Are Plug and Play Hot Tubs Safe?

Everyone loves hot tubs. But we don’t always have the money for a hard-wired hot tub which leads many to plug and play 110v hot tubs. But are plug and play hot tubs safe?

Here’s what I know from looking into it:

Yes. Plug and play hot tubs are safe. However, as with any electrical appliance, some safety concerns may arise if you use them incorrectly. Most come with a 15-foot cord, and the use of an extension cord is not recommended.

So, a lot depends on how you use it.

And thus, you would also like to know how the plug and play hot tubs differ from the regular hot tubs. Or how hot they can get, and if you can use an extension cord with these hot tubs. No worries!

Read on to get answers to these questions and more.

What’s the difference between a plug and play hot tub and a regular one?

In this context, a regular hot tub is one that is hard-wired into the main electrical system. This will usually be done through a disconnect box which acts as a circuit breaker. The disconnect box, located 5-6 feet from the hot tub, then gets wired to the nearest breaker panel.

Plug and play hot tubs are just like their name suggests. All you need is a solid area to place it and a receptacle outlet nearby to plug into. But there are some rules:

  • You’ll need a ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI). This is a circuit breaker that cuts off the supply if a fault is detected, and it usually fits between the 15amp plug that comes with the tub and the outlet.
  • Any outside outlets must be the waterproof type with a plastic snap-down lid. You probably already have one for your gardening appliances.
  • The hot tub must be within 15′ of the outlet. The tub will come with this length of cord – don’t be tempted to use an extension cord!

A regular tub will have a bigger heater because it will run off 220-240v. This enables it to use heaters between 2 to 7.5kW, a massive increase over the 1 to 1.5kW heaters on the plug and play tubs.

In terms of safety, there is little difference between a plug and play and a solid body hot tub. Both have the same basic set-up and types of equipment and are perfectly safe when used correctly.

How hot do plug and play hot tubs get?

All hot tubs have moderate factory settings, and the maximum is usually set at 104°F, which must not be exceeded. Don’t be tempted to fill the tub with water from the hot faucet in your home, as this will most likely be over 130°.

In this sense, it’s exactly the same as any other hot tub.

In use, the optimum temperature is usually set around 100-104°, but in the middle of summer, you may feel more comfortable at 98°. It is really a matter of choice, but remember, it is not like turning your heating up or down in your home. It can take a day or so before you feel the drop.

Changing the temperature on your tub is something you should only do occasionally because this can really increase your running costs.

Plug and play hot tubs come in two varieties – inflatable and solid body (often referred to as portable, but they are both portable). But for the purposes of this article, I’m not going to refer to inflatable hot tubs much.

The biggest challenge 110v hot tubs have is that most can’t run the jets, heater, and filter cycles all at the same time. So the more you use the jets and the hot tub in general, the more it will have to work to keep the water to the set temp.

110v plug and play hot tubs because they are cheaper, also tend to be insulated more cheaply. 

This can make for some challenges if you live somewhere that gets really cold in winter. So you may find winters in Minnesota mean your hot tub only hitting in the high-90’s even if you have it set to 104°.

Can you use an extension cord for a plug and play hot tub?

Categorically, no!

The maximum length of the cord is that that comes with the tub is usually 15′. If you want your tub further away than that, you must install a new outlet.

Always consult a licensed electrician before undertaking any permanent electrical work, such as this.

For safety reasons, the supply of electricity to the hot tub must be controlled via a 15-20amp GFCI breaker, and the outlet must have a waterproof cover such as a hinged plastic lid.

No other appliances can be attached to the same outlet. Otherwise, the GFCI could trip every time the pump or heater kicks in.

Regular tubs are hard-wired through a disconnect box rather than a GFCI, but the principle is the same.

Should any fault be detected, the supply will cut out immediately. Even so, there are limits on the distance from the box to the tub, and this must not be exceeded.

In a recent article, I explained how and where a GFCI breaker should be installed. The requirement for a disconnect box was explained in another recent article.

Just click on the links to read more on my website.

Are 110 hot tubs any good?

This depends really on what you are used to. But yes, is the short answer.

If you’ve experienced a hot tub before in a hotel or on a spa weekend, then you may be a little disappointed with the performance of a plug and play tub.

But I’m of the opinion that any hot tub is better than none!

However, if this is your first hot tub experience, read my recent article on this site for the 23 crucial things you need to know before buying.

Just click that link to read it on my site.

A decent quality plug and play hot tub can provide many of the benefits of a regular tub at a fraction of the cost. Yes, they are a little more expensive to run, but overall, this is negligible compared to the saving in the initial cost. You get the bubbles, the massage effect, aromatherapy, everything you need to enjoy a good soak.

The great thing about the 110v tubs is their flexibility. You can have them just about anywhere there is an electrical supply nearby and some firm, level ground to place it on. You’ll save on having to pay an electrician too!

They come in a variety of shapes and sizes to suit any location. Most importantly with most 1st-time hot tub buyers spending an average of $7,000, you can get a decent plug and play for between $2,500-$4,000.

In a recent article, I looked at the use of hot tubs running on 110v. It would be worth your while reviewing this before making any decisions.

Just click on the link to read it on my site.

Can I convert a 110v to a 220v?

Many plug and play hot tubs can be converted to 220-240v.

The advantage of doing this is that it opens up the possibility of installing much more powerful heaters, making them more efficient at heating the water and maintaining the temperature.

For example, the Integrity model by Essential Hot Tubs – view it here on Amazon– can be converted to 240v, and the pre-installed 4kW Balboa heater can then be used to its full potential.

The cord comes fitted with a GFCI, but to convert it, you will need to cut this off and hard-wire to a disconnect box.

This is a task for a licensed electrician, so seek advice before doing anything. You will also need a dedicated 40amp circuit to connect the disconnect box.

If you already have a hot tub running off 110v, you may still be able to convert it, but check with the manufacturer’s instructions first. It is a simple wiring exercise but one for a licensed electrician, and you may need to notify the manufacturer for warranty validation.

Increasing the voltage will not affect the performance of the jets, but it will heat the water much quicker, making your hot tub more economical to run.

You may also run the jets and heater at the same time, so the water won’t cool down so quickly when in use.

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

So, to summarize, yes, plug and play hot tubs are safe, but like any electrical appliance, especially those outdoors, you need to follow some simple rules.

  • Always connect to a circuit breaker such as a GFCI.
  • Do not use an extension cord if it doesn’t reach the outlet.
  • Do not exceed the maximum water temperature of 104°F.

I hope that I covered everything you want to know in this article. If you wish to know more, leave a comment or drop me an email, and don’t forget to check out the links to other articles on my website.


Photos which require attribution:

160603-outlet-electrical-cover-outdoor.jpg by r. nial bradshaw and Tub21 by Dave Stone are licensed under CC2.0

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.

Recent Content