Inflatable Hot Tubs: Should They Run All The Time?

Inflatable hot tubs have become increasingly popular, offering homeowners an affordable and easy-to-install alternative to traditional hot tubs. However, many owners of inflatable hot tubs are left wondering whether they should run their hot tubs all the time or only when in use.

An inflatable hot tub is intended to operate continuously, and as a general rule, it is advisable to do so. This practice helps maintain a consistent water temperature, which mitigates inefficient temperature cycling. In the long run, consistency is the best course of action.

Deciding whether to run an inflatable hot tub all the time or only when in use is an important consideration. In this article, we’ll dive deeper into the pros and cons of both options and consider personal preferences, usage frequency, and maintenance.

3 Reasons to Run an Inflatable Hot Tub All The Time

1. Energy Efficiency

Hot tubs require a ton of energy to heat the water to the desired temperature. This is actually where most of the energy consumption occurs. However, once the water has reached the desired temperature, it takes much less energy to maintain that temperature. This is because water has a high heat capacity, meaning it can retain a lot of heat energy. This is great for your hot tub and your wallet as it will remain at temperature for a long time and will take significantly less heat energy to maintain temperature.

Think of the water as a thermal sponge. When filling the hot tub with water and heating it to the desired temperature, it’s like saturating the sponge with water. Once the sponge is fully saturated, it can retain the water without needing continuous water flow. Similarly, once the water in the hot tub reaches the desired temperature, it can maintain that temperature with minimal energy input.

If you turn the heater off, the water will slowly start to drop in temperature, just like the water in a sponge will slowly evaporate in the open air. For the heater to maintain a constant temperature, it needs to turn on intermittently to replenish the lost heat energy, similar to adding more water to the sponge when it starts to dry out. This intermittent heating is more energy-efficient than constantly heating the water from a lower starting temperature, just as adding small amounts of water to the sponge uses less water than continually pouring water over it.

All this translates to using less energy, costing you less money in the long term to maintain a constant temperature in your inflatable hot tub.

2. Water Maintenance

Water maintenance is another crucial factor to consider when deciding whether to run an inflatable hot tub all the time or not. When the hot tub is left on constantly, it’s easier to maintain the water chemistry and cleanliness compared to turning it on and off frequently. This is because the constant water circulation and filtration provides mechanical filtration and circulation of chemicals to keep the water clean.

On the other hand, if the hot tub is only turned on occasionally, the water can become stagnant, and bacteria can grow, making it more challenging to maintain the water quality.

If water quality issues frequently occur in an inflatable hot tub, it would necessitate the use of more chemicals to treat the water and more frequent draining and refilling of the hot tub with fresh water. This can be both time-consuming and wasteful.

Maintaining the proper water chemistry in a hot tub is already a delicate balancing act, requiring regular testing and adjustments to the pH and sanitizer levels. When the hot tub is always left on, it’s easier to maintain this balance since the water is circulating, making the water chemistry more stable. This makes for a more effortless, comfortable, and safe hot tub experience.

3. Performance and Longevity

Continuously running an inflatable hot tub can positively affect its performance and longevity. When a hot tub is constantly heated, it reduces the stress on its components, such as the pump and heating element. As a result, these components are less likely to wear out early and require repair or replacement.

When an inflatable hot tub is always on, it provides a stable environment for the water and its chemical balance. Unbalanced water chemistry can cause corrosion, mineral buildup, and damage to the hot tub components. If subjected to water chemistry extremes, heating elements, seals, and gaskets are highly susceptible to wear and premature failure.  

3 Reasons to NOT Run an Inflatable Hot Tub All The Time

1. Infrequent Usage

When an inflatable hot tub is used infrequently, it may not be best to leave it running while not in use. Whether or not to leave it running depends on how infrequent the use is. In general, using a hot tub less than once every two weeks will save you money to turn the temperature down in the long run. I go more in-depth in my article about what to do with your hot tub when you go on vacation.

Since we are discussing inflatable hot tubs, I suggest turning the temperature down 10 degrees if it goes unused for over a week. Not using it for longer than two weeks could justify turning off the heat altogether as long as the outside temperature remains above freezing.

Inflatable hot tubs are generally less efficient because they are designed to be affordable. Less money is spent on insulative materials; expensive components like the pump and heater must meet a specific price point. An inflatable hot tub is less efficient overall due to its inflatable and temporary design.

2. Energy Costs

It costs money to operate a hot tub. Manufacturers and other hot tub informational sources suggest that it will generally cost around $1 a day to operate. Since my family had ours installed, we have seen a $20 increase per month in electricity averaged across the year. The cost is higher in the colder months or during the months when I drain and refill the hot tub. When I turn the hot tub temperature down in the summer, the heater barely runs, and the cost may be half. The point is, just like buying any other major appliance, a hot tub will cost you money to use.

An inflatable hot tub might be the best option if you are cost-conscious. Due to its affordable design and ease of setup and tear down, it is OK to set it up when wanted and tear it down during periods of low use. A portable hot tub, the term used for large, very un-portable hot tubs, cannot be deflated and stored on a garage shelf. If you are not going to use a hot tub all the time and want to avoid paying to maintain or heat it when you are not using it, then an inflatable hot tub is your best option.

3. Maintenance Requirements

Frequent water quality issues can cause maintenance problems and premature failures of parts such as seals, heating elements, pumps, etc. Keeping hot tub water balanced, filtered, and sanitized is generally a good idea. Unfortunately, there are no true maintenance-free systems. I have gotten pretty close using a product called Frog@Ease. However, I still have to monitor alkalinity, ph, and check on the sanitizer cartridge at least once weekly.

Suppose you are one to easily get bored with routine or even struggle to develop routines in the first place. In that case, you may have trouble keeping a hot tub running consistently. Even if you set up a good routine, there will still be times when you will be out of town for vacation or work and need help to properly maintain a hot tub.

This may be why you would only want to keep an inflatable hot tub running some of the time. Set it up when you want it, and tear it down when you don’t want to maintain it. Inflatable hot tubs are great for this type of scenario.

What Parts of a Hot Tub Most Affect Efficiency?

Several parts of a hot tub can significantly affect energy efficiency. Here are some of the most important ones and how they specifically relate to an inflatable hot tub:

  1. Insulation: The level and quality of insulation in a hot tub can significantly impact its energy efficiency. A well-insulated hot tub will retain heat better and require less energy to maintain a consistent water temperature. Unfortunately, inflatable hot tubs are not known to be well-insulated.
  2. Cover: A high-quality, well-fitting cover can also significantly impact energy efficiency by reducing heat loss when the hot tub is not in use. An inflatable hot tub will come with a cover. It will not be as insulative as the covers supplied with larger portable hot tubs. Most heat is lost through the water’s surface to the surrounding air. Therefore, it is best practice to ensure your hot tub cover is in good condition and fits tightly to reflect the heat back into the water and minimize heat loss.
  3. Pump and heater: The pump and heater are two of the most energy-intensive components of a hot tub. As mentioned before, an inflatable hot tub will not have the top of the line pumps and heaters. However, they generally do not have large flow-hungry jets, so high-flow pumps and large heating elements are unnecessary. Smaller, more energy-efficient components can be used instead.
  4. Filtration system: A hot tub’s filtration system is responsible for keeping the water clean and clear. Efficient filtration systems can reduce the need for frequent water changes, which can save energy and water. Filtration for an inflatable hot tub will be minimal so will the impact of high-efficiency filters.
  5. Plumbing: The plumbing system can also impact energy efficiency. A well-designed plumbing system can help reduce energy loss and improve the overall performance of the hot tub. Designs that limit 90-degree angles, keep runs short, and fully insulate the plumbing lines will have lower flow resistance and heat loss, meaning smaller heaters and pumps can be used.

All of these factors are interrelated, and improving one can often positively impact others. For example, a well-insulated hot tub with a high-quality cover will require less energy to maintain a consistent water temperature, reducing the workload on the pump and heater, and extending the filtration system’s lifespan.

What Else Should You Know About Inflatable Hot Tubs?

I have compiled a list of common questions about inflatable hot tubs:

Do Inflatable Hot Tubs Have Jets?

Yes, Inflatable Hot Tubs have jets, but they may not be what you think. I would consider the jets on inflatable hot tubs to be more like a “bubbler”. They provide a soothing experience but not a hydrotherapy experience. For more information see my article.

Are Inflatable Hot Tubs Ok For Winter Use?

No, you should not use an inflatable hot tub in the winter if you live in a cold climate. They are not designed to withstand cold temperatures for an extended period of time. Check out my article linked above to learn why.

How Hot Do Inflatable Hot Tubs Get?

I have written an article that explains this topic in detail. Check it out!

Are Inflatable Hot Tubs Energy Efficient?

I would not consider an inflatable hot tub to be as efficient as a standard fully insulated hot tub, but they generally have smaller heaters and lower power pumps so their overall energy consumption will be lower than a standard hot tub.

How Long Do Inflatable Hot Tubs Last?

An inflatable hot tub usually includes a 1-year manufacturer’s warranty. Since the manufacturer is only backing their product for a year, I would expect an inflatable hot tub to last at least a few years. This is heavily dependent on how well it is maintained, stored, and used. You will want to follow my tips below to make sure you get the most out of your inflatable hot tub:

Should You Leave Your Inflatable Hot Tub On All The Time?

Yes, leaving your inflatable hot tub on will ensure that the water is filtered and heated properly. Hot tubs, inflatable or not, are designed to run continuously and are most efficient if allowed to maintain filtration and temperature. The only time you should turn off your hot tub is if you are draining and/or refilling it. To learn why this is important check out my article on whether a hot tub will run without water.

How Often Should You Change The Water In An Inflatable Hot Tub?

The best rule of thumb is to change your hot tub’s water once every 4 months or whenever the water chemistry becomes difficult to balance. Since an inflatable hot tub is generally seasonal and only used in the warm months, you may be able to get away with longer durations between fills.

How Long Will An Inflatable Hot Tub Stay Warm Without Power?

A well-insulated hot tub will stay warm in freezing temperatures for days as long as the cover is kept on at all times. Unfortunately, an inflatable hot tub is not nearly as well insulated as a normal hot tub so if the temperature is below freezing you will want to find an alternative source of power or drain your inflatable hot tub to keep the water lines from freezing.

All the mechanical components, plumbing, and electronics of an inflatable hot tub do not sit in an insulated cabinet like a normal hot tub so they will quickly lose heat and be subjected to freeze damage faster. The inflatable portion of the hot tub will take longer to freeze due to the volume of water contained within it.

In general, I would play it safe and not use an inflatable hot tub during periods of the year when temperatures drop below freezing.

The Inflatable Hot Tub I Recommend

I do not take product recommendations lightly and do not list any product that I would not use myself.

Intex PureSpa Greywood Deluxe 4 or 6 Person Spa

Intex is a well-known brand for inflatable products. They produce a few variations of an inflatable hot tub, but their PureSpa Deluxe line is their flagship and best product line you can buy. It is easy to set up with a built-in inflation system and easy to connect components. It can be purchased in two sizes:

DimensionsIntex PureSpa Deluxe 4 PersonIntex PurSpa Deluxe 6 Person
Volume210 gallons290 gallons
Interior Diameter57 in65 in
Exterior Diameter77 in85 in
Depth28 in28 in
Intex PureSpa Deluxe Sizes

Product: Intex PureSpa Deluxe 4 Person Version

Product: Intex PureSpa Deluxe 6 Person Version

Why Do I Like This Hot Tub?

  • Comes in 2 sizes (4 person or 6 person)
  • Includes 2 headrests, a cover, a ground pad, extra filters, and a chlorine dispenser
  • Has a lighting package
  • Good size heater and pump for the price

What Don’t I Like About This Hot Tub?

  • The 6 person version is too big for Intex insulated cover add-on
  • The 6 person version has the same size blower, pump, and heater as the 4 person

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