Shopping for an acrylic spa is difficult as it is a very similar experience to that of buying a new car. You will need to do research and listen to advice from salespeople and form your own conclusions about what constitutes good value for your money.
In short, this is a difficult and frustrating process where every sales person makes the same claims as the last place, and every hot tub you look at happens to be the biggest, best, most popular, most efficient and most comfortable hot tub ever made.
You can read the spa buying tutorial in full and learn on a technical and practical level how a hot tub works, breaks and step by step what to look for. If you do not have the time to read a complete spa buying tutorial then you should use a 5 step inspection process.
In order to determine the quality of any given hot tub there are five main factors that you should consider. If you compare these five factors you can determine how to buy a quality hot tub but more importantly avoid hot tubs that will cost you an arm and a leg in service and repairs down the road.
1 – The shell. If the hot tub shell crack or breaks in the future then you will need a new hot tub sooner than later. Acrylic backed with ABS plastic does not perform well in cold climates and is generally weaker than fiberglass backed acrylic. ABS shells are weaker and require rigid support from wood and foam to retain their shape. Fiberglass shells are much stronger and require little to no additional support and are far less inclined to cracking. Consult the shell warranty to see in black and white how long the manufacturer thinks the shell will last. The last thing you want is a cracked shell on an out of warranty hot tub.
2 – Insulation. ABS backed shells requiring wood and foam support provide more than ample insulation under the tub. The disadvantage with this design is service and leak detection becomes a monumental task and repairs on older full foam tubs often exceed the value of the tub itself. Fiberglass tubs do not require full foam and as a result can have insulation similar to that used in a house where an adequate layer of insulation lines the interior of the cabinet. The advantage of this design is more than simplified service and access for repairs as spa efficiency can be increased dramatically by utilizing waste by-product heat from electric pumps to provide additional heat to the water reducing the primary heater usage.
3 – Pumps, plumbing, components and jets. There is a lot happening under the hood of your average spa. Leaks and service issues are common just like with a car so the warranty covering these items is very important. Always be sure to determine whether labor costs are included with your warranty. A full foam spa with a minimal warranty on integral components would be a likely candidate for crippling service and repair costs in the future.
Invest in a quality hot tub one time so that you do not need to invest in a poor quality spa again and again. By checking these three critical aspects of acrylic spas you will see how tubs differ from one another as well as see the potential hazards of choosing the wrong hot tub.