Buying Guide to Hot Tubs and Spas

Buying a hot tub or spa can be an exciting experience. However, a hot tub or spa purchase can also result in a lot of headaches if the consumer is uninformed about the components of a top-quality product.

There are a few main qualities that everyone should look for in a hot tub or spa. The first of these qualities is the shell. The hot tub’s shell is very important. First, you want to make sure that the material it is made out of is non-porous. Porous shells collect bacteria that could prove hazardous and unclean. Also, shells that have a superior sealant of some type will also protect against cracking or blistering of the surface. If you’re unsure of the quality of a hot tub’s shell, look at the warranty. Companies that provide the best shell warranties on their hot tubs are generally made from the best materials, making long warranties possible. An example is Indianapolis-based Royal Spa Corporation that warranties the structure of their shells for an amazing 40 years and the shell’s acrylic surface for 10 years.

The second thing to examine when buying a hot tub or spa is the cabinet. The cabinet that encases the hot tub is very important since most hot tubs are free-standing units. Cabinets come in various natural materials like wood as well as synthetic plastics and polymer materials. If you are planning on placing your hot tub outside, be careful when choosing a natural wood cabinet. You will have to maintain it with a water sealant similar to one you would use on a wood deck to keep it from rotting. Polymers are a nice maintenance-free option, however be sure to choose a solid polymer that has more rigidity. Actually, cabinet materials are really a personal style choice and one is not better than the other. However, whether you choose natural or synthetic, please be sure that it is sturdy. I also prefer to have a hot tub that has a top rail, usually constructed of a 2″ piece that seals the shell to the cabinet. A top rail helps prevent damage to the shell in case it is bumped into and eliminates a void under the shell that is a popular home to flying insects.

Insulation is an important component to look at when buying a hot tub or spa regardless of whether the tub will be placed indoors or outdoors. A well-insulated tub will reduce the amount of electricity your tub will consume by reducing the times the heater will kick on and off. It is vital to make sure that you don’t buy a hot tub that has “full-foam” insulation. “Full-foam” insulation refers to insulation that is blown all over the lines and jets covering them underneath the shell. While this method has an excellent “R” factor, it makes repairing a tub much more costly and timely than other methods of insulation. A removable insulation is always the best bet for your hot tub or spa.

Filtration is probably one of the most important things to look at when buying a spa or hot tub. After all, no one wants to relax in dirty water. It is important to make sure that the filter that the hot tub takes is widely available and not just from the spa’s manufacturer. If the filters are exclusive to the company, they will be much more costly and if the company ever goes out of business, you may have a hard time finding the filters at all. Also, be sure that the filtration system’s pump actually “pumps” water through the filter. Some filtration systems use their pump to “suck” water through the filter instead. While this is a good filtration method, pumps aren’t supposed to suck; pumps are rated to “push” water. Therefore, it will wear out sooner. Most importantly, make sure you choose a hot tub that can circulate 24 hours a day. Any less will result in stagnate water that will be home to germs and other unpleasantness.

When you go shopping for a spa or hot tub, be sure to visit at least three dealers if available. While it is easy to get caught up in a beautiful showroom and a high-pressure salesman, don’t make a decision until you’ve visited all three dealers on your list and sleep on your decision.

As far as special features are concerned, there are some I would steer away from. Being a former hot tub salesperson, electrical components have a ton of problems when coupled with a spa. Steer clear of expensive radios and televisions. They will cost you an arm and a leg and it’s much easier and less costly to install one that is near your hot tub than part of your unit. Also, waterfall features are sort of a waste of money in my opinion. The waterfall actually takes away from the overall pressure of the jets that hit your body and you can’t really hear it when you’re in the tub and the jets are on anyway. The one feature that I would definitely recommend is lights. Most hot tubs come with a standard white light that may include a tinted cover. I would opt for a special bulb in the hot tub that replaces your white bulb that changes colors. It’s a nice feature, but some companies charge over $100 for it. You can easily replace this bulb yourself with a colored one for about $20-$30 and the bulbs can be found on www.ebay.com .

Some less reputable hot tub dealers try to inflate the price of your spa by adding in extras so make sure you look over your invoice carefully. Make sure that a cover, delivery, and installation is included in your total price. Also, make sure to figure out what installation includes because most of the time the electrical part (most hot tubs require a 220V hardwire) is the homeowner’s responsibility.

Regardless of what brand or type of hot tub or spa you choose, if you take the time and make an informed decision, buying a hot tub will rewarded you with many years of relaxation.

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