Do Hot Tubs Just Plug In? (Some do, but . . . )

If you have never owned a hot tub, how to get them electricity can be confusing. Do you have to have an electrician, or do hot tubs just plug in?

Here’s what I know from owning 4 of them:

Some less expensive types of hot tubs referred to as plug and play, can simply be plugged into a standard household outlet. Inflatable hot tubs also just plug in. However, more expensive hot tubs do require an electrician to wire a disconnect box to enable them to receive electricity.

But there’s more to know about hot tubs and electricity than just that!

After all, many types of hot tubs that plug in can’t run both the jets and the heater at the same time. This can make them especially problematic in winter in cold climates.

So are 110v, plug ‘n play, hot tubs worth it? Should you spend more to get a hard-wired one? Are the hot tubs that plug in costlier on your electric bill?

You’ve got questions, and I’ve got the answers. Let’s get into it!

Can you plug a hot tub into a regular outlet?

If you have a plug and play or inflatable hot tub, they can just plug into a regular outlet provided it is at least 15amps and GFCI-protected. Just avoid using an extension cord.

So-called plug and play hot tubs generally run off 110-120v, so you can plug them in anywhere there is a suitable outlet. But since, in 99% of the cases, your hot tub will be outside, make sure the outlet has a weather cover on it, in addition to a GFCI breaker built in.

One of the main advantages of a plug and play hot tub is that you can place it wherever you like so long as you have somewhere flat and solid enough to take the weight and a receptacle outlet within 15 feet.

This makes it ideal for those renting their home who may want to take it with them when they leave.

Many plug and play hot tubs can be adapted to run off 220-240v. The advantage of this is that you can then upgrade your heater from a 1kW to 4kW.

This will heat your water much quicker and will be cheaper to run; however, you will have to make some modifications that may need a licensed electrician.

First of all, you will need to make sure you have a 240v outlet on a dedicated 50amp circuit, and if not, have one installed.

You will then need to hard-wire the tub to the 240v outlet through a disconnect box.

I explained how to do this in a recent article. But a disconnect box is a single breaker housed in a small breaker box located within 5 feet or so of the hot tub. This, in turn, is then wired to the nearest main breaker panel in your house.

Click the link to find out more.

Are plug and play hot tubs any good?

Plug and play hot tubs are a great entry-level choice if you are on a fixed budget or if you just want to see whether owning a hot tub is right for you. Many cost less than $1,000 but are much more durable than an inflatable hot tub.

Plug and play hot tubs will be less powerful. 

This can increase your electric bill slightly. But it can also mean it won’t quite reach the desired temperature in winter if you live somewhere that regularly gets below 40 F.

Plug and play hot tubs also can’t run the jets and the heater at the same time, so the more you soak with the jets on, the more likely you are to see temps dip.

But ANY hot tub is better than none, and there are some great plug and play hot tubs out there! Many are available for a fraction of the cost of a hard-wired hot tub.

I discussed the pros and cons of plug and play hot tubs in a recent article. Just click on the link to read it here on my site.

Can you use an extension cord with a plug-in hot tub?

No. Plug and play portable and inflatable hot tubs should not be used with an extension cord. They are fitted with a 15-foot cord, and that is the maximum distance you should place them adjacent to a receptacle outlet.

Also, you should not plug in any other appliance to the same outlet.

One of the great things about plug and play hot tubs is that they can go anywhere, but you must have an outlet within 15 feet. If not, you will have to have one installed, which is a job for a licensed electrician.

Although it may be tempting to use an extension cord if you are just a few feet further away, remember that the cord provided is the proper length.

Its length is precisely gauged for that tub, and if you extend it, the current has to travel further, which could result in a voltage drop and the cord overheating.  

And an overheated cord can melt creating both a potential fire hazard and shock hazard.

Should I buy a plug and play hot tub?

Plug-in hot tubs are a perfect choice for those on a tight budget, those who expect to move in the near future, or those who are renting. While they do have a few downsides, they can still provide 90% of the hot tub experience for 25% of the expense.

If you have never owned a hot tub but are considering investing in one, then you should check out this recent article on my siteโ€”twenty-three essential things to know before deciding which one to buy.

Just click that link to read it on my site.

Plug-in hot tubs are an excellent introduction for those looking for a spa experience at home, and they come in two forms:

  • Portable โ€“ usually with a lightweight resin or acrylic body, sometimes with a wooden frame
  • Inflatable โ€“ these have a reinforced fabric skin inflated via an electric pump.

Portable hot tubs come in a variety of shapes and sizes to suit your needs and pocket, from a simple 3 to 4-seater right up to a whopping 5 to 7-seater.

Inflatable hot tubs tend to be smaller, either a 4-seater or a 6-seater. These have a lot more jets than the portable type, but they are much smaller in diameter, though the overall experience is similar.

What is the best plug and play hot tub?

The best plug and play hot tub which consistently ranks high in the ratings is the Integrity model by Essential Hot Tubs.

You can check this out on Amazon by clicking on the link.

The octagonal shape and bench-style seating make it a comfortable 4-seater with space for a young one too.

It has 11 stainless steel jets โ€“ great for targeting specific areas of the body such as the lower back and shoulders or the legs. 

It comes fitted with a 15-foot cord and a 13amp GFCI, so all you need to do is fill it up and plug it into any 110-120v outlet on a 15amp circuit.

The super-insulated resin shell is easy to clean and tough enough to resist impact from anything that’s likely to go in there. It also comes with an insulated lockable cover to keep the heat in, tapered to allow snow and water to run off.

The 1kW heater is good enough to heat the tub to 104ยฐF all year round, but you can upgrade this to a 4kW heater if you can hard-wire to a 220v circuit.

This will also mean that the heater and the pump can operate simultaneously to combat the coldest of winter temperatures.

CLICK HERE to see it on Amazon.

Did I cover all you wanted to know about whether hot tubs can just plug in?

So, to sum up, portable and inflatable hot tubs can just plug in provided you have a 110-120v 15amp receptacle outlet within 15 feet. Larger permanent hot tubs have to be hard-wired into a 220-240v 40amp circuit.

You will also need a circuit breaker of some kind, either a GFCI or a disconnect box.

If you have to make any adjustments to your electrical supply to accommodate your hot tub, you should consult a licensed electrician. Do not attempt to make any modifications yourself unless you are competent to do so.

I hope I covered everything you needed to know in this article. Don’t forget to check out the links to other related articles on my site and leave a comment or drop me a line if there is anything you want to know.


Photo which requires 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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