Plug and play hot tubs have become extremely popular over the last couple of years as they have eliminated a common barrier to entry for hot tub ownership….the 220v electrical hookup. By making hot tubs with standard 110v plugs, manufacturers have been able to not only lower the cost of installing a portable spa but have made it much more convenient.
If you are shopping for a new hot tub keep reading below to learn about the pros and cons of plug and play 110v spas.
Benefits of Plug and Play Spas
1. No Electrical Installation Costs
Something to think about when shopping for a new hot tub is the costs of installation, primarily the electrical hook up. A 220v 50amp service that is required on some bigger hot tubs can range from $500-$2,000 depending on different variables. This is especially true in a lot of older homes that do not have a 200amp service and need to run an entirely new electrical service to make room for the hot tub. We see this every year with some of the older Massachusetts and New Hampshire homes.
With a plug and play spa you eliminate all of this as the tub comes with a simple 3 prong 110v cord that can plug into any outlet.
2. Spa Portability
Because a plug and play hot tub is not hard wired into a permanent outside GFCI box it makes it easier to take with you if you ever move. If you’re a renter you can have a hot tub and take it with you when you buy a house or rent another one! Generally, plug and play spas are smaller and lighter – making them much more portable and easy to move. Knowing that you don’t have to install another 220v electrical service at your next home makes the move easier as well.
3. Lower Initial Cost
A 110v hot tub is usually a smaller 1 pump spa without a ton of frills or extras , so the initial purchase price of the hot tub can be a lot less than a 220v. Although there are some manufacturers that have 110v plug and play options in their higher end lines, like the brands we carry, Caldera Spas has 2 110v spas in their model lineup.
How much a hot tub costs is a topic for a whole other blog post (like the one we wrote here) but most plug and play spas are on the lower end of the cost spectrum anywhere from $2,000 to $7,000.
Downsides of Plug and Play Spas
1. Heating Time
While the hot tub industry uses the term “plug and play” for these 110v spa models its not exactly that quick. By dialing back the amp draw and voltage we do make sacrifices when it comes to the hot tub components. No where is this felt more than the initial start up of the spa and the length of time it takes to get up to temperature. However, if the weather is warm and the water is not freezing, then the hot tub will heat up much faster during the initial fill up.
A standard 220v spa can heat up to 104 degrees in about 8-10 hours depending on the size of the tub. A 110v spa can take 2-3x longer than that to reach temperature as it just does not have the same supply of power to the unit.
2. Pump Power
The other performance factor we have to keep in mind when dealing with a 110v spa is the pump power. With a 220v spa you generally get 160gpm (gallons per minute) dual speed motor and with a 110v you might get a 120gpm pump. Another common way to rate it is a 3.5-4hp motor vs. a 1.5hp motor.
In order to provide better performance using the smaller pumps, spa manufacturers cut down on the number of jets in the tub so you can get more flow out of each jet. You can still enjoy the benefits of hot water hydrotherapy with a 110v plug and play portable hot tub, but there is a little less power than their 220v counterparts.
3. Heat Retention
Just like the smaller 1.5kw heater takes a long time to initially heat up it also takes more effort to keep the heat up when you are using the hot tub in cold weather. The main reason for this is that on 110v hot tubs the heater can not run at the same time as the high speed jets – 110v spas can only heat the water while the jets are on low.
If you aren’t big on jets or you’ll have kids in the hot tub a lot then this might be a great option for you or your family.
Basically what happens in a plug and play hot tub when you turn the jets onto high speed the heater shuts off. If you turn the jets back down to low speed it will allow the heat to run as well. This is something to think about depending on how you will be using the hot tub, with who and when!
4. Size of the Spa
With the variety of 110v models nowadays you have a very wide range of selections in size from small to large hot tubs. We carry Freeflow Spas that carry a model for 2 people, called the “Mini” (get it?) and much larger models that fit 6-7 people. There are definitely 110v options that exist if you’re looking for an affordable family or entertainment spa.
Is Plug and Play Right for You?
Hopefully we have helped answer some questions as to whether a 110v spa is right for you. There are many great benefits to buying a hot tub set up this way and for many people it is a great option, with low maintenance.
The nice thing about plug and play spas that most people don’t know…they are convertible to 220v. So if you don’t like how long it takes to heat up, or want the heat to be able to run with the high speed jets, you can always convert your plug and play to a hard wired 220v. This converts the heater from a 1.5kw to a 4kw heater.
We sell both 220v and 110v spas here at Precision Pool. In fact we carry one of the best selling plug and play rotomold lines Freeflow Spas. Come check out our great selection of hot tubs at Precision Pool on Rt. 110 in Amesbury, Ma.
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Do they stay hot while in use…i.e. Sit for an hour and temp is fairly constant with no jets on…… in inland Pacific Northwest winter?
Can I get a tub from you with NO jets? None.
The plug and play spas can lose a couple degrees of temp as the heater will not run when the jets are on high speed.
There are not any spas on the market with 0 jets unfortunately.
Where can you purchase replacement parts for plug and play spas?
What make is the spa? Where did you buy it? Every brand uses different parts (sometimes) so you need to know the brand and what equipment they are using.
Do they cost more on a monthly basis than the 220 models?
It is kind of a wash as the pumps have to run longer in order for the 110v spa to heat up. With the 220v it does not have to run as long but the heater is 4kw vs. 1.5kw.
The service department for our plug & play type spa says that its models are easily upgradable to 240 volt, although that just means more power to the heater not the pumps and possibly being able to both run the heater and run pump 1 on high. Our dealer (who is not Precision Pool) failed to advise us that 115 volt tubs are marginal as outside spas for cold New England winters (according to two of the three repairmen we spoke to). We actually have 2 pumps in our particular model. Our repairman added up the peak amperage on the pumps and came up with more than 20 amps even though the manual for our spa says that it can run on a 15 amp circuit, so we may want to do a 240 volt conversion to prevent occasionally tripping the breaker as well as getting more heat. It looks like a 240 volt conversion just requires changing a jumper in the brain box: the main cost will be in running a line to the electric box.
That is correct it only adjusts the heater output. The biggest problem with 115v spas is the 1.5kw heater’s ability to keep temp when you are using it. 1. if the jets are high speed the heater shuts off. 2. if you do leave it on low speed to run the heat, the heatup time for a 1.5kw heater vs. a 4kw heater is pretty significant.
How long is the plug from spa to outlet.
Sorry for delay…. 15′
Wow, this article is everything I was looking for! Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge and helping me make a decision after weighing the pros and cons.