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Questions About Inflatable Spas

Questions about inflatable spas
Inflatable spas and hot tubs represent the entry level market for portable (120 volt plug in) hot tubs. Since inflatable spas are the cheapest price point hot tub option on the market many (would be) hot tub owners buy one of these first to "test the waters" before they pull the trigger on a much more expensive hot tub purchase. A new premium hot tub can cost well over $10,000 which does not include a hot tub pad or the electrical service which can add up to a few thousand alone. That is a lot of money to spend if you have never owned a hot tub and you have serious reservations that the spa will just become more work for you once the novelty of having a new toy wears off.


Whether you are testing out the hot tub market, or buying something more expensive simply is not an option for you, inflatable spas will give you the hot water immersion and relaxing soak experience that you are looking for, albeit without many of the bells and whistles that come with more premium hot tubs. An inflatable spa will heat up your water just as much as a more expensive spa and almost all models come with air blower jets and a color LED light to further replicate the experience of a more expensive tub. One or more full sized adults can sit on the edge of (new) inflatable spas, and they are much more durable than you might be picturing. Surely they are not impervious to damage, but neither is a swimming pool liner and yet pool liners are used by the millions for entry level swimming pool installations.


The interior of an inflatable spa is essentially an empty vessel. There are some (larger) inflatable spas on the market with some basic bench seating however the open concept of inflatable spas actually works as a benefit for the most part. Without any benches or seats to take up room you have the maximum amount of open space to lounge. The two most common sizes for inflatable spas are often listed as four person and six person models but in reality are much closer to two and four person models. Again even this is a generous rating (as hot tub ratings always are) and the only reason that the tub is still comfortable with this bather load is due to the open space on the inside. If the depth of the water is too much because you are shorter or prefer to be mostly out of the water you can easily buy a weighted spa pillow to sit on.


Are Intex Spas Any Good?


In the world of inflatable hot tubs Intex is a major player in the market. There are other recognizable brand name inflatable spas such as Coleman as well as number of independent and knockoff inflatable spa manufacturers however Intex seems to control the majority of the market. In buying a finished product hot tub for a few hundred dollars you need to be somewhat reasonable with your expectations of function. It is amazing to me that they are able to offer such functionality at such a ridiculously low price. For sure one of the ways that they do this is by using minimally effective materials, plumbing, heaters and pumps. Everything will work as advertised out of the box but I do not expect that these ultra-affordable products would stand up to too much abuse or excessive wear and tear.


As a pool and spa industry expert I deal daily with pool owners experiencing an expensive equipment failure who are very surprised to hear that their poorly maintained water chemistry is almost certainly the cause for the early equipment failure. It's not like they were negligent with their chemical maintenance, if not a little underinformed, but most pool and spa owners fail to appreciate how quickly things can start breaking if your water chemistry is too far outside of the normal range. An inflatable hot tub requires chemical maintenance and adjusting just like any other hot tub, however most inflatable spa owners are also first time spa owners...this leads to many mistakes with water chemistry for inflatable spa owners. It would not be too hard to damage the heating element in an inflatable hot tub by having your pH be too low, or your sanitizer be too high, and that is one of the shortcomings of these products. They are kind of like the "Ikea furniture" of hot tubs. Set it up and take care of it and it will work as advertised.


What Is The Cheapest Hot Tub?


Without a doubt the cheapest hot tubs are inflatable hot tubs. These sell as finished "plug and play" units that do not require any special electrical connections for about the same price as what a new cover on a premium hot tub might sell for. For usually $300 to $500 you can get an inflatable hot tub that is big enough for two to four people, holds over 290 gallons of water, gets as hot as 104 degrees, has a complete filtration system, and it comes with LED lights and air bubbler jets. It might not be a perfect product, but it does pack a ton of value into such an affordable price.


Most manufacturers offer a smaller sized spa and a larger sized spa. The smaller is usually about 210 gallons and the larger 290 gallons. The prices for these can drop during sales as low as $300 and change, with the larger spa usually being a little bit more money. These simple hot tubs plug into a standard wall outlet voltage of 120 Volts, which is great for convenience but limiting for heating elements. The heater can only raise the spa water temperature by a few degrees per hour on average so it will take a while to heat the spa initially. If you keep your spa temperature set lower most of the time but turn it up in advance of when you use it then you will need to factor this slow heating time into your timeline. The next cheapest portable hot tubs to these inflatable hot tubs are almost ten times as much money as these ones making inflatable spas by far the cheapest hot tub option on the market.


How Loud Are The Jets On Intex Spas?


After a few months of daily use of my inflatable spa I really only had two complaints. I imagine someone who doesn't work in the pool and spa industry like I do might have had some trouble or frustration with the chemical balance and maintenance, but I had no issues whatsoever to keep the water clean and clear daily. Of the two things that I did identify that I did not like about these hot tubs is that the display LED's on the control panel are obtusely bright, especially using the spa at night, and also how loud the air blower system is, especially when trying to use the spa late at night without waking up all of my neighbors.


The screen brightness issue was fixed on the first day with a little bit of black electrical tape over the clear cover. This way I could close the cover and avoid being blinded by the brilliantly bright green and red LED's. The loudness of the air blower system unfortunately did not have such an easy workaround. The air blower is not a water jet pump. It is essentially a turbine that rams air into a perforated bladder that runs around the perimeter of the tub floor. It sounds about as loud as a large wet/dry shop vacuum for comparison. While only 70 dB, which is not all that loud, it is the whining turbine sound that makes it particularly hard to listen to. It is not so bad inside the tub where the agitation of the water is at least as loud as the blower, but more an issue if you have close neighbors and like to use your spa late at night.


How Deep Is The Water In An Inflatable Spa?


Before I purchased my first inflatable spa this question about hot deep the water is was one of the things I was most concerned with. Working with the assumption that an smaller, entry level hot tub probably is pretty small, I wanted to be sure it would be big enough for me (and my wife) as we are both six feet tall. What I did not consider, since all of my other hot tub experience is with concrete or fiberglass hot tubs, is that without a bench, lounger or any kind of interior surface features the "open concept" hot tub is actually quite roomy. A traditional hot tub with surrounding bench seats all have a fatal flaw of the footwell being so small. It is very common to play footsies with fellow bathers in a hot tub like this. In an inflatable spa with an open interior it is much easier to fit two people with no accidental touching at all.


The deflection of water in an Intex spa ranges between 18" and 20" and I am sure that you could push this number another inch up or down if there was a specific height of water that you were trying to achieve. Initially I had set the water level to the maximum deflection however when two people used the tub, and turned on the jets, the water was inclined to splash up and over the sides of the tub. After lowering the level to the minimum deflection point this was no longer an issue. The water is also deep enough in either case as you are more or less lounging on the floor already so you simply slide in more, or sit up more straight depending on how much or how little you want to be in the water.


Is An Intex Spa Big Enough For Four People?


In an Intex spa big enough for four people? The answer to that depends on which model of Intex spa you are talking about, as well as how well you know these other three people! Intex, as well as most other inflatable spa manufacturers offer a small and a larger volume of spa. The 77" inflatable spa from Intex holds about 210 gallons where the larger 85" inflatable spa from Intex holds up to 290 gallons. The open concept interior on these basic hot tubs allows for a comfortable experience that does not see you constantly making contact with your neighbor. However once you put more than two people into one of these spas you will find that body parts will start to end up all sorts of places that they should not be.


In an absolute best case scenario you could fit four adults in the larger 85" spa from Intex, so long as the people were not huge, and they all knew each other fairly well. While this 85" spa is advertised as suitable for up to six people I feel confident that most bathers would find this to be far too cramped to be comfortable but four is a possibility. Two people in either of the Intex size tubs is ideal as there is ample room for two people to lounge out uninterrupted.


Do Inflatable Spas Have A Light?


Almost all inflatable hot tubs come equipped with a color LED light. While only battery operated (supply your own batteries) this diminutive light is more than bright enough to fully illuminate the water at night in your hot tub. During the day the light is not bright enough to make any difference to the water, but at night, and especially with the air bubbler jets running, the color LED floods the entire volume of the spa with vibrant colors or a revolving color light show.


While this is a rather small feature to be concerned with it is actually surprisingly effective at helping you to forget that you bought the cheapest hot tub on the market, and just lets you enjoy the fact that you bought a hot tub. Simulating a much more expensive hot tub experience, the LED light in an Intex spa can be set to hold individual colors or also to perform a revolving color light show.


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