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John Lamb, Published January 11 2014

Hot tub owners dive in to freezing weather

FARGO – As area residents were huddled inside trying to find ways to fight the recent polar vortex, some were looking no farther than their own backyard to feel the heat.

On the night of Jan. 4, when the temperatures were in the teens below zero and others were bundling up, Norm Robinson was stripping down and getting ready to get himself in hot water behind his north Fargo home.

“I love hot tubs in the winter,” says Robinson. “The idea of walking from the patio door to the hot tub is kind of exciting, but once you get in it is such a great feeling, it actually gives me goose bumps when I go from the super cold of the weather we have now into that hot water. It’s just such a wonderful feeling.”

He’s not alone. Hot tub sales representatives say that winter is prime time to get wet. And with an estimated 90 percent of home hot tubs situated outside, many are warming up to winter weather.

Troy Derheim, president of Tubs of Fun, which sells and rents hot tubs and spas, says winter holidays like New Year’s Eve, Valentine’s Day and Super Bowl Sunday are the biggest days of the year for tub rentals.

He says pre-owned hot tubs start around $1,200 and go up to $5,500, while a brand new unit starts up around $2,800 and goes up depending on the model.

He said a hot tub adds anywhere from $15 to $30 a month onto energy bills, again depending on the model.

And it’s not just couples looking to spark romance that are interested in taking the plunge.

“People get tired of being stuffed up inside,” says Derheim. “In the wintertime, families are looking for things to do as a family and there’s very few things you can do in this electronic age that you’re able to spend time as a family.”

Time in the hot tub is social, allowing parents and kids to have some one-on-one time away from the phone, computers, TV and video games.

“They can sit and talk and relax and be with the family and have something to do that doesn’t require having to pack a bunch of stuff up or spending a lot on a vacation,” he says. “It’s your own little vacation in your backyard.”

While hot tubs may be seen as a playground for adults, it’s just as good for children, Derheim says.

“It’s a swimming pool for the kids year-round,” he says, adding that if you turn the water down to body temperature, kids can be in there for a couple of hours.

Pools generally run between 100 and 104 degrees, says Paul Erickson, general manager at Hot Spring Spas & Pool Tables of Fargo, so even the recent cold blast doesn’t rule out a nice warm soak.

“When it’s really windy out, that’s when it gets tough. I usually go out with a stocking cap,” he says.

“Once it gets down below 10, it doesn’t matter. Your shoulders are covered but the steam is rising, so your hair turns to ice, which is sort of interesting,” says Robinson, who has had five hot tubs over the past 25 years.

“The tough days are when it’s windy,” he says, joking about seeing white caps on the hot tub. “That’s not as much fun as you’d think. Then it’s a little tough.”

While tubbing it in extreme conditions may be tough, a good soak in less severe temperatures can be healthy.

Derheim says hot tubs are especially beneficial to those who suffer from joint or back pain and has clients who use their tubs to combat arthritis and fibromyalgia.

In addition, he says raising the body temperature in the water helps purge toxins and relieves pressure.

“Being in a hot tub and relaxing and letting the stress float away is sometimes enough to help inflammation,” Derheim says.

Erickson says the warm waters help with his circulation so much even his family benefits.

“My wife says I don’t snore as much the nights that I do go sit in my hot tub,” he says.

“I use them for mental therapy,” Robinson says. “I wouldn’t care if they had any jets, to be honest with you.”

While there are health benefits to a hot tub, there are still misconceptions about them.

Erickson says potential buyers often come in concerned about maintenance. He tells them that upkeep is so much easier than it was years ago, that the systems used to keep the water and machinery clean have advanced.

He points to the ACE Salt Water Sanitizing System as an easy-to-use cleaner that, “basically makes it an almost chemical-free hot tub.”

While all hot tub owners need to manage the PH balance and alkalinity in their tubs, Erickson says Hot Spring will test your water if owners just drop off a sample.

“I tell people, ‘If you’re spending more than three minutes a week (on maintenance) on your hot tub, you’re doing something wrong,” he says.

Derheim says another popular misconception is that buying a hot tub will only be a short-lived novelty thrill and only be used a handful of times.

He’s learned to offer around-the-clock maintenance help, knowing that some people like to use their hot tubs first thing in the morning and again before going to bed at night.

Both Derheim and Erickson both know handfuls of clients that use their hot tubs year-round, but for Robinson, it’s one of the things to look forward to in cold weather.

“If it gets above 40 degrees outside, it’s too warm and uncomfortable,” he says. “I’ll drain the hot tub for sure by April 1.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter John Lamb at (701) 241-5533