Backyard Spa

Questions on how we spend our money and our time - consumer goods and services, home and vehicle, leisure and recreational activities
Post Reply
Topic Author
karpems
Posts: 158
Joined: Wed Nov 13, 2013 7:35 am

Backyard Spa

Post by karpems »

Hey Everyone,

My wife and I are looking for a 6-8 person spa for our new backyard. I'm have no idea how to even start the process of finding a great spa to enjoy for may years. Can anyone recommend some brands for a super efficient, well built spa?

How about installation...I'm guessing a slab will need to be poured. How about wiring? Is a simple 110V outlet sufficient? Any plumbing issues or are they self contained? Can they be exposed or do they need to be put under a roof?

Thanks!
curmudgeon
Posts: 2154
Joined: Thu Jun 20, 2013 11:00 pm

Re: Backyard Spa

Post by curmudgeon »

Lots of factors involved here. You may find a few threads by searching the forum. I've known lots of people who buy them and then end up rarely using them (probably at least half of people who buy). We have one that we've tended to use several times per week.

The 110v ones are very limited; that's just not enough power to heat and run pumps. You really need a 40-50amp 220v circuit, which will likely need to be wired from the breaker panel (if the breaker panel has spare capacity). Even a 220v spa will take quite a while to heat up, which makes it hard to use on the spur of the moment. We keep ours at regular use temp all the time - it's fairly well insulated. A few years ago I figured ours was costing around $30/month in electric bill, though it might be closer to $40/mo now. We spent some time finding settings for filter cycle, heat, and chemicals that limit our costs.

You can set them on a concrete slab, or you should also be able to use a compacted crushed stone base. I built a low deck for ours, made out of a tough hardwood (need to consider the load factor for that much weight).
Dagwood
Posts: 1031
Joined: Mon Mar 02, 2009 5:26 pm
Location: MD

Re: Backyard Spa

Post by Dagwood »

I hesitate to tell people what to buy because people's values and resources are different. That being said, we had one when we bought our house. My view, fwiw, is that unless you really need one or live in a climate where it is realistic that you will use it all-year, don't do it. I think maintaining a vintage Ferrari would be cheaper and more enjoyable. Or tossing money into street drains would have been a better use of the money. Ours has been a maintenance pit and I will rip it out this year and have to rebuild the deck in that area to close over the hole. Should have done it sooner. Yes, I am bitter. ;-)
Swampy
Posts: 774
Joined: Fri Aug 31, 2012 7:16 am
Location: Between gators, rattlers and snowbirds

Re: Backyard Spa

Post by Swampy »

Agree with curmudgeon.

Expect to spend at least an extra $500 to run a dedicated 50 amp 220 volt line just for the hot tub. Electric costs alone are about $40/month. Chemicals will run another $20/month.

Put it where you can enjoy any scenery without getting rained on - it's no fun sitting in a hot tub and getting rained on. A good cover is a must, but they get waterlogged with time and very heavy - so I'd recommend a two piece one.

Consider used. Forget all the fancy shiny valves and attachments. Forget all the fancy reclining features and multitude of jets and bubbles. Basic works best - AND costs less.
I bought my first one new from a manufacturer. The second was bought used - and I saved >70% over new. The current one is an in-ground spill over spa with gas heat - but is open to rain.

Many people buy them and after the novelty wears off they never use them.

On any given day I'm in it at least 2-3 hours a day otherwise I'd be an immobile cripple.
It makes life worth living - for me anyway.
If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. | Failure is not an option. | If I have seen further, it is because I was carried on the shoulders of giants.
virgingorda
Posts: 273
Joined: Sat Jul 26, 2014 7:30 am
Location: New England

Re: Backyard Spa

Post by virgingorda »

We live in New England and use it year round. We bought the Sundance brand because that is what we had years earlier in California. Did not do a lot of comparison shopping. I do not find it to be a lot of work to maintain (except the time I broke the UV bulb holder when changing it.) We have no regrets and continue to use it regularly three years in.

I don't like being rained on but don't mind being snowed on. I like to see the sky or the wind blowing the tall pines and would never want it under a roof.

Ours stands on a brick patio that we laid ourselves and is not sagging yet. The electrical work for 220V was a little pricey.
retiredjg
Posts: 43133
Joined: Thu Jan 10, 2008 12:56 pm

Re: Backyard Spa

Post by retiredjg »

Some of this depends on where you live. For example, if you live in an area that gets snow in the winter, you may want it very close to the back door - maybe 5 or 10 steps. Otherwise, it may be too much trouble (cold, shoveling the work to the spa, etc) to use in the winter.

If you live in California, you probably won't want a roof. In Seattle, you might.

You probably will not find a 110v spa that will serve 6 to 8 people. If you do, you won't be happy with it. I've had a couple of 2 person hot tubs that worked fine with 110v though.

It will have to be on something solid and level.

There are no plumbing issues other than you have to be able to reach it with a hose. And to drain it, be sure you have a place to drain it downhill that is not right next to your neighbor's garden or patio or whatever. You can drain it into your yard if the ground absorbs water and if you don't try to rush it. Just move the drain hose every few minutes.

I've always bought new and never considered buying used....until I had to sell my last hot tup when I moved. It was about 2 years old and still looked and worked like new. The next people got a real good deal. This will be harder for you since you are inexperienced, but do consider it. You could save thousands. Also, dealers often do trade ins so you might find a used one at a dealer. If you buy used off Craig's list or something. you can also probably find a service that will move it for you. This might cost $250 to $500.

You probably will want the lid lifter thing on a tub that large. For long term storage in the sun, consider a cloth cover.

Be sure you really do squirt on the Armorall type sun block regularly or the cover will get sun rot in a few years.
User avatar
Kenkat
Posts: 6998
Joined: Thu Mar 01, 2007 11:18 am
Location: Cincinnati, OH

Re: Backyard Spa

Post by Kenkat »

We have a Coleman Spa that we bought new in 1999 that is still in good operating condition. We have had some minor maintenance over the years but it has been manageable and it doesn't feel like a money pit 15 years in - which is really longer than I expected it to last honestly. We have had to replace one pump and rebuild another but have a local guy that does work at reasonable cost. One pump failed in winter and we had a partial freeze of the internal plumbing - that was an $800 repair - but other items have been handled for a couple of hundred bucks and have been infrequent.

In terms of brands, I would not buy a bargain basement spa model; go to a few dedicated pool and spa stores and ask them what brands are best. I know Hot Springs are well regarded, but there are other good brands as well. I would focus on build quality over gimmicks - the number of jets is overrated - it is really about how much volume the pumps can move and the volume of the filtration system matters as well - more is better. Ours has a redwood exterior which is attractive but requires some maintenance. I recently switched to a solid color stain as the redwood was starting to show its age.

We had a dedicated 220v line run from our breaker box to the spa and it cost about $700 at the time. Ours is off our patio and we have a door from our bedroom that is about 15 feet away from the spa, so that is convenient. Ours is in the open, we had the patio extended to accommodate it at the time. It is a nice experience to look at the stars and the trees from season to season and we are able to use ours year round in Southern Ohio. In the winter, a cold windless night can be quite pleasant; a windy night, not so much. No plumbing - they are self contained like a pool and I rarely need to add water (if you do, there is probably a leak somewhere).

Other items to consider is that covers only last about 5 years (my experience at least) and run $400-500. Ours came with an ozonator, which uses ozone to break down impurities in the water; I was replacing these every 3-4 years as the bulbs burn out ($300) and finally just gave up and use mineral cartridges from Nature2 along with weekly shock and chemical checks and water is always fine. A good cover lift is worth the money as well.

I do know people that buy them and end up not using them, so be sure this is something you want and will use.
MnD
Posts: 4642
Joined: Mon Jan 14, 2008 12:41 pm

Re: Backyard Spa

Post by MnD »

220V, slab is good, buy from a small dedicated pool/spa store that has in-house service and expertise, buy supplies on-line to save.
It's going to consume a fair amount of electricity especially in cold climates in the winter.
Ours boosts our electric by ~$50 relative to our neighbors in the winter and in the summer it's almost no increase.
We use ours all the time except mid-summer. Best way to end up naked with other couples if you are ok with that sort of thing.
70/30 AA for life, Global market cap equity. Rebalance if fixed income <25% or >35%. Weighted ER< .10%. 5% of annual portfolio balance SWR, Proportional (to AA) withdrawals.
User avatar
tigerman3
Posts: 77
Joined: Tue Aug 14, 2012 12:26 am

Re: Backyard Spa

Post by tigerman3 »

I live in a climate where it is cold and foggy much of the time. If i didn't have the spa, I wouldn't use my backyard a lot of the time.

Extra cost for me included pouring a concrete slab and upgrading to 220V. Together, these added about 2K to the total expense. I bought a Sundance spa and paid more for all the bells and whistles which I really don't use all that much.
turlock1
Posts: 7
Joined: Fri Oct 24, 2008 9:00 pm

Re: Backyard Spa

Post by turlock1 »

I'm on my third Hotsprings spa. Each one lasted at least 10 years. First two were 110v, last was 220v. Very energy efficient. Minimal maintenance. My wife and I use it 3 to 4 times per week. I would definitely buy again. A lot of good memories!
User avatar
Watty
Posts: 21767
Joined: Wed Oct 10, 2007 3:55 pm

Re: Backyard Spa

Post by Watty »

Give a lot of thought into how you will access it to maintain it and to eventually remove it some day. My house had one when be bought the house. It was in a built in a deck and you had to either crawl under the deck or lift up a very heavy "trap door" in order to get to the mechanics.

It started having major problems when it was about ten years old and we did not use it enough to make it worth fixing so we decided to remove it. To remove it and sell it would have required tearing apart the deck and landscaping so it was not worthwhile. I ended up cutting it apart with demolition saw that I bought and hauling it to the dump.

You should also consider how you will drain it since you will need to do this several times a year. Just draining it into your backyard will not be good for your, or your neighbors, lawn with all the chemicals in the water.

You should also check with your home insurance company to see if that affects your rates.
Flashes1
Posts: 1023
Joined: Wed May 07, 2008 7:43 am

Re: Backyard Spa

Post by Flashes1 »

We bought a Hotspring spa last year and like it a lot. If you're getting a big spa the single best investment you can make is buying a "mechanical lift" for the cover. It allows my 110 lb. wife to open it without much effort. $1,000 to run the electicity.

We get a lot of use out of it.
Jguild2120
Posts: 14
Joined: Thu Oct 30, 2014 1:32 pm
Contact:

Re: Backyard Spa

Post by Jguild2120 »

In 2008 we installed an in ground spa. It was custom built in order to: 1) fit our narrow backyard, 2) integrate properly as permanent feature of our home, and 3) take advantage of our lakeside/golf course setting. It's a heated, salt water spa; no chlorine is used. The salt water feels silky smooth on your skin. It's built with natural rock brought in from a quarry several hundred miles from our home (The Woodlands, TX.) It has two waterfalls. Behind one waterfall is a 6 foot diameter water cave that provides privacy when my wife and I are feeling amorous. In the evening, on the lake against a setting sun, coupled with a bottle of Silver Oak, it can be wonderfully relaxing.

Here are some snap shots I took of our Spa

http://www.waterfirerock.com/johnrosema ... #h24544034

It cost $60,000. Last year I replaced the heater for $2,500. The spa is on a timer that we run 4 hours per day. I'm sure the spa has increased our electric bill but we have not really noticed it.

I maintain the spa myself. I add a bag of salt and a cup of acid monthly, empty the filter weekly (when I remember) and do a complete flush of the filtration system every 4 months. I use to check the water chemistry but stopped; after a while you can tell what the spa needs just by looking at the water... an extra cup of acid or maybe a bit more salt. Pretty simple.

Bottom line for us: The spa has added to the quality of our life and enhance the value of our home. Life is good.

(Several years ago our spa made the cover of a national Spa & Pool magazine The wife and kids thought that was cool, me too.)
John Guild
saladdin
Posts: 535
Joined: Wed May 05, 2010 5:45 pm

Re: Backyard Spa

Post by saladdin »

This a regional thing? What is a spa? Fancy word for hot tub?
Topic Author
karpems
Posts: 158
Joined: Wed Nov 13, 2013 7:35 am

Re: Backyard Spa

Post by karpems »

Jguild2120 wrote:In 2008 we installed an in ground spa. It was custom built in order to: 1) fit our narrow backyard, 2) integrate properly as permanent feature of our home, and 3) take advantage of our lakeside/golf course setting. It's a heated, salt water spa; no chlorine is used. The salt water feels silky smooth on your skin. It's built with natural rock brought in from a quarry several hundred miles from our home (The Woodlands, TX.) It has two waterfalls. Behind one waterfall is a 6 foot diameter water cave that provides privacy when my wife and I are feeling amorous. In the evening, on the lake against a setting sun, coupled with a bottle of Silver Oak, it can be wonderfully relaxing.

Here are some snap shots I took of our Spa

http://www.waterfirerock.com/johnrosema ... #h24544034

It cost $60,000. Last year I replaced the heater for $2,500. The spa is on a timer that we run 4 hours per day. I'm sure the spa has increased our electric bill but we have not really noticed it.

I maintain the spa myself. I add a bag of salt and a cup of acid monthly, empty the filter weekly (when I remember) and do a complete flush of the filtration system every 4 months. I use to check the water chemistry but stopped; after a while you can tell what the spa needs just by looking at the water... an extra cup of acid or maybe a bit more salt. Pretty simple.

Bottom line for us: The spa has added to the quality of our life and enhance the value of our home. Life is good.

(Several years ago our spa made the cover of a national Spa & Pool magazine The wife and kids thought that was cool, me too.)
Absolutely amazing!
virgingorda
Posts: 273
Joined: Sat Jul 26, 2014 7:30 am
Location: New England

Re: Backyard Spa

Post by virgingorda »

Where do you live? I just saw a commercial for a Spa show this weekend in Marlborough, MA.
island
Posts: 1734
Joined: Tue Jul 23, 2013 1:45 pm

Re: Backyard Spa

Post by island »

We have one that's part of our pool, love it, but no help to you.
Consider posting on gardenweb.com. Folks there are very helpful and there is a forum specific to pools & spas.
Emilyjane
Posts: 169
Joined: Sat Jul 27, 2013 6:39 am

Re: Backyard Spa

Post by Emilyjane »

Softub, have had for 10 years, use frequently. Sits on our deck, plugs in to regular outlet. Relatively inexpensive. I'd buy it again.
"Real knowledge is to know the extent of one's ignorance", Confucius
bhsince87
Posts: 2700
Joined: Thu Oct 03, 2013 1:08 pm

Re: Backyard Spa

Post by bhsince87 »

Jguild2120, that is stunningly beautiful! I'm glad you and the wife enjoy it!


But at $60k, it's not for me..... That's an extra year (or two) of retirement funds.
"If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace." Samuel Adams
Jguild2120
Posts: 14
Joined: Thu Oct 30, 2014 1:32 pm
Contact:

Re: Backyard Spa

Post by Jguild2120 »

>But at $60k, it's not for me..... That's an extra year (or two) of retirement funds.<

Hi Bhsince87,

Understood. It is a lot of money for a spa. I would not have done it if had not been a perfect fit both in terms of installation and added value to our home. In this situation, the spa has driven up the valve of the home (maybe not the full value of the spa).

OT: It's amazing what some will spend on backyard pools and spas. There is one family here in our area spending +$1.5M on a back yard pool. Needless to say, their pool is an extraordinary installation filled with water caves, waterfalls, surround sound, underwater lighting, etc.

Last year I got some photos of a $1M backyard pool. Here is what a $1M backyard pool looks like,

Mike & Angie's place:

http://www.waterfirerock.com/p933588375 ... #h358af81a
John Guild
letsgobobby
Posts: 12073
Joined: Fri Sep 18, 2009 1:10 am

Re: Backyard Spa

Post by letsgobobby »

Jguild2120 wrote:In 2008 we installed an in ground spa. It was custom built in order to: 1) fit our narrow backyard, 2) integrate properly as permanent feature of our home, and 3) take advantage of our lakeside/golf course setting. It's a heated, salt water spa; no chlorine is used. The salt water feels silky smooth on your skin. It's built with natural rock brought in from a quarry several hundred miles from our home (The Woodlands, TX.) It has two waterfalls. Behind one waterfall is a 6 foot diameter water cave that provides privacy when my wife and I are feeling amorous. In the evening, on the lake against a setting sun, coupled with a bottle of Silver Oak, it can be wonderfully relaxing.

Here are some snap shots I took of our Spa

http://www.waterfirerock.com/johnrosema ... #h24544034

It cost $60,000. Last year I replaced the heater for $2,500. The spa is on a timer that we run 4 hours per day. I'm sure the spa has increased our electric bill but we have not really noticed it.

I maintain the spa myself. I add a bag of salt and a cup of acid monthly, empty the filter weekly (when I remember) and do a complete flush of the filtration system every 4 months. I use to check the water chemistry but stopped; after a while you can tell what the spa needs just by looking at the water... an extra cup of acid or maybe a bit more salt. Pretty simple.

Bottom line for us: The spa has added to the quality of our life and enhance the value of our home. Life is good.

(Several years ago our spa made the cover of a national Spa & Pool magazine The wife and kids thought that was cool, me too.)
That's a beautiful hot tub, and a beautiful home.
Post Reply