Hot tub retailers and chemical manufacturers are always working to make one very important part of hot tub ownership easier for homeowners: water care.
“We’ve interviewed tons of homeowners and maintenance is the No. 1 concern of those buying a hot tub,” says David Wood, managing partner of Ouster Water Solutions, creators of Bio Ouster. Wood says alternative sanitizer systems introduced to the market (ozone, salt, etc.) help people with chemicals, but that homeowners have misconstrued that as a replacement for chemicals, “and that’s a problem.”
Hot tub owners may then rely on just the new system, eventually seeing cloudy water, and only then go to the dealer for help.
“The truth is, [we find] 80% of people get tired of taking care of their spas and lose control of their tubs because they don’t watch their chemistry, and something goes wrong and the hot tub isn’t fun anymore,” says Bob Snodgrass, senior vice president of AquaFinesse, which offers an environmentally friendly formula called SpaClean that loosens the layer of organic debris from surfaces.
Melinda Scheble, assistant manager of product management for Watkins Manufacturing — which now offers the Freshwater Salt System in the Caldera Utopia, HotSpring Highlife and HotSpring Limelight series — says some view the hot tub industry as “water wasters” because of how often the hot tub water needs to be drained and refilled.
“Other [chemical manufacturers] will tell you to drain and refill once a quarter,” Sheble says. “That’s a lot of water in a year. With this new system, draining and refilling is not required for a year. That’s a ton of water savings every year. The cool thing about Freshwater is it’ll keep [the water] OK even when you’re not using it.”
Susan Dolnik, director of sales and marketing for SilkBalance in Bellingham, Washington, says when a dealer recommends a water care product, it has to be something they trust.
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“We wanted to make sure the product we’re providing to them that they’re reselling to their customers is something that’s going to lend to their credibility as a dealer,” Dolnik says. “Innovation has always been at the forefront of what SilkBalance is as a company.”
Dolnik adds that the whole idea of its new SilkBalance Gems is to make water care as simple as possible for the customer. Customers buy their hot tubs for all the health and wellness benefits, she says, not realizing that poor water care will prevent them from experiencing those benefits.
“They’ll buy their hot tub and after a week or two weeks or a couple of months, the water won’t feel great and they’ll get in it less and less,” she says. “We wanted to give customers the simplest water maintenance program possible, keeping it as natural as possible because that’s what everybody wants.”
Products like pHin are helping to bring the internet of things to hot tub water care as well. The pHin floats in the hot tub, tracking and monitoring the water chemistry, and alerting users and dealers when things get out of whack. It can also send the consumer back to the dealer to purchase chemicals when they are running low. pHin also has an in-line version of the technology, installed into the hot tub.
Many hot tub retailers are now offering chemical auto-ship programs. This helps hot tub owners shop local, purchasing chemicals from hot tub dealers directly, also giving them access to the knowledge and assistance of a friendly neighborhood store.
“A happy hot tubber should be the goal of all retailers,” says Norm Coburn, owner of New England Spas in the Boston area.
“We train [customers] in the beginning with our EZ Water Care Programs and continue to provide ongoing support surrounding proper water care, including free water testing and troubleshooting,” Coburn says. “We keep track of their purchasing history and make notes when we interact, so there is a convenient record and consistency in the advice any of our staff can provide. We have also found a significant portion of our customers would like us to provide water care services, which we call our Valet Program. This program continues to grow for us and offers weekly, biweekly and service options.”