The most common question that somebody asks before purchasing an inflatable hot tub is: Are inflatable hot tubs worth it? The answer to the question “Are inflatable hot tubs worth it?” is: Yes, portable hot tubs are worth it for people who intend to use their tub in ambient air temperatures above 40° F.
Over the past 15 years, research and advancements in technology have enabled manufacturers to produce materials that are malleable enough to be able to be used as the walls of an inflatable membrane, while being strong enough to withstand years of abuse and exposure to outdoor elements without tearing or becoming prone to punctures. These engineering breakthroughs have increased the durability and longevity of the top portable hot tubs to the point where they are now viable long-term alternatives to traditional fixed spas. The performance of many blow up hot tubs is comparable to fixed tubs despite costing a fraction of the price. Because performance and longevity of portable jacuzzi are similar to fixed spas, we believe that inflatable jacuzzis are absolutely worth the money and a financially smarter way to bring the lavish spa experience to your own home. Most of the mechanical hardware that blow up spas use is the same hardware as fixed tubs of similar size use. For example the heat pump that Intex uses, a 1300W 460gallon/hr water pump, is the same size and specification that many fixed spas of similar size use. Since the mechanical hardware is essentially the same, it is not surprising that our testing confirmed similar performance in temperate climates. The situations when fixed hard-walled spas outperformed blow up jacuzzis were when ambient air temperatures were below 40° F.
The biggest advantage that fixed spas have over inflatable hot tubs is that their walls are insulated. Insulated walls mean that the water heat does not escape through the floor or walls, which is a significant advantage in cold air temperatures. The heat pump is more effective if it doesn’t need to increase the temperature of water that is constantly loosing heat through the walls. This is why portable hot tubs are usually rated for use in 40° F or higher air temperatures. That being said, testing has validated that best blow up hot tubs can still be used in temperatures below freezing and maintain their max water temperature. We have seen portable jacuzziss that remain sealed overnight in 20° F air temperatures maintain 104° F through the next morning. If you want to use your inflatable jacuzzi in the winter, there are some additional modification you can make to increase your tub’s performance The circumstances where blow up spa performance falls short of fixed hot tub performance are when blow up jacuzzis need to increase water temperatures in low air temperatures. The air temperature rating on an inflatable tub indicates the minimum air temperature that an inflatable spa will be able to increase water temperature to max temperature in. For example, a 40° F air temperature rating means that if the air temperature is 40° F or higher and you filled the tub with cold water, the pump would be able to increase the water temperature to 104° F.
There are ways to fill inflatable hot tubs with warm water in cold temperatures, though. Many hardware stores sell attachments where you can attach a hose to your kitchen sink so that you can fill your portable hot tub with hot sink water. This dramatically reduces the stress on the heat pump and allows you to fill your blow up hot tub in air temperatures below its rating.
It is important to note that portable jacuzzis are not rated for use below freezing air temperatures because their internal pump hardware is susceptible to cracking due to expanding frozen water in the pipes. This is actually the case with many fixed spas as well. This risk can be mitigated by insulating the pump hub, though. Having all of the hardware located in the same area is an advantage that inflatable spas have over fixed hot tubs because the entire hub unit can be easily insulated. Fixed hot tubs usually have their pump components spread in different areas underneath the tub. For inflatable jacuzzis, insulation is as simple as wrapping insulation from your local hardware store around the outside of the pump hub. When the heat pump it is running, it will generate heat and, with the proper insulation, this heat will be enough to keep the entire unit warm and reduce the risk of hardware becoming damaged due to frozen pipes.
Since fixed spas and inflatable spas perform similarly, especially in air temperatures higher than 50° F, the next question that most people have is whether or not the inflatable spa will be able to last through years of use without damaging or losing its effectiveness. The first point to reiterate is that most of the hardware that blow up spas use is the same as the hardware that fixed hot tubs use, so the longevity of hardware should be equivalent. Another benefit of blow up jacuzzis, and having the hub unit completely separated from the tub, is that replacement parts are cheaper and do not require a technician for installation. If the water pump fails in a fixed spa, you will need to buy the replacement pump which will cost $200 for a similar sized pump, but you will also need to pay a technician to install it unless you have the time and expertise to install it yourself. If the same heat pump fails on your inflatable tub you have two options. You can attempt to replace just the heat pump yourself which is easier because all of the hardware is easy to get to, or you can switch out your old pump unit with an entire brand new hub unit for under $300. For a relatively low extra cost, you can get completely brand new hardware and not have to perform any technical installation.
The other component that may cause some skepticism is the tub itself and how long it will last without tearing or losing shape. One of the team members at Tub Headquarters has had an Intex PureSpa for 5 years now, and uses it every spring, summer. To this day, it is still as solid and reliable as the day he bought it. The 3-ply material that inflatable hot tub manufacturers use is high quality and incredibly strong, and should be able to last a very long time through use and abuse. That being said, if an accident does happen and the tub wall punctures or tears, you have two options. Your first option is to patch the hole yourself with a patch kit that is often included. Your second option is to purchase an entirely new inflatable tub reservoir for under $300. When questioning durability it is important to remember that an portable hot tub often costs less than one tenth of the price of a fixed tub. So, if a component does wind up failing, and you have to replace it, the cost of replacement is still marginal compared to purchasing a fixed spa.
The biggest perk that fixed hot tubs have over blow up hot tubs is jets. Fixed tubs always have usually have 20+ hydro jets which are holes in the wall that pump a jet stream of water back into the tub. These jet streams produce a massage-like experience. In order to have hydro jets, a hot tub needs an additional or upgraded water pump and the proper plumbing to route the water from the pump to the jets. In a compromise to remain affordable, many portable jacuzzis use a bubble jet system instead of traditional hydro jets. A bubble jet is essentially a tube that runs around the bottom edge of the floor that has 120 pin holes in it. The air pump sends air through this tube and the air escapes through the pinholes, creating countless tiny bubbles and a pleasant sensation that feels like your sitting in a cloud. The bubbles also reduce the transparency of the water, which makes your soaking environment much more private. We think that the bubble jets are a wonderful affordable alternative to hydo jets, but if you want traditional hydro jets there are inflatable jacuzzi models that have them, like the Intex PureSpa Deluxe. The upgrade usually costs an additional $300, but the benefit is worth it if you are trying to achieve the most lavish experience.
Overall, we absolutely believe that blow up spas are worth the money. They are a wonderful way to relax, unwind, and enjoy the outdoors. Blow up jacuzzis cost a fraction of the cost of fixed tubs, yet have comparable performance metrics because their mechanical components are essentially the same. Portable hot tubs actually make great gifts, too. Testing and heavy personal use has proven to us that inflatable tubs are extremely durable and can be expected to last through many seasons of use without concern. A great feature of inflatable spas is that even if a main component fails, replacement parts are much cheaper than fixed spas and don’t require a technician to install. The only situation that we give fixed tubs an edge is for use in an environment below 40° F. But, even in these situations inflatable hot tubs can still be effective if you insulate your hardware.