Helpful Guide to Understanding Inflatable Hot Tubs


If all you have been hearing and reading is about standard hot tubs that are heavy and fixed in one place, then you only know half the truth. An inflatable hot tub is a perfect solution for those who don’t want to invest too much into their hot tub and still get the same experience as in the regular hot tub. It is very flexible so you can place it indoors or outdoors, as long as it is within reach of your outlet.

With that being said, you have to know that while they can’t compete with the standard hot tubs in terms of features, they can still deliver hot bath without a water jet, which you could get separately.

Let’s see what you are getting into when buying your new inflatable hot tub.

Table Of Contents

Buying an Inflatable Hot Tub

Here is one of the big reasons people opt to buying an inflatable hot tub vs regular hot tub. If you are renting a space or an apartment and you have an empty patio or someone who has some extra space in their garage and want to soak in a hot tub without spending too much money, then you want to start thinking about an inflatable hot tub option.

Your inflatable hot tub will offer almost identical experience as a standard hot tub, without needing to make long-term changes to your property or home. When it comes to pricing, you should be able to find a great one under $1000 and as long as you can carry it when deflated, you should be able to set it up on your own.

How long do inflatable hot tubs last?

If you’re considering buying an inflatable hot tub, you may be wondering how long it will last. Obviously, it won’t last as long as a hard shell hot tub, but are inflatable hot tubs really worth the money or do they just not last long enough to be worth the trouble? I decided to do a little research and here is what I found out!

So, how long do inflatable hot tubs last? How long an inflatable hot tub lasts depends on how well it is maintained and how well it is made. Some owners report problems after only a few months, while others can get away with it for up to 5 years. The average seems to be 2 – 3 years.

Important Inflatable Hot Tub Features

Your portable (inflatable) hot tub will probably be made from thick vinyl rather than the hard acrylic material that most of the standard spas are made of. Another great thing about the inflatable spas is that you probably won’t get any features that you won’t use, since it comes with a pretty simple feature list, unlike the standard spas that come with all the bells and whistles. Let’s look into some of the features that you want to pay attention to:

Hard Water System

This is a helpful feature that can help you fight calcium deposits and buildup that happens in your hot tub. You have to know that it is by no means a replacement for properly maintaining your water chemistry. Make sure you read about how to keep your hot tub clean and preserve alkalinity levels.

Capacity

You probably already know how many people you want to potentially fit in your new inflatable hot tub. They come available in 2, 4 and 6 seating capacity. You have to know that, maybe a downside of inflatable hot tubs is that they are usually a tight fit so you may want to consider sizing up to get some extra comfort.

Control Panel

When it comes to how you control your inflatable hot tub, they usually come with a few options that can be accessed via a simple LED display. It should have a few buttons to adjust your temperatures, jets and the timer for the heater.

One thing to look out for here is to make sure your display is reachable within the hot tub because nobody want’s to leave a cozy hot tub to change settings.

Heaters

The reason hot tubs are hot is due to its heating system. When it comes to setting the maximum safe temperature it is defined that is shouldn’t go beyond 104°F (40°C).

This is recommended from the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) about accidental drownings and heat stroke in too-hot spa water.

Heating Tips

  • Most hot tub users prefer to keep the temperature between 100°F and 102°F (37°C – 39°C), assuming your heater is capable of producing that heat. Maintaining your inflatable hot tub water temperature can be a challenge so it is worth looking into the best ways to do that.
  • Deciding to keep it covered when not in use is one way to do it. In case your hot tub is placed outside use outdoor elements such as privacy screens or shrubs to reduce evaporation and cooling of your hot tub water so the heater can take a break from working.
  • Don’t be surprised if your inflatable hot tub takes between 12 and 24 hours (assuming a rate of 1 to 3 degrees per hour) to heat water fully before your first use.

Pumps

Your pump is probably the most important piece in your inflatable hot tub system. It is used to circulate the water and inflate your hot tub and power the jets using the built-in air blower.

Your heater and pump will typically be put together in an enclosed box, to avoid water getting to the electrical wiring. Most inflatable spas will have their control panel placed on top of the pump enclosure.

Pumps will usually consist of a 120-volt cord that has a built-in ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI), used to prevent electric shocks. This will allow you to plug your inflatable hot tub into any indoor or outdoor outlet. Keep an eye on the breaker, and make sure this is the only thing on the breaker so it doesn’t flip while you are enjoying your spa time.

Shape

They generally come in a round shape, unless they come in a square shape, which is only a few models on the market. While it might not be a deal-breaking feature, you might realize that square and two-person hot tubs generally provide some more legroom.

Cover

When you buy an inflatable hot tub, it usually comes with a cover. Some hot tub models even come with 2 or 3 different types of covers. Depending on the model you choose, the cover could be anything from leather, inflatable and insulated, a thermal blanket, or simply a combination cover that comes with an inflatable interior which is basically one cover used to retain heat and close your hot tub as the same time.

The good news is that you might not need to use the cover that much, at least in the beginning, unless you want to use your hot tub for longer period of time.

It is perfectly OK to buy aftermarket hot tub covers for inflatable hot tubs, so upgrading is easy.

Jets

Inflatable hot tubs usually come with about 100 to 200 air jets. Just for comparison, your standard spas have jets that shoot strong streams of water out, and sometimes it can be combined with air jets.

If water jets are something you absolutely want to have, then pay careful attention to how many of them you are getting. One of the popular brands selling inflatable hot tub boasts four water jets. This is, for example, far fewer than a standard hot tub because of the difference in power, however, they will provide a different experience than air-only jets.

Ground Cloth

Regardless of what inflatable spa you choose, it needs to come with a sheet to lay on the surface where you’ll be setting up your hot tub. This will serve as a bit of extra protection for the bottom of the hot tub from debris, any possible temperature changes, and any potentially damaging circumstances.

You may also buy a hot tub pad, which is a hard plastic pad, solid platform you can place just about anywhere to create a sturdy, level surface that will keep your hot tub in check.

A Few Inflatable Hot Tub Drawbacks

Just like anything else in life, inflatable hot tubs aren’t perfect. As great as it gets, you might want to think about a few downsides to buying, setting up, and maintaining your inflatable spa. You will be happy to see that there aren’t many of them and that it will probably be acceptable for you to go without them. So let’s start:

Noise

Don’t be surprised if you hear the noise, especially when setting up the inflatable hot tub for use. There is an air blower that’s built into the pump and heater enclosure which is used to inflate the hot tub. And this is more or less the same with every inflatable hot tub. You could take the next step and try to use some of the soundproof materials we use for standard hot tub elements. It is possible that your noises will continue as you turn on the bubbles.

Just be aware if you are setting up your hot tub in a small space as it may amplify the noise. Overall, many of them are not that loud and are tolerable.

Lack of Seating

If you haven’t had previous experience with hot tubs, especially the inflatable ones, it might come as a surprise to realize that there are no seats and that these hot tubs are designed with a padded floor so bathers can sit on the bottom.

These spas will probably be too deep for kids or short adults when sitting. It might leave them in an awkward standing position or kneeling. Some inflatable spa models will include I-beams to reinforce the hot tub structure and allow you to sit on the sides of the spa without damaging the structure.

If you want, you could also purchase seats or extra padding to place on the bottom of the spa, if you wish.

Warranty Length

How long do you think your new inflatable hot tub will be under warranty? If you have purchased anything in your life, such as electronics or a car, you might expect a minimum of a year long warranty.

In this case you would be wrong since many of the companies offer partial, less than 2 months of warranty. This just means that you need to make sure to use your spa enough within the warranty period and exploit any faults, if they exist. Your inflatable spa will have expensive parts such as the pump and other mechanical parts so make sure you read the fine print when you are purchasing your inflatable hot tub and ask the dealer about the warranty period and what does and doesn’t the warrant cover.

There are some models that will offer an extended warranty and it is always worth a shot asking about it.

Once again, make sure to test it before the warranty is over.

Short Filter Life

Here are a few things you need to know about your inflatable hot tub filters. First off, it is different than the filters used in regular hot tubs. Regular hot tub filters could live anywhere from a year to 2 years.

Maintaining an inflatable hot tub filter is quite easy. All you need to do is to keep the filter in good condition and everything else should fall in place. The way to clean the filter is simply rinsing it under the water.

The tricky part is sometimes to get the filter out of the hot tub. Most of the time, your filter will be hiding inside the heater element so it becomes as easy as opening a lid up and pulling the filter out.

Sometimes, some manufacturers place the filters on the bottom of the inflatable hot tub and this is where you might need to put in some extra work to replace the filter.

Make sure you replace your inflatable hot tub filters every 2 weeks, and you should be fine.

Heater

Inflatable hot tubs are simple and you cannot expect them to perform at the same level as $3000 standard hot tubs. For example, the heater and the pump that come with your inflatable spa are not meant to both work simultaneously, producing heat and bubbles. You will have to pick one to start with. This is especially true during winter months.

If you are handy and can implement DIY solutions, then you can solve your winter problem by building your own propane water heater that will run independently from your pump as an extra source of heat. Make sure to check your pump label before heading into the winter since for most of them are only safe to use during temperatures above 40°F (4°C).

Inflatable Hot Tub Accessories

When you buy your first inflatable hot tub, your second impression will be that it is nothing like you used to see in movies. It does not come with fancy lights, a sound system, nice wood cabinets, etc. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t add all of that later on. There are a few aftermarket accessories that you might need to get in order to enjoy it to the fullest and make it look and feel like a luxurious spa.

Seat Cushions

We already mentioned that you can get a plastic seat since there are no seats that come with this type of hot tub. It might be too hard for you to sit on. In that case, you can go after a softer seat cushion that will give a bit more of a height boost for shorter bathers.

Headrests

If you are at least an average-size person, then you will probably notice that you don’t need any headrest.

On the other hand, if you are a taller person, then you will probably miss having some kind of headrest.

Luckily you can always get an aftermarket headrest and choose what works for you. Most of them work in a way that you mix some air and water so it has some weight to hold it in place and still be light enough to be able to adjust it.

Drink holders

Another thing that you might miss, especially when relaxing, is to rest your cup into a cupholder. You don’t get these with inflatable hot tubs, however, you can find some cup holders online that will fit perfectly.

LED lights

LED lights are cheap but the value they add to the hot tub is priceless. They come in a variety of shapes, colors, and sizes and most of them are remotely operated so you don’t have to leave your hot tub just to change any of the aforementioned features.

Solar cover

One cool thing that’s also really helpful at the same way is a solar cover that is more common for pools and standard hot tubs but will work for your inflatable hot tub as well. The purpose of it is to prevent heat and chemical loss. You will want to resize it to the proper size so you leave almost no space from aside. It is also helpful to keep your debris and bugs out of the water.

Inflatable Hot Tub Sanitizing

Health is your priority so keeping the water clean and your spa safe for you and other bathers is really important. Sometimes, it can be really challenging to maintain the right pH levels in a couple of hundred gallons of heated water, but it is doable.

Luckily, you can use the same test strips and chemicals you would use for your regular, standard spa.

One important note here is to look up manufacturer’s recommendations regarding the use of sanitizers. You will see that some instructions will suggest to avoid using chlorine tablets, whereas some other will include a floating chlorinator to be used along with the tablets. Additionally, you might run into some other inflatable spa manufacturers that offer salt-water sanitizing systems.

The most common health issues related to spending time in a poorly maintained hot tub water is the potentially life-threatening Legionella bacteria that causes Legionnaires’ disease.

It might be tempting to simply fill the hot tub and jump in, but if you intend to re-use the water for a few days, it is highly advisable to include chemicals . Some people decide to skip this important step thinking they will just spend a few days camping. You have to realize that it’s not a lot of water and small amounts tend to get dirty pretty quickly.

Inflatable Hot Tub Location and Setup

OK so you have gone through all the steps to prepare the chemicals and any accessory you might need. There is one more thing to consider. It is how and where to place your inflatable hot tub. Let’s start with some suggestions first.

Where to Set It Up

Regardless of whether you intended to position your spa indoors or outdoors, you need to make sure that the bottom is strong enough to support the full hot tub weight. This means that you should probably not use your wooden deck as a place to set up your hot tub as it may crush your wood. The most ideal locations usually include a concrete patio or a flat spot in your backyard.

If you are asking yourself how much does inflatable hot tub weight, then the answer would be typically between 60 and 100 pounds for empty inflatable hot tub. It includes handles for easy carry. Some more heavy models that include more features and different style arrangements might be double the weight of a simple inflatable spa.

However, when fully filled with water, an inflatable hot tub can weight anywhere between 2,000 and 3,500 pounds including the bathers as well. This can easily mean that if you would never park your car in the place where you plan to set up your inflatable hot tub, then don’t set up the spa either.

One other consideration you might want to make is how far away will it be from your house. This will be important in case you want to use it during winter. While on this topic, most inflatable hot tubs proved to work fine for temperatures over 40°F (4°C) but some had a pump and water heater issues when operated below those temperatures.

Finally, if you decided to use your spa during winter, maybe think about sheltering it somewhere to isolate it from the cold weather. People usually place their spas in their garage and add some enclosure around it. Another option is to add some extra insulation around it. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to add some insulation on the ground that goes under the protective mat just to be extra safe.

How to Set It Up

Naturally, your indoor inflatable hot tub setup might be slightly different than your outdoor setup, but basic principles still apply. Let’s go over them.

  1. The first rule is all about the proximity to the outlet. You want to make sure that you are not too far from it, but also not too close that it could get splashed easily. Plan to leave some extra space around the hot tub for splashing and drainage. If you are indoors, it would be ideal to have a ventilator to remove all the humidity without causing any damage.
  2. The next is that you will want to clean your area before you place your hot tub. The reason for this is that you want to remove any sharp objects (even the small ones) as well as debris that could get stuck under the hot tub. Maybe just to be extra safe, have a mat placed on the bottom before you set up your inflatable spa.
  3. Open the box and remove all the stuff from it. Everything that’s there will be used. Find the protective blanket and place it on the ground right after you complete step 2 from the above.
  4. Put together the pump and heater unit.
  5. Spread out the hot tub on top of the protective blanket and use the included hose and pump to inflate your hot tub.
  6. The very next thing is installing the control panel, in case it comes separately from the pump unit.
  7. We are almost finished. The last setup step is to set all the air filters in place and confirm that your drain is closed.
  8. Finally, start filling the hot tub with water.
  9. We talked about this before so go ahead and use some chlorine sanitizer and balance the water chemistry.
  10. Put the cover on your spa, then blast the heater. Your water should be up to the ideal temperature in about 12 to 24 hours.
  11. Happy soaking!

Inflatable Hot Tub Safety

Depending on where you live, you will want to inform yourself about any local laws related to owning and operating an inflatable hot tub. It would be best to find a local enforcement office that can give you more information about it.

In case your area does not have any laws related specifically to owning an inflatable hot tub, there are some general guidelines that you should follow such as notifying your neighbor that you purchased a spa. This could save your life in the future, especially if there are small children around.

Set-Up Hack Tip: 

Maybe you are anxious to jump in and you don’t really have 12 hours to wait. In that case you can always bring in some hot water from your house. Keep in mind that those heaters are much hotter than your hot tub’s heater so be careful not to pour burning-hot water in your spa that could damage it permanently.

You can use this to fill up to 2/3 of your hot tub with cold water and then use the hot water from the house to fill the last third. This will significantly shorter the time needed to get your hot tub ready. (AS)

Inflatable Hot Tub Maintenance and Cleaning

Maintaining your inflatable hot tub is simple, as long as you don’t neglect it for a long time.

Filtration System

The first thing you want to do is to be skimming your water frequently since the filtration system is not as powerful as the one that comes with a standard spa. This becomes even more important in case you are not using a cover.

The filter itself is not as robust as the one with the standard hot tub. And we mentioned this before, but again, please try to take your filter out every other week and rinse it in clear, warm water. They are meant to be replaced every few weeks even with the proper care.

One indicator that the filter cannot be reused again is if it starts changing color and you are having a hard time cleaning it. It is important to replace them and not use them ever again. Don’t be tempted to use household chemicals to try to clean it. Using any other chemicals than the ones we listed can cause foam in your spa which will again affect the filter. All of this will lead to your pump working even harder.

Draining and Refilling

Inflatable hot tubs are meant to be fully cleaned and drained every 2 or 3 months. It will obviously depend on the number of users and how often you have been using it. I am sure you will be able to determine it yourself if it is 2 or 3 months.

Generally, if you are not sure about the time you should change your water, just look at the chemistry and cloudiness that cannot be resolved regardless of how much chlorine you add. All of this is a clear sign that it would be best to drain your spa and re-fill again.

Where should I drain my hot tub water ?

The only place that’s safe to dump your hot tub water is a sanitary sewer. You will want to attach your hose to your spa’s drain valve and just let the water run out. It might take some time so be patient.

Do not drain your water into a creek or a lake. The chemicals inside the water can kill plants and fish and it can also get into the drinking water supply.

Once you are done with draining your water, clean the inside of the hot tub with a mild soap, warm water, and a soft sponge.

If you want to avoid foaming afterward, make sure to properly rinse all the water that’s leftover. In case you have one of the models that have their filter on the bottom, this will be a good time to take it out and clean it.

In the end, wipe the inside of the tub with a dry towel and inspect for any potential damages. In case there are any, get a repair kit and fix it.

Storage

Once you are done with using your inflatable hot tub and want to store it away safely, make sure to follow some suggestions.

First of all, it needs to be completely dry. It would be best to wait for a sunny day and leave it outside for a few hours sprung on a string to give it enough time to air-dry.

Once that’s done, get an original box if you still have it (it’s OK if your don’t). In case you don’t, just find another sealed container to store the spa.

Where should I store my inflatable hot tub ?

The best place to store your inflatable hot tub is in a dry place that’s not in direct sunlight. Some spas come with a bag or a case that you can use for short-term storage. If you know that you won’t be using your spa for a few months, go with a sealed container.

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Editorial Staff

I'm Adnan Sabanovic, the guy behind Hot Tubs Report. I've had a chance to enjoy hot tubs last few years and have really become interested in owning one of them. Nearly every weekend you'll find me spending time with my family or playing sports. If I am not doing that then I'm here writing about tubs on Hot Tubs Report. This blog is a research for my first hot tub which I decided to document and share publically so others can benefit from it as well.

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