We have seen a huge rise in consumers purchasing Spas off the internet or through Facebook. And we are already starting to get involved in trying to repair these spas when parts don’t seem to exist!
Much has been said about hot tubs from China v USA and elsewhere. Firstly you can get genuine hot tubs from USA from as little as £4000, and UK from £3000 you do not need to spend £10k+ and certainly they don’t all have voice over’s telling you to attend to your spa!
Unfortunately the cheap spas on offer on eBay do give the perception that a big hot tub should cost around £2,000 or that you can win an auction for that amount.In all things you pay for what you get. If you believe you can get a quality construction, electronics, electrics, jetting, TV., radio, DVD, CD, bells and whistles cheaply and are prepared to mix your children with the water and electrics in these units then buyer beware.
Chinese hot tubs often promote themselves as ‘made in USA’, this may be because the acrylic sheets for the shells is manufactured in the USA, it is then stretched often very thinly to bath quality then reinforced with fibreglass. These shells are peppered with masses of holes and jets when less should mean more as all the holes weaken the shell and there are reports of owners stepping into spas and the shell cracking apart. All the jets require plumbing which forms a spaghetti of pipe work in the cabinet which is then often spray foamed making any leak detection impossible. The cabinets themselves often use low quality wood/ supports which can rot with either no bases or thin plastic trays. Shiny jets can be chrome on metal or plastic which can cause dangerous injury if flaking. To serve the mass of plumbing the hot tubs have several pumps and if you add up the electric consumption of all the pumps and the heater, let alone any lights and media you may find your domestic power supply stretched to the limit if you run your washing machine too, let alone the cost of electric. Controls can be authentic balboa but sometimes clever imitations. High amps also require the spa be hard wired into the mains power supply not simply plugged into a socket and therefore needs an electrician.
A simple search on the internet can reveal just how many companies there are in the Peoples Republic turning out masses of spas, swim spas, saunas, steam rooms and bathrooms. The main players have 100’s of models which are imported then branded up with exotic names.
Chinese spas obviously work for a while however the industry are aware of rapid fails in the so called ‘waterproof’ media like pop up speakers and TVs. A good quality waterproof system of marine quality would cost as much as the spa. T.V’s require ventilation and can’t be completely sealed from moisture, screens can steam up plus have you tried watching TV in the garden on a sunny day? Unfortunately consumers again expect all the typical media add-ons on a USA made spa for the same price point!
Hot tubs can be described as American or Canadian if their head offices are based there or their acrylic or controls are manufactured there. Giving a spa an American sounding name can aid the myth as can producing a small part of the range in North America/Canada with the rest made in China.
Jacuzzi is a brand name, a hot tub is not a Jacuzzi unless manufactured by Jacuzzi. Chinese spa sellers often spam with the Jacuzzi brand.
The warranty for a Chinese hot tub will rarely be with the manufacturer whose duty of care usually ends at the docks. The warranty, usually only for a short period, will be with the importer/seller. A typical importer of Chinese spas often selling on eBay may have a shiny website yet a company registered at a virtual office with no actual showroom or method of viewing the build quality. Delivery will usually be to the kerbside and spas are heavy items requiring specialist equipment or several strong men to get into place, if not a crane. If the spa is damaged by uninsured or unqualified handlers you have little chance of comeback on the seller. Any instance of potential ‘misuse’ will also invalidate what little warranty there may be.
If the acrylic sheet is USA then there may be a valid warranty on that from the manufacturer, the rest of the build will be dealer warranty. If and when a dealer ceases trading or disappears you have little redress once things do go wrong.
Chinese hot tubs and similar equipment state they are CE approved, however due to the complexity of certification and levels of self-certification and testing it is very hard to authenticate the gold bordered certificate often produced. Only gaining sight of the actual testing reports validates the certificate. Several sites found via Google allow checking of CE certificate numbers however it is even hard to verify the certification of famous household names let alone a small unit in Shanghai.
Chinese spas often bear no distinguishing names or are dealer branded so when it comes to obtaining spares or replacement filters you might have trouble. Chinese spas also deteriorate quickly so if you do need to move and resell you may have problems and the spa casing may break in transit.
If your spa fails and is not covered by warranty you also face having to remove and dispose of the large object.
Therefore before bidding on a hot tub that looks too good a deal, consider these factors. Ask where the unit is manufactured, check the company registration of the seller and location, Google to check if an actual company or a virtual mailbox, check who is responsible for warranty and repairs. Realise you may be parting with money for something that has yet to be ordered from China. If the information is not forthcoming or seems to conflict then beware.
A quality hot tub will have thick acrylic shell or be rotationally moulded, will carry a manufacturer’s warranty, will use as little as possible wood, fibreglass and metal in construction. Look for features like ABS, perma wood, stainless steel, balboa, gecko, marine quality. Remember the more pumps and jets the higher the running costs, the more complex jetting the greater the risk of plumbing leaks and the requirement of a known spa brand to trouble shoot.
Lastly pick a localish company who have support and can attend if your spa breakdown. Nothing worse than paying thousands for something you can’t use.
A local company can provide support on chemicals as well as how to operate your spa the most efficient way. Think twice before handing over your hard earned cash to something you haven’t even touched or felt. You wouldn’t buy a car without test driving it!