Top positive review
Much better than expected!
30 July 2016
Our tub is still going strong in it's third October. It refuses to die! Third season update is down near the end of this growing review.
Second season update.
We took the tub in last November, cleaned it up, dried it out and, eventually, got it all back in the storage bag, which I hung from the outhouse ceiling with a Maplin bike hoist to keep the mice at bay,
I've been extending the patio for it, so didn't get it back out until early May. It was COVERED in lurid coloured mould. Guess I didn't dry it out enough. I though it was ruined as the mould seemed able to resist my efforts with all manner of cleaning products but I filled it, added about 20 scoops of chlorine and left it overnight. The next day it was almost clean. I drained it, rinsed it, refilled it, 5 scoops of chlorine and put the heater on. 13 degrees c to 39 in 10 hours. This morning the chemical balance was normal and it looked like new. After an extended soak I am as pleased with it as ever!
End of update
After using the tub daily for a couple of months or so, I've added some notes at the bottom about our experiences, tips and running costs.
Having experienced hot tubs at various gites and holiday cottages we have been hankering after one for a while, but didn't know if we'd use one enough at home to justify coughing up a few grand. I didn't know inflatables existed until I saw a lay z spa in a diy shop, and got busy checking Amazon and reading reviews. The Intex Octagonal came out top for our criteria, and arrived 2 days after ordering. Setting up was very straightforward AFTER we had created a large enough flat space....it needs a 5 by 4 square of standard 45cm slabs (4×4 for the spa and 1 behind for the heater unit). There are unused and unexplained bits in the box when you have finished the setup, but they are things like drain hose adaptors, chemical dispensers and spare seals, so don't despair! You haven't missed anything off.
Filling took about 90 minutes and then it took just over 10 hours to heat the water (15 degrees start temp) to our chosen 37 degrees. Don't forget to add the chlorine when you first fill it otherwise, like me, you will have another wait!
I'm a not very agile 6ft, and the spa is very easy to get in and out of. I wasn't expecting much by way of comfort, depth and space but I have been pleasantly surprised on all counts! The inflatable construction means that the whole circumference is a comfortable backrest. I filled just below max and, sitting bolt upright, my shoulders are clear of the water. Slide forward a bit and it is only my head out in the wind and rain of our Essex summer! We are not small and can easily sit side by side along one of the flats, or one on the corner cut off. We haven't tried more than 2 yet but 3 could obviously stretch out in comfort. You could fit more in but you'd probably get to know them quite well quite quickly! Kids and smaller adults would probably benefit from a raised seat, but we find it perfectly comfortable without. I have ordered the Intex headrests but they probably aren't necessary....will post a review when they arrive..and the Intex drinks holders are well made and essential. No wine in a hot tub? Yeah right!
Overall, we bought this to see if we wanted a £4000 hot tub and the answer is no! At around a tenth of the price this is well made, sturdy, comfortable. undemanding and fun to own!
Six weeks in we've used the tub at least once almost every day. It is fantastic for stargazing! There are a couple of things I'd like to add to my review.
1. Filters. The book says to change it every 2 days. Yeah right! I started by rinsing it under a tap and it was lasting a week before needing replacement. Reading reviews of filter brushes someone said washing them with a hose full blast from the outside was more effective and they were right! You get splashed a bit, but I do this every time we get out and the current filter has been in 3 weeks so far and is still pristine. They will obviously eventually go, and it costs half as much per unit to buy a 12 pack.
2. Muck in the tub. Happy Hot Tubs do a leaf skimmer for 9 quid that has a fine enough mesh to remove all the thunderflies that want to share your tub as well as wasps, leaves, and all the bits that stick to your feet on the way in. I also got an ear syringe on Amazon for about a fiver...it is essentially a pear sized and shaped rubber bulb. Squeeze all the air out above the surface, take it down to any grit on the bottom and slowly release your grip. This sucks in any bits on the bottom which you then squirt over the side at passing pigeons, neighbours, wives etc.
3. Chemicals. I filled my pool as soon as it was inflated and stuck the heater on. For the next week I had to use a daily 10ml dose of ph minus as well as a 5 to 10ml of chlorine to keep thing in balance. I changed the water after 3 weeks when it suddenly became cloudy, and have not needed to use ph minus since. I suspect that had I washed the tub thoroughly BEFORE the first fill I wouldn't have needed to do anything with the ph. About a week after the 2nd fill it became cloudy again. This time I gave it 20ml of chlorine (4 LEVEL teaspoons) and it was crystal clear again the next day. Daily chlorine dose varies between 1 and 2 spoonfuls. I bought a 5 kilo tub of 'Clearwater' Chlorine Granules from Castle Hot Tubs on Amazon. They weren't Clearwater annoyingly, but work just as well and are far better value than the 500g bottles.
4. Rigidity. The tub goes softer over a few days. I use the bubble function to mix in my chlorine each day, and just connect the inflation hose approx every 3rd day while i do this to top up the pressure. When using the inflation hose it is worth giving the tub end an anti clockwise half twist before you attach it to the tub adaptor as this holds it in better. I've also topped the lid up once.
5. Running costs. Our tub has been up and constantly running for 10 weeks now and the electricity bill has come in. It is almost exactly 100 pounds more than the same period last year, so the tub is costing about a tenner a week when on constantly and used heavily. I expect this to go up over the winter when the temperature differentials will be greater. Chlorine, test strips and filters are costing about a pound a week between them...washing the filter with a hose each day appears to make it last indefinitely, but I'm changing it each month anyway.
6. Noise. There is a low hum from the heater/filter unit when it is running. We noticed that this got louder sometimes and we needed to shove the unit round a bit to get back to the low hum. It took a while to work out that when you sit on the side the whole thing bulges a bit and pushes the unit away from the pool. With our setup this causes the hum to get more intrusive. Putting a slab against the back of the unit solved this issue for us.
Third Season Update.
I got the tub back out in March this year. No mould! Result! I did pay rather more attention to drying it out thoroughly before putting it away last year, and the extra effort was worth it. Having connected the tub to the heater unit and plugged it in, I pressed the bubble button to reinflate it... 2 seconds of asthmatic blowing was followed by silence. My kids have all moved to Sheffield for better value housing. They would have learnt some new words had they stayed anywhere round here! In all honesty I was disappointed at the prospect of not being able to get in it the next day rather than worrying about value.. we'd more than had our money's worth in the previous two years of heavy use. With this in mind I decided to dismantle the heater unit and see if there was a replacement part I could order. Taking photos of each stage so I'd know how it went back together, I was able to get down to the blower motor with relative ease, using just a Phillips screwdriver. To actually remove the motor I needed a pair of pliers too to undo the earth wire. The housing was very corroded. Where I'd used the 'suck' function to deflate the tub last year it had also sucked in all the moisture from the ring of bubble holes, and I'd then put the unit back in it's box for the winter, unaware of it being wet inside. I think leaving the unit on blow for 10 minutes or so after deflating the tub would have dried it out internally and avoided this problem, and I shall report back next year. Anyway, as I dismantled the blower motor housing, cleaning corrosion as I went, it became apparent that the motor brushes were seized solid in their holder/guides. If you are not familiar with the workings of an electric motor, these are two carbon rods with wires attached to them that make contact with the spindle of the motor and cause it, by some strange electro magnetic process, to rotate. Liberal doses of WD40 and the insertion down the housing sides of a thin bit of metal soon freed them up. It really sounds more complicated than it is! I'm no electrician, but the whole process took less than 2 hours from the first expletives to switching it back on and feeling rather smug as the tub inflated. You can buy a new blower motor if this sounds too daunting, or indeed a new heater unit if you have a couple of hundred quid spare. Or you can make sure it is completely dry before you put it away!
One other thing, the tub has been noticeably softer this year. Not an issue as it is only a few seconds on blow to reinflate it before I get in, but after a two week holiday it looks a bit like I sometimes feel the morning after a session! Anyway, a couple of days ago I put the hose in to top the water level back up to max, and got distracted. When I remembered, the water was just beginning to overflow. More expletives, followed by joy as I noticed a little stream of bubbles coming up. It is not a hole so much as a splodge of plastic on the inner top seam which was not quite sealed. I put a small patch on it and no more leak! When I put the tub away I intend to put some vulcanising solution from a puncture repair kit on the leak while I suck the air out, so it gets sucked through and fills the hole.
Oh, and yes, it survived the 'Beast from the East' and I tubbed in a blizzard!
End of update
Still think it's one of the best things I bought for the money!
Many thanks to Intex and Amazon!