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Hot Tubs Making a Comeback as Relaxing Oases

More than 4,000 years ago the Egyptians were taking advantage of the healing powers of a steamy bath by tossing sizzling rocks into naturally-formed pools of water.

And the ancient Greeks were throwing off their togas and turning public bathing houses into the town hot spots.

Modern hot tubs can offer their owners a respite from anxiety and stress, soothe aches and pains, or simply help a person relax before bedtime and get a good night’s sleep, said Lori Bennett, owner of Leisure Elements at 203 W. Wackerly Road.

And with hot tubs that can accommodate up to eight people – bathing suits optional – they can also be a place to entertain guests.

“It looks like a party waiting to happen,” Bennett said of the larger hot tubs. “It’s a small swimming pool.”

Hot tubs also come with several options, said Dwight Robinson, owner of Robinson’s Hot Tubs, 1725 Airport Road. Lighting packages, waterfalls, and fountains can be had, but also stereos and televisions pop up with the push of a button.

“You can sit in the hot tub and watch TV,” Robinson said, though most people prefer listening to music.

The most popular option is massaging jets. Research has tub-makers placing jets where they will target sore neck and back muscles, he said.

“You get in there nowadays for a massage and to relax,” he said.

Robinson is seeing a resurgence in the hot tub business after a couple of bad years due to the economy, with 25 units sold so far this year, he said.

Once a homeowner decides to buy a hot tub the first thing they need to do is figure out what they want to do with it, said Bennett, who has owned Leisure Elements since May. Will it be inside or outside? How big will it be? And how many people will use it?

Most people put their tubs outside, Bennett said, and the cooler seasons are when they get the most use.

“I sit outside in mine all winter with a straw hat on,” she said. “We’ve had lots of people in the last few weeks setting up their tubs.”

Next, they need to visualize the tub in its location, Bennett said. Using a garden hose to lay out the tub’s position, whether that’s on the ground or on a deck, will help a homeowner envision the size of the tub and where it will work best.

Where the home’s electrical panel is located also needs to be taken into consideration, as lines will have to be run to the tub. The tub will need to be positioned so that the access panel of the tub itself can be reached for future maintenance, Bennett said. She recommends leaving about two feet of space around the tub.

“But a lot depends on what you have for space,” she said.

If space is limited, up to two sides of the tub can be butted up against walls, but if the tub develops a leak, it may have to be emptied and tipped in order to find and repair it.

The tub must be installed on a level, solid surface, Bennett said. That surface can be concrete, compacted gravel, paver stones or wood, or composite deck. If placed on a deck, the load weight of the tub will need to be determined. Bennett also recommends having a contractor look at the deck, as it may need to be reinforced.

The load weight is determined by adding together the weight of the tub itself, the water it will hold (about 8.3 pounds per gallon), and the weight of the maximum number of people it can hold, using an average of 150 pounds per person.

If the tub will be indoors, the area needs to be well-ventilated to prevent inhalation of chemical fumes, as well as damage from heat and humidity, Bennett said.

The homeowner will want to make sure no water is pooling around the outside of the tub, which can damage the tub. And if it is placed on a concrete floor, rubber mats should be placed around the tub to prevent slipping.

Tubs range in price from $2,000 to $15,000, Bennett said, and the homeowner will also have to hire an electrician. The tub does not have to be connected to the home’s plumbing system; a hose is used to fill it and to top it off.

The maintenance of a hot tub is similar to a pool. The water is checked at least weekly for pH, alkalinity, calcium and chlorine and bromine levels, and hardness, with chemicals added as needed. Test strips can be used, or a sample can be taken into a pool or spa business.

The cost to keep a hot tub running varies on how often it is used and how many people are using it, but Bennett estimates the cost of electricity and chemicals at about $25 to $60 per month.

Midland building codes do not require a fence to be placed around the tub, Bennett said, and installing a privacy fence is up to the homeowner.

Source: By Patti Brandt for the Midland Daily News | Posted: Sunday, October 16, 2011, 7:00 am | Updated: 2:41 am, Sun Oct 16, 2011.


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