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Hot Tub Buyer’s Guide

Hot Tub Buyer’s Guide

The Ultimate Hot Tub Buyer's Guide

Hot tubs have a multitude of advantages that come with them, from providing relaxation and eliminating stress, to helping your mind and body just feel better overall. You’ve landed in the perfect place to begin your hot tub shopping adventure and find that spa that’s just perfect for your home. We certainly know that the buying process can be daunting at first, and that’s why we’ve curated this all-encompassing guide to help you make the best and most informed decision. Our Buyer’s Guide is filled with a bounty of information, covering everything from the dimensions and aesthetics of hot tubs, to their various state-of-the-art features and exciting benefits. Whether you’re a hot tub novice or a seasoned spa enthusiast, our Buyer’s Guide is designed to equip you with all of the most important information to pinpoint the hot tub that you’ve always wanted. So go ahead, take your time to explore our guide, and dive into the exciting realm of hot tubs!

Top Considerations When Buying a Hot Tub

The Hot Tub Dealer

The Hot Tub Dealer

The most important criteria for choosing the right hot tub is choosing the right dealer. A hot tub is a long-term investment lasting 5 years to 20 years depending on the quality of brand you choose. You will need service, chemicals, filters, maintenance help as well as accessories over the course of your ownership to help you and your family have the best hot tub experience.

Here are some more important questions you should ask?

  • How long has the dealer been carrying their brands?
  • Does the dealer provide in-house service installers and technicians?
  • Does the hot tub dealer carry multiple brands and have a variety of options?
  • Do they have chemicals, filters, and dedicated staff to help you maintain your hot tub?
  • Is the dealer open 7 days a week, year-around?

Many hot tub purchasers considering buying a hot tub at a show like Home & Garden or State Fairs, or even a traveling road show sales event at the Expo. You want to make sure that the hot tub dealer is local and that the brand is reputable. You may “save” some money on a generic brand hot tub with no local store, but you will pay for it dearly even with the slightest of hot tub service issues.

Lastly, keep in mind, that hot tub brands choose the hot tub dealer as much as the hot tub dealer chooses the brand. The top brands seek out the best hot tub operators that will keep their brand strong and their customers happy. You will see the top hot tub brands in almost every metro city. The hot tub brands that travel from city to city are because local hot tub dealers are already carrying the highly rated brands.

The Brand

The Brand

There are many high-quality brands in the hot tub industry. Unlike a car, most hot tub buyers are in the market for a hot tub only once or twice in their life. So, buyers don’t have as much experience purchasing this investment compared to other products like a home or appliance.
In general, it’s best to stay with the best brands as they have been in the business the longest, have the most reliable product, and back their warranties. They will also have better performance, lower energy costs, cleaner water, and last longer.
There are also many brands being made by local and regional manufacturers, or even overseas. These companies are just not at the same level as top brands that have been making hot tubs for over 60 years.
Some of the generally recognized top brands are:

These brands have been in business for over 60 years, producing hot tubs worldwide, and earning the best awards annually for enjoyment and reliability.

Hot Tub Placement

Hot Tub Placement

Before you start shopping, you need to figure out where the hot tub will reside. There are many factors to consider when determining hot tub placement.

Foundation

A hot tub must go on a level, firm foundation. Concrete is the best. A slight slope for concrete drainage is common. Other options include wood or composite decking and pavers. An economic alternative are hot tub/spa pads that can go directly on grass. Most hot tub dealers sell these.

Size

Besides the hot tub dimensions, you need to account for access to the hot tub and the accessories that you may want around the hot tub. A hot tub technician will need access to all sides of the hot tub in the event of a rare leak. The hot tub can be recessed or placed within 3 walls but you need enough room for a technician to either access all sides or be able to push the hot tub out. Also, the most common hot tub accessories are spa steps that take up 24” of space and cover-lifters, which can take up to 18” of space. You may also want to add a console for towels, drinks, and other conveniences.

Location

The proximity of your hot tub to your back door significantly impacts how often you’ll use it. Also, having a covered patio provides protection against the elements and reduces energy consumption. This also extends the lifespan of your hot tub cover. Therefore, when selecting where you’ll place your hot tub, ensure it’s easily accessible to both you and anyone who will be enjoying it.

Who will be using the hot tub?

The hot tub world has many different brands to choose from. Within each brand, there are different series and different sizes. The good news is that the sizes are fairly standardized across brands. So, once you know the right size, you can cross-shop brands and their series to determine the right hot tub model for you.

Size

Most first-time buyers seek a smaller hot tub. They have uncertainties about how often they’ll use it, whether their kids will be around to enjoy it, and concerns about the impact on their entire backyard area. After a customer owns a hot tub, they generally wish they had purchased something bigger. The reason is that you need room to stretch out. Even 2 people in a hot tub takes up quite a bit of space. The other reason is that the more seats you have, the more variety of jets and more choices for optimal seat depth. However, smaller hot tubs are very popular for those who have space restrictions or are empty nesters.
The most common hot tub sizes are round, 6.5 ft. x 6.5 ft, rectangle 5×7, square 7×7 and square 7.5 by 7.5. There are other smaller or larger sizes, and even rectangular larger hot tubs, but the previous listed sizes are the most common.

Seating Choices

The 2nd biggest decision after size is whether you want a lay-down seat or upright.
Lay-down seats can provide waist, thigh, calves, and foot jets. If you are on your feet all day, run a lot, or just have tired legs, a lay-down seat is the way to go! Make sure that you feel comfortable in the lay-down seat. Sit in the hot tub model that you like. For those who are shorter, make sure you don’t feel like you are going to float or sink. For those who are taller, make sure you have enough legroom.
Open Seater – These models provide more seats for the same size hot tub as a lay-down. They also generally provide larger foot well space to stretch out. There’s often a foot dome in the middle so everyone can have a foot massage and be able to sit more upright in a hot tub. Open seaters are great for those who will entertain, use them as a family, or are very tall.
Either choice is great! Most hot tub models come as a lay-down or as an open seater. Hot tub buyers often ask about dual-loungers. These are not very popular anymore. The reason is that it takes up all the seating, and if someone ends up not liking it, you have limited options to sit elsewhere. The other major reason is that hot tubs end up having family members or friends in them at the same time. Some brands offer a semi-lounger that mimics a laydown seat with waist, calf, and foot jet. However, the seat is upright so you have a larger footwell space and don’t lose the rest of the seats to a 2nd lounger.

Comfort & Configuration

Once you know your size and seating preferences, the next major step is the overall comfort and configuration for the hot tub users. You need to get in the hot tub and make sure everyone has a comfortable seat. If you can’t move your elbows, that’s a not good seat for you. If your neck is out of the water line, it’s not a good seat for you. If your legs can’t fully stretch out in the lay-down seat, it’s not the right length for you. If you are playing footsie with the other members that are sitting in the hot tub, it’s not the right hot tub layout/size for you.

The basic rule: if you are not comfortable in a hot tub while trying it out dry, you will not be comfortable once it’s full of water.

Hot tub comfort and configuration is the most critical element to hot tub enjoyment.

How to ensure that the hot tub model, size, and configuration are right for you? Sit in it at the showroom with everyone who is going to be using it.

  • Did everyone find the right seat for them?
  • Check the hot tub for variable seating depths and elbow room
  • Feel the jets with your entire arm (not just your hands)
  • Wet test the hot tub if you are unsure. This will answer all your questions.

Shop All Hot Tubs

Shopping for hot tubs can be a fun and exciting experience, as there are many different models and brands to choose from, each with their own unique features and design elements. You can find the perfect hot tub to suit your needs and budget, and begin enjoying all the benefits that a hot tub has to offer.

Shop All Hot Tubs

Construction

There are many aspects of the hot tub to consider when determining the best hot tub for you. Construction of the hot tub ranks near the top.

Some of the questions to ask include:

  • How many hot tubs does this manufacturer make annually?
  • Where does the manufacturer make hot tubs?
  • What standards does their manufacturing process adhere to?
  • Does the hot tub manufacturer have patents?
  • Are the hot tub parts proprietary, trusted 3rd party brands or generic?
  • What does the hot tub look like “under the hood”?
  • Is the bottom of the hot tub protected against the elements?
  • What materials is the hot tub made out of?

In general, hot tubs are made out of pressure-treated lumber, plastic, or steel. Pressure-treated lumber has been the original and most well-known way of making hot tubs, just like your home. Newer brands have experimented with plastic and steel, especially as the cost of lumbar has increased over the years.

The drawback to plastic is that it’s tubular and 1”x1” generally. It’s susceptible to warping, hot/cold environments, and doesn’t have the strength to lumber.

Steel makes the hot tub loud, prone to rusting, and is too rigid when hot tubs have different weights applied at different times.

The oldest brands still use pressure-treated lumber as it continues to be the best quality.

Hot Tub Designs & Features

A hot tub takes up quite a bit of space. Everyone will see it! So, make sure you like the look of your hot tub. They have come a long way in terms of design and features.
The most popular design considerations:

  • Does the color and cabinet match/accent the décor of my home and backyard? You can choose different color shells and cabinets.
  • Does it have the entertainment options I want? LED lighting, Waterfalls, cupholders, and stereo systems are the most popular.
  • What does the hot tub look like in the evening? After all, you may want to showcase it even if it’s not in use.
  • How do I control my hot tub? Newer technologies have enabled hot tubs to be controlled from your smartphone, smart home device, or smartwatch if that’s important to you

 

Most Popular Hot Tubs

Our most popular hot tubs are some of the best and most reliable options on the market. They have been tried and tested by numerous customers, and have proven to be the most popular and well-loved models.

Jet Performance

Jets are the first thing most people think of when considering features they want in a hot tub—and for good reason! Jet performance plays a pivotal role in your hot tub experience.

First, think of a hot tub as a long-term investment. Some buyers are immediately looking for therapy, and others may not be at the time of purchase. However, over the course of 5 to 20 years, your hot tub needs will change and at some point, you may want true pain relief therapy.

You don’t have to pay “top dollar” to get good massage therapy. You just have to pick the right brand. Most 1st time buyers find online hot tubs with 70 to 120 jets for less than $8,000. If it sounds too good to be true, well, it is.

Medium to large size hot tubs come with 2 pumps. These pumps are a maximum of 6 Brake Horsepower size in order to comply with electrical load. That means, these online hot tubs have the same 2 pumps as non-online hot tubs, but 2 to 3x the amount of jets. When you do the math, it means that you will receive at least 50% less power per jet. These hot tubs are also plumbed inadequately, receiving a lot less of the volume that top brands have. This means you could be receiving up to 70% less volume. Plus, with this amount of jets, the nozzles will be small and will feel like a thumb on a hose, with a bunch of pressure, and no volume.

Top-rated brands focus on 35 to 60 jets, bigger jet nozzles for larger muscle coverage, strategic jet placement, circuit therapy (each seat provides a different massage target group), jet variety, and better plumbing engineering using smaller pumps to last longer and quieter.

Amongst the better-rated hot tub brands, jets can be made by trusted 3rd party vendors like Waterway or patented by the hot tub manufacturer. 3rd party jet performance varies greatly amongst brands due to the plumbing engineering and pumps. So, definitely test the jets and make sure they are to your liking. Patented, proprietary jets, provide unique massage experiences and are a big leap over other 3rd party jet systems.

Jets are also traditionally made as bearing jets. This means they have a moving part behind them to create the motion. High-end hot tubs now have bearingless jets where there is no moving part. It’s a peace of mind that you don’t have to worry about jet failures.

Pumps

Pumps

The role of pumps in a hot tub is crucial, as they are responsible for circulating water through the filter and heater, as well as powering the jets. A top-notch pump is essential for ensuring the hot tub’s jets deliver optimal water pressure, enhancing the overall relaxation and enjoyment of the spa experience. Additionally, pumps significantly influence the energy efficiency of the hot tub, impacting operational costs. It is therefore vital to select a hot tub equipped with a dependable and high-quality pump that ensures efficient water circulation, promoting a safe and delightful spa experience.

Smaller hot tubs are generally equipped with a single pump or dual-speed pump. The hot tub filtrates (cleans) and heats during the low-speed operation. For massage therapy, the user will put it on high speed for maximum performance.

Medium and larger hot tubs are generally equipped with 2 pumps. One pump will control half of the hot tub, and the other pump will control the other half of the hot tub. The first pump may also be 2-speed for filtration and heating. Higher-end hot tubs have massage selectors where you can move the water from one seat to the other seating, increasing the power of hydrotherapy. When only 1 or 2 users are in the hot tub, you can only kick on 1 pump as well.

A popular option is a circulation pump. It can be added on, or on higher-end hot tubs, it will be included. The circulation pump runs independently of the 2 main pumps. Its function is to filtrate (clean) and/or heat the hot tub. The circulation pump is much smaller than one of the main pumps. They range from 1/20 to 1/8 of a horsepower. As a result, it draws significantly lower energy than a main pump to clean and heat the hot tub. The water also moves much slower (35 gallons per minute versus 150 gallons per minute), making it easier for the heating element to heat the water, and for the sanitizing system, if applicable, to sanitize the water. Circulation pumps help ensure that the main hydrotherapy pumps last longer, and the hot tub overall is much more energy efficient.

Hot tub brands love to play the brake horsepower game. Whose pump is bigger? Unfortunately, a bigger pump does not mean a more powerful massage performance. The pumps are made by different companies and have different criteria to “rate” the size of their pumps. The most important method to determining massage performance is to feel the jets.

The other factors to determine performance are plumbing engineering and jet nozzle sizing. Most hot tub companies use 90-degree elbows and plumbing lines for each jet. This reduces the volume of the water by the time it comes out to the jets. Higher-end brands and series will 45 45-degree sweep elbows and a water manifold distribution system to deliver a higher volume of water out of the jets. In addition, larger jet nozzles will fulfill the delivery of that volume, and decrease the pressure compared to smaller jet nozzles, commonly referred to as pin-point jets.

Water Sanitization

The biggest concern about buying a hot tub is how difficult it might be to maintain. First, hot tubs are 300 to 500 gallons. Pools are 8,000+ gallons. So, a hot tub can be maintained with tablespoons of chemicals and not pounds of chemicals. Second, hot tubs have a cover that goes on directly after usage. A good hot tub cover keeps debris and algae out of the hot tub as well as keeping the hot tub water hot. Lastly, most hot tubs offer a sanitization device or system to help kill germs and bacteria and keep the water clean.

The most popular options:

  • Ozone
  • Salt
  • UV

Sanitization options are generally add-ons. Ozones are the least expensive. Salt and UV systems cost at least double as ozone systems. None of these options will make the hot tub “chlorine-free” or “no maintenance”. But, they help keep the water sanitized with fewer chemicals and hands-on maintenance. A cleaner hot tub also lasts longer, runs more reliably, and uses fewer chemicals.

Ozonation

Ozonators are the oldest sanitization technology in the hot tub industry. A hot tub ozonator is a device that utilizes ozone gas to oxidize the water in your spa. As a potent oxidizer, ozone gas works to eliminate bacteria and other harmful contaminants present in the hot tub. By generating and injecting ozone into the water, the ozonator helps maintain healthier water. Ozone systems cost anywhere from $150 to $500. Ozones will last about 3 years.

Ozonators are not rated as a sanitizer, and therefore, require higher chemical upkeep compared to salt water or UV systems.

Almost every brand has an ozone option.

Artesian Spas™, Bullfrog® Spas, CalSpas®, Caldera® Spas, Dimension One Spas®, DreamMaker Spas™, HotSpring® Spas, Hydropool™ Hot Tubs, Jacuzzi®, Master Spas®, Nordic Hot Tubs™, and Sundance® Spas.

Saltwater Chlorination

The most well-known system is saltwater. Its popularity in pools has created a demand for it in hot tubs. This system utilizes salt to produce chlorine within the water. By adding salt to the hot tub, an electrolytic cell is employed to convert the salt into chlorine. This chlorine-generation process helps maintain the sanitation and cleanliness of the water.

The major issue with saltwater is that hot tubs have metals and equipment within a small environment that can cause corrosion and rust to deteriorate the hot tub. Saltwater is also producing chlorine to maintain the hot tub. Most customers are looking to decrease the level of chlorine to avoid skin dryness, redness of eyes, and overall itchy feel. Saltwater was used in hot tubs decades ago but went out of popularity due to these issues. Saltwater has made a resurgence over the past several years due to its popularity in pools.

CalSpas®, HotSpring® Spas, Caldera, Bullfrog

Shop All Hot Tubs

Shopping for hot tubs can be a fun and exciting experience, as there are many different models and brands to choose from, each with their own unique features and design elements. You can find the perfect hot tub to suit your needs and budget, and begin enjoying all the benefits that a hot tub has to offer.

Shop All Hot Tubs

UV Sanitization

UV sanitation uses ultraviolet light to kill pathogens in the water. The UV light disrupts the DNA of the microorganisms, making it impossible for them to reproduce and survive.

This method harnesses the power of ultraviolet (UV) light to eliminate pathogens in the water. The UV light works by interfering with the DNA of microorganisms, rendering them unable to reproduce and survive. By using UV light, this system effectively neutralizes harmful pathogens, ensuring the water in your hot tub remains clean and safe for use.

UV Systems are now used in water treatments and hospitals around the world. It is recognized by the EPA as a sanitizer. With a UV system, the water only needs 1 PPM chlorine, essentially making the hot tub chlorine-free. UV systems also dramatically reduce the amount of chemicals and costs of maintaining a hot tub. By being a natural light, there is no odor like Ozone or chlorine like saltwater being continuously emitted into the hot tub.

The newest technology now combines UV with Ozone. Newer inground pools are also utilizing this technology. The UV sanitizes the water and Ozone oxidizes it. UV + Ozone will be a premium upgrade to the hot tub. It is now offered by many brands.

Artesian Spas™, CalSpas®, Dimension One Spas®, Jacuzzi®, Master Spas®, Nordic Hot Tubs™, Sundance® Spas.

Chemicals & Ongoing Maintenance

No matter which sanitization system you choose, hot tub chemicals will be needed to upkeep the hot tub. The maintenance costs will range from $250 to $1000 depending on your system.

First, hot tub water must be balanced. With most city water, the water is fairly balanced. You may need to adjust the Alkalinity and PH slightly. With a good cover, the hot tub water will stay balanced. With rural water, you may need chemicals or water purifiers to make the water softer. This can easily be done.

Second, the hot tub must keep a level of free chlorine to sanitize water, anywhere form 1 PPM to 5PPM. This will depend on which sanitization system you are using.

Mineral purifiers are very popular way to treat the water naturally and keep a low level of chlorine, 1 PPM.

Another popular method is chemical feeders.

A chemical feeder dispenses and regulates the appropriate balance of chemicals. It simplifies the maintenance process by providing a controlled flow of chemicals to ensure optimal water quality. Chemical feeders can be either automatic or manual, offering convenience and efficiency in managing the water chemistry. They can be integrated into the plumbing system or designed to float in the water, such as the FROG® @ease® System.

Artesian Spas™, CalSpas®, Caldera® Spas, Hydropool™ Hot Tubs, Jacuzzi®, and Sundance® Spas.

A hot tub will have to be drained anywhere from 3 to 6 months. This is a great time to purge your hot tub with Hot Tub Serum (cleans out biofilm in plumbing lines) and clean your shell while the hot tub is draining.

Most hot tub owners replace their filters once a year with monthly filter cleanings.

Filtration

Ensuring a safe and rejuvenating hot tub experience requires clean and purified water. Circulation of water is the foundation of water health. By continuously circulating the water, the filtration system effectively removes contaminants and impurities, maintaining the cleanliness and safety of your hot tub water. Coupled with the appropriate sanitizing agents or chemicals, the filtration system ensures that your hot tub water remains fresh and inviting for your enjoyment.

Hot tubs will automatically circulate to the filtration cycle programmed, which can be adjusted. The water will circulate from either the low speed of the main pump or through the circulation pump.

The size and type of filtrations play a critical role to the level of water cleanliness. Larger filters will clean more water quicker. Smaller filters will require more filtration and the level of debris will remain higher. Hot tubs may have a single, dual or multi-filters. The square footage of the filters is the best way to gauge how much can be cleaned.

Filters can be vertical or horizontal. Most filtration systems are vertical. Larger skimmer intakes will allow more water to be cleaned. On more economical hot tubs, the filtration system will be a floating filter skimmer. It takes less water intake, and not as much of it goes thru the filter. Horizontal filtration systems mimic inground pools. It has the largest intake and ensures the water more completely goes thru the filter. Horizontal filter systems also ensure that the surface of the water, where debris resides, is being cleaned.

Insulation

Insulation

Good hot tubs should cost you less than $20 a month to operate based on Oklahoma and Arkansas weather. The insulation underneath the hot tub will be the key determent to the energy efficiency. Shell thickness and hot tub covers also provide additional R value insulation.

There are 3 main types of hot tub insulation:

  • Full Foam
  • Partial Foam
  • No Foam

Full foam has been the original and best way to insulate a hot tub. New homes now offer cell foam insulation as an upgraded feature to home energy efficiency. It’s the same concept in hot tubs. Full foam hot tubs generally also run the quietest and have the least chance of leaking. If there is a plumbing service, service technicians do have to work harder to pull away the foam to cure the leak. The good news is that a trained technician will be performing that work.

Partial foam hot tubs insulate the plumbing lines but not all way out to the cabinet. The thought process is that full foaming the hot tubs costs more than the energy efficiency gained. Partial foam hot tubs are now paired with eco-wrap or insulation boards that run along the cabinet. It does make it easier for a service technician to access the hot tub in the event of a leak. Tests have been down showing that the energy efficiency is almost as good as full foam.

No foam hot tubs are unfortunately made. It helps reduce the costs of the hot tub. However, the hot tub will cost more to run each month, run much louder and more likely to have a leak without any additional insulation protection.

Hot Tub Tech Developments

Hot Tub Tech Developments

The hot tub industry has come a long way! The latest advancements in technology and design have resulted in hot tubs that are not only more efficient and environmentally friendly but also safer and easier to maintain. 

Shop All Hot Tubs

Shopping for hot tubs can be a fun and exciting experience, as there are many different models and brands to choose from, each with their own unique features and design elements. You can find the perfect hot tub to suit your needs and budget, and begin enjoying all the benefits that a hot tub has to offer.

Shop All Hot Tubs

Delivery, Labor, and Permits

Hot tubs are very heavy and require specialized equipment to successfully deliver and install. The most common mode of delivery is a spa dolly. The hot tub will vertically sit on a dolly, and be carted to the desired hot tub location. Spa dollys require the width of the hot tub plus at least 6”. For example, if the hot tub is 38” tall, you need 38” + 6” = 44” of free and unencumbered clearance. Sometimes, a fence post may need to be removed to get the hot tub into the yard. Please discuss with an authorized retailer if your backyard has HVAC systems, steps or changes in elevation in the delivery path of the hot tub.

If a hot tub cannot be delivered by a spa dolly, then it can be craned. Cranes go up and over the house to deliver the hot tub. Cranes range from $300 to $1500 depending on the distance. Please discuss these options with an authorized retailer.
Please also check if there are any HOA ordinances that you need to comply with prior to purchasing a hot tub.

Hot tub deliveries can range from $250 to $1000. Hot tub retailers have the manpower and equipment to often deliver at subsidized rates. Mass merchants generally only provide front curbside delivery. The customer is responsible for delivering it to the backyard and installing it. That is very difficult and risky.

Hot Tubs in Oklahoma and Arkansas

We trust that this buyer’s guide has offered you valuable information and insights to assist you in your quest for the ideal hot tub. Our commitment is to assist you in discovering the perfect hot tub that suits your requirements. If you have any queries or concerns as you embark on your purchasing journey, please do not hesitate to reach out to us. We have locations throughout Arkansas and Oklahoma, and our expert team is here to assist you every step of the way. And be sure to check out our other resources, such as our learning center and blog to learn more about hot tubs and explore your options.