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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...

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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.

spa deck next to pool

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 needs.

Space

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.

Site Prep

For more great ideas on deck and patio settings, information on indoor installations, and some additional setup photos, see our Spa Setup page.

outdoor spa
indoor spa
deck

Need help finding your perfect hot tub model?
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Hot tub selector tool

Electrical Hookup

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 service.
*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.

Wiring Hot Tubs

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.

How to Wire 240V Portable Spas


Types of Spa Construction


Form Factors

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.

Light portable spas Ultra Portable Vinyl-Liner Soft Spas
   Entry Level

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 104° 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.

Dream Maker unibody spas Roto-Molded Unicast Hot Tubs
   Midrange

These spas, 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, spas which feature a pump heat-recovery system instead of a dedicated heater do not provide free heat. Such designs have pumps which must run frequently to keep the water warm, and pumps of course consume electricity. 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 104° F.

acrylic spas Acrylic Spas
   Mid to High End

Most people 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.

no-float lounger design

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 104° F, as with all spas sold today.


Manufacturers Warranty

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. Belize hot tubs warranty

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 charged 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, reviews and 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. ratings of hot tubs

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 information helpful.

Consumer Alert Phony Spa Ratings


Acrylic Spas - Hype vs. Facts

Size

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.

Spa depth is important! When comparing full-size acrylic spas, take a close look at the dimensions, and don't forget the most important one: height.

The Belize 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.


Jetting

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.

hot tubs hydrotherapy 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 annoying experience.

Well-engineered 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.


Horsepower

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 extra jets) will generally consume more energy. We've seen spas advertised online offering up to 15 horsepower. Sounds impressive, until you get your first electric bill.

honestly rated pump horsepower Buy a spa with the perfectly balanced ratio of quality jets to horsepower. Obviously, spa models with more jets usually require additional horsepower. Be aware that HP ratings are not standardized in the spa industry.

Air Blowers

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 good manufacturers 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.

air induction jets 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 and ozonators.

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 other sanitizers. Complete pro chemical kit

Insulation

HYPE: Fully 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.

Best hot tub insulation system

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 efficiency.


Pricing

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.

high spa markups 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 less because:

  • 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 storage expenses.
  • 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 markups.
  • 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

Hot tub salesman 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? Sale! Today only!!

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!

salesperson 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 prospects 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.

bogus free spa cover promotions 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. Salesman games

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.

Bogus hot tub ratings 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 provider.

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 beware.

*as reported in the March 2005 issue of Pool & Spa News - article on hot tub spa ratings

Spas Showroom

spa customers write Consumer Reviews
SuperTub 300
"I compared the SuperTub 300 to the Softub T-300, but the SuperTub looked like a much better deal, so went ahead and ordered it online.  We have never bought anything this big over the Internet, so I will confess I had some anxiety. The spa arrived perfect day before yesterday, quicker than you said it would take to get here, and we used it for the first time last evening. My husband and I love the spa and it is all you said it was. What a great deal!"

Sharon Keillor
Andersonville, GA


LifeCast Spas
"I could have bought my new from any number of places on the Internet, but I want you to know that I chose The Spa Depot for two reasons. First, your customer service person was so helpful in answering all of my questions. Second, you are giving me the Cleanwater Blue chemical system free of charge, and the other dealers did not even have that. Thanks for all the great service."

Reggie Melnicoff
Bridgeport, CT


Belize eSeries
"The Belize spa is awesome! It was shipped/delivered (free, I might add) all in one piece - in 100% perfect shape. Got it wired easily by my electrician; up and running in 3 hours - temp went from 64 (from the hose) to 102 in less than an hour and a half (220v really makes it heat quick). Had the thermostat turned down to 80 for past 3 days and the temp is still as high as 94 - amazingly well insulated, saving me tons of money!"

"I am elated at this purchase - the price is a screaming deal with its real wood exterior and the thick acrylic interior. I sound like a salesman for the product, but I am also really impressed by your company (order status sent, instructions sent about delivery, the elaborate 'care' box of all the necessary spa supplies, the free 'devil duck', etc...), which all adds up to a very positive consumer experience. I definitely will by buying my supplies through you (and let anyone who inquires about my spa to checkout SpaDepot.com)."

A customer for life,

T. J. Froggatt
Phoenix, AZ

"It's perfect for my wife and I.  We are a tall couple and it fits perfectly! You helped me a lot with our spa selection. The tub is perfect for a two-person household."

Brandon & Jennifer Knutson
Federal Way, WA


Belize e750L
"This morning was one of the coldest in many years here in this area of Idaho. About 6:10 am the power went out. I called in a power outage report and then thought about the hot tub. This is the first winter for our Belize spa and I was unsure just how well it would do in such conditions. Then about 8:00, as the sun was coming over the mountains, I checked the temperature-- 26.4 below zero.

"About an hour later the power company lineman came by to tell me it would be a few more hours. There was a remote line down and he had called for a "Snow-Cat" to be brought in. Well, at exactly 12:00 Noon the power came on. 5 hours and 50 minutes. Just so you know ----- It was minus 10.2 at Noon. I was really curious how the Belize had done, so I went right out and uncovered it. I was VERY pleased to see the reading on the tub. It was at 100 degrees -- It had dropped only 4 degrees in almost six hours of very cold temperatures with no power!"

Bill Connell
Grace, ID


Belize Spas

"We just received our spa from you 3 days ago.  My first surprise was that my husband did not have to take the day off of work, they delivered and unloaded it right to our driveway. Later that evening when we unwrapped it, the spa looked just like it did in the picture. We were worried about ordering something online but everything is just what we expected, and then some. You have some wonderful employees. Every time I called they took their time answering my questions, and were so polite and down to earth. (they deserve a raise) LOL. We have friends who have Jacuzzis and cannot believe the price we got. I can't wait till they come over and try it. I have five children 16-22 with many friends waiting to try it out. I will recommend you to everyone. Well, just wanted to let you know I'm more than satisfied."

Fawn Salvatore
Garden City, MI

Spa Depot, The, Spas & Hot Tubs - Dealers, Olympia, WA

 
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