How to buy the best hot tub

How to buy the best hot tub

Sebastian, self-taught DIY-er, Exeter

Guide written by:

Sebastian, self-taught DIY-er, Exeter

Hot tubs offer the promise of long hours of rest and relaxation with friends or family, inside or outdoors. But from inflatable to hard shell hot tubs, swim spas to wood fired models, there are lots of options out there. Read on to find the perfect hot tub for your needs and installation requirements.

Important features

  • Operation
  • Features and accessories
  • Inflatable hot tubs
  • Hard shell hot tubs
  • Wood-fired hot tubs
  • Benefits
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Hot tubs: the basics

Jacuzzi: a registered trademark

Hot tubs may also be referred to as jacuzzis, which is actually a brand that takes its name from the inventor of the hot tub, Roy Jacuzzi. These hot water tubs are equipped with nozzles designed to send out water jets, air jets or both to provide you with all the benefits of spa therapy. Swim spas, as the name suggests, can be used for swimming and other sports activities and feature a built-in counter current swimming system.

Wood fired hot tubs

Wood fired hot tubs feature a traditional design with a wooden barrel-like shape. They are heated by a wood burner so you can enjoy a hot water dip outdoors.

5 criteria for choosing a hot tub

No matter which type of hot tub you're after, your choice should be guided by five main criteria:

  1. Location of the hot tub and surface type. The surface that will support your hot tub must be flat and able to withstand the weight of the tub once it is filled and in use. It is also essential to have a power source near the hot tub.

  2. How you plan to use the hot tub from basic relaxation to spa therapy or even sports use.

  3. The number of people who will enjoy the tub.

  4. Additional features such as aromatherapy or chromotherapy equipment, or an audio system.

  5. Budget.

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Hot tub

How does a hot tub work?

While a wood fired hot tub only requires a wood burner to heat up the water, other hot tubs need a few pieces of equipment – as well as some optional accessories – to work:

  • a spa therapy system;

  • filtration equipment;

  • a circulation pump;

  • a heating system;

  • additional features and accessories.

It's important to get to grips with the technical parts of a hot tub before making your final choice. This will help you to avoid any unexpected surprises down the line and ensure you can make your way around the product specifications in order to select the right equipment.

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Hard shell hot tubs

Spa therapy system: air jets vs. water jets

Hot tubs are fitted with spa therapy systems to provide users with relaxing or therapeutic massages. These systems can comprise:

  • air jets which send out fine air bubbles for a light and gentle massage;

  • water jets which send out pressurised water for a deeper, more therapeutic massage.

Depending on the hot tub, it may be possible to adjust the jets in terms of intensity or you may be able to swivel the nozzles to suit your needs.

Hard shell hot tubs with massage seats (recliner or ordinary seats) can be used to target specific areas of the body and deliver special types of massage from a relaxing mode to shiatsu.

Of course the quality of your spa therapy experience depends on the number of nozzles.

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Hot tub plumbing and spare parts

Hot tub filter system and water treatment

Filter system and water treatment

The hot tub filter system draws in any impurities from the water via the skimmer and sends them to a filter. Most hot tubs are fitted with a cartridge filter that must be cleaned on a regular basis.

A water treatment, such as bromine or active oxygen, can be added to the filter system to guarantee optimal cleanliness. This sanitising system can also be topped off with an ozonator.

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Hot tub maintenance

Hot tub circulation pumps

Circulation pumps

The filter system or circulation pump is used to draw water into the filter where impurities are removed before it is sent back out into the hot tub via the massage nozzles. It is used to move the water and prevent stagnation.

Swim spas can be fitted with several pumps to create a powerful current.

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Hot tub pumps and filters

Hot tub heating systems: wood burner or electric element?

Heating systems

With the exception of wood fired hot tubs, which are heated via a wood burner, a hot tub heating system is usually powered by electric elements. The power rating of the elements (indicated in watts) determines how quickly the water can heat up and how well it can maintain a certain temperature.

If you want to keep on top of energy consumption, your hot tub insulation must be as effective as possible. An insulated safety cover should also be used.

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Hot tub heating

Hot tub features and accessories

Features and accessories

A range of different features and accessories can be added to the standard equipment that comes with your hot tub.

  • LED lights can be built in or added to your hot tub for a chromotherapy system used to harness the therapeutic power of colour.

  • An essential oil diffuser promotes the healing power of plants through aromatherapy.

  • An audio system for relaxing to music.

  • Headrests, drinks holders, built-in foldaway tables, etc.

  • Steps and benches for sitting around the hot tub and providing easy access to above ground hot tubs.

Different types of hot tubs

There are many different types of hot tub, each of which comes with its own set of features, advantages and disadvantages. Choose between:

  • inflatable hot tubs;

  • hard shell hot tubs;

  • in ground hot tubs;

  • swim spas;

  • wood fired hot tubs.

However, before making your choice, you need to get your head around various characteristics so you can compare different models. This way, you'll be sure to find a hot tub that meets your plans, installation requirements, preferences and budget.

Inflatable hot tubs: a budget option

Inflatable hot tubs

Easy and quick to install in the garden or on a patio – so long as your surface can withstand the weight – inflatable hot tubs are made up of a self-supporting PVC structure with inflatable padding a bit like a small inflatable swimming pool.

Available in various shapes and sizes, these hot tubs can be fitted with air or water jets, and will set you back much less than a hard shell model.

Easy to move around, inflatable hot tubs can be easily folded down and stored over the winter. They are, however, less powerful, less comfortable and more fragile than hard shell hot tubs.

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Inflatable hot tubs

Hard shell hot tubs: for superior quality

Hard shell hot tubs are made of resin or acrylic with wood or composite cladding. These tubs can be installed indoors or outdoors so long as you are sure to check that your surface can support the weight of the hot tub and that there is adequate ventilation.

Unlike inflatable hot tubs, all equipment – including the filter and heating system – is hidden beneath the cladding. These hot tubs are generally considered portable but their weight makes them more difficult to move around.

In ground hot tubs: for ultimate comfort


Whether you go for an in ground or semi in ground model, these hard shell hot tubs are designed to blend in seamlessly. However, they are trickier to install and will require equipment housing to accommodate the heating and filter systems. This makes these hot tubs more expensive.

Furthermore, you'll need to check that you don't require any planning permission before installation.

Swim spas: a hot tub to rival a swimming pool

Swim spas

Somewhere between a pool and a hot tub, a swim spa can provide all the benefits of spa therapy while also offering a space for sports activities.

Generally rectangular in form, these pools can vary in size. They are fitted with equipment like water and air jets as well as a counter current system allowing you to swim and practise other sporting activities like water aerobics or muscle-toning water workouts.

Single vs. dual chamber swim spas

Swim spas can feature one or two chambers. Dual chamber swim spas are larger; one side of the pool is fitted with hydromassage seats while the other is dedicated to sports. The water in each chamber can also be adjusted to different temperatures.

Wood fired hot tubs: for an authentic Scandi experience

Wood fired hot tubs

These outdoor hot tubs tend to be round or oval in shape and are traditionally heated with a wood burner to temperatures of 37 to 40°C. Unlike other hot tubs, these tubs do not require electricity to operate. They don't provide massage jets but do offer all the benefits of a hot tub experience outdoors.

Wood fired hot tubs can be made of a rot-resistant wood, such as red cedar or certain spruces, or plastic with a faux wood cladding for a budget option.

5 benefits of hot tubs

Hot tub advantages

There are lots of upsides to hot tubs. Even if they don't provide massage therapy, wood fired hot tubs still provide relaxation for a number of people – and all in the great outdoors!

5 benefits of a hot tub

Hot tubs feature five main benefits through the combined action of their massage jets:

  1. They are great for managing stress and anxiety as they stimulate the release of endorphins.

  2. They work to relax muscles and relieve back, tendon and joint paint.

  3. They can help you to recover more efficiently after sports.

  4. They stimulate blood circulation and promote lymphatic drainage.

  5. They help to reduce water retention and cellulite.

More information on hot tubs

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Guide written by:

Sebastian, self-taught DIY-er, Exeter

Sebastian, self-taught DIY-er, Exeter

Redo a roof with wooden beams? Check. Advise everybody in the DIY shop? Check. Redo bathroom plumbing? Check. If it doesn't work, try again! I'll do my best to advise you in your projects.

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