May 8, 2017
By Lindy Rickert
So you are thinking about buying a hot tub. Great idea! There are many excellent benefits to owning one, including therapy, relaxation, and a place to reconnect with friends and family. Buying a hot tub is a big decision and it can be overwhelming to think about everything that needs to be considered. The good news is, however, there are really only five things you need to consider when shopping for a hot tub: the inside, outside, operating system, total cost of ownership, and where you plan to install it. This article will provide a closer look at each of these five elements and what they entail to help you make an educated hot tub purchase.
1. Hot tub interior
The interior surface is one of the first things most people notice. It is created from moulded acrylic and is available in a variety of colours and includes built-in cup holders, lighting, jets, and many other features. Whether you choose to match the décor of your home or have a specific backyard theme in mind, you will find today’s acrylic colours offer something for everyone. With a variety of synthetic siding (hot tub cabinetry) options available, you will spend less time maintaining the hot tub’s exterior appearance and more enjoying it, so take your time and choose what you like.
When looking at the hot tub, review the seating and the features. Also think about how many people will be enjoying the hot tub—what the industry calls ‘bather load.’ For instance, if you are considering it for personal therapy or relaxation, a hot tub with two to three seating options would be perfect. If you have a large family and want to have space for everyone, look for a hot tub that will seat five to seven bathers. In addition to the amount of seats, look at the type of seating. Do you want one or two loungers? Are you petite in stature? If so, you may want something a little shallower. If you are long in the torso, look for a hot tub with deep seats.
After you are comfortable with your seat selection, take a look at the accessories. Does the hot tub have a textured surface for the benefits of reflexology or cushioned headrests for ultimate relaxation? Are you interested in separate components such as a surround system for the perimeter of the hot tub or counter space for entertaining? If so, perhaps you can add this at the time of the purchase.
The next thing to observe is the location of the control panel. Does it face inside the hot tub and can it be easily accessed while soaking? Most hot tubs come with lights, water features, and audio. Be sure to ask if they are included or if they are an added feature. What about an in-tub sanitizing system to reduce chemical maintenance? Find out about what comes with the hot tub and what will add to the total cost.
Finally, take a look at the jets. When it comes to hot tub jets it is not necessarily important about how many there are, but more so how they work to provide the best results. Therefore, think about what type of therapy you are looking for and consider how the hot tub’s jet configuration will help you find relief. There are many different options available and it is always best to test soak (wet test) any hot tub before buying it. Sitting in a hot tub full of water feels very different than when it is empty. Further, after a wet test, you may also decide what you found appealing when looking at the hot tub is not right for you after all. For example, many women think they may like the lounger seat, but once in the hot tub many prefer a raised seat, so their hair does not get wet, and jets that target their neck and feet rather than full body jets in a lounge seat. Keep in mind, some jets are smaller and feel different than they look depending on the size of the orifice, which could result in a pinpoint feel. Always wet test the model you will be purchasing to get a true ‘feel’ of the hot tub. This is, after all, an investment which will last for years.
2. Hot tub exterior
The hot tub’s exterior is just as important as the interior when it comes to esthetics and protecting your investment. Be sure you ask about the materials of the shell and how it is insulated. Ask about the cover seal, the exterior material, and if the hot tub has full foam or a protective bottom cover as well. All of these are factors to protect the shell from heat, cold, critters, and your energy bill.
The outside of a hot tub is also where you will find exterior lights for ambiance and safety, cover lifts for ease of use, and audio units. Again, most hot tubs have these options, just be sure to ask if they are included.
The final thing to consider with respect to the exterior is how you are going to get inside the hot tub. Some manufacturers offer a complete line of matching steps, benches, and cabinets.
3. The operating system
When it comes to hot tubs, some manufacturers measure pumps by horsepower. This can be misleading, however. What really matters is how much water is pushed through the hot tub at what energy usage. The greatest flow, using the least amount of power, is optimum.
In addition, you will want to learn how to maintain the water balance in your hot tub. You definitely do not need a chemistry degree to own a hot tub, but finding a unit that makes water maintenance easier is beneficial.
4. Total cost of ownership
In terms of energy usage, hot tubs can be very efficient if insulated correctly. For example, an insulated skirt and solid cover create a tight vacuum seal, which keeps heat from escaping. Be sure to ask about energy usage on your hot tub. Many manufacturers provide energy estimates on each hot tub model. When it comes to maintenance costs, there is no upkeep required for the cabinet—just hose it down to keep it looking good and well preserved.
Finally, ask for a copy of the warranty. There are several types of owner protection plans available from various manufacturers, so you will want to consider plans that include coverage for the cost of both parts and labour. Further, be sure to read the warranty thoroughly so you understand exactly what is and what is not covered.
5. Just the right spot
Now that you know what hot tub you like, you need to decide where you are going to put it. Remember, location is everything! You will want to make sure you have enough space, a sturdy surface, and access to electrical.
A hot tub is a big part of your backyard. Depending on its location, it can be the focal point or an eyesore; therefore, it is a good idea to bring in a rough sketch of your backyard to your local hot tub dealer. You can review the layout together and find the best hot tub to fit into the space you have allotted. If you are still feeling unsure, you can also ask your local hot tub expert to schedule a site evaluation. Many hot tub dealers will come out to your house free of charge.
In addition, you will need a sturdy foundation for your hot tub. Most need to be placed on a reinforced cement pad (at least 101.6 mm [4 in.] deep) or a wood deck capable of supporting 4.8 kPa (100 lbs/sf). If these installation requirements are not met, it may affect your warranty, so always check with the manufacturer as to their installation requirements. Further, be sure to check your local codes before installation, and watch for any settling or erosion that could move your hot tub out of level.
You should also consider how you plan to supply power to the hot tub. Some units are ‘plug-and-play,’ meaning they require a standard 110/120-volt line; however, most hot tubs require a 220/240-volt line. If you do not already have this installed, you will need the services of a qualified electrician to wire the hot tub. Most require a dedicated electrical line that should be installed by an electrician. You will also want to consider what type of subpanel you will need—depending on the hot tub, a 50-amp or 60-amp service will be required. It all depends on how the hot tub is built. Either way, your dealer can likely recommend a local electrician. Other than these considerations, your hot tub is a self-contained unit, which means no plumbing is necessary.
Now you are ready to go shopping for your new hot tub! You know where you want to install it, what to look for inside and out, as well as how it operates and its energy efficiency. There are many different options available, so remember one of the most important things you can do is ‘wet test’ any hot tub you are considering before buying it!
Lindy Rickert is the corporate communications manager for Marquis Corp., a manufacturer of hot tubs and swim spas in Independence, Ore. She joined the company in 2013 and is responsible for many aspects of communication, including newsletters, social media, and its partnership with Make-A-Wish Canada. She can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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