The fastest rising category in the pool and hot tub industry is swim spas. But what are swim spas anyway? In this article, we will explore what swim spas are, why they have become popular and what to look for when buying one.
WHAT ARE SWIM SPAS?
With sizes ranging from in size from 12-19 feet in length and 7-9 feet in width, swim spas are smaller than swimming pools but larger than hot tubs. Originally designed to be the perfect fitness pool, swim spas generate a current for people to swim against. Unlike swimming in a pool, in a swim spa you never stop and turn around. Instead you swim continuously in place.
Another way swim spas differ from traditional pools is in their construction. Swim spas are built like giant hot tubs; they consist of an insulated acrylic shell, electric heater, and water pumps. Most swim spas also include hot tub style jetted therapy seats. Swim spas therefore are essentially a cross between a pool and a hot tub.
Now that we know a little more about what swim spas are, the question becomes why would you buy one?
WHY BUY A SWIM SPA?
The hot tub/pool hybrid design of swim spas offer many benefits to potential pool owners. Here are just a few:
With yards getting smaller and smaller, not everyone can fit a pool in their backyard. The more compact size of swim spas mean that they can fit in areas where pools simply can’t. Not only that, swim spas can be installed above ground, in ground or anywhere in between. This means that swim spas can be easily integrated into any landscape design.
Longer Swimming Season
Pool owners are getting frustrated with the short Canadian swimming season. Unless they are willing to spend a fortune on heating their pool, they really can’t get more than 3-4 months of swimming. The compact size and increased insulation of swim spas mean that they can be heated at a fraction of the price of heating a pool, extending the swimming season for as long as you want.
Easier and Less Expensive to Maintain
Another advantage of swim spas is in their ease of maintenance. People today have less and less time available to them. The weekly ritual of brushing, vacuuming and skimming a pool is time consuming; time that can better be spent enjoying the summer! Swim spas require a fraction of the maintenance and can be looked after in a matter of minutes a week.
Not only are swim spas easier to maintain, their comparatively smaller size and insulation means that they also run at a fraction of the cost of a pool.
For a full comparison of pools vs. swim spas check out our comparison guide.
What To Look For When Buying A Swim Spa
Now that we have a better idea about why to get a swim spa, what should you look for when buying one? While on the surface most swim spas look very similar, there are three major ways that swim spas differ; their current, their ease of maintenance, and their energy efficiency.
While almost all swim spas have swim currents, the way that they generate those currents varies.
- Jetted swim currents use several large, hot tub style jets powered by one or more large jet pumps.
- Propeller or fan style swim currents use a large hydraulically powered propeller to push water down the middle of the swim spa.
- Rather than push water, paddle wheel swim spas pull water towards the back of the swim spa, where the paddle wheel is located.
No matter the design, swim spa currents generally suffer from at least one of three potential problems; speed, turbulence or noise.
Jetted swim spa currents vary quite a bit in terms of power depending on the number of jets and pumps that are used. What most jetted swim spa currents share however, is a narrow and turbulent swim current. Jet pumps create quite a lot of turbulence and the small, round shape of the jet nozzles create a narrow current that is difficult to swim in.
Propeller style swim currents are generally strong and relatively wide. They are also quite loud and the spinning motion of the propeller again causes turbulence. The hydraulics used to power the propeller also requires regular maintenance.
Paddle wheel swim spas generate wide, deep and relatively smooth currents but are very expensive and generally lack power. This can be very frustrating as any above average swimmer can outswim the current.
So far, none of these systems really seem too exciting. Fortunately, there is one system that solves these problems. Hydropool’s AquaTrainer swim current is the next generation of jetted swim spa currents.
AquaTrainer swim spas use special widemouth jets to power their swim. These jets also include special fins that break up the rotational turbulence caused by the jet pumps. Together these create a wide, turbulence-free swim current. This current is also powered by two large swim pumps capable of generating current speeds between 2km/h and 17.5km/h!
Ease Of Maintenance
While all swim spas are less maintenance than a pool, there is still a major difference in the maintenance level between swim spas. This difference comes from how they are filtered.
There are currently two filtration systems used in swim spas: suction side and pressure side.
In a suction side filtration system water gently rolls over the filter before passing through the pump and back into the swim area. While this system is commonly used in hot tubs, the larger water volumes found in swim spas make this a very inefficient system.
This inefficient filtration means adding more chemicals to clear the water and having to change the water more often. Suction side filtration also doesn’t clean the bottom of the swim spa, meaning you will have to vacuum the bottom as dirt builds up.
A pressurized filtration system pulls water from both the top and bottom of the swim spa and is then forced through the filter by a special filtration pump. This system is commonly used in pools and is very efficient when filtering larger bodies of water.
Pressurized filtration cleans water 8-12 times quicker than suction side filtration. This means cleaner, clearer water with less maintenance and fewer water changes. The built-in floor vacuum also helps clean up any dirt that settles on the bottom of the swim spa.
Energy efficiency is also a major differentiator when looking at swim spas. With Canada being a smaller market, most swim spas are not made for our weather. This can lead to steep hydro bills in the fall and winter.
If you plan on using your swim spa more than 4-5 months of the year, pay close attention to the insulation on the swim spa. Look for added insulation around the cabinet. This insulation helps trap the waste heat generated by the pumps and heater, further increasing the energy efficiency of the swim spa.
Filtration also plays a part in energy efficiency. The efficiency of pressurized filtration means that you can program your swim spa to run less, without compromising water quality.
While they are a new concept for a lot of people, swim spas have actually been around for over 20 years. Although originally designed as small fitness pools, modern swim spas have many benefits. From their jetted therapy seats, to their ease of maintenance and low running costs, swim spas offer many benefits to potential pool owners.