Hard-Wired VS. Plug ‘N Play

Advice - Hot Tub

There are few things more enjoyable than kicking back in an oasis of hot, relaxing water while an army of muscle-massaging jets work their tension-relieving magic. With a beverage in hand, the right tune on the radio and some quality company, it’s in that very moment you realize, “I need a hot tub.” One of the first decisions you’ll have to make when deciding on your new hot tub is if a Plug ‘N Play Hot tub or a Hardwired Hot Tub is the best fit for your needs and budget. To help you identify which hot tub is right for you, we’ve analyzed the Pro’s and Con’s you need to consider when debating between a Hardwired Hot Tub and a Plug N Play Hot Tub.

plug ‘N Play hot tub benefits

Let’s start with taking a look at the pros of Plug and Play Hot Tubs (110v). They are less expensive to purchase and easier to install as all you’ll need to do is plug it in to an available outlet and fill it with water and that’s it! But, you will need to balance the ease and budget-friendly nature of the plug and play spas with a few limitations inherent in their design.

instant set up

One of the greatest selling points for the Plug N Play models are their ability for instant setup. The moment your hot tub arrives, you can set it in place, plug it in, and let the fun begin. It will take some time for the hot tub’s water to reach your desired temperature, but a Plug ‘N Play model eliminates all pre-delivery, setup and installation phases normally associated with a hardwired model.

lower up front costs

As a result of eliminating the pre-delivery, setup and installation phases, the Plug N Play models yield a much cheaper upfront cost. Eliminating the budget for electrical work and installation of the heater and spa pumps, the savings with a Plug N Play model are noticeable compared to the Hardwired model. But, you will need to balance the ease and budget-friendly nature of the plug and play spas with a few limitations inherent in their design.

draw of wattage

A Plug N Play model’s heater will typically draw 500 watts to as high as 1500 watts. This is significantly lower than the amount of wattage typically drawn by a larger hardwired model. Typically this means that your two-speed jet pump can either run on high with the heater turned off, or it can run on low with the heater on. This isn’t always a big issue for people but in colder weather it can mean making the choice between hydrotherapy massage or a longer hot soak in your spa. The reduced power draw also means that your heater runs on lower wattage (typically 500-1500w) so it will take longer to heat.

Portability

Typically Plug 'N Play hot tubs are also somewhat smaller (2 to 4 people) and are ideal for those who can’t be committed to leaving their tub in one place. These portable hot tubs can be moved on a whim and allow you to simply move the hot tub to your favourite location, fill it, and plug it in. It’s that simple.

hardwired hot tub benefits

Now let's have a look at the Pro's and Con's for Hard Wired Tubs. These types of hot tubs include more features (circulation pumps, ozonator, more lights etc), more choice in size and layout, and most importantly from a performance standpoint: more power.

The ability for the spa to draw significantly more power means that there are few if any limitations on it’s use. High quality hardwired spas often come with a minimum of two jet pumps plus an additional circulation pump, all of which can be run at the same time as well as the heater. And on the topic of the heaters, hardwired spa heaters generally run at 4000w-6000w as compared to a plug and play at 500w-1500w. To illustrate this you should expect a hardwired spa filled with tap water to heat to above 100 degrees in about 6-7 hours. A plug and play spa filled with the same water would likely take 18-22 hours to reach the same temperature.

Detailed Set Up

The planning and setup phase for a Hardwired hot tub are a larger investment of time and budget when compared to a Plug N Play model, but are well worth the outcome. Often times Hardwired models are built into decks, patios, interlock, or may even be “sunk” below surface level. This planning and setup may yield a larger upfront commitment, but is well worth the outcome. Check out this post for some hot tub inspiration and ideas.

Lower Long Term Cost

Though the upfront costs are often significantly higher than that of a Plug N Play model, the long-term savings of a Hardwired hot tub are substantial. Due to better insulation and the ability to operate the pump and heater simultaneously, a Hardwired spa changes and maintains water temperature quicker and more efficiently than a Plug N Play model. This advantage has a tremendous impact on your monthly electricity bill, which ends up providing a lower long-term cost than a Plug N Play spa.

Draw of Wattage

High quality hardwired spas often come with a minimum of two jet pumps plus an additional circulation pump, all of which can be run at the same time as well as the heater. And on the topic of the heaters, hardwired spa heaters generally run at 4000w-6000w as compared to a plug and play at 500w-1500w. To illustrate this you should expect a hardwired spa filled with tap water to heat to above 100 degrees in about 6-7 hours. A plug and play spa filled with the same water would likely take 18-22 hours to reach the same temperature.

And the winner is?

Ultimately you will need to compare the lower purchase/installation costs, portability and ease of installation of plug and play spas against the greater efficiency, larger choice of options and better performance of the hardwired spa when deciding which of these is the best fit for your needs and budget!

Having said that, here are a few takeaway points to remember when researching and planning your hot tub purchase:

plug ‘n Play models

  • plug n play hot tubs checkmarkSignificantly cheaper upfront costs and uses less wattage
  • plug n play hot tubs checkmarkDoesn’t usually need a pre-installation visit from a licensed electrician
  • plug n play hot tubs checkmarkTypically lose heat during the winter, as it’s pump and heater cannot operate at the same time
  • plug n play hot tubs checkmarkTakes 3 - 4 times longer to reach the same temperature for a much smaller spa

hardwired models

  • plug n play hot tubs checkmarkA more energy-efficient model, keeping your electricity bill lower, making it a more cost-
    effective option long-term
  • plug n play hot tubs checkmarkRequires a significant planning, electrical costs and material costs
  • plug n play hot tubs checkmarkMaintains water-temperature in the winter, as it’s able to run the pump and heater at the same time

Overall cost is a major concern for hot tub owners and we’ll address this here. This can often be the most confusing part of calculating the cost of hot tub ownership.

Hardwired spa draw more power and run heaters at higher levels and heat water faster. Plug and play spas, draw less power, but take much longer to heat the water. This means that the hardwired spa will be the more efficient option as the short-term, high-heat it provides will use less energy overall vs the plug and play longer-time, lower-heat approach.

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