When you first decide to buy a portable hot tub or home spa, you will be faced with a dizzying array of features, specifications, designs and accessories. It can be quite daunting to research all of these possibilities and determine the best configuration for your needs. The internet is a great tool for finding literally thousands of sources of information, but it can also add to the confusion by making it hard to know which sites offer objective insights and which sites are thinly masked sales pitches for a particular manufacturer. |
Start With the Basics
The first step is in understanding the many different names you will read when looking for information about how to buy a portable hot tub or home spa. Here are some commonly used terms:
o Home spa - generally made with an acrylic shell; surrounding cabinet may be made of wood or synthetic materials; can be used to describe an above ground, in-ground, indoor or outdoor spa.
o Hot tub - name originally given to the earliest spas that were typically round, made of wood, and located outdoors; now is commonly used interchangeably with the phrase 'home spa'.
o Portable hot tub/portable home spa - name for any hot tub/home spa that is pre-assembled and sits above ground; actual size and features of a portable hot tub vary widely, from small tubs that weigh only a few hundred pounds and are quick to set up to large tubs that weigh several thousand pounds and require specific installation methods and electrical wiring.
o Jacuzzi® hot tub - Brand name Jacuzzi® is a well-known manufacturer of home spa systems; jacuzzi is often used as a generic reference to any home spa or hot tub
Think About Your Needs
As you do more research into portable home spas and hot tubs, you will find there are many sizes and features available. Here is just a partial list of common offerings:
o Four to six person, six to eight person, eight to ten person sizes
o Lounge, bench and therapy seats
o Power, circulation, foot or therapy jets
o Adjustable jets
o Electronic or pneumatic controls
o Water purification systems
o Single or dual filtration systems
o Ozonator systems
o Automatic spa covers
o CD/stereo systems
As you can see, there are many options for configuring a portable home spa. Remember, though, that the best hot tubs do not necessarily have the most or the fanciest features. What is most important is that you select a spa that has the features best suited to your own needs and preferences.
Think About Costs
Cost is an important consideration when you decide to buy a portable hot tub. The initial investment can range from $3,000 up to $20,000, depending on the size, construction, and features of the spa you select. Just as important, though are the ongoing costs of operating a home spa.
o Understructure construction - size of interior wood frame materials (2x4, 1x2, 2x3, etc.), pressure treated base
o Insulation - basic single layer polyurethane, low-density packaging foam, multi-layered high density foam
o Cabinetry - natural wood, synthetic wood, metal, removable walls, access panels
o Shell construction - quality and thickness of fiberglass, quality and reliability of the manufacturing process
o Number/type of jets - standard numbers of jets, customizable number of jets
o Hot tub heater - wattage, power used, speed of water heating
o Controls - electronic, single or dual, pneumatic, remote control
o Number/type of pumps - single, dual, or triple pumps
o Electrical requirements - 110v or 220v
o Surface/pad requirements - dirt, gravel, concrete
o Accessories and extra features - fountains, water features, CD/stereo, lights
o Hot tub covers - standard, custom, high-density, with or without automatic lifter
o Delivery and/or installation costs - shipping from distant supplier, delivery by local pool or spa supplier, labor to place spa in desired location, initial spa set up
Ongoing Costs of Operating a Hot Tub:
o Chemicals - what chemicals are recommended, where can they be purchased, how much do they cost, what quantity is likely to be needed
o Filters - capacity, recommended length of time between changes, price and availability of replacements
o Electricity - cost per kwh from your utility, features and insulation to conserve power and preserve heat
o Water - cost per gallon each time spa is filled, pH of water to determine quantity/type of chemicals needed
o Repairs - local repair technicians, accessibility to pumps and motors, warranty length and coverage
o Upkeep and maintenance of cabinets and shell - cleaning, staining, preservation
In general, it is better to put your money into some of the 'hidden' features that will make your home spa last longer and cost less to operate. This includes things like effective insulation, quality heaters and pumps, good water filtration systems, and the like.
Think About Maintenance
Another important consideration when buying a portable hot tub or home spa is the maintenance that will be required. This includes not only any repairs that may be needed over time, but ongoing upkeep and maintenance to keep your tub clean and pleasant to use.
Here are some areas to consider:
o Water maintenance - is the chemical and filtration system robust enough to keep the water clean for the level of usage you anticipate? This will have a big impact on both regular water sanitation activities and the frequency of full water changes. Ideally, your spa should require minimal daily attention and a minimal number of time-consuming full water changes.
o Cabinet maintenance - if the cabinet is made of wood and the portable hot tub is located outdoors, plan to re-stain the wood at least once per year. If the cabinet is made of synthetic materials then periodic spraying with a hose and/or wiping off dirt is usually sufficient.
o Repairs - pumps wear out, heaters stop heating, and other mechanical problems inevitably come up. Read and understand the manufacturer's warranty before you buy, looking for key points like coverage of parts, labor and other materials. Also, look for hidden fees and other costs you may incur if, for example, a repair technician has to travel from out of town to get to your location or if the local supplier does not keep a specific part in stock. Some warranties on portable home spas even specify that certain types of warranty repairs must be done at the spa factory, requiring you to pay for shipping to and from the factory.
Buying a hot tub is an investment that should not be taken lightly. Take the time to research and gather information, and check out several different spa manufacturers. Careful shopping and selection of a home spa pays off in the end, though, as you end up with a portable home spa that can give you years of enjoyment.
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