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Hot Tub Spas  

Spa, Jacuzzi, Hot Tub, Whirlpool Differences


Q. What is the difference between a spa, hot tub Jacuzzi and whirlpool?

      A. Basically, the word "spa" is used to describe any one of a number of jetted, heated, water-filled tubs. According to Webster's Dictionary, a spa is defined as "a celebrated watering place in Belgium; any place, especially a resort, having a mineral spring."

Most "spas" are made out of either fiberglass or acrylic. Acrylic spas are, by far, the better of the two types and will provide longer life and service to their owners.

"Hot tubs" are made of wood, sometimes with a liner set inside. They can provide you with that "jet action", but without the contoured seating acrylic spas offer.

A "whirlpool", the way the word is commonly used, refers to any spa or hot tub's circular "water action". Remember, a "Jacuzzi" is not a generic name for spas. Jacuzzi is a company that makes "whirlpool baths" and spas. Any spa or hot tub will provide you with this "whirlpool action" of the water.

We like to refer to all of the above units as Hot Tub Spas. This is kind of a catch-all phrase.

"Jetted Bathtubs" are usually made of fiberglass or acrylic and can be used in either new construction, or to replace existing bathtubs. They normally get installed in the bathroom and have a jet pump attached to them. You fill a Jetted Tub each time you want to use it, then turn on the jet pump to get that therapeutic effect. They do not require the addition of chemicals because you drain the water out after each use.

Q. Should I get a portable, self-contained spa or an inground spa system? What's the difference?

     A. The answer to this question has a lot to do with where you want to put your spa in your home and how much you are willing to have done to your home to accept the spa.

Portable, self-contained spas require no external plumbing, excavation or electrical work. They plug directly into a standard 110 volt household wall socket. Most portables can be easily carried by a few people, so you can bring them outside in the summer and inside during the winter months (although many people enjoy using their spa outside even in the winter; it is quite pleasant sitting in a hot spa when it's cold outside!). Portable spas are also beneficial because they can be removed and transported in the event you sell your home and wish to bring your spa with you. Many people build a step right up to their portable spa to give it that "built-in" look, while still allowing them to move the spa when they so desire. A lot of interesting deck work has been done around many of our clients' portable spas.

In ground spas can be set in an outside deck, sunk into a cement floor or can be installed semi-in ground with a wood or tile deck built around it. In ground spas do require some plumbing, electrical and sometimes gas work before you have the finished product. However, your dealer can arrange all these services for you as well as work with your own private contractors in the event you are also having a room built to enclose your spa. Frankly, an in ground spa is initially more costly than the same model in a portable unit, but it will substantially add to the value of your home, while providing you with quite a unique and relaxing luxury.

Q. How heavy are spas? Will my existing flooring support one?

     A. Most people think of spas the way they do waterbeds - that the water is so heavy that the unit will literally fall through the floor. This notion is far from the truth. Unless you decide to purchase a large spa, most units on the market will not cause your floor to fall in. The fact is, a spa or a waterbed actually exerts less stress per square foot on a floor than your refrigerator or even a 55 gallon fish tank! Because the weight is spread out over a large surface area, most modern construction will support the average spa with no trouble. If you are in doubt, it is best to consult with a structural engineer before installing your spa.

Q. How are spas heated and are they costly to run?

     A. There are basically two ways commonly used to heat a spa: electricity or gas (natural or propane). Most portable models are heated by electricity. They can be equipped with various heaters ranging in kilowatt power (usually from 1.5KW to 11.5KW). Obviously, the higher the power of your heater, the faster your spa will heat up from a cold temperature. Any size heater will be able to maintain the normal desired heat range (usually between 101 and 103 degrees). All spa heaters are thermostatically controlled, so there is little danger of boiling yourself!

With in ground spas, you have more of a choice of heaters. When purchasing an in ground unit, your heater is a separate consideration. An in ground spa package must be thought of as a custom design, each piece of equipment being sized individually depending on the size of the spa shell. You can use either an electric or gas heater with an in ground spa. Gas heaters will initially be more expensive than electric heaters, but in the long run they will be less costly to run on a monthly basis.

It is impossible to give the exact figures concerning monthly operating costs. Your monthly energy bill will be solely dependent on how often you use your spa and at what temperature. (The average portable unit, indoors with a cover, usually costs approximately fifty cents per running day.) All we can tell you honestly is that we have never had a customer complain about the operating costs of their unit once they started using and enjoying the relaxing benefits that it provides for them.

Q. What options can I add to my spa?

     A. Spas, both in ground and portable, come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Many units have contoured seating and some feature lounger sections that let you fully recline in the spa. We urge you to look at a number of different models before you decide which interior configuration you would enjoy most. You should even get inside one without water in it to see which tub feels best to you.

You can add a light to either type of spa. Lights come with a variety of colored lenses that color the water to set the mood of the spa. Many people who did not initially order a light with their spa have since called us to install one (at a substantially higher price though). It is to your advantage to get the light before the spa is delivered to your home.

Some models come with an electronic digital readout touch sensitive control pad mounted on the inside of the spa. Aside from looking cool, it provides you with easy access to all the functions of the tub.

On in ground spas (and on certain portables), you have your choice of exactly where the jets are located in the spa. You can not only choose the number of jets, but their color as well. You can also choose between fully adjustable and non-adjustable jets which will affect the direction of the water flow through them.

You may want to add an Ozonator to the spa as well. Ozonators automatically inject sanitizer into the spa water in the form of Ozone gas, making the spa easier to care for.

Make sure you ask your salesperson which options are available on the particular model spa you are interested in as all options are not available on all spas.

Q. How should I shop for my spa ?

     A. Buying a spa is a decision you shouldn't feel rushed or pressured into, so be sure to ask the dealer a lot of questions. Like shopping for anything else, knowledge is everything. Before you take the plunge into buying a spa, ask for a private "test soak" so you can feel the jets and the overall comfort of the spa.

Here is a checklist of things to consider and questions to ask. Feel free to print it out and take it with you when you comparison shop !

Learn about the spa's specific features, ease of use and maintenance.
When the spa is not in use, does the water always remain hot and clean?
Do the jets and jet systems allow you to customize your hydro massage experience?
How loud are the jets and pump?
Does the spa offer a balanced filtration system to ensure clean, clear water?
Are the filters easily accessible ?
Is the heating and filtration system fully automatic?
Inquire about the heater-typically the most vulnerable component of any spa. Make sure corrosion will not occur.
Are the controls user-friendly, easy to operate and adjust?
Are there optional features to make spa ownership easier?
What are the electrical specifications of the spa?
How is the seating configured? Are you able to move about easily?
Learn how the spa was constructed and its energy efficiency.
The components should be fully tested and backed by the manufacturer's warranty.
Make sure the spa is totally insulated, not just fully-foamed.
Ask how to estimate your monthly operation costs. (Beware of some spas which can cost a lot more per month to operate).
Ask for a copy of the warranty and read it thoroughly. Beware of the dealer who is reluctant to provide a copy.
What spa parts are covered under warranty and for how long? Make sure the heater, surface/structure, components, tile and skirt are included.
How does the manufacturer's warranty compare with other brands? Make sure there are no undesirable limitations or exclusions.
Obtain information on the manufacturer and the dealer to ensure you will receive quality service both during and after your spa purchase.
How long has the manufacturer been in business?
How long has the dealer been in business? Inquire about their service policy.
Call the Better Business Bureau, the local Consumer Affairs Office and/or the local Chamber of Commerce to obtain any additional information about the dealer. If available, ask for customer references.

Q. What should I look for in the company I decide to get my spa from?

     A. Many companies are selling spas these days, and while competition is healthy for business, it can be disastrous for the uninformed consumer. Quite frankly, many firms are selling spas as a side line and are not really knowledgeable about the workings or servicing of their product. Mass merchandisers are also getting into the spa business, and while they sometimes may sell spas rather cheaply, they offer no real in house warranty or backup service on the products.

Remember,, Long Island Hot Tubs and The Virtual Pool and Spa Store do not sell spas over the Internet (only the parts & supplies for the tubs).

Q. Can you recommend any other places I can get more information on hot tub spas ?

     A. Check magazines like Consumer Reports, Pool and Spa Living, PoolSearch or SpaSearch for a lot of good information.
Also, Hot Spring Spas and DIY Online have just launched a new Deck Design Tool. This tool allows you to design their own custom deck, and allows you to pick every detail from the size of the deck to the type of planking. Once the project is complete, a PDF report is generated which gives you all the details needed to actually build this deck, including a list of materials and a how-to-checklist! Would you like a referral? Click here to request your free swimming pool or spa referral, a 52- page planning guide and over $800 in money saving coupons from PoolSearch and SpaSearch. You can click here to get back to the listings and review pages from

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