A good cover lifter can make the difference between enjoying and ignoring a hot tub. Here are a few reviews of the ones I see most often. Anyone with different lifters, especially home made projects, please add!
The EZ Lifter:
This seems to be the most distributed lifter out there. It has a very simple design, basically a rectangular frame mounted to the base of the tub. It relies on two seemingly small chains to hold the cover in place, but I've never seen one break.
This lifter uses the weight of the cover to assist in lifting it. Instead of hoisting the cover straight up, it slides it off the backside of the spa. It is also "minimally invasive" in that it requires the least amount of screws going into the spa cabinet.
This lifter is simple and durable. However, it is only suitable for spas that are completely above ground as it mounts to the base of the tub. It also requires about 18" of clearance behind the tub on the side that the cover slides off to. It is very easy to install and use.
The Cover Valet:
This unit is about 10 steps beyond the EZ Lifter in terms of engineering. Rather than being a simple lever, this lifter uses two hydraulic arms to assist in lifting the cover straight up.
Installation requires a bit more reading and assembly, but is not rocket science. The support arms bolt onto the side of the spa all the way at the top. If the spa has a lip, or is built into a deck, you can bolt it straight down instead of into the sides.
This lifter requires very little clearance since the cover essentially pivots on one end of the tub straight up. It is perfect for partially or fully built-in spas or spas close to a wall. It is especially handy for spas that are sunken into the ground since the hydraulic lifters do the work for you.
The Cover Valet won't work on spas with large radius or cut corners since the arms must be mounted near the pivot point.
The Spa Covermate I is essentially the same as the EZ lifter, only it mounts to the side like the Cover Valet. It still uses the weight of the cover to assist in lifting and requires about 1' clearance.
Due to the amount of screwing into the cabinet required by this lifter, combined with the inability to suit rounded or cut corner installations, I would suggest going with the EZ Lifter instead.
I'll add this one in because it seems to be the best lifter in terms of clearance for round or octagonal spas. The EZ-lifter can be made to work on these installations, but creates a large unattractive frame around 1/2 of the spa. I've never had the pleasure of meeting one of these in person, so if anyone has any experience with them please chime in.
The Cover Cradle:
For some unexplainable reason, the folks at Watkins Manufacturing came up with this gem to sell with their Hot Springs / Tiger River spas. I like there hot tubs, but this lifter baffles me.
- It requires more clearance than any other lifter (2')
- It costs more than most lifters (about $350 unless your getting it with the tub)
- It screws INTO THE COVER!
Please do not ever intentionally puncture your spa cover for fun or profit. It allows moisture into the foam making the cover heavy and prone to cracking.
Stay far away from this lifter.