There are a lot of details to suss out when deciding on a hot tub, from size and types of jet to sanitation systems and insulation. Before all of that, however, there’s a fundamental feature to consider, and that’s the voltage of the electrical connection that you’ll be using to heat that cozy, bubbly water. While there are several different levels available in modern designs — from the top-tier 240 to the old-school 0 — there isn’t much difference in performance between most of them outside of the two standards: 110 and 220.
It’s a choice you’re going to have to make early in the planning process; while the voltage doesn’t have too dramatic an effect on basic performance, it’s a feature that largely determines what other features a spa will have and how effectively you’ll be able to use them. So, to help you on your way to that first luxurious backyard soak, we’re breaking down the differences between the two when it comes to hot tub power. Hopefully, the answers to the following questions make your decision a bit more clear, so let’s get started:
First, how difficult is it to install a hot tub? Is there any difference between these types?
The difficulty of installation is the most practical difference between the two voltage sets and may be the most noteworthy factor for new tub owners to consider, particularly if they’re first-timers. Besides any performance differences between the two designs, your choice of power is going to dictate how much work the installation process is going to demand.
110-volt spas are basically plug-and-play models: as you would with a new television or fan, you just need to have access to a basic three-pronged outlet. Pop the power cord in, and you are good to go — no other hoops to jump through. That’s good news for those of us who aren’t homeowners: you too can enjoy the bubbles, even if you’re on a lease. Just expect a fairly bare-bones experience.
If you’re a homeowner, however, a 220-volt spa is going to be your ideal. They take more time and come with decidedly more steps to get up and running, but that’s to be expected for a more permanent addition to an already permanent residence. The National Electrical Code requires that these models be hard-wired to a dedicated circuit and paired with a manual disconnect device: it’s something that’s either going to require a day’s worth of research and manual electrical work from you, or the hiring of a professional electrician.
I’m going to be using my hot tub all year. Do I need the higher voltage to do so?
If you intend to get your money’s worth out of your spa, you’re going to want a model that’s efficient in both heating up and maintaining its temperature regardless of weather. 110-volt and 220-volt models ultimately operate at the same rate of energy efficiency, but the difference is comparable to that between a creek and a river.
At 110 volts, a tub will take twice as long to heat and will struggle to maintain that temperature: the longer you’re using your spa and the colder the weather, the faster it’s going to lose heat. The moment you remove the cover from your spa, it begins to leak, and the more energy you’ll need to keep it hot, especially if you want other tub features operating simultaneously. And you probably do; if you merely wanted to sit in a bowl of hot water, you’d take a bath.
In short, a 220-volt tub will be able to heat the water more quickly, maintain its optimal temperature for longer, and keep it up at lower temperatures. So let’s break it down:
- Do you plan on using your hot tub throughout the year?
- Do you plan on using your hot tub regularly (daily or near-daily)?
- Do you plan on using your hot tub for several hours at a time?
- Do you plan on using your hot tub in colder weather?
If you can answer “yes” to at least two of these questions, the higher voltage is going to be the way to go.
Which type of voltage will give me better jet performance?
The answer is that voltage doesn’t matter here; performance is entirely dependant on the design of the model you’ve chosen. As with the overall build quality, however, you can expect 220-volt tubs to typically come with more jets with more adjustability and higher-quality streaming.
What a higher voltage will improve is your spa’s ability to multitask. At 110 volts, a hot tub won’t be able to heat the water and run the jets (at least not on high) simultaneously; you’ll have to choose one or the other. Bump it up to 220, however, and you’ll be able to run everything at once. This juggling is especially crucial if you’ve picked up a model that comes with additional features, like adjustable jets, speakers, MP3 playback, Bluetooth connectivity, lighting, and waterfalls.
So, which type of hot tub is cheaper?
The big question, so we saved it for last. The price of a hot tub will vary as based on all sorts of details and add-ons, but, in general, 220-volt models are going to be more expensive in its initial costs, both because of the tub itself and the installation requirements.
220-volt tubs are generally larger (which means more room for you and your friends to get a good soak on), come with more jets with different functionalities, and give you various other accouterments. Add on the costs that the necessary wiring and electrical setup will take, and you’re going to run up a higher bill; but that’s to be expected, given the additional luxuries.
After startup, however, your electric costs will remain more or less the same; or, at least, the voltage won’t affect it. A 220-volt spa will heat up more quickly, yes, but still, use the same amount of watts to get the water hot as the 110-volt design.
Keep your answers to these questions in mind once you start shopping, and you’ll have a solid foundation on which to base your next big purchase. In the end, if you’re going to put the money into buying a hot tub, you may as well put in the extra time and dollars to get the full experience: at 220 volts, you’ll be getting the best in backyard luxury at a price that doesn’t have to break the bank.
There are still a lot of decisions to make, but you’re off to a good start. Enjoy your soak!