How to choose a Hot Tub?

What most dealers will not tell you about choosing and using a hot tub:

When you enter your hot tub you will enter a world of soothing relaxation that will help relieve the stress and tension of the fast paced world we all live in. Step into a world of soothing comfort where quality family time can take place in a distraction- free environment. Experience the health benefits as your body rejuvenates and heals itself while immersed in a soothing, swirling mass of hot water.

Thousands of Brits every year are joining the growing number of home spa owners as more and more people realise that the climate in the UK is perfect for a hot tub. After all, if we lived in a tropical paradise who would want to be up to their neck in hot water? Spring, Autumn and Winter bathing is actually far more enjoyable than during the height of the Summer when all you want to do is cool down!

Talk to anyone who owns a hot tub and they will tell you that once you own a spa you will never go without one again. Unlike many products today there are few purchases that will have as profound a change on your life as your hot tub will. Whether you require therapy massage, pain relief, stress relief, or just great family and social time a spa will allow you to create your own private oasis right in your garden.

There are a number of things to consider when purchasing your hot tub. The first and most important is what do you want out of your spa? Many people simply want to soak away their stress and relax in the hot water. Or perhaps you want a focal point for social events or romantic evenings. For these people many entry-level spas are perfect. Typically these have 10-20 jets and a small pump of around 2Hp.

If however you are looking for therapy quality massage you need something with 30-50 jets and multiple pumps. Look for horsepower ratings of at least 6-9hp on these systems. Lots of jets may look great but unless the Horsepower is there to move the water they will not be as effective. To cloud the issue dealers will sometimes quote the pumps in kW or Watts. Online conversion web sites can quickly clear this issue up by converting kW to horsepower.

Another system that is offered is air blowers or air pumps. Some manufacturers recommend them and some swear you don’t want them. The real reason for this debate has less to do with its value as a feature and more to do with the fact that unless the manufacturer has years of experience doing air systems they can be problematic and cause service issues which ultimately cost the manufacturer money.

These systems are typically used for soft tissue massage or skin therapy and they work very well. A good system will inject millions of heated bubbles into the spa and this will help exfoliate your skin. Also the heated air and agitation of the skin causes the blood vessels to dilate helping to flush toxins from the epidural layer.

Some manufacturers also put aromatherapy injectors on the air blower to allow the customer to add aromatherapy essential oils and scents to the air without contaminating the water. Some manufacturers even have super chargers that allow you to divert the heated air into the water jets to change the feel of the jets and increase the massage pressure. If you do choose to go with this option make sure of at least two things. First that the blower has an actual heater element in it to heat the air prior to injecting it into the spa. This will prevent the water from being cooled down quickly. Also ensure the blower has an automatic purge system to blow the lines clear when the spa is not in use.

Deciding to purchase a spa can be a very daunting task. It is difficult to sort the issues from the gimmicks. The following are a couple of things that will make a real difference in your spa.

Shell construction

When discussing shell constructions there are three materials that matter. There is a lot of talk about bonding resins and barrier layers but in truth the main elements are the surface, the core and the structure. The industry standard is to use an acrylic material and vacuum form it into a shell. A layer of fibreglass is then added to the structure.

The next type of shells are made from plastics ranging from ABS and other types of plastics using various trade names. The surface warranty on these shells is usually higher- between 5-7 years, but they can sometimes yellow and the structure may not be as good. Check for flexing while standing on the lounger and chairs. Whilst these shells are touted as superior they are about the same cost to make and realistically are the same quality- they have simply improved one area of the shell at the sacrifice of another.

There are a few companies that use a combination of all of the above shells. Typically these are using an acrylic surface, plastic or vinyl core, and a fibreglass backing. While expensive they typically carry warranties of up to 25 years.

Shell Surfaces

There are many surface materials and styles available for your hot tub. Almost all spas use acrylic as it is an excellent surface material that lasts for years. Some companies use only a plastic surface to save on the cost of the extra acrylic layer but discolouration and difficulty in cleaning have led to almost all manufacturers using acrylic- its proven performance guarantees a durable, reliable product.

Within the acrylic ranges are a multitude of choices, from Marble look smooth finish, metal effect, and the newest textured non scratch safety granite effect surfaces, all available in a huge range of colours and tints. Whatever you choose there are two things to bear in mind. Firstly, the smooth surfaces can be slippery when wet, and whilst beautiful when new, they can scratch quite easily and tend to dull after a while. Just imagine what your car would look like if you climbed all over it for a year... Unless you want a part time job buffing and polishing your spa shell every year, think twice before buying a smooth finish.

On the other hand the textured granite-like finishes are scratch resistant, non slip, uV stabilised and look like new for decades with no maintenance. As for colour, keep in mind that you only see the shell colour while you are in the spa. The rest of the time you see the cover, and for great looking water- nothing beats a blue shell for that appealing clean clear water look.

Look for a deep spa with multiple level seating. Depth is paramount to ensure you are seated comfortably while still fully submerged- a good depth is above 90 cm.

Most hot tubs have ozone purification systems. Claims abound about chemical free systems and better and worse methods of producing ozone. In short, all the systems work fairly well and the costs are similar with ultra violet being the bottom of the pile and Plasma cell being the top for ozone technology. Some spas simply inject the ozone into the spa while slightly more expensive and efficient systems use mazi injection into absorption tanks or absorption lines to get longer contact time.

The bottom line is if it has ozone it will reduce chemical usage and according to all professional governing bodies for spas and hot tubs no one should offer these systems as a replacement for halogen type oxidisers (chlorine/bromine). Despite what a sales person might tell you with even the most expensive well designed ozone system, health and safety and every other industry governing body recommends small amounts of chlorine to assist the ozone system.

Another important thing to look for is insulation. Generally speaking, the more insulation the better heat retention. Whilst the motors do produce heat of about 40-50C they only run for about 8 hours a day and transfer of heat from the motors to the water is marginal at best. Some spas will have partial foam or very little foam under the shell. The claim is that the heat from the motors will help to heat the shell.

Some hot tubs fill the entire cavity with foam to retain heat more efficiently. Both systems have pros and cons and while a full foam spa costs more to manufacture they are only slightly more efficient. The most expensive system on the market has fully foamed spas with heat extractors that collect the heat from the pumps and inject it directly into the water. This is the best of both systems but expensive.

Other than that? Look for accreditation like ISO 9001 2000 to ensure quality compliance, and membership to the world’s largest governing body for spas which is the association of pool and spa professionals.

Finally and most importantly look for a manufacturer with a proven track record, established presence of 10 years or more, and a manufacturer’s warehouse and office in the UK. The majority of spa companies in the UK and Europe are importers. If the importer or distributor changes lines, or goes out of business you may be stuck dealing with North America for parts, and having no warranty. If you buy from a dealer that is selling a spa line that has a manufacturer’s warehouse and head office in the UK and you have any issues with the local dealer you have the safety of falling back on the manufacturer for parts, and warranty.