Things to Know Before You Buy a Portable Spa/Hot Tub
Aqua Pros has been serving Salem, Roanoke, Bedford, Smith Mountain Lake, Lynchburg, Amherst, and Madison Heights Va's hot tub/spa needs since 1985 and is perhaps, the Mid-Atlantic's longest running spa dealer.
Below is a list of common things to know before you buy a portable spa/hot tub.
Where will the Hot Tub/Spa be placed?
Is it going indoors or out? If the tub is going indoors, how big is the opening through which it must pass and how much room will the unit take up inside? Do we need to move up steps, through tight openings, or is it pretty much a straight shot? Indoor tubs may produce some moisture when in use, particularly if the ambient room temperature is much less than the water inside the vessel (hot tub water temperatures range from 100-104 degrees F). Those planning an indoor installation need to think about how long they'll use it and perhaps consider installing an exhaust fan to pull moisture from the room. Regardless where the tub goes, a good insulating cover is essential for when the tub is NOT in use. The insulating cover prevents energy and water loss due to evaporation. There is bit of splash out whenever a tub is used in some cases and water is almost always lost from exiting bathers. Marquis Spa's Splash Guard Coping is an essential feature for ease of maintenance that keeps water in the spa as bathers exit, or if they're just cooling down on the spa's top coping. This brings up a good point as well. Indoors, we tend to get hotter soaking in the warm waters of a spa, and in some cases its uncomfortably hot. It’s a good idea to consider outdoors.
Outdoors is my favorite place for the hot tub. I like outdoors for a lot of reasons and probably most folks with outdoor tubs will say they like using the tub in the snow (a rare occurrence in Virginia) or on starry, moonlit nights. Hot tubs/spas are quite relaxing and if one has their unit in a scenic, peaceful environment, so much the better. Special consideration must be given to placing a portable spa on a deck elevated off the ground since the structure must support the weight/load of the unit full of water and people. For outdoor units and in particular, those on a deck I always recommend full-foam (low density) insulation in a hot tub to control energy costs. In addition to full-foam units, 220volt units should be considered for those with largest hot tubs and who plan to use a hot tub in colder weather.
Who's going to use the spa and what are their needs?
Everyone has their personal needs for a spa. Is the spa for therapy, family time, alone time for a couple/mom and dad, or fun and relaxation? I've had at least 8 orthopedic surgeries and my primary reason for having a spa is for hydrotherapy. I really like the feel of the powerful streams of water hitting my spine, neck, and shoulders in particular. My wife on the other hand says she likes the relaxing warm water and really doesn't need the powerful jets. It’s great to deal with a professional when making a decision on a hot tub because someone with years of experience in tubs should be able to guide you to the tub that’s just right for your particular needs. Most hot tub owners prefer to soak at night to relieve the tensions from a stressful day, or have quiet time with a loved one. I use my hot tub first thing in the morning to help loosen up my aching back and joints. I follow my soak up with a hot shower and then a few minutes of stretching and I'm good to go the day.
How many do you want the spa to seat?
There are hot tubs made for only one, and they go up in size from there. I always recommend buying the largest spa you can budget, for the space available. There are hot tubs suitable for very small spaces and even unusual geometric designs. Some folks use the spa as a focal point for entertainment while others are not so extroverted. A spa can be a great place to spend time with your kids, particularly as they get into their teen years. Sometimes that’s the time you can have your best conversations with them and most folks with teenagers in the house are probably anticipating their home becoming the hangout for their kids, and they're right! My kids have a lot of fun with their friends when they come over, and its nice to know where they are. As an aside, I've had many different tubs at my house through the years and we really enjoy our new model with the stereo. I have blue tooth capability on it and radio as well.
Care of the portable spa
For a hot tub to be simple to maintain, it must be equipped with a good filtration/sanitation/circulation system. Portable spas are great since they only need electricity and water. We always say "Fill it with a hose and drain it with a hose". The most basic tubs should be drained and refilled every 90 days, but on the other hand, a spa with a better circulation/filtration system can go much longer between changes. There are optional sanitizing systems also, and for me, the best system is an ozonater and Bromine as the sanitizer. Of course everybody’s different, but in my years of hot tub ownership (since 1985) I wouldn't own a spa without an ozonater. Ozone is the most powerful oxidizer available for use in a portable spa and not only kills bacteria and viruses on contact, it oxidizes organic contaminant, and even activates Bromide salts found in BioGuard's Bromine Concentrate. In addition to ozone, I like combining Bromine concentrate with our saltwater product, Aqua Finesse. Aqua Finesse is a saltwater system that gives the softest, clearest water possible for the longest period of time, between water changes. I've found that using Aqua Finesse in my 350 gallon hot tub allows me to go up to 18 months between water changes!
A real good sanitation system is an inline system that incorporates Bromine and Minerals along with a unique ozone delivery system called a "contact chamber". The contact chamber is a longer section of Kynar lined tubing in which the ozone is circulated back to the vessel in contact with the water and what's in it (bacteria, organics, etc), destroying along the way. The water is like purified water as it is returned into the vessel in the footwell and this method of ozonation prevents harmful off gassing of the ozone and, it prevents the bathers from being in contact with the ozone.
Chlorine is not my favorite sanitizer for a spa since it tends to have more issues with organics than Bromine. Bromine also performs a little better in hot water of a spa.
There are halogen free sanitizers for folks that have allergies to Chlorine and Bromine. An excellent choice in the halogen free product line is Soft Soak from BioGuard.
There are more options to consider, but for the sake of brevity, we'll stop here.
So many equate jet count with quality or performance of a hot tub/spa and in fact, that's the way many hot tub retailers/manufacturers advertise. If you see a portable spa boasting 100 or more jets, that's usually a fictitious number (of hydrotherapy jets). The manufacturers in the majority of those tubs are using an air blower which simply blows air into an air channel, or air orifices placed in the seats of the spa, and really add nothing to the tub's therapeutic benefit. Hydrotherapy is created by forcing water through jets designed to mix air with the water and increase velocity and pressure as it exits the jet. Today there are numerous jets that deliver different pressure and flow rates that create hydrotherapy for different parts of our bodies. Truth is, the type of jets and how they're placed in the hot tub make for comfort and therapy.
Pump(s) and Horsepower
Prior to this, we mentioned that there are different hydrotherapy jets. We also want to distinguish between a pump and an air blower (sometimes referred to as "an air pump"). Hydrotherapy jets are designed to operate at optimal flow rates, or gallons per minute (GPM). A hydraulically balanced system is what you’re looking for in a portable spa. Jet count and type, pipe type, pipe diameter, length of pipe, and flow rates are critical points of consideration when building the quality product you're looking for. Don't be fooled by misleading horsepower claims. Those manufacturers that boast the most H.P. are almost always the lowest quality product, so be careful on this. So many dealers and manufacturers give fictitious horsepower claims just to make a sale. I've been in the hot tub business continuously since 1985, and I've never boasted about H.P.. Flow rates are more important for discussion. If you really want to know how well a spa will perform have the dealer demo the unit. Don't be fooled by some ad claiming to have something still in the crate and at a sacrificial price, out of some dingy warehouse. Chances are if a tub is priced at an incredibly low price with a lot of awesome features, it probably is too good to be true.
Type of Insulation: Full Foam or Not?
The right type of insulation can only add to the energy efficiency of a portable hot tub/spa. I hear all the time that "If a hot tub gets a leak, it can't be fixed in a fully foamed spa". That's just a blatant lie or someone speaking from ignorance of hot tub construction. Our Marquis spas are completely filled with low density foam insulation for maximum energy efficiency and savings, and in my years in this business, we've had some leak right from the factory, but we've always been able to find and fix them. Leaks happen. The truth is, foam insulation helps prevent leaks because the foam insulation supports the plumbing in the hot tub. There is a tremendous amount of weight on the water filled plumbing in a portable spa, and every time the pump(s) kick on high, there's a high level of torque on the jets. Foam actually supports piping and jets. Our Marquis Spas use low density foam which has the highest R-Value and provides maximum energy efficiency. Low density foam is easy to get out of the way when you need to, so the tub is serviceable.
Bad Foam: Some hot tub shells actually rely on a "high density" foam for structural support, and they'll promote it as energy efficient. A lack of air entrained into this type of foam gives the product little R-Value and in addition, high density foam IS difficult to deal with in the event of a leak repair as water travels in funny patterns through it and It’s also a bear to dig it out in the event of a leak.
Kind of Shell Structure?
To date, the most tried and proven form of reinforcement for an acrylic hot tub is hand rolled fiberglass and resin. Done properly, hand laid fiberglass reinforcement offers the most strength and durability, without the necessity of any other material for support to the acrylic shell. Some hot tub shells use ABS backed acrylic (acrylic with bonded ABS Plastic on its backing). ABS Plastic is not strong enough for structural support, so you’ll sometimes see fiberglass reinforcement and or high density foam used as additional reinforcement. This is a poor choice in my years of experience.
Since hot tubs have been around for years, and the first fiberglass, vacuformed acrylic spas were made in 1982, look for a hot tub dealer that's been in the business for a long time, and you probably can't go wrong.
Don't fall for those classified ads touting "New hot tub, still in crate. Thousands less than retail." In most cases, that "deal" will be a bad deal, and they won't be there when you need service. Do your research carefully and you should get what you expect and hope for.
Is there a Warranty?
There's really only 4 things to know when investing in a hot tub: Inside, Outside, Operating System, and Ownership Cost. A significant part of your ownership cost could be repairs. Marquis Spas is the world's only manufacturer with an Ownership Protection Plan. Marquis' Ownership Protection Plan is simple to understand and completely outlines the coverage of your brand new Marquis Hot Tub. Make the dealer show their warranty. A hot tub warranty should be short and to the point and readily available online. The best hot tub manufacturers post their warranties online for easy visibility. Here is a link to Marquis Spas Warranty online. http://www.marquisspas.com/support/hot-tub-warranty/
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