Prepare for the elements: Aside from the tub itself, you'll also need to think about its framework. Outdoor spas are in the elements 365 days per year, so they need to be able to withstand rain, snow and extreme temperatures. The cabinet area contains the inner workings of the tub, so you should consider a few different things.
First, “Buy a tub with a removable cabinet,” Stollings said. Even with a well-made tub, he said, “there is a real chance that it will eventually develop a leak. How is the repair guy to find and repair a leak with a cabinet that can’t come off?”
You’ll also want to invest in a fiberglass pan for the bottom of the unit, which helps keep the framework from rotting and stops pests from getting inside. A repairable control system – versus a computerized one – is also your best bet if the possible cost to replace a circuit board is a concern. And the area with this equipment should not be ventilated – if your tub shuts off in winter, it could freeze and cause damage.
CARING FOR YOUR SPA
Once the spa is yours, how do you care for it? Although hot tubs aren’t as time-consuming to maintain as pools, there is still a time investment required if you want your tub to perform its best.
Of course, you’ll want to follow the guidelines in both your hot tub’s manual and the course of chemistry that you choose. The hot tub manual will give specific instructions for getting your hot tub prepped for summer if it has been winterized.
Some good news is that it’s not really necessary to have spas serviced regularly by a professional unless something is wrong.
“As far as outdoor spas, usually only the chemistry needs permanent upkeep,” explained Nick Simpson, store manager at Advanced Spas and Pools in Middletown. “Year-round, the chemistry needs to be checked at least bi-weekly, if not weekly.”
Do it yourself: If the idea of using 'chemistry' is daunting, don't worry too much – no Bunsen burners are required. There are two main types of chemistry exist for sanitizing hot tubs: chlorine and bromine. Chlorine is less expensive, but Simpson said, "Probably 85 percent of our customers have bromine. People choose bromine due to the fact that they don't like the odor of chlorine."
Kits with test trips, the sanitizer of your choice and chemicals to balance the pH, hardness and alkalinity of the water are readily available online and at pool and spa retailers. You’ll also find filters, which need to be changed every year or two.
When to call in the pros: There are definitely times when you won't be able to DIY and will need to call in a spa maintenance professional.
“The spa will display a code if something isn’t fine,” Simpson said. “If you notice a flow code or heating code, that means something is not functioning correctly.” Keep an eye on your hot tub to catch these issues right away.
BENEFITS AND RISKS
Health benefits: Hot tubs are not only relaxing; they can have health benefits as well. According to information provided by the Arthritis Foundation, soaking in warm water has proven benefits for not just arthritis patients, but also for those suffering from issues like fibromyalgia and back pain.
Temperature: The foundation recommends a temperature range from 92 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit – warm water is better than hot water. And don't set your tub above 104 degrees, which can be harmful. Moving around or doing stretches while in the hot tub will get you the most benefit. You can also do some gentle stretches after you get out, the foundation suggests.
Risks: Of course, there are risks associated with hot tub use, so contact your doctor before making the purchase, especially if you're planning to use it to address health concerns or have had issues with your heart or blood pressure in the past. Keep in mind that hot tubs have been proven to be unsafe for pregnant women and those with compromised immune systems.