Should You Buy a Salt Water Hot Tub?

salt water hot tub

Answering Top Questions about Salt Water Hot Tubs

Thinking of salt water can inspire the best memories of summers at the beach and walking along the boardwalk. Floating in the ocean. The smell of the sea breeze. Even the stretch of sticky sweet taffy. But when you are shopping for a hot tub, salt water is not a memory — it’s a decision. 

Salt water hot tubs have become a popular option in the spa market, with manufacturers touting the benefits. Less chemicals! Chemical free! The healthier hot tub option!

But what’s the truth and what’s just a sales pitch? And, before you read any further, let’s just get this part out of the way. A salt water hot tub is not chemical free; every hot tub will require chemicals to make it safe to use.

However there are differences between a saltwater hot tub and a chlorine spa. Each has its own benefits but the best choice will depend on your budget, lifestyle, and wish list.  

This guide will help you answer the question: Should you buy a salt water hot tub?

salt spa
A saltwater spa converts salt into chlorine through a process called electrolysis.

How do salt water hot tubs work?

The hot tub salt water system uses a salt cell to generate chlorine. At initial start-up, you will need to add salt to the water — about two pounds per 100 gallons. But before you run to the kitchen, keep in mind that salt spas require a special salt.  

Typically, you can adjust the chlorine output level using the hot tub’s controls. A vacation setting will reduce the amount of chlorine being produced. A higher setting is recommended if you start to soak more often or invite more people over.

Hot tub salt water systems work best when the temperature is kept at a higher level. If you plan to keep your water cool, whether you are on vacation or live in a hot climate, you may need to turn off the salt cell and use another sanitizer. 

Unlike a traditional chlorine hot tub, where you are regularly adding sanitizer, the salt level will not drop. In fact, the salt level of your hot tub can actually increase over time. The only way for the salt level to drop is to add water to your hot tub.

spa installation on deck
Salt water hot tubs can cost between $11,000 to $17,000, which can be more expensive than a traditional chlorine system.

How much does a salt water hot tub cost?

The price tag on a salt spa will vary based on the manufacturer, size, and options. However, a salt water spa can cost between $11,000 to $17,000. It’s important, though, to look beyond the price tag and consider the overall cost of ownership. Salt spa owners will have to replace the cartridges every couple years. In addition, the salt spas are at higher risk of corrosion and components, like jets, might have to be replaced. 

How does a salt water hot tub system compare to a chlorine system?

Whether you have a salt spa or chlorine system, you will add a sanitizer to the water. The sanitizer kills microorganisms so that you can soak safely. With a salt spa, you add salt. A chlorine system requires just that — chlorine. However, a salt water hot tub has a cartridge that creates chlorine through a process called electrolysis. In a traditional spa, the chlorine will work as the water moves through the filtration system.

benefits of salt spa
Salt spa owners report that the water feels softer to the touch and is less irritating to the skin and eyes.

What are the health benefits?

There are many health benefits associated with regular hot tub use. The combination of warm water and massage jets can relieve pain, reduce stress, increase blood flow, and improve overall well-being. 

Salt water has more buoyancy, though, further reducing the effects of gravity on the body.

Those health benefits are the same whether you have a salt water spa or a traditional chlorine hot tub. However, some say that the salt water feels softer and is less irritating to the skin and eyes. 

What type of chemicals do you need for a salt water hot tub?

Don’t let the hype fool you — salt water hot tubs are not chemical free. Some require you to include chlorine at initial start-up, and the hot tub will require maintenance and chemicals. In addition, you will need products to balance the water, like a pH increaser and decreaser, sequestering agents, stain removers, and foam down. You might also need to keep spa chemicals like a calcium increaser or decreaser depending on your source water. 

You should expect to test the water regularly, before and after each use.

You can expect to drain and refill a salt water hot tub once a year. However, it can vary depending on how often you use your salt spa, how many people hop in, and whether you keep up with the water care.

When considering overall maintenance, salt spa owners might notice salt build-up in and around the spa. It’s important to spray down the skirting, steps, and surrounding deck or patio to prevent salt build-up.