Hot Tubs: What You Need To Know Before You Buy One

Thinking about adding a hot tub to your property? One of these personal spas may offer many health benefits, ranging from an improved range of motion to relief from back and joint pain. Soaking in one may also help to relieve stress and anxiety after a long day. 

It can also be a budget-friendly alternative to a pool that is generally easier to maintain. With so many health and emotional benefits, it’s no wonder so many homeowners are buying hot tubs.

If you’re looking to buy one, a quick glance at your options may leave you feeling overwhelmed. There is a lot to take into consideration as you shop around for the best hot tub for your needs and budget.

Today, we’re answering 10 of the most common questions you may have so you can move forward with confidence!

1. How far does a hot tub have to be from my house?

Hot Tub House

To be safe, it’s always best to check with your city or municipality for specific ordinances and codes related to hot tub placement near homes and property lines. These can vary greatly from one place to the next. Generally, though, the rule of thumb is a few feet away from the home.

Even if your city doesn’t have building codes against installing a unit close to your home or property line, there are some other considerations to keep in mind regarding placement. While having your tub close to your home may be convenient, you’ll also want to think about the potential for steam from the hot tub to accumulate on nearby windows, doors, and other surfaces. 

On the other hand, you’ll also want to make sure you have access to electrical hook-ups (as most units will require one) and a water source, such as a garden hose, for easy filling.

2. What size hot tubs are there?

Size Hot Tub
Photo by Evan Lovely (CC BY 2.0).

Hot tub sizes can also vary greatly, so you’ll want to explore your options. Some of the more common sizes are one-person indoor tubs, two-person hot tubs, four-person hot tubs, and six-person hot tubs. Generally, the size of a hot tub refers to the number of seats that are built-in. While it’s possible that more people could fit in the tub, they would likely have nowhere to sit.

The overall size of a hot tub can also vary not just based on seating capacity, but shape and material as well.

3. What hot tub size should I get?

Hot Tubs
Tobias Arhelger/

The hot tub size that’s right for you will depend on a number of factors. Start by thinking about how many people live in your household and how many of them would likely be using the hot tub at the same time.

If you live alone, a single-person hot tub may be just fine. However, if you like to have backyard gatherings where neighbors or friends may be joining in, then having extra seating capacity may be wise.

You’ll also want to think about the amount of space with which you have to work on your property. If you plan on having your hot tub installed near the back door of your home for convenience, make sure there is still plenty of space to utilize your yard, deck, or patio. 

Your budget will also affect the hot tub size that’s right for you. Prices generally increase with size, after all. Operating costs also tend to be higher for a larger unit because more maintenance and chemicals will be required to keep water levels balanced.

4. Should I get an inflatable hot tub?

Inflatable Hot Tub
Marko Poplasen/

Inflatable hot tubs are becoming a popular option for homeowners who want to enjoy the benefits of a hot tub without the high cost or commitment. From a cost standpoint, an inflatable hot tub will set you back around $200-$1,000, compared to anywhere from $1,500 to $20,000 for a traditional hot tub. For those on a tight budget, this can make an inflatable hot tub an attractive option.

Inflatable models are also portable and relatively easy to both set up and take down. For those living in climates that see cold winters, taking down an inflatable unit can be easier and more cost-effective than winterizing a traditional tub.

Of course, inflatable hot tubs come with some potential drawbacks as well. For starters, these tubs generally don’t come with any kind of built-in seating, which can detract from their comfort and stress-relieving abilities.

They also tend to heat up more slowly and aren’t nearly as durable as a traditional unit. Still, an inflatable model may be an option worth exploring if you’re looking for something that’s portable and affordable.

5. How much does a hot tub cost?

Hot Tub Use

The cost of a hot tub can vary greatly, but you can generally expect to spend around $2,000 to $3,000 for a “basic” hot tub and closer to $16,000 or more for a larger spa with plenty of luxurious features. Ultimately, the price tag for your model will depend on a number of factors.

Size and features will typically be the biggest influencing factors for cost. The larger the unit, the more materials and labor needed to manufacture it—and thus the higher the sticker price will be. A model with more advanced features, such as water filtration systems, touchscreen control panels, and spa jets will also increase the price accordingly.

Believe it or not, your location can also impact what you’ll pay. It makes sense if you think about it; hot tubs are large, bulky, and heavy. Getting it transported from point A to point B (your home) can be costly, and manufacturers will pass along those costs to you. As a result, you can expect prices to be higher in your area if you live farther away from the manufacturing facility.

6. How much does a hot tub cost to run?

Hot Tub Cost
Rokas Tenys/

Aside from the initial purchase and installation, you’ll also want to factor in ongoing maintenance and operation costs before you make a final decision.

Hot tubs heat water using electricity, so you can expect your monthly electric bill to increase after you install a unit. The amount your electricity use will rise will depend on the size of the unit itself (and thus the amount of water that needs to be heated) as well as your local climate and temperatures. The good news is that the average tub costs less than $1 per day to heat, but energy efficiency and costs will vary from one model to the next.

Keeping your model’s chemicals balanced can also be costly, as you’ll need to test and add chemicals to the water on a regular basis. Some of the more common chemicals used in hot tubs include chlorine and bromine, which are effective in cleaning and sanitizing the water itself. The amount you’ll spend on chemicals will vary depending on usage, but you should expect to spend about $10-$20 per month here.

Finally, don’t forget that hot tubs should generally be drained and re-filled a few times a year, which will undoubtedly affect your water bill. The cost to fill your unit will depend on its size, but you can probably expect to see an increase of a few dollars on your water bill each time you need to drain and re-fill it.

7. How long does a hot tub take to heat up?

Hot Tub Water

Once your new hot tub is installed, you can’t wait to use it! Before you get in, however, you’ll want to make sure you give the water enough time to heat. A number of factors, ranging from the outdoor temperature to the size of your unit, will affect how long this process will take.

Check with your owner’s manual for a general estimate. Typically, you can expect the heating process to take about four hours. You may be able to speed things up by covering your unit, which will provide additional insulation.

8. How often do I clean my hot tub?

Hot Tub Cover

Daily, you should set aside time to test the water and remove any loose debris (such as leaves) from the water. A slightly more thorough cleaning job should be done about once a week, followed by a quarterly deep-clean that includes draining and re-filling the unit itself.

9. How do I clean my hot tub?

Hot Tub Clean
Stuart Perry/

In addition to daily maintenance and water testing, you should set aside some time to clean your unit at least once a week. Using a sponge and white vinegar is an effective way to clean the shell, as well as its jets and other external components. You should also spray and rinse your filters weekly for best results. The best way to keep your model clean is to make sure it’s covered when not in use, as this will protect it from falling debris.

Once every few months, plan to complete a more thorough cleaning job. You should do this at the same time that you drain your unit. Before you refill it, scrub the inner shell and jets with a mixture of warm water and white vinegar. There are also cleaning products specifically for hot tubs that you can purchase at your local pool supply or home improvement store. This is also a good time to replace your filters.

10. What do I do with my hot tub in the winter?

Hot Tub Winter

If you live in an area that sees harsh winters, you’ll need to decide whether to close your unit during the winter or to keep it open. If you choose to keep it open, you should be aware that operation costs will increase this time of year due to the extra electricity that will be needed to keep the water heated to the desired temperature.

If you decide to close your unit for the winter, taking proper winterization steps is key to avoiding damage and costly repairs. Specifically, you’ll need to completely drain your unit and use an air blower to remove excess water from all hoses and piping.

Otherwise, they will be prone to freezing and cracking on cold days. You should also remove all filters, loosen fittings, and blow air through individual jets to remove all traces of water from the unit itself. From there, you can cover it to prevent debris accumulation until you’re ready to re-open in the spring.

A hot tub can be a wonderful purchase that you can enjoy for years to come. Just make sure to familiarize yourself with these considerations, costs, and maintenance responsibilities before you commit!