Hot tubs offer year-round, spa-like relaxation right in the comfort of your home. As tempting as it may be to start clearing out your backyard in anticipation of a new water feature, do keep in mind that hot tub ownership is a responsibility.
Rick Hagen, who handles National Sales for Outdoor Living Products at Pool Corp and is part of the Pool and Hot Tub Alliance, emphasizes that safety and sanitation are the top priorities when it comes to hot tub maintenance and ownership. "Whether you get an inflatable or a standard hot tub, you need to make sure that you practice good safety," he says. Not only does this include general water and pool safety ("If you're not using it, make sure you've got it covered," Hagen says), but it also ensures that it's chemically balanced, too. Thankfully, manufacturers will give clear instructions for how to maintain their products, so you can focus on safely enjoying them as much as possible.
If you're considering one for your backyard or patio, know that not all hot tubs are created equal. We researched dozens of models, evaluating them based on design, size, maintenance requirements, and standout features.
Lifesmart LS100 Bermuda 4-Person 13-Jet 110V Plug-and-Play Spa
Comfy bucket seats
Pump and filter included
Only 13 jets
Steps sold separately
Lifesmart makes some of the best hot tubs and spas, so it should come as no surprise the Bermuda is our No. 1 pick. This four-person hot tub is made of molded polyethylene, an ultra-durable and weather-resistant thermoplastic.
The plug-and-play design is easy to use, too. It calls on a thermal-friction heating system to warm the water to 104 degrees Fahrenheit. Notable features also include comfy bucket seats, a waterfall, a color-changing underwater lighting system, and 13 jets. A few more jets would be nice, but they're strategically placed around each seat for optimal enjoyment. We also appreciate that this hot tub comes with its own pump, filtration system, and cover. Keep in mind you'll have to buy steps separately or build a custom set, but we consider that a minor inconvenience for an overall great hot tub.
Price at time of publish: $3,300
Dimensions: 71 x 62 x 32 inches | Shape: Square | Water Capacity: 200 gallons | Jets: 13
Canadian Spa Company Okanagan 10-Jet Plug-and-Play Hot Tub
Rotating hydrotherapy jets
Microban filtration and ozone generator
Only 10 jets
If you're open to spending a bit more on a high-end hot tub, the Okanagan is a stellar choice. This circular design comfortably seats up to four adults, while 10 stainless steel rotating hydrotherapy jets offer a relaxing, spa-like massage. You can adjust the jets in many different configurations and directions to vary the type of massage.
With a 63-inch diameter, this hot tub shouldn't take up a huge amount of space on your deck or patio. We also like that this is a deeper spa than many we've seen: Its 29-inch depth may allow you to fully submerge your shoulders.
The Okanagan leans on an ozone generator and Microban filtration to keep your water crystal-clear and free of bacteria with minimal chemicals. It also has a color-changing LED light, allowing you to customize the ambiance. You also get a hard-top cover. And thanks to the plug-and-play design, you don't have to hire a professional for installation.
Price at time of publish: $5,765
Dimensions: 63 x 29 inches | Shape: Round | Water Capacity: 264 gallons | Jets: 10
Coleman Saluspa Miami AirJet 4-Person Inflatable Hot Tub Spa with Pump
Costs less than many alternatives
Pump and filter included
User-friendly and easy to move
Not ideal for cold climates
Interested in something more affordable? Consider an inflatable model, like the Coleman SaluSpa Miami. This air-filled hot tub is made of heavy-duty plastic and comes with its own pump and filter. It inflates in minutes, according to the manufacturer. And an included chemical dispenser provides a stable level of chlorine.
The plug-and-play design seats two to four people around its three-ply PVC walls. It's easy to move around in, but you may not have to since 60 jets spread the waves around throughout. You can control the temperature and jets with a convenient digital control panel.
We like that the hot tub includes a cover to keep the water warm when you're not using it. But we should note the Miami is intended for use in climates above 39 degrees Fahrenheit, so if it's freezing outside, hold off (although, there are models with a Freeze Shield™ technology if usage during cold temperatures is a top priority). Also, we would have liked to see a longer warranty than for the pool liner (3 months), spa cover (6 months), and pump and heater (1 year). The manufacturer offers an extended warranty, up to 18 months, for a cost.
Price at time of publish: $520
Dimensions: 71 x 26 inches | Shape: Round | Water Capacity: 192 gallons | Jets: 60
Lifesmart Coronado 7-Person 65-Jet Spa with Turbo Blaster
Other alternatives cost less
Steps sold separately
For something larger, consider the Lifesmart Coronado. While the price is steep, we think it's still a reasonable value for a high-quality hot tub of this size. This seven-person tub has 65 jets, including 14 with turbo-blaster nozzles and four foot massagers. The energy-efficient design features full-foam insulation and a thermal locking cover that keeps the heat in.
The Coronado also has a waterfall, a multi-colored underwater LED, a built-in filter, and an ozonator that cleans the water with minimal chlorine. If you want a large hot tub with all the bells and whistles, it's definitely worthy of your consideration.
Price at time of publish: $5,100
Dimensions: 81 x 81 x 34 inches | Shape: Square | Water Capacity: 285 gallons | Jets: 65
Aquarest Spas 300 Select 2-Person 20-Jet Oval Plug-and-Play Hot Tub
Backlit LED waterfall
Aquarest Spas makes the best hot tubs for two people. This compact hot tub has deep, bucket-style seats with 20 strategically placed stainless steel massaging jets. Two cup holders keep your drink of choice within reach, and a digital control panel allows you to change the intensity and direction of the jets. The manufacturer claims the lumbar-support design aids comfort, too.
The 300 Select also flaunts a backlit LED waterfall with nine color modes. You also get energy-efficient heating with foam insulation, a patented filtration system, and a locking safety cover. In the end, the only thing this tub doesn't have is steps.
Price at time of publish: $3,500
Dimensions: 80 x 68 x 31 inches | Shape: Triangle/oblong | Water Capacity: 160 gallons | Jets: 20
Aquarest Spas Select 150 4-Person 12-Jet Rectangular Plug-and-Play Hot Tub
Durable yet lightweight
Only 12 jets
The Aquarest 150 Select is one of the few hot tubs that appropriately can be called a Jacuzzi, since it's powered by a 1.5-hp Jacuzzi brand pump. It's also full of standout features: We're talking stainless steel hydrotherapy jets, a patented backlit waterfall with nine color settings, four cup holders, a locking safety cover, and a patented water filtration system that helps you minimize the use of chlorine and other chemicals. It fits up to four adults.
According to the manufacturer, this rectangular hot tub is made using molding technology that makes it durable, lightweight, and easy to move around. A built-in filtration system is designed to reduce the chemical dosage. And it plugs into a standard 120-volt outlet. A few more jets would be nice, and, like most other hot tubs, you have to purchase steps separately.
Price at time of publish: $2,899
Dimensions: 70 x 60 x 31 inches | Shape: Rectangular | Water Capacity: 156 gallons | Jets: 12
Lifesmart Spas Celestial 4-Person 13-Jet Oval Plug-and-Play Hot Tub
Bucket and bench seats
Only 13 jets
Interested in something other than a square or circle? Check out the Lifesmart Celestial Hot Tub. Fit for four adults, this oval-shaped spa, with 13 jets, has two bucket seats on one side and a longer bench-style seat on the other. Three cup holders keep beverages at hand, and you can control the temperature, jets, lights, and more with the control panel, located on the rim.
Like all Lifesmart models, this one is energy-efficient, with foam insulation and a thermal locking cover. While it doesn't have stairs, you can purchase those as an add-on, crafted to fit the contours of most hot tubs made by the manufacturer. The Celestial does come with its own filtration system and a thermal friction pump, too.
Price at time of publish: $3,999
Dimensions: 77 x 66 x 29 inches | Shape: Oval | Water Capacity: 220 gallons | Jets: 13
Ohana Spas Balance 7-Person 25-Jet Round Hot Tub
Underwater LED light
User-friendly control panel
Alternatives can cost less
At nearly 7 feet in diameter, the circular Balance Hot Tub from Ohana Spas is bigger than it looks. It fits up to seven adults in its comfortably contoured seats. The plug-and-play design has 25 massaging jets and an underwater ambiance-enhancing light, and the user-friendly control panel makes it easy to turn on the jets, adjust the LEDs, and change the water temperature. You can opt for three programmable modes to control energy use. We note that this is either a plug-and-play into a standard 110-volt electrical outlet, or a 240-volt circuit.
This UL-listed and CSA-certified hot tub comes with a filter and an insulated locking cover. But, like so many products we evaluated, it doesn't include steps, which have to be bought separately.
Price at time of publish: $5,699
Dimensions: 80.5 x 34.5 inches | Shape: Round | Water Capacity: 270 gallons | Jets: 25
Intex PureSpa Plus 6-Person Portable Inflatable Hot Tub
Built-in treatment system
Not ideal for cold climates
The Intex PureSpa Plus is a generously sized (albeit slightly shallow) inflatable hot tub with 170 bubble jets. We appreciate that this is a very inclusive kit: Other included features are an insulated cover; LED light; two filter cartridges; two headrests; a thermal ground cloth; an inflation hose; a carry bag; a floating chlorine dispenser; and a test strip. With an included heater and filter, all you have to do is fill it up and plug it in. The manufacturer says this hot tub can be ready to go in as little as 20 minutes. We also like that this hot tub contains a system that can soften hard water if your home has such an issue. Softer water can feel noticeably more comfortable, as well as keep the system freer of potentially corrosive minerals.
Like most inflatable models, the Intex PureSpa Plus is slightly more fragile than its cabinet-based counterparts, and it's also not recommended for use in freezing climates. And, it's worth noting that we evaluated the four-person model, but you also can purchase a version that can accommodate up to six adults.
Price at time of publish: $993
Dimensions: 77 x 28 inches | Shape: Round | Water Capacity: 210 gallons | Jets: 140
Bestway SaluSpa Hawaii AirJet Inflatable Hot Tub
Not suitable for freezing climates
Looking for a portable model? The SaluSpa Hawaii is a great bet. It inflates and deflates with the included pump, and it stores compactly. The use-anywhere design weighs less than 100 pounds when empty, and lift handles allow you to move it around to your desired spots. Plus, no special tools are required for setup, according to the manufacturer.
The product's simplicity doesn't mean you get less than a full-featured product, however. You can preset the temperature up to 72 hours in advance, and there's a digital control panel that allows you to change the water temperature and jet flow from within the hot tub. This hot tub comfortably seats up to six people and offers a spa-level massage experience with 114 air jets. The package also includes a chlorine dispenser, digital control panel, pump, filter cartridges, repair kit, and cover.
Note that the manufacturer expressly says this product is not to be used in temperatures below 39 degrees Fahrenheit. As we mentioned in our pick for Best Budget, they do offer other models with Freeze Shield technology if you want something to get you through winter.
Price at time of publish: $590
Dimensions: 71 x 26 inches | Shape: Square | Water Capacity: 222 gallons | Jets: 114
Alfi Brand 4-Person Round Wood Fired Hot Tub
No electricity required
Have you considered a wood-fired model? Alfi Brand makes the best one on the market. This unique hot tub is crafted from an antimicrobial material that stands up to ultraviolet-ray damage and freezing temps, according to the manufacturer (in moderate temperatures, it takes about three hours to heat 130 to 220 gallons of water to 100 degrees Fahrenheit, for context).
Yes, this hot tub's concave shape does remind us a little of a witch's cauldron, especially since it heats from a wood fire in the pit. The advanced coiling system heats up with burning firewood (aka convection)—no power cord or outlet needed. But you're protected from the flames by extended pipes and a stainless steel windscreen panel. (Yes, you can cook over the flames while waiting for the water to heat.)
Gratefully, the honey-orange color and its fiberglass-reinforced acrylic makeup remove all comparisons to anything Hansel and Gretel-ish. This four-person hot tub can be brought on the go or moved around your outdoor living space as needed. It's undoubtedly expensive, but it might be worth a splurge if it's within your budget.
Price at time of publish: $6,950
Dimensions: 63 x 63 x 32.33 inches | Shape: Round | Water Capacity: 220 gallons | Jets: 0
Our top pick is the Lifesmart Bermuda, a four-person hot tub with comfy bucket seats, a waterfall feature, and color-changing LED lights. These hot tubs can strain the checkbook. But if you're on a budget, we recommend the inflatable Coleman SaluSpa Miami. And if you're open to splurging, go with the Canadian Spa Company Okanagan Hot Tub.
What to Look For in a Hot Tub
The best type of hot tub depends on your budget, preferences, and available space. Above-ground plug-and-play models, like the Lifesmart LS100 Bermuda, are durable and long-lasting, with molded exteriors and sturdy locking covers. If you have room for a hot tub but don't want to dig into your yard, this is a great option.
Inflatable hot tubs, like the Intex PureSpa Plus, are the most affordable, though they're also more prone to wear and tear. Like their rigid-shell counterparts, air-filled models typically plug into standard electrical outlets, and they can be moved around or even taken on the go (when they're drained, deflated, and dry).
Hot tubs come in various shapes and sizes. Capacities range from one- or two-person models, like the Aquarest Spas 300 Select, to seven or more people, like the Lifesmart Coronado. Before buying a hot tub, carefully measure your space and check the overall assembled dimensions to ensure it'll fit.
Hot tubs are often made of polyethylene, an exceptionally durable and weather-resistant thermoplastic. They can also be constructed from high-strength fiberglass or UV- and freeze-resistant acrylic, as with the Alfi Brand Wood Fired Hot Tub. Inflatable models, like the Coleman SaluSpa Miami are usually made of puncture-resistant vinyl.
To make the most of your lounging hot tub experience, consider investing in a model that has the features you want. This can include jets, multi-colored lights, and even built-in speakers. Lounge seating is another popular feature, although it does often make the hot tub larger. Some manufacturers even offer customized hot tubs that you can design yourself.
When looking into extra features, consider those that increase the life span of your hot tub. Balancing chemicals, a hot tub cover, or routine maintenance can all come as part of a hot tub package or purchase. While an extra cost up front, getting these extras may save you money in the long run.
Also, consider the maintenance requirements of a hot tub before buying one. Many, like the Lifesmart Coronado, come with built-in filtration systems and ozone generators (aka ozonators). This helps keep the water clean and free of bacteria while using lower amounts of chlorine and other chemicals.
Still, you need to change the filter cartridge regularly and drain and refill the water periodically. Also, make sure your hot tub is always covered when it's not in use. Following hot tub best practices will ensure you get the most out of your purchase.
How do you set up a hot tub?
Setting up your hot tub for the first time isn’t as daunting as it may sound. Assuming you have the proper electrical outlet available (either 110V or 240V) and a level surface (preferably concrete or a specially designed hot tub pad), the process is as simple as having the tub delivered to your yard, freeing it from the delivery crate, and filling it with water.
In the case of an inflatable hot tub, take extra steps to ensure that there are no objects on the ground that could puncture the lining. Remove any rocks, sticks, and debris before inflating the hot tub. A ground cover is often included with inflatable hot tubs and serves as an additional layer of insulation and protection, but it is no substitute for a careful site evaluation before setup.
Before you break out the hose, turn off the power to the circuit in your breaker box. Clean the hot tub using a mild, nonabrasive formula. Verify that all jets and knobs are in place. Open gate valves and close drain valves, then install the skimmer and filter. Next, use a garden hose to fill the tub with water.
Restore power to the breaker. Power on the hot tub and prime the pump (usually, there will be an option for this on the hot tub’s control panel). Finally, set the hot tub to your desired temperature and begin heating the water inside before dispensing chemicals into the water for proper hygiene and water maintenance.
How often should you clean a hot tub?
It’s usually recommended to drain and clean your hot tub every three to four months; adjust based on your frequency of use. A deep clean of the hot tub involves flushing the lines; draining the water; and scrubbing the tub shell with hot tub cleaner, white vinegar, a diluted bleach solution, or an all-purpose nonabrasive household cleaner. (Consult manufacturer guidelines for specific cleaning product recommendations.) Thoroughly wipe the shell, seats, and jets to remove any grime or bacteria. Be sure to rinse well and dry the tub with a towel to avoid chemical contamination. Refill the tub with water.
You should also remove the filters occasionally and spray them with a garden hose or hot tub cleaner. Rinse well before reinstalling. This should be done more frequently—even up to once per week for frequent hot tub users.
What chemicals do you need for a hot tub?
Hot tubs need regular cleaning to maintain safe, clean water and proper functioning of the system. Test your water frequently and keep these hot tub chemicals on hand:
- PH adjusters: Muriatic acid or sodium bisulfate are used as pH decreasers. Muriatic acid (or a replacement product) also can lower alkalinity. Sodium bisulfate can raise alkalinity.
- Alkalinity increaser: Alkalinity and pH are closely related, so adjusting the pH levels of your hot tub can also impact alkalinity. If you need to raise the alkalinity of your hot tub, use an alkalinity increaser.
- Shocking agent: Use either chlorine or a nonchlorine treatment that breaks down organic compounds in the water and also converts chloramines back into the active form of chlorine.
- Sanitizer: The most popular options include chlorine and bromine. Bromine is sometimes recommended for people with more sensitive skin. Other sanitizing options for your hot tub include biguanide (a non-chlorine and nonbromine chemical sanitizer), a salt system, or an ozone generator.
- Calcium hardness increaser or decreaser: Depending on your water hardness, you might need an additive to increase or decrease the amount of calcium in your hot tub water. This gives you clearer water while prolonging the life of mechanical components.
- Enzymes: While not an absolutely essential chemical for your hot tub, enzymes help to slow the buildup of hot tub scum.
- Filter cleaner: This is a special cleaning formula that helps to purge debris and buildup from the filter, extending its life. Use it when you do a deep clean of your hot tub, every three to four months.
What is the life span of a hot tub?
You can generally expect a hot tub to last 10 to 15 years, but the life span really depends on the material, build quality, environmental conditions, and how well it's maintained. Also, certain parts and components can be repaired or replaced over the years before it's time to replace the entire thing.
The life span of inflatable tubs is much shorter. If you're lucky enough to avoid a non-repairable hole, you can expect an air-filled hot tub to hold up for three to five years.
How much does it cost to install a hot tub?
Many modern hot tubs are designed for plug-and-play, meaning professional installation usually isn't required. If you need a pro, you can spend $100 to $500, depending on the needs. If you're building your hot tub into a pool or designing a below-ground spa, the project will likely run you several thousand dollars.
Do hot tubs draw a lot of electricity?
It varies among models, but residential hot tubs typically draw 1,500 to 6,000 watts of energy. In terms of what this looks like on your power bill, a plugged-in hot tub costs you anywhere from 50 cents to $2 a day.
Is a hot tub a Jacuzzi?
Much as Kleenex is a brand name for tissues and Xerox a brand name for office copiers, Jacuzzi is in fact a trademarked brand name for jetted tubs and other spa equipment. In 1956, the Jacuzzi brothers created the original hydrotherapy bath with the invention of an underwater pump that arthritis patients could use to relieve pain. A decade later, Jacuzzi created the world's first integrated jet whirlpool bath. Another decade later, the company invented large, indoor, jetted tubs that could accommodate multiple people.
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This article was written by Theresa Holland, a commerce writer and product reviewer specializing in home design, lifestyle, and outdoor living. You can read more of Theresa's stories on MyDomaine, People, and Travel + Leisure.