I just discovered inflatable hot tubs are a thing that exists
November 14, 2023 7:51 AM   Subscribe

I am a renter living in the Pacific Northwest in a house with a small outdoor concrete patio. It is often rainy, cool, and dark in the winter and I tend to get the winter blues. I was joking with a friend about how amazing it would be I if had an inflatable hot tub or Jacuzzi out back and...well I had no idea this was something that actually existed! Now I desperately want one.

I'm looking for any first person experiences with an inflatable or portable hot tub like the Coleman Saluspa or an Intex SimpleSpa.

- Is this a great idea or a terrible idea?
- Only has to fit 2 people
- I have an outdoor outlet and a hose
- If you have a portable hot tub, what features or brands have been good?
posted by forkisbetter to Home & Garden (16 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I don’t have personal experience but I just wanted to say that a LOT of people bought these in 2020 and I would imagine there might be a robust secondary market for them now.
posted by HotToddy at 7:54 AM on November 14, 2023 [8 favorites]

My wife has looked at them - here's her review:

1) they are expensive to purchase
2) they are expensive to heat
3) they are not very reliable

So if you can get one of deep sale, you defeat #1. If you don't mind the bills, you defeat #2. If you don't mind trashing it and purchasing a new one every 2-3 years, then you should go for it.
posted by The_Vegetables at 8:13 AM on November 14, 2023 [1 favorite]

For these reasons, I'd not buy one on the secondary market unless it was near free. it's probably broken.
posted by The_Vegetables at 8:15 AM on November 14, 2023 [4 favorites]

Not a hot tub, but I bought an inflatable Tubble bathtub when I was pregnant and I love it to this day (best bits, the zip off cover and the cup holder). Using it outdoors in cold weather would be amazing. The cover keeps the heat on, is great for resting books and snacks on or with careful tablet setups allows for movie watching.

However, this is only the size of a standard bathtub (one adult only) and can be filled up in an equivalent amount of time from our bathroom taps. Outdoors I would want to place a yogamat or something similar to reduce puncture risks.

If bubbling is of secondary concern the baths used for home births might be an option relatively easy to access agree minimal use and possible to fill using an external gas water heater. However once any bath is large enough for two people the water requirement is huge, both to heat and dispose of.
posted by pipstar at 8:58 AM on November 14, 2023 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Side-remarks: note that some models don't include filter/chlorine systems, which I would consider more or less mandatory. Also, get one that has a thermal cover (to lower heating cost), and depending on how cold your specific location gets you may want to look into models that prevent water from freezing inside the pump assembly (which would destroy it). Some review websites also say to skip buying any unit with fewer than 100 jets, so I guess maybe check the jet counts?
posted by aramaic at 9:05 AM on November 14, 2023 [3 favorites]

Ours tripled our electric bill that one winter.
posted by wats at 9:09 AM on November 14, 2023 [8 favorites]

Best answer: I don't have first-person experience, but many people in the Gee Thanks, Just Bought It Facebook group have the Coleman Saluspa. I would join the group just to read through their comments (I don't like Facebook, but I find this group super useful).
posted by vakker at 10:15 AM on November 14, 2023 [3 favorites]

I can tell you we live in Germany and we couldn’t enjoy ours after the end of September… it just didn’t get warm enough…
posted by flink at 10:51 AM on November 14, 2023 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I'm in the PNW, recently acquired a portable hot tub, and looked into inflatable ones. I ended up getting this one from Costco when it was on sale. it's definitely a 2-person tub, not 4-person, but it stays warm and is quiet.

My brother and SIL have the Colman inflatable one and I have used it a bunch. It is totally flat-bottomed. It less energy efficient, and because the pump/heater is external to the spa, it is pretty loud with a low-frequency vibrating noise that can be heard inside the house. It does the job though! To prevent it from getting gross you will need chlorine or bromine, and a lid is a must.

If you can get it back into your patio space, I recommend a small hard-sided one. Either way, before you purchase, check what circuit your outdoor outlet is on. If it ends up sharing a circuit with any large appliances or other large power draws, it might short the circuit.

It is a big energy draw, I try to compensate in other areas, but so worth it as the days get damp and cold!
posted by Maude_the_destroyer at 11:02 AM on November 14, 2023 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I have two separate pairs of friends in NYC who have Coleman inflatable hot tubs and both loved them. Zero Regrets. If i had the outdoor space myself, i would do it in a heartbeat.

One did mention that they had to replace the motor once after they turned it off and the whole thing froze, but they learned their lesson and just made sure it was turned on if the weather was gonna drop below 40F.
posted by wowenthusiast at 11:04 AM on November 14, 2023

We had an inflatable pool for a few years, even before COVID, and it was expensive to buy, required a lot of testing and such, and was always hard to keep warm enough (PNW) to even get in, let alone hot tub temp. But now, I am interested and am going to click on links...

My in-laws (Ashland Oregon) had a spare bathtub, and they would hook up their hot water in the kitchen to a hose. The "Oklahoma hot tub", it was pretty sweet.
posted by Windopaene at 11:32 AM on November 14, 2023

The two best days in the Spa/Jacuzzi owner's life are day the Jacuzzi gets installed, and the day years and thousands of dollars later when someone cuts it up and drags it away.

In my case, I only had the second day because mine came with my house.

Anyway, here is what you would be looking at with a real a Jacuzzi, which is way better than an inflatable one:

Either spend hundreds of dollars of month to keep it heated, or be so scheduled that you can be confident you will always know 4-6 hours ahead of time when you plan on getting into it so you can "only" spend the $100+ a month it takes to keep it warm just for the times you want to use.

This is assuming you already have the up-to-code electrical work in place to support the spa in the first place, which you probably don't.

Also: Either spend a few hours a week being diligent about keeping the chemicals in harmony, or be so scheduled that you can be confident you will always know 24 hours ahead of time when you plan on getting into it so you can start the chemicals process, which still takes a significant amount of time. Or, just fucking wing it and bleach the shit out of your swimsuits and/or give everyone Legionnaire's disease.

But, what really happens is that using it is such a pain that the "oh well, it's worth it!" portion of your spa relationship lasts 3-6 months, and then you just never use it again. Eventually you get tired of your spouse complaining about the space it takes up, and the aforementioned "second best day" happens and you pay someone (lol, ever check your local Craigslist for used spas? There's a reason they all say "Free! You have to come pick it up!") to take it away.
posted by Back At It Again At Krispy Kreme at 11:40 AM on November 14, 2023 [10 favorites]

Best answer: One option you might consider instead of inflatable is a SoftTub. About 25 years ago, my spouse worked as an engineer there and she was always very impressed with the quality of the product. On the plus size, because they're made of foam, they're light and they insulate really well. This means that they cost way less to heat per month. I saw a blog that claimed $10/mo compared to $75/mo for other hot tubs. Of course you don't what model they're using, typical outside temperature and what they're comparing it against. Caveat emptor.
My spouse claimed, IIRC, that the part most likely to break in spas and hot tubs is the pump.
posted by plinth at 1:46 PM on November 14, 2023 [6 favorites]

(Non-portable) hot tub owner in the PNW here, in the Oregon Desert, about 10 degrees colder in the winter than Portland or Seattle.

First, I'd check that you have an outdoor outlet with enough current capacity to not pop a breaker.

Second, I don't know how we do this, but our 20 year old 4 person hot tub only uses $30 of electricity per month in the coldest months of the winter, and we keep it at 102F 24/7/365. I have a monitoring tool that tracks all energy usage per breaker, and am sure it's only $30/month. YMMV. And I have had coworkers and friends with similar hot tubs who say they spend $250/month, so I don't know what's up with that. (Our electricity is about $0.09/kWh, $0.13/kWh when you account for base charge and add'l fees.)

Third, we do very very little in the way of chemical mucking-around. The previous owners had a ton of chemicals to adjust the water every which way, and said they spent a lot of time chasing the perfect balance. But we have found that just shocking the water when first filled, then about a teaspoon of chlorine granules per person after every use keeps all the levels just about perfect. We've been taking that approach for two years now and it's been great.

Fourth, my wife uses the hot tub every day. I use it maybe once or twice a week. We would replace it in an instant if it ever died.
posted by MonsieurBon at 3:23 PM on November 14, 2023 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I purchased the SaluSpa Vancouver last summer and I absolutely love it. I chose that one because its footprint is 61 inches instead of the 71 inches or more that most are, and it's on a covered back porch whose support posts wouldn't accommodate the larger size. The sides are not puffy like a children's pool, but slim and ribbed like a paddleboard which gives it more space inside even with the smaller overall footprint.

It's just outside my back door, where it sits on two layers of 1/4" insulation sheets. It is more than enough space for two full-sized adults to use with comfort, stretching out, etc. and would be comfortable enough with three but for me the solitude and unplugged vibe has become half the appeal. I use it at least once a day, usually with coffee and the sunrise and sometimes also after work.

It's not meant to be run under 40 degrees, so I'm on the fence at the moment about whether to drain it for winter or rig up an enclosure for that part of the porch so I can use it through the (relatively mild zone 7 Virginia) winter. I've already partially framed in a surround for it that protects it from the elements and gives some privacy - if I keep it going over winter, I'll add rigid foam insulation boards around it and over the cover at the very least, and probably underneath too, for good measure. We've only had a few frosty mornings so far, so the effect winter has on my power bill could be the deciding factor. So far it hasn't been an issue.

Unlike proper hot tubs, it uses a regular 110 outlet (CGFI is a must) because it doesn't run the heater and the bubbles at the same time. Also unlike proper hot tubs, the pump and filtration system are less robust, so being super careful about body oils, hair, surfactants from laundry supplies etc. is all important. Chemicals are dead simple though. The r/hottub sub on reddit is a great resource.
posted by headnsouth at 6:42 PM on November 14, 2023

If you're near Portland, might be worth renting a hot tub before you make the leap (or dive in?) to full ownership.
posted by TurnKey at 8:51 PM on November 14, 2023

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