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Purchasing a Hot Tub
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  • Brand: Spa brands are important for several reasons. Like most household products, you will be best served by shopping for a hot tub produced by on of the industry's larger manufacturers. Larger manufacturers are more likely to have in-house engineering, quality control departments, and more pull with vendors. You will find that Master Spas is such a manufacturer. Their spas are well engineered and assembled in the United States at their Fort Wayne, IN facility.
  • Dealer: Service is the key aspect of working with a dealer. Big box stores have very limited support. Owners of big box hot tubs often find themselves calling the manufacturer to troubleshoot their own issues and then either waiting for an outside firm to complete repairs or attempting to repair the spa themselves! A good local dealer will have an in-house service department. This can go a long way for the customer. Even if the dealer is not selling a high end product, good support after the sale can make all the difference in terms of customer satisfaction. When you are out looking at spas, ask the various dealers about their service and delivery operations. Be certain to choose a dealer that you are confident has the knowledge and experience to assist you when your hot tub does experience problems. Remember, if you're buying a well-made hot tub, your relationship with your dealer will last 15 to 20 years
  • Design: Whenever possible, a customer should sit in at least one model made by the manufacturer to make certain that the seating is comfortable and the jet layout will address the customer's therapy needs. Ideally a wet test would be done to ensure that you like the feel of the shell and jets prior to making a final decision. All the jets in the world are useless if they aren't in the right areas. Hot tubs will have various layouts for back, leg, and foot therapy. Often, the midrange and high-end models will feature more options for different muscle groups.
  • Jetting: People can get fixated on the number of jets in a hot tub. It is important to remember that the number of jets is relative to the output of the pumps that feed them. If you put 50 jets on a spa with one jet pump, there will be very little jet pressure and therefore, limited muscle therapy. Disregard the number of jets and feel a running model to see if the pressure if sufficient for your needs. In general, there are some good, basic rules for jetting. A well-designed 7 foot hot tub will generally have around 35 to 40 jets of varying size and design. If there are more than 40 jets in a hot tub this size, they are likely to either be weak, with all jets on, or be piercing due to the small orifice size required to give them pressure. A small jet orifice can become intolerable after as little as 5 minutes. A well-designed 8 foot hot tub will have around 45-55 jets. The same rules apply to 8 foot spas, except that a third jet pump can be added to an 8 foot spa which will allow for sufficient pressure in a 55 jet system.
  • Pumps: Just as is the case with jets, pump size is relative to the number of jets. Often, sales people will rattle off pump horsepower without explanation. Most motors have at least 2 different ratings. Actual horsepower is the typical horsepower acheived by a motor under regular conditions, whereas, brake horsepower is the horsepower acheived by a motor under ideal conditions. The number most often used in a sales presentation is the total brake horsepower of all motors. It may sound impressive, but it doesn't mean much. If the motors aren't operating in ideal conditions, which most are not, then the number is already meaningless. Furthermore, if the plumbing design is bad or if there are too many jets on the spa, then the pressure will be insufficient.
  • Plumbing: Most major manufacturers stopped gluing 1/2" and 3/4" lines more than a decade ago. These fittings are now assembled using barbed jets and manifolds, vinyl tubing, and clamps. This design has virtually eliminated leaking issues with hot tubs. Some small manufacturers still glue all of their lines. This leads to frequent leak repair over the life of the spa. Another consideration is the design of the plumbing itself. Overuse of 90 degree elbows and flow through jet lines will greatly reduce the pressure that a pump can produce in the jets themselves. Ideally, the manufacturer of the spa you choose will use sweeping elbows and manifolds to reduce head pressure and allow for the least energy use with the most output possible.
  • Vendors: It is a good idea to inquire who makes the components of the hot tub for the manufacturer. Look for larger vendor names for the various components. Ask if the components are proprietary to the brand. There is nothing wrong with proprietary parts, but they tend to be more expensive and there is a limited number of sources to get them. Balboa and Gecko are large control system makers. They account for the majority of sysytems made for the hot tub industry. As a result, replacement parts for these controls tend to be less expensive and more available. Aqua-flo is one of the largest pump manufacturers in the hot tub industry. These pumps are very easy to find and reasonably priced. Jetting is important as well. Jets do require replacement from time to time, even those without moving parts. Waterway Plastics is one of the largest domestic jet and fitting manufacturers. Their replacement parts are readily available and reasonable priced. Custom Molded Products (CMP) is a large Chinese jet manufacturer. Their parts can be difficult to get at times due to import delays, but the pricing is also very competitive.
  • Warranty: A warranty is only as good as the company providing it and the dealer supporting it. All too often in recent years, hot tub owners have found their smaller manufacturer or dealer has gone bankrupt leaving them with no warranty or no dealer to provide service. To a certain degree, you do pay for longer warranty terms. Most companies offer several levels of hot tubs. Introductory level hot tubs will typically only provide a one year full warranty. Once you get into the mid-tier hot tubs, you will find three year warranty terms. Most high end lines provide five year full warranties on the majority of the hot tub components.

 

 

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