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Hot tub buying guide

Guide written by:
Sebastian, self-taught DIY-er, Exeter

Sebastian, self-taught DIY-er, Exeter

177 guides
Whether you go for an inflatable or hard shell model, nothing beats a hot tub for a spot of relaxation and a good massage. From aromatherapy to colour or hydro therapy, indulge in scents, calming LED lighting, heated water and hydromassage. Prefer to stay active? Go for a swim spa! Read on for our top tips.

Important features

  • Hard shell, inflatable or in-ground
  • Therapeutic or relaxation hot tubs
  • Ergonomics and additional options
  • Comfort-enhancing accessories
  • Water maintenance

Selecting a hot tub based on your needs

If you are looking for a therapeutic relaxation, opt for a hot tub with massage jets. When directed at specific areas of the body, these jets can relieve daily aches and pains and alleviate joint issues. You can choose either an inflatable or fixed hot tub, depending on your budget and the space you have available.

Looking for an inexpensive hot tub designed for laid back summer evenings on the patio? Go for an inflatable hot tub equipped with a bubble blower for a relaxing effect. Inflatable hot tubs offer affordable price ranges; what's more, they can be deflated and stored out of the way when the season is over.

Would you rather create an at-home balneo spa experience and enjoy your hot tub all year round? Choose a hard shell or in-ground spa equipped with bubble and water jet technology. You can then add on extras such as light or music therapy, aromatherapy and all the accessories that come with a luxury-style spa. Take the time to carefully select your massage settings to suit your individual needs.


In order to choose the right hot tub, take note of the following:
  • The number of seats.
  • Available options: bubble blowers for relaxation, massaging water jets, etc.
  • Accessories such as trays, steps, cup holders and head rests.
  • The addition of an insulating cover to reduce your electricity bill and cut down on maintenance.
  • Additional treatment options, such as aromatherapy, music and lights.

Hot tubs: background and benefits

What is a hot tub?


Hot tubs or spas are hot water pools that can be equipped with different hydromassage nozzles or bubblers. While hot tubs can be designed for sports use, they are primarily designed for relaxation.

Directed water massage jets offer users genuine 
therapeutic care for relaxed muscles and joints. The shape of the tub can be square or round; alternatively, some models come with oval or rectangular designs.

Hot tubs vs. whirlpool baths

Hot tubs differ from whirlpool baths in terms of their water capacity, the number of seats, tub design and massage quality. Furthermore, hot tubs offer improved temperature maintenance and can be installed outdoors.

And in case you were wondering: hot tubs and Jacuzzis are indeed the same thing; 'Jacuzzi' is simply a brand name that is now commonly used to refer to any hot tub. This is thanks to one Roy Jacuzzi who had the bright idea of incorporating pressurised water and air into bathtubs back in 1968!

Hot tub benefits
  

The hydrotherapy provided by your hot tub is recommended for people suffering from joint pain or back issues.

Combining
well-being and relaxation, the effect of the hydromassage nozzles benefit both body and mind by:

  • calming and soothing;
  • stimulating and toning;
  • improving circulation;
  • eliminating toxins;
  • dilating pores and alleviating chronic pain;
  • relieving migraines;
  • relaxing muscles, and so on.

Your hot tub may have an energising or relaxing effect, depending on the settings offered by the tub and how you choose to use them. These benefits can be felt from the very first use.

Different types of hot tubs

Each type of hot tub has its own set of advantages in order to meet the needs of different household layouts and individual needs.

In-ground hot tubs

In-ground hot tubs are permanent fixtures which require considerable installation work and a dedicated indoor or outdoor location. They can be installed fully or partially in the ground. Whether you choose to install your hot tub within a dedicated external structure is up to you. In order to minimise losses and spillage, and to allow for better control, some in-ground hot tubs are equipped with an overflow system allowing you to collect water.

Portable hot tubs

Portable hot tubs are mobile in the sense that they can be moved around when empty. Often offering the same hydromassage functions as in-ground hot tubs, this type of hot tub requires a stable and flat surface, whether installed indoors or outdoors. There are two main types of portable hot tubs.

Hot tubs with a hard shell


Hard shell hot tubs consist of an acrylic tub with composite or wooden cladding. The design of the tub itself is of superior quality, as are the hydromassage nozzles. However, these tubs are heavy and are best kept in a dedicated location.




Inflatable hot tubs


Inflatable hot tubs are made of laminated PVC and offer an interesting alternative to hard shell or in-ground hot tubs, which are more expensive.

Inflatable hot tubs are lightweight and can be emptied, meaning they can be easily moved around. Additionally, inflatable hot tubs take up less room and are very light when empty.

Swim spas

Swim spas differ from other models in that they allow you to swim against an artificial current. Larger than those designed purely for relaxation, these hot tubs are available as partial in-ground models.

Hot tub weight: a
hard shell portable tub designed to seat 5 people can easily weigh 250 kg when empty, and can hold up to 1200 litres of water. The weight of inflatable hot tubs depends on how much water they hold, as they are very lightweight when empty.

How do hot tubs work?


Hot tubs are hot water pools equipped with hydromassage nozzles. The water is therefore constantly being filtered and is kept at a set temperature. The nozzles distribute pressurised water to provide a beneficial massage. A range of components make this possible:

  • an electric heater is used to heat the water and maintain it at a set temperature, ranging from 25 to 40°C. Its power rating is provided in watts (W) and varies based on the volume of water the tub is required to heat;
  • a filter pump draws in the water and releases it into the tub. This pump consists of a pre-filter, a pump body and a motor;
  • filters cartridges are integrated into the pump circuit to release the clean water. Larger models are equipped with a sand filter;
  • a skimmer to clear the surface of the water by collecting hair and other debris;
  • a massage pump, also known as a booster, to power the massage jets;
  • a bubble pump, also known as a blower, to produce the small air bubbles in your tub. It's a good idea to incorporate an air heating system so that the bubbles don't cool down the water;
  • pressurised hydromassage nozzles with a variety of jet settings for different massage types;
  • a programming system that allows you to select the frequency of the jets and type of therapy.
Depending on the size of your tub, or the volume of water in circulation, you may want to double up on your filter pump. The number of hydromassage nozzles and blowers can vary, depending on the hot tub.

Hot tub treatment options

For the most part, hot tubs offer two types of technology: massage jet technology and bubble technology.

Massage jet technology for therapeutic purposes

Water jets can be directed to target a specific area (hips, shoulders, lower back, etc.). This technology is similar to that used in professional spas.

Relaxing bubble technology


Unlike water jet technology, bubble blowers cannot be targeted to specific areas. They offer more general action and put the focus on rest and relaxation.

Selecting a tub size based on number of users


2-person inflatable hot tubs
: perfect for single people or couples. As they don't take up a lot of space, they can be placed on a patio or a large balcony (sides or diameter measure approximately 120 cm).

4-person hot tubs: perfect for couples wanting enough space to relax in their hot tub, or for single-child families (sides or diameter measure approximately 140 cm).

6-person hot tubs: the perfect solution for families with children or for inviting your friends over for a relaxing evening. These hot tubs require a lot more space, whether you set them up indoors or outdoors (sides or diameter measure approximately 160 cm).

8 to 10-person hot tubs
: these models are intended mainly for large families (sides or diameter measure approximately 200 cm).

Therapeutic options for a touch of home-spa luxury

 Light therapy

Chromotherapy is an alternative medicine technique that uses light to enhance well-being and inner peace. Coloured LEDs come in relaxing or energising tones to illuminate the water in your hot tub:

  • yellow is stimulating;
  • red is energising;
  • orange is revitalising;
  • blue and green have a soothing effect.


Aromatherapy

Aromatherapy is a form of alternative medicine which uses the diffusion of medicinal plant extracts to relax and calm you. There are different treatments which vary depending on the plants used:

  • peppermint improves concentration;
  • lavender has a soothing effect, and so on.


Music therapy

Music therapy involves listening to soothing music as part of a relaxation session.
Choose your music according to your own tastes and let yourself be lulled by classical music, sounds of nature, and so on.

 

Hydrotherapy

Hydrotherapy refers to the massage offered by the hot tub via its hydromassage nozzles.

It is important to give careful consideration to the placement of the nozzles and the overall ergonomics of the tub.

Additional features to improve your hot tub experience

Your hot tub can be equipped with a range of accessories. Some are essential for enhancing comfort while others are practical and are used to make the tub more functional. Depending on the model, your hot tub may have:
  • an insulating cover or a protective cover (for inflatable hot tubs): these are key to keeping your electricity bill down;
  • cushioned head rests to ensure total relaxation and to ease neck strain;
  • a handrail to make it easier to get in and out of the hot tub;
  • steps for safer access to the tub;
  • trays for setting down a glass or two.

Maintaining the water in your hot tub

Regular maintenance: water quality 

  1. The water quality of your hot tub water should be checked and tested weekly using a pH tester. Ideally, the pH level should be between 7 and 7.4. If the level is not on target, it needs to be adjusted with either a pH increaser or reducer product. Total alkalinity (TA) and calcium hardness (CH) must also be checked. Ideal TA: 90 to 150 ppm; TH between 100 and 200 ppm.
  2. To disinfect your hot tub by shocking it, use active oxygen or bromine. Chlorine, which loses some of its inherent properties at high temperatures, is also recommended.
  3. Add a descaler every time you refill the hot tub, unless you live in an area with soft water.
  4. Clean the skimmer, the filter cartridge and the tub with a sponge and a non-abrasive cleaning product.
  5. Your hot tub should be emptied every two months.
  6. Larger in-ground hot tubs (5 to 6 people) may require the addition of a clarifier (flocculants should not be used) and an algaecide (non-foaming).

What should I do if the water is cloudy?

There are two basic solutions for maintaining the water in your hot tub.
  1. If you have already been using your water for several weeks, empty your hot tub. This is the easiest and most drastic measure which eliminates the need for water treatment products. You will then have to increase your filtration cycle.
  2. If you have just changed the water in your hot tub, disinfect it by shocking your hot tub. To do so, test the water (for pH, TA and CH and rebalance as needed), shock the hot tub using bromine or active oxygen and add a clarifier. You can also increase the length of the filtration cycle.

Disinfecting using ozone

An ozonator is used to treat water naturally with ozone, reducing the risk of allergic reactions caused by chemical treatments. This technology is provided with some hot tubs and works by supplying a blend of air and ozone via the air circuit system.

Tips for choosing a hot tub

The type of hot tub you choose will depend on your budget and your requirements when it comes to  comfort. In summary, you can choose a cheaper, inflatable hot tub or a more expensive, fixed hot tub (which will also require a more extensive installation process). The annual maintenance costs for a hot tub are generally between £200 and £250 (the cost of purchasing cleaning products, etc.).

As for quality and features, consider the quality of the tub itself, as well as its insulation features and nozzles. An insulated cover will prove essential for anyone wanting to keep their electricity costs down. Outdoor hot tubs should be covered when not in use especially if the tub is placed in the open and exposed to falling vegetation, insects, etc.

Air heating systems are paramount if you want hot bubbles! You should also consider the number of massage jets and above all , the ergonomics of the tub, as hot tubs are, of course, all about comfort!

In terms of energy consumption, remember that the more water you use and the more hydromassage nozzles you have,, the more energy your hot tub will consume. But then again, getting a hot tub isn't about saving money! Once you've made your choice, all that's left to do is relax!
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Guide written by:

Sebastian, self-taught DIY-er, Exeter 177 guides écrits

Sebastian, self-taught DIY-er, Exeter

Redo a roof with wooden beams? Check.
Advise Mister everybody in the DIY shop? Check.
Redo the bathroom plumbing? Check.
Fit together, build the walls, paint a partition, throw my hammer in a rage thinking that it will fix the problem? Check.

The DIY motto ? Learning is better than delegating… well, it's also a question about your wallet! The satisfaction? The beer at the end of the job!
What do the best have in common? The influence of Gyro Gearloose, Mac Gyver and Carol Smiley depending on your generation, a good dose of curiosity, a average hand-eye coordination and a taste for risks… and if it doesn't work, try again! Advise you? I'll do my best!

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