Buying Your first Hot Tub or Spa

Buying Your first Hot Tub or Spa
December 08/2015

Shopping for a spa or hot tub can be a difficult and time consuming task, especially if you’re unsure about the specific functions and features that are important to you. There are a number of features that will help ensure your long term enjoyment of your hot tub / spa.

A few points you should keep in mind when shopping for a hot tub / spa:

Insulation & Cover
One of the most important factors in determining the selling price or “Value” of a hot tub is based on the quality of the insulation system and cover. Hot tubs vary from very inefficient to very efficient in today’s market.  One way to determine the level of efficiency of the hot tub you are considering is by comparing the products’ construction to the following chart:
  • Level of Insulation Method / Style of Insulation
  • Best Roxul – Mineral based insulation system
  • Very Good Polyurethane Spray Foam – Full Foam
  • Good Polyurethane Spray Foam – Some Foam / Light Foam
  • Poor Fibreglass Pink or “Open Cell” Foam boards

You should always check “under the hood” when buying a hot tub or spa to ensure that what is underneath the surface makes sense and adds quality to the product.  A manufacturer may say that it is “insulated”, but you should always check to see what that means to them.

Polyurethane Spray Foam must be protected from water in order to continue to be used for it’s designed intention of insulating and saving you money.  If it gets wet, it loses its’ “R-Value”, so make sure that the hot tub you are considering has a solid pan / base at the bottom that will protect the insulation from the elements.

Another question to ask is whether the insulation is being used as a support structure and is just sprayed in to hold the whole hot tub together, or is there a structure that holds the hot tub together and the insulation is just doing the job it was designed for…insulating!  That brings us to our next point.

Hot Tub / Spa Foundation / Base / Structure
Nothing of quality is built without a “Solid Foundation”.  This is very true in the world of hot tubs due to the extreme conditions in which the product must function.  There are thousands of pounds of water and people inside a hot tub, while the “guts” are exposed to moisture, sweltering heat of the summer, and frigid cold temperatures of the winter.  Make sure your new hot tub is designed to withstand these inherent issues by verifying the structure and frame.  Does the hot tub in question have a solid pan at the bottom that extends above ground level in order to keep ground water and rodents out of the insulation ? Does it have a solid structure made of either powder coated steel or treated lumber that spreads the weight of the water across the solid base so that the shell will not sag and crack over time ?  Foam shrinks / compresses over time, so make sure that the hot tub you are considering is not using foam as part of the structure.  If you take out all the foam would the hot tub still be as strong ?  If not, then move on to another brand.

Hot Tub / Spa Sound / Noise levels
Relaxation is one of the top reasons why people buy hot tubs.  For this reason, noise levels should be of great importance when considering a brand.  The best way to ensure that your equipment will make the least amount of noise is to; a) make sure that the equipment is housed behind the insulation and cabinet so that the sound gets trapped and muffled; and b) to ensure that the equipment is not “oversized” but rather sized according to how many jets are in the design.  Extra horse power means only extra volume with no extra hydrotherapy due to the fact that there is only a maximum amount of water you can push through a hose no matter what size pump you connect to it. Having the equipment on the outside may allow you better access the one time you need it, but it comes at the cost of energy efficiency and the loss of peace and quiet that you wanted to enjoy.

Variety and placement of Hot Tub / Spa Jets
The true benefits of hot water therapy comes from the dilation of blood vessels, the relaxation and well-being gained from increased circulation, and the release of endorphins. The jets can provide an added bonus of “massage therapy” but are less important to the average hot tub owner.  Hot Tub SHOPPERS truly believe in the importance in the number of jets, but OWNERS are more concerned with the placement and efficiency.

Too much power can actually detract from your experience due to the extra noise of the pump and noise of rushing water, as well as due to the sensitivity that excessive massage in one spot can cause.

When looking to buy your hot tub, think of the trouble muscle areas that you may want to address and make sure that while sitting in the tub you will be able to address those issues.  Do not think that you must address all issues in one seat because the reality is that it is too hot to stay in one spot, so it is normal for hot tub users to move from seat to seat during a hot tub or spa session.

More important than POWER is PLACEMENT of jets.  Make sure that each seat has a different number of jets and different placement so that as you do the “Circuit” (move from seat to seat), you eventually can see yourself hitting all spots that may need massaging.

  • Waterfall – Throughout time people have found the sounds of a Waterfall to be soothing and relaxing.  For this reason, many of today’s hot tubs can be equipped with waterfalls.  If you would like the added relaxing effect of sound to help transport you to a different place while in your hot tub, then a waterfall is a good investment for you. Depending on the placement, a waterfall can also serve as a soothing soft neck massage that trickles a wide flow of water across your back.  Ensure that the waterfall is easy to control so that you can turn it off when not in use.  Having a constant sound of water can get annoying on the long run.
  • Hot Tub / Spa Sound System – Another great help your hot tub experience in adding to the ambiance of your new hot tub is through the use of sound.  Most of today’s hot tubs / spas can be equipped with a sound system of some sort.  Due to the low cost of basic Mp3 player, the best investment is to get a hot tub that has built in speakers and a place to plug in your Mp3 player.  Since the outdoors is a harsh environment for any electronics, choosing a hot tub with a built in cd player or marine style radio will likely lead to failure or expensive repairs in the future.  Keep it simple with a “disposable” Mp3 player, and you will be happier in the long run.  Quality speakers and sound are more important than having more equipment like the CD player and radio.
  • Lighting – Both safety and relaxation can be addressed with the proper lighting system in a hot tub.  Make sure the hot tub you are considering has lights both below and above the water surface in order to help users depth perception when entering the tub.  Water reflects light, so brightness is not the concern.  The concern is placement or points of illumination.  It is good to have multiple points of illumination and the ability to control the intensity of the light.
Make sure you are buying your tub directly from the company that provides the service.  Many of the big box and discount stores give you a 1-800 number to call in case you have a problem, but how long will service take, and who is going to help you learn all the tricks of hot tub ownership ?

Understand that many things like radios, pillow, pump seals, and skirting often have a limited warranty since they are considered to be “Wear items” that have limited lifespans or need to be serviced just like oil in your car.  This is normal, but you should ask what is NOT included in the warranty so that you are aware.

Try and see how long a company has been in business. Unfortunately due to the recent economic environment and the nature of the business, there are many spa manufacturers that come and go.  For this reason you should buy your hot tub from a local professional who will still support you even if the manufacturer disappears.

Following these tips will ensure you’re happy with your purchase so you can relax and enjoy your new spa.

Happy Hot Tub’ing!

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