This guide provides an in-depth look into the installation and ongoing maintenance costs of a hot tub. Find out how much you need to budget toward maintenance expenses.
A steamy, soothing soak in the hot tub helps ease most aches and pains — except for the sting of having to pay for the hot tub itself.
As backyard appliances go, hot tubs are no small expense, with even the most basic plug-and-play version running several hundred dollars.
And that’s before considering installation and maintenance, which can add up to hundreds of dollars a year. So before springing for that private spa, consider this breakdown of potential upkeep costs.
How much does installation cost?
Buying the hot tub hardware is just the first step. Next, you’ll have to plan how to situate the tub in your home.
The Installation and Ongoing Maintenance Costs of an above-ground hot tub
An above-ground, portable tub needs to sit on a solid foundation. If you don’t already have a concrete slab, a deck or a spa pad ready, you’ll have to shell out to have a level surface created.
The Installation and Ongoing Maintenance Costs of in-ground hot tub
Hoping for an in-ground tub? You can expect to pay up to $20,000. See the table below for a detailed breakdown of average costs.
Some tub brands require custom plumbing and electrical wiring to accommodate the machinery. Many companies charge a sliding scale of delivery fees based on how far you live from the dealership. And in certain locations, you may need to pay for local government permits before installing your tub.
Check out our detailed breakdown of hot tub installation costs here.
How expensive is maintenance?
Keeping a hot tub fresh, clean and operational is an ongoing process. How pricey that process is depends on a range of factors: Did you buy your tub new or used? Is there a warranty or insurance on it? Does your dealer offer check-up services?
The following maintenance steps, however, apply to all hot tubs.
Hot tub maintenance costs: water quality
You want the water in your hot tub to be restorative and crystal clear, not infested with bacteria, algae and mold spores. Keep in mind, though, that staying so fresh and so clean can add up.
Sanitizing and balancing chemicals such as chlorine and bromine cost $20 to $65 per month, according to Home Advisor. For example, a Spa Frog In-Line System Kit cost $50.
Or try a more high-tech solution: Some Sundance Spas models use the ClearRay bulb to kill harmful components in the water using ultraviolet light. A replacement bulb is $72.
Hot tub filters need to be replaced every few years or so to be effective — the Caldera Spas company recommends a 3-year time frame. Each filter (some tubs have multiple) costs $20 to $60 each, according to pool and spa company Sunplay.
In the interim, the filters need to be cleaned. Products such as the $15 Leisure Time Filter Clean Cartridge Cleaner can combat the minerals or calcification that cause clogs.
Hot tub maintenance costs: water
Stagnant water is an invitation to bacteria. Hot tub experts recommend draining all of the water from the machine and refilling it three or four times a year.
Sunplay offers an easy calculation to demonstrate the effect on your water bill. Take your tub’s water capacity, multiply it by the number of times you drain it each year, divide that figure by 12 to arrive at your monthly water use and multiply the number by the per-gallon fee you’re charged for water. So, for example, a 500-gallon tub drained quarterly with water at 0.2 cents a gallon would mean less than 35 cents added to your monthly water bill.
Hot tub maintenance costs: tub cleanliness
Even the most hygienic water is dangerous in a filthy tub. Getting rid of leaves, dirt, bugs and other interlopers requires a skimmer net, which usually costs less than $25. Or just suck up all the detritus in a spa vacuum — most models cost between $25 and $60 on Amazon.
To protect the tub from the elements, consider buying a cover, which costs anywhere from $50 to $400, according to Home Advisor estimates.
But the cover won’t clean itself. For hard spa shell or vinyl covers, there are polish and conditioning kits available for usually less than $20.
Hot tub maintenance costs: energy
Most hot tubs are likely not being heated over coals or logs. That means electricity or natural gas is in play — and likely a lot of it. In New York, for example, the average hot tub owner spends up to $25 a month on powering their machine, according to the National Grid utility.
“Energy efficiency in hot tubs has come a long way over the last decade,” according to Sunplay, though the company notes on its website that electricity costs depend on the unit price per kilowatt hour, the temperature of the water and total hot tub usage.
Most spas use 2,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity annually, according to supplies and parts provider Hot Tub Works. The national average cost of electricity is 12 cents per kilowatt-hour, which means hot tub owners are paying an average of $240 each year, according to the company.
Owners of older models have reported “horror stories” of hot tub energy bills of more than $50 a month, according to Sunplay. That’s especially likely when operating a tub above 95 degrees all day long, rather than using a circuit timer to turn down the heat during off-peak hours.
Owners can take steps to maximize energy efficiency, such as improving the tub’s insulation or using a thermal blanket — like the $30 Blue Wave Solar Blanket — to protect the hot tub machinery from freezing over in the winter.
Hot tub maintenance costs: miscellaneous fixes
Hot tubs, like all appliances, aren’t infallible. At some point, pipes will leak, and pumps will fail. Higher-end tubs will likely hold out longer than cheaper models. But expect to pay around $40 a year for repairs, according to Hot Tub Works.
Owning a hot tub can do wonders for your health and popularity — just be prepared for hidden costs! Check out our tutorial for financing your private spa and check out HomeAdvisor ProFinder for finding home services professionals. SuperMoney’s loan offer engine, for instance, makes it easy to compare prequalified rates without hurting your credit score. Also, check out what the best personal loans are to ensure that you choose the best option for you. Or look into expanding your “liquid” assets by considering our guide to choosing a pool!
Tiffany Hsu no longer writes for SuperMoney. In addition to her work at SuperMoney, Tiffany covered breaking news for New York Times and economic news for The Los Angeles Times. She is a UC Berkeley graduate and earned an M.B.A. from Columbia University.