What is better: a pool or a swim spa?

Everyone has heard of a pool! But not everyone has heard of a swim spa.

By Jon Filson

Hydropool Hot Tubs and Swim Spas

Everyone has heard of a pool! But not everyone has heard of a swim spa.   

Swim spas and pools are both popular options for homeowners who want to enjoy the benefits of swimming and aquatic exercise at home. We get asked about pools all the time at our retail outlets, some of which install pools as well as selling swim spas.  

While both offer many of the same benefits, there are some key differences between the two that may make one a better choice than the other. In this article, we will compare swim spas and pools and discuss the advantages and disadvantages of each.  

In general, what you’ll find is that: 

  • Swim spas cost you less, can be used year-round, filter water more quickly and install more easily.  
  • Swimming pools are larger, are great for entertaining, and can make backyards beautiful, although they cost more.  

Let’s have a look at which may make the most sense for you.  

In this article we will go over:

  • What space do you need for a pool vs a swim spa?
  • Which is better at entertaining, a pool or a swim spa?
  • What are the cost differences between a pool and swim spa?
  • Which is more energy efficient, a pool or a swim spa?
  • Which is easier to install, a pool or a swim spa?
  • Which is easier to maintain, a pool or a swim spa?
  • Which has more health benefits, a pool or a swim spa?

Hopefully, by the end you'll have a better sense of which works best for you.

What space do you need for a swim spa versus a swimming pool?

Pools are typically much larger than swim spas, which means they require more space in your backyard. Swim spas are better for homeowners who have limited outdoor space or who want to maximize the use of their backyard, but want the same lifestyle as a pool. 

Despite the smaller size, swim spas have one advantage over pools in that you don’t have to flip around at each end. The effect is more like open-water swimming, where you simply swim in place. It makes better use of your time, as you're swimming the entire time.  

Which is better at entertainment, a swim spa or a pool?

Pools are great for this. Who doesn’t love an invite to a pool party? It's a great way to host family and friends. Even a smaller pool can usually hold a dozen people comfortably. 

Swim spas companies have tackled this problem from a number of directions.  

  • One, they now make swim spas with hot tubs attached, so you can both swim and use a hot tub at the same time.  
  • Two, swim spas used to be predominantly about swimming. But increasingly, companies are offering options such as bench seating or bigger water tank areas, so an entire family can use the swim spa at the same time. 
  • The swim season for a swim spa is year-round, while traditional pools are generally put away for the winter (or prepare to pay for some very high running costs). 

Which looks better, a swim spa or a swimming pool?

An in-ground pool can instantly make your backyard look more dramatic, while a swim spa installation often requires landscaping, decks or to be submerged to have the same effect. So while it’s possible to capture the “ooh and aah” factor a pool naturally has with a swim spa, a pool accomplishes this right off the bat with an in-ground installation.    

Which costs more, a swim spa or a swimming pool?

Another important factor to consider when buying a swim spa or a pool is the cost. The average pool is typically more expensive to install and maintain than swim spas. This is because they require more materials and labor to build, as well as more chemicals and water to maintain. Swim spas, on the other hand, are generally more cost-effective, both in terms of installation and ongoing maintenance. A swim starts at $25,000 and can cost about $3 a day in operating (electrical and chemical) costs. A pool? It’s going to be roughly double that in Canada.   

Which is more energy efficient, a swim spa or a swimming pool?

A swim spa uses less energy, chemicals for cleaning and doesn’t require the amount of digging and ground manipulation to be placed in your yard. Hydropool swim spas are also insulated to stay warm during Canadian winters, with a system designed to trap heat within the cabinet, similar to how a triple-paned window traps it in-between the glass.  

Swim spas and pools also differ in terms of heating. Pools typically require a separate heating system to keep the water warm, which can be expensive to install and maintain. Also, without a cover, much of your heat is lost into the air. Swim spas, on the other hand, allow you to enjoy warm water year-round and can easily be covered when not in use. This can be a significant advantage for those who want to use their pool or spa in colder weather.  

Which is easier to install, a swim spa or a swimming pool?

The installation time on a pool is usually at least a month and often longer, often requiring multiple permits and rules around installations. With a swim spa, you can generally be up in and running in a matter of three to five days after you take delivery and most municipalities regulate it like a hot tub – so it’s less hassle. It’s worth noting that swim spas can also be installed inside a room and above or below ground.   

Which is more versatile, a swimming pool or a swim spa?

While both swim spas and pools are primarily used for swimming and aquatic exercise, swim spas offer more versatility in terms of the activities you can do in them. Many swim spas come with built-in jets that can provide a relaxing massage, making them an ideal choice for those who want to unwind after a long day. They can also be used for aquatic therapy, such as physical therapy or hydrotherapy, making them a great investment for those with health issues.  

Pools can come with a deep end, which swim spas cannot. But pools don’t come with hot tub capability either, while swim spas generally have hot tub seating.  

Which is easier to maintain, a swim spa or a pool?

Pools require more maintenance than swim spas, as they are larger and require more chemicals and water to keep clean and clear. Swim spas, on the other hand, are more compact and require less water and fewer chemicals to maintain. Most Hydropool swim spas come with a self-cleaning filtration system, reducing the amount of time and effort required to maintain the spa: the Hydropool system cleans all of your water every 40 minutes.  

Which offers more health benefits, a swim spa or a pool?

Both swim spas and pools offer a range of health benefits. Swimming is a great way to stay active and healthy, and both can provide a full-body workout. Swim spas, however, offer some additional benefits, such as the ability to use resistance bands and other fitness equipment while you swim. They can also be used for aquatic therapy, making them a great investment for those with health issues. And then you can turn your swim spa into a hot tub at the end, by sitting in the corner and having a massage. You can certainly work out in a pool as well – both are great here. It’s just a swim spa offers more variety.   

Swim spa versus pool: Which is right for me?  

There’s never one winner here, because pools and swim spas make sense for different people. Swim spas are more versatile and cost less. But there is no substitute for space. A swim spa can’t compete with buying a pool on scope and size. 

But in almost every other category, a swim spa is a worthy competitor for a pool, providing you with more options, including hot tub capabilities, at a lower price.  

You can swim in a swim spa, have a party in it, work out in it, even though it costs less to purchase, takes up less space than a pool and again costs less to maintain.  

We know we may appear biased here, because we are a swim spa company. But we want you to know that Hydropool runs a commercial pool operation as part of its ongoing business and installs them regularly. We still believe in pools. We just think that for most people, swim spas are one of the best buys out there.  


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