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After you bring home a portable spa....

Instant gratification-that's the beauty Of a portable spa. Unlike a permanent, inground model, a portable unit is more like a giant-size self-contained appliance. Fill it with water and plug it in. After that, the well-insulated, energy-efficient unit is ready whenever you are; just lift off the lid and ease yourself in. These units can be moved from site to site; when you move, so can the spa. Everything you need-the spa shell (made of reinforced acrylic or high-impact plastic), jets, motor, heater, filters, air pump, plumbing, and foam insulation-is contained in a frame. Outer walls are usually wood siding, although some models use high-impact plastic. With insulated shells and lids, portable spas retain heat better than gas-fired inground models do. So although heating with electricity costs more than heating with gas, the operating costs of both kinds of spa are about the same. Portables also have virtually no evaporative water loss a real plus in dry years. Hiding the bulk What's the catch? Housing this much water and equipment in one place means that a portable spa can look big and boxy outdoors if not integrated into landscaping, a deck, or a specially designed structure. If, for reasons of privacy or protection from the elements, you prefer an indoor setting, we also show two examples of rooms incorporating portable spas. The photographs on these four pages give ideas on how to disguise them. Shopping for a spa Before you start, consider how your spa will be used. Do you plan mostly to enjoy a private soak at the end of the day? Or will you use the spa for entertaining? Will teen-agers be jumping in and out? The answers should guide you in choosing the size of spa, heating power, location and number of jets. If you know people who already have spas, ask to try them out. Choosing a dealer is also important. Look for established businesses that not only sell but also repair and service units. In the store, carefully review the warranty on all spa parts-lengths of coverage often vary for mechanical parts and shell. Which spa is right for you? The smallest, two-person units (about $2,500) hold about 170 gallons of water. The largest models hold about 500 gallons, seat eight, and cost up to $6,500. These prices are considerably less than what you'd pay for an in-ground spa of the same size. However, what you gain in savings you lose, in a way, in depth: portables are frequently fairly shallow-3 feet deep or less. To compensate for this, the spas often have built-in chaise-style seating, so you stretch out, rather than sit upright. Models use either I 10 or 220 volts. Those using lower voltage plug directly into a dedicated 20-amp circuit, but they take longer to beat up, and the heater can't be used while jets are on. If you want a small spa, or don't mind if your spa cools during long soaks, consider a I 10-volt unit. The 220-volt models use larger heaters. They heat up faster, and heater and jets can both run at the same time. These spas must be wired-not plugged-into a 50amp circuit. Installation and maintenance Because of the drought, some communities may restrict installation of new spas; call your building department. No matter how you set up your spa, you must provide access to the heater, pump, filters, reset button, and other equipment (check them monthly; access is usually through a side panel). All units must have a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) either built in or somewhere along the spa's wiring. To support the weight of a filled spa, consider resting it on a concrete pad or on heavy beams on concrete piers. Check with the manufacturer for recommended installations. Admittedly, portables aren't completely self-sufficient. Regular maintenance includes checking filters, adding chemicals, and cleaning surfaces. Ask your dealer for specifics; he should be able to provide you with water-testing kits and other products for keeping your spa in top condition. 1-1
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Date:Jun 1, 1990
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