Is a homemade tub for me?

While there are certainly exceptions, most homemade hot tubs are built not as a way to save money compared to an acrylic spa, but more as a way to create a bathing experience you just can’t have with a plastic or even a wooden hot tub.

Someone may desire a special shape or contour, or a tile interior, and although a plywood vessel is not unheard of (usually fitted with a vinyl liner), probably the most common material used nowadays to fashion a home built hot tub is indeed some form of masonry – concrete, block or gunite – usually either with a natural, plaster or tile interior.

Outfitting such a vessel has been a specialty of ours for quite a number of years, and they represent our most beautiful and exotic installations. However, unless you can do the masonry work yourself, you can expect to pay much more for such an spa than you would for a plastic hot tub.

The exception would be the surprising number of people over the years that we’ve helped to convert an existing vessel into a hot tub, most often a plastic tank designed to water stock farm animals.

However, when you’re comparing the cost of an acrylic spa to such a system, it’s worth noting that only about a third of that cost is represented by the value of the vessel. Therefore, all other factors being equal, you’re still going to spend about two thirds the cost of a commercially built spa for the equipment that you need to support this vessel.

We feel obliged to part with a warning. As you shop around for a way to get you and your family into hot water, beware of the acrylic spas that presently flood our market that are made in China. These are the spas that you see being sold by the mass merchandisers, and by many of the other companies selling spas – both on the internet and brick and mortar.

Do not assume that even a well known brand name is still made here in the U.S., as many have moved their manufacturing off shore.

The Chinese made spas are the epitome of substandard merchandise. They are guaranteed to fail within the first year or two, and usually it’s difficult, if not impossible, to get replacement part and equipment.

Unfortunately we make a good business helping hapless customers that have purchased these cheap spas and are faced with the task of gutting and replacing the entire equipment compartment.

You’ll find plumbing schematics and other support and suggestions for homemade hot tub builders available here for free download, and we’re always happy to address your specific questions directly via a call (304-645-2310), e-mail (sales@almostheaven.net) or live chat accessible by clicking on the live chat button in the upper right of any page on our main website at http://www.almostheaven.net.

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Heater differences and hot tub covers

We recently received an excellent comment on our blog post Gas Hot Tub Heaters VS Electric Hot Tub Heaters. Sandra says…

“In Hawaii our propane is $6.00 a gallon while our electricity is .45 cents a kilowatt. Either way you cut it, it is very expensive to run a hot tub but I’m not sure that running the heat for hours every day as opposed to turning on the gas only when you want to heat it up makes much sense. If the tub is used irregularly it makes more sense to use gas; which heats up in 30 minutes as opposed to electric which takes 3 hours to heat up the same amount of water. So what I’m learning is that electric heaters are meant to run for hours a day with the circulating pump and have a cover that keeps in the heat where as the gas heaters are meant to use on demand. So it will depend on the usage as to which one makes more sense. The question now is where to have a hard cover made since we put in electric before realizing all of the above.”

It’s true that a gas heater will heat the water faster than an electric heater, and you’re “spot on” that the faster heat rise is tailor made for a tub that’s used infrequently (e.g., no more often than just on the weekends), but even if you use the tub just a couple times per week, and regardless of the energy source, it will probably cost the same to keep it heated for use at all times as it will to allow it to cool between uses, assuming that it is covered when not in use.

You have to run the pump a certain number of hours per day for proper filtration, again regardless of use, and in most situations a good-sized electric heater will regain the heat lost over the previous day in a small fraction of the time needed for filtration.

We have formulae into which we plugged your energy costs. Those costs are extraordinary – no doubt part of that “paradise tax” we’ve heard you Hawaiians pay – and although electric is generally less expensive than propane in most locales, it’s about double the cost in your case, and that would have been the best reason to install a gas heater versus an electric.

Since you already have an electric heater installed, you can take as a consolation the difference in cost between the two heaters, because the cost of a gas hot tub heater is over twice the cost of an electric hot tub heater. Even though in your case the cost of running a gas heater would have been less than that of an electric heater, if your tub will only be use infrequently, it would have taken that much longer to recover the difference in the costs of the two types of heaters.

Although it doesn’t apply in your case, as a side note to others reading this response, and as noted elsewhere in our blog, a gas heater should never be operated outdoors in freezing weather.

Regardless of how much your tub is used or the type of heat source you’re using, you definitely want to cover your hot tub. A cover definitely does help keep heat in, but it also helps keep dirt and debris out. Even though you’re filtering and running your tub regularly (as you should regardless of use), leaving it uncovered would be an open invitation not only to falling debris (such as leaves), but also to animals, bugs and even possibly other people. A hot tub that is uncovered and unattended could quickly turn into a possible liability.

Of course you can get your hot tub cover from us! We offer a custom cover at the same price you’d pay elsewhere for a mass produced cover, and you should be very careful to steer clear of any covers made in China, as the materials and workmanship are clearly substandard. If you’re going to go through the trouble and cost of getting a new cover, wouldn’t you want it to fit your hot tub exactly and last many years? On http://www.almostheaven.net/aho/covers.htm you can see the options and pricing for our covers. You can give us your hot tub’s exact dimension, and we’ll make you a cover that is exactly the right size and shape.

Hope to hear from you soon!

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Should ozonators be used on indoor hot tubs?

When it comes to hot tub (and pool) water maintenance there are many choices, some better than others. Here at Almost Heaven we believe that using a metallic ionizer is far superior to ozone and halogen sanitizers (chlorine and bromine), especially when a hot tub or pool is installed indoors where the fumes from ozone and halogens can quickly create an unsafe environment.

We haven’t heard many people disputing the dangers of chlorine and bromine, especially in a gaseous form, but the same can not be said of ozone. Many people believe ozone is perfectly safe, despite a plethora of information to the contrary.

It’s a well known fact that high levels of ozone in the air are dangerous. The EPA’s National Ambient Air Quality Standard for ozone is a maximum 8 hour average outdoor concentration of 0.08 ppm. You can see this on their own website at…

http://www.epa.gov/air/caa/title1.html#ib

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires that workers not be exposed to an average concentration of more than 0.10 ppm for 8 hours. You can see this in a CDC document published here…

http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/81-123/pdfs/0476.pdf

At the following link, which is about using Ozone as an air cleaner, the EPA states “…ozone is an irritant gas that reacts with lung tissue and can cause asthma attacks; coughing; chest discomfort; irritation of the nose, throat, and trachea; and other adverse health effects. As ozone reacts with chemical pollutants, it can produce harmful by-products.”

http://www.epa.gov/iaq/pubs/residair.html#Ozone_Generators

Now with all that said, what do you think happens when a hot tub is placed indoors, in an enclosed area? The fumes from the ozone used would gather in the enclosed space. How would you measure the exact ppm of ozone to ensure it wasn’t exceeding the standards set by OSHA and the EPA? Is it any wonder that there have been rumors of banning ozone used on indoor tubs and pools?

Do your own research and we’re sure you’ll come to the same conclusion. Using ozone on an indoor hot tub or pool can be very dangerous for the respiratory health of yourself and those you love.

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Sizing a wooden hot tub

When purchasing a wooden hot tub, size should be one of your first considerations. Too often people allow the space they have available or their current budget to dictate the size of their hot tub vessel. This can often result in the purchase of a hot tub that is much larger than needed. Keep in mind that a hot tub requires constant, daily heat, and it costs the same energy to heat it whether it’s one, two or ten bathers that regularly use it.

When it comes to wooden hot tubs, 8′ diameter tubs account for less than five percent of our sales, even though many people contact us thinking this might be the size they want. The most common size for a wooden tub is either a 5×4 or 6×4 and well over ninety percent of all wooden hot tubs sold are either 5′ or 6′ in diameter, 4’ high.

One of the reasons that people prefer wooden tubs over their acrylic counterparts is because of the much greater depth, and 4′ high tubs are on average already a foot deeper than the plastic spas. It’s the depth we sell most often.
Not accounting for diameter, 5′ high wooden hot tubs amount to less than five percent of our sales, again with good reason. While it’s true that the actual inside depth is only about 4.5′ in a 5′ tub, you spend most of your time in the tub being seated, and for people of short stature and especially children, this depth can be too much.

The exception would be if you plan to do some sort of aqua-exercise in the tub, in which case we could understand the choice of a 5′ high tub. Aside from a full-blown swimming pool, there’s no better vessel for exercise than a nice deep wooden hot tub.

Just keep in mind that with an inside depth of 54″, if it’s filled all the way to the top, such a tub might have water that’s over the head of most youngsters. If children are involved, that’s one good reason to think about buying a tub no deeper than a 4’ model.

If you’re unsure about what size tub you want, you can always call, e-mail, or chat with us. It would be our privilege to help you decide what size tub would best suit your needs.

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Some VGB fittings recalled

Several years ago a law went into effect called the Virginia Graeme Baker (VGB) Pool & Spa Safety Act. This act created more demanding safety requirements for suction fittings for hot tubs, spas and pools. The VGB Act resulted because a young girl, Virginia Graeme Baker, drowned in her family’s hot tub after becoming trapped underwater in a broken drain. To read more about this act and Virginia you can visit http://www.poolsafely.gov/pool-spa-safety-act/virginia-graeme-baker/.

Previous regulations from the 1980s assured that all suction fittings were safety fittings, but only so long as they remained complete and undamaged. The VGB Act was intended to mandate safe suctions even in the case of such failures, and VGB compliance became mandatory for all drains and suctions sold after 2008. Recently some drain and suction fittings that were sold as VGB compliant have been recalled because they were rated incorrectly.

Here at Almost Heaven we wanted to make sure to set your mind at ease. We have checked with our suppliers and none of the drains and suctions we have sold are part of the recall.

You can be confident that any equipment you have bought, or will buy, from Almost Heaven always meets the highest of safety standards, but for fittings especially sold prior to the VGB Act, it’s incumbent upon you to make sure that all suction fittings and drains have covers that are undamaged and securely in place.

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Playboy Mansion hot tub maintenance unacceptable

A story recently surfaced about a Legionnaires’ disease outbreak at the Playboy Mansion that ended up linked to bacteria found in one of their hot tubs.

There’s no excuse for improper water maintenance, and this incident would not have happened had this vessel received adequate attention in that department. To be sure, devices like a metal ionizer automate the process of water maintenance to a certain extent, but even a proper chlorine level would have prevented this outbreak, regardless of the health hazard presented by chlorine (and bromine) in its own. Whoever was maintaining this tub should be replaced.

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Natural water purification alternative

Our involvement with the metal ionizer came about mostly because of our association with wooden hot tubs. In a natural wooden tub, chemical sanitizers can quickly do serious, irreparable damage to the wood if not used very, very judiciously. Even in acrylic spas and swimming pools, there’s still the effect such harsh sanitizers have on your health, equipment and the environment.

If you want to eliminate the need for halogen (chlorine or bromine) sanitizers, an ionizer device is the only accepted way to do so. Ozonaters actually present a hazard to your health in their own right, corroding nearby metal parts and eating away at your equipment’s ‘O’ rings, and despite this, they only reduce the need for halogens. You still need to maintain a halogen level with an ozonater, but zero halogens are required with an ionizer.

Our ionizer produces copper, silver and zinc ions, which are effective at killing algae, bacteria, fungi and viruses. The copper/silver sanitization process is so safe and effective that, at higher concentrations than what’s necessary for a pool or hot tub, this same method is used to purify potable (drinking) water. Using an ionizer means you’ll never again have to share your dip with harsh chemical sanitizers. This makes your hot tub or pool a healthier place to relax for you, your family and your guests.

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Gas Hot Tub Heaters versus Electric Hot Tub Heaters

Back in the early days of hot tubbing, gas-powered hot tub heaters were always less expensive to operate than their electric counterparts. However, with gas prices steadily increasing year after year while the cost of electricity has remained relatively regulated, this simply is not always true anymore.

To make an educated decision about which strategy is best in your situation, you should do a cost analysis of each heating source – something we’ve helped many of our customers do. Surprisingly many of those analyses have revealed electricity to be the less costly of the two forms of energy. You know that this is obviously an unbiased recommendation since we sell both gas and electric heaters – especially since the gas heaters are nearly twice the price of the electric heaters!

Another consideration to take into account when looking at a natural gas or propane hot tub heater is your climate. Many gas heaters are only rated for outdoor use down to 40 degrees Fahrenheit, and none of the ones we’ve seen are rated for use below freezing. Many dealers won’t bother to tell their customers this, and instead sell them replacement parts when their gas heater rusts out prematurely. The only way to run a gas heater during the winter in a freezing climate is to install it indoors, which requires the purchase and installation of both a flue and an indoor heater hood.

In many cases gas hot tub heaters are more costly to buy, to install, and most important, to operate. Make sure to do a thorough examination of your situation before making a choice as to which is best for you.

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Welcome to Almost Heaven Group’s blog!

Posted April 1st, 2010 by admin and filed in Hot Tubs and Spas, Saunas, Steam Rooms

On this blog you’ll find helpful information about saunas, steam rooms, hot tubs, and all related accessories and components.  If you have an idea for a blog post you’d like to see here, please feel free to shoot us an e-mail at blog@almostheaven.net

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