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Buying Guide for Hot Tubs
What is not to love about hot tubs? They are soothing and relaxing. They ease aches and pains. They are great fun at parties. They are always in season (even outdoors and even in the middle of winter!). Best of all, they can reliably add to the resale value of your home. So obviously, selling yourself on adding a hot tub to your home is not the issue. Rather, the issue is - how to select the right hot tub from all of the different options available today? In a word of so many choices, this Buying Guide aims to provide you with straightforward data, trend information and specifics to help you hone in on the exact right make and model of hot tub for your home.
Types & Sizes of Hot Tubs
If you think of the phrase "hot tub" and an old school wooden tub comes to mind, you are in for a treat! While you can certainly select a hot tub that preserves the "vintage" look and feel of the original wood hot tubs, today's hot tubs are much less maintenance-intensive and come with all sorts of new bells and whistles you will love. Today's hot tubs feature molded acrylic shell interiors with comfy built-in seating and spot-comfort water jets. Surrounding the acrylic shell is a layer of molded fiberglass or wood and then the outer cabinet, which is usually made of composite or synthetic material. Whisper quiet internal motors route water to massage jets, water filters, cleaning systems and other locations as needed.
You can choose from permanent mount or portable spas and hot tubs. Permanent mount hot tubs will stay in one location once they are installed. Portable hot tubs arrive pre-assembled. They are mounted above ground and can be moved as needed.
Hot tub sizes are calculated in two ways - how much water the tub can hold and how many people the tub can seat. The smallest model hot tub typically holds around 100 gallons of water and seats one person or a couple. The biggest model hot tub typically holds anywhere from 500 to 1,000 gallons of water and seating starts at nine and goes up from there. The most common hot tub size that people are buying right now is the 7-by-7 foot hot tub. This hot tub generally seats between four and six people. When choosing your hot tub size, it is important to remember that, while gallons held is an exact figure, seating is approximate depending on how well everyone in your hot tub knows one another!
While there are two primary types of heaters used in hot tubs today, there can be many heating options - it really just depends on two factors: your heating preference and your personal hot tub budget. Nearly 90 percent of hot tubs sold today feature electric heat. The exception is found in larger or commercial hot tubs, which represent about 10 percent of the market and typically have gas heating. It can be worth it to know that, over the long term, choosing a hot tub with a gas heater can result in lower energy bills. Other specialty heating options include propane, solar and even old fashioned wood-burning heaters! Needless to say, these options usually require a custom order and some aftermarket modifications to accommodate your new hot tub.
The "shell" is the interior layer of the hot tub (the part you see when you step inside). The "cabinet" is the exterior layer (the part you see when you first approach your hot tub). In between the outer cabinet and the inner shell is the insulating layer. While there are many types of insulation that can be used, the most efficient for containing heat and minimizing damage-causing vibration to pipes and motors is full foam (sprayable) insulation.
Choosing a Spa/Hot Tub Dealer
Choosing which dealer to buy your new hot tub from is not a decision to be taken lightly. Here, what is critical to remember is that you are not just buying a hot tub from this dealer. You are also buying the promise of a reliable hot tub, a knowledgeable information source, an enforceable warranty and a resource for supplies, preventative maintenance and repairs. Use this checklist to evaluate dealers:
- Choose a dealer with an in-house service and maintenance program.
- Choose a dealer who does their own deliveries.
- Choose an established dealer with lots of positive testimonials.
- Choose a dealer who carries equally well rated and established product lines.
So this is probably your biggest question, right? What do hot tubs actually cost?
- New Hot Tubs: Portable hot tubs are the more affordable option for certain. A small portable hot tub, new, might cost $3,000-$4,000. A large portable hot tub, new, can cost $5,000-$8,000. Permanent underground hot tubs start around $18,000. These prices don't include shipping, delivery or installation.
- Other Costs: You also need to factor in monthly and annual energy costs ($25-$100/month), supplies ($10-$20/month) and service costs (as needed). And here is where you will start to see that you get what you pay for, because a higher sticker price can also indicate better insulation that can translate into lower energy and maintenance costs.
- Used Hot Tubs: While the used hot tub market is not as vibrant as you might expect, you can save quite a bit if you happen upon a high quality used hot tub. Just be sure to test it out thoroughly before you hand over any cash!
- Prepping for the "Big Day": The day your hot tub arrives, you definitely want to be ready for it in every way. For starters, you will need to provide at least 220v of power and a stable surface that can support the hot tub's full water weight.
Now you are ready to begin shopping for your new hot tub! This part is definitely the most fun, because you will test your options by hot tubbing (this is called a "wet test"). Plan to spend 10-20 minutes per wet test. During your test, notice the noise level, the comfort level, the jet intensity and the overall ambience of your experience. More than any facts or statistics, your own enjoyment should get the final vote. If you have done your "hot tub homework" by learning the lingo, deciding on the size tub you need and setting your budget, now all that is left is to price compare hot tub models to find your new hot tub!