Hot Tub Sales Gimmicks - The Real Story
We here at Prestige Pools and Spas strive to be a source of information for all things swimming pool and hot tub related. As a part of the education process, we try to cut through information that is laced with nonsensical "buzzwords" and double-speak that can be confusing, misleading or downright false. Below are some of the features that tend to be the most over-sold aspects, or things that are purposefully vague, or somehow presented as they are differentiated between brands when there really are no differences at all...
Spa Blowout Sales
First thing to be very aware of in the hot tub industry are spa blowout sales. These sound like the ideal place to pick up the best deal on a new hot tub, right? Wrong, they are probably the worst experience for a potential hot tub owner to purchase at for several reasons most of which are listed in this article by the Better Business Bureau of Nashville Tennessee. Link to the article.
Here is the article:
In short, pushy sales people, a lack of choices on spa models & colors, pricing that is severely marked up and then discounted, and a lack of support after the sale. They may also make it sound like you can shop several vendors at once by attending the sale, but in reality, it is just one brand sold by one company that you are shopping.
Ozonators have become commonplace in today's hot tub market. In its most basic form, the function of an ozonator is to produce an enriched form of oxygen (O3) that is injected into the water supply, killing organic matter (bacteria, algae, etc), reducing your overall need for sanitizing chemicals by about 20%.
The two most common types of ozone generators are Ultraviolet (UV) and Corona Discharge (CD). The names reflect the method in which they attack bacteria & algae. UV ozonators (which only sterilize bacteria) have a lifespan of 6 to 12 months before the bulb burns out, whereas CD ozonators (which kill the bacteria) last 24 to 36 months and before the chip needs to be replaced. Replacement UV Bulbs can cost you anywhere from $50 - $150 per bulb, and a replacement CD ozone unit tends to price between $100 and $150 for a good model. When that happens- regardless of which type of ozonator your hot tub is outfitted with- most people do not realize their ozonator has stopped working, nor that parts need to be replaced.
This is important as many salespeople will exaggerate the sanitizing capabilities of an ozonator in order to stress how easy their brand of spas are to maintain. Price and quality of your hot tub is irrelevant when it comes to water chemistry: You will need to learn it and there is no way around it. We promise you that there is no ozone, special filtration system or gimmicks that will allow you to not have to balance your spa's water chemistry.
Every hot tub will have a filtration system that uses polyester-based cartridges (like an air filter in a car) to help capture suspended impurities. The size, length, width and number will almost certainly vary between hot tub brands. It is true that there can be variations in a cartridge's ability to filter but in all there isn't too large of a difference to sway you to choose a tub based on its filtration system and technique.
Consider: As noted above, water chemistry is the primary reason your water stays clean and clear. As with an ozonator, the filtration system can help with the cleanliness of your water. But it should never be positioned as the main reason your water stays clean and should never be presented that it will reduce the amount of sanitizers you'll have to use.
Filters, like this one, tend to be oversold. Know what your filtration system will and won't do for you.
Hot tub motors range in horsepower and quantity. Dual motors tend to be the most common set up on mid-range to high end spas, but smaller tubs (based on water volume) preform just fine with a single motor.
Horsepower is generally measured two ways: Brake and rated. Brake horsepower (BHP) denotes the initial speed used when the motor is activated. This measurement is temporary as once the water is moving the motor throttles down to a lesser speed. This is the rated horsepower.
Whichever unit of measurement you use, motor size and quantity tell only half the story. The number of jets, their size, ability to move water and the plumbing connecting everything together all play into how well the water flows.
When motors are placed together on one side of the spa the tub is likely to have longer amounts of plumbing. Hot tubs with numerous diverter valves create bends in the plumbing that will slow down the flow rate. A high number of jets can be detrimental to the flow rate as well if not backed by either dual larger horse-powered motors or 3-5 smaller motors.
So, when you consider the number of jets in a tub, understand that the number of jets doesn't really tell you anything about the feel and experience the hot tub will provide.
Just because a spa has a high jet count does not make the hot tub therapeutic. In fact, it’s quite the opposite effect. Large jet counts mean the jets will get smaller and smaller. Small jets force water through tiny openings causing a high pressure, low flow massage. This type of massage after 10 minutes causes the skin to become irritated and “itchy”. This goes against what a good spa is trying to accomplish by relaxing the muscles.
"I want something that is chemical-free." Sorry- But no such thing exists. Every hot tub, pool, and even your drinking water requires a sanitizer as a part of its upkeep and needs adjustments to both pH and Alkalinity. Even salt systems produce chemicals to sanitize, whether it be chlorine or sodium bromide. Salt systems also have cell’s that generate the chlorine or bromine from the salt. The down side of this process is the cells need to be cleaned in an acid solution every 4 months. Also, the cell’s have a run life. After a certain number of hours of generating chlorine or bromine the cell will need to be replaced. They are not cheap. They also requite constant adjustment of the generator based on how the spa is being used and how many people are using it. Do not be fooled by the salesperson who tells you your hot tub will be maintenance-free.
However, water chemistry is not an arduous process. Some systems on the market now make taking care of the spa much easier. You can monitor the water taking up only a few minutes of your time each week. Additionally- Many sanitizers on the market are very mild and virtually unnoticeable. So, you're in luck if you're trying to stay away from a traditional sanitizer like chlorine.
Haggling is becoming more & more antiquated. Customers know that there is a price they are willing to pay, and salespeople know that there is a price they're willing to accept. If you're having to pay extra for this or that (ex. steps, cover, cover lift) then you are not really getting a deal. Many dealers will advertise spas starting at $2995. This sounds great, but then when you get to the store your salesperson will start adding on to the cost of a spa “Oh you want a cover with the spa too? Well that will add $400 to the price". Our recommendation if this happens is to just leave, if this dealer can’t be up front with pricing what else are they hiding?
Also, it is commonplace at large sale venues to have spas priced absurdly high. This gives you the consumer the feel of a great deal when in fact you are most likely still overpaying for the spa you are purchasing. No spa is worth over $15,000 (except a swim spa), so if you see a spa priced at $20,000 on “SALE” this weekend only for $8,995 you aren’t getting a deal your getting the spa for closer to its actual value. Shop a store a few weeks before a sale, then visit the same company at the sale. Did the price increase in just a few weeks?
Make sure you read the fine print inherent in some warranties. Some companies will boast a 5 year or longer warranty on their spa, but if you check the “fine print” on these warranties you may find that they are pro-rated warranties. In case you are not familiar with a pro-rated warranty here is an example: Salesperson tells you the spa has a 5 year warranty on the plumbing & equipment, but when you read the warranty you find that only the first 2 years of the warranty is 100% covered after year 2 you are responsible for 100% of the labor and 60% of the parts in year 3. These types of warranties will get worse as the spa gets older and you become responsible for more and more of the costs.
Monthly Cost to Run a Spa
This is another common question a consumer will ask a salesperson. What will it cost me to run my spa per month? The range of cost to run varies based on several factors. Ambient temperature (outside temperature), water temperature, cost per kWh (Kilowatt Hour or cost of electricity from your provider), and spa use. Some companies will give you a price of $X / month, but they never provide all of the details of how they came to that conclusion. A good spa manufacturer will test their spas in a temperature-controlled room (usually set at 60 or 70 degrees), with a water temperature of 102 degrees, and simulate ½ hour use every other day with a nationwide average of $0.12 per kWh. Some companies do not do this. (See below from a popular manufacturers website and how they come up with their figure)
NOTICE both of these manufacturers didn’t simulate use. So this monthly cost is calculated on you never using your spa. They also use light colored fine print or hide this information deep in their website. This makes the spa sound more efficient than it really is.
You may not know it, but there are several ways to insulate your hot tub. They can be broken down into 4 ways to insulate your tub. Here are the different ways and how they work.
Method 1 – Perimeter Insulation
This insulation style has a big plus, but also has a big minus in its category.
This insulation usually uses a reflective barrier attached to the cabinet (in the case bottom of spa too). This insulation works decent for very moderate to warm climates. The though process behind this to insulate the spa not unlike a standard cooler we have all taken camping or to the beach. The heat energy from the motors is bounced back from the reflective insulation back into the hot tub via the plumbing. The plus side of the coin is the fact that if a plumbing leak occurs you simply remove the cabinet and find your leak and repair it. The negative side of the coin is while this does work it also gives the spa the least insulation or “R Value” of the 4 methods we will be discussing. This is perfectly OK if you are in a warm climate such as Florida, Southern California, or Texas. In colder climate this means the spa will run more often in the winter and be the costliest electric bill of the 4 methods.
Method 2 – Combo Perimeter / Light Spray Foam Insulation
This insulation style has is slightly better than the previous method. In this method the spa shell is usually coated in a closed cell foam. Closed cell foam when its cured is typically very hard. This helps give the spa added rigidity and acts as a heat barrier trapping the water heat in the spa while allowing the motor heat to be used to help heat the spa. The down side to closed cell foam is again leak issues. Closed cell foam is very hard and must be chiseled out of the spa. This method of insulation still can be costly to run during the winter months.
Method 3 – Combo - Perimeter / Medium Spray Foam Insulation
This insulation style is much better than its predecessors, depending on the type of foam used (open cell foam vs. closed cell foam). Here we can see the spa shell and plumbing are now coated in insulation. This gives the spa a much better “R” Value and will be very efficient in cold weather. However, depending on the type of foam used this can lead to serious issues later. As mentioned before closed cell foam, when cured, becomes very hard. If a leak were to occur in the plumbing this would require a lot of work to find the leak. The foam would have to be chiseled out of the spa before the leak can be repaired. This leads to hours of labor-intensive work (the most expensive part of the repair) to fix a what could potentially be a less than $20 part. The two other parts of the problem with closed cell foam is the leak will wander its way through the foam until it eventually comes out of the foam. The leak could potentially be on one side of the spa and the water could be coming out on the other. Also, now that your insulation has been removed the spa is no longer as efficient.
Method 4 – Full Spray Foam Insulation
This insulation style has the most “R” value of all methods. Again, depending on the type of foam used (open cell foam vs. closed cell foam). We have talked about closed cell foam, now let’s discuss open cell foam. Open cell foam or Icynene foam compared to closed cell foam is much softer an provides almost the same “R” value. This foam does not need to be chiseled out by the repair person, it can simply be removed by hand very quickly. This also allows the technician to put the foam back in the spa. Also, if a leak were to occur the water will simply come out right where the leak is in the spa.
Our showroom salespeople have over a combined 40 years of experience in the industry. Feel free to ask us about the points made above or anything else you may pertaining to new hot tub sales or anything swimming pool or hot tub related. Thanks for reading!