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Tips to Help You Find the Best Portable Hot Tub


An inflatable hot tub is a significant purchase. It is important to research ahead of time so that you are prepared to find the best product for your given situation. There are a wide variety of blow up hot tubs, with various levels of quality. It would be easy to unknowingly purchase a tub with lower quality components, if you didn’t do the proper research ahead of time. Researching any consumer product can be a tedious process, though. If you are like most of our readers, you probably don’t have much experience with pool and spa heat pumps or filtration systems, and it would take a lot of time to thoroughly research each individual component. At Tub Headquarters, our goal is to equip our readers with the tools that they need to efficiently pick out which product is best for them. We’ve researched and tested numerous spas and have compiled a list of our top picks as a great starting place for your research. In addition, we wanted to put together a list of recommendations for what to look for when conducting your own portable hot tub reviews and research. Feel free to reference our in-depth tub buying guide for more detail on each of these components. But, if you are looking for higher level advice, check out our recommendations below.

Longevity

How long is your inflatable jacuzzi going to last before it starts deteriorating and you are forced to purchase replacement parts? This is an important question that you should ask because it impacts overall cost. A tub that is less expensive than a competitor but won’t last as long, might not be a less expensive purchase in the long run. There are two major characteristics that affect tub longevity. So examining these components should give you a good idea as to how long the jacuzzi you are looking at can be expected to last.

Material

One of the most common portable jacuzzi failures is a rip in the tub basin material. Many times this is the result of an inevitable accident such as bumping into the tub with a sharp object. Events like this are going to happen no matter how careful you are, so it is smart to purchase a tub with the strongest material that you can find. The best fabric currently being used by jacuzzi manufacturers, is 3-ply material which is three layers of strong synthetic vinyl and polyester combined into one durable material. Typically the strongest tub materials come from third party manufacturers that specialize in designing and manufacturing this 3-ply material. Look for spas who outsource their material to companies like Tri-Tech or Fiber-Tech, who are among the top manufacturers of 3-ply material in the world.

Water Filtration and Heating Unit

The water filtration system and heating unit are more difficult to evaluate because there aren’t any metrics that you can look at to evaluate quality. Two pumps with the same output potential may be completely different in terms of quality and longevity. For mechanical components like these, we always recommend leaning on others who have had experience with the part you are researching. Read user reviews, and start out with the worst reviews. Consult the experts by reading advice from people who have years of experience in spa and pool parts. This is the whole reason TubHQ exists. Check out what our experts have to say. And if you don’t find an answer to your question in one of our buying guides, then send us a message and let us answer it for you personally.

Evaluating the pump and heating unit is tricky, but there are some simple things that you can do to check some of the common failure points. Start by taking the cover off of the pump housing unit and check out the connection points. The pump unit usually has three large connections to the cistern, all of which will have stress put on them during operation. Make sure that they are constructed out of thick plastic that is going to be able to withstand years of tightening and loosening in hot and cold weather. The internal pipes should be thick plastic as well. Connection points are usually the first place that blow up tubs start to leak.

Inflatable spas use high amounts of electricity, usually around 1300 Watts. Make sure that the power cord is thick and heavily insulated. If a power cord isn’t able to support the current that flows through it, then it will overheat and melt. 1300 watts is more current than a regular extension cord can handle, so keep in mind that if the tub’s attached cord isn’t long enough, you will need to invest in a high quality extension cord to be able to support the increased current. Make sure you factor this price into the overall cost of the product.

The last check you can make is in the quality of the construction of the pump housing unit. The components that the pump housing contains are heavy, so you would expect the pump housing unit to be constructed of plastic thick enough to support that weight.

Performance

Once you confirm that the portable spa is built with enough quality to perform for a long time without breaking, you want to make sure that the levels of performance meet your requirements. What good is a heater that will last forever, if it doesn’t get hot enough for you?

Size/Shape

Blow up spas come in all shapes and sizes so start by figuring out how many people you believe will be in the tub at once. If you are unable to decide whether to get a larger or smaller tub, always go smaller. Smaller tubs are less expensive to operate and maintain. It’s better to have an extra person squeeze in with you occasionally, then to pay for more tub than you need in the long term.

Next, decide which shape is best for you. If you will only be soaking with one other person, or by yourself, pick a narrow oval shaped tub so that you can reduce volume. If your tub will be in a corner, a square tub might be most appropriate for you. If volume-to-size ratio is most important to you, go with a traditional circular inflatable tub.

Heater

The heater is the heart of your portable tub, so you should pay extra attention when evaluating this component. The performance of your heater will determine how quickly your tub will heat up, how hot it will be able to get the water, and how low of an air temperature you will be able use your tub in.

There are a couple of metrics you can look at to get an idea of how powerful the heat pump will be. The most important metric is heat rate. Heat rate is a measurement of how many degrees the pump can increase the water temperature per hour. The higher this number is, the more powerful the pump is. Look for a pump with at least a 1-2°F/hr measurement. We like 2-3°F/hr pumps better, though. Heat rate will be even more important for people using their tub for travel. Somebody using their tub to during a weekend camping trip will place much higher value in a pump that can increase its temperature quickly versus somebody who sets up their spa once and leaves it running for a whole season.

Heat rate is also the metric that best describes how cold the air temperature, that the tub will be effective in, can be. The higher the heat rate, the lower the air temperature can be without dropping the water temperature. Pretty much all of the jacuzzis that we review have been rated for use in 40°F air temperature and above. But, we found that smaller tubs with higher heat rates are capable of operating in significantly lower ambient air temperatures.

Filter

The filtration system is what keeps the water clean. The filter sucks water from the tub reservoir, removes debris, and then sends the clean water back into the cistern. The filtration system has its own pump, which you can evaluate to make a determination of how powerful the filter will be. Manufacturers list the filter pump’s power in gallons per hour, describing how many gallons it can filter and return to the tub per hour. It is important to consider the volume of the tub when determining how powerful the pump must be. The larger the tub, the strong the filter pump must be to remain effective. We use a rule of thumb that the filter pump should be able to filter 1.5 times the volume of the spa per hour. For example, if the tub you are looking at is 200 gallons, then the filter pump should be rated at least 300 gallons/hr.

Jets

Blow up jacuzzis come with two types of jets. The economic variety of jets are called bubble jets, which are essentially perforated tubes that run along the bottom of the tub and pump tiny bubbles into the water, which float to the surface. Bubble jets are cheap, but effective. The bubbles produce a sensation that you are floating on a cloud, and provide excellent privacy by clouding the water. They are a perfect option for anybody shopping on a budget.

If you want the most luxurious spa experience, you might be interested in investing in actual hydro jets. Hydro jets are what you think of when you think of jacuzzi jets. They take water from the cistern and send it back into the tub in powerful jet streams. These streams can be focused on muscles to produce a massaging sensation. Hydro jets require additional ductwork and their own water pump, though. So a spa with hydro jets will always be more expensive than their counterparts with bubble jets.

Air Pump

It is impossible to inflate a blow up hot tub with your lungs. You need some sort of air pump. Most pump housing units have an attachment that allows you to use the built in air pump to inflate the tub. This is a must-have, so make sure this attachment and feature comes with the tub you are interested in.

Conclusion

We know that choosing the best portable hot tub can be a difficult task, so we always urge you to check out reviews from people who own the product that you are looking at. But, it is also important to remember that most of the people writing the reviews are uneducated, when it comes to evaluating mechanical jacuzzi components. So, combine first hand testimony with your own personal research. And lean on the experts as much as you can. The TubHQ team wants to be recognized as experts in this field, so we are always willing to answer any questions that you might have. Check out our top rated spas, read our reviews and buying guides, and if you still have questions, reach out to us. We wish you the best of luck in your research!




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