Energy Star & Spas

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The Energy Star program...

is run by the US Environmental Protection Agency and the US Department of Energy. It is a great idea and has helped manufacturers move toward more energy efficient products in many different areas. Unfortunately though since it is a program paid for with tax dollars it has to be limited in scope or targeted so that the products it covers would be something that the majority of tax payers could see a benefit in.

It would be really great if Every product or innovation that reduced the energy required could be considered however such is not the case. Understandably the program is focused on general energy consumption of household products, washing machines, refrigerators, and materials used in home construction that reduce energy needs. Some products used in the home, for example computers are included, others in particular pools and spas are not.

Unfortunate considering the information we get from utility companies around the country regarding the cost of energy and the percentage of it that goes into a pool or spa. We have even seen the Energy Star logo used in advertising spas even though the Department of Energy has clearly stated that it will not consider such a product for inclusion as an Energy Star Partner since the majority of taxpayers would not benefit from such a product. This is naturally something we would like to see changed.

Personally I would prefer that every tax payer would own at least one Hot tub. I can only see this as good for the country. If more people would spend more time in their spa they would be using less fuel running around and have a lot less stress. Some utility companies have reported that when a home owner adds a hot tub their utility bill will go up by a significant percentage.

According to the findings of a 2004 study conducted by the Davis Energy Group sponsored Pacific Gas & Electric Co., pool and spa pumps are almost always the largest single electrical end-use (appliance in a home), using more than three times the energy of a new refrigerator. This same study found that the average residential pool pump consumes 2,600 kilowatt hours (kWh) annually with portable spas not far behind at 2,500 kWh per year. With an estimated 1.2 million pools and about half a million spas the State of California by itself has to have the entire yearly output of one nuclear power plant plus one conventional power plant just to feed the consumption of pools and spas.

It's no wonder the California Energy Commission has recently approved new appliance efficiency regulations that for the first time include portable spas and a maximum allowable watt per hour usage. As spa manufacturers struggle to meet these new requirements the bottom line for you the spa owner is how do you reduce the expense of operating your already purchased hot tub? Since most of the energy used in the spa is used keeping the water warm for the next time you want to dip into it, getting that water insulated is the key.

[Spa] Covers reduce most if not all of the evaporative losses from the pool when in use. With this component of heat loss being 70% a cover with a small R value can achieve as much as a 75% reduction in heating costs when used. (www.flasolar.com/heat_loss.htm)

If wrapping your water heater can make a difference in your energy bill, imagine what "wrapping" your other water heater (your spa) would do. Your hot tub uses the same type of heater your household water heater does only your household water heater may have twice as many elements to heat up about forty gallons of water while your spa is trying to heat four hundred gallons. Good insulation around the sides and bottom of your spa play a vital role in helping keep that spa water warm.

However that insulation is done when the spa is constructed. Any good hot tub manufacturer is going to put a good amount of insulation around the spa shell. Insulating the pipes the jets are fed from is important too and should be done by the manufacturer. Once you have purchased your spa insulating it after the construction can be done however it may be difficult and expensive. The last place most spa owners look for insulation is in the cover.

To begin with that spa dealer is going to send some sort of cover home with your new spa. The spa dealer may spend some time talking to you about the benefits of a cover but lets be honest you didn't go there to buy a spa cover and as an after thought decided to get a spa to go under it. No, you wanted a spa. One with lots of features. Jets where you wanted them to ease your pain and tension. If the spa dealer talked to you about the cover you might have seen his lips moving but you were still concentrating on how good those jets of water were going to feel as they pummeled your aching body with soothing pulsing action of warm water. You may have not even thought of the cover when you got your first utility bill.

But you should think about the cover since heat rises. Most of the heat lost from your spa water is going straight up. Insulating the water from the water then makes the most sense. But rigid foam covers are trying to insulate your spa water from way up on top of the spa acrylic. In most cases this can be several inches off the water surface, ten or more is not uncommon. If you have a rigid foam cover twelve inches thick it still doesn't insulate the water since it isn't in contact with the water. you loose heat under the rigid cover because warm water is evaporating, turning into steam. The steam rises and either escapes from the crack between the halves of the cover or hits the bottom of the spa cover, cools and condenses back into liquid and falls (cooled) back into the spa water below. In your car you would call this a radiator and consider it good because it keeps your engine cool. In your spa this is bad because it causes your spa to work harder to keep your spa water up to temperature. This is despite the fact that the outside of the rigid foam cover can be the same temperature as the ambient air outside, giving the impression that it must be insulating. The simple explanation for this is that the rigid foam spa cover is in contact with the ambient air outside the spa and NOT the water it is supposed to keep warm.

The SpaCap Hot Tub Covers by comparison is laying right on the water surface. By doing so it severely limits the evaporation by taking away that open surface. The SpaCap spa cover insulates using enclosed air chamber like a storm window. These dead air chambers insulate consistently regardless of the temperature outside or the age of the cover. The SpaCap has no foam in it to saturate or break so a five year old hot tub cover can insulate as well as a brand new one. We have had the SpaCap tested by an independent testing facility (information listed on our website) and have proven that our spa cover insulates several times better than any foam cover. That being said we would consider it a honor to be considered an Energy Star Partner. However unless the Department of Energy changes its scope to include Any consumer product that can save energy, that can't happen.

We will continue to pursue that end but for the foreseeable future if you see any hot tub or spa or spa cover advertising that they are an Energy Star partner you should report it to the Department of Energy, Energy Star, enforcement division and consider any other sales claims they make questionable. With the Title 20, Section 1605.3 amendments of the California Appliance Efficiency Regulations, that state is taking the lead in setting tougher standards for the energy consumption of portable spas. Other states will no doubt follow suit. With the biggest waste of warmth which equals energy spent going out the top, look for the best insulating spa cover to be the answer for the seriously energy conscious spa manufacturer. The Energy Star may never be offered to Spas or Spa Covers but it won't be long before meeting the California Regulations for spa energy consumption will be equal to the best endorsement.

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