Hot tubs are commonly seen as a luxurious item, and many average working class people don’t believe that they can afford them. That is, however, not entirely the case.
Sure, installing a hot tub that is built in to either your house or your yard can cost thousands or even ten-thousands, but an inflatable hot tub is an affordable and suitable alternative solution.
There are many questions that must be answered before you can decide if an inflatable hot tub is truly right for you, but perhaps the most pressing of all of the questions is: Are inflatable hot tubs expensive to run?
How Much Does an Inflatable Hot Tub Cost, Anyway?
First things first, it is exceedingly less expensive to install and outfit an above-ground inflatable hot tub over one that is built into a home or the ground.
Let’s compare the basic initial costs of an above ground soft-side hot tub and a built-in hot tub.
|Above Ground Soft-Side Hot Tub||Built-In Hot Tub|
|$$ For the Hot Tub||$500 or less||$3,000 to $18,000|
|$$ For Installation||$150 to $500||$15,000 to $20,000|
|$$ For Required Extra Expenses||none||Contractor, materials, electrical and plumbing, surroundings|
So, looking at the chart above, it is clear that there are lots of hidden costs and costs that can quickly add up when working with a built-in hot tub. Also made abundantly clear is the fact that you can have your own portable, inflatable hot tub bought and installed for under $1000 in most cases.
What are you waiting for?
Right. You may want some proof that you won’t spend $1000 of your hard-earned dollars and it be an absolute waste.
What Are Some Good Features of Inflatable Hot Tubs?
Inflatable hot tubs are just like their harder, more expensive counterparts in lots of ways. For the most part, the biggest difference in the two is that one is soft and the other is hard.
The different capacity sizes of inflatable hot tubs are usually 2-person, 4-person, and 6-person. Keep in mind the sizes of the people that will frequent your hot tub the most, so you can buy a capacity size that accommodates those people. Some inflatable hot tubs can run small, so you should be aware and looking for any that you may need to “size up” on.
For every hot tub, even inflatable ones, there are control panels that run the controls for your spa tub. These panels control the temperature of your hot tub, whether the jets are on or off, whether the heat is on or off, and a timer for your heater, usually.
You will want to make sure that you choose a brand of hot tub that has a control panel you can access from inside the hot tub. It is inconvenient to have to get out of the hot tub and walk to the pump to make little changes like turning the jets on.
Soft Water System
Just like in built-in models, you can use soft water in your inflatable hot tub if you are worried about calcium deposits and buildup in your spa tub. Calcium deposits and buildup are inevitable and will happen, so you are still required to chemically clean your hot tub at times. However, using soft water could minimize the deposits.
Both traditional and portable hot tubs follow the same guidelines for how hot water can be in them. The hottest temperature the water in your hot tub should ever be is 104 degrees Fahrenheit. (The Consumer Product Safety Commission, or CPSC, regulates this temperature rule because of the risk of accidental drownings and heat strokes in hot tubs that are too hot.)
The pump is the backbone of your hot tub! The pump sends the water coursing through the hot tub, powers the inflator that blows up your hot tub, and powers your jets. There really is no hot tub without a working pump. Therefore, it does pay to keep an eye out for for a good, quality pump when looking for an inflatable hot tub (or any hot tub for that matter).
The shape of an inflatable hot tub can say a lot about how many people will fit and who will fit in the hot tub. For instance, square and rowboat-style inflatable hot tubs allow more leisure leg room for those allowed by their capacity limitations. Circle-shaped inflatable hot tubs lack a bit with leg capacity but sizing up can easily squash any lounging issues before they even begin.
Different brands and styles of hot tubs come with various types and styles of covers. Some brands include only one cover while others can include multiple covers. However you spin it, you will need a cover for your hot tub, and you will be supplied with one at purchase.
Most inflatable hot tubs are equipped with 80-140 air jets. There are two types of jets that can be found in spa tubs – air jets and jets that shoot streams of water. Some prefer the stronger water jets over air jets while others find the water jets too strong and prefer air jets for comfortable and soothing massage.
Decide which jets you prefer before settling on an inflatable hot tub because you will want to make sure that the jets are the proper strength for your liking.
Inflatable hot tubs also typically come with a ground cloth to lay as an extra layer of protection between the ground and the spa tub itself. There are also hard plastic ground covers that can be bought and placed anywhere you’d like for a thicker layer of protection between the ground and the hot tub.
Potential Drawbacks of Inflatable Hot Tubs
There are various good and even preferred features of inflatable hot tubs, but most things are imperfect. Inflatable hot tubs are no different. There are some potential drawbacks of the cheaper, more accessible counterparts.
Luckily, the noisiest your inflatable hot tub will be is during setup, while the tub itself is inflating. Once your hot tub is set up and filled with water, there will be more noise once the jets have been turned on.
However, this noise is far from deafening when the hot tub is installed in an open area, and most people enjoy the “white noise” of a hot tub while relaxing.
Lack of Seating and Leg Space
Possibly the biggest complaint when it comes to portable hot tubs is the lack of space and the fact that some models run “small.” Before deciding on the person capacity for your inflatable hot tub, make sure you are purchasing the best size for the people who will use it most.
Little Known Fact
Also, a little-known fact about inflatable hot tubs (before they are purchased) is that they don’t actually have seats. The entire bottom of a portable hot tub is open. You can fix this by buying seats that you can add into the hot tub.
Perhaps the one true drawback of an inflatable hot tub is the fact that they rarely include good warranties. Some don’t even include warranties that last over 30 days. Additionally, some brands only offer partial warranties.
Short Filter Life
While portable hot tub filters do not require any special cleaning, they do have to be changed every two weeks. This is a major difference from their built-in counterparts. The location of the hot tub filter in inflatables can also be a nuisance at times, as well. Some brands place the filter right underneath the side wall, making changing the filter a pain.
Most inflatable hot tub heaters come in pump/heater combinations that can work hard enough to keep your water hot during the summer months. There are some DIY solutions to this issue, and, no matter your solution, you must make sure that your heater can at least heat your water to 40 degrees Fahrenheit, which is the lowest suggested temperature for hot tubs.
Tell Me About Portable Hot Tub Accessories
No hot tub purchase would be complete without fun accessories to add to the relaxing atmosphere. There are plenty of purchasable accessories that can help make your inflatable hot tub your own personal piece of heaven.
There are hard seats that can be placed in portable hot tubs, but, if you’re looking for a soft, comfortable seating solution, you can purchase seat cushions for your spa tub.
The SUNSHINEMALL Inflatable Seat Cushion can be purchased on Amazon.
Headrests are an awesome accessory for inflatable hot tubs – and not just for tall people. Add-on headrests can be moved around as needed and taken off when not needed. They are just another way to adjust your comfort to the most relaxing level possible!
The Intex PureSpa Headrest can be purchased on Amazon.
What hot tub hangout would be complete without drink holders?! Whether you’re holding hot chocolate for the kids or spiked coffee for adult friends, drink holders are always an accessory to have.
The Intex PureSpa Cup Holder can be purchased on Amazon.
LED lights are a fun addition to your inflatable hot tub whether you are making a light show for your kids or setting ambience with colorful lighting. LED lights are sold in different colors, and some are able to be fully submerged into the water.
The Qoolife Submersible LED Lights – Remote Controlled, Battery Powered, RGB Changing – Set of 2 can be purchased.
Solar covers are a pretty necessary portable hot tub accessory because of the fact that the pumps and heaters on the inflatable spa tubs can be overworked while heating the water during cold winters. These covers help to lessen the heat loss that hot tubs experience during times that the heater is off, and they can help extend the life of your heater.
The Blue Wave Hot Tub Solar Thermal Blanket 7 by 8 ft can be purchased.
So, With the Accessories, My Hot Tub Now Costs…
If your inflatable hot tub costs $500 and you outfit it with 4 seat cushions, 4 headrests, 3 drink holders, 2 sets of LED Lights, and a solar cover, you will spend a grand total of about $672.
I’d say that you’re still coming out ahead even fully outfitting an inflatable portable hot tub! Let’s move on to the installation of your own personal spa.
So, How Do I Install My Inflatable Hot Tub?
There are a few things to consider when setting up your hot tub. You want to make sure that you are setting it up in a space that can accommodate the weight and size of the tub.
Here are some things to consider when installing your hot tub:
- Be aware that your hot tub, when filling, can weigh anywhere from 2,000 to 3,500 pounds. So, you need to make sure to set it up in a place that can support its weight.
- Are you going to be using your hot tub in the winter? Are your winters very cold? If you do experience extremely cold winters, you may choose to place your inflatable hot tub in an enclosed area, like a garage. You may want to add some extra insulation between your tub and the ground for protection from freezing temperatures.
- Make sure that you follow any safety guidelines and adhere to any laws that your local area may have when it comes to installing your personal spa tub. If your local area does not have any rules and regulations regarding your hot tub, it is wise to at least follow the steps the CPSC suggests.
- The CPSC suggests that you do such things as: notify your neighbors that you are installing an inflatable hot tub, learn CPR in case of an emergency, keep children away from the hot tub when unsupervised, teach children to swim in order to increase safety, and install a fence around the inflatable hot tub.
- When you are filling your hot tub, you can take a shortcut and add water from your actual water heater to heat the water up faster. Be aware that water in a hot water heater is typically 120 degrees Fahrenheit, so it is 6 degrees hotter than is suggested for the max temperature in a hot tub. However, you can start filling your hot tub with a water hose, and, once it’s about 2/3 of the way full, you can add the hot water for the last 1/3. This way, your water is already hot enough for you to enjoy your hot tub, but it is not too hot to destroy or damage your new personal spa!
- Make sure that you place your hot tub in a space that is close enough to a plug in to be able to bring power to the hot tub, but it cannot be close enough to get splashed. You have to leave room around the tub for safe drainage and splashing.
- If you do install your hot tub in an enclosed space, make sure there is ventilation because of the humidity that your hot tub will create.
No matter where you decide to install your portable hot tub, the same basic steps will apply:
- Fully clean the area (and the surrounding areas) where you are planning to install your hot tub. You want to make sure there is nothing sharp enough to puncture your inflatable tub and that there are no objects that will cause your tub bottom to not lay flat and be uncomfortable. You could also set up a gravel area to sit it on as well.
- Open the container and make sure that all the parts that are supposed to be in the container are there.
- Locate the protective ground cloth and place it over the spot you are installing your hot tub. If you have anything else to place underneath your hot tub, like extra insulation or hard plastic protective pads, place that down during this step.
- Put your pump and heater unit together.
- Spread your hot tub out over your protective ground cloth. Make sure your hot tub is exactly where you want it because, once it is full, it is quite a process to move it.
- Use the hose included with your pump to blow up the hot tub.
- If your control panel is separate from the heater and pump unit, you should install the control panel at this time.
- Place all of your air filters.
- Make sure the drain is closed.
- Fill the hot tub with water, then add sanitizer to balance out the chemistry of the water.
- Cover your hot tub and turn the heat on.
After these steps are complete, your hot tub will be ready to use within 12 to 24 hours!
Proper Maintenance of an Inflatable Hot Tub
Portable hot tubs are surprisingly easy to maintain as long as you take care of it often and do not leave it to sit for long lengths of time without care.
Covering your hot tub helps tremendously with your filtering maintenance. Make sure to skim the top of your hot tub to grab any leaves or other debris that fall into the tub. Grass often gets tracked into the hot tub if it is outside. A portable spa’s filtration system doesn’t work as well as a built-in hot tub, so it is necessary to help it out a bit by skimming.
Once the filters in your tub become discolored and harden, they need to be replaced. A usable filter is able to be cleaned with plain, fresh water. Once this becomes impossible for the filter, you must change it. Do not try to clean the filter with soap or chemicals because the soap and/or chemicals will flow into your hot tub.
You can purchase Intex PureSpa Filter Cartridges for that.
Draining and Refilling
Draining and refilling of your tub is needed ever 2 to 3 months, depending on how many people are using the tub.
If you are unsure if your hot tub is ready to be drained, you can look for these signs that it needs to be drained:
- Your water chemistry is out of control.
- Your water is still cloudy once you balance the water chemistry and change the filter.
- Your water is beginning to foam.
If you are experiencing any of these issues, it is definitely time to drain, clean, and refill your hot tub.
Follow these suggestions for draining:
- Do not just drain your hot tub water anywhere. It needs to be drained into a sanitary sewer. Depending on how your chemicals are, you can see about draining your hot tub into your pool too. If you drain it into a storm drain, into your yard, or into a natural body of water, the chemicals and contaminants that are in your dirty hot tub water can kill fish and other aquatic life, including plants. It can also work its way into the drinking water supply.
- Once your hot tub is drained, it is time to clean it. (Always take the time to clean your hot tub when it is drained because it is not possible to properly clean your hot tub when it is filled with water.) This is especially important if you use bath bombs in your hot tub.
- To clean your hot tub, use a solution of mild soap and water and wash the tub with a sponge. Do not use chemicals because they can affect the water chemistry. Do not use abrasive cleaning tools like steel wool in order to prevent scratching the hot tub.
- Make sure that your hot tub is absolutely, thoroughly rinsed, so it does not foam when filled.
- Replace filters and set up as normal. Enjoy!
It is very important to remember that filters for inflatable hot tubs must be changed often – every two weeks, to be exact.
What do I do if my Hot Tub Springs a Leak?
Leaks are inevitable when it comes to anything that is inflatable. Because of that, your portable hot tub should come with patches that can be placed over any rips or tears that happen. If you have need for more vinyl patches, you can purchase them from any pool supply store or online. Like these Tear-Aid Vinyl Repair Patch Kit
Storage of Your Personal Hot Tub
Some people may have a need or want to store their portable hot tub. For those in harsh winter conditions, they may choose to store it during winter months. Some may need to store it while doing renovations or construction at their homes. Whatever the reason may be, storage of your hot tub is sometimes necessary.
To store your hot tub properly, you must:
- Drain and clean the hot tub completely
- Make sure the hot tub is thoroughly dry
- Fold the hot tub up and place it in the original container or another airtight container large enough to fit it
- Make sure to store it somewhere that is kept dry and out of sunlight
- Make sure that it is stored somewhere clear of pests
- Some inflatable hot tubs may come with a carrying case, but these are not suitable for long term storage.
Are There Any Other “Hidden” Costs?
Each month, you’ll be paying for electricity to run your hot tub which can vary from about $23 a month to about $50 a month for the largest tubs. Additionally, you’ll be paying for chemical additives to retain the proper water chemistry which can amount to about $100 a year.
As stated earlier in the article, the filters have to be changed every two weeks. You’ll also be paying for the water needed to fill and refill your hot tub as needed. While these are all added costs, they still do not come close to adding up to the thousands and thousands of dollars that built-in permanent hot tubs can cost.
So, What’s the Verdict?
Now that all the facts have been laid out, are inflatable hot tubs still worth the investment? Are they expensive to run?
All signs point to portable hot tubs being worth the investment. Even when you add up the costs of purchasing the inflatable hot tub, buying accessories, and paying to keep the pool properly maintained and running throughout the year, it is still not as expensive as buying and installing a built-in hot tub.
For those that cannot afford or do not have the space for a built-in hot tub, an inflatable hot tub is a completely suitable and viable alternative. While this article focused mostly on the soft-sided inflatable hot tubs, there are other portable hot tubs available to choose from as well – such as those with wooden siding around the hot tub to protect the vinyl.
When it comes to hot tubs, soft-sided portables are the cheapest option and built-in permanent hot tubs are the most expensive option. There are a few portable options in between that range in cost throughout the middle of the cheapest and most expensive options.
One thing is for sure, though. Hot tubs can be affordable for everyone – you just have to find one that fits your budget.
This was very helpful, thank you for putting all of this information in one place. ~Emily