The Ultimate Hot Tub Buyers Guide
In the UK, hot tubs have moved out of films and the homes of film stars and into ordinary homes and gardens. They help to improve our physical and mental health and can be great, social experiences. As hot tubs have become more and more popular, so the range of hot tubs on sale has increased and while choice can be great it can also be confusing, particularly when it comes to buying a “big ticket” item such as a hot tub. Here, therefore, is our guide to getting it right.
Start by thinking about why you want the Hot Tub
Whatever hot tub you buy has to fit your needs and ideally your wants so you really need to have a clear and honest think about what exactly they are (and which is which). A good starting point is to ask yourself three, key questions.
Medical use or health and wellness use?
If you want to use the hot tub for medical purposes to help relieve pain in a specific part of your body, e.g. back pain, then you need to make it a top priority to buy a hot tub which has jets which either are, or can be, targeted on that specific area. It’s largely irrelevant how many jets the hot tub has overall, what matters is where they are and how good they are. For medical purposes, you really want the best jets you can possibly afford. If, however, you mainly want the hot tub for general health and wellness then you have more flexibility in how you use your budget. For example, you have the option to buy a tub with fewer jets and more entertainment options or vice versa.
All year round or only in the warmer months?
The answer to this question has the potential to have a lot of impact on decisions you take further down the line. If you really want a hot tub for year-round use then you need to ensure that it can be easily accessed all year round. This may sound like stating the obvious, but it can have a significant impact on where you can site your hot tub and therefore how big a hot tub you can have.
For example, siting a hot tub at the end of the garden without changing facilities next to it may be absolutely fine if the hot tub is only going to be used in the warmer months, but rather impractical in the winter. Likewise a place which is given privacy by trees may lose that seclusion when the trees lose their leaves, plus those leaves are probably going to wind up in your hot tub if it’s left uncovered in winter.
How many people do you want to be able to share the hot tub?
The more people you want to be able to share the hot tub, the bigger the hot tub you will need and the more it will cost to buy and run.
The question of medical use versus general health and wellness use relates to a need and is therefore likely to have a single, clear and obvious answer. The questions about how often the hot tub will be used and how many people will use it at one time both relate to wants and hence could well be open to debate. With that in mind, before you go any further with your plans, it’s a good idea to reality-check your wants against what is actually possible in your home, or more specifically your garden, and see how they stack up. At this point, that really means you need to answer two simple questions.
Where can your hot tub be sited and how much space is available for it?
In theory hot tubs can be installed indoors. In practice, the size of a hot tub relative to the size of rooms in an average family home, plus the fact that they hold a lot of water, some of which is invariably going to spill over the side of the hot tub, means that for most people, the only feasible place to put a hot tub is in a garden. They obviously need to be put on a flat surface and whatever location you choose has to have access for the hot tub to be installed in the first place.
When thinking about accessibility, it’s a good idea to assume that the hot tub can be up to 5% bigger than the manufacturer’s description says it is. Also, always remember that hot tubs are usually delivered as one piece (rather than assembled on site) so you need to check the whole route from the nearest parking place to your intended site to ensure that it is feasible for the delivery agents to get your new hot tub all the way from A to Z rather than just from A to B.
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If you do have more than one possible siting location, then we suggest that you make a note of each of the possibilities and write down whether or not it’s feasible to use the site all year round and how big a tub it could hold. That way you have a clear and accurate record of what your options are.
Now that you have an idea about what is realistic in your situation, it’s time to start thinking about budget. Before you get too far into detailed calculations, it can be very helpful to look at the issue of purchase cost versus running costs. In this context, there is one, very important, rule of thumb.
The more you intend to use the hot tub, the more important it is that it is economical to run
Up until relatively recently, it could probably have been taken pretty much for granted that any hot tub from a reputable supplier would have been designed in a way which minimized running costs. Over recent times, however, the popularity of hot tubs has, pretty much inevitably, brought them to the attention of mainstream general and home retailers. In many cases, these hot tubs are marketed in a way which suggests that they have the same sort of quality as higher-end hot tubs, but at a much lower price, the implication being that the retailer has used their buying power to get a great deal for their customers.
In truth, however, these hot tubs belong in the same sort of category as High Street versions of designer clothes, they have the same sort of appearance but they are generally created out of cheaper materials and to a lower build standard. The reason we are highlighting this point is because it’s important to understand what makes higher-end hot tubs different from their lower-end counterparts and what that means in the real world.
Higher-end hot tubs are built to last over the long term. They have effective insulation in their walls so that the heat is retained in the water. The key word here is effective. Any insulation is better than none but the more there is and the better it works, the lower running costs will be. Likewise, higher-end hot tubs will also have well-insulated covers which fit snugly to keep all the heat inside (and debris outside). The quality of the heater matters too. Higher-quality heaters are more economical.
The pump is also hugely important, in fact, you could argue that it is even more important than the jets, since it is the pump which moves the water and therefore makes it possible for the jets to work. The better the pump, the better the circulation of the water, which is basically the whole point of a hot tub. On a more prosaic note, keeping the water in constant circulation also helps to keep it clean, which has obvious advantages from a hygiene perspective. Higher-quality pumps tend to have lower running costs, due to their greater efficiency and, last but by no means least, they also tend to be much quieter than their cheaper counterparts, which makes life a whole lot pleasanter when you are in the hot tub, whether you just want to be alone with your thoughts, enjoy a conversation or listen to your favourite music.
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Speaking of pumps, another feature which can make a huge difference to your overall enjoyment of your hot tub is the presence of a dedicated filtration pump. Filtration is what keeps everyday dust and dirt particles out of the lovely hot water in your hot tub. Having a dedicated filtration pump not only makes it possible for the hot tub to do a better job of cleaning itself, but also allows for quieter operation and greater energy efficiency. It’s also important that changing the filters is a hassle-free job, otherwise it could well turn in to a chore to be avoided rather than a quick and easy maintenance task.
Alternatively, people could just get confused and put filters in the wrong way, rendering them ineffective. You may also wish to double-check what specific kind of filter any given hot tub uses. Some are intended for single use (after which they are recycled), while others can be washed in a dishwasher and reused.
On the subject of cleaning, there are three main options currently available.
Ozone cleaning can now give a full and hygienic clean without hassle or smell and therefore now tends to be the preferred option on higher-end hot tubs.
Salt water cleaning uses salt to create chlorine, which is then used to clean the hot tub. This is also an effective cleaning system and is also environmentally friendly in that it still avoids the use of chemical cleaners. The downside, to some people at least, is that chlorine has a very distinct and powerful smell (think swimming pools), which many people can ignore but some people loathe.
Chlorine cleaning is exactly what the name implies. It is effective, but in addition to the issue of smell, traditional chlorine cleaning involves a lot of chemicals, so it’s hardly the environmentally-friendly option.
At the end of the day, therefore, if you only want a hot tub for very occasional, recreational use, then you may be just fine with a lower-end hot tub, provided that you can live with a noisier pump. The more you want to use the hot tub, however, the more you will come to appreciate even the most basic features of higher-end hot tubs and the more money you will save in running costs.
Now that you have a general idea of what you want, it’s time to start looking at preferred brands and suppliers.
It may seem odd to start looking at brands and suppliers before you start setting a budget, but the point is to give yourself an opportunity to see what is out there and to start setting a realistic budget for what you really need and also what matters most to you in terms of your wants. If you’re in the market for a high-quality hot tub, then your choice of supplier is as important as your choice of brand.
These days it’s fairly easy to set up a website, which makes it straightforward to make a purchase. It’s what comes after that which separates the best suppliers from the general stores. In addition to delivering your hot tub when and how they say they will, a good supplier will also manage the installation for you. In theory, installing a hot tub should be within the capability of a competent DIYer. In practice, we strongly recommend having your supplier install the hot tub for you, even if there is an extra cost for this service.
First of all, although hot tubs are inflatable, they are still big, heavy and, frankly, cumbersome, which is why fitters tend to be both strong and training in proper lifting and handling techniques. Secondly, hot tubs are powered by electricity, which means that installing them correctly is, literally, a matter of life and death. Because of this, it’s arguably best to leave the installation to people who do it day in and day out.
After you’ve explored the market, you’ll have a better idea about what sort of price range you’re looking at for hot tubs which meet your requirements and this will form the basis of your plan for paying for them. You may find that you can afford your perfect hot tub either through outright purchase or finance (or a combination of both). If not, you really have two options. One is to save up a bit more to be able to afford your dream hot tub and the other is to reduce the number of “nice to haves”.
These days you can get high-quality hot tubs, which are purely hot tubs, right up to hot tubs which are all-round entertainment hubs, including all kinds of extras such as lights, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. While these can certainly add to the fun of the hot tub experience, if your budget is tight, you could get a hot tub with a lighter feature set and work around this, e.g. by using portable music devices.
Once you have invested in a hot tub, it’s worth taking the time to maintain it properly. With higher-end tubs at least, this simply involves a little regular maintenance such as checking pH levels and remembering to change filters and use cleaning systems as required. These will all be fully detailed in the information you receive when you buy your hot tub and if you buy from a reputable supplier, they will be happy to answer any questions you may have.
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