Hot Tub Buyer's Guide

Hot Tub Buyer's Guide

Buying a hot tub or swimspa is sometimes a daunting process without the right information on hand. To help aid your search for your new hot tub or swimspa, 1 Stop spas has produced a simple guide covering all the important points you should cover when researching or viewing your new investment.

Remember, our advice comes from years of experience in the hot tub industry, not just in retail, but importantly from the repairs and servicing sectors where we specialise.

What size hot tub do I need?

Think about how many people you would like to soak with at one time, not how many of you are in the family. Remember, in most spas each seat is different, so if there are two of you, maybe consider a 4-5 seat spa to enjoy. Secondly, consider the size of the area you wish to locate your spa. We highly recommend carrying out a ‘wet test’ - you wouldn’t buy a car without a test drive would you?

During the wet test, ensure that you try all of the seats for at least 15-20 minutes and compare with other spas.

What will I use my new spa for?

  • Hydrotherapy/rehabilitation – hydrotherapy is the most natural and efficient way of treating muscular and skeletal pains. Hydrotherapy is widely proven to also treat conditions such as arthritis, diabetes and MS. Top athletes also use hydrotherapy for injury rehabilitation.
  • Social/family time – A hot tub or swimspa is now regarded as the ‘new dinner table’. With all of life’s distractions (TV, tablets, mobile phones etc.) spending time in a spa promotes good quality family/social time encouraging open conversation and clear thinking.
  • Exercise – large hot tubs and swimspas now offer an extensive range of aquatic exercise which is one of the best forms of exercise. Not only does it give you a great work out, but removes the pressure off your joints and strengthens your muscles and ligaments.

How much should I pay for my hot tub or swimspa?

Budget range hot tubs are priced around £2995-4995 for an American made reputable brand such as the 100 Series Vita Spa 

High quality hot tubs are priced around £5k-8k for an American made well constructed brand like Vita Spa.

High quality hot tubs are priced around £8k-15k for an American made brand like Vita Spa and Marquis spas

Swimspas range from £10k-27k for a good quality American made brand like Vita Spa and Marquis spas

Our advice from our years in the repairs sector is to avoid Chinese made spas as these are often unreliable, poor build spec and parts are rare. The top brands in the industry are all American made.

How long will my new spa last?

Modern American made spas will easily exceed 20+ years. It’s important to ask about warranties/guarantees when enquiring about a new hot tub or swimspa as this will tell a story about the build quality of the spa. Expect at least a 7-10 year warranty on the shell, 10 years – lifetime warranty on the structure, minimum of 3-5 years on spa equipment (control electronics, pumps, blowers), 3-5 years on the plumbing, 2-3 years on your cover and at least 1 year on your lighting, stereo and diverter valves etc.

If the spa you’re looking at has any less than this, then we would suggest avoiding it.

As well as the warranty on the parts, ask about the labour warranty and research the manufacture and company you are buying from. Ensure that they are an established business that has experience in aftercare, repairs and servicing. It’s important that they have service technicians employed within the business in your area, so should you need to utilise the warranty, and then the right people are on hand to support you.

What are the running costs of a hot tub or swimspa?

Now this is an interesting topic and depends on many factors including: the brand you buy, the amount of water it holds, whether it is out in the open or within a gazebo/building, how many times it’s used a week and the size of the heater/type of pumps. This is a topic that is worth discussing at length with your spa company ensuring that they answer the question based on the spa you are looking at in the conditions it will be used in. BISHTA (British and Irish Spa and Hot Tub Association) state that an average hot tub "will cost around £1.00-1.50 a day to run.” Expect swimspas to run at around £2.00-2.50 a day. A high quality hot tub, in the right conditions will cost as little as 60p per day to run and likewise, a poorly built Chinese spa could cost as much as £5.00+ a day!

Types of insulation – full foam, part foam or heatlock?

Again, this is an area that different retailers will claim that each method of insulation has its advantages when it comes of efficiency and maintenance costs. From our vast experience in the repairs sector, the most problematic and costly plumbing repairs come with Full Foam spas. They often hide poor workmanship; cover up for a poor thickness shell and it is a nightmare to locate and leaks, often leading to hours of labour costs. Part foam is a better option or an even better technique is heatlock. Heatlock is a term used for a method of insulating that re-uses the heat generated by the pumps in the spa and reflects it back into the water by allowing the area between the insulated cabinet/floor and the shell to form a heat-wall around the shell thus retaining heat. Of course, a good quality high-density foam cover is essential with any form of insulation to ensure minimal heat escapes from the surface of the water in the spa. There are now alternative hot tub Covers available with high insulating qualities such as SmartTop. Click the link to a good video on insulation

Keeping your water clean - filtration, ozone, UV and chemicals

The key to water quality is selecting a spa with large filtration. It doesn’t matter if you have Ozone, UV or Salt Bromine systems, if the filters are too small, then you will never keep you water clean. For a small hot tub expect at least 50-75 Sq ft filtration, for medium sized hot tubs, at least 100 Sq ft filtration. swimspas, should be a minimum of 100 Sq ft filtration. Once you have selected a spa with good filtration, and then look to see if Ozone is included; if not, then we recommend adding this as an extra and for ultimate water clarity add a UV filter if available. Once you have selected the right hot tub or swimspa, then ensure that you use high quality chemicals; avoid cheap chemicals online… They’re cheap for a reason and will do harm to you and your spa. A good hot tub retailer will be able to give you free water chemistry advice at any time and should spend a considerable amount of time on installation on how to treat your spa water.

Also, consider your area when buying a hot tub or swimspa… If you live in a hard water area, avoid ‘Low-Flow circulation systems’ with small ‘Silent Flo’ pumps. These systems only have ¾” pipework and heaters and are prone to scale build up which will cause costly repairs that will not be covered by any warranty. Choose a spa that has large pumps and large 2” pipework and heaters where hard water will not be such a problem.

What do I need in place for my new hot tub or swimspa?

Let your local hot tub retailer recommend to you your specific requirements, however, you will need the following:

Flat/level base – On average, a 6” thick concrete base, slightly bigger than the length and width of your spa is ideal, although depending on filled weight of the spa, then you can place your spa on a patio or deck as long as there is adequate support underneath.

Electrical supply – Some budget hot tubs only require a standard 13 Amp outdoor socket to power them. These are referred to as ‘plug and play’ hot tubs. Your average twin pump 5-6 seat hot tub will require a 32 Amp dedicated outdoor supply including isolation switch and RCD protection. This MUST be installed by a qualified electrician prior to the spa being installed. Larger more powerful spas may need up to 40 amp supply. swimspas have the same requirements but generally have more pumps and will require a minimum of a 32 amp supply, often 40-60 amp.

Plumbing – there is no plumbing required as almost all spas are self contained, however one thing to consider is drainage for when you empty your spa. Most spas have drains located near the base of the spa, so bare this in mind when deciding on where to locate your spa. Drain taps will some with a thread where you can connect a hose to them to run to the nearest drain. Alternatively, we recommend purchasing a small submersible pump and layflat hose for ease and speed.

How will it be delivered and how do I get it into the garden?

Avoid buying a spa from a company offering only ‘kerbside delivery’ unless it is a small portable spa. Due to the size and weight of a hot tub, then always ensure that it is delivered and installed by a professional company. Your local retailer should offer a free site survey of the area you wish to have your hot tub installed. As a basic guide, measure the width and height of the access route from the roadside and take note of the minimum measurements; this may help you decide on what spa you choose as if a crane is required then this can be added cost to you. Always consider if there are alternative options such as removing a fence panel etc… Again, a site survey may prove invaluable to keeping costs down and getting your dream spa into your home.

90% of swimspas will need a crane lift to install, so be sure to factor this in. Your local retailer should have some good contact with local crane companies, but always ensure that the lifting company has adequate insurance.

When is the best time to use a hot tub or swimspa?

Simple – all year, every year! Summer is great for socialising and parties, Winter is perfect for a hot soak and is really good for your skin. The best time to use a hot tub or swimspa in our opinion… When its SNOWING!!!

hot tubs and swimspas are a North America invention and any American made spa is designed to operate and last in the harshest of conditions +40 degrees to -30 degrees. It is recommended that you leave you spa on, particularly in cold conditions as the systems have built-in freeze protection. In addition, it is proven that a spa is more efficient if left at a constant temperature which you can set to suit your usage. Again, a reason why a spa with good build specification and insulation is key.

What else should I consider?

You will need some sort of steps and we recommend a good quality cover lifter to aid the lifting on and off of your cover and to preserve the life of your cover. You should get a chemical starter kit with your spa, but ensure that if you live in a hard water area, then you get some scale inhibitor.

Other accessories to consider are: A SmartTop cover, gazebo, umbrella, spa maintenance kit, submersible pump and hose, aromatherapy, spa vac, waterproof playing cards, PureStream (for hard water areas) and a spare set of filters.