A Complete Guide to Hot Tub Reliability, Including Construction, Warranty, Service and More
Want to know if something you’re going to buy is reliable? Just head to the Consumer Reports website, right? Pay $10 to get access for a month, type in what you’re looking for and you’ll see what’s built to last and what isn’t in your category of choice.
One problem though: If you try this when buying a hot tub, you’ll realize Consumer Reports doesn’t review hot tubs. And if you hit up Google, you’ll get a whole bunch of reviews you won’t know whether to trust or not.
There are a couple of reasons for this lack of hot tub reviews, but the biggest one is this: the wide variety of builders and the wide variety of models available make it difficult and costly for anyone to attempt.
Okay, great explanation, but where does that leave you? Is there a way to be reasonably assured you’ve got a hot tub or swim spa that will last? “How do I know the hot tub is reliable?” is a question that we get asked at Hydropool. And it’s a good one.
We want to give you the best answer we can. We promise we’re not just going to say, “Buy Hydropool, it’s awesome.” We’re going to try and explain what goes into a reliable hot tub. It’s all so you can do your best to ensure the hot tub you purchase is going to last, whoever you buy from.
So in this article, we will give you the following tips:
• Why to buy a hot tub from a long-standing company with a retailer network
• Find out where your hot tub was built
• Know the value of a hot tub built for cold weather
• Learn what you need from a hot tub warranty
• What features help your hot tub last the longest and require less maintenance
• Why you might consider a roto mold hot tub
By the end, we hope you’ll have a good idea of what to look for in a hot tub so that you can get a hot tub that will last as long as you want it to.
1. Why You Should Buy Your Hot Tub from a Long-standing Company with a Retailer Network
While we have changed many things about our hot tubs and our company since we started, but we have never changed our network stance. Here’s why we believe in it:
• It’s because any warranty or promise of reliability is only as good as the company that’s behind it. If the company has been in business for a long time, its hot tubs can’t be terrible, or it would have gone out of business. There are a wide variety of quality brands making hot tubs today which have been around for a while. We want a quality industry and so we support other quality brands.
• Because hot tubs are complex and require advice from time to time on basic ongoing maintenance. “Why is my hot tub water green?” is a question that every retailer is well-equipped to answer, and if you buy from a local retailer, your expert is always in the store.
• It is also because a hot tub has moving parts, and those parts will invariably require service at some point. If a big box store drops off your hot tub on your front lawn, do you know who to contact when something goes wrong? Technical schools don’t offer certificates in hot tub service – service skills are taught by the manufacturer. So who do you call for service? If you have a local retailer, that problem is solved.
We firmly believe in strong local retailers, and if you read this article, you’ll see so does the New York Times’ Wirecutter. It’s the best source we can give you as support for an idea we believe will help any buyer the most.
2. Where Are Hot Tubs Made and Why Does It Matter?
Hot tubs are made everywhere from China to Mexico to California to Canada (that’s us!). What’s important to know is where your hot tub company is based. If a retailer and a business is based in California, let’s say, and you followed our advice in step 1 and are only looking at hot tub companies with longstanding retailers, chances are that product was designed to excel in California. Because otherwise the company would never have got off the ground, let alone do well enough to get you in the door.
So that’s something to consider. But does that mean if you’re shopping in Indiana, you can only shop for hot tubs made in Indiana? No, you don’t (although you can, Master Spas are built there).
• What you want to look for is: Has the company’s hot tub you’re considering been selling in that area for a long time or selling anywhere for a long time? If so then that’s a checkmark in favor.
• Hydropool has exported hot tubs to California since 2002, for more than 20 years.We would have long exited the market if our hot tubs were suspect.
• We referenced California for a reason: It’s special: You have to pass through an extremely rigorous certification process to sell any hot tub in California, most of it focused on energy efficiency.
• All of Hydropool’s hot tubs and swim spas are available for sale in the state, even though they aren’t made there and so are many other manufacturers. But we’re flagging this because we want you to know that if a hot tub builder can’t sell its product in California, you know it hasn’t put real effort into energy efficiency. Do you think it’s going to put effort into reliability instead? We don’t. If the hot tub can’t be sold in California, we suggest you stay away.
3. Why Cold Weather Hot Tubs are Built Stronger than Warm Weather Ones
A hot tub built to handle cold weather will function in cold or warm weather, but a hot tub built for warm will often not last in a cold weather situation (and your bills will skyrocket in the meantime). You might have more insulation than you need with a hot tub built in a cold area, but at least you know it is built to be tough enough to withstand extreme temperatures.
Hot tubs built and designed in warmer climes often offer cold weather packages, which can include increased insulation.
But most hot tubs built in cold weather climates build a high level of insulation and put an emphasis on durability in the first place. They have to. At Hydropool, for example, we don’t offer a cold-weather package. But we’ve been around in Canada for 40 years: If our hot tubs didn’t last here, as we said in point 2, we’d be long gone by now.
4. Why Warranty Matters When You Buy a Hot Tub
Warranties matter, but they need to be backed up by a company capable of providing service. That’s why we emphasize a good retailer first and foremost and a warranty second. Hydropool offers a 10-year limited manufacturer warranty on the cabinet and frame, five years limited on the hot tub and swim spas shells and three years limited on swim spa components. You can find better and worse, but again, keep in mind you need someone to do the work. A company that promises a warranty but can’t be reached and that doesn’t offer local servicing isn’t your ideal solution, which again is why we suggest a good local retailer.
5. How Engineering Helps Your Hot Tub
Hot tubs are not built the same. There are endless comparisons you can make with hot tubs, comparing their insulation (we did it here!), their frames (wood, steel or plastic?) or their electrical outlets (110V or 220V?). Their jets and massage capabilities are also comparable points.
Insulation and the power source matter most here. We use an insulated thermal blanket for our hot tubs and our swim spas use a combo of full foam and an insulated blanket at the ends. We have proven over the years that this system is hardy enough to handle Canadian winters, so chances are it’s strong enough to handle wherever you live too. What the thermal blanket system does is provide energy-efficient heat, because it traps the heat from your swim spa’s pumps in the cabinet, which saves you money, while still providing you access to working parts if a leak does occur.
Full-foam systems do support hoses well, which does help with reliability. It’s key that your hoses don’t move a lot within the hot tub’s cabinet, because friction and movement can cause leaks in your tub over time. However, the problem with full foam is what happens when leaks do occur: You have to cut through all of the insulation to get to the leak, if you can find it at all in all the foam. It makes a tremendous mess and then there’s the additional cost of replacing the insulation once you’ve made the fix. We know this from experience: Hydropool used to use full foam but has since switched to the thermal blanket.
So full foam or blanket? We choose the thermal blanket because it provides sufficient warmth while allowing access. Full foam holds pieces in place longer, but is harder to service. Both are good options, it’s up to you which you think makes the most sense in terms of reliability and repair costs.
6. Consider Roto Mold for a Durable Hot Tub?
Hydropool doesn’t make roto mold hot tubs, but we see the value in them. They are made the same way kayaks and children’s toys and traffic pylons are made – which is to say, all things that are made to take a beating. Hot plastic is poured into a mold and twirled in the air so that it covers every part, and then it’s dropped out and cooled. Presto, you have a hot tub that only needs jets, a pump and insulation and it’s good to go.
Is it durable? The shell certainly is. We have seen people hit it with a hammer and it didn’t leave a mark (you can’t do that with an acrylic tub and with an inflatable … well, just think of what would happen!). These are tough hot tubs.
So if you’ve got a rental property or a secondary home and you want a hot tub, the roto mold is your best bet for something that will last, with minimal maintenance. Hydropool doesn’t make roto molds, but we do suggest you start with DreamMaker if you’re interested in this style of hot tub.
How to Buy the Most Reliable Hot Tub
We hope this guide to reliability helped. We are asked a lot about issues surrounding reliability at our Hydropool stores, and we know people have reason to be concerned. Hot tubs cost a lot of money and reliability is key to getting good value.
There are good hot tub builders out there and not so good ones, and we want everyone who buys a hot tub to end up with a positive experience most of all. That’s why we put all of our tips here in this article. From tough-as-nails roto molds to good engineering and buying from cold-weather countries, we have given you the best insider tips we have, at what to look for when researching and buying your hot tub.
Our number one thing to look for though is always the retailer, who can act as your support network, and guarantee you’ll be looked after if anything goes wrong. If you’re looking for the one closest to you, click here.
- Want to download a brochure? Click here.
- Build and design your dream hot tub: Click here.
Jon Filson is the senior content manager at Hydropool Swim Spas and Hot Tubs.