Hot Tubs: Ultimate Buyers Guide
If you were to create a list of products most people would love to have in their dream home, hot tubs would probably come pretty near the top. As well as being beneficial to mental and physical health, they’re sociable and enjoyable. The good news is that these days it’s becoming increasingly feasible to own one thanks to a competitive market ensuring competitive pricing and also thanks to the invention of the inflatable hot tub. As a hot tub is still an investment purchase, we’d always suggest you start the hunt for your perfect tub by reading our hot tub buyer’s guide so that you can be sure you buy the model which is just right for you.
Set your budget first
Once you actually start on the fun part of looking for a hot tub, you’ll have all sorts of decisions and choices to make, so it can be a big help to set yourself a framework in which to take them. Write down, realistically, the absolute maximum you can afford to spend on a hot tub and whether this is in cash or through financing (from the retailer or from another source), or a combination of both. Remember this is a limit rather than a target. It essentially helps to keep you on track and realistic about features you need versus features you want and makes you think about just how much you want any extra features that could be considered non-essential such as entertainment options. If you then discover that you’ve set your heart on a more expensive tub than you can afford right now, you have a concrete savings goal at which to aim.
You might also want to spend some time looking at the likely running costs of your hot tub to see how they fit in both with your household budget and your likely use of the hot tub. For example, while you may, in principle, be able to afford both the purchase price and the running costs of a large hot tub, if you’re only going to use it occasionally and/or mostly for a small number of people, is it really worth the extra money it will cost to buy and run? Only you can take this decision and you’ll need the numbers to make it.
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Key features which help keep costs down
Before we start our look at how you can determine which of the hot tubs on offer is just right for your specific needs, we thought we’d go through some features which we suspect most hot tub owners will want as they help to moderate running costs.
The first, and arguably most important point, is effective insulation. Basically you want the heat to stay in the water rather than make its way into the tub itself. For the same reason, you also want an insulated cover which is absolutely tight (although obviously easy to put on and take off). A tight cover will also provide effective protection against debris, which could otherwise get into the tub and damage it. Efficient heaters will help to reduce the costs of heating the water in the first place and similarly a high-quality pump is a huge advantage for many reasons. First of all, keeping the water circulating effectively is an important part of the hot tub experience and also helps to keep the water clean. Secondly, an energy-efficient pump will, of course, help to keep costs down and thirdly the best pumps also tend to be the quietest, which obviously improves the user experience.
As a final point, the jets and their controls need to be appropriate for their intended purpose. Of course, what this means in practice will depend on how you intend to use your hot tub, but it is still a point buyers should check.
In short, the up-front purchase price of a hot tub is only part of the story. Quality hot tubs are designed to be used and enjoyed over the long term (assuming that they are properly maintained), which means that choosing an economical model can actually make a meaningful difference to the household finances. It is also beneficial to the environment.
Choose your preferred brands first
This may sound like putting the cart before the horse, but there are numerous hot tub manufacturers out there and, bluntly, the quality varies widely. We’d therefore suggest that you start off by picking a reputable supplier, since they are most likely to have quality brands in their range.
The best suppliers will also do everything they can to give customers all the information they need to make a buying decision right on their website and if buyers do need more help, they will be able and willing to provide it. Then whittle down the brands to the one(s) you like the best. A lot of brand have tailored features that can be common place throughout the range, it can be a good starting place to understand each unique offering and what its exact purpose and benefit is.
We’d suggest you start by doing a little research on the history of the brand and sticking with names which have been around for a while. Quite simply, there’s generally a reason for this. Customer reviews are also a valuable source of information. Remember that pretty much every company is going to produce a faulty product every so often, it’s what they do about it that matters. These days, social media, can also be a good place to check. Increasingly both retailers and manufacturers are using channels such as Facebook and Twitter as an extension of their customer service department and you’ll be able to see for yourself how they engage with their customers, past, present and potential.
Reputable retailers will usually have a range of models from the key brands, which means that there’s a very good chance of you finding one to suit your needs. You’ll probably find it a whole lot easier to go about your search this way round than trying to find the perfect model from an unfiltered range of brands.
Q1 How much space do you have available and where?
In principle, an inflatable hot tub can be sited just about anywhere, indoors or outdoors, but in practice the amount of space they require, plus the potential for water splashing over the side, means that they’re usually best kept in a garden within a good open space. When considering how large a solid hot tub you can have remember it can be a good idea to make an allowance for the tub being up to 5% bigger than the stated dimensions.
The hot tub will need to lie on a flat base and be sited in a convenient position, what that means in practice will depend on your individual situation and preferences. For example, if you can site your hot tub near your front door, then you may be happy to get changed in your house, but if you’re siting it at the bottom of your garden, then you may wish to have a shed or similar nearby to use as a changing area. You also need to consider what level of privacy you want and to remember that an area which is protected by trees in summer may be open to view in winter, plus the falling leaves may create debris which would clutter up an uncovered pool. This may be fine if you only plan to use your hot tub in summer, but would leave you little room to maneuver if you change your plans.
Speaking of room to maneuver, when looking at your option for siting your hot tub, remember to think about the practicalities of getting it into the space. You may plenty of space for a large hot tub at the bottom of the garden, but if the only way to access the site is though a brick wall with a very narrow gate in it, then your options are either knock down the wall, choose a smaller size or if there is nearby access you might need to calculate the cost of having the tub lifted by crane into the site.
As a final point, before we move on from this topic, we’d suggest getting your hot tub professionally installed. In the general scheme of purchase costs, it’s a minor issue, but it has all sorts of advantages. First of all, we do need to point out that hot tubs combine water and electricity, installed properly, they are completely safe, installed badly, however, and the consequences can, literally, be deadly. Added to this, hot tubs, even inflatable ones, are definitely on the heavy side, which means that installing them safely, in a physical sense, means understanding proper lifting technique and making sure to use it all the time. Even smaller hot tubs contain a lot of water, which means that leaks and floods can cause damage both to your property and, potentially, to neighbouring properties.
Q2 How many people will use the tub regularly?
The maximum size of hot tub you can have will be determined by the amount of space you have available, but the question to ask here is whether or not you will actually benefit from having a larger-size hot tub. If only a couple of people are going to use it regularly, then you might be better just to get a smaller tub and if you want to let friends and family use it then they can have a turn when you’re doing something else. For a more social experience you could even just have a get together in your garden and let people take turns in the hot tub. Is there really a need to get a 7 person tub if 95% of the time only 2 people will use it??
Q3 Do you have specific, medical needs?
While hot tubs are often used just for mental relaxation and stress relief, they also offer a number of physical benefits too. If a user has a history of suffering from pain in a particular part of their body, then it may be beneficial to buy a hot tub which has jets positioned to target that area. When buying a hot tub for medical use, the overall number of jets is far less important than having jets which are positioned to focus on the areas which trouble you. You also want high-quality jets for the best massage experience.
Q4. How often do you want to use your hot tub?
Be realistic about this. Hot tubs can be great in winter (provided that you have appropriate changing facilities nearby and ideally heating for those getting out of the tub. They can be particularly beneficial to medical users, since cold, damp weather can aggravate joint-related conditions and a hot tub can provide welcome relief. If you want to use a hot tub all year round, however, you need to make sure to buy a model which is up to the job. On the other hand, if your hot tub is intended purely for recreational use, you’re really not a cold-weather person and you are only likely to use the tub in the warmer months, then you could opt for a more economical model.
Q5. What added extras do you want and how important are they?
Hot tubs can come with a number of optional extras, which can enhance the experience of using them, for some people. Other people may just see them as surplus gadgets. These extras include coloured lights, bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity to allow you to connect entertainment devices to your spa and lounge seats. Some models even come with wine coolers, although they sound great the implementing of each into the tub will cost more than a stand alone wine coolers or music player housed in a nearby summer house for example
Q6. What type of water-cleaning system do you want?
Like most other household appliances, hot tubs require some basic and straightforward maintenance. Essentially this means pH testing and water cleaning. There are three standard ways to clean the water in hot tubs.
Chlorine - This is the method used in most swimming pools and works perfectly well for hot tubs. Some people, however, may dislike the smell.
Ozone - These days ozone systems can give the water a clean which is almost complete, vastly reducing the need for chlorine (and its smell).
Salt water - Salt water systems use salt to generate the chlorine needed to clean the hot tub. This reduces the need for chemical cleaning agents, but does still leave the smell.
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Q7. What kind of filtration system do you want?
Effective filtration is crucial to a positive hot tub experience and filtration systems come in a variety of shapes and sizes. The more frequently the filtration system cycles the water, the more effectively it cleans. Speaking of efficiency, the best filtration systems feature a dedicated circulation pump, this operates more quietly than the jet pumps and can also be more energy efficient. The best filtration systems are both easy to access and easy to use. Some filters are designed to be disposable (or recycled) while others can be cleaned in a dishwasher and reused, which can be more attractive from an environmental perspective. In either case, filters need to be easy to change, otherwise there may be a temptation to leave them in place for too long or simply to make a mistake when changing them and not put them back properly.
NB: Cleaning and maintaining a hot tub is simple but crucial
If you can keep a home in good running order, you can keep a hot tub in good running order. Just like with your home, regular cleaning and maintenance goes a long way. With this in mind, you need to do whatever it takes for you to remember to look after your hot tub in line with its manufacturer’s recommendations. This may sound like stating the obvious, but looking after a hot tub can slip between the cracks as it’s neither a household task nor a gardening task. If need be, put reminders in your calendar(s) (paper and/or electronic) and consider putting up a sheet of paper for people to note who did what and when, so it is absolutely clear to everyone.
Owning a hot tub is both an affordable luxury and an investment in your physical and mental health. Choose the right tub and give it the care and maintenance it deserves and it will probably be one of the best purchases you will ever make.
If you were to create a list of products most people would love to have in their dream home, hot tubs would probably come pretty near the top. As well as being beneficial to mental and physical health, they’re sociable and enjoyable. Here we take a look with our ultimate buyers guide for a hot tub