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Thousands upfront and £600 a year to run - is a hot tub ever worth the money?

We look at whether you'd be better off simply buying a spa trip once a week

Thousands upfront and £600 a year to run - is a hot tub ever worth the money?

It’s cold, it’s January and across the country thousands of people are making themselves feel better by booking luxurious holidays. But quite a few are also trying to warm up and relax by investing in a hot tub for their home.

Hot tubs have become seriously big business, with one in 10 households installing one, according to a survey of 2,000 people carried out for Lloyds TSB Insurance. Sales of hot tubs reportedly increase in the winter months, and you can see why. It’s hard to use your outdoor space when it’s cold and wet – unless you have somewhere warm and relaxing to sit.

You can pay anything from a few thousand to well over £20,000 for a hot tub, and more luxurious homes often have tubs that fit many people, sometimes with a home bar attached. How the other half live. However, more affordable standard models will typically cost a couple of thousand pounds to fit.

But once you’ve fitted it, you still have to run it. How much does that cost and would you be better off going to a spa once a week?
Getting into hot water

Hot tubs are usually kept permanently warm, with an insulated lid to keep the heat in when they are not in use. It’s apparently almost always cheaper to keep them warm all the time than to heat them up for single uses.

Running costs vary considerably but manufacturers say they can be remarkably efficient and relatively cheap to run. For example, the Hot Tub Barn claims that an outdoors HotSpring hot tub used for six 30-minute sessions a week and with a maintained water temperature of 39 °C will cost ‘from’ £3.85 a week to run; that’s just £200 a year.

Summer Hot Tubs says that the running cost varies depending on the temperature outside, the size of the tub and the temperature the water is maintained at. However, it estimates a typical running cost of £260 a year, which is around a fiver a week.

Yet many people say their hot tub costs considerably more to keep heated. We spoke to one owner who claims her energy bills have rocketed by around £600 a year since they had the tub fitted; that’s quite a hike in addition to the £5,000 they spent buying and installing it.

And some owners have taken to the internet to question whether it is normal for their hot tubs to cost £10 a week – that’s £520 a year – to heat. Some even claim to spend closer to £60 a month, which works out at £720 a year.

On top of that, hot tubs require maintaining. HotTubs4U estimates that the cleaning chemicals required typically cost “less than £8 a month”. That means you’re likely to spend close to £100 a year on top of the heating costs.

Annual cost of your hot tub

So, let’s assume you buy a mid-level hot tub for £2,000 and spend £600 a year heating it, plus £100 a year treating it with the necessary chemicals.

Mid-range hot tubs can last for up to 10 years, although the top range models can last for 15 years or more. With a 10-year lifespan, that tub would have cost you £9,000, and that is assuming you don’t need anyone to carry out repairs to your tub in that time.

That’s equivalent to £17 a week running costs, which might not seem that much but does work out to an average of £70 a month. Of course, if you buy a more efficient model that uses less energy then the price would be lower, but certainly at that price, you could take out membership of a gym with a dedicated spa, giving you access to Jacuzzis, saunas and steam rooms whenever you want.

The customer we spoke to who paid £5,000 on her hot tub and £600 a year heating it would pay £12,000 over 10 years, assuming she also pays £100 a year to treat the water. That’s equivalent to £100 a month. That could buy a lot of relaxation.

What does it do to the value of your home?

It’s also worth thinking about what a hot tub might do to the value of your home. We spoke to several estate agents and most agreed that a hot tub won’t help sell a small house, but is often expected in a larger, more luxurious home.

Billy Heyman, managing director at building company BTL Property, argued that they are unlikely to help sell a house, saying: “Installing a hot tub to raise the value of a property can often have the opposite effect…  Hot tubs also quickly depreciate in value and require expensive maintenance, making them a poor investment for buyers.”

Kevin Allen, an associate director of Lymington estate agents John D Wood & Co. said that in reality they make little difference: “Generally, hot tubs neither help nor hinder the sale of a property. While they might be a relaxing treat at the end of the day, unless they are screened carefully or are tastefully incorporated into a leisure suite, they can become a bit of an eyesore.”

Do you have a hot tub? Would you like one? How much does yours cost to run? Have your say using the comments below.