Hot tubs, or spas, are more than just giant outdoor bathtubs for lounging with a drink or a romantic partner; they also can be great for your health. Adding some hydrotherapy to your life can improve circulation and help with relaxation and stress relief. Some spas are even fitted for stationary swimming and are considered exercise hot tubs or swim spas.
Selecting a hot tub for your home -- whether for relaxation, entertaining, exercise, family or couples time -- can be a lot of fun. But as with any big-ticket purchase, choosing the right spa for your needs means sorting through many options and upgrades.
We've put together some tips for getting just the right fit and function for your backyard hot tub, next.
Any type of major purchase usually comes with an option to upgrade the basic model or just go with the deluxe. Extras can add up very quickly, but knowing what you can or want to spend, and how much luxury you need in order to get the most out of the hot tub experience will help you get what you want with fewer hidden costs or the need to omit features.
Before hitting the sales floors to browse available options, take a look at hot tubs online and decide on your essentials and non-essentials. It may be easier to turn down colored mood light, prime built-in sound equipment and waterfall features if you've seen them ahead of time.
Basic models provide the benefits of hydrotherapy, and that may be all you're looking for, but if you want the full sensory experience for enjoyment and entertaining, set a budget to include the bells and whistles that will make your hot tub exactly what you want it to be.
Maybe you envision a snuggly tub built for two or a party- or family-sized model for eight, but choosing a small- or large-capacity model is a big consideration. It may be easier and more affordable to run a smaller spa, but if you have plans to grow your family or want to invite friends over to share the waters, allow for enough room for four people. Buying a huge tub for six or eight might be ideal if you entertain a lot or have kids who want to share the tub with friends, but calculate the costs first before diving into the expense and ongoing upkeep.
No doubt hot tubs are relaxing and romantic for most, but sometimes they're an important part of physical rehabilitation or low-impact exercise. Many of today's tubs come in a longer, lap-pool shape and operate as a kind of swimming treadmill for doing laps in place. If the shape is long or wide enough -- whether circular, irregular or rectangular -- a hot tub is great for physical therapy because it provides resistance for building or maintaining muscle strength and some jet pulsation to aid circulation and prevent or relieve tight muscles.
There also are two types of spas to consider: either in-ground or above-ground. Many above-ground units are self-contained. They include all of the pumps and connections needed to get up and running. Many in-ground and some above-ground models come without built-in components and can be customized for the user with separate parts. A reputable dealer can help you sort out the options and costs and help in deciding what will work best in your yard.
If possible, it is always best to try out hot tubs when they're filled with water and operating. A hot tub shell that seems comfortable and well-suited for your height when seated or stretched out will feel a lot different once you're buoyant and more weightless. Try out each seat, moving from each mold and curve, to see how it feels for you and how it will feel when shared with others. For example, see if the tub is roomy enough or if there's too much knee-to-knee contact and not enough arms spread across the edge room for your liking.
Jet power is important, and it may seem like "the more jets the better," but placement and functionality of the water jets really makes a difference. Check the placement and move around a lot to determine whether you will have to feel a jet every time you sit down! If they poke into you at every turn, comfort could be an issue, but make sure there is enough power to massage muscles and get the full effect you prefer and that the settings are adjustable and easy to regulate.
Sometimes the most enjoyable luxury or add-on purchases go unused if they require too much work to use or to maintain. Hot tubs take work, but if you plan ahead, they can be very efficient in upkeep and use.
Spas need water and electricity, so choosing the best pump for the tub size is important as is selecting the right size for how much you want to budget. Powering and warming an eight-seated in-ground tub, for instance, will cost more than running an above-ground two-seater, but if you need the larger model you can save considerably depending on the choices you make before installation. Many models feature energy-efficient materials and mechanical parts that can save time and money, so researching greener options before shopping can save you in the long-term.
Imagine yourself performing the actual steps needed to keep the hot tub in tip-top shape as well as lounging or socializing at the end of the day and pick an option that suits you, and then suit up!
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- Home Depot. "Choosing the Right Outdoor Hot Tub." 2012. HomeDepot.com. (July 14, 2012) http://www.homedepot.com/webapp/catalog/servlet/ContentView?pn=Spas
- International Hot Tub Association. "Buying Guide." HotTubIndustry.org. 2012. (July 13, 2012) http://hottubindustry.org/buying-guide/
- International Hot Tub Association. "Hot Tub Types." HotTubIndustry.org. 2012. (July 13, 2012) http://hottubindustry.org/hot-tub-types/
- Rutgers University. "Green Building Manual: Choose Eco-Friendly Pool/Hot Tub Options." Rutgers.edu. May 1, 2011. (July 13, 2012) http://greenmanual.rutgers.edu/newresidential/strategies/hottub.pdf