How Do Inflatable Hot Tubs Work?

If you’re thinking of buying a hot tub but don’t have a few thousand dollars lying around, you may have considered an inflatable hot tub. But how do inflatable hot tubs work? 

Here’s what I know from checking them out:

Inflatable hot tubs work the same as regular hot tubs with a few key differences, such as in the number of jets, the motor’s power, not being able to run the heater & jets at the same time, little to no insulation to reduce heat loss, and being more prone to punctures.

But don’t let those sway you!

Inflatable hot tubs are a great way to get started hot-tubbing without a significant investment. Then when it’s time to upgrade, you can always save your inflatable for extended camping trips where you’ll be at one site for several days.

If this is your first foray into the world of hot tubs, there are plenty of things you need to know before buying, and you should take a look at a recent article on my site to pick up some tips. Just click that link to read it on my site.

So if you want to know how inflatable hot tubs work, read on.

How long do inflatable hot tubs take to heat up?

Inflatable hot tubs take about 12 hours to reach their set point. Since they have virtually no insulation, inflatable hot tubs take longer to heat up than regular hot tubs. 

However, there are other factors that affect the time also, such as:

  • The outside air temperature
  • The temperature of the water going in

During the summertime, when the air temperature can be in the high 90s or above, the water going into the tub will be higher if you fill the tub using your garden hose. Being so hot, the water is not going to lose much heat during the filling process.

It takes around one hour to heat a medium-size regular hot tub by 5°F, but it takes a lot longer for an inflatable hot tub to do this.

Because your inflatable tub is a simple plug and play type, running off 110v with a 13amp plug, the power rating of the heater is limited to 1 – 1.2kW.

So while a regular hot tub with a 7kW heater can get the temperature up to 100°F in around 4 hours, the inflatable tub will take 3 to 6 times longer.

Also, most inflatable hot tubs can’t run the jets and heater at the same time. So while you would want the jets on in a regular hot tub to help circulate the water, leave the jets off when heating an inflatable.

If you want to know whether inflatable hot tubs are worth the money, click the link to view another one of my recent articles discussing this.

Do you leave inflatable hot tubs on all the time?

Always leave a hot tub on all the time unless you will be on vacation for more than 4 weeks. It uses less energy to maintain the temperature than it does to regularly reheat it.

If nothing else, leaving your hot tub on all the time prevents the water from stagnating and keeps the chemicals running through the system to keep the water sanitized.

When you fill-up your tub, the water from your hose can be anything from 40° to 75° F.

You need to get that up to at least 98° for comfortable use. Once you get to that temperature, it doesn’t take much energy to keep it there, especially in warm weather. This is not only taking a few hours out of your spa time; it is costing you money.

Leaving your hot tub running all the time not only costs less in the long run, but you get instant access to your spa whenever you want it.

This applies equally to inflatable tubs despite their poorer thermal insulation and smaller pump size.

Can inflatable hot tubs be used in the winter?

Yes, inflatable hot tubs can withstand freezing temperatures, however, when temperatures drop below 40° F, they have a harder time reaching their set point. So don’t expect it to reach 104° if you have harsh winters.

But again, that doesn’t mean you have to pack it away for winter.

First of all, if you are in an area where you get heavy snowfall, you should make sure you clear the lid of excessive snow; otherwise, it could get overloaded and tear.

Ice may also cause a problem.

Expanding water in your pipework and pump can result in cracks, but if you keep the heater running all the time, this will not be an issue.

The next thing to consider is your own comfort.

In winter, as the air temperature drops, your hot tub is going to cool down. This is because you cannot run the pump and the heater simultaneously with a plug and play type of hot tub running off 110v.

The heater can remain on all the time with the pump running in economy mode just to keep the water circulating, but as soon as you turn on the jets, the heater will switch off automatically to prevent an overload.

Inflatable hot tubs have far smaller jets than a regular tub. Because the jets are much smaller in diameter, the smaller pump doesn’t have to work as hard to keep the water flowing.

What should I put under my inflatable hot tubs?

Always use an insulated ground mat under your inflatable hot tub. Not only do these reduce heat loss through the ground, but they also protect against tearing or puncture.

Of course, most inflatable hot tubs come with an insulated ground cloth.

But if yours doesn’t, this one on Amazon should work pretty well. Just make sure it is the right size for your inflatable hot tub.

Any sharp object can cause irreparable damage to an inflatable hot tub, so a ground mat will give you extra protection on a timber deck where you might get splinters and protruding nail or screw heads.

If you intend to position your inflatable hot tub on a timber deck, you should first read this recent article on my website.

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

Ultimately, inflatable hot tubs are not the best at keeping the heat in. The walls are made of reinforced vinyl filled with air, and the covers are usually much thinner than regular tubs.

So anything you can do to improve this is going to impact your enjoyment. Many people move their inflatable hot tubs into a garage during winter if they live in places that frequently get below freezing.

Using an insulated ground mat will greatly improve thermal efficiency and reduce your running costs.

You should never place an inflatable hot tub directly on grass or gravel. This could leave them prone to attack from below, and the sharp chips in gravel could damage the base.

Ground mats come in foil-backed roll form or solid segmental pieces. Always get one that covers the whole area of your hot tub plus the heater and pump set.

How does an inflatable hot tub affect your electric bill?

Most inflatable hot tubs will add between $35-50 per month to your electric bill. The range depends on your set temp and the air temperature around your hot tub.

Everyone wants to know how running a hot tub is going to impact on their electric bill.

In a recent article, I discussed the cost of running an inflatable hot tub. You can read it here on my website by clicking on the link.

But in essence, as I mentioned, the main factors are:

  • The cost of electricity in your area
  • What temperature you have it set to
  • How cold or hot it is that month

You pay for electricity by the kilowatt-hour (kWh). You will find your rate on your electric bill, but this works out on average around 12c/kWh.

If you leave your hot tub running all the time, it only costs a few cents to maintain a temperature of around 100°, but the biggest cost is when you fill your tub for the first time or refill it after cleaning.

As you should only need to do this 3 or 4 times a year, the overall impact is minimal.

But if you turn your hot tub off after use, the water temperature will drop fairly rapidly in an inflatable tub. This means you have to spend more to get it back up to 98° – 104°.

What is the best inflatable hot tub?

One of the best on the market for overall energy efficiency, quality, size, and lifespan is the Intex PureSpa, available here on Amazon.

I love it because:

  • It costs less than $1,000,
  • The specs are great
  • It’s the #1 Best-Selling inflatable hot tub on Amazon with hundreds of awesome reviews

The 6-person tub is equipped with 170 water jets and, it can comfortably seat six adults, unlike some so-called 4 to 6-seaters.

Made from a laminate PVC, it is both comfortable and super-durable.

CLICK HERE to see the Intex PureSpa on Amazon.

Did I cover all you wanted to know about how inflatable hot tubs work? 

I hope I covered everything in terms of how inflatable hot tubs work, how long it takes to heat up, and why you should leave it running all the time.

Inflatables are great if you’ve never owned a hot tub before. They are cheap to buy and easy to install, but they cost a bit more to run.

Before you decide on what is best for you, I recommend reading the articles mentioned here by following the links to my site.

Please feel free to drop me a line or leave a comment if there is anything I’ve missed.


Picture which requires attribution:

Spa2Go Executive Lounge by Richard Masoner / Cyclelicious is 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.

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