Hot Tub & Spa Energy Efficiency

energy-saving

What makes a great, efficient hot tub?

It seems that as we get more and more concerned with energy efficiency the Claims from some manufacturers get more and more outlandish.

Apply some common sense when comparing claims from Hot Tub companies regarding efficiency.

The cost of the insulation system is a good indicator of the quality of the insulation system.

There are only two factors to consider; First is the quality of the insulation system (the insulation that keeps the heat in) and second is the ability to reuse the waste heat from the motors.

#1 System -Full Foam with pumps under the spa

  • The best, and most expensive system is a full foam Canadian Icynene foam insulation system with a heat collection system on the pumps located under the spa.
  • It is a true Hybrid system that takes maximum advantage of both the heat retention of the Hot Tub, and heat collection from the motors.

Perimeter foam or wrap system

  • Cheapest to manufacture as it uses the least amount of insulation.
  • Moderate passive use of the motor heat.
  • These systems typically use 1/4 or less of the insulation that a full foam tub uses and therefore do not retain heat nearly as well.
  • Because they reuse motor heat reasonably well  they can be decent systems when done with high density expanding foam but most of these systems are on cheap mass merchant quality Hot Tubs and utilize bubble pack, rockwool, or other “attic type” insulation materials.

Full Foam with pumps outside of the spa

  • Although common 20 years ago only one major manufacturer still uses this and one can only assume it is more for the marketing angle of a unique selling feature than for the quality of the insulation system.
  • Maximum retention of heat on the shell, but pumping the hot water outside the insulation envelope of the hot tub makes zero sense.
  • No reclaiming of motor heat.
  • serious equipment risk in power outages in winter as the equipment is virtually unprotected when it is outside the heat envelope of the hot tub.

43 Comments:

  1. I live in central Oregon winters are pretty brutal. Hot dry summers. Looking fir a 4 person hot tub recommendation and want one that will last. Also, we have well water which is very good but hard. I always believe in paying for better if the value is there.

    • So for cold climates just focus on the insulation R-value. there is a really good reason why home builders all use R value… they have to… it’s legislated 🙂 if only the hot tub industry was we would not have guys selling Mylar and perimeter systems. cant get you closer recommendations because your IP address is all over the place.

  2. Hi, love the website. You made comment about the 1 type of tub that runs it’s equipment outside , I believe you are referring to the beachcomber It makes sense they would loose heat motor heat , but they claim their “hybrid model” actual saves heat and has less heating cost per month. They claim this is based on them being able to fill the entire tub underneath and leave the motors and equipment out. This would be viewed as an advantage in the heating cost/ loss of heat area. I’m I correct? Or are they misleading in their adverting? Would it be best to get their “leep” model that keeps everything on the outside? They claim this one costs more in heating cost per month.

    • To put the pumps under the skirt you only need to remove a bit of insulation on one side in the bottom corner where the insulation is already 3-4x thicker than 90% of the hot tub, there is almost no real R-value difference and the loss of the motors waste heat more than offsets this. The reason they get good CEC energy ratings has more to do with the fact that the tubs are tested at 60F so it really tells you very little about heat loss and much much more about filtration costs and beachcomber has those goofy circ pumps as standard so they get a good report 🙂

      add to that the fact that you are pumping your hot water outside of that precious insulation envelope into a virtually uninsulated environment through 4′ of plumbing and there is no way on Gods green earth that it is better more efficient.

      And that is not even addressing the risk of equipment freeze up in a power outage…

      I bet the Hybrid has the circ pump standard and the other one is an option… that would account for the lower CEC energy report which as I mentioned really tells you very little about heat loss…

      • Hi, thanks for the reply. So The way I’m reading things is that their hybrid model looses heat but makes it up with the circulation pump (hush pump) as they call it.

        so if they say hybrid model is about 16.00 a months in heating cost and leep model is 24.00. If you added a circulation pump to the leep it would lower the costs of heating to be better than the hybrid? as it has it’s parts outside and the circ pump is making up the difference?

    • I live in Cornwall in eastern Ontario and Hydro rates are very high. Any thoughts on a natural gas heated tub?

      • we have done a few of gas and solar conversions. the reality is on a full foamed tub the number of years to recover your initial cost is so long it makes it barely worth while…

  3. About to buy a hot tub for Kauai Hawaii. We only have dimension one and hot springs dealers. The other choice is Costco. Evolution Aquaterra.
    Costco is 1/2 the price of the other two. Are the first two worth twice the price?
    No repair people on Kauai that I can find for Costco tubs. But Costco usually stands behind products.

  4. I have a Coleman spa, about 15 years old (I’ve had the jet pumps replaced). I’m trying to figure out if replacing it would significantly reduce my significant energy costs in San Francisco California. Looking at models that have ozonator. Is the newer pump tech and insulation much better?

    • Hey Josh

      it depends, frankly a lot of time the older ones were insulated quite well. what did it get in it for insulation?

      also in SF it’s not a big deal like in a cold northern state.

  5. Live in rural South Dakota and looking at Hot Springs medium priced spas vs. CalSpa. Any recommendation appreciated.

    • There is really not a lot of great brands where you live, lots of stuff just like the Dynasty… big adverting and marketing but not spending the money to build a really great hot tub.

  6. I’m looking for a hot tub for 2nd home in Colorado mountains that we visit about one month a year in total (house not rented out). We can get Hot Springs, Arctic, Artesian or Bullfrog there. I want a good quality, reliable spa for 6-8 people that is as energy efficient as possible for the long, cold winters. What do you suggest?

  7. Looking to buy a swim spa. Maxx spas is the best I’ve found locally. I found a swim spa by Spa Manufacturer in Tampa Florida. What do you know about this tub. I’m very hesitant we live in the Columbus Ohio area. Need good insulation

    • The one In Tampa has nowhere near enough insulation, Neither does that Maxx… that blue max is inexpensive and nowhere near the R value of a good full foam.

      I looked around your area and there is not any great brands but…

      You do have 2 independent guys there that do service on all brands so look further afield…

  8. We live in south eastern Ontario. we have had a hydropool for the last 4 years came with the house. It gave up this winter and we have been looking at another hydropool , lazyboy or a dynasty. What are your thoughts for a good tub in this area. We do get cold snowy winters. Any help would be great. Thanks.

    • I would not put any of those on my short list. you have loads of choices in SO keep looking, try and find a master or marquis or artesian.

  9. Hi,

    Great site! I am considering purchasing a bullfrog spa and was wondering what your thoughts are on them. I really like their jetpaks, never seen anything like that.

    Thanks!

    • Bullfrogs a funny one and I am not a big fan.

      I love real innovation that really makes something better but I am disdainful of gimmicks and the jet pack system just seems gimmicky to me.

      The whole thing revolves around spas being leaky and the reality is a good spa with glued and clamped plumbing lines don’t leak, besides the number one leak is pump seals and the number 2 is shell suctions in the footwell both of which that spa still has…

      The next pitch is the efficiency pitch and while they have a good full foam system the effect of less plumbing is marginal, most spas are plumbed with hoses that can easily accommodate 2-3 times the amount of flow they actually have to handle there is very little efficiency increase with the reduced pipework.

      The third pitch is that you can customise the jetting. The reality is every tub can have the Jets swapped out for any number of different jets for different types of massage for $20-$40 per jet where as the jet packs are $400-$700!!! and the jet pack severely restrict where he jets can go in the spa, they also take up a pile of room behind the seat which reduces the wall thickness and therefore the amount of insulation you can put in.

      Then there is the price… they are insane… they sit there and pitch how much cheaper it is to build the spa, they save a pile on the pipe, and labour to put the pipe in and they use an inexpensive pedestal supported shell and then try and sell it as a high-end expensive spa.

      There is also the issue they have had with stagnation behind the jet packs, this was a nightmare when they first came out so they had to start diverting flow back behind the seats which more than destroyed the minuscule advantage they had by using less pipe and I have heard from a few customers that there are still issues with sanitation behind the seats.

      I see no real technological advantage to this spa at all to get me excited…

  10. Hi, thanks for your site. Based on your site we have narrowed down to Master Clarity Precision 7 or Twilight 7.25. the clarity is of course more in our price range. Any strong reason to pay another 2k Twilight?

  11. Looking at a coast or hydro pool any suggestions its mostly for therapy.

    • They are not in My recommended group.

      It is middle of the road as most spas are, some good, some bad, and some ugly. It uses old technology that the industry abandoned years ago that they rebranded as new innovation (self-cleaning floor sections, pressure filters) The insulation system is inexpensive and in my opinion not suited to the purpose, and a cradle supported shell… They do usa a good component list and they glue and clamp their plumbing lines.

  12. HI Chris

    I’m based in Winnipeg aka Winterpeg, Canada and I am considering between the Jacuzzi J-385 LX and Twilight 8.25. They are both in a similar price range.
    I am concerned about the insulation and energy efficiency of the 2 tubs as I,d like to use it year round.
    The one unit has a UV light system and the other has an ozone sanitizer system.

    I’d like to know your thoughts on these 2 models and which would you choose?

    Thanks
    Jay

    • Hi Jay

      Hands down the Twilight for a couple good reasons.

      First, the Jacuzzi uses a proprietary parts list, the parts are not only cheaper but they are harder to source, you can only buy them from them at whatever price they dictate!

      The Twilight, on the other hand, uses to Top OEM parts from waterways and Balboa… Way more reliable and you can get replacements anywhere because it is the oldest and largest group of top North American parts!

      Performance: The J35 is mid-performance, it has mostly the small inexpensive jets and only about 6 of the hi flow therapy massage jets, It is really more comparable to the Next line down called healthy Living… The TYwilight series has almost all Mid and Hi-Flow therapy jets it’s in an entirely different class, especially with the big monster jets in the foot well.

      The insulation is also much better on the Twilight…

      I don’t mean to be funny but the J35 is a mid grade tub and if the price on the two is coming out similar either the Twilight ios a steal or they are reaming you on the j385…

  13. Trying to decide between a Nordic, Eco Spa, and Tuff Spa. What sets these tubs apart? Best one to go with?

    • The Tuff spa I had no idea, I called and spoke the the factory and they use Balboa control systems and only clamp the plumbing if you upgrade to the bigger 4 hp pump, also the insulation is mid grade but frankly so is the Nordic. But the nordic clamps the plumbing lines on all spas, the only one better is the Getaway line and that is only because the insulation package is better.

  14. Any thoughts on a lazyboy renew. We live in Ontario Canada.

    • Lazy boy does not build hot tubs.

      This is built by another company under license, that alone speaks volumes.

      When a privet company has a spa built under licence you just add another level of margin to the whole game, the assume you will pay a premium for the name but the reality is a virtual manufacturer adds nothing but a name and a higher price tag.

      You are in Ontario where? there are loads of great brands there…

  15. Any thoughts on the Tropic Sea Spa hot tub line? Their standard insulation looks lacking…what about their optional upgrade

    http://tropicseasspas.com/features/

    • Hi Phil

      the brand is an unknown to me.

      It has balboa controls wich is a big plus, but nothin gon the shell construction or on the plumbing.

      You are right the standard insulation is the perimeter system, bad tech… the upgrade is the Canadian Icynene insualtion full foam wich is awesome…

      One thing bothered me… they say the full foam “dramatically increases the strength and life of the spa’s shell.” The red flag here is this. If the shell was a good hand rolled self-supporting shell then why would they say that the full foam dramatically increases the strength? first off this is not a structural foam so it offers very little structural support and second if they are relying on this for support then is the shell cheap and they are stupid or is it just a bad idea for a marketing spin to try and upsell the full foam :-)…

      • In looking around a bit more I have been informed by the Tropic Sea dealer that they are made by Artesian Spas in Nevada. In reviewing the hot tub lines they make they use the same terminology in describing various features, including the insulation packages. Do you have any thoughts on the Artesian brand in general? Thanks so much for you responses!

        • In general, I like the Artesian’s but I need to brush up on the various lines.

          Some companies use the same build standard and parts list on all lines and just the performance and jetting changes which is great… other just build cheap sub-lines, its a crap shoot and I can’t advise you on their sub-lines, I have a call into the factory but typically that’s a long shot to get any good info 🙂

  16. Where I live my choice of hot tubs are Cal Spa, Hot Spring Spas, or Dimension One. Anyone know which is better, most reliable/dependable, energy efficient?

  17. I love this site. I have shopped and every dealer makes their case. I am undecided between a Maxx 451, a Jacuzzi 310, a Caldera Kauai or an Artesian 3 person spa. the Maxx salesperson says their insulation system is the best in the industry. Can’t decide. Can you help?

    • The Caldera and Jacuzzi I would not put on my short list, these are the dark side of the force 🙂 They both use proprietary parts in their spas wich means three really bad things for you. First, they are typically a cheaper part and have a higher failure rate. Second, there are a lot of service companies that simply will not touch these two brands because everything is goofy parts and goofy access issues, some of these you can not even take the skirt off! We used to have to cut the side open to fix them or drain them raise them refill them and fix them… insane… Plus the added nightmare of you being stuck with only one place to buy the part… from them… they do this to control the after-market parts for their brands and while it is great for them it’s a nightmare for you…

      Artisian or maxx are both upper middle and a far better choice…

  18. Joanne B Schellgell

    which hot tub is better. SIgnature,four winds ,vita or sundance?

  19. tom si jerry romana

    Great, thanks for sharing this blog.Much thanks again. Great.

  20. Thanks so much for the blog post.Much thanks again. Awesome.

  21. The transaction of our Toronto Spa froms tart to fnsiih has been easier than expected. Chris has been so helpful with every step and we are more than please with our new spa!!

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