Well hopefully this short (well I’m going to try to keep it short! lol) guide will help you choose wisely! (and includes a few pics of ours being installed)
We have recently purchased a hot tub ourselves after much research and deliberation, and thought it would be nice to share a few hints and tips on making the choice.
A hot tub is an expensive luxury item so the first thing you need to consider is ‘can I afford it?’ beware of cheap deals on the internet and ebay – the majority of these are either rip-offs* or cheap nasty Chinese^ made tubs that aren’t worth the thousands you will spend on them!
* rip-offs usually involve fraudulent sales techniques whereby you pay full price up front for a tub from stock but the salesman imports cheaply a fraction of the number of tubs sold so most purchasers will pay a lot of money and receive NOTHING!! ‘if’ you actually get a tub it will be a shoddy piece of junk (as in cases shown in BBC News)
^While there is nothing indicatively wrong with products made in China (many are!) the specific problem here is with tubs that have been made to poor design and specifications.
A decent hot tub is going to cost anything from £4k to £15k+!
If you think you can afford this then the next thing to consider is if you have room for it in your garden, they take up a lot of space and will need a concrete base or other very strong structure, and most people tend to have some decking around/under them, which will increase the amount of space you will need. Also the electricity supply – you will need a high amp supply (40 amp), basic 13amp supplies will not suffice (there are some tubs that will work off a 13 amp supply but there are limitations you would need to be aware of if you went for these kinds of tub – such as: while you have the pumps on moving the water the tub cannot heat at the same time so your water temperature will drop and to get the temperature back up you will need to stop the pumps and allow the immersion heater time to reheat the water)! getting the correct base and power supply is likely to increase your installation costs, potentially eating into your budget for the tub purchase!!
Okay, still want one? Next you should go to some hot tub centres (and friends homes if you have friends who already have a tub) and ‘wet test’ a variety of tubs to determine which kind of tub you would like. A ‘wet test’ involves actually getting into filled tubs to try the variety of jets, seating arrangements and other functions of different models. Everyone has different tastes and requirements so what makes a good tub to a friend may not feel ‘right’ to you – which leads to the next point…
Hot tubs come with a range of features and while some of these may look cool and jazzy not all of them are worth the ‘extra’ you might pay for them, lets examine a few:
Jets – an essential feature to any hot tub, although the range and variety differ immensely from numerous small jets which can feel like needles poking your back to huge jets which can feel like being punched in the back! lol Overall more does not necessarily mean better (some cheap nasty tubs can look as perforated as a sieve! with 100’s of jets, quality tubs tend not to have 40 jets or less) Also beware on the pumps providing the jet action – air pumps are not good, just pushing air into the water making it look frothy but not actually doing anything beneficial, the best jets are water pumps and often have the option of adding air flow to increase/decrease the pressure.
Lights – a nice novelty that can vary from subtle lighting to those that can make it look like a disco. Personal preference only – but we felt that the little studded light’s around the water level looked tacky and in cheaper tubs could potentially not be a good feature (possibility of being broken off leaving holes in the edge of your tub).
Water feature – waterfalls, water spouts and others… the waterfall feature built into our tub is nice but I wouldn’t have paid extra to have it included! One tub we looked at had a ‘triple spout’ which looked pretty initially but would soon become annoying as it sprayed so high and far into the tub, kids would love playing with it I’m sure, but for adults relaxing/partying it would be a nuisance spraying in your face! again, personal preference but an unnecessary novelty in my opinion!
Seating – you wouldn’t think this would be a feature of concern but the seating arrangements in a tub can make a difference. Some tubs are deeper than others so shorter people/kids will be ‘under water’ in certain seats. Lounger seats vary in length so tall people may find they feel squashed or have to bend their legs in uncomfortable positions to fit in, whilst shorter people may not fit at all! When you wet test you will be able to see what feels comfortable to you (as you can’t estimate this from a brochure alone – as we found out). The number depth and position of seats you will need will depend on how many people you intend to use the tub regularly – for a couple/small family a smaller 2-4 seater would probably do, if you mainly want it for parties more is probably better… 😉
Shell – The shell can come in many colours and a few different textures, it will be down to you to figure out what you like! We went for a darker colour with a more textured finish as we felt that the ‘typical’ marble white finish was too slippery and could potentially ‘look’ grubbier quicker.
Technology – You can get anything from radios through to TV’s and DVD players built into your tub, many companies will charge a huge amount extra for these features when it would be cheaper to go without and use your own! Our tub came with a built in stereo as standard (with CD player, I pod, USB and MP3 player connections) but the quality of these varies across the ranges from tinny sounding radio/CD players to high quality stereo systems with sub-woofer (like ours). generally if it doesn’t come as standard think ‘is it worth it?’ paying an extra thousand pounds for a poor quality sound system generally isn’t worth it!
There are many brands of hot tub available, of these the brands we tested were:
Master Spa – less ‘bling’ probably more suitable to those on a tighter budget or for personal use only rather than partying
Hot Springs – high cost, more ‘bling’, less ‘real’ functionality – plus the salesman seemed like a smarmy second-hand car dealer
Jacuzzi – the brand we went for – enough ‘bling’ without being too excessive, good functionality, high costs but “value for money” to us, in addition excellent customer service including being able to ‘project manage’ the whole installation process to include the necessarily electrical work and landscaping we required.
Of course this isn’t ‘The Ultimate’ guide to buying a hot tub, many other things to consider include ozonators, inclusion of spa covers, steps, delivery (and big issue if your tub is only delivered to roadside leaving you to drag 3/4 of a ton into position, or needs to be craned in to your garden!), cabinet construction, insulation (as you never turn them off, they are always hot), warranty, finance arrangements, water treatment/care and running costs (and probably many more things too!) but I hope this has helped a little!
So there you have it, I’ve tried not to make this too long, if you want more info/guidance on buying a hot tub there are some links below that will be of help to you. If you decide to go for it remember as one friend said to us after we’d made our choice and were trying to justify some of our preferences to ourselves – ‘it’s a luxury item – it may as well be luxury!’ What ever you decide your hot tub should last you many years, so take your time, and eventually enjoy your tub! 😀
Links for more help buying a hot tub:
What not to buy – poor quality, badly designed spa’s that look mega ‘bling’
Where we bought ours – Jacuzzi, Highly recommended! 😉
Unbiased guide – from a UK retailer
Detailed informative articles and care tips – website usability is stuck in the 1990’s but content is very good
Hot Tub Horrors – Ebay buyers guide including warnings about the Chinese Tubs mentioned above.
Hot Springs – A ‘premier’ UK retailer
What Spa magazine – helpful free magazine and online buyers guide
Master Spa – As owned by friends 🙂
How It’s made – Video showing how a hot tub is built! 😀