The Ultimate Swim Spa Buying Guide
When you first heard of a swim spa, you went, “oh, that makes so much sense. Like a hot tub, but with the best parts of a pool, but I can use it all year-round. I must have one.”
And then you hit Google, and found many companies who wanted to sell you one, but not a lot of information on what you needed to do before you bought. That’s a hard spot for anyone to be in, wanting to buy but not knowing how, and most of all, how not to be taken advantage of in the process.
That’s why we wanted to write this article about swim spas. We get asked a lot about how to buy swim spas, because we have been in the business for more than 40 years.
We wanted to let you know what matters and what doesn’t as much, what you should know before you enter the store and what you have to do in advance.
So this article will cover:
• Costs – Upfront and ongoing costs of a swim spa
• Location – You need space all around the swim spa itself, we’ll tell you why
• Use – Swimming, fitness, fun, massage, you can have all or some
• Type of swim spa current – If you’re going to swim, this matters
• Maintenance – What you’ll need to do to maintain your swim spa
• Options - Colors, waterfalls, lights, steps, umbrellas
• Why to try your swim spa before you buy – You’ll thank us later
• Who to buy a swim spa from – And who not to
Let’s get to it!
What does a swim spa cost?
At Hydropool, most customers spend between $30,000 and $70,000 (spend can vary across the country). That price includes everything you need to get it up and running (Hydropool’s least expensive swim spa is about $25,000 in 2023 pricing). All swim spas require 220V electrical hookups and a concrete pad to put them on. They need to be delivered and often put in place by crane. The costs can vary depending on where you are in the country and how hard it is to get to the space where you intend to have your swim spa. Many people add steps and decks or want to sink the swim spa into the ground – all that is not factored in here and usually needs to be figured out specifically for the site in question.
What are the monthly running costs for a swim spa?
This will depend on a large number of factors: How much you use it, where you live, how cold your winters are and so on. There are two main costs to consider: the cost to heat it and the cost to keep it sanitized. We generally estimate that in Canada, a swim spa costs $110 a month, or about $3 a day.
Where should I put my swim spa?
There are a couple of factors here worth considering. Some are practical:
• Your swim spa should be near a door or a path to a door, especially in Canada if you’re going to use it in the winter (and since you can, you should!). We have found people use them more with easy door access.
• The second is that you need to leave a few feet of space all around your swim spa – about two to three feet. This is to allow access to the swim spa if it ever needs repairs in the future.
• The last factor is aesthetics. Most swim spas are designed to mimic fences, with horizontal siding. At Hydropool, our swim spas are meant to blend in to classic backyards, rather than stand out. You will want your swim spa to be placed in an area that looks good as well as provides easy access and this will vary depending on the backyard in question.
What are the ways to use a swim spa?
There are many ways to use a swim spa and before you buy, you will want to know which of these you intend to emphasize because it will determine which swim spa is right for you.
As a hot tub: A swim spa function as a hot tub, with full massage chairs (you just sit further away in most cases, usually in the corners). Some swim spas have separate hot tubs attached, so you can use the pool and a hot tub as the same time.
As a pool: A swim spa is better than a pool in the sense that it can be used year-round. Some swim spas have larger basins than others, to enhance the feeling of being in a pool.
As a place for kids: There might be no better place to make family memories than a backyard swim spa. Hydropool’s 13-foot FFP offers swimming, but mostly it’s the Family Fun Pool.
As an aquatic fitness centre: Want a series of aquatic workouts? Curls, rows, yoga … you name it, you can do it in a swim spa. Hydropool’s Aquatic series is designed as a multi-use centre.
As a place to swim: Swim spas create a current that generates sufficient force to hold you in place so you can swim without reaching the other side. If you’re serious about swimming, we recommend buying a swim spa you can adjust the current digitally, just like you would with a treadmill, and to look for a strong, stable swim current, rather than one that generates a lot of spray in your face. Our Trainer series, in both the Aquatic collection and the Executive, are our elite swimming swim spas.
What types of currents are there for swim spas?
There’s a few different ways to generate a current.
• The first, and most common, is by jets. Many companies use a standard, off the shelf jet that any company can order. We understand why: It keeps costs down and they will generate a swim current. Hydropool uses jets, like our V-Twin jet, but they are all built and designed in-house. These are designed to create a strong current with a wide, stable, consistent swim.
• The second method is by using a propeller of some kind at one end of the spa (Endless Pools and Master Spas both do this). You can generate a great deal of current with this method and it will be strong. Hydropool uses jets because they take up less room and make less noise, but there’s no question the propeller method works well.
Are swim spas high maintenance?
This is a relative question: They are generally easier to maintain than pools, for example, and similar to hot tubs. They require changing the water quarterly, and ongoing water balancing. Most people are able to test their water once a week and then make adjustments. Most of Hydropool’s swim spas come with a self-cleaning system as well as a Pure Water system ozone and UV system, which is designed to limit the amount of chemicals you need in the spa. You can’t cut maintenance down to zero, but they help!
What are swim spa options & accessories?
There are a wide range of options, including:
• Lighting – Mood lighting, accent lighting, multi-colored lighting, all is available.
• Waterfalls – Relaxing decadence is part of the package.
• Stereo systems – Want to crank the tunes? Some offer built-in boomboxes.
• Apps – Many swim spas can be controlled from your phone.
• Cabinet and acrylic colors – expect a variety of neutrals, with a few companies still offering 1970s classic colours like baby blue, aqua and teal.
• Upgraded insulation – Hydropool doesn’t offer this as all of our hot tubs and swim spas are insulated for Canadian winters.
• Coverlifters – Removing the cover shouldn’t be a chore.
• Seats – Hydropool offers massage seats throughout its lineup but each swim spa has a different arrangement. Some companies, like Vortex, offer lounge seating in the swim spa as well, or bench seating along the sides of the spa to hold a lot of people (with more of an emphasis on fitness and swimming, Hydropool tends to leave the tank more open for movement).
• Sanitization systems: We mentioned Hydropool’s Pure Water system, above. Generally called AOP systems (for advance oxidization process), these combine ozone and UV to help sanitize your water and reduce chemical usage.
Should I swim in a swim spa before buying?
In a word, yes. We recommend two big things before buying and this is one of them. We know it might be awkward for you (for others it isn’t, they can’t wait to try it, don’t worry, we accept all kinds). But the payoff will be worth it.
If you’re buying for swimming, you don’t want to buy a current you can’t handle and won’t use. You want to buy one that is right for you now, and with growth in the future. You also want a current that works for each member of your family who will swim.
If you have kids, let them come try the swim spa. You want to make sure they have enough space to splash around in. Swim spas come in anything from 13-feet to 21, so you have options here.
Who should I buy a swim spa from?
You should buy a swim spa from a reputable company with a longstanding retailer network. A swim spa is like buying a car – you’re going to want help from time to time with it over the time that you own it. The first year requires a bit of a learning curve. There may be eventual repairs. You may have forgotten to set it properly when you went on vacation and came back to a mess. It happens.
A good retailer can support you in those times, help you with proper set up, hook ups and ongoing sanitization and make sure you’re up and running the right way. Hydropool doesn’t sell swim spas from the manufacturer – we sell only through our retailer network because of this reason.
Should I buy a swim spa?
Well, we’re biased, but yes. If you fit into any of these categories:
• If you’re looking for a place in your backyard for fitness, where you can have fun with your kids, your family and some intimate moments with your spouse, then yes, a swim spa can be a good investment for you.
• If you’ve wanted a pool, but realize you’ll only use it six months of the year, and want to pay less than what an in-ground pool costs, then a swim spa could be right for you.
• If you wanted a hot tub, but wanted just a little bit more than that, a swim spa could be right for you.
We wrote this article because we want to tell people like you what they needed to know before they bought a swim spa, and what choices they had to make. We get asked about swim spas a lot, which is no surprise because we have been in the business for more than 40 years. We hope we answered all of our questions in this article, but if you have more, consider downloading a brochure or reading more in our Learning Centre.
If you’re ready to talk to a retailer, find the closest one near you here.
Jon Filson is the senior content manager at Hydropool Swim Spas and Hot Tubs.