The modern hot tub spa has been around for several decades now, and in that time most of the design kinks have been worked out. A hot tub is an investment that can be expected to last nearly the life of the home. For many, a hot tub can be the epitome of luxury, but they are not without disadvantages.
Usually these disadvantages are easy to ignore because they are relatively small in comparison to the benefits of owning a spa. The bigger reason to ignore the drawbacks is that there isn’t much we can do about them! The disadvantages we are talking about are the initial expense of purchasing a spa, the fact that once they are in place they are a permanent fixture, and that there is a need to maintain the spa whether it gets used regularly or not.
Portable Hot Tubs
These are the very advantages claimed by the makers of portable hot tubs. Portables have their own set of disadvantages as well, and we will discuss some of them as we go along.
The biggest selling point of a portable hot tub is that they are relatively inexpensive. An installed hot tub can be as expensive as a low priced used car; perhaps not a great expense, but a chunk of change that will make a significant dent in the wallet. A portable tub is closer to the price point for a set of new tires on an SUV.
Keep in mind that the installed tub can be a one time investment. As spa dealers, we hope you will upgrade every few years, but the truth is that there is no reason a hot tub cannot last a life time. Portable spas simply are not that durable, and the materials they are made from are vulnerable to UV damage from the sun.
Types of Portable Hot Tubs
Portable spas come in three basic types; inflatable, rigid/rollaway, and folding. The inflatables seem to be the most common and most economical. They should not be confused with the plastic blow up pools we had as kids.
Inflatable hot tubs are made from material similar to what white water rafts are made from. The stuff is very durable, but not indestructible. Many inflatables will include an air pump in the water heater/ pump unit.
The rigid type of portable spa may be made from roto-molded plastic or a semi-rigid foam with a vinyl liner. These are the closest to an installed hot tub. They are light enough that when they are empty, they can be tipped on their side and fit through a normal sized door.
The folding type portable spa is basically a folding box with a vinyl liner for water-tightness. The liner may be subject to tears and holes, but an automotive upholstery shop should be able to make repairs as necessary.
All portable spas have a separate water-heater/pump assembly. Another important selling point of the portables is that they can be plugged into a normal household circuit, and most feature a GFCI plug. However, be aware that these units draw a lot of power. Whether they are more or less expensive to operate than a normal hot tub on a dedicated 220V circuit is debatable.
It is advisable to avoid putting a hot tub on the same circuit as kitchen appliances like toasters, coffee makers or microwaves which may trip the breakers. For the same reason, avoid having them on the same circuit as a home computer or other sensitive electronic device.
Water maintenance for a portable is similar to an installed tub, although the smaller volume of water is much more sensitive to changes in water chemistry. It is important to follow manufacturers recommendations in order to avoid damaging the material of the portable. Along with the indestructible nature of the installed tub, the parts that may eventually wear out, the pump, heater and controls, can all be replaced. Although they are separate parts, the portable is a single unit; when one part fails, the whole thing usually needs to be thrown away.
After the low purchase price, the biggest thing going for portable hot tubs is that they are, um, portable! Portability has its limits, the bother of setting up the spa dictates that you will want to enjoy it for at least a few day before moving it. Portability is an advantage for renters who want to enjoy a hot tub, but don’t want to make permanent changes to the home. Home owners will also appreciate being able to move the hot tub seasonally, or when they are making changes to their landscaping.
The fact remains that a portable spa will never be as luxurious as an installed tub. Most portables do not have installed seating. Most will have rounded edges with not place to set your glass of wine while soaking, and sitting on the edge of an inflatable may invite disaster. For many families, the advantages of a portable spa will out weigh the drawbacks.
As a spa dealer, we feel that using a portable will show how wonderful it is to have a hot tub in your life, but the fact that they are not long lasting will bring you to our showroom in the near future.