Swim and Exercise Spas are a category that emerged back in the 1990s. Back in those early days they were mostly built-in units that used a prefab fiberglass shell and the equipment was separated in a doghouse or small shed type structure. They were built into decks or sometimes indoors in a sunroom or other specialized room. In the late nineties a few manufacturers began building them as self-contained (and self-supporting) units that had all of the equipment located within the four cabinet walls. These self-contained units, although large and bulky, were much more portable and only required a solid foundation to sit on much like a traditional hot tub. They too had the flexibility to be built into a deck or partially buried underground (concrete vault). Surprisingly, popularity and demand slowed down between 2000-2008 and only a handful of manufacturers were offering swims spas in their lineups. From about 2009 until now there has been a steady increase in demand and we are seeing swim spas re-emerge as one of the highest growth categories within the hot tub industry. In fact, manufacturers are not just producing one model but in some case an entire lineup of swim spas ranging in size and features. Swim and Exercise Spas are popular all over the United States especially in areas with more moderate to cold climates because they can be used year round and not just seasonally. They operate at a fraction of what a normal swimming pool costs to heat and maintain, they take up less space than a pool, are simple to install, are portable, have the same benefits as hot tub, and are very affordable. The price range of swim spas is between $10,000-$35,000 depending on size, type, features, and brand. We believe that they will continue to grow in popularity for many years to come as the benefits of ownership are countless.
You can also view our guide to portable swim spas for a more in-depth look at the different types and important considerations.
Below is a simple pros and cons list for this type of hot tub when compared to a traditional hot tub;
- Swim and Exercise – unlike a traditional hot tub you can swim and exercise in a swim spa.
- More Expensive – Swim spas and exercise spas are more expensive than a traditional hot tub.
- Big and Bulky – Although they are technically portable, it takes a lot of man power or special equipment (cranes or forklifts) to easily move a swim spa. They can also take up a lot of space if you don’t have a big yard. Finally, they can be a bit of an eye soar if they aren’t incorporated well into the hardscape or landscape design ( for example, swim spas built into decks or sunk partially in-ground have much nicer aesthetic appeal).
- Higher Operating Costs – Swim spas range in volume between 1000-3000 gallons depending on size compared to traditional hot tubs that range from 200-600 gallons. Swim spas are generally kept between 80-90 degrees which is much lower than a hot tub (hot tubs are kept between 100-104 degrees). The difference in heating costs are close to double. A well-insulated, higher quality swim spa can range between $25-50 per month for electrical consumption depending on the size and time of the year and a hot tub costs between $10-25 per month depending on size and time of year.
It is also important to consider that if you plan to occasionally use your swim spa as a hot tub and raise the temperature to 100-104 degrees then your operating costs will be higher than the aforementioned range. If you plan to use the swim spa as a hot tub frequently then it would be advisable to purchase a dual temperature swim spa which has an integrated hot tub with separate heater and controls allowing for two temperature zones (one for the swimming end and one for the hot tub end). There isn’t a great deal of dual temperature swim spas on the market and for the handful of options that are out there it’s quite expensive. The more economical and better way to address this issue is to purchase a swim spa and a hot tub separately and go with two units instead of one. In most cases this is considerably cheaper than buying a dual temperature model. Some swim spa manufacturers will allow you to remove the hot tub jets and respective equipment (jet pump) and discount the price. You can take that savings and apply it towards a nice hot tub of your liking.