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Portable Spas vs. In-ground Spas

Portable Spas

Portable spas, or sometimes referred to as "self contained spas", have established themselves as the leader in the spa market for a simple reason; they have become the "quick fix". This can be explained as "drop it off, wire it up, and jump in". Now I know that this is not true in every case, but this is the order most of the time.

Another reason is the "complete package" they can offer, which comes in a variety of ways, depending on the manufacturer. They are all offering too many jets to count, some whirl, some spin, some move up and down, and others pulsate. These are all being powered by one or two pumps that boast big horsepower. Some come with air blowers that inject air into the spa by fittings that have been installed in the seats and floor of the spa shell. They can be wired for 220 or 110 volts and come in a beautifully wrapped wooded skirt with the spa cover thrown in. Of course there are other options and particulars that weren't mentioned but I think you have the idea.

These are just some of the things that have made the portable spa so popular. In most cases the price is right and once you have set it up, and wired it in, you are finished. Why wouldn't you purchase a portable spa? Let's take a look at the in-ground spa. 

In-ground Spas

In-ground spas were your only choice before portable spas came around. This means that a spa shell was installed all the way, partially, or even on top of the ground. Usually a wooden deck is built around it, giving it its "finished" look. The equipment is comprised of separate pieces (i.e., pump, filter, and heater) versus the spa pack (all-in-one package) that comes with the portable spa.

The equipment is usually installed out of sight and performs very well. The jet amount and placement, as well as the customized "look" of the spa, are per the customer's request. The in-ground application is a more custom order, and you as the customer, can create a more personal massage style. There are no limitations! The total cost of the installation matches a higher-end portable spa, but you must still consider the cosmetic work (deck) around the spa. This usually will take the final price of the in-ground higher than the final cost of the portable. If you are going for a special look and feel in your yard, you may want to go the "in-ground route".

Portable Spa Pros

- Self-contained and ready to go

- Numerous jets and how they are featured, giving that pinpoint massage

- A "complete package" that will supply almost everyone's needs

- In many cases, a plumbing leak can easily be repaired

- "There is a portable for everyone" meaning: you can find one to meet your budget

Portable Spa Cons

- Take it as it is, lacks personal touch

- Many manufacturers provide the jets, but not enough power to run them

- The repair history of portables is much higher than in-grounds

In-ground Spa Pros

- Offers a personal touch from beginning to end. It's custom

- Performance can be much better depending on the H. P. of the pump

- All the equipment has a much higher performance rating

- In most cases, it's heated with a gas heater, or a higher kW electric heater

- Equipment is hidden out of sight and cannot be heard - no noise

In-ground Spa Cons

- Total price can be considerably higher after customized for personal taste"

- It cannot be moved like a portable spa

- In most cases, if it is left empty it will "float". This can be a costly repair

- Repair histories are much lower, unless a leak occurs from the plumbing around the shell. This can be a costly repair

OVER-ALL REVIEW: For many, the rising cost of vacation packages has left them stranded, right at home. So to get around this, many have decided to make their homes, specifically their back yards, the vacation spot. And as you have probably already guessed, a spa is usually part of the plan. 

Now usually the first question that is discussed among you, is how long do we plan on staying in this home? The answer will probably lead to how much money you are willing to spend. If your plans are to move within five years, it may be more economical to purchase a portable spa rather than an in-ground spa simply because of their ability to be moved. If your plans are not to move for a long time, then I would consider the in-ground application, mostly because of its over-all performance, and the final look.

This article was written with a background of 20 years in the spa repair business. And with that, I think the portable spa is probably right for the majority, but in my professional opinion, the in-ground installation is the way to go. It simply outperforms the portable unit with it's unlimited combinations and power. Enjoy!

FINAL NOTE: If a portable spa is what you have chosen to purchase, then make sure you do your homework. That means don't let the newness or how something looks make the final decision for you. Most of you are interested in performance, right? Then before you purchase the one you're interested in, have them fill it with water and, if it is possible, ask them if you can bring your bathing suits and give it a test. After all, you are spending a considerable amount of money. Make sure you like what you are purchasing before you get it to your home. 

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