Swim Spa vs. Pool: Which is Better?
When you’re considering adding a pool or swim spa to your home or backyard, when you begin your initial research, you may feel a little bit overwhelmed with the potential options and possibilities. Sometimes, there really can be too much of a good thing. This is one of those times, right? But no worries! We’re here to help.
Your household needs are going to be different from others, so the determining factors for your decision have to be dependent on what’s best for you and your household. Let’s explore the differences between a swim spa and a traditional swimming pool to help you make a solid decision about which is best for you.
Swim Spa vs Pool Cost
When you purchase a swim spa, it comes as one all-inclusive unit, so your up-front costs are not going to change much. You will still have to provide some electrical wiring and a level hot tub pad for it to be placed on, but once you have those things handled, your swim spa’s components are all included in your purchase, so you know exactly what you’re in-for, cost-wise. This is not the case with a traditional in-ground pool, which—like any major construction project—is likely to have unpredictable expenditures continually added to the initial estimate.
All that extra size and those features that you can’t get in a swim spa are going to cost you. When it comes to price, it’s going to vary widely depending on where you live, your yard design and space, the complications that might arise from digging deep into the ground in your yard, etc. Then you have to decide if you’re getting a fiberglass shell or going with a gunite one. Are you adding additional features, like a tile surround, pool decking, and will you also be digging a spa that is separate from your pool? How many pumps will your chosen size require and what is the maintenance system going to cost in time and money?
No matter what the initial estimate looks like, you should be prepared to pay around 35% down before construction can begin—and be sure to estimate in some contingency funds because construction always, always has variables that come up.
Swim Spa vs Pool Size
Swim spas range in size from 12-25+ feet long, so they are much easier to fit into smaller backyard spaces. Even if your yard is bigger, the size of a swim spa allows you to have a little bit of a lot of things. A BBQ area, seating, swimming area, spa, etc. All at the same time!
Let’s be honest here. When it comes to parties or large family activities, pools have more space for playing. You can install a diving board and have a deep end, which is not available in a swim spa. Because each backyard pool is custom installed, you have more opportunities to choose the size, shape, depth, and functionality of your pool. And, you know, it’s possible to add a water slide to a traditional pool, which is kind of cool—if you like waterslides (and who doesn’t?).
Swim Spa vs Pool Installation
As mentioned in the cost section, most swim spas come as a single all-inclusive unit that is free-standing, so when it comes to installation, as long as you have the pad and electrical wiring ready to go prior to delivery, installation can be done in as little as a single day. It might take another day to fill with water and get the chemical system started, then some time to get the water heated to your desired temperature (since most swim spas come with an integrated water heater—another bonus!) so your spa can realistically be ready to use within two days of delivery, if not sooner.
Traditional pools almost always require on-site project construction type work. You know the drill, right? Excavation, pouring concrete, building a deck (prior to or after installation, depending on the type of pool you’ve chosen). All of this requires permits, drawings, mapping, and other pre-construction prep. You’re looking at a minimum of weeks or months to get your pool installed and usable. If you’re not in a hurry, and you prefer a larger body of water that can be dug deeper than a swim spa, it might be worth the wait—but if those things don’t matter, the complication of installation is really a point to consider.
Swim Spa vs Pool Maintenance
No matter what you choose, there’s going to be some maintenance involved. Luckily, because a swim spa is an all-in-one kind of deal that usually includes a pressure filtration system. For instance, Bullfrog Spas Swim Series models come with the Simplicity Filtration System™, the EOS™ Enhanced Oxidation System, and the Wellspring dedicated filtration pump. These systems are made specifically for Bullfrog Spas Swim Series®. A traditional pool may have options to add on a gravity system and in rare cases, possibly a pressure filtration system, but those are going to be cost and labor additions, no matter what you do.
Another point to consider is that swim spa water filters faster than a traditional pool. Because the filtration system in a swim spa is pressure filtered, it is constantly filtering water, which means that the entire body of water can be completely filtered in a matter of minutes, whereas a larger, traditional pool is typically fully filtered every twelve to eighteen hours.
Part of the process of designing and installing your pool should include deciding on a maintenance system. You’ll need a pump, a filtration system (or two), a cleaning process, and possibly a safety cover. It’s important that you research these system possibilities and find one that is not overwhelming to you. This is one of the sections where a swim spa is appealing to many people because most manufacturers have these systems pre-built into each spa unit, and all you have to do is follow their instructions for maintenance.
Other Points to Consider
Fitness and Health Benefits
If you’re making this purchase with fitness in mind, most swim spas come with current systems that are specific to workout programs and conditioning. They are not the greatest for swimming laps, per se, but they are better than a regular pool if you want to be able to adjust the resistance and power of the current you’re swimming against.
When it comes to rehabilitation, adjustability is often key because you start out on a lower power setting, and build up as injured muscles regain strength. This is not possible in a traditional pool.
If your goal is to swim laps in still water, a pool will probably do the trick. However, if your goal is to strengthen your swim stroke or your speed or to rehab injured muscles, it’s important to keep in mind that traditional pools do not come with swim current systems that can be adjusted for these purposes. You’re less likely to be able to purchase and use accessories like row bars, exercise bars, and resistance bands that are designed to be used with a current system.
Did we mention the Bullfrog Spas Swim Series Zero Gravity Spa Hammock? This accessory is unlike anything you’ll see anywhere else. Imagine the feeling of being suspended in water, free from gravity’s grasp, while feeling the soothing effects of swim current waves moving beneath you. You simply cannot get this effect in a traditional pool.
Portability and Design Flexibility
We discussed this in the installation section, but it bears mentioning more in depth here. A swim spa is a fully contained unit, which means that it can be moved around as a whole unit. Let’s say a few years from now you decide to completely redesign your entire backyard. Cool. No digging up a pool and having to rebuild it, because all you have to do is pick up the swim spa and move it to whatever position and placement that suits your new design best. In addition to this, if you ever decide you’d like your swim spa placed indoors, well. That’s possible too.
Well. As awesome as traditional pools can be, once they’re installed, they really can’t be moved or adjusted, so any updates or changes to your yard must be made around the pool. This might not be a big deal if you have a large yard space, but if you don’t, installing an in-ground pool might eliminate the possibility of also having a BBQ space or other gathering space in your yard.
These days, swim spas are designed specifically with energy efficiency in mind. They now come fully insulated, some super-insulated, and most brands provide a cover that keeps the heat inside. They also require less water to fill and need refilling less often, which is something to consider if you happen to live in a desert area that often experiences drought conditions.
In-ground pools are typically designed to be insulated naturally, using the ground in which they’re buried. When that ground is frozen, so is the water in the pool. If you happen to live in a place with really harsh winters, you might have to invest in a water heater, or your pool will likely need to be drained of water and the pipes blown out in order to avoid damage to the pool and pump system.
Most pools hold a lot more water than the typical swim spa, which means the pumps and heater (if you have one) will naturally consume more energy. In addition to this, if your pool does not have a cover, it’s constantly exposed to the elements, which means any heat or warmth in the water is escaping or evaporating into the environment and that environment is escaping into your pool. Leaves, dust, rain—you name it, your filtration system is fighting it, which means it’s working harder and consuming more energy.
Additionally, because most swim spas come with an integrated water heater they can be used year-round in most places, eliminating the seasonal restrictions that often limit the use of traditional pools.
How to Decide Which is Best for You
This is something only you can decide, but it might help to consider the points we’ve just discussed. How big is your backyard? What is your intention in using it? Will you need/want to use it year-round or seasonally? How much time are you able or willing to dedicate to maintenance? Would you also like a high-quality spa experience with your pool?
Design Your Own Swim Spa
Purchasing a swim spa isn’t just an investment; it’s a lifestyle change that will benefit your entire family. Only you can decide if a swim spa is a good investment for you. Use our online Design Studio tool to select your model, JetPaks, and accessories. Once you’re done, you’ll receive an instant price quote.