Before You Buy
| Since buying a spa is not an everyday event, we've put together
information to help you find the ideal hot tub for your lifestyle, at the
best possible price. No hyperbole, no phony ratings, just the facts!
The 5 minutes it takes
to read this page
could save you up to $5,000...
Use a low rate personal loan instead of a credit card: Hot Tub Spa Loans
Location and Available Space
Although most spas (and every model we sell) can be
used indoors or outdoors in any climate, the majority of people will
choose an outdoor location for their hot tub. And so, the size
of spa that you select will be determined by two factors: the
available space, and how many persons will be using it at one time.
Seating Capacity Desired
Before you even
begin shopping, decide how many people you would like to entertain
in your new hot tub. When relatives and friends visit, you
might not want to have to ask them to take turns enjoying the spa.
On the other hand, if you have a small family unit, or prefer
to enjoy your spa in solitude, a smaller spa may be ideal for your
Decide where you would like to put your spa. One trick
for envisioning outdoor locations is to outline the hot tub's
dimensions with a rope or garden hose. This will give you a
visual perspective and help make the decision easier.
As you imagine how it will look, be sure to consider:
accessibility of the users, proximity to the electrical service,
privacy, and view.
For more great ideas on deck and patio settings, information on
indoor installations, and some additional setup photos, see our Spa
All of our SuperTub vinyl-liner and most LifeCast* unicast roto-molded spas are
plug-n-play 120V models which operate on standard 15 amp household outlets.
(Some other brands require non-standard 20 amp circuits). Most acrylic spas are designed to operate on hard-wired 220-240V power
*LifeCast unicast spas models are convertible 120/240V
A 240 volt electrical service results in much more rapid
heating and is considered to be best for permanent installations
of acrylic spas.
240V systems must be wired by a qualified electrician and require
a GFCI-protected circuit and spa
disconnect panel for safety.
Contrary to popular belief, there is only a slight advantage in
electrical efficiency with a 220 volt installation. Again, the real
advantage is reduced heating time.
to Wire 240V Portable Spas
Types of Spa Construction
Today there's a variety of form factors available for home spas.
You can choose a lightweight plug-n-play vinyl-liner spa, a larger roto-molded
spa, or a variety of traditional acrylic portable hot tubs.
Portable Vinyl-Liner Soft Spas
The lightweight spas in this class can be
taken anywhere, and are very easy to set up and take down.
They are ideal for people on a budget, or those who don't have a
lot of space available for a larger spa.
These are vinyl liner spas featuring barrier free, open seating
designs. This means the users sit almost weightlessly, on the
padded bottom of the hot tub, since this form factor does not have
molded seats. These spas, such as our SuperTub series, are designed for use indoors or
outdoors. They're plug-n-play units, operating on standard
110-120V 15A household power outlets. No plumbing is required.
Max temperature is 104º F.
With the exception of the Softub® brand which is sold in retail
outlets (comparable to our SuperTub 200 & 300 soft spas) it is unlikely
that you will find vinyl liner hot tubs like these in local spa
stores. Because of their low cost, it is just not very
profitable for retail stores to offer spas in this price class,
despite favorable consumer reviews.
||Roto-Molded Unicast Hot Tubs
such as our exciting LifeCast unicast spa series, are constructed with the shell
and surrounding cabinet as a single piece by means of a
unique, rotational molding process, also called unibody.
These hot tubs have molded seating. LIfeCast models are
all plug-n-play spas which operate on standard 110-120V 15A household
power outlets, or can be hard-wired for 240V operation. They feature a very efficient
thermostatically-controlled heating element.
Contrary to what
some retailers will tell you, spa brands such as Dream Maker which feature pump heat recovery systems instead of a dedicated heater, do not provide
free heat. Their pumps must run frequently to keep the water
warm, and pumps of course consume electricity. However, since
this type of spa has no separate heating element, and thus fewer
components, it is less expensive to manufacture. Heat recovery spas do not
heat as rapidly as spas with real heating systems like LifeCast,
and the temperature is hard to regulate in extremely hot or cold weather. You will not have this problem with LifeCast Spas.
There is a definite limit to the size that roto-molded spas can be
made. But if the size of these spas meets your needs, their
great value makes them an attractive choice. LifeCast spas
are designed for indoor or outdoor use, in all climates. They
are easy to maintain and service, and are very durable. No
plumbing is required. Max temperature is 104º F.
Mid to High End
buy acrylic spas because of their outstanding durability, great
variety of shapes and sizes, and for their unsurpassed
hydrotherapy and seating comfort.
These spas have a cast acrylic shell, supported by a frame
structure, and are usually surrounded by a skirt of either cedar or
simulated wood-grain plastic. They come in a wide variety of
sizes, seating from two to seven persons or more.
Lounge Seat Models
The choice of lounge seat or not,
is strictly a matter of personal preference. Well-engineered
acrylic hot tubs, including all Belize's lounger models, are designed
with enough lower torso depth to optimize the center of gravity,
with the legs slightly elevated. This helps to prevent
floating out of the lounger, a problem with shallower spa designs.
Acrylic spas are generally built for operation outdoors in all
climates, although they can be installed indoors as well.
Most acrylic spas are 240V hard wired (220-240V). No plumbing is
required. Max temperature is 104º F, as with all spas sold
|When you stop to think about it, the warranty is
really a statement of a spa manufacturer's confidence in their
product. Obtaining service, however, is difficult if the
dealer is not willing or qualified to help coordinate warranty
service... or worse, if you discover they have gone out
our business when you need them most.
The length of time the dealer has been in business and their
reputation should tell you a lot. Spa stores come and go, but
The Spa Depot has been selling spas since 1997-- longer than
any other online store in the world. Our experienced
Customer Care and Technical Service staff are available to assist you with warranty
issues, should that ever be necessary, even long after the sale.
Our reputation and our company was built on customer service, and our
employees take great pride in helping our customers.
Belize and most major spa manufacturers offer coast-to-coast
warranty service. For your peace of mind, we provide a link to each
warranty in the specifications section for the spas we sell. Hot Tubs Showroom
In addition, even after your warranty has expired, we are still
available with the largest selection and variety of replacement spa
parts in the nation. Our toll free technical support is
available to everyone, whether they purchased their spa from us, or
from anyone else. We have never changed a dime for repair advice
or parts assistance.
Spa Ratings & Comparisons of Hot Tubs
Customers frequently ask us where they can find spa cover reviews, spa ratings,
evaluations. There are over a hundred different brands of acrylic spas sold in
the U.S.A., and the quality varies as much between brands as with
automobiles. It is difficult for consumers to get accurate
information to make brand comparisons, since impartial studies from
non-commercial sources like Consumer Reports magazine are
lacking. Unfortunately, if you search online for spa ratings, it
is pretty difficult, if not impossible to get unbiased information.
|Most of what you will find online is either provided by manufacturers
themselves, or by paid advertising websites that are far from impartial.
Below is a compilation of information on acrylic spas designed to help you make an
informed choice, whether you decide to purchase your hot tub from The
Spa Depot, or anywhere else. It is based on questions from our
own customers. We won't claim that our opinions are 100%
unbiased-- obviously we believe that our Belize Spas are by far and
away the best values in America. But we've done our very best to be hype-free,
so that you can draw your own conclusions. We hope you find this
Consumer Alert Phony
Acrylic Spas - Hype vs. Facts
HYPE: Height doesn't matter.
FACT: The seating capacity of your
spa, determined by its length and width, is important. You will
of course want to choose a spa that meets your needs in terms of the
number of bathers that will be using it. If you have a large
family, and they will all be using the spa, you may need a larger spa
than a single person or retired couple. But the fact of the
matter is that the third dimension (height/depth) is more important.
||When comparing full-size acrylic spas, take
a close look at the dimensions, and don't forget the most
important one: height.
model shown measures a full 39" high. Most other makes of hot tubs
in its price class range from a meager 28"H to only about 34"H.
Deep spas cost more to manufacture, so lesser
brands scrimp on materials by building them short. Since you're
buying a spa for the pleasure of immersion, be sure to check all of
the dimensions when comparing spas so that you don't waste money on a shallow spa, which you may deeply regret later.
Belize spas also feature variable-depth seating so that people of all
sizes are seated comfortably.
Note: If you are selecting a lounger model, be aware that
shallow spas will likely not have enough lower-torso depth to prevent
floating out of the lounge seat.
HYPE: The more jets, the better.
FACT: Unfortunately, this is
the biggest hype in the business. Rather than compete on the basis of
spa quality, service, and value, many online sellers try to outdo
one another with the highest jet counts. Far more important than the number
of jets is the type, quality, orientation, and plumbing. Some inferior
brands load up their spas with dozens of tiny 59-cent jets just to
make their numbers look good. Then they must add larger,
energy-wasting motors to overcome this friction loss. Such spa
designs prove to be very uncomfortable and inefficient, wasting up to
$100 in electricity costs per month.
||Jetting should be engineered for
hydrotherapy action, comfort & optimum energy efficiency, not mere
numbers. Believe it, sitting in a spa seat and having your back
assaulted by dozens of tiny jets can quickly become a painfully
spas provide vigorous,
soothing hydro massage without dozens of useless extra jets. A good
design also provides quiet zones for people who just want to
soak, unwind, and relax.
HYPE: The more horsepower, the better.
FACT: True in drag racing,
but when it comes to spas, adding more and/or larger pump motors (to
power dozens of useless extra jets) wastes huge amounts of energy.
We've seen spas advertised online offering up to 15 horsepower. Sounds impressive, until you get your first electric bill.
Buy a spa with the perfectly balanced ratio of quality jets to
horsepower for a much better value. Beware: HP ratings are not
yet standardized in the spa industry, so some manufacturers will
greatly exaggerate their ratings and/or use made-up terms like "MRHP"
(market rated horsepower). We read it as market rated hype,
since some brands take a 1.5HP motor and call it 4HP, or a 2HP
unit and label it 5HP.
||As an industry leader, The Spa Depot in
partnership with Belize Spas is
pushing to have hot tub pump horsepower ratings honestly standardized, but it has been an
HYPE: A powered
air blower is a good feature.
FACT: A powered air blower
in an acrylic spa is a very bad idea. Although popular years ago, most
have abandoned them. Blowers reappeared recently at some online
sellers. Why? Again, they count the tiny air orifices as "jets" in
their jet-count advertising. Air blower orifices can be sources of
dangerous airborne mold and bacteria, since they can't be effectively
sanitized by the treated spa water. Blowers also rapidly cool down the
spa, wasting large amounts of reheating energy. They are also loud, sounding like a vacuum cleaner.
|| Quality-engineered acrylic spas have
air-induction jets which mix air and water in the desired ratio
without the need for a separate blower motor. The best spa designs
draw ambient waste heat from the motor cavity for this purpose,
further saving energy dollars.
Do yourself a favor: avoid spas with blowers, an option we will not
sell you. Belize Spas feature totally adjustable air induction
jets which mix air and water to the user's preference, without any
need for a noisy, motorized air blower.
Ozonators & Sanitization
HYPE: An ozonator will keep the water sanitary all by itself.
FACT: Totally false. Ozone
is a helper, and can oxidize some contaminants, but it will not
replace spa sanitizers or keep the water clean by itself. If you've never owned a spa before, keep
in mind that since the water is kept for 2 - 4 months, it is necessary
to use a sanitizer system to keep it clear, clean, and odor-free, such
as the Cleanwater Blue purifier system. If you buy your new spa,
and the dealer does not include all of the necessary sanitizers and water
balance chemicals, you'll be in for an unpleasant surprise... a
special trip to the local spa store to buy the required items.
Belize Spas offer long-life, high output electronic ozonators as an option. An ozonator can be added at any time on ozone-ready spas. Read more about Ozone
|The Spa Depot provides a free professional
startup kit with every hot tub sold, so you will save some serious
dollars. Our included Cleanwater Blue System is the
odor-free alternative to bromine or chlorine, which purifies
without the red eyes, faded swimsuits, or dry, irritated skin of
foamed spa cabinets are best.
FACT: In reality, heat
rises, and most of a spa's heat loss is through the top cover, not the
spa sides. (Just as in your home, most heat loss is through your
attic, not the walls). Roto molded spas are typically
fully-foamed to provide the needed structural support that type of spa
cabinet requires. For acrylic spas, fully foamed cabinets are
not the best approach to insulation.
A far better solution for larger acrylic spas is to have an insulated
shell and cabinet, with a dead air cavity in which waste heat from
the pump motor is confined and recovered by air-induction jets.
Belize Spas combines this insulating and heat recovery system with
a very well made, high R-value spa cover for maximum energy
HYPE: You have to pay a high
price for high quality.
FACT: Did you know that the
average spa store sells only 25 to 50 spas in a whole year? You
might think, why should I care? The significance is that
because these stores sell so few, they really have to soak their customers on the spas they do sell.
||Typically, they mark
them up by $2,000, $4,000, even $6,000 or more above their
actual costs. They have little choice but to charge high prices
because of their low volume and high overhead.
We think that old pricing model is outrageous. You should
soak in your spa, not get soaked by a dealer! Fortunately,
as a consumer, you do have a choice.
Our Belize Spas and other quality hot tubs cost
- Factory Direct
Your new spa is shipped to you direct from the factory. It has
not been sitting in a warehouse for months, collecting dust or
- No Middleman
Since you are buying direct, there's no customary retail markup.
- Volume Buying Power
As America's leading spa
source, The Spa Depot qualifies for the best pricing on the products
we sell. The savings are passed on to our customers with small
- No Sales Tax*
We collect no state sales
taxes, so you can save hundreds of additional dollars.
- High-Quality Cover Included - Standard Equipment
We include a premium quality,
insulated marine-grade vinyl cover with every spa. Others may
charge extra for the required cover, or offer a low-grade cover which will
waste energy and fall apart after a year or two.
- Cleanwater Blue Purification
System & Water Balance Chemicals Included
Only The Spa Depot includes this kit with every spa sold. $130
comparable retail value, free.
- Free Shipping
We do not charge for shipping
of the spa to your home in contiguous U.S. (must be a freight truck
accessible address. Some restrictions apply).
- Curbside Delivery Included
You will need to position the spa in your yard, but it's not
hard to do: here's
how. While a local dealer may offer to position the spa for
"free", in reality the costs for this service is built into the high
up-front cost of their spas.
- Lower Total Cost of Ownership
There are a few cheaper spas out there, but none with a
lower total cost of ownership. Just as with a fine
automobile, sticker price would not be your only consideration in
evaluating a hot tub spa choice. Our spas are built to last,
for a long, trouble-free, and lower total cost of ownership.
The Spa Depot has been selling spas online longer than any other
company in the world. Our reputation was built upon quality
products and truly outstanding value.
*sales tax applies to
Washington state residents only
Salesman Tricks & Tactics
...and your defense
||When it comes to hot tub prices, one could say that the cat
is out of the bag. As consumers become aware that the
prices at retail stores are too high, the pressure is on for
commissioned salespeople to close the deal when potential
customers come within striking distance.
In the last few
years, we've noticed that techniques
normally associated with used car salesmen, have become more
commonplace in spa stores. An informed consumer will have a
better defense against such sales tactics.
Its on sale!
This is the oldest trick in the book, and still very effective.
Walk into almost any spa store in America, and you will likely find a
sale going on. The psychology behind it is to create a sense of
urgency... i.e. "Hurry! Sale ends Saturday."
Nobody wants to miss the deal of a lifetime, but most folks don't realize
that these sales are often repeated over and over.
|Ask yourself: if
a particular spa is really $1,000 off regular price today, how much profit is
the dealer making? If I'm getting a fair deal, does this mean
that the customers who paid full price last week got ripped-off?
Or is the so-called sale just to lure me in the door, to buy a more expensive spa?
We've even seen a few online dealers who list all of their spa
prices as sale prices, even though they are their regular,
everyday prices, and not sales at all. Running perpetual sales
and phony sale prices is illegal in most states, considered a
deceptive trade practice. Prosecution has been sporadic at best,
so consumers must be on the alert. If a website advertises a sale
price, call and ask them what their everyday price is. If
it is the same, then you know that the dealer is not honest. If
they are dishonest with regard to their pricing, that calls their
product claims, warranty, and service into question as well. You must
be the judge, because it's your money.
The test drive
Every successful salesman knows that the more time he can spend
with you, the more likely you will buy something. Just as a car dealer
will try to get you invested in his product by taking a test
drive (while subtly plying you with his pitch) many spa stores have
set up wet testing rooms for prospective customers to try their
tubs. They know from long experience that if they can convince a
family to go to the trouble of packing their swimsuits, and investing
the time required to drive to the store, change clothes, and actually
bathe in their hot tubs, the odds of making a sale are far better!
||If you decide to take them up on a wet test (after considering that perhaps dozens of strangers and their kids previously bathed
in the same water you'll be soaking in) please do yourself a favor: after drying yourself off and getting dressed, resist the pressure to
sign on the dotted line.
Allow yourself a 48-hour cooling off
period before deciding. Go home and take a good long
shower. Their salesman will be worried about his commission (and
may offer to sweeten the deal by throwing in a few freebies, as you're walking out) but you will
likely not regret giving yourself a little extra time to think it over.
Bogus "free spa cover" and other misleading promotions
An insulated spa cover is not an option, but standard equipment--a requirement (lack of
a cover will even void your warranty). Many first-time buyers
are not aware of this fact, so dealers sometimes try to entice
with the offer of a free cover. This shameful sales ploy
is as ridiculous as a car salesman offering a free steering wheel with
every vehicle, and casts a shadow of doubt on their honesty.
||Lately, we've seen some online sellers using this same
unscrupulous tactic, which tells you a lot about them.
Reputable dealers should always include the required spa cover as
standard equipment, not misrepresent it as a free bonus or special sale.
Don't show your hand
If you've been shopping around, looking at other brands and
comparing spas on the Internet, that's a good thing, but it's your business-- there's
no benefit in revealing what you know to the dealer.
|To a slick
salesman, it's like a card game. He'll have a canned sales pitch
ready against all of his
competitors, to try to convince you that his product is better.
Take it all with a grain of salt.
Don't be impressed by the offer of a free ozonator, spa steps,
etc., thrown in to sweeten the deal. This means little when you
consider that some dealers will charge $8,000 for a spa that cost them
$3500. As an informed consumer, you'll be holding all of the
aces. It's not a game when it comes to your hard-earned money, so
add everything up, then shop for the best value.
||Buyer Beware - Phony Spa Ratings
A few spa outlets have been displaying a questionable star
rating logo, similar to the representation pictured left. You may
have seen it online.*
|To unsuspecting consumers, the
emblem suggests spa quality or reliability comparisons. In fact it's
pure hype. The logo is actually provided by an Internet
pool & spa supplies dealer, not a consumer's research bureau,
independent testing lab, or legitimate ratings reports
This company accepts advertising money from some manufacturers of spas, then awards them its so-called Best of Class endorsement.
The criteria for star ratings it reports, if any, is
not even disclosed. There are many factors consumers
should consider when buying hot tubs, but this dubious and
biased fake endorsement is certainly not one of them. Buyers
in the March 2005 issue of Pool & Spa News - article on hot tub spa