Is it worth it to put one in your home?
Thursday, March 25, 1999
The long stressful day of work is finally behind you, you''ve finished dinner and tucked the kids into bed. The only thing on your mind now is slipping into your soothing, bubbling hot tub, conveniently positioned on your deck under the stars and Monterey Pines.
Nearly everyone dreams of owning a personal hot tub--and if they don''t, they should. The jets and warm water in such a luxury have been shown to reduce everyday stress, and to repair injured or overworked muscles with gentle massage.
Of course, spas are not exactly cheap: They require monthly and even weekly maintenance, and can present problems if the plumbing leaks in your house. Spas for 4-8 people can cost anywhere from $2,500-8,000, according to Brian Day, manager of Blackthorne Spas in Carmel.
But many realtors, contractors, and spa retailers agree that installing one of these bubbling beauties in your yard, house or on a deck can be well worth the work involved.
"I''d say it''s definitely worth it for improving your lifestyle," says Day. "I use mine twice a day, and I sleep so much better now. I also have a knee injury and it''s really helped that."
In addition to the relaxation benefits that attract so many consumers--"almost 3.3 million in the U.S.," writes Merle Henkenius in Popular Mechanics--a hot tub can add value to your home, by enhancing the year-round outdoor use. Some buyers look for either a hot tub or swimming pool, says Michael Smithe of 20th-Century Real Estate, especially in California.
"If your project is done right to begin with, with a quality spa or pool, installed in an accessible location by the house," Smithe says, "it''s certainly a selling point. I''ve had people with a choice of five or so houses, almost exactly the same in size and price, and they''ll pick the one with a hot tub in the yard, even knowing there will be extra maintenance."
Spas have come a long way since first becoming popular in the late ''70s. Many people may have an image of a hotel hot tub, round with flat benches and a few jets around the wall, spraying almost painfully straight into the small of your back.
Today''s spas have advanced virtually into floating massage chairs, with adjustable jets at your neck, back, legs and feet; ergonomically contoured seats and benches; and even aromatherapy systems that mist around you as you soak.
"Some people charge you up to $75 an hour for a massage," points out Eric Meza, at Monterey Spa and Stove, "but here you can get one for about 75 cents an hour, in your own home."
One of the first considerations in buying a spa is where to put it. Portable spas (with tub, pump, filter, plumbing, and motor in one neat unit) can be put almost anywhere. Consider the accessibility from the tub to your house (you''ll use it more if you don''t have to run 50 feet through cold or rain to actually get in) and privacy from your neighbors (in case you''re into moonlit skinny-dipping). Installing the hot tub inside the house will increase humidity and the chemicals used to maintain the spa may make the house smell like chlorine.
Spa retailers often include site inspection, installation and the actual hot tub in their prices. Only rarely will they advise getting an outside contractor to build or improve the future hot tub site, according to the Pool and Spa News Website, mainly because they understand the specifics of plumbing, wiring and foundation for a spa.
Besides the purchase price of the hot tub, and possibly the costs of designing or re-building your site, remember to include the cost of maintenance and extra energy in the spa, the "value versus cost" equation. According to Day, chemicals cost about $10-15 per month, and he finds that added electricity costs aren''t enormous. "I was surprised when I got mine. I thought there''d be a huge increase but it was really about $15 a month. You probably average an extra $12-25 per month, depending on location, size and how much you use it."
Chemicals are changed approximately three to four times per month, the filter needs to be cleaned about twice a month, and two to three times a year all the water needs to be drained and re-filled. The frequency of this type of maintenance depends on the make-up of your tap water, varying the chemical concentration with its hardness or softness.
For those who are uncomfortable with the idea of sitting in a hot pool of chlorine or bromine, among other chemicals, new systems have been developed to use fewer chemicals. Meza explains the ozone oxidant filtration system that comes on some of his Hot Springs spas as "continuously bubbling so contaminants don''t build up." A second new water purifying process involves a small amount of silver ions that are slowly released into your spa, greatly reducing the frequent use of chlorine.
"Hot tubs are really not as expensive as you might think," says Day. Today''s spas are better insulated, resulting in better energy efficiency, have more comfortable seats, and better massage jets. "So many people come back in here, saying it''s changed their lives," adds Day. H&G