When you’re ready to add a hot tub or swim spa to your garden oasis, there are a few things you’ll want to decide before you take delivery, and other points you’ll need to keep in mind once it’s arrived. This article aims to outline the key points to consider when buying your first hot tub.
Primarily, these are as follows:
- How many people will be using it?
- Where will the hot tub be installed?
- How will you protect your hot tub or swim spa?
- What level of privacy will you want?
- What water treatment chemicals do you need?
- What will the likely running costs be?
- Should the hot tub be on all the time?
We’re going to look at each of these points in more detail so that you can make the necessary decisions and choices well in advance of installation day.
How many people will be using it?
This can often be an afterthought but hot tubs and swim spas vary greatly in size, so give some thought to the maximum number of people you think will use it at any one time.
The more people use it, the greater will be the need to test and dose the water to ensure it is safe and not harbouring anything nasty!
Once you do take delivery and invite family and friends over to take a dip, kindly ask them to take a shower first as body lotions, perfumes, and even fake tan can impact the water quality.
Where will the hot tub be installed?
This is the most important decision to get right first time, as relocating a hot tub or swim spa will not be easy!
- What surface will the hot tub be installed on, i.e. a patio or decking? Make sure that the surface is completely level. You can purchase items to help you level the hot tub on an uneven surface, such as plastic or wooden shims, and flooring mats such as those found in commercial gyms, but this may not be advisable with larger, heavier spas. For more robust hot tubs and swim spas you will need to get a base built and properly constructed to take the weight.
- How much natural sunlight will your bathers be exposed to? Whilst bathing in the sunshine is a lovely thought, bear in mind the levels of sun exposure that may occur. Wearing too much sunscreen will result in excess deposits in the water, meaning that you may need to dose it with more of your primary sanitiser (chlorine or bromine). Adding a retractable canopy is a a good option to have the best of both worlds. Of course, sunlight will help to keep the water warm, which will lessen the work of the heating system.
- Ensure there is access to an electrical supply. Smaller hot tubs require a 13 amp supply and a 32 amp may be needed for larger tubs and swim spas. A qualified electrician will need to carry the work out.
- Avoid close proximity to large trees and shrubs. In the event of bad weather your tub may be damaged by falling debris or branches.
- Consider the outlook. What will you be looking at as you sit relaxing in your hot tub? If it’s a concrete wall you may want to consider turning the hot tub slightly so you have a better view!
- Accessing and exiting the hot tub. Hot tubs tend to have inbuilt steps so that you can easily get in and out, but do make sure that this side of the tub is not too close to anything so that your movement isn’t impeded. Elderly and infirm users may require more space too.
How will you protect your hot tub or swim spa?
Every hot tub and swim spa should be covered when not in use. There are practical reasons for this; a cover will help retain the heat in the water therefore your energy bills won’t be hit quite as hard, and debris will be prevented from falling into the water.
Certain types of cover are cumbersome for one person to remove and replace, so you may want to consider a cover lifter for ease of operation.
What level of privacy will you want?
As you relax and enjoy your lovely new hot tub, you may not want to be overlooked by neighbours or passers-by! Fortunately there are number of options to help maintain a sense of privacy.
Screening is one way to make your hot tub less visible, it can be constructed in timber to create an attractive garden feature. Most garden decking companies will be able to supply and build this type of structure.
A more obscured option is to use tall garden shrubs. These can be either in pots so that you can move them around to suit, or else planted directly into the ground. Just remember to leave access around the hot tub or swim spa, and make a note of how tall the shrubs are likely to get so that you don’t mistakenly trap your hot tub in a corner of your garden!
What water treatment chemicals do you need?
Yes. You will need chemicals to add to your hot tub, but this isn’t the awful prospect that some on the internet would have you believe.
You will need:
- Chlorine or Bromine (your primary sanitiser) to eliminate pathogens that will very easily make their way into untreated water. If left they will make your bathers sick or worse, in some unfortunate cases.
- Non Chlorine Oxy Shock to perform a weekly ‘shock’ – read more about what this is and why it plays an important role in keeping your water healthy here. Chlorine Dioxide is another popular alternative.
- Hot Tub Clarifier to keep water clear, and inviting. Some pollutants are so minute that they pass through the spa’s filtration system, and so clarifier can catch and eliminate them. Read more about it and how it works here.
- pH Test Strips are not strictly chemicals, but you will need them to test the reading of your water – ideally this should be between 7.0 and 7.6. Readings outside of this will impact the effectiveness of Chlorine. For example, at a reading of pH 7.0, Chlorine is 70% efficient, at pH 7.5 that efficiency drops to 45% and so you will need to use more. When the water becomes more acidic (i.e. below pH 7.0) the Chlorine efficiency increases but the water will be extremely unpleasant to bathe in and shouldn’t be used.
A word about enzyme products – there are some bold claims out there stating that enzyme products can eliminate the need for Chlorine or Bromine (i.e. a primary sanitiser). This is not true. Enzyme products will help remove pollution in your hot tub or swim spa water, such as oils and fats secreted by bathers, but they will not eliminate pathogens. The removal of the these oils and fats, however, will assist the primary sanitiser (Chlorine or Bromine) so it will kill the pathogens more effectively. Enzyme products are therefore useful in the role of keeping your hot tub or swim spa water clean and safe, but they should not be used on their own.
In addition to purchasing chemicals you will need to test your water regularly to ensure the readings are satisfactory and that it is safe for your bathers to use.
What will the likely running costs be?
At the moment of writing this, energy prices are skyrocketing and so it’s impossible to give an answer that won’t be incorrect this time next week.
Hot tubs and swim spas will draw anything from between 1500 watts to 6000 watts and beyond, so electricity usage is significant.
It should be noted however that electricity usage will be far greater if insulation is poor or lacking. This is where investing more in the initial purchase will pay dividends later on, as the more prestigious brands of hot tubs and swim spas typically have far superior insulation and therefore the electricity draw to keep the water warm is less.
Here is a list of costs you can expect to incur when running a hot tub:
- Electricity – the hot tub or swim spa should be switched on all the time, certainly during the periods it’s being used, typically summer time.
- Water Treatment Chemicals – it’s worth checking if a local dealer can offer a competitively-priced monthly subscription service, or if any online retailers offer something similar. Often an actual bricks-and-mortar store can offer a better follow-up service should you have any queries.
- Water – around every three to four months you will need to change your water. This can’t be avoided as there will be a build-up in the water of total dissolved solids. Such build ups cannot be removed any other way and so a complete water change is the best answer. If your water is well-managed and cared for the period between water changes can be extended.
- Replacement Filter Cartridges – the filter cartridges should be cleaned every week, and replaced when necessary. Ineffective filter cartridges will soon impact the hot tub water quality.
- Servicing – whilst not an absolute necessity, it’s well worth employing the services of a professional to come in and give your hot tub or swim spa a full clean and service. Many companies offer servicing at regular intervals, and it really will prolong the life of your spa, with fewer headaches and less stress along the way!
Should the hot tub be on all the time?
Yes, you should leave your hot tub turned on all the time during prolonged periods of use, i.e. during the summer months. Turning it off and letting it stand with water in it will encourage the multiplication of biofilms in the internal pipework and elsewhere which could be troublesome to remove. In addition, the reheat process to get it to bathing temperature would be costly.
When you are considering buying a hot tub or swim spa, there are a number of basic and straight-forward points to consider so that your experience as new owner is as enjoyable and stress-free as possible.
We hope that this article has helped outline the key points to consider.
Happy, safe bathing!