Back in the day, our grandparents’ generation used to spend dark winter evenings by their crackling firesides. The present generation, however, is turning to warming up during cold winters by stepping into hot tubs.
Say ‘hot tub’ and your friend will smile as she conjures up visions of fun and frolic. However, the popular image of hot tubs does not do justice to the manifold benefits that these lifestyle accessories bring. Yes, a hot tub can be a centre for a party atmosphere as singles socialise and sip cocktails. However, in the churn of hectic urban life, a hot tub is equally often a welcome refuge, providing some quiet relaxation and recreation, either by yourself or with your significant other.
A wooden or fibreglass hot tub is not only very expensive, you need to allocate space for it and then protect it from the elements. An inflatable hot tub, on the other hand, is relatively affordable and can be set up for those days or for the season you plan to use it after which it can be deflated and stowed back in the basement.
Inflatable hot tubs are available in a variety of styles and sizes, from snug little things for two to jumbo tubs for parties of eight or more. What most of them have in common is ease and convenience in set up. An electronic control panel gives you the ability to set the water temperature, activate the air-jets, turn filtration on and off, and set a timer. Even inflation is automatic – press a button and watch a flaccid mass of PVC self-inflate into a rigid hot tub. Moreover, you can kit out your hot tub with accessories like special cushions, headrests and drink holders.
Apart from socialisation, relaxation, and whatever else, an inflatable hot tub brings very real therapeutic benefits. Hydrotherapy is an established discipline within Naturopathy or Occupational Medicine, and a soak in a hot tub with air-jets is often prescribed, not only in Naturopathy but even in traditional Physiotherapy, for various conditions. Chronic pain sufferers, persons with some types of arthritis, and patients with certain kinds of injuries can reduce pain and accelerate the healing process by spending time in hot tubs, as prescribed by a medical practitioner. The buoyancy of water reduces weight on the leg joints and, in fact, reduces mechanical stresses on all submerged body parts, water at the correct temperature can soothe aching joints, and the thousands of tiny bubbles blown by the air-jets serve to gently massage away aches and pains and induce the body to release and remove toxins via the lymphatic system.
These therapeutic benefits are not limited to those who need them. You can still have those cosy fireside discussions with your spouse of a dark December evening just like your grandparents used to. But – unlike your grandparents – on bright and balmy June evenings, why not have that cosy discussion in an inflatable hot tub amid a swirl of warm water while jets of tiny bubbles give you an invigorating massage?Table could not be displayed.
Let’s start with our #1 best pick –
A venerable old-timer among hot tubs, Lay-Z-Spa’s setup is tedious and its design is outdated but in construction, reliability, and performance it’s still champ.
Cost: No products found.
A brand name almost as synonymous with the product as Ray-Bans is with sunglasses and Frigidaire is with refrigerators, Lay-Z-Spa has been setting the standard in inflatable hot tubs. Their creations are available in a bewildering panoply of styles and sizes with names like St. Tropez, Maldives, and Monaco with the sizes ranging from for two-to-four persons up to for six-to-eight persons.
We review the Vegas model with a volume of 935 litres measuring 196 x 61 centimetres and supposed to be for four to six persons but really suitable for two to three adults.
The heating system heats up to 40° centigrade and it is very reliable. The 87 air jets work wonderfully well; they are powerful and the effect they create is enjoyable, sufficiently so to induce you to enjoy a bubbly with the bubbling.
The floor is cushioned, and the body is strengthened with circular beams. All said, Lay-Z-Spa Vegas impresses with its sturdiness, finishing, and overall high quality.
The external ‘egg’ housing the pump and heater is an old, holdover design that is an eyesore and takes up space. On the flip side, keeping the electrical parts separate enhances both user safety and component durability, and minimises equipment failures.
The timer is a very useful feature – programme it in the morning and your hot tub is ready to jump into when you return from work.
Although the instructions are confusing and useless, the videos are clear and helpful. However, compared to most other hot tubs setting up this one is a drawn-out chore.
Lay-Z-Spa hot tubs come with a pool liner, a pool cover, a filter, and a Chem Connect kit.
Lay-Z-Spa was the winner at the UK Pool and Spa Awards 2018, and they provide a two-year warranty.
- This sturdy and rugged hot tub’s construction is best-of-breed and will not cause any funny surprises while hot-tubbing.
- Bubble jets, heater, or timer, it all just works – and works well.
- The market leader in reliability – if you buy it, you can count on it.
- The old-fashioned design of the external ‘egg’ takes up space and does nothing for aesthetics.
- The set up is relatively complicated and a bit of a hassle.
MSpa’s hot tub is as easy on the pocket as it is easy to set up, on top of which construction is impressive and so is performance, making this kit a top-value buy.
Cost: No products found.
MSpa’s Silver Cloud has a volume of 700 litres and dimensions of 70 x 180 centimetres. It is supposed to be for four but is better for three and best for two.
Setting this one up is a piece of cake; it is just about the easiest hot tub to get going.
The 118 impressively strong air-jets are on the noisy side but they give the bather a lovely bubble-massage.
In the Silver Cloud 2019, the electrical components like the pump and heater are integrated into the tub itself. This design is not only more aesthetic and space-saving, it is also more convenient for the user.
Press a button to inflate the tub, and it’s ready in two to three minutes.
MSpa’s hot tub is made of ‘Rhino-Tech 6-layer’ and this material is quite aptly named because it is really thick and solid, one could even call it tough.
If this kit has a weak point, it would be the filtration. On the strong side, the thermostat is excellent as it maintains water temperature in a narrow band without any user involvement. The maximum temperature is 42° centigrade.
The power cord is 5 metres in length and has an RCD.
On the whole, this is a very good hot tub that raises only one question: How, just how, do they sell it at so low a price?
It comes with a reinforced PVC cover, wired controller, digital lock, a filter cartridge, and a garden hose adapter.
MSpa provides a six-month guarantee for the hot tub body and a one-year guarantee for the electrical parts.
- Setup is child’s play for this integrated-design hot tub.
- Among its two or three plus points, the bubble jets just have to be applauded.
- Just how do they make such a very good hot tub available at so low a price?
- The filtration is not the most effective.
With pleasing aesthetics and priced to please, WAVE’s hot tub has a lot going for it including accessible controls and reliable performance, making it a value buy.
Cost: No products found.
WAVE’s Atlantic hot tub has a capacity of 750 litres and measures 65 x 181 centimetres. It is meant for two to four persons but while three adults are realistic, four is being optimistic. An Atlantic Plus model for four to six persons is also available.
This hot tub has an integrated design, combining the heater and blower in the main body. Partly because of this, inflation is quick and setup is easy.
The 1800-watt heater can heat water to a maximum of 40° centigrade. The 30-watt air compressor powers 130 air jets. You do not have to stir from the hot tub to key in changes into the control panel.
If the pump becomes seriously noisy or you experience a heating problem, simply clean or change the filter.
Sometimes it does not heat water to the preset temperature and gets ‘stuck’ at an intermediate temperature. When this happens, the hot tub’s electronics need to be rebooted by plugging out and plugging back in.
With a tough outer PVC shell and a soft inner lining, this hot tub is comfortable, sleek and sharply designed and on this score is a cut above the rest.
The power cord is 3 metres.
A terrific value for money, WAVE’s hot tub gives MSpa’s Silver Cloud stiff competition as our Value Pick.
It comes with a cover with a foil backing to retain heat and which can be secured with lockable buckles, a groundsheet, a pressure gauge, an inflation hose, and a filter.
WAVE provides a 6-month warranty for the cover and liner and a one-year warranty for the pump and heater.
- The integrated design promotes quick and easy setup.
- The hot tub is comfortable, and also well-made and designed.
- Very good value for money.
- If water heating stops midway to the pre-set temperature, you have to ‘reboot.’
A kit of contrasting halves, Intex’s hot tub’s slick design is counterbalanced by too-frequent leaks but the control panel is easy and the bubble massage is tops.
Cost: No products found.
Intex’s octagonal hot tub measures 71 x 201 x 201 centimetres and has a volume of 795 litres.
Though the product under review is meant for four persons, four may be a bit of a squeeze. It is comfortable for three adults. Intex’s Pure Spa tub is also available in a four-‘plus’ model and a six-person model.
The instructions are straightforward and easy to follow but if you watch the DVD, setup is simply a snap.
This tub is both comfortable and robust – the sides are very comfortable for anyone to lean back on yet robust enough for a heavy adult to sit on.
Intex talks up its ‘120 heated bubble jets’ which provide ‘Pure Spa Bubble Therapy.’ We have to say this kit lives up to the hype – the bubbling is the best; indeed, ‘bubble therapy’ is no exaggeration.
It heats up to 40° centigrade.
This hot tub has a high-quality look and feel about it, unfortunately, a number of units have a particular defect: they develop leaks, especially along the seams of the wall, and gradually deflate. This quality control issue would have any buyer worrying as to whether his/her purchase will work out or not. Also, some other units have defective pumps causing the controller to show error code ‘E90’.
A feature worth mentioning is the built-in hard water treatment system. The control panel is simple and easy; technophobes will have no problems with this one!
It comes with a 3-way test strip, two filter cartridges, chlorine dispenser, thermal ground cloth, inflation hose, and carry bag.
Intex provides a one-year guarantee.
- The hot tub is very comfortable, and it is equally robust.
- One of the better air-jet systems means one of the best bubble massages.
- Built-in hard water treatment system.
- Some units develop leaks and have to be kept re-inflated.
- Some units develop faults in the pump.
Plagued with quality control issues, All Seasons’ hot tub promises to deceive as its solid specs and attractive design are undone by various all-too-frequent defects.
Cost: No products found.
All Seasons’ hot tub for four to six persons measures 65 x 181 x 140 centimetres and has a volume of about 1000 litres. The size is good for four; six would be too close for comfort. It is available in black, black and white, blue and white, and other colours.
A two-to-four person size is also available.
It can heat up to 40° centigrade and has 130 air jets. It has a 240-watt motor and a built-in pump and heater instead of a separate unit. Setup is a breeze.
Though rather noisy, this hot tub can heat and bubble simultaneously.
The electrical components are not robust or durable. Sometimes the heater quits in about one year.
All Seasons’ hot tubs are prone to leaks and deflation. The materials and construction are sub-par; some units develop tears or punctures and need to keep being re-inflated every two days or so. If you get a piece that is defective from the get-go, it will lose air pressure and will need to be pumped up every couple of days.
The drawback with this hot tub, in two words, is quality control – or lack thereof. If you get a good unit you’ll be over the moon but on the other hand, you may well get a wreck of a piece and be down in the dumps. Warranty claims are no fun!
The electric cord is 7 metres long.
This hot tub comes with a PVC insulated cover with buckles, a groundsheet, inflation hose, filter cartridge, and repair kit.
All Seasons provides a 6-month warranty for the tub and a one-year warranty for the pump, heater and other electrical parts.
- Attractive design and good specs and features.
- You’ll be a happy camper IF you get a good piece – ‘IF’ in caps.
- Non-existent quality control means you cannot count on getting a good piece or one that will last.
- Frequent defects and failures in the hot tub body and/or heater.
- Way overpriced.
How Does An Inflatable Hot Tub Work?
An inflatable hot tub has to be both tough and durable yet, obviously, also flexible and stowable. To achieve both ends it is usually made of PVC material. You have to place it on a level surface where an electrical socket and tap or faucet are nearby. The rest ‘works’ by itself.
An inflatable hot tub has various technical components such as heating elements, valves, filters, and sensors – it is not a simple container. However, from a user’s point of view, the way it works is actually simple. The blower, pump, and heater may be housed in a separate unit that has to be connected to the hot tub or they may be integrated into the hot tub.
The blower inflates the hot tub; all the user has to do is press a button. After the hot tub is inflated, it is filled with water, usually from a hose. When it is halfway filled you can turn on the heat and set the desired temperature, bringing the heating unit into action. Depending on various factors, like the water’s initial temperature, the target temperature, and the strength of the heater, it will take from about eight hours to up to 20 hours for the water to be ready.
When you step into the hot tub and turn on the air-jets, the motor and air-compressor kick in. The air-jets blows air, shooting it through the water to generate thousands of small air bubbles.
What Can I Put Under My Hot Tub?
Many hot tubs come with a special groundsheet; if your hot tub came with such a sheet, use that. Otherwise put a mat, a thick cloth, or a thin layer of foam under your hot tub. You can also get a set of interlocking foam tiles with which to assemble a floor mat.
Such a layer will provide insulation for better heat retention and energy savings and may also make the hot tub more comfortable.
Are Hot Tubs Suitable For Use In Winter?
Hot tubs are suitable for use in winter but just because they are, does not necessarily mean that you should use them in winter; at least not without suitable precautions.
First, consider the location and temperature. If you have set up your hot tub outdoors and it is too cold, say below 12° centigrade, avoid using it. However, if you have set it up indoors then it is a different matter.
Second, if it is outdoors and the temperature is not too cold, you will want to conserve heat so keep the cover on at all times that the hot tub is not being used.
Third, winter is prime time for illnesses and communicable diseases, so you need to make sure that those who use your hot tub are not going to make others ill, and don’t skimp on the chlorine tablets. Before the onset of winter, it is a smart idea to thoroughly clean the hot tub, change the filters, and sanitise it for extra protection.
Lastly, if you use your hot tub in winter make sure you do not expose your wet body to the frigid air.
Inflatable hot tubs are not made to withstand very cold temperatures and if it is going to be 6° centigrade or under, the hot tub should not be kept outdoors. It should be emptied, cleaned, thoroughly dried and stowed away in a protected place.