Are Plug and Play Hot Tubs Expensive to Run?

Everyone loves hot tubs. But we don’t always have thousands to spend on one. But nowadays, there are several hot tubs, including the plug and play hot tub, that are more affordable. But the question is, “Are plug and play hot tubs expensive to run?”

Here’s what I learned from looking into it:

No, plug and play hot tubs are not expensive to run. However, they may be costlier to operate than portable or in-ground tubs. In terms of power, they operate at a low voltage of 110V and can be directly connected to a GFCI protected home outlet, eliminating the need for an electrician.

But, if you want to know how much it’s going to cost you to run a plug and play hot tub and how to keep costs down, then read on.

I’ll also discuss how long it will take for a plug-n-play hot tub, also known as a 110V hot tub, to heat up. Besides, do you know which is the best plug and play hot tub available? 

No worries. I will clear all your doubts. Just keep reading.

How much electricity does a plug and play hot tub use?

In basic terms, expect your monthly bill on a plug and play hot tub to be somewhere between $30-50 per month.

As the title suggests, a plug and play hot tub is one you set in place and plug into a regular outlet with nothing more than a GFCI breaker as a safety measure.

This, along with the lower price tag, is the most significant advantage of this type of tub.

In my recent article, I looked at the use of hot tubs running on 110v and the pros and cons compared to 240v tubs. So click on the link to read that on my site.

Now, the amount of electricity used to heat up and run a plug-n-play hot tub is affected by four factors:

  • The temperature of the surrounding air
  • How powerful the heater is on the hot tub
  • The temperature you set the hot tub to
  • How big the hot tub is

In scientific terms, the amount of electricity is regulated by these three variables.

So, to heat 100 gallons by 1℉, it would take around 0.25kWh. This indicates that to raise the temperature of 400 gallons by 35°, the tub would use 35kWh.

To find out what this would cost, check your electric bill to see what you pay per kWh. Even at 15 cents, it is just over $5 to heat your water, less for smaller tubs.

The amount of electricity it takes to keep the water at a constant temperature depends on:

  • The amount of usage
  • The temperature of the surrounding air
  • The quality of the insulation – especially the lid

Every time you take off the lid and use the hot tub, you’re going to lose heat, so it is a good idea to keep the motor running even when not in use. This means that the temperature will always be at around 100°, and you don’t have to heat it every time.

If you are concerned about the cost of running a hot tub, a good average figure to work to is around $1 per day increase on your electric bill for a typical 6-person tub.

It is also possible to upgrade a 110v hot tub to a 240v tub – there are kits available to do this. One way of doing it is by altering the electric supply and fitting a disconnect box. I talked about installing one of these in my recent article.

Follow the link to read it on my website.

The advantage of doing this is that you can run a more powerful heater – 2kW to 4kW. This does not use less electricity, but it heats the water quicker and is more efficient at keeping the temperature constant when not in use.

How long does a 110v hot tub take to heat up?

The short answer is it varies, but expect anywhere from 6-10 hours and maybe as much as 15 hours. Various factors determine how long it takes for the water to heat up in your tub.

Let’s look at each of the biggest factors in how long it will take:

Size of the hot tub

The primary factor is the size, which specifies the quantity of water it can contain. An average four to six-person tub will contain around 450 gallons of water, so that’s a lot to heat up to 100°F from whatever the temperature is of your garden hose water.

If you can run a hose from your hot water heater

If you can heat the water as it’s going in, this will speed up the process.

But a word of warning- Don’t fill your hot tub with water hotter than the limit set by the manufacturer. This limit is usually around 104°F. The temperature of the hot water in your home will be around 130°F. 

I discussed using hot water to fill your tub in my recent article, which you might want to read before going any further.

Click the link to read it on my website.

Also, make sure your water source is not running through a softener. A water softener filter may be suitable for your drinking water, but it is not good for your hot tub. Soft water can corrode the internal working parts, and this may invalidate your warranty.

The temperature of your garden hose water

Ideally, and to avoid any damage, use the water from your garden hose and let the heater, pump, and jets do their job. In the summertime, this is likely to be around 75° to 80° anyway.

But garden hose water can be as low as 60° F. Water in a hot tub heats somewhere between 3-6° per hour. So starting from 60 will be a lot longer than starting from 80°.

Leave the cover on 

Always leave the cover on while heating your tub. This will prevent heat loss from the surface of the water. For 220v-240v hot tubs you also want to turn on the jets. But for 110v hot tubs, which can’t run the jets and the heater at the same time, leave them off (more on this below).

So, back to the question. The heater on a 110v hot tub is likely to be around 1kW, so it could take up to 15 hours to get to 100° from 75° in a 250-gallon tub.

Whereas, a 2kW heater would do it in half the time.

Can I use a 110-volt hot tub in winter?

Yes, you can. For some places, this is the best time, especially if you have snow on the ground.

Most hot tub owners like to get the best use out of their tubs and enjoy spa-time two or three times a week. It is a great time to relax and spend time with the family without the distractions of the TV and electronic gadgets. Why should winter be any different?

However, there’re a few important points to consider while using it in winter

  • Top off the water more often – Cold, dry air will result in increased evaporation, so keep an eye on the water level and top up if necessary.
  • Sweep excessive snow off the lid – don’t let this build-up, or it may damage it.
  • Keep the hot tub on 24/7 – Ice build-up in the pump and water lines will damage them, so keep the motor running to avoid freezing.
  • Use a thermal blanket – If you see your electric bill going up or if the hot tub can’t maintain proper temperature, consider using a thermal blanket like this one on Amazon. It can be cut to size, is easy to take on or off, and just floats on the water.

But if you live in Texas as I do, you don’t have to worry about the snow so much.

Can plug and play hot tubs run the jets and heater at the same time?

Since most plug and plays run off at 110v, most brands are not able to run the pump and the heater simultaneously. 

Now, “Is that a problem?” Well, not necessarily. The real issue occurs when you have to re-fill the tub after cleaning, and you need to heat the water. But this only happens once every 3 months or so.

This is where hard-wired permanent hot tubs have the edge over plug and play.

When you use the hot tub, and only the pump is running (not the heater), the water will cool down with time. But it will become comfortable after an hour or two depending on the outside air temperature. Other than this, you won’t notice any difference.

Luckily, some 110v hot tubs can later be converted to a 220v (I’ll tell you which one below).

What is the best plug and play hot tub?

There are many to choose from, and you need to draw up a list of priorities. For instance,

  • How often are you going to use it?
  • For how many people?
  • Are you likely to use it in winter?

So, one that is worth looking at is the Integrity model by Essential Hot Tubs– view it here on Amazon. Its octagonal shape provides comfortable seating for four plus a little one, so it is a great family tub.

It has 11 jets strategically placed for back and leg massage and a 1kW stainless steel Balboa heater for all-year-round usage. The heavy-duty cover is tapered so the rain will run off smoothly, and the high thermal rating will keep the water warm when not in use, reducing the cost of heating.

You can also convert it to 240v with a 4kW heater if you hard-wire it through a disconnect box, but always seek advice from a qualified electrician before doing this.

One other good thing – it is made in the USA!

Did I cover all you wanted to know about the plug and play hot tubs?

Having a plug and plays hot tub is a great luxury, and you can get as much enjoyment out of them as you would from a hard-wired hot tub. The latest hot tubs are made with hi-tech heating equipment that makes its running expense quite reasonable.

In places with mild winters, it costs very less to maintain a plug and play hot tub. We also discussed the amount of electricity a hot tub uses. Further, a word of caution- make sure that you do not exceed the heating limit that has been mentioned on the tub by the manufacturing company.

As a first-time buyer, you may be a bit overwhelmed by the variety of hot tubs available – inflatables, portable and permanent tubs – but don’t despair.

Read my recent article on this site for the 23 crucial things you need to know before buying. Hope you have a great time using your hot tub!


Photos which require attribution:

Hot Tub by b3tarev3 is licensed under public domain

Jeff Campbell

Jeff Campbell is a husband, father, martial artist, budget-master, Disney-addict, musician, hot tub lover, and recovering foodie having spent over 2 decades as a leader for Whole Foods Market.

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