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Is An Inflatable Hot Tub Worth it?

Is an inflatable hot tub worth it?
Is an inflatable hot tub worth it to buy? Are portable spas any good? Do they last a long time? These are the kinds of questions that you might be asking yourself before you are ready to commit to buying an inflatable hot tub for the first time. If you have never used one yourself then it can be kind of hard to imagine how these work (do they work?) and you probably have questions like "how much does it cost to run an inflatable spa?" or "do inflatable spas have lights?" and this does not even mention some of the most common questions about water chemistry or installation requirements. If you are trying to understand what to expect from a new inflatable spa then it can help you to know that inflatable spas have all of the same features that more expensive hot tub installations have. They also require the same care and maintenance that more expensive hot tubs require.

Inflatable hot tubs and portable spas of all kinds function exactly like more expensive hot tub installations. This means chemical maintenance and filter cleaning are just as important with an inflatable spa as it would be with a more robust hot tub installation...perhaps even more important due to the minimally effective filtration system that inflatable hot tubs have. When you are trying to picture how much cost and how much work goes into owning an inflatable hot tub you can expect to spend just as much as any other hot tub installation of a similar volume. Fortunately the chemical maintenance costs for hot tubs is very minimal, especially when compared against the relatively massive volume of a swimming pool. For my experience with owning and operating an inflatable hot tub for about 18 months is that the chemical operating costs are almost negligible. Heating costs are a little more noticeable but still more reasonable than I was expecting.

How much does it cost to heat an inflatable spa
The dollars and cents figure that you would spend every month would depend on the volume of your spa, the temperature you keep the water, the ambient air temperature, the material used for the base pad, as well as the price you pay per kWh for electricity. I live in an area that has freezing winter temperatures and in the shoulder seasons that get close to freezing temps at night I find the tub operates between 200 to 250 kWh of power consumption over a 30 day period. Less during warmer times of the year. I have variable electric rates, but at night when the water / air temperature differential is highest this is when my electrical rates are lowest. Ranging between $0.07 for off-peak and $0.23 on-peak I tend to be around $40 (CAD) per month for total electricity costs for the spa. This is the Intex brand inflatable spa, the smaller of the two round options, which is the two person and around 250 gallons.

Can you use an inflatable hot tub in the winter?
One of the limitations of an inflatable spa is that they have very small heating elements which take a long time to heat up the water. If you live in an area with very cold temperatures in the winter then you might find that the heater has to run constantly to hold temperature consistent in the water, which would be very costly, but even still the heater would probably not be able to keep up. As soon as you open the lid to get in the heat loss would be drastic. Within a few minutes the water temperature will drop rapidly and the heater will not be able to offset this. In cold enough weather the externally mounted pump and heating element would be subject to freeze damage. Even with the (small) circulation pump running you would be risking pipes freezing due to the lack of insulation around the pump area. A power outage for any extended period during freezing temperatures would very likely result in pipes freezing and splitting open. An inflatable hot tub is best used as a three season spa in colder climate areas. Temperate and warm climate areas can use inflatable spas year round, including using them as a splash pool (tiny pool) during the hottest times of year when cooling off sounds more refreshing than a hot soak.

Are inflatable spas comfortable?
Inflatable spas are surprisingly comfortable considering they essentially lack any form of seating. The open-interior design of inflatable spas is actually a big benefit. If you have used a lot of hot tubs then you might already know that the footwell is definitely the weak link in the system for a lot of hot tubs. While loungers and bench seats dominate the molded and custom built spa markets, the footwell almost universally is too tight for more than two people at most. With a totally empty and open design inside inflatable hot tubs actually manage to be extremely comfortable. In a spa with a footwell you are sitting up with your knees bent at a 90 degree angle like you are sitting on a chair. In an inflatable spa your legs are straight, not bent, like you are stretched out on the couch. You have some control over the depth of the water so you can do a little to control how deep yours is. This would be important for very short people. Also you can sit on weighted spa booster cushions if need be. Taller people will throw their arms over the top, lean against the side and stretch out with their legs straight. You would have to be seven feet tall to have an inflatable spa be uncomfortable or too small. Very versatile for comfort overall and way better than you would expect something so minimal in features to be.

Do inflatable spas have jets?
Inflatable spas tend to come in different models with lower priced units having air bubbler jets and slightly more expensive models having a water jet pump operating a handful of massage jets. The air bubbler system is again surprising in how well it works to cause turbulence as well as some massage-like feeling. The turbine for the air bubbler is loud and sounds like a wet-dry shop vacuum running next to you, which does tend to hurt the ambiance a little. The water jet tubs are quieter than the air bubbler jet systems though still loud enough to be noteworthy. The water jets are more concentrated in effect, and stronger overall versus the "all over" feeling of the air bubbler. Both aerate the water thoroughly with turbulence which makes for that quintessential hot tub experience feeling. On cold nights with the air bubbler you will notice that you can feel the colder air from the bubbles and this will result in your water temperature dropping rapidly once you turn them on.

Do inflatable hot tubs have a light?
Yes inflatable hot tubs have lights. While these are battery powered units with minimal light output their effect is fantastic when measured at night. They lack the power the be effective during daylight and even dusk hours but in the dark of night the color LED lights are bright enough to illuminate the entire spa. You will have the choice between a few solid colors or a rotating color light show.

Inflatable hot tubs are definitely worth it. They are affordable on heating costs and chemicals, as well as being very cost effective to purchase versus any other hot tub option on the market. The benefits from hot water therapy are the same from inflatable spas as they would be from any more expensive hot tub. They set up easy and quickly, being plug-and-play means they do not require a special hard wired electrical connection. Simply follow the instructions from the manufacturer for how to plug in the unit and turn it on and fill it up. Within a day or two you will be enjoying a relaxing soak in hot water. I can not tell you exactly how long yours will last, mine is around 18 months of operation and everything works A-1. As a pool and spa specialist I can tell you that chemical maintenance will be critical in getting longevity from the pump and heater for these spas. If you have chronically bad water chemistry then you could expect your pump and heating element to fail early. Other than this inflatable spas are durable and rugged. They are strong enough for multiple people to sit on the edges with their feet in the water, which was a surprise to me. It is surprisingly solid and rigid for something that is inflatable.

Intex 77" Inflatable Spa

This Intex 77" inflatable spa is rated for four people but is comfortable with two. It is 210 gallons and approximately 28" tall, and has the air bubbler jet system. Even though this tub is rated at 210 gallons there are other inflatable spas that have the exact same physical dimensions but list the total volume higher. There is a range of deflection for how full you make your spa, and this would vary between 210 gallons and 250 gallons for inflatable spas of this size. The concern is that you could overflow the spa with too many bathers if you maintain the water level too high in your water. When comparing inflatable spas you should check physical dimensions in addition to the posted volume and maximum occupancy numbers.

Coleman 77" Inflatable Hot Tub

This is a Coleman 77" inflatable hot tub that has the same physical dimensions as other inflatable spas in this class, 77" round exterior, 52" round interior and 28" tall exterior. Even though the physical dimensions are the same the volume of this spa is listed at 242 gallons with a maximum occupancy of 4 to 6 people. This is a good example of how size and occupancy ratings for hot tubs are not standardized and you should look at physical dimensions for the tubs you are considering. This model has an air bubbler jet system.

Intex 85" Inflatable Hot Tub

This is an Intex 85" inflatable hot tub which is the larger of the two size options available from most manufacturers of inflatable hot tubs. This tub has an exterior measurement of 85" in diameter with an interior diameter measurement of 65" and a volume listed conservatively at 290 gallons. The walls stand 28" tall on this model and the range of deflection for water level can easily be up and over 300 gallons especially if you only use the spa for one or two people. Six people displace a lot of water and you need to leave more room if you want to have six bathers without overflowing. Also the six people better know each other very well as that is not ideal for comfort for a spa of this size. More realistically this hot tub is comfortable for two to four people. This hot tub uses an air blower bubble jet system.

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