Hot tubs are a big investment, and getting the wrong hot tub can be a very, very expensive mistake. Hopefully, our buyer’s guide will allow you to avoid making one!
Features & Specs To Look For In A Hot Tub
Portable VS In-Ground Hot Tubs
First up, hot tubs can be portable or in-ground.
Portable units are placed on the ground and are typically made from fiberglass, acrylic, or polyethylene (more on these materials later). If you want to be able to move your hot tub around, then a portable tub is probably the right option. Plus, if you are considering ever moving out, then you can take a portable hot tub to your new property.
Note that with a portable hot tub, you will need a structurally sound surface such as concrete, brick, or a reinforced patio deck.
As for in-ground hot tubs, they are made from stone, tile, or concrete. They are costlier to construct than portable units and often require a construction permit. However, in-ground tubs typically are more durable and blend with the backyard landscape better.
Hot tubs typically work on either standard household 230V outlets or hardwired electrical systems.
The great thing about 230V hot tubs is that they are more portable since you can hook them to any 230V outlet. Apart from that, 230V is readily available in Irish households.
Hardwired systems, on the other hand, aren’t a common sight in Irish homes – if you go for a hardwired hot tub, you will probably need to call an electrician to set up a dedicated system for you and hook the hot tub to it.
But although the setup costs of hardwired hot tubs are higher, you will get much faster heating because the tub’s wattage will be high!
Speaking of watts, they are also important. Generally, the higher the wattage, the faster the hot tub will heat the water, but it will also draw more energy.
Hot tub manufacturers typically provide wattage figures in their spec sheets – even if not, you can calculate wattage by multiplying voltage (e.g. 230V) with amperage (e.g. 20A).
With portable hot tubs, you may also consider the shell material. Here are some materials commonly used in hot tubs:
- Acrylic. The most common shell material, acrylic is durable, gorgeous, and allows for complex shapes. Acrylic hot tubs often have ergonomic seating with a wide range of sizes.
- Molded resin. These hot tubs typically cost lower than acrylic ones, but they are still rather durable. Typically, molded resin hot tubs have fewer pumps than acrylic tubs as well, so they may deliver weaker water pressure.
- Vinyl hot tubs are a soft and low-cost alternative to pricey acrylic or resin tubs. They are extremely portable and easy to store, but their durability is far inferior to that of the previous two types. Some vinyl tubs are inflatable for added space efficiency, but they don’t last long.
This spec comes down to how large hot tub parties you will be holding. However, the more seats you have, the larger and more expensive the hot tub will get, so there’s that.
For most people, 5-6 seats are going to be more than enough. For small families, 4 should work as well. But if you have the budget and are intending to invite more friends to the party, you can find hot tubs that have 10 seats!
Jets mix air and water and then deliver it under pressure for a relaxing massage.
One important thing to note with the jet count is that more DOESN’T mean better. In fact, with the same pump, an increased number of jets will lead to decreased pressure. To compensate for this pressure loss, manufacturers would have to add extra pumps or increase the power of the existing ones, which would increase the upfront and operating costs of the hot tub.
What matters more than jet count is jet positioning and design – fewer well-placed jets will do a way better job for you.
The pumps move water through the jets for massage. Two key specs to pay attention to with pumps are horsepower and the pump count. Like with jet count, more doesn’t mean better in these specs.
Instead of looking at the raw horsepower and number of pumps, consider how much horsepower each jet gets. You can calculate this by dividing the total pump horsepower by the number of jets. About 0.1 horsepower per jet is a good baseline.
Water filtration & purification
Water quality is extremely important for the longevity of your hot tub’s components and your health. To ensure that water is safe for the unit and you, hot tubs usually make use of water filters that can remove microscopical dirt & oil particles from the water.
Ideally, your hot tub should have microbe-resistant filters. As for the filter count, this depends on the size – smaller and cheaper hot tubs have 2-3 filters, while pricier units have 5 or more. Note that a higher filter count implies a higher initial price along with increased maintenance costs.
Some really advanced hot tubs also employ ozone & UV filtration systems to effectively kill germs. With typical ozone & UV systems, expect to get rid of 99.5-99.9% of all germs.
Basic hot tubs will have nothing more than water heating and massaging functionality. But if you are willing to dig deeper into your pocket, you can find fancy hot tubs with features like:
- Stereo systems.
- Wi-Fi or Bluetooth controls.
- Variable flow per each seat.
Dealers charge huge premiums for features like these, so if your budget is tight, you’d want to avoid hot tubs with any similar bells & whistles.
Make sure to pay attention to every spec in your hot tub options – every detail is important. A hot tub is a big investment, so be sure that you make a good one!