What should I consider before deciding on a hot tub?

Make sure you're ready for that new hot tub. Get the 411 on hot tub types, sizes, features, placement, and maintenance.
So you finally found that perfect mountain cabin with all of the amenities for your New Year's Eve getaway with your significant other. And most of all, you've discovered it includes the Holy Grail of all mountain cabin amenities: a hot tub on the outer deck with amazing views as far as the eye can see. As you both slip into the warm, bubbling water of the Jacuzzi paradise under the stars, you think to yourself, 'I want my own hot tub.' But the only "hot tub" you've ever known is the one in your house, and it doesn't come equipped with customized head rests, a lighting system, and a stereo system. Before installing your own slice of paradise in the form of a hot tub, here are a few basic things to keep in mind.

Hot Tub Types
Hot tubs have come a long way over the last 50 years. Occasionally, you'll find plaster, tile, and wooden hot tubs in older homes, but the most common hot tubs are acrylic with a fiberglass back. Your grandfather used to tell you that nothing is stronger than oak. When it comes to hot tubs, that's not the case. Acrylic hot tubs are stronger, easy to care for, insulated for heat, and come in multiple colors and styles.

Centrex is another material used in some hot tubs. It's a tough, thermal plastic that rivals the strength of acrylic tubs. The one drawback to Centrex hot tubs is that they only come in white.

Acrylic hot tubs fortified with Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS) plastic and backed with foam or fiber are very popular tubs. These tubs are strong tubs like the others, and the non-porous surface makes it easy to clean.

Hot Tub Sizes
The most common hot tub holds 450 to 500 gallons of water and seats up to six adults comfortably. But if you'd rather enjoy the hot tub with your spouse and not with the company of unwanted guests, you'll find much smaller, two-person tubs that hold about 250 gallons of water.

Hot Tub Features
Remember when a shower radio once was defined as "innovation" for the daily bathing experience? You'd be lucky to get a decent channel to tune in, or even worse, not have the suction cups on the back of the radio stick to the shower tiles properly over time. Though anyone can play a radio while they're soaking in a hot tub, many modern-day hot tubs combine comfort and technology to provide amazing lifestyle features. Some come equipped with an MP3 sound system integrated into the hot tub cabinet. You can use a waterproof remote or the hot tub control panel to change the tunes without having to get out of the hot tub! Other high-end hot tubs come with wireless TV and sound systems, as well as multi-color underwater lighting systems. For those who need hot tubs more for treating physical ailments and less for pleasure, exercise swim jets are the perfect hot tub addition to soothe tired muscles at the end of the day.

Hot Tub Placement
So you've got your hot tub picked out and you're ready to have it installed at your home. Now where do you put it? Most often, people install hot tubs in a secluded backyard or deck because outdoor installation and maintenance is less expensive. Though you may not be able to bring home that perfect mountain view along with the hot tub, most people enjoy being outdoors anywhere within the confines of a hot tub. If privacy is a concern for you, be sure to put up wooden slats or lattice wood around your hot tub.

Some people are not keen on having hot tubs outside and prefer them to be customized in more private spots inside the house. If you decide to install your hot tub inside, be sure to add a ventilation system to your room. Hot tubs increase the heat and humidity inside rooms, which could eventually cause rot and mildew. With a proper ventilation system, you'll also avoid smelling chlorine all the time as well (if that's the water-cleaning method you choose).

Hot Tub Maintenance
Hot tubs are fun, but they require careful attention when it comes to maintenance. Be sure to keep these maintenance tips in mind:

  • Keep the water clean. One effective way to kill off bacteria without using chlorine is with an ozonator. It sprays ozone gas into spa water and doesn't give off any chemical odors. The one drawback is that the ozonator has to be in operation for several hours per day, and you have to use other chemicals (translation: more cost involved).
  • Realize you have to winterize. Some people don't take the time to properly prepare their hot tubs for winter. In some cases, water is left inside the hot tub pipes and equipment, eventually freezing. When this happens, the pipes expand and crack the unit. Not good! You can always consult with hot tub service professionals for proper winterization techniques. And don't forget: a winter cover over your regular hot tub cover will help greatly during those colder months.
  • Always check the filter. It's hard to think about hair and bacteria when you're retreating to the therapeutic waters of your hot tub, but they are there. Make sure the filter is always in working order (unless you really want a dirty hot tub to keep unwanted guests away for good). Today's top hot tub models come equipped with programmable filtering functions, so even the busiest people can find time to maintain a clean hot tub filter.

Hot Tub Hidden Costs
Keep in mind that it will cost you about $12/month to heat a six-person hot tub. Also, you need to change the hot tub water every 6 months, so expect to see a 500-gallon increase on your water bill for those two months. Make sure when you buy your hot tub that you ask your local retailer all of the costs associated with the purchase of the hot tub unit, any necessary equipment or parts, installation, shipping, and delivery. For any other questions on maintenance costs to ensure the hot tub is being kept in optimal condition, see our list of hot tub professionals.

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