Installing a new hot tub in your backyard is an exciting project! The idea of finally having that warm and relaxing oasis to soak away your stress is all you can think of.
Before the soaks under the stars can happen however, you need to get your hot tub in place, powered up and full of hot bubbly water.
In the article below we want to lay out the 3 obstacles you have to overcome to install your dream hot tub.
Not to worry all of these obstacles have solutions, and here at St. Cyr Pool and Spa in Middleton MA, we have seen it all and can help you all along the way so you get the best hot tub buying and installation experience possible.
Determining how much space you have to fit a hot tub is step one. However dimensions are only part of the equation.
You need a big enough space to fit your hot tub of course. That space also needs to be perfectly flat, solid, and weight bearing. It needs to support the entire base of the spa.
The most common hot tub sizes are as follows;
5.5’x7’ - 2 to 3 person models
7’x7’ - 4 to 6 person models
7.5’x7.5’ - 6 to 7 person models.
There are a variety of different size and shaped hot tubs out there but those are the most common dimensions and 90% of spas sold would fall into one of those 3 size classes.
Yet, It’s not just enough to have space for the hot tub, keep in mind space for steps and the cover.
This is where things can get tricky, people don’t think about where the cover is going to go when they are using the hot tub. The cover folds in half, but it is still as wide as the spa.
90% of all hot tubs we deliver to North shore homeowners have a cover-lifter mechanism installed.
This is an optional device that helps you easily lift the cover off of the hot tub a stow it upright behind the spa without it touching the ground.
These cover lifters come in a variety of styles and generally require 14” to 18” of free space behind the hot tub.
So when thinking about the hot tub space you have to take that into account. Is the hot tub going to be close to the house, a deck rail?
Make sure your hot tub space has enough clearance to stow the cover using a lift, and you will get a lot more enjoyment and use not having to deal with that each time you want to soak.
You will also need about 18” of space for a set of stairs in front of the hot tub so you can enter and exit easily. If you poour a cement pad or make a crushed stone base, it can seem simple ti just make it the size of the spa. But how will the steps set sturdy on the ground in front of the spa to make for a safe step in and out?
With all this in mind, if you are thinking about a 4 to 6 person hot tub, plan on utilizing around 10’x10’ of space for your new hot tub.
It’s one thing to have the space but you also have to get the hot tub to the space. How will the hot tub get from the trailer in the driveway to the backyard onto your patio or deck?
2 simple measurements to keep in mind. You either need:
8’ if the hot tub is going to be brought in flat - the easiest way to move it.
40” of clearance if the hot tub is tipped on end.
Now there are some hot tubs that are 40” deep or more even, but a majority are 34” to 36” deep which is the measurement that counts when it comes to carting the spa through a gate or narrow pass to the backyard.
Other hot tub access considerations:
Is the route flat, uphill, are there stairs the hot tub will need to be pushed up, or down?
Have the space but don’t have the access? Sometimes a crane is needed to hoist tour hot tub into place.This can add anywhere from $600 to $1500 to the cost of your hot tub installation.
Most standard size doors are 32” wide so a 30” deep spa would be needed. Sliding doors can vary in width and be taken out to slide a hot tub in flat. There also must be a flat landing leading into the door so the hot tub is not entering the door at an angle.
Space and access are 2 of the things that make in home consultations and pre-delivery visits from your local hot tub dealer extremely important.
Electrical is the most Involved part of the hot tub installation process .
Do you have enough power for a hot tub?
A majority of hot tubs run off of a 240v 50amp electrical breaker. This takes up a large amount of real estate in your breaker panel.
In Massachusetts we have a lot of old houses that only have 100amp panels. Be sure to check into this before shopping for your hot tub.
We have had hot tub installations completley halted after the customer has already ordered their spa due to insufficient power in their house. Be sure to check to see if you have a 100amp electrical service or 200amp.
Upgrading electric service from 100amp to 200amp can cost upwards of $2,000 to $3000…. rough estimates of course. ( we are not electricians)
The added expense can really put the brakes on your hot tub installation so it is good to know what type of power you are dealing with before you start hot tub shopping.
If you do not have a 200amp panel that does not mean you have to throw out the idea of owning a hot tub. There are plenty of models that will run off 120v power and 15 to 20amps. While their are pros and cons of 120v vs. 240v that is a topic for another blog post. But ask your local hot tub dealer about your options as there are many.
Electrical Run and Trenching.
The other important factor in the cost of your hot tub installation is length of electrical run. How far is the breaker panel in the basement from the space where you are installing it.
The longer the run and the more trenching needed the more expensive the electrical installation will be.
Another cost to consider is if your basement is finished or unfinished. Obviously an unfinished basement makes it much easier to run electrical lines.
Standard electrical installation can run from $700 - $1600. Again rough estimates.
There are many decisions to make when choosing to install a new hot tub at your home, but figuring out the big 3; Space, Access, and Power before you start shopping will really help the whole process run smoothly.
For a few years now, salt has been all the rage in the swimming pool and spa world. If you are looking to install a new pool or buy a hot tub you have probably heard of, and are wanting a salt water option.
But what does this mean? How does salt work? And is salt really the best option for keeping your water clean and clear?
In my nearly 20 years in this industry I have yet to see any product in such high demand yet so wildly mis-understood.
With that said I want to get the biggest misconception about salt water hot tubs out of the way as quickly as possible….when you ask for a salt water pool or spa you ARE asking for a chlorine pool or spa.
That’s because what these systems are actually called is Salt Water CHLORINE generators . You see, salt systems use salt to make chlorine. The salt is NOT what is doing the sanitation.
I think this is an important distinction because most customers who ask for salt are looking for a chemical free, natural water care system, and that is not way a salt water hot tub is.
Now if you have read this far this article is really starting to sound like a hit piece on salt water systems, so I should state I actually think salt chlorine generators do a pretty good job of sanitizing water. The key thing to understand is that it is no different than having a slow drip feed of bleach being pumped into your hot tub.
And just so you know I am not biased, I have sold salt water chlorine generators to hundreds of customers in Massachusetts and New Hampshire.
The problem is the marketing for salt water pools and hot tubs has been very misleading over the years, so I always give my customers this same pitch about salt systems and let them choose what is right for them. For some people, salt is not the right solution for sanitizing their hot tub water.
In fact if you are looking for a low chlorine hot tub, salt is NOT the right option. There are other systems out there that have been around for a lot longer than salt generators that actually use LESS chlorine than salt water models.
Systems like ozone generators, UV light, and mineral systems which have been around for decades offer clean water solutions that are very low chlorine and low maintenance.
So now that we know salt water spas just use salt to create chlorine we should know how they actually do that.
The chemical compound for salt is NaCl known as Sodium Chloride. The basic idea is if we can seperate the Sodium from the Chloride we can produce chlorine. That chlorine then mixes with the water just like it would if you poured in liquid bleach (also known as Sodium Hypochloride) into the hot tub. That chlorine will create a residual level in the water which can be used to sanitize and oxidize harmful contaminants.
So how does a salt chlorine generator separate the chloride from the sodium?
It uses a process called electrolysis.
Lets see the Wikipedia Explanation:
Salt water chlorination is a process that uses dissolved salt (2,500–6,000 ppm) as a store for the chlorination system. The chlorine generator (also known as salt cell, salt generator, salt chlorinator or SWG) uses electrolysis in the presence of dissolved salt (NaCl) to produce chlorine gas (Cl2) or its dissolved forms -hypochlorous acid (HClO) / sodium hypochlorite (NaClO)- which is the sanitizing agent already commonly used in swimming pools. Hydrogen is produced as byproduct too. As such, a saltwater pool is not actually chlorine-free; it simply utilizes added salt and a chlorine generator instead of direct addition of chlorine.
Basically it zaps the salt with electricity which causes the sodium and chloride molecules to separate.
Unfortunately there is no system on earth that will eliminate routine maintenance of pool or spa water. The good news is whether you have a salt water hot tub or use any other kind of sanitation system, you shouldn’t spend anymore than 5 minutes a week maintaining your hot tub water.
The only thing that is different in a salt water chlorine generator hot tub (see what I did there <<<) from a standard chlorine hot tub, is you do not add your chlorine manually.
All the other water balance chemicals are the same , you still have to test and adjust; PH, Alkalinity, and Calcium hardness.
And truth be told, with the sensitivity of the expensive electrolydic cells used in the chlorine generators, water balance is even more important in a salt water hot tub.
Again water care in a hot tub is fairly simple once you get into a routine, and your local dealer where you buy your hot tub will be there to help you every step of the way. So none of the above should scare you away from enjoying the amazing benefits of hot water hydrotherapy.
There is some other maintenance involved in a salt water hot tub as well. You do have to clean the cells periodically and or change the cells periodically, and those cells are not cheap. You can spend hundreds of dollars a year on salt cells.
There are 3 systems that can be found in many top hot tubs manufactured and sold in the US that have been used for years. I mentioned them earlier in the article.
Ozone Generators– Uses oxygen to create O3 gas, O3 is a strong oxidizer that will kill any bacteria or contaminates it comes in contact with, then it turns back into Oxygen – talk about natural!
UV Sanitation – UV rays are great at disinfection. UV actually scrambles the DNA of micro-organisims which prevents them from replicating and spreading to bathers in the water.
Mineral Sanitation – minerals like silver and zinc have been used since the days of the Roman Empire to sanitize bathing water. The minerals wipe out contaminants on contact.
All of these systems reduce the demand of chlorine in your hot tub, combine them and you have a virtually chlorine free sanitation system.
The spas we sell at St. Cyr’s Pool & Spa in Middleton MA use both ozone and mineral sanitation to reduce chlorine levels. With a salt water hot tub your chlorine levels will be between 3 and 5 parts per million. With an ozone and mineral system your chlorine levels can be between ,5 and 1.5 parts per million! That is a drastic reduction in the amount of chlorine you are bathing in.
Salt water chlorine generators do a great job of producing a consistent level of chlorine into your hot tub over time and it can be a great system. Just realize there are plenty of other ways to easily add chlorine into your hot tub and keep it clean and clear with ease.
Just like ozone, UV, Mineral, Peroxide, and other sanitation options, salt is just one way to do it. The important thing when choosing a hot tub is finding one that fits your family, your body and your lifestyle. Then the MOST important thing to consider is buying from a local dealer you can trust to support you for the life of your spa.
Hopefully this article has been informative and has given you a good background of what a salt water hot tub actually is, what it isn’t, and how it works.