Most traditional hot tubs are 220v, and tend to have more powerful jets and a beefier construction. But if those things aren't important to you (and you're on a budget) then a 110v might work for you.
A 110v 'plug-and-play' hot tub can be a good option if you're concerned about price, ease of installation, space constraints, or portability. However, you won't find powerful hydrotherapy jets or other high-end features in these budget-friendly spas.
When choosing between a 220v hot tub and 110v hot tub, it's important to consider many different factors to make the best decision for your specific situation. Let's dive into how exactly to do that, so you'll know if a 110v could meet your needs—or if you'll be disappointed.
What are the benefits of a 110v hot tub?
If you want to get into the hot tub game but cost is a concern, a 110v hot tub could be a great choice for you. Not only will the price tag on the hot tub itself be a bit cheaper than 220v models (starting at under $5,000, instead of $10,000+), but you also won't need to pay for additional services like an electrician to install it.
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110v hot tubs tend to be a bit cheaper out of the box than 220v models because they are smaller and their components are less complex. This combined with the fact that you can just plug it into a regular outlet will definitely save you some money.
Many people can install a 110v hot tub on their own. Because they are smaller, more lightweight, and easier to operate than 220v models, you can usually get it set up in an afternoon.
Once you choose a location for your hot tub, all you have to do is set it up and plug it in. You'll need to wait a few hours for your hot tub to come to temperature, but then you can be relaxing in no time.
Note: You'll still need a flat, level base for your spa but it's a lot easier to maneuver a lighter 110v model into place.
The ease of installation is a huge benefit to 110v hot tubs. You can enjoy your hot tub without having to wait for a contractor or electrician to fit you into their schedule and set your hot tub up for you.
No electrician required
110v hot tubs plug into a standard electrical outlet in your home without needing any modifications. You won't need an electrician to do any fancy wiring or make any modifications to your outlet, you simply just plug in your hot tub and you're good to go.
What this means is that you don't need to choose your hot tub location based on where you have a 220v outlet or hire an electrician to install a new 220v circuit if you don't already have one in your home.
Being able to install your hot tub without the help of an electrician is a great way to cut back on costs, as parts and labor for electrical work can be quite costly.
Moves with you
Many people are hesitant to install a hot tub in their home if they know they are considering moving in the next few years. After all, it would be a shame to go through all the work to install a hot tub only to have to leave it behind when you move.
With a 110v hot tub, relocating the hot tub with you is possible. These tubs are significantly lighter and more portable than 220v hot tubs (I'm thinking specifically of ones in the rotomolded category here) and don't require complicated installations, so if you want to take your hot tub with you when you move you absolutely can.
220v spas are typically hardwired into place so moving them takes significantly more work.
Even if you aren't moving out of your house but you want to move your hot tub to a new location, you can do that with a 110v hot tub as well. If you put your 110v hot tub in your basement and then decide you'd like it outside on your patio, you can move it to the new location and simply plug it in there.
What does a 220v hot tub have that a 110v doesn't?
More powerful jets
One of the best things about relaxing in a hot tub is enjoying the massaging jets after a long day at work, or relieving aches and pains from sore, tired muscles. If you're specifically looking for a hot tub that has powerful massaging jets, you are going to want to consider a 220v model instead of a 110v model.
220v models tend to have jets that are more powerful due to stronger motors. They also usually have different, more sophisticated jet pattern options. 110v models simply do not have the power to produce a strong flow rate, and usually just have one standard 'jets-on' mode.
110v spas are often made to sound good by touting a high number of jets, but because they are more cheaply designed and built, you end up with not much water pressure (or worse, tiny jets of water which just feel annoying, itchy, or even painful).
On the other hand, quality 220v spas have fewer but larger, more expensive jets designed to produce a high flow rate. This makes for a better quality massage.
Might not heat when jets are on
One of the most disappointing things about 110v hot tubs is that they usually can't heat the water while the jets are running on full power. This means that if you want to keep the jets on for a while, you'll have to endure gradually cooling water.
It's a real bummer, and it often leads people to believe that their 110v hot tub is defective. But in reality, this is just a limitation of the 110v power supply. While it's enough to run the jets or maintain the water temperature, it's not enough to do both at the same time. To keep the water nice and warm, you need to turn off the jets and allow the heater to catch up.
So if you want to enjoy a hot tub with consistent temperature control during long massage sessions, you'll need to invest in a 220v model. But if you're willing to put up with minor temperature fluctuations (and not run the jets for too long at a time), a 110v hot tub can still be a great way to relax and unwind.
Additional seating space
Most 220v hot tubs are larger in size than 110v hot tubs. Because they are meant to be permanent, they are bigger and heavier than their 110v counterparts. Also, there's a limit to how much water the smaller heaters in 110v spas can cope with.
With the added size usually comes more seating space and different seating options. You won't be stuck with just a few small seats in each corner of the tub; you can explore different options and enjoy a bit more space.
110v hot tubs tend to only hold around 4-5 people and have fixed seating spaces. With a 220v hot tub, your size potential opens up and often there are different types of benches, seats, and loungers inside to accommodate several people comfortably.
Although 220v hot tubs tend to be more powerful, they are usually a bit more energy-efficient as well. This might be surprising since the motors are bigger and more powerful in larger tubs, you would think they would be more of a drain on your electricity—but this is not usually the case.
Consistently running a smaller, less efficient heater for your 110v hot tub may end up costing you more in the long run than going with a larger but better quality 220v hot tub. The motors in larger 220v hot tubs just tend to be more efficient and reliable. They also last longer than 110v hot tub motors as a general rule.
In my experience, cheaper spas tend to have less well insulated covers that do not seal as well, which is another big part of how energy-efficient your spa is going to be.
It's important to consider this change to your monthly electric bill when considering which type of hot tub is right for you.
Cold weather resilience
110v hot tubs are not as resilient in freezing temperatures as their 220v counterparts. This is because 110v models typically have less insulation, thinner covers, and cheaper components, which makes it more difficult for them to maintain a consistent temperature.
Although it's not a good idea to put a 110v hot tub in a cold climate outdoors, you can still consider putting one indoors, or in a shed, garage, or greenhouse. Alternatively, consider upgrading your power to 240v—most plug-and-play spas can be converted to run on a 240v plug by a qualified electrician.
In contrast, 220v hot tubs are built with better components and more insulation, making them much better equipped to withstand the cold. As a result, if you live in an area with severe winters, it's best to choose a 220v model.
The bottom line
Many people don't want to deal with the added expense and headache of having to get electrical work done to install a hot tub, which makes a 110v hot tub sound like a great solution.
Although you can enjoy many of the same benefits of a standard 220v hot tub with less upfront work required, you also lose out on features like powerful hydrotherapy jets, size, better seating arrangements, and energy efficiency.
If you are mostly looking for some hot water to soak in and don't particularly care about powerful jets, don't need a big spa, and don't have very cold winters, then a 110v spa will probably work for you just fine.