Cheap hot tubs; their pitfalls and dangers

Share this: 19th Sep, 2013 at 3:38pm in Buying by your spa writer

Posted by your spa writer
This article has been uploaded by a member of our in-house team, following advice from leading suppliers within the industry.

YourSpa-blog-image_Sundance-lady01Cheap hot tubs often don’t conform to EU regulations and that could mean that they are unsafe and best avoided. What are the sorts of issues that you should be aware of?

Cheap hot tubs and spas may seem attractive, but are they a false economy and could they even be dangerous?

Mainly sold on the Internet, cheap, unbranded and imported hot tubs may seem like an attractive proposition when you compare their list of features to their price tag.

For just a couple of thousand pounds they seem to offer you everything that you want from a hot tub but that old adage, ‘If it looks too good to be true, it probably is’, most certainly applies here.

In order to sell a hot tub more cheaply, you have to make it more cheaply and that cost cutting is going to have implications when it comes to reliability, durability and potentially even safety.

The hot tub industry in the UK is well aware of the problems that can arise with these cut-price spas and, in the main, have reacted accordingly.

A hot tub dealer in the UK is very unlikely to help you install such a spa neither are they likely to be willing to service or repair one.

In fact, the spa may well have been cheap in the first place, but second hand it will probably have a value of zero, either as a re-sale or as a trade-in against a hot tub from a reputable brand.

Reliability and durability.

In making a hot tub more cheaply, you have to make it less well.

The cut-price spas may well be manufactured in a country with lower labour costs and selling them only on the Internet may well be used as a reason why the price can be so much lower but those aren’t the only areas where money is saved.

The shell of a hot tub needs to be able to contain anything up to a couple of tons of water that is both heated and chemically treated.

Cheap hot tub shells are often made from sanitary grade acrylic which is fine for making a bath tub but simply not strong enough to produce a shell that will cope with the stresses and strains that four or more bathers, pumps, jets and chemicals put on it.

A reputable spa will have a minimum of 10mm of fiberglass bonded to the acrylic shell to provide rigidity and strength. The vinyl-ester bonding agent that is used to bond the two materials together is expensive.

Cut-price, imported spas often have too little fiberglass – leaving the shell flexible and weak – and are incorrectly bonded leading to delaminating, blisters and leaks.

The cabinet is another area where corners are likely to be cut in construction.

A spa from a reputable manufacturer will have a cabinet finished in Cedar, Mahogany or, most likely, a wood-grained, UV-resistant synthetic material. These cabinets will keep their appearance with very little maintenance for years and years.

A cheap hot tub may well have a cabinet made from tongue and groove pine that has simply been stained or is made from ‘plastic’.

When it comes to the pump, cheap hot tubs are more likely to have more pumps of lower power. The smaller pumps are cheaper to make and, for the bigger spas, you just put more of them in rather than incurring the cost of manufacturing an appropriately sized pump.

Of course, three small pumps are three times more likely to break down than one correctly sized unit.

Cheap hot tubs often boast a raft of features such as radio, TV or DVD player.

These are often bolted on domestic units rather than built in equipment that is specifically made for the spa industry or rated as ‘marine grade’ and how long do you think your home hi-fi or TV would last if you left it outside?


The UK currently has no specific safety legislation in place that applies to hot tubs and so CE Self Certified spas can be imported and sold in this country.

Hot tubs and spas that are manufactured in the USA are built to Hot Tub/Spa Electrical Standard UL 1563.

Water is a good conductor of electricity and reputable spa manufacturers will ensure that their hot tubs are completely safe, building to this standard or above it.

USA manufactured spas are also built to conform to the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act.

The Act is designed to protect bathers from the possibility of being trapped by suction at the drain points where water is drawn into the spas recirculation and filtration system.

The Act not only specifies the size and design of non-entrapment covers for these drains but also specifies that each and every pump on a spa must have two suction points that are some distance apart. So if a person is sucked onto one drain the water can still be drawn in through the other suction point and the suction force is reduced preventing entrapment.

The Act is named after a young American girl who was drowned in a spa in 2002. Not all cheap, imported spas conform to the Virginia Graeme Baker Safety Act.


Soaking in a hot tub should be relaxing, enjoyable and safe.

A well-made spa from a reputable manufacturer should give many, many years of service and represent a sound investment in the health and wellbeing of you and your family.

The simplest way of seeing how much trust you can put in hot tub is by seeing how much faith the manufacturer his in their own product.

It is possible to find spas that have a 10 year full warranty on the shell, 7 years on the shell’s surface and 2 years on equipment, controls and all plumbing.

It is unlikely that a cheap, self certified import would offer such guarantees.

We hope this article has been of use to you.

There are many more articles on this site that will give you information on almost every aspect of your spa or hot tub.

If you would like to add to or comment on this article, please just use the comment box below or you can use the contact button at the top of the page to find a spa and hot tub service professional in your area.

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