Hot Tubs 101 Part Three Jets Pumps and More
Pump Size/Horse Power
Many first-time buyers believe the bigger the pump/horsepower, the more water I will get through the jets. The quick answer is no. The simple explanation is the more jets you have, the more you divide the water flow, leading to less pressure. It would be no different in your own home. If you turn on every sink, bathtub, shower, dishwasher, clothes washer, and garden hose, you would hardly have any coming out compared to only one turned on. The other factor is the plumbing lines. For every 90-degree and manifold connection, the overall water flow is reduced, and the big one is the size of the plumbing line used.
One way to overcome the number of jets and connections is more horsepower. But it will cost you both electric consumption and repair costs. A good manufacturer will balance the number of jets with a moderate amount of horsepower to achieve maximum pressure at the jets. If you stop by a dealer and they have tubs set up with water, turn one on and put your hand in front of a jet. Try this with multiple brands. Even better yet, ask if you can schedule a Wet Test to try it out before you buy.
Check out this post on this website: Hot Tub Horsepower is confusing!
Find out how to read and understand the horsepower in a manufacturer’s brochure or specification sheet.
Hydrotherapy is soaking or exercising in water to treat aches and pains. Depending on the treatment, the water can be hot or cold. This term is often misused to describe the jets in a hot tub.
Hydromassage would be more accurate. Hydromassage is a variety of powerful jet streams of warm water mixed with air to massage the neck, shoulders, lumbar, legs, feet, etc. Combining warm water immersion (hydrotherapy) and hydromassage improves blood circulation, reduces muscle tension, promotes relaxation, and offers a variety of health benefits. My point here is that the jets in a hot tub are not medical (hydrotherapy) therapy but a means of massage that can improve how your body feels and your mental health.
Many manufacturers confuse this by promoting their product’s jets as hydrotherapy when hot water is the therapy. The jets provide the massage that most customers are looking for. That being said, jets are an essential part of the equation. More than 70% of the jets in the hot tubs are the same from manufacture to manufacture. While a few different suppliers make the jets themselves. It would help to consider where they are placed, their type (rotates), and the power or amount of water coming through them.
Jet placement can make a hot tub great, mediocre, or underwhelming. As stated above, jets are for massage and should be located in places that relieve a problem and not something to increase the jet count that looks good on paper.
Jet type is equally important. Jets come in different sizes and styles. As I mentioned, most jets are made only by a few suppliers, so many hot tubs look alike. It’s the placement by the manufacturer that can cause one to stand out from another. Some of the best hot tubs on the market have custom jets that can only be found on their product and offer a unique massage not found on any other hot tub.
Jet Power is something that some customers want a lot of or very little, depending on their needs. In my experience, most customers like strong jets. This again depends on the manufacturer and what their end goal is. If you install a lot of jets, you sacrifice power. If you add more horsepower, you will use a lot of electricity. A good hot tub will strike a balance between the two and maximize the benefits of owning a hot tub.
A unique approach is from Bullfrog Spas. They have elevated the hot tub industry to a whole new level. Instead of cutting a hole for each jet into the shell and running a plumbing line to it, they have built all the plumbing and jets into a removable pack that can be put into any seat, even with water in the tub. This allows you to customize the tubs with the jets you want in any seat.
Keeping Your Hot Tub Clean
There are many ways to keep your hot tub clean and bacteria-free. I will only address systems that are optional or included by the manufacturer. These are Ozone, UV, Minerals, and Salt
Ozone is the most popular of the four. Ozone is produced by a small box inside your hot tub that makes tiny bubbles in contact with bacteria, killing them. The Ozone device itself is good for 3-4 years before it needs to be replaced.
Ozone works best when combined with granular chlorine. After using your hot tub, it is like a bathtub. Everything on your skin, including germs and bacteria, is now in the tub. The best way to eliminate this is with chlorine. The chlorine will kill unwanted guests and make it safe to use again. The nice thing about chlorine is that when it does its job. It is used up. The next time you get in your tub, the chlorine is gone, and your water is fresh and crystal clear. When you are not using your tub, it will run short cycles to move water through the filter and turn on the ozone, killing any new bacteria with no need to maintain a chlorine level.
See my Post Hot Tub Ozone Explained.
UV is an older form of sanitizing hot tubs. At one time, this was very popular with customers. It fell out of favor when Ozone came along. This was due to several reasons. One is the UV bulb gets weaker and less effective over time. The second is the cost over the lifetime of the tub. Because UV bulbs fade over time, they should be replaced every year. The third is for UV to work best when the water flows past the chamber slowly, achieving better results. So, for it to work well, the tub would need a separate slower-running pump to do this job.
Minerals systems have seen a bit of an upgrade in recent years. The idea behind minerals is to use fewer chemicals, mainly chlorine and bromine. For example, if you were to use just chlorine, you would need to maintain a level of 3-5 ppm of chlorine. With a mineral cartridge, your chlorine need is 0.5-1 ppm. The drawback is adding chlorine each time you are done with the hot tub. The recent upgrade is an automated system that maintains chlorine automatically for an entire month.
The @ease automatic sanitizing system
Salt sanitation has been around in the in-ground for quite some time but is relatively new to the hot tub business. The system, despite its name, is still chlorine. In short, it works by breaking salt into its base chemistry and creating chlorine. In a hot tub, a typical salt system could damage it. Watkins Manufacturing has developed a system that can be used in their Hotspring Highlife and Limelight collections.
Hotspring Freshwater Salt System
An add-on can be anything from a TV to a Towel rack. What I would caution you on is do you need it. Think about where the tub is going and how you will use it. Will it be during warm or cold temperatures, how long will you be soaking in it, and so on.?The longest I can stay in my tub is 20 minutes, not long enough to watch any TV program or movie. Other things, like an app to run your tub, it’s fun, but it’s just another gadget that, after six months, will probably be forgotten about. Also, keep in mind that if it stops working, it means a service call to remove it and have it shipped back to the company that made it. For example, the easiest and most cost-effective way to add a music system is a simple waterproof speaker set up on the corner of your hot tub.
While a warranty is a good thing to have as it holds the manufacturer accountable for workmanship and component failure, on the backside of that is the fine print and what they won’t cover. As with most warranties, it’s about how much the manufacturer wants to pay if it stops working.