Swim Spa Buyers Guide – Part 2 – What to Look for when Buying a Swim Spa
So, now you have a bit better idea of what a swim spa is and why it might be just what you are looking for, it’s time to find the right one. These are the things I would look for when buying a swim spa, whether it’s from our company, or another:
What I recommend looking for when buying a swim spa:
- Country of Origin: Just like with a hot tub, country of origin has a big impact on the quality of the swim spa, as well as its insulation factor. Canadian-made is always my first choice, if it can keep the heat here, it can anywhere! If you can’t buy Canadian, then look at a unit produced in a similar climate to yours, as they likely will be designed with this in mind.
- Insulation: Due to their long season (up to a year-round,) it’s especially important to buy with energy-efficiency in mind. You want a unit that is fully insulated on four sides, as well as the bottom, with a quality cover to lock in the heat. Insulation can be one of the quickest corners to cut when you want to make a cheap swim spa, so check out the units’ insides and be sure to look for a good amount of insulation present.
- Warranty: There are lots of terms and conditions for every warranty and it’s easy to get confused. The thing you want to look at most of all is the warranty on the expensive components. This refers to the pumps, spa pack(s), heater(s), and control panel. Three years would be a good warranty period for these parts. Also, ask if its parts AND labour included, and whether the company services what they sell in your area.
- Sizing: It’s important to find the right size swim tank for your needs, and for your height. Yes, height plays a big role in finding the right swim lane size for you. If you are 6’3”, you probably want to avoid the 12’-14’ tanks as you may find that the lane is too short for your strides. You should also look at family size, as a family of 5 or more will again want to go to a larger tank to accommodate everyone.
- Cover type: Most swim spas will come standard with what’s known as a hardcover. Hardcovers are 4-6 panels that join to one-another to create a full heatshield at that top of the swim spa. They do a good job of insulating, but in my opinion, they are a real pain! For most types of installations, this means two people are needed to put on and take off these sections (they are roughly 3’ wide by 7’ or 8’ long.) One of the best add-ons you can get is a roll-on style cover, or if you’re looking to really splurge, Covana makes an automated one specifically for swim spas! A roll-on cover will add $5,000 or more to your swim spa, but for ease of use and enjoyment alone, it’s worth it! Automatic covers will run you around $15,000-$20,000.
Well-designed swimming: Talk with your salesperson and get them to explain to you how the swim system works. The things you want to check for are:
- How far are the pumps from the swim jet? You want them close to the jet, not on the other side of the unit.
- What kind of plumbing is used? You want the plumbing to use sweep fittings as-opposed to 90-degree elbows to reduce turbulence.
- The Swim Jet itself needs to be designed to transfer the water energy from the plumbing to a wide, even stream, with minimal turbulence. Turbulence creates air, which disrupts the flow of water coming out of the jet and making the swimmer move in the swim lane. It can even lead to a large buildup of air under the swimmer, creating a big bubble that can rise to the surface knocking you off-stride.
- Swim lane size: You want your swim lane to be completely free of benches, outcroppings and be as open as possible. This allows the swimmer more comfort as they naturally move in the swim lane and prevents kicking the tank.
- Water collection: When the swim jet pushes out water, it must be properly collected at the back of the tank. You want to make sure the salesperson explains the design of the collection system, and that the design minimizes waves disrupting the swimmer from behind as they use the unit.
- Get a wet test: Once you are serious about the brand(s) you like, try, and get a swim test booked. Most companies will offer an after hours, or private test where you can try the unit. It’s like test-driving a car.
- Ask what’s included in the price: This is even more important in a swim spa, than a hot tub. Swim spas have a more complicated pad, electrical and installation process than your typical tub install. These items need to be factored into your pricing, so make sure to ask about:
- Is installation included and what does that cover?
- What is your price for delivery in my area?
- What does that include, is it a crane or boom-truck?
- Are the start-up chemicals and cover included in your ticket price?
- What do I need to have for a pad, and can you recommend someone or provide the service yourselves?
What to Avoid:
- Gimmicks: In my opinion, a lot of swim spa manufacturers rely more on gimmicks and endorsements than build quality and functionality. Buy your swim spa based on quality and getting the features, and size you want/need. The add-ons are great, but don’t let them be the reason to buy, but the icing on the cake. Celebrity endorsements are great, but remember that they are getting paid to put their name on it.
- Mobile dealers: Like we mention in the Hot Tub Buyers Guide, we’re not big fans of companies that sell luxury products, then disappear. Avoid truckload sales where the company doesn’t have a brick-and-mortar presence in your area. From warranty support to just knowing that a local company is going to want you to love the product (it’s in their own interest to.)
- Poorly designed tanks: Check the swim tank for the things discussed above, make sure that it is the right size, free from obstructions, and designed with swimming in mind.
- Cheap materials and construction: Have a thorough look at the swim spa before you invest in it. Do the jets look cheap? Are the plastics thin? Is the finished work rough or was there care taken when it was made? If it looks cheap on the outside, there are likely worse corners cut on the inside. Good manufacturers will take the time to finish their work well and build the unit correctly. Don’t hesitate to ask to see the inside!
- Companies who don’t offer you help and support: From start to finish, your dealer should be able to assist you with the planning, base pad, electrical and delivery of your new swim spa. Swim spas can be more complicated than your typical above ground pool or hot tub to install. A good dealer can make that process very simple to follow and is there to help you through the whole journey of owning a swim spa.
- Buying more swim spa than you need: Listen, if money isn’t a problem and you want the best-of-the-best, your salesperson will love you and happily sell you the "Cadillac." But a good, honest salesperson is one who will discuss the options with you and recommend one or two models that fit your needs. For example, if you are a couple who want a small unit to predominantly exercise in, they shouldn’t be pushing a 19’ tank with the strongest swim-jet available. You’d likely get the 14’ model, with the standard pump/swim system. You will pay less, while still being very happy with your choice.
Join us for the last part of the swim spa buying guide, “How to Plan for your Swim Spa Installation.”