A hot tub is a fun addition to family time and outdoor parties, plus a hot tub provides health and wellness benefits as well. A relaxing soak can relieve stress, arthritis, sore muscles, and help increase circulation. Slipping into a spa after a morning walk will leave you feeling invigorated and ready for the day ahead. An evening soak will help you disconnect, decompress, and fall asleep faster.
But, how do you choose the best hot tub? Here are eight important features to consider when shopping for a hot tub.
- Hot Tub Materials and Construction
One of the most important considerations when shopping for a spa is the quality and durability of the inner and outer workings. Hot tub shells are made from a variety of materials. Acrylic, vinyl, or rotomolded plastic are most common. And some shells retain heat better than others. Ask your dealer about the energy-efficiency of the spa you’re considering. Overall, a hot tub shell should be attractive, durable, energy-efficient, and able to withstand years of constant use.
Acrylic hot tub shell manufacturing involves heating a sheet of acrylic and placing it over a mold. After the molded acrylic cools, resin and fiberglass are added to provide strength. High gloss acrylic shells contain UV inhibitors, which prevents color fading. Acrylic shells are attractive, durable, energy efficient and available in a wide range of colors.
Vinyl hot tub shells are often found on tubs next to inground pools. A vinyl liner is placed over a cement frame to create the shell. A hot tub with a vinyl shell may be more inexpensive, but vinyl doesn’t retain heat well, so your operating costs may be higher. Keep in mind a colored vinyl shell left uncovered will eventually fade from the sun. Vinyl shells are more sensitive to chemical imbalances in the water and often less durable than acrylic.
A rotomolded plastic hot tub shell is made of a plastic powder added to a mold, heated, and rotated until the melted plastic covers the mold. Unlike glossy acrylic shells, plastic shells have a dull matte finish. Although plastic shells are lightweight, they aren’t known for retaining heat well.
- Hot Tub Exterior Cabinets
The cabinet is the visual part of your spa that surrounds the exterior, so it should be attractive to the eye. Hot tub exteriors are available in a wide range of colors, textures, and patterns. Keep in mind natural wood cabinets look warm and rich, but may require additional maintenance to protect them from the elements.
Spas with easy-to-remove side panels make service easy and inexpensive. Plus, you can change the look of your spa anytime. Cabinets made of weatherproof synthetic are UV resistant, nearly maintenance free and are easy to clean with a quick spray from the garden hose.
- Hot Tub Insulation
The manufacturer insulates the hot tub’s interior with a thick layer of expanding foam. Some manufacturers fill the entire cabinet while others insulate just the underside of the shell and the interior floor. If you live in a cold climate, it’s a good idea to check the hot tub interior for adequate insulation before you buy.
- Hot Tub Lighting
Spa lighting has improved in past years and is excellent for aesthetic reasons as well as safety. Lights are now placed above the water, along the rim, and below water, which helps in moving safely around the spa. Some hot tubs provide controls to change the light color or brightness to your preference. Almost all hot tub lights are LED bulbs.
- Hot Tub Controls
The newest spa-side or hand-held remote controls are user-friendly. Some tech-savvy designs even allow you to operate the hot tub through a smartphone app. Some models allow you to easily control the heater, lighting, pump, and runtime from a touchscreen near the hot tub or on an app via smartphone. Look for these features in a hot tub control panel or app:
- Blower control: Controls the hot tub’s influx of air, causing the bubbling from the jets.
- Lights: Along with the ability to turn the hot tub’s lights off and on, you should be able to adjust the brightness and color as well.
- Jets: Some hot tub models have up to three buttons for jet control. This allows you to adjust the speed and strength of your jets.
- Temperature: Many hot tubs come with pre-programmed temperature settings but you should be able to manually control them as well. Keep in mind, most hot tubs are designed to stay at 104 degrees or cooler.
- Alerts/Warnings: GFI or GFCI failure and overheating are the main alerts you want to look for in a control panel.
- Massage Jets in Hot Tubs
Some hot tubs are available with dozens of massage jets arranged in many configurations. When shopping for a hot tub, check the jet design and how the water pressure is adjusted. Consider a hot tub model with massaging foot jets and neck jets for added therapeutic benefits.
- Cooling Systems
A cooling system lets you enjoy your hot tub year round by adjusting the water temperature to a warmer or cooler setting depending on the weather. A cooling system creates a fun place for the grandkids to swim and play in the summer and a relaxing place for unwinding after an afternoon of yard work, and it’s a useful add-on for families living in hot climates. Chill the water to enjoy a refreshing dip on a hot afternoon, then raise the temperature in the evening for a relaxing, muscle-relieving soak.
- Hot Tub Entertainment Packages
While not essential to the health benefits of hot tubs, audio and video enhancements can round out your relaxation oasis.
Audio entertainment systems are available so you can enjoy your favorite music from speakers built into your hot tub, or add a wireless Bluetooth audio system to stream music from your smartphone or indoor home entertainment system. An audio entertainment system installed on a hot tub usually comes with a water-resistant remote to control music volume, play, pause, switching tracks, or selecting different inputs.
HD video monitors let you relax in your hot tub while you stream video, TV, movies and more with an all-weather HD video monitor. Most video monitors connect to your in-home video sources or to a streaming stick to provide a wide range of viewing options, and most video packages include a pedestal and base to slide under the spa for easy setup and installation.