What matters most when buying a hot tub

If you’ve started shopping for a hot tub, right away you’re going to find out there are many models and many factors to consider. Which elements matter? Which hot tub features matter the most?

Some of that answer is up to you. But some of it you’ll want to know to ensure you’re getting what you need when you buy a hot tub. You also don’t want to be saddled with paying for a lot of things you don’t need. So we are here from Hydropool with some hot tub recommendations.

We often see people struggle with this issue when they come to our showrooms. That’s why we decided to write this article. We wanted to make sure people knew the parts that mattered most when buying a hot tub.

In this article, we will cover:

  • Cleaning system
  • Insulation
  • Shell
  • Cover
  • Hydrotherapy jets
  • Circulation pump or two-pump system
  • Branded control system
  • Warranties
  • Optional features

By the end, we hope you’ll have a sense of what you need to know when you go shopping for a hot tub.

What cleaning system is best for a hot tub?

The good news is that you have a wide variety to choose from. We recommend you consider models with AOP systems. These are systems that employ techniques from purifying drinking water to clean the water in your hot tub. Specifically, they use UV light to help sanitize your water.

Many good manufacturers have similar systems. But not all. A system like this does come with a cost, usually adding around $2,000 to any hot tub. But they pay-off is worth it no matter which brand you buy, as your maintenance is considerably less.

We are less bullish on salt-water systems, which use salt to generate chlorine in the water. We used to make salt-water hot tubs at Hydropool and we found that maintenance complexities overtook their clean-water value. Before you purchase any salt-water hot tub, we encourage you to ask for a manual and see how many steps there are in keeping it clean and make sure that makes sense to you.

What is a self-cleaning hot tub?

We have a particular interest in hot tub cleaning at Hydropool. We sell the only self-cleaning hot tub on the market, in our Signature collection.

A self-cleaning hot tub is built according to the same standards as a commercial or public pool. Those standards are much higher than hot tub standards. They are designed to constantly be working to clean your pool. A Hydropool hot tub with self-cleaning cleans all of the spa water in the pool every 10 minutes.

Does insulation matter when you buy a hot tub?

Hot tub insulation is a key factor when buying a hot tub, although it’s rarely asked about. Insulation is a major factor in efficiency when buying a hot tub and some systems are more efficient than others.

What you need is enough insulation to function well. Any more and you’re paying for show. Full foam insulation works well to insulate, but it’s hard to service. Hydropool uses an insulating blanket, which allows access to your hot tub. Still other companies use perimeter insulation, which goes all around the outside.

Hydropool’s insulation system traps heat so effectively that the residual heat is used to help keep your tub’s water warm. 

What kind of shell is best on a hot tub?

There are three main kinds of shells for hot tubs: inflatable hot tubs, rotomolded hot tubs and acrylic shells. Of the three, we recommend acrylic hot tubs. Nothing else is as shiny as an acrylic, holds up to wear and tear and evokes a sense of luxury.

We admit, acrylic is the only type of hot tub we make, so we can be accused of bias. We understand in some circumstances that rotomolded hot tubs can work well, such as if you have a second property or being budget friendly is your main focus. But if we had to make a recommendation? We’d say go acrylic all the way, whether you buy Hydropool or not because it’s your best chance at a high quality hot tub.  

What kind of cover is best for your hot tub?

For a hot tub cover you want to look for one that is tapered to the edges and at least 4” thick in the middle.

Why does a tapered lid matter? It’s so any rain or snow moves to the edges, rather than pile in the middle and making it take a lot of weight at the weakest possible point.

We know that 4” is an ideal thickness for hot tubs, because we have tested it and other thicknesses. We use that thickness because it costs the customer the least while still allowing the most possible heat retention, giving you good energy efficiency. You definitely also want flaps coming down the sides of your hot tub, as heat rises, and this will further help retention. 

Lastly, look to see that the seams of any hot tub cover you’re buying are insulated as well. A thin seam is enough to let significant heat out, costing you more money.

What should I look for when it comes to jets?

Some companies will brag about their number of jets and how powerful they are. We think that’s fine for people who want that kind of hot tub experience. There’s a customer who wants that kind of hot tub. You should let them have it.

Jets should be placed where they can massage your body where you want it. A huge number of jets doesn’t do you any good if they aren’t well-placed and thought out. They just cost you more money to run.

Some companies such as Sundance Spas and Master Spa are known for having specific jets or ones that target a certain body part only. Those are good if you know for certain that’s the only area you’re ever going to want to massage or you’re into jet technology. At Hydropool, we take a full-body “Zone Therapy” approach to ensuring your whole body can get a massage. We ensure every seat covers off a different area of your body.

So specific or all over? The choice is yours. But know you have that choice available to you. Or you can just get a lot of jets and go from there! 

Should I get a circulation pump on my hot tub?

We think the answer is yes. Two-pump systems cost you less over time to operate than a one-pump system. In a two-pump system, one powers your jets and the other does your circulation. In a one-pump system, one does double duty.

A one-pump system is also taxed more heavily than a two-pump version (this is also true with plug and play hot tubs). There is a cost increase: Usually at least $1,000 in any two-pump system, but over time we find it’s worth it. It’s also quieter, as with two pumps, neither has to work as hard.

What should I look for in a control system?

You’ll want to ask who makes it. Most companies buy hot tub controllers from companies like Balboa, Geck or SpaNet, which are all reputable brands. If you’re looking at a hot tub with a brand you can’t Google for its control panel, you’re asking for problems or payments down the road.

Since you can have it, you might as well ask for it: Many hot tubs come with apps so you can adjust them using your phone and bypass the controller altogether. Increasingly popular, most decent hot tubs have them now.

What makes sense for a hot tub warranty?

You want at least three years of solid coverage. You also want to make sure that any warranty you get isn’t pro-rated. You want to be covered entirely when you’re under warranty, not negotiating each time there’s a repair.

You also want to ensure someone is around to help you with that warranty. If you’re buying a hot tub from a tent sale, make sure it’s affiliated with a company that has local service. We know some tent sales blow through town leaving people with a hot tub but no way to get it fixed.

What optional features should I consider?

Optional features such as waterfalls, lights and stereos help make hot tubs the fun they are. We suggest you look for ones that make sense to you and that you will actually use.

For example, exterior led lights can make a hot tub look elegant in the evening and make it easier to find in the dark (it’s silly, but it works). Kids love to change the lighting colors in a hot tub, but we find adults do so less. Some waterfalls offer should massage, but some elements like big fountains in the middle of the hot tub don’t do anything but make it tough to talk to the people around you. So watch for features that might look impressive in a showroom but that you don’t actually need. 

Some elements seem optional but aren’t, such as steps. If your hot tub isn’t surrounded by a deck or set into the ground then you will need some way to easily get into it. A few hot tub companies incorporate steps into the hot tub, which you can also consider.

What to know before buying a hot tub?

In this article, we have gone over the main elements you will need to decide on before buying a hot tub, and offered our recommendations on each. From sanitization to covers to warranties, we’ve gone over the major decision points.

Buying a hot tub can be difficult because there are a lot of decision points before taking ownership. Some people end up just taking what’s there, while others do the research and end up with a hot tub that works better for them. By reading this article, we hope we have helped you figure out what makes sense for you.