The innovation of a soft sided hot tub first came about almost 30 years ago by a company called Softub located in southern California. The goal was to build a hot tub that was truly portable, easy to install, and delivered similar benefits of a traditional hot tub at a much lower cost. Today several other manufacturers have followed suit by producing an affordable 110v hot tub that plugs into a standard outlet (15 amp), is made of high density foam walls covered with decorative marine grade vinyl or pvc, and is easy to transport weighing under 150 lbs.
It is important to note that similar to inflatable hot tubs, soft sided hot tubs are sold mostly on the internet since very few local dealers stock and display them in their showrooms. They can also be found in booths at local trade shows, home shows, and fairs. These venues are more ideal to purchase from since you can actually see the hot tubs in person and see how each one performs. We would also recommend taking it a step further and trying one out for a test soak since the performance and comfort can vary significantly from spa to spa. If you do decide to purchase online then make sure the company you are purchasing from has a liberal return policy with reasonable return shipping costs.
Below is a simple pros and cons list for this type of hot tub when compared to a traditional hot tub;
- Inexpensive – Prices range from $1000-4000. It is important to note that the higher end of the price range starts to overlap with the starting price range of a rotationally molded hot tub or traditional hot tub which offers more therapeutic benefits.
- Extremely Portable – the lightweight design allows a user to set it up or tear it down within an hour. The units are not as lightweight or compact as an inflatable, however, in most cases the hot tub, equipment, and accessories are under 150 lbs.
- Convenient 110v Plug and Play – these units conveniently plug into a standard 110v outlet and draw well under 15 amps which means no special electrical work would be required. Furthermore, some manufacturers (Softub) offer a heat recovery design which allows the hot tub to heat while the motor is running because it recovers the heat from the motor and transfers it into the spa to keep it warm. A traditional 110v with a separate heater has a limitation whereby when the heat is on then the jet pump must be off and vice versa. This hurts performance because when you sit in the spa and turn the motor on then the heater shuts off causing the hot tub to cool.
- Less Durability – the foam design is not nearly as strong as a traditional hot tub that uses acrylic and fiberglass.
- Less Performance – soft sided hot tubs have many limitations starting with their limited hydro-massage therapy. Soft sided hot tubs generally offer between 4-12 small water jets due to the limited space available for plumbing and also because they run on a smaller 1.5 hp jet pump. A 1.5 continuous horsepower pump is all that can be run on a 110v/15 amp service. Another performance limitation is the heating of the spa as it can take between 1-2 days to fully heat a soft sided hot tub (110v). The small heater usually warms up the water between 1-2 degrees per hour and depending on the time of the year it can take 40 hours to get up to 104 degrees with the cover on. These units also have tendency to lose temperature quickly when the cover is off and the hot tub is in use because in most cases the heater and motor cannot run simultaneously on a 110v/15 amp circuit.
- Less Comfortable – there is no proper seating in soft sided spa and in most cases you are sitting on the ground. A traditional hot tub has raised, ergonomic seats that fit your body and put you in a relaxed position for maximum comfort.
- Less Efficient – Most soft sided hot tubs can cost more to heat than a traditional hot tub.