How does a hot tub pump work?

By Jon Filson

Hydropool Hot Tubs and Swim Spas

Published May 15, 2024

Hot tubs are surprisingly complex boxes of water, with electrical, plumbing and water chemistry combining to make one product.

For example, assessing just how the water moves through the hot tubs is something a lot of people do when they walk into a Hydropool showroom. The simple answer is that this is done through pumps is enough for many people, but others want to know more than that. If this is you, then this is your article, because we are going to explain everything about hot tub pumps.

We will cover:

  • What is a hot tub pump?
  • Is one pump or two pumps better on your hot tub?
  • What is a hot tub circulation pump?  
  • Do hot tub pumps run all the time?
  • Do I need a circulation pump on my hot tub?
  • How long do hot tub pumps last?
  • How much does a hot tub pump cost?
  • How do you know if your hot tub pump is bad?

By the end, we hope you will have all your questions about hot tub pumps answered.

What is a hot tub pump?

A hot tub pump is a motor that moves water through the hot tub pipes upon demand. There are two primary purposes for pumps: to circulate water and power the hot tub jets. Also, thanks to the pump, hot water is circulated throughout the hot tub, which ensures its set temperature.

Pumps are rated by horsepower. The more power it has, the stronger it is. This is good and bad: You need enough power to ensure your jets can give you a good massage. But you can get too much power, which just costs you more in on your electrical bill.

This is often a place where manufacturers play games to say their hot tub is better than someone else’s. This is because there are different ways to rate horsepower.

For example, there is brake horsepower and there is continuous duty horsepower. Brake horsepower is higher, but what it measures is how a motor runs without any load on it from whatever machine it is powering … for example, a hot tub. Continuous horsepower is the horsepower from a motor being used for its intended purpose, so it’s a more accurate reflection. But it’s a lower number.

Hydropool only uses continuous horsepower with its ratings. For example, the Hydropool 579 Signature Gold, our best-selling hot tub, has a 4hp pump. (that’s continuous horsepower, by the way).

What is a hot tub circulation pump?

Circulation pumps are low-flow pumps which circulate the water in your hot tub non-stop in a slow, controlled motion that continuously heats, chemically treats and filters the water.

Is one pump or two pumps better for your hot tub?

All hot tubs come with some form of a circulation pump. You may have one, two or more pumps on your hot tub.

  • If you have one, the pump does both takes: powers the jets and acts as a circulation pump, moving the water at all times. This is called a two-speed pump.
  • If you have two, the most common configuration is that one pump powers your jets and the second, smaller pump, circulates the water.

Is one system better than the other? In general, more elite hot tubs have two pumps, because they last longer.

Some companies hype their pumps as being the most powerful or paint them bright colors. But in actuality what you want is enough power to get a good massage. Not enough pump and you don’t get any massage benefits from the jets, but too much pump costs you money or creates too much pressure in your jets, again ruining the massage effect.

Do hot tub pumps run all the time?

A circulation pump does run all the time. This is so your water never becomes standing water but is always moving.

Do I need a circulation pump on my hot tub?

Yes, you need a circulation pump on your hot tub. Circulating water in your hot tub forces it in the filter and sanitization system, as well as helps keep it at the temperature you’ve set it at.

How long do hot tub pumps last?

Most often hot tub pumps last a range of between five and 10 years. Some last far longer. How long hot tub pumps last varies depending on many factors, including the climate, hot tub usage and most importantly, how well the water is maintained in the hot tub.

How much does a hot tub pump cost?

A pump costs about $800 at Hydropool, and with installation generally cost around $1000.

How do you know if your hot tub pump is bad?

Occasionally, you may experience a problem with your hot tub circulation pump. It is helpful to know what exactly to look out for.

  • Dead Pump: If the circulation pump is not working whatsoever, it may be done for. To be sure, first, check that your power and breaker is on and that the GFCI test button (one is attached to every hot tub) has not been accidentally tripped. If properly powered and not working, check your topside control panel to see if there is an error code being displayed. This may indicate what exactly the issue is. Other troubleshooting options for a dead circulation pump include checking that the valves are all in the open position, looking for kinks in the hose and checking the filter.
  • Not Pumping Much Water: If your circulation pump is only producing a low volume of water coming from the heater, there is an issue. First, remove the spa filter to see if this improves the flow rate. If not, try replacing the filter. If this does not correct, the issue could be the result of something blocking the flow or interfering with the suction.
  • Making Noise: If your circulation pump is making noise, this is indicative of an error. Any humming, grinding or gurgling noises are a red flag. Often, the problem is caused by a clogged propeller or a dirty filter. Other times, it could be the result of the bearings wearing down. It’s worth taking a look yourself if you’re handy or calling in a service team at this point.

How do hot tub pumps work in your tub?

In this article, we looked at hot tub pumps which are the motors that power the jets and the circulation of the water in your hot tub. They are a key part of your hot tub as they have dual functions, both in helping you enjoy the tub and helping to keep it sanitized.

We hope we answered all your questions about hot tub pumps in this article, but there’s a chance we missed something. If that’s the case, don’t hesitate to reach out to one of our local retailers. You can find one closest to you by clicking here.

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