Even spas don’t like the cold

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Freezing temperatures, high power surges and normal wear and tear are the main causes of spa insurance claims. (Photo: AAJ775 / Shutterstock.com)

What do toilet paper, hand sanitizer, wood, and hot tubs all have in common? Spas were included on the list of wanted items that experienced shortages during the pandemic. While your policyholders hope to prolong their outdoor enjoyment during the colder months, the increased number of spa owners could also lead to more related claims, especially during the winter months.

Frost was the third most common cause of loss, after power surge and wear and tear, for spa equipment rated by StrikeCheck in 2020. And if the colder weather in January and February is any indication, more freezing temperatures are occurring. probably on the horizon.

Here’s what adjusters should look for when they receive these types of claims.

Spas vs swimming pools

It is essential to define a spa in relation to a swimming pool, as they may be covered differently by some insurance policies. Hot tubs are either small above ground or underground water reservoirs that are heated to an average of 100 degrees Fahrenheit, screened and used for recreation, hydrotherapy, and relaxation.

In-ground spas can be attached to a pool and use the same pool pumps or other equipment. These are more common in hotels or other commercial applications.

Above-ground spas are generally self-contained with hoses, pumps and electrical controls all included in their cabinet. It is often not connected to the property’s plumbing. These are easier to heat and more efficient than buried structures.

Spas require radiators and pumps. These clean, heat and circulate the water in the jets. The electronic components are located in the control box and are controlled by a control panel.

The average replacement cost for spa equipment in 2020 was $ 10,651, compared to repairs that averaged $ 976, according to the 2020 CCG IQ Annual Report.

Frost sensitive spa components

Hot tub on the deck. Free-standing spas have all of their components in one place, and many of them suffer from freezing damage. (Photo: StrikeCheck)

Freezing is a common cause of claims for spa claims due to the various equipment that could be affected. The spa components that may be listed in a freeze claim are the pump, hoses, valves, fittings, jets, heater, ozonator, and acrylic shell.

Pipes are an integral part of the operation and, just like in a building, they can freeze and cause problems. The water starts at the pump in a larger pipe, then is sent to a manifold, which is built with PVC pipes and used to send the water to the individual jets. One way to protect these components in areas where temperatures drop below 32 degrees Fahrenheit is to insulate them. Spray foam insulation is often used to protect the hull, pipes and manifold.

Policyholders who do not plan to use their spa in areas that may have freezing temperatures may overwinter it. Winterizing involves draining the spa and using forced air to remove water from connected hoses, pipes and ducts. The water that remains could freeze and expand, causing cracks in the spa shell, pipes or other areas.

Those who don’t winterize can choose to turn off their spa once in a while or use timers to save energy. Turning off the device in colder temperatures makes it more susceptible to frost damage, and warming up can take hours. It doesn’t take long for frost damage to occur.

Close-up of the controls of a hot tub. Hot tubs can freeze if the heating elements have been turned off. (Photo: StrikeCheck)

If pumps and heaters work to heat and circulate water, frost damage is less likely to occur, but can still occur. Some of the reasons include a power failure, a faulty circuit breaker or fuse, a power surge or something as simple as the insured person leaving the cover open and letting the heat escape.

When a policyholder declares that freezing is the cause of the loss, it is essential to assess whether a component failure has occurred and caused the system to fall below freezing temperatures. If so, it is important to determine why it did not perform as expected and how the malfunction contributed to the freezing damage. Ratings are also important as other hazards impact hot tubs.

Other causes of loss affecting hot tubs

Power surges and wear and tear are the most common hazards that plague hot tubs – and can occur year round.

Spas operate on 110 or 220 volts, depending on size. The control panel, control block, fuses and other electronic components are susceptible to damage from power surges. Another risky electronic component is the ozonator, which helps sanitize the water using fewer chemicals. Most of these components can be replaced individually, which is considered a repair, rather than needing a complete spa replacement.

Hot tub surge. Power surges could impact several electronic components in a spa, including the control panel. (Photo: StrikeCheck)

Wear and tear due to age and use was the second most common cause of spa failure loss. It could affect many components, including electrical components. Insurance adjusters should rule out this possibility before settling a claim.

Other hazards that could impact hot tubs are foreign objects such as a falling tree branch, or wind and hail. The cover and cabinet are most susceptible to damage from wind and hail, although if the unit were left uncovered they could extend all the way to the control panel and hull. The possibility of repair depends on the severity.

While your policyholders are unlikely to accumulate hot tubs like they did toilet paper at some point in the pandemic, this recreational equipment will continue to be popular and suffer damage. Carriers and their policyholders should not be left behind when settling these claims.

Jay dykstra is the director of technical education for HVACi and StrikeCheck. He is responsible for the development, presentation and curation of technical training content for adjusters and insurance claims professionals.

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