A local business owner says the spa cover he developed is superior when it comes to retaining heat and conserving energy. And he has a scientific study to prove it.
Jess Tudor, owner of Coverplay in north Medford, has developed and manufactures a cover for spas that sit outside and typically have water temperatures in the 100-to 102-degree Fahrenheit range for 300 to 400 gallons of water. (See www.coverplay.com.)Tudor holds four patents for the heat-retaining covers and their removal apparatus.
In a test of 24 rectangular-shaped spas conducted at California Polytechnical Institute in San Luis Obispo, a spa with one of his covers was the lowest consumer of electricity. California has imposed energy use standards on new spas sold there.
"The residential spa has the dubious distinction of being the most energy-consuming appliance in America," said Tudor, of Central Point. "The energy use that's going to spas is sapping a lot of power. California knows it and is trying to put a stop to it. The other states are starting to adopt laws."
A 2004 study done for Pacific Gas & Electric by Davis Energy Group noted that spas typically pull the largest electric load for homes that have them. The majority of heat loss is from the water surface, so improved covers are important for overall efficiency, the PG&E study said.
Coverplay's covers, which incorporate a device to move them out of the way for spa use, have no gaps between two insulating, vinyl-covered foam pieces that can measure up to 8 feet by 8 feet when joined by a hinge. One patent covers this compression angle hinge.
Covers designed to work with other lifting devices typically have a gap of from 1 to 2 inches to accommodate a long metal tube that goes between the two foam pieces that are connected with a double-hinged vinyl piece. Most other covers have a wedge piece designed to fill the gap.
"The dual hinge and wedge allows heat to escape 24 hours per day, seven days per week," said Tudor. "We have a single hinge that allows the dual foam cores to couple together and stop the heat loss."
Coverplay's lifting arms are secured into one of the foam pieces, thus allowing for the tight fit at the hinge. Its removal system is connected to plates that sit underneath a spa, eliminating the need for mounting hardware onto a spa cabinet.
The covers retail for $499 and include the lifting system.
Janice and Tom Moroni of Medford replaced their old spa cover with a Coverplay model a year ago, after she noticed steam escaping from the cover sides by the hinge area.
"I saw there was a chance to save energy," said Janice Moroni. "It makes a difference for me. My father even got one."
Tudor had Moroni run a test of the energy loss of her old cover. She heated the water to 101 degrees, turned off the power and then measured the temperature drop after 24 hours. There was a 9-degree loss. Moroni ran the same test after she got the Coverplay cover and experienced just a 4-degree loss.
Coverplay sold 1,500 covers in last year's slow economy, said Tudor, who moved his firm here from California in 2000. He anticipates business will grow even stronger, as spa manufacturers have contacted him about supplying covers to help them meet the California standards.
"The manufacturers are calling," said Tudor. "It looks like we may have a very good year. I hope that the future is more about energy efficiency for personal spas."
Tony Boom is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.