong chemical vapours are released that can harm the underside of the cover and increase the rate at which the vapour barrier deteriorates.
- Clean your cover using a UV protecting spray at 2-4 times a year to help reduce the harmful effects that the Sun has on the vinyl finish of the cover.
- Make sure that your water is properly balanced. Acidic water can stretch out the fabric on the underside of the cover. Consistently high levels of chlorine or bromine can also degrade the fabric and foam of the cover.
With an average of 30-40% of the heat loss in a hot tub coming from its cover, making sure that your hot tub cover is working at peak capacity should be a top priority for any hot tub owner. While new covers aren’t cheap, broken, cupped, or saturated hot tub covers can cost you hundreds of dollars in added energy costs over the course of a single winter. Knowing when to replace your cover, and what to look for in a new cover are vital in ensuring the best energy efficiency for your hot tub. Spending as little as $30-$50 more on a hot tub cover can make a big difference in the lifespan of the cover and, more importantly, your monthly energy costs.