One of the great things about the Internet is the amount of information at your fingertips at any given time. When you're looking to make a major purchase, such as buying a hot tub, this wealth of information is a great help. Even if you're replacing an old tub, chances are you bought the previous one some time ago and your preferences, as well as styles and features, may have changed.
Unfortunately, picking your way through the information online is often challenging. Before you start your quest, answer these questions. Then, let those responses guide your choice.
How will You Use the Hot Tub?
The main function of your hot tub should be the primary focus when purchasing. Are you looking to exercise with your tub? Perhaps you should consider one with built-in fitness equipment or a swim spa. If your goal is hydrotherapy, then you need to make sure the tub you choose has the proper jets and features designed for your particular health condition. You also need to consider how often it will be used. Will it be used daily? How long will it sit with nobody using it? In that case, you need to consider the amount of energy it will take. Your tub's purpose comes first and foremost when deciding which model is right for you.
Where Will You Install It?
Location might not seem like that big a deal, but in reality, it is incredibly important. Will it be indoors? Then you need to place it in an area both large enough for the tub and that allows easy access for service calls. If you want it outside, you need a tub that stands up well against the elements and your particular climate. You also need to ensure there's enough space for servicing the hot tub.
No matter where you put it, you need to make sure that the surface the tub rests on is level and flat, and close to both a power and water source. You'll need the correct wiring to run the hot tub, so keep that in consideration when it comes to placement. As for water, you will need to empty and refill the hot tub a few times a year, so make sure that wherever you put it has adequate drainage.
Is the Tub Energy Efficient?
A hot tub requires electricity to run, so keep the energy efficiency of your tub in mind. The best hot tubs have high-quality insulation, and even indoor spas should be well insulated. It is also recommended that you get a thick, insulated cover so that your tub can retain heat even when it is not in use. Also keep an eye out for spas that use a separate pump system for the jets and water circulation, as they tend to be more energy efficient.
Residents of California should make sure that their hot tub meets California Energy Commission requirements.
What Size Do You Need?
Size might not seem like an important factor in choosing your hot tub, until you've taken it home to install in a specific space and it doesn't fit or you can't get it through the doors. Or, you go to set it up in your backyard and realize there's nowhere to put it where it can be easily serviced. Portable spas are relatively small in size and can still accommodate two to three bathers without overcrowding. There are also above-ground and in-ground spas.
In-ground hot tubs typically don't come in a large variety of sizes and are more labor intensive to install. Above-ground spas provide a larger number of size options and, while more labor intensive than an inflatable unit, tend to offer less maintenance requirements than an in-ground model. They also tend to be more energy efficient.
What Is Your Budget?
Other than the primary function of your hot tub, cost will probably be the biggest factor in choosing your new unit. Beyond the initial purchase price, you need to consider the cost of maintenance. Look at the accessories (steps, covers, etc.) and chemicals you'll need to keep the tub in tip-top shape. Also consider long-term costs of running the hot tub. While the unit with solid foam insulation and a high-end filter might cost more than the one with basic insulation and filtration, it could save you money in the long run. Better insulation means retaining heat and spending less on power to keep the unit hot, and a better filter means less time and money spent on chemicals and cleaning. In some cases, spending more up front can save you more over time.
Research is key; look at models and specifications online, then go into a store to actually check them out. Most reputable dealers should let you test a few models to see how they feel. Consider everyone that may use the hot tub, including kids, friends, and family, and how the tub would be for them. When the time comes to actually buy a unit, you can purchase either in store or online, but make sure to ask about warranty service. It is also a good idea to buy from a dealer that has been in business for a while, since they are more likely to be there a year or two down the road.
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