Since swim spas are over a decade old, the industry should be getting close to that first round of discarded swim spas.
But are they?
Retailers selling swim spas say the high-ticket item has more longevity than one would think. “They’re built to last,” says Christian Ryan, owner of Premium Wholesale Home & Leisure in Ontario, Canada.
But it’s up to both customer and retailer to make sure swim spas don’t end up in a dump.
In 2018 alone, Ryan’s company sold 80 swim spas. Most customers are on top of maintaining their swim spas, he says, so he has only seen disposal happen once because customers usually don’t want to let go.
“The shell is a lot like a fiberglass pool,” Ryan says. “It’s going to last 20, 30, 40 years. You just have to replace equipment as you go.”
Like a hot tub, similar parts wear out first on a swim spa, like heaters and pumps. Sometimes the odd LED light will burn out, but those are all easy fixes; not enough for a customer to throw in the towel and toss the spa.
“For the shell, it would be similar to a hot tub in terms of longevity,” Ryan says. “Most people tend to get rid of hot tubs after 10 to 15 years. Because it’s a swim spa, I would think you would put more [effort] into the equipment because it’s a bigger-ticket item.”
As the sales and training manager at Pettis Pool and Patio in Rochester, New York,
Jim Ornce hasn’t seen many customers deterred by the thought of maintaining — or discarding — a swim spa.
“In our experience, we’ve seen people keep up with them,” he says. “Even homeowners who are moving locations want to take it with them, not toss it.”
When customers are spending up to $40,000 a swim spa, maintenance doesn’t often get ignored, Ornce says. Even if it does, professional spa retailers can take care of it in a refurbishment process.
Worst-Case Scenarios Happen
Even when the unthinkable happens, swim spas can be brought back to life.
Ornce gives the example of a customer who accidentally had their swim spa freeze over when power was interrupted.
“This is the worst-case scenario: Someone shuts off their power,” he says. “The shell is fine. The organs of it need to be replaced.”
A few thousand dollars later, the previously damaged swim spa is up and running, and Ornce’s company is selling it for $6,000 less than the price of a new one.
The only reason that particular spa could be saved and resold was because of the installation process, Ornce says, crediting the installation crew for putting everything back in the right place. Because technicians could easily access the plumbing, they were able to restore it, he says. Access is everything.
“We can bring it back to life,” he says. “Even in a worst-case scenario like a freeze.”
Improve the Life Cycle at Purchase
Ornce believes that educating customers from the get-go improves the longevity of a swim spa, too.
That starts with the installation process and asking the right questions, he says. To avoid the hassle of moving a swim spa or discarding it too early, you should ask yourself these questions:
- Will this be your forever home?
- If you do move, will you take the swim spa with you?
- Do you have the budget for extra construction, if needed?
Overall, thoughtful and proper installation of a swim spa can maximize its lifespan, which is what both retailers and customers want. As long as a technician can access equipment, it can be maintained, Ornce says.
And considering a swim spa investment — which often includes additions on homes — it’s one of the most important aspects of the installation that can’t be overlooked, he says.
Quality products are another aspect to consider, Ornce says.
As a buyer, you should find out from retailers how they would fix the swim spa if there is a problem, if the design and installation make it repairable. “You have to look at it as a long-term investment and that you’re keeping it significantly longer than a hot tub.” Ornce adds.
Even if a customer might one day move from their home, a swim spa could still be the right purchase.
“You can take it with you,” Ornce says. “You can’t do that with any swimming pool.”
For those who refuse to take a swim spa with them if they move, it can add value for the next owner.
“A swim spa can be a selling point for resale of a property,” Ornce says. “It’s a hot tub, but it’s also a pool.”
A Hope for a Greener Future
In 2017 alone, 267.8 million tons of waste went to landfills, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency.
And while it’s impossible to know how much of that is due to the spa industry, it’s a thought that’s not far from retailers’ minds.
Ornce has seen the industry become a bit “greener” over the years. Whether that means there will be completely “green” swim spas that never need to be disposed of remains unseen, of course.
“The main sustainability factor that swim spas have to answer is what their operational cost is going to be,” Ornce says. “They had to make sure it wouldn’t be cost-prohibitive to own a swim spa. I think the whole hot tub industry had to overcome that. The industry’s had to become more flexible and have more energy efficiency. The swim spa had to go along with that, too.”
While durability is a plus-side for the products in the industry, one day, even the best-made swim spas will end up in a landfill somewhere.
In the meantime, there’s always room for improvement. “I would like to see more done for efficiency,” Ornce says. “I’d like to see this industry push itself to be even more green and cost-effective in ownership. I think that’s where a lot of people are inspired to go more green is because they save money.”