Electric vs Natural Gas Hot Tub: Which is Better?
When hot tubs were originally becoming a thing, gas heaters were really the only option, aside from manually heating the water and dumping it in the tub one pitcher at a time. They weren’t always hot because they weren’t able to maintain heat the way they are today, so anytime someone wanted to use the spa, they had to first heat it up (which can take hours). And who has time for that?
Back then, spas weren’t necessarily insulated, or covered with thick covers the way they are today. The hot tub industry has come a long way since then. When portable spas became trendy in the late 70’s, it was necessary for manufacturers to find an alternative way to heat the water that was more practical for day-to-day use. This is when electric heaters were born.
Gas heat is still an option for some hot tubs, but anymore, most are heated electrically. Here are a few ways in which the two are different so you can know which type of hot tub is right for you..
Benefits of Natural Gas Heated Hot Tubs
In a lot of cases, gas powered spa heaters are installed outside of the actual spa cabinet in order for them to be connected to a gas line and enable the pilot light to be accessed.
Some benefits of heating your spa with natural gas include a lower cost less to operate and maintain, and that they heat up quickly. Natural gas prices vary depending on where you live, but in general, is more cost efficient in the long term. And where an electric heater can take hours to bring up your spa temperature, a natural gas one can add one to two degrees per minute, which means the owner can leave the resting temperature much lower and still be able to use the spa fairly regularly.
Downsides of Natural Gas Heating
As with everything, there are pros and cons. In the case of natural gas heaters, the biggest one is the cost. Initially, adding a gas spa heater is going to start at around $1000 and go up from there. This doesn’t include burying a gas line from the meter to the hot tub, or hooking it up, so that’s an additional cost that can get very pricey, because running natural gas lines is something that must be done by professionals who are certified to work with gas lines.
Also it’s important to keep in mind that natural gas is flammable, and has the potential for dangerous accidents. Chances are low, but it’s still an issue to keep in mind. Add to this issue that a gas heater can’t be placed inside the spa cabinet because it needs fresh air and exhaust in order to work, so it can’t be visually hidden the way electric heaters can.
Let’s break this down a bit more. Assuming that your hot tub has the same rate of heat loss no matter what heater type you’re using, a gas heater can only be approximately 80% efficient, where electric ones are (in most cases) closer to 100% efficient.
However, when you’re looking at efficiency, there are a number of factors to consider, like the size of your spa, the outdoor air temperature (and wind speeds), and the quality of the hot tub’s insulation and cover. The best way to compare energy costs is to compare your natural gas furnace costs to electric air conditioning costs. The more efficient the system, the lower the cost.
At the time this article was written, you can still get a natural gas heater for your hot tub, but they’re mostly only available for custom, in-ground spas, and are much harder to find in a portable spa. The bigger trick might be finding a licensed contractor to run gas line from the meter to your heater (which is an additional cost that can often supersede the cost of the heater itself). However, there are several states discussing legislation that would essentially ban natural gas heaters in spas, so if you’re determined to invest in a natural gas heater, keep in mind that it may eventually have to be replaced for environmental law reasons.
Benefits of Electric Hot Tub Heating
There are a lot of Benefits to choosing a hot tub with an electric heater. For one thing, since most portable spas only come with electric heating options, you get a much more superior selection to choose from. Another huge benefit is that electric heated hot tubs are cheaper and easier to maintain and repair, which saves you money in the long run.
Speaking of saving money, let’s talk about efficiency. Electric hot tub heaters have come a long way in the last few years, and they become more efficient with each new design. Add to this that technology has allowed for better insulation and high-quality covers that help keep the heat inside the spa longer, and you have an efficient heater that is really hard to beat. Not to mention, electric is better for the environment.
Downsides of Electric Heating
Basically, the only downside we can find is that the spa takes longer to heat initially. However, keep in mind that once your spa reaches the desired temperature, the electric heater will maintain that heat, keeping your spa ready for use whenever you like. Be spontaneous!
Depending on the brand you choose, you can get a hot tub that is highly efficient. For instance, every Bullfrog Spas® model is fully insulated, and comes with a thick, high-quality cover, along with one of the most efficient heating and plumbing systems available.
Let’s be honest. Electric is here to stay, which means the majority of hot tubs (if not ALL) are available with electric heating as at least an option. The availability of this heating option is basically endless. Plus, there’s the little benefit of it not staring in the face of legislation that might cause them to be banned. So, there’s also that.
Which is Better?
In most cases, a spa with an electric heater is both cheaper, and simpler in both the short term and the long term. Consider what each one costs to maintain and repair, along with the lower cost of initial startup, and potential legislation, electric seems to be more practical.
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