After a long, draining day at work, you probably want to unwind and let go of the pressures of the day. There are many ways to decompress, though, but if you’re like most people, finding out something pleasurable- other than just crawling into bed- can be actually good for you.
Hot tubs, commonly known as “spas” have jumped into one of the most favored ways to relax and escape. And while we’re in this age of spas influence, long soaks in the hot tub have never been more popular, and for a good reason.
Look, aside from helping you relax, it turns out that the warm bubbly water also eases aches and pains, improves cardiovascular health, and might further help you drift off into a more peaceful sleep and cardiovascular health. A hot tub spa can be a significant investment.
However, the hot tub niche is especially hot right now. From basic features like size, shape, and number of seats to more technical specifications such as the number of jets and water filtration systems, finding the right hot tub spa for your family can be hard enough.
The industry itself has evolved year over year and it’s estimated that at least 5.8 million homeowners in the US have a spa. And considering all the brands out there, certainly, there are many things you need to think through when searching for a new hot tub.
Fortunately, we have compiled great details and tips into this hot tub buying guide so you can filter through all the hot tub brands and models on the market. Get ready to explore different dimensions, sizes, costs, and energy-efficiency considerations.
What is Hot Tub
Before we get any further, many people still don’t seem to understand what the terms “hot tub” and “spa” actually mean. Do they all refer to the same thing? Well, here’s is a brief:
A hot tub, as the name suggests, refers to a freestanding tub of heated water with a filtration system and jets. It is basically a large tub full of water designed for hydrotherapy and relaxation- although some are equipped with powerful jets for massage purposes.
You may also come across other terms such as “jacuzzi and spas.” While a Jacuzzi is simply a well-known brand for hot tubs, a spa is usually a tub that has been built into the ground and connected to a pool. These relaxation facilities can be installed either indoors or outdoors.
All these terms can be used interchangeably although a basic hot tub may not come with jets and pumps, which are typically found in hot tub spas.
The first hot tub was developed in 1968 by Jacuzzi; which brought about the brand name. However, the technology employed to keep these products functional stood up to the 1950s.
In the 1970s, these relaxation facilities began to evolve and incorporated spa-like features such as cool built-in seats, adjustable jets, and user-friendly temperature controls.
Nowadays, hot tub spas are widely common and they come with lots of smart features, including Bluetooth speakers and HD video monitors.
What Hot Tub Shapes Are There
This part is mainly about the various choices for shapes that could work for your home. Of course, there are other many factors that go into choosing the perfect hot tub spa for your family, but the showdown usually comes down to shape, size, and personal preferences.
Hot tub sizing affects everything from shape, cost, and configurations to the space that can fit the jacuzzi and how many people it can accommodate.
Nonetheless, the goal is to buy a hot tub that can serve your family and entertainment needs, while also fitting comfortably both in your backyard and budget.
While it is important to consider the shape, below is a step by step guide to help you find the best hot tub for your needs starting with the types:
Rectangle Hot Tub Spa
This is one of the most common shapes for a hot tub spa. It is typically longer on the sides to provide more points of entry into the spa.
They are also available in many options for lounge-style seating and other seats of different heights. Rectangular hot tub spas can be a great choice for people who want to enjoy a relaxation facility as a family.
Square Hot Tubs
Square hot tubs are yet another popular shape that you can consider. They simply have an equal amount of seating and jets on each side, meaning you will be able to immerse yourself in the deep seating of the square spa.
This particular option is available in a variety of sizes and you’re not limited to the arrangement of the seating or jets.
Round Hot Tubs
Round hot tub spas are usually smaller than some of the other options.
They are meant to maximize the space available. They usually fit one or two people, but they provide ample seating room and the ability to be utilized as a hydrotherapy spa. Some round hot tubs are inflatable too, which makes them fit in a backyard where space is limited.
Spas with this shape are pointed on a side to fit comfortably against the side of a home. A triangular hot tub spa can be a fantastic choice, especially if you’re looking for a single-person hydrotherapy spa in the backyard. Plus, it can fit behind a privacy screen too.
In the event that you have a generous budget, you might want to choose a spa with an unusual shape. They are available in many different styles and shapes.
There are modest options that accommodate one person and are shaped more like an oversized soaking tub. Others are romantically shaped like a large heart.
Different Types of Hot Tubs
The best part about today’s hot tub models is that they are elegantly designed to fit any décor. And they are available in many different designs and styles to meet your specific needs.
In ground or Custom-built Hot Tub
Custom-built or in ground hot tubs spas are permanent structures. They are usually adjacent to a pool or as part of backyard installations. They are typically built with concrete, granite, fiberglass, or metal. It depends on the preferred style and looks.
In terms of size, custom-built hot tubs can come in any selected size. Some are even large close to a standard swimming pool. However, larger hot tubs will require more energy to heat up.
Medium-sized hot tubs that are designed to fit up to 6 persons should be at least 8′ by 8′. Still, there are others that are built to fit 2-4 people, which are typically 5′ by 7′ long and wide. Larger tubs meant to fit groups of ten persons or more will measure around 9′ by 9′.
The best part about custom hot tubs is that they can improve the value of a home. The return on investment for these types of spas can be as much as 50 percent original model’s cost. Besides, custom-built hot tubs are fairly durable and can last for years with proper care.
However, there are some disadvantages. Installing an in-ground hot tub spa is extremely costly and part of your backyard will need to be worked on to install the facility.
Not to forget the cost of connecting the plumbing to the main water pipe. The process of changing the design and repairing damaged parts can as well be extremely costly.
Portable Hot Tub Spas
This type of bathtub can be installed and removed as needed. They are stand-alone, self-contained, and not built-in to the ground.
As such, portable hot tubs can incorporate all of the other parts and equipment necessary to serve effectively. Many portable hot tubs do require a 220-volt connection which might involve some special installation.
While the standard voltage for outdoor electrical connection is normally 120 volts, there are also portable models called “plug and play”, which only require a 110-volt electrical connection.
That means they can be plugged directly into an exterior outlet. In terms of construction, portable hot tubs are usually made of acrylic, plastic, or fiberglass. Some are even built with inflatable latex or vinyl.
Just like custom-built hot tubs, portable spas are available in many sizes. These different sizes are determined by the physical dimensions and the number of people they can fit.
The largest portable hot tub can accommodate between 8-10 people and are typically 11′ or larger in length. A 5-6 person hot tub can measure up to 9′ while a 4-person model can be up to 7′. A 2-3 person portable hot can be somewhere between 5′ and 6′ in length.
Aside from portability, other major benefits of choosing a portable hot tub include the ease of installation. These models don’t require a specific area or lay of foundation to set up. They are far less expensive than custom-built designs and they simply require a 120-volt electrical outlet.
Portable hot tubs are, however, known to take longer to heat up compared to custom-built models. Inflatable hot tubs can get punctured in absence of proper care.
Overall, any type of hot tub can be an excellent addition that complements your backyard design. Both options are great for various reasons, even though the custom-built design isn’t really something that most people can afford.
A portable hot tub spa can be an excellent alternative to an in ground hot tub because it’s likely to incorporate much needed features at a more budget price point.
How to Pick the Right Hot Tub
Buying and installing a hot tub can be a great investment, so making sure you’re getting the right model that serves your needs is vital. Below are some of the key things you should keep in mind:
Size and Number of Seats
Getting a large hot tub that can fit your family based on style and appearance can be a great idea. However, sizing and the number of seats tends to involve more practical considerations.
First, the shape of the hot tub will have a significant impact on its dimensions as well as how many people it can accommodate.
Note that certain shapes have limits in terms of the number of seats. For example, corner or triangular hot tubs can only fit up to 2-3 guests while square and diamond-shaped models can accommodate up to 4-8 people because they have more sides.
Keep in mind that larger hot tubs require a lot of energy to control the temperature. Therefore, you should choose a spa that can accommodate the expected number of people.
You might want to ask your professional about water capacity as well as what you can expect in terms of the model’s energy consumption.
Spas designed to accommodate two or three persons can be ideal for small families and couples. Most of these models have fully-body support where you can slump easily with jets hitting your legs, back, and shoulders.
However, for someone who likes to entertain often, or those who have larger families, choosing a model that can take between 4-6 people can be a great idea. These designs may either come with built-seat options or be rounded for ample seating space.
Some models can fit 5-6 people but if you’re looking for something that can accommodate even more than that, then you might want to consider a hot tub that can take either 8-10 people.
Do you want a hot tub for pain relief or just relaxation? Note that some models are designed to be more therapeutic than simply lounging around. In case you’re suffering from back pain, stiff joints, arthritis, or sore muscles, opting for a hot tub spa with specially placed jets can be beneficial.
It’s also important to consider how long you will be using your hot tub. Is it all the time or every once in a while? If the hot tub is going to be used more than twice times a week, you’ll be wise to consider a high-quality spa that is energy efficient and properly designed.
Remember these models require a lot of energy to serve efectively. For example, even in 75° weather, it might take four hours to heat up fully, or maybe longer in colder environments.
If the spa is for occasional use only: i.e. every once in a while, getting a large high voltage tub might not be necessary. Such models will only take longer to heat up, so keep that in mind too.
Short-term vs Permanent Fixture
How long are you planning to keep your spa? As you probably already know, lower-quality models may not last longer as expected. They are also associated with more repairs and higher power usage, meaning you will end up spending more in the long run.
For short-term purposes, portable hot tubs can be an easy recommendation, especially for people who are likely to move but don’t want to leave their relaxation facility behind.
The best part about portable hot tubs is they can be transported as necessary, so you might want to keep that in mind before opting for an in-ground, custom-built hot tub.
However, if you’re looking forward to a permanent fixture, or you want to keep your spa as a key unit of your home, then you should invest in a durable highly-quality hot tub.
The shape of your hot tub will be influenced by the square footage you have available. This may depend on other items nearby where you are doing the installation. In any case, there should be enough space between outdoor items and the spa.
You certainly don’t want your relaxation facility near the kids’ swing set. They may end up using it as a diving board into the spa, which isn’t the safest spot for children.
The deck shape will also impact the shape you choose for your hot tub. Generally, it would be easier to build around a conventional shape if the hot tub itself were unusually shaped, but there are a ton of options you can consider when making the purchase.
Price for the Hot Tub Cover
When it comes to hot tubs, covers are a must-have, certainly not an option. Heat rises, and a quality cover can be a smart way to conserve energy and save money on power bills.
Additional features such as locking straps come in handy to protect the unit against dirt, weather, and unwanted visitors.
Dealers should always include the cover. It shouldn’t be misrepresented as a separate purchase, free bonus, or some sort of special sale. Note that the covering will influence the shape and style of the tub you pick. If you have an unusual shape, you will have to go for a custom-made cover.
Such customized options can cost a lot, subject to what type you purchase. Not to mention that motorized covers can get extremely expensive especially when they have to be custom made.
Need for Privacy
Hot tubs can be used both outdoors and indoors. While outdoor installations are the most common, you might find it more comfortable with the privacy that comes along with an indoor hot tub.
You might want to set your spa in an outside corner away from neighbors but if you want to feel like you’re on display or being in view of all the hoses around your backyard, consider buying a hot tub in a triangle shape, or something that fits in a corner.
Wherever you want to install it, make sure there’s enough space around the spa to adequately allow for repairs and maintenance. Otherwise, the place you’re planning to do the installation will also influence the shape of the hot tub.
If you’re planning to relocate your spa someday in the future, then the model should feature a 120V plug-and-play connection. This fits a standard 120v outlet, but many spas also incorporate a convertible voltage just in case you wish to hardwire the unit in the future.
Large spas with 240v hard-wired connections are known to heat faster and stay longer compared to plug-and-play tubs, but such complex systems will require professional installation.
Hot tub Cost
When buying a hot tub, you will have to consider how much you are willing to spend. Hot tub prices can vary a lot, but in most cases, the price stands for what you pay for the item itself.
The actual cost, however, includes more than that. From site prep, chemicals, and accessories, to power bills and repair costs, deciding on your budget first is very important.
Lower-cost hot tubs can be a considerable choice, but they are typically inflatable and portable. Low-quality construction and features will often add to the lifetime cost of your hot tub. Invest more and you will get an enduring hot tub with stronger jets, and excellent features.
Heating and maintaining a hot tub will come at a price, so you will need to factor in the ongoing costs. How much that is will depend on the size and type of your spa, and how well it’s made.
Now that you have an idea of how to choose a spa, let’s cover some of the most important aspects and features to check out when choosing the right hot tub for your family.
Key Features to Look for When Purchasing a Hot Tub
There are several key features you should look for when choosing the ideal hot tub for your family. These include:
Construction and Material
The longevity and the model’s ability to retain heat are often determined by the type of material and overall construction featured by a hot tub. They also dictate how the whole thing looks. The most common material used in the making of hot tubs includes:
PVC: Most inflatable portable spas are typically made of PVC. It is a synthetic plastic polymer that is relatively flexible. Although the material is relatively affordable, it falls short in terms of durability durable in comparison to harder plastics.
Acrylic: This is the most common spa shell material. It is fade-resistant, long-lasting, and available in multiple colors.
Vinyl: Most custom-built hot tubs are made of vinyl, especially for covering the cement frame. Vinyl is said to fade from sun or chemical use and does not retain heat that well compared to other materials.
Hot tub cabinets aren’t just for looks. Well, they can be used to improve the appearance of the exterior of the spa, but more importantly, hot tub cabinets play an essential role in supporting the shell and protecting the internal components such as jets, wiring, heater, and plumbing.
There are some made of wood, but many cabinets are made of composite materials such as faux stones to ensure longevity and energy efficiency. That means, unlike wood, it won’t rot degrade. So look for insulated cabinets, either with partial foam, full foam, or thermal wrap.
The hot tub cabinet should also be durable and easy to maintain as it is always exposed to elements.
Different models will have different types of hot tub jets. More expensive hot tubs will typically allow for more jets and customized positioning. If you’re looking for a spa-like hot tub experience or full body relaxation, look for a model with directional jets or massaging jets.
Powerful jets that mix water and pressure usually provide the most effective massage. Some are designed to target specific muscle points for full body relaxation while others spin to deliver a gentler hot tub experience.
That said, don’t fall for the maximum number of jet and corny massage features that are costly and hard to replace. Numerous jet counts can lead to decreases pressure.
Although you can solve the pressure loss by using larger energy-consuming motors, spas with such designs aren’t actually efficient and can cost hundreds of dollars in extra energy per month.
The water filtration system plays an important role in keeping your water crystal clear. They help to remove large particles from the water while protecting parts from damage and ensuring water clarity.
Microbe-resistant filters are associated with more effective filtration and are easier to clean. Even so, filters should be replaced yearly for the best experience.
Depending on the size of the spa and the number of pumps, one or more filters can be sufficient. Some hot tubs models will include four or even five complex or multi-parts filters, but this will influence the long-term cost as dealers charge a huge markup for special filters.
A well insulated hot tub will keep the water warm for longer and ultimately reduce energy usage. Partial foam insulation may be great in most cases, but for those who live in places that are rather colder, full foam insulation would be a better option.
This will help to keep the spa hot for longer, even when the outside temperature is drastically lower than the water. There are different types of hot tub insulations, but multi-density full-foam insulation is considered the most effective option.
Lighting and Entertainment Packages
You may not need all the colorful lighting and sound systems in your spa, but having these features around can take your soak to the next level especially when planning for a hot tub party.
Some hot tubs are designed with top-notch lighting features below the water’s surface that can be customized to match the color or brightness you want.
Some companies will also offer optional Bluetooth audio speakers, exterior/interior color LED light features, pillows, and cup holders. Others will even allow you to watch TV while soaking as they come with all-weather HD video monitor attachments.
One thing you should keep in mind, however, keep in mind that most hot tubs dealers tend to charge huge amounts in addition to already high prices for extra options.
Energy Efficiency Considerations
Another important factor that most people overlook when buying a new hot tub is energy efficiency. In addition to upfront costs, you’ll also have to cater to the hot tub’s operating costs.
Obviously, larger hot tubs will cost more to operate, mainly due to water capacity, energy consumption, and maintenance requirements.
The quality of the hot tub’s insulation and the size/number of heat pumps are among the biggest factors that dictate energy efficiency. Larger hot tubs that fit 6-8 people often require multiple pumps to deliver warm water effectively.
They also normally use 220 volts of electricity, which means they consume more energy than smaller models.
Speaking of water capacity, larger hot tubs can hold an average of 30% water compared to mid-size hot tubs, which simply means they will need more energy to keep water hot.
One way to keep energy costs at a minimum is to invest in a hot tub with great insulation. Some of the best spa brands provide energy-efficient models with superior insulation to keep the energy costs down.
If you want a larger hot tub, it is important to consult a professional as to whether the model in question comes with features that require less electricity to operate.
Warranty and Services
Perhaps the best thing about purchasing a brand-new rather than a second-hand model is that new hot tubs come with a warranty and support to back it up.
The warranty is meant to cover any problems that may occur due to the manufacturer’s fault- not damage from general wear and tear or misuse.
The warranty service is said to be tough if the dealer is not willing to help arrange it. Also, you may not receive any warranty service at all if the dealer goes out of business.
Big box stores that don’t specialize in hot tubs won’t be able to help you with expert support. Once the warranty period is over, you are on your own.
Important Factors to Consider Before Installing a Hot Tub
Although different types and sizes of hot tub spas are meant to fit any given measurements and purpose, there are various things to check on and think through before investing in one.
Depending on the style or voltage of your hot tub, you may need to install certain electrical equipment. Some smaller hot tubs will connect to a standard outlet, but others will necessitate special wiring that needs professional services.
Safety barriers are yet another important factor to check on, especially when small children will be around your spa. For example, you might want to put fences or cool gates around the spa to keep kids or pets out.
Codes and Permits
Some cities, countries, or neighborhoods have code restrictions and legal requirements for hot tubs. So remember to check with the local area’s codes and know if there’s a need to apply for a hot tub permit before moving forward with the installation.
Aside from being in a convenient location, the hot tub should be installed on a fit and solid foundation for maximum support. The surface should be absolutely level. For extra support, strong foundations such as concrete slabs are usually suggested to ensure safety and durability.
Once you have the dimensions and features written down, pick your preferred hot tub size and move forward with the installation. You can search the hot tub online to get an idea for the hot tub model you want to purchase.
Then contact your local hot tub professionals to get some installation quotes. Experts suggest that homeowners should compare multiple quotes before hiring a contractor and commencing any home improvement project. This way, you will ensure you’re getting the best value for your money.