Just bought an inflatable hot tub, or just trying to keep your electric bills down in winter? You’re in the right place. Since inflatable hot tubs obviously don’t have cabinets (with built-in insulation), they can lose heat quite easily.
In this guide, I’ll break down why you should insulate an inflatable hot tub, and a few different ways to do it.
Why insulate an inflatable hot tub?
You may want to inflatable your hot tub in the winter because they lose heat easier than regular hard-shell hot tubs. Expect energy costs to increase without extra insulation.
The general rule of thumb, a standard hard-shell hot tub costs about $1 per day (or more, depending on where you live). For inflatable hot tubs, you may find it costs anywhere from $3 to 4 per day or more) in winter months vs. warmer months.
If you live in an area where temperatures get cold in the winter, I recommend one or more of the following insulation options.
Option 1: Hot Tub Pad
To help minimize heat loss to the ground below
A short video on installing foam flooring by BiGDoug
If you place your inflatable hot tub on a hot tub pad, you reduce heat loss to the cold ground below. Hot tub mats come in either foam or fabric varieties as well as round or square configurations.
You can find some hot tub mats that are anti-slip and also absorb water like this one on Amazon. Some hot tub ground mats are made of foam (with interlocking sections).
Some hot tub manufacturers include ground mats as add-on products to their inflatable line, but you can purchase them separately if not.
Option 2: Thermal Hot Tub Cover
To insulate the top and sidewalls of the hot tub
A short video of the Intex PureSpa energy-efficient cover
At a minimum, you want a good thermal hot tub cover (sometimes called a hot tub jacket) as the first line of defense against heat loss. Even though your inflatable hot tub may come with a thin cover, getting a heavy-duty insulated cover can pay for itself after a few months.
Most of the thermal covers cost anywhere between $100 and $200 and cover the top and the sides; basic covers cost about half, without the thermal properties.
Check with your hot tub manufacturer first to see if they carry thermal covers based on the size you own (and shape).
Below are a few thermal hot tub covers for a few of the popular inflatable models.
- Intex makes an optional cover (for their popular 77” circular model) that claims an average annual energy savings of around $300. This one is pretty popular and is made of thick, heavy PVC material with a layer of thermal-resistant foam.
- CosySpa offers this thermal hot tub cover in a few different sizes. They claim this cover can reduce energy usage by up to 40%, but individual results may vary.
- CleverSpa offers a universal thermal cover that can fit covers up to ~81 inches in diameter
There are some DIY methods of insulating your hot tub I’ll cover next, but I highly recommend one of these thermal covers made by the hot tub manufacturer or a reputable company.
Option 3: Floating Hot Tub Cover
To reduce evaporation and chemical loss
This video describes how to fit a bubble cover to your hot tub.
A great device to help prevent evaporation you can pick up is called a bubble cover or floating spa blanket—these are typically blue and come in a variety of shapes and thicknesses. These blankets reduce heat loss caused by evaporation whereas an external hot tub jacket and hot tub pad help insulate the hot water from the cold air outside.
You’ll want to trim these blankets with scissors to fit the shape of your hot tub; in addition to limiting evaporation, they also help keep bugs and debris out.
Inflatable hot tub lids
Another type of floating cover (I guess you can call it somewhat of a cover!) is simply an inflatable ‘hot tub lid’ you probably already have with your inflatable tub. Some owners use these lids in combination with a floating blanket in winter to minimize heat loss.
You ideally want to use a thermal cover that encloses the entire top, because inflatable lids don’t form a tight seal. Lids are convenient to use in warm months but less effective on their own (without a cover) in winter.
Option 4: Insulation for the Plumbing and Pump
To keep your pump warm and cover exposed hot water hoses.
A run-through of using pool noddles for hot tub insulation by Mike Cooper.
If you really want to maximize heat loss, don’t forget to insulate your inflatable hot tub hoses. You can either purchase pipe insulation or pick up a couple of pool noodles.
In addition to pool noodles, you may also want to create a foam over for your pump. I haven’t seen any of these on the market, so you may have to rig up something yourself.
If you use your hot tub a lot in winter and it doesn’t get brutally cold, it’s up to you to cover the pump/controls. For snowstorms and periods of extreme cold, it may be worth a shot!
Option 5: Add a Well-Made Canopy or Gazebo
To block wind and shield your hot tub from the elements.
A quick word of advice on the gazebo/canopy route by Jester’s Corner.
A gazebo or canopy can help to insulate your inflatable hot tub from the wind if it’s well-made. The key word here: well-made! I’ve seen these things blown around in the wind, and the canvas tops absolutely destroyed.
Skip the cheap pole-based cloth canopies that may puncture your inflatable hot tub (as the video above references) and go for something solid.
Whenever using a canopy or gazebo with a hot tub, maintain these structures. Clear snow from them, bolt them/anchor them down. In heavy wind, take additional measures or take them apart completely for safety.
I do like well-made structures as they can make things more enjoyable, but you must use common sense.
Check out my post on a few of my favorite hot tub gazebos and canopies if you are considering purchasing one for your hot tub.
One more thing to know
All these insulation methods can help reduce energy costs in the winter, just know that many inflatable hot tub manufacturers don’t recommend using them in temperates less than 40° Fahrenheit.
So I’d skip the tankless propane water heater solutions out there—you may void your warranty by doing so.
If you’re dead set on using your hot tub from December to March, I would recommend an entry-level standard hot tub that can withstand the cold much better.
Anything I missed? Let me know in the comments!