What's the Best Hot Tub

Author Topic: First Time Buyer: Struggling with decisions (Bullfrog, Hot Spring, Wellis, etc)  (Read 1108 times)

spladao

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Hey all, I appreciate this site greatly. Been lurking for several weeks, finally registered as we are getting close to buying. Looking for some insight as this is all knew to us. w have been to THREE places and hear very different opinions on all of this. We have this down to probably (2) different stores, and (3) different units:

Store1: Really love the sales guy here. Very informative, nice dude. No pressure.

1. Bullfrog X8 Premier: We were pretty much set on this as the size is pretty impressive.  We love how friggin big it is. We could make it work in the back, but its' a tight fit. The idea of being able to essentially lie flat and float fully was enticing. :)  Has 1 neck / shoulder jet.
~$8,600 + tax, including cover, lifter, steps, circ pump insulation package, LED jet package, chemical kit, deliver and  18 months @ 0%)
Warranty: 5 years parts, 3 year labor

We spent must of our time here looking at the X8 and hearing all the selling points (no diverter, less plumbing for less issues, no wood, etc). It's only like, $700 more than the X7 so figured, might as well just get the bigger one. But then on our 2nd trip in there, right before we left, he showed us a Hot Spring Rhythm.

2. Host Spring Rhythm: Sales guy was fine to show us this less expensive option as we were asking questions about jet strength, etc. I had told him that I wasn't sure if the X8 had powerful enough jets. He said this one had very powerful jets and was the #1 manufacturer and would sell it all day long. He said even though he touted the X8's minimal plumbing, and non-wood construction, this one, which has wood and the traditional plumbing (diverters), he'd sell it all day long because, "It's a Hot Spring". He kept going back to the "it's a Hot Spring". No circ pump. This one did not have water in it so we could not feel the jets, but did feel another Hot Spring model's jets. Hard to say if it's much more powerful than the X8.
~$7,100 + tax, including cover, lifter, steps, chemical kit, deliver and 18 months @ 0%.
Warranty: 2 years parts, 2 year labor

----Second Store---

3. Wellis Libra: Does anyone know anything about Wellis? Don't see much on here about it. Wellis has been pitched to us as a European company that's been around a while, but fairly new to the US. Machine made (not a lot of humans touching it -- that's the pitch). They look nice - jets seemed nice. Their warranty is better than the other 2 as it's 5 year parts / 5 year labor. No wood construction.
~$8,499 + tax, including cover, lifter, steps, chemical kit, plasma ozonator, delivery and 24 months @ 0%)
Warranty: 5 years parts, 5 year labor

Thoughts / Concerns: Wife has bad back. Wife wants strong jets. Was sold on the bullfrog w/o diverter (less plumbing, less opportunity for leaks - "just turn off the jets you don't want to use manually...."). Wellis seller explained why the diverter was better, more control per seat (plus, who wants to get up and turn 30 jets off right?, though it appears most have that option). Wellis seller explained too that the parts are pretty uniform - meaning you're either waterway jets or balboa, or this and that so most of them are the one or the other). We were so close on the Bullfrog, but I'm just not sure the jets were strong enough. No, we didn't wet test - we could wet test the X7, but the Wellis available for wet test is a higher end, and the Hot Spring to wet test is a much higher end. I think it was interesting that the sales guy pretty much sold all the reasons why not to get a Hot Spring (wood / plumbing) but pretty much pitched the Hot Spring solely on the company name.

I feel like warranty is important too. We are in Ohio, so bad winters, HOT AF summers.

Thoughts on any of the above is GREATLY appreciated! I know there are a lot of Bullfrog sellers here. Thanks!

Hot Tub Forum


Red MC

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Unfortunately, this forum is pretty slow, so you might not get responses from people familiar with those exact models.  You might have better luck in the Bullfrog or Hot Springs forums.

My wife and I recently went through the selection process.  We're coming from an old Artesian Emerald, which is basically the same size & layout as the ones you're considering.  And we liked the layout, so we considered the Bullfrog A8 and Hot Springs Grandee.  The same dealer carries both, and they're one of the best in our area.  I don't remember seeing the X8 specifically, but they did have another X series on the floor.  Likewise, I didn't see the Rhythm, but there was another model from the Hot Spot line, maybe the Relay.  I've never even seen a Wellis spa in person nor do I know anyone who has one.  So I'm not sure if I can help much, but here's a few thoughts:

I think Bullfrog's selling point about having less plumbing applies mainly to the models with the JetPaks.  The X series has a hole through the shell for every jet, so every one of those jets will be plumbed on the back side of the shell and then encased in foam - just like other manufacturers do.  Granted, you won't have the diverter plumbing.  But because it doesn't have diverters, in order to direct more water pressure to a specific seat, you need to close or turn down individual jets in the other seats supplied from the same pump.  That's a lot more hassle than using a diverter, which allows you to dial up or down the pressure in the whole seat with one control.

Hot Springs is a top tier brand that's known for quality, but there are a few things that would concern me about the Hot Spot collection in particular.  First is the lack of a base pan to seal the bottom.  A wood frame with no base pan to protect it is a recipe for frame rot.  Don't ask me how I know  :'(  I made that mistake before and wouldn't do it again unless I lived in a dry climate (which Ohio is obviously not).  To get a bottom pan from Hot Springs, you have to go up to the Highlife collection.  The second downside is no circulation pump, which is a pretty big deal IMHO, especially if you're not using the spa frequently.

Besides, if you have guests over, or have children in the house who will be using it with you, I think you will appreciate the extra space of the X8 or Libra over the Rhythm.  One thing I liked about the A8, which is also true of the X8, is that it has some deep seats.  I have a slightly longer than average torso and I like being able to soak with the water line above my shoulders.  The A8 and X8 can hold a lot of water.

I don't really know much about Wellis.  It looks like a good design, with one reservation: it uses a thermal wrap insulation method.  This is a contentious topic, and there's no data to prove one design is really better than another.  But odds are that filling the space between shell and cabinet with insulation is going to result in lower heating costs.  So among the three specific models you're looking at, I would go Bullfrog.

One other similar spa that I feel confident in recommending based on my own experience is the Artesian Island Grand Cayman.  There's multiple different jet configurations and options.  If you get the ABS pan base but go easy on the number of jets, the price should come in around the same as the Bullfrog A8 depending on your dealer.

castletonia

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I sell Hot Spring, just an FYI. 

Hot Spring and Bullfrog will be highly regarded as premium manufacturers.  I've never heard of Wellis so I cannot be of help on them.  To my knowledge, an X-Series Bullfrog does not use jetpacks and therefore has "traditional" hot tub plumbing, no different from any other manufacturer which would eliminate the less plumbing statement.  If I'm wrong, someone please correct me.

The price is very good on the Hot Spring Rhythm.  I'm closer to $8,000, just an FYI.  The Rhythm does have a ABS sheet attached to the bottom of the hot tub (same as the Limelight Collection), but it's not a bottom pan like the Highlife Collection.  I'm not going to tell someone what their hot tub needs, but in my opinion a bottom pan is not necessary.  If a wooden frame hot tub actually rots away during its expected lifetime then I would question if the manufacturer was using pressure treated wood and what environment the hot tub was subject to.  I personally like circulation pumps so I won't argue on that but I will say that my personal hot tub (Hot Spring SX) does not have the circulation pump and it is doing just fine.

At the end of the day, you need to buy the hot tub that meets your needs and from a dealer you trust.  In this instance, I think the Rhythm and X8 are probably on an equal playing field in terms of quality.  Warranty is important but quality is more important.  I could care less if one product had a longer warranty if the components were lower quality and required more frequent repairs.  I have no knowledge of who or what Wellis is and having been in the industry for 20 years, that would concern me.  I want quality but I also want a company that will be there to take care of me in the future if issues arise.  Can Wellis do that? 

BullFrogSpasMN

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gimme a couple weeks and I'll give you a full report on Wellis, we have a couple containers coming from them

Red MC

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If a wooden frame hot tub actually rots away during its expected lifetime then I would question if the manufacturer was using pressure treated wood and what environment the hot tub was subject to.

According to the manufacturer, the frame is made from pressure treated lumber.  It is painted with some kind of black paint/sealer that's supposed to protect it as well.  But I live in New Hampshire and the hot tub gets exposed to varying amounts of snow and ice contact in the winter.  Also, one side of the hot tub stays pretty well shaded through about 6 months of the year.  During the spring, the patio surface around that side of the hot tub rarely dries completely and usually develops a coating of mildew.  There's no problem with drainage, it just doesn't see any sun or wind.

The cabinet is plastic, but the side panels don't extend all the way to the ground.  There bottom 2 inches below the panels have painted, pressure-treated skirting boards all around the tub.  We started seeing them deteriorate after about 10 years.  Once they could no longer keep the moisture out, the bottom frame members started to get wet too.  With nothing to dry them, they stay wet.  At this point, after 16.5 years, half of the bottom frame members are soft and need replacement.  Some of the vertical supports/studs look questionable on the bottom as well.

According to some of the dealers I talked to around the area, they see a lot of this in older hot tubs.  That's why, for my money anyway, I want a pan, not just a piece of plastic stapled to the bottom.  The latter is fine for keeping the critters out, but I don't want to expose wood to anything that will keep it wet e.g. snow and ice.

BullFrogSpasMN

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If a wooden frame hot tub actually rots away during its expected lifetime then I would question if the manufacturer was using pressure treated wood and what environment the hot tub was subject to.

According to the manufacturer, the frame is made from pressure treated lumber.  It is painted with some kind of black paint/sealer that's supposed to protect it as well.  But I live in New Hampshire and the hot tub gets exposed to varying amounts of snow and ice contact in the winter.  Also, one side of the hot tub stays pretty well shaded through about 6 months of the year.  During the spring, the patio surface around that side of the hot tub rarely dries completely and usually develops a coating of mildew.  There's no problem with drainage, it just doesn't see any sun or wind.

The cabinet is plastic, but the side panels don't extend all the way to the ground.  There bottom 2 inches below the panels have painted, pressure-treated skirting boards all around the tub.  We started seeing them deteriorate after about 10 years.  Once they could no longer keep the moisture out, the bottom frame members started to get wet too.  With nothing to dry them, they stay wet.  At this point, after 16.5 years, half of the bottom frame members are soft and need replacement.  Some of the vertical supports/studs look questionable on the bottom as well.

According to some of the dealers I talked to around the area, they see a lot of this in older hot tubs.  That's why, for my money anyway, I want a pan, not just a piece of plastic stapled to the bottom.  The latter is fine for keeping the critters out, but I don't want to expose wood to anything that will keep it wet e.g. snow and ice.

Get something with an ABS pan, it's worth it, I live in Minnesota and we deal with the same here, the crappy cheap wood and fake 'water sealer' paint any manufacture claims to use is simply BS...we service spas that sold for 10k+ that are already completely rotting after 8 years outside in bad elements

gwmac

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Quote
Get something with an ABS pan, it's worth it, I live in Minnesota and we deal with the same here, the crappy cheap wood and fake 'water sealer' paint any manufacture claims to use is simply BS...we service spas that sold for 10k+ that are already completely rotting after 8 years outside in bad elements

I am also looking at a new hot tub and hadn't considered an ABS pan. But if my patio is covered by a roof to protect from rain should I be concerned?  Some moisture can happen from wind blowing rain from the side but not much.
« Last Edit: August 08, 2020, 02:50:45 pm by gwmac »

Red MC

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In your case, I wouldn't worry at all.

I haven't seen as much as the dealers here have, but based on my experience and that of some neighbors and friends, I'd only be concerned about snow/ice accumulation around the base, or if the hot tub is sitting on a surface that can remain wet for long periods.

spladao

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gimme a couple weeks and I'll give you a full report on Wellis, we have a couple containers coming from them

VERY curious to hear!

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