Inflatable hot tubs have never been cheaper or easier to purchase, and many first-time hot tub owners are jumping on the bandwagon. With prices starting at around $350, and legit-sounding brand names like Coleman, Intex, and Bestway, the question should be, are they really worth it?
Hot tub sizes are based on the outside diameter of the tub. While a 6-person, 85” tub might sound deluxe, when you factor in a wall thickness of around 10”, you’re really looking at an inside diameter of around 65”. Hardly enough room for 6 adults!
Tip: grab some sidewalk chalk, draw a 65” circle on the ground and sit in it. Have anyone you think will use the spa sit in the circle with you. Notice how the circle gets small very quickly!
Very often inflatables are advertised as having up to 150 bubble jets. These aren’t the massaging jets found in a regular tub, but orifices for air exhausted by the blower to escape, creating bubbles. You won’t be getting much of a massage with air bubbles, not to mention, you might want to consider some noise-canceling headphones once you start the air blower.
Don’t buy an inflatable tub in the morning with the expectation of luxuriating in warm water by the evening. Expect a 1° (or less) rise in temperature per hour, which means if you fill the tub with 55° water, it’s going to take about 2 days (49 hours) to heat up to 104° degrees.
Not so much. Most inflatable tub manufacturers recommend when the temperature drops below 45°, draining the tub and wait for warmer weather. That’s OK though, since running those bubble “jets” introduces cold air into the water, exacerbating the slow heat condition.
Pose that question to your local dealer, or the store where you purchased the tub and the answer will be laughter (worse case), or head-scratching (best case). Either way, it’s extremely difficult to find replacement parts for these tubs, and when you do, they’re very expensive.
Legitimate-sounding companies like Coleman don’t actually make these spas. They leave that to fly-by-night offshore companies that are notoriously difficult to contact. Even if you can make contact, the parts you need are likely to cost as much as an entire replacement spa.
Plug-n-play sounds pretty easy and easy is good right? Turns out that easy does come at a price.
With no real insulation other than air, you should expect to budget around $450 per year in electricity, just to keep the tub heated*. This is typically about double what a quality acrylic or resin portable hot tub would cost.
Inflatable tub manufacturers recommend replacing the filter every 2 weeks or so, depending on how often you use the tub. Unlike standard, serviceable hot tub filters that can last a year or more, inflatable tub filters are very small, and just plain wear out in a very short period. There’s a reason most outlets selling this type of filter offer them in 6, 12, and 24 packs.
So, there you have it! The most salient points that you should know going into the inflatable hot tub world!
*Electricity costs based on the volume of 220 gallons, tub usage of 3 times per week for 12 months a year, and an average rate of $.12 per KW hour.