Go to a cheapo store and buy a cheapo spa, and that is what you get. I own
two Catalina Spas. After educating myself regarding spas, I wouldn't own
anything else. We have a local guy who buys and sells used spas. He is
great on service after the sale, too. Better spas have better parts. More
jets. Longer lasting equipment. One of those cheapo spas from a cheapo
outfit is a bag of snakes. You might consider a good used spa for less than
a bad new one. I paid $3,000 for each of mine, and they both were two years
old. They retailed new for $6,000 each.
Or, you could buy an off brand and gamble your money.
I disagree with the others about the "big box" spas. We have one that the
previous owner bought from Menards (sort of like Home Depot). It's made by
Jacuzzi, not exactly a "no name". The control pack is made by Balboa, who
makes control packs for the biggest names in the business. The spa is
nicely insulated and doesn't cost much to run.
Does it have as many jets as a $6000+ spa? Heck no. But is it relaxing to
sit in? Definitely. And the previous owner paid less than $2500 for it.
As to "who will service" -- any spa dealer worth their salt will service. I
replaced a faulty pressure switch from a local dealer that ONLY deals in
parts and repair, I don't think they sell spas at all. The parts are all
standard across many spas, especially with Balboa control systems.
Just my experience.
The key to the spa differences are warranties, both on shell and
mechanicals, plus the construction. The longer the warrantry, the
better the quality, and in many areas, wood constrcution is less
preferable than all plastic/ABS. That includes both cabinet materials
and frame. Beyond that, two pumps (actually three for most two-pump
spas since the filtration pump is separate) will seem more powerful,
and the rest is jets and adjustability. The best way to check is a
wet test, and the discount stores often don't have them available.
Check your code, but most will require a GFCI protected circuit with a
cutoff switch in sight of the spa and at least five feet from the
water. Your electrician will often install a "spa panel" which is a
50 amp GFCI breaker in a box, mounted on a wall that meets the above
conditions. Then it's three wires (Red, Black and Green, no neutral
past the GFCI) to the spa controller on the spa itself. Note that
there are 110 V "plug in" spas available that just use a GFCI outlet.
Locally, code allows you to install your own wiring (with a permit)
but the spa dealers won't make the actual electrical hookup since code
requires a homeowner or licensed electrician to do this.
Do some Googling, there are plenty of spa and pool sites with advice
forums. Also, the manufacturer sites provide decent comparison info.
Gotta go, I'm actually off to order a Jacuzzi(tm) spa this morning,
the one I chose after all the research. It'll be about $1,500 more
than the discount store model of the same size, but has a much longer
warranty, second pump, and no wood to rot/attract insects. Plus I get
a reputable dealer with local service. Been through too many discount
store horror stories in the past...
We've owned our LifeSprings spa for four months. We bought it on the
recommendation of friends who have owned and been happy with theirs
for two years. We dealt with the dealer in Jurupa, CA.
We've been very pleased. We're running it on 220-volt and the
electricity is running less than $20 a month -- a little hard to tell
since we're running the air conditioning so much right now. With about
25 jets and the waterfall we added, we get a nice, stimulating
environment, but it doesn't blow us out of the spa -- pleasant enough
to sit in for a half hour or an hour without going numb from being
pounded by bubbles.
Our's is the 9-foot spa (the basic is 8-feet). The only thing we
regret is that the walls aren't taller because, at 5 feet 8 inches, I
need to slide down at a slight angle to use the seat with the neck
jets. I'd prefer sitting up. My husband is 6 feet 1 inches and slides
down a lot but still enjoys it.
We're convinced that this is comparable or higher quality than most
spas under $6000. We've talked to more than 20 dealers, both before
and after purchasing, and we feel we made a good choice. If you have
the money, you can jump into the best spas -- Hot Springs and Jacuzzi.
Recommendation: I've been impressed with a Riverside dealer I got to
know after we made our purchase because I believe they will follow
through with excellent service: Cal Spas on Indiana Ave. near Tyler. I
buy my Baqua Spa chemicals from them and they are consistently
professional. They also have a great showroom.
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