How to Buy Reliable Outdoor Spa on eBay

Like if this Guide is helpful
Link to an eBay page Remove
Add up to 3 more photos
Link to an eBay page

The relief and relaxation that a spa can give are right up there with the benefits of hands-on massage, meditation and yoga, and it can make for great parties and entertainment for the kids as well. But to many people, the process of purchasing a spa is all but a relaxing experience. Terms like “acrylic rigidity”, “ozone dispersion”, “diverter valves”, “load-shedding” and “rotational jets” start whizzing by your head, and pretty soon you feel as though you have to be an engineer, chemist, electrician and plumber all rolled into one just to enjoy a good soak. 

There are plenty of street-frontage shops that capitalise on this lack of knowledge. Selling only a handful of spas per month, they rely on high margins to make a profit from people who feel too uncertain about what is what to dare make their own choices. What’s more, the high overhead costs of these shops are naturally forwarded to the customers, too. From the billboards and TV ads right down to the window displays and the salesmen’s name tags – you pay for it all. But with the right knowledge, you can make an educated choice that saves thousands of dollars. Purchasing online can be a perfectly safe alternative as long as you know a thing or two about spas. And that, of course, is what this buying guide is all about. Because, when it comes down to it, you don’t have to know how to split atoms to understand what constitutes a great spa. Just read on, and you’ll see. With a spa that could be part of your life for twenty years or so, you’ll thank yourself later. 

General considerations

Before you start weighing up the features of individual designs, there are a few basic  questions you should ask yourself. Let’s look at them first.

Intended use

Is hydrotherapy at the top of your wish list? If so, you should consider designs that feature carefully configured arrays of different types of jets targeting each seat, providing the ultimate massage efficiency, oxygenation and pain relief. You should also ensure that any reclining seats are deep enough to prevent you from being pushed to the surface once the jets are activated. And don’t assume that a five-seater spa will seat five people comfortably; spas are designed to enable people to shift from one experience to another without getting out, and that turns into a bit of an adventure if every seat is occupied.

Should you be buying a spa more for general relaxation, family fun and garden parties, you don’t have to pay as much attention to the number or positioning of jets., It’s then more important to prioritise number of seats – typically benches along the perimeter of the spa – and features such as drink holders, rim space, lighting, etc. 

Positioning and size

A spa requires a solid level surface such as a wooden deck or concrete slab, and for easy maintenance, there should be at least 500mm of free space all around it. So, before you decide where to place your spa and what size you should get, it’s probably a good idea to do a little reconnaissance in the great outdoors. Laying out a length of rope or garden hose can help you visualise how to best set up the spa. When you do, consider aspects such as access to power supply, noise, privacy and sun exposure. 

Australian standards

Don’t be surprised by state safety regulations: ensure that whatever spa you purchase adheres to Australian standards. 

Access to spare parts

Some budget spas feature unbranded parts manufactured on a small scale, and it’s highly uncertain as to whether those parts will be around, should you need them in a few years. In contrast, quality spas generally use parts from the biggest manufacturers in North America, who have been at the forefront of spa design for decades, and these parts are likely to be available for a long time to come.

Warranty

The warranties included are a good indication of the quality of a spa. Demand at least four years’ warranty on the shell, two years’ warranty on control systems and plumbing, and one year’s warranty on wiring and other electric components. 

Spa specifics

Now that you know a bit more about the basic requirements, it’s time to dive into the deep end of the pool of spa specifics. In reading up on each feature below, don’t forget the implied running costs. A well-insulated spa that packs efficient plumbing and sanitation systems can cost you as little as 30 cents a day in operating costs. Compare that to a poorly insulated spa that features a cheap sanitation system and an oversized motor working against the resistance of substandard pipework and multiple miniscule jets; such a toy can cost you upwards of $3 per day – ten times as much as the better spa – and not give you experiences anywhere near the bliss provided by superior models.

For easy reference, the following features are listed in order of importance.
Shells

Whilst it’s often economical to repair other parts of a spa, if a shell delaminates, that’s the end of that spa. So, ensuring that the shell is of good quality should definitely be your number one priority. Forget shells made from polypropylene. Only ever consider acrylic shells that have been reinforced with fibreglass.

The two most widely trusted producers of acrylic are the US brands Lucite and Aristech. Both make acrylic of a very high quality, and Lucite has the added benefit of incorporating Microban, which inhibits bacterial growth that can cause odour and stains. However, a shell isn’t necessarily a good shell just because it’s made from Lucite or Aristech acrylic. The shell’s durability will also depend on how it’s been produced and what materials have been used to reinforce it.

The sheet of acrylic should be vacuum-formed to the spa mould in a zone-controlled oven, where different temperatures are applied to different parts of the shell to ensure that the thinner and thicker parts are all formed evenly. With acrylic being a porous material, a layer of pure vinyl ester resin should then be sprayed onto the shell, forming a chemically bonded undercoat. This should in turn be covered by a layer of marine-grade polyester resin and hand-rolled to eliminate any air pockets. 

Next, the shell should be cured in a temperature- and humidity-controlled oven. This is imperative to ensure that no moisture remains between the acrylic and the fibreglass, which could otherwise make the shell bubble and burst.  

Lastly, a final layer of GP resin mixed with stone powder should be added and hand-rolled to lend the shell extra rigidity. 

Only the very best manufacturers will go through all the steps in this rather laborious process to offer you the ultimate quality, and it usually comes at a price. But, again, don’t be tempted to skimp on the quality of the shell to save yet another dollar – it’ll likely cost you a lot more sooner than you think. Remember that spas should be able to hold several tonnes of water, with temperature differences between the surrounds and the spa often being significant. Keeping in mind that you can crack solid rock when it’s hot by simply pouring cold water on it, you can easily see why this requires a very sturdy shell. 

In short, even if you disregard all other advice here, make sure that your spa ticks all of the boxes above. And ask whether the spa has been tested at the factory. Quality spas always undergo rigorous testing. Sometimes you’ll even find a bit of water from the testing inside the shell when you unwrap your new spa. That’s the signature of thorough manufacturing.

Insulation

Together with filters and sanitisers, heating makes for the greatest cost of operating a spa, so good insulation can save you big dollars in the long term.

There are two main types of insulation: open-cell and closed-cell foam. Of the two, closed-cell foam is the clear winner. It consists of cells that have been filled with gas to maximise its insulating properties. This foam can be of such high density, you can walk on it without causing any damage, and it makes for excellent insulation. It can be effectively applied to the shell or the perimeter of the cabinet. For colder climates, it can even fill the whole cavity between the shell and the cabinet, leaving just enough room for maintenance access (not to be recommended in Australia, where fully-foamed spas can easily overheat, destroying pumps and circuitry).

Open-cell foam, on the other hand, is a big no-no for several reasons. For instance, it can easily be broken and filled with water, upon which it will inevitably start to grow mould, forming a breeding ground for bacteria and giving off some rather unpleasant smells. Not a recipe for a relaxing spa experience, diplomatically put.

Plumbing

As could be expected, plumbing represents a very important aspect of spas. You can equip a spa with extremely large pumps and talk proudly of the high horsepower, but unless the plumbing brings friction to a minimum through the use of good pipework and jets, you might still not get more than a weak squirt from the jets (which naturally won’t stop your utility provider from sending you bills that you didn’t thought possible). So, having satisfied yourself that a spa’s shell and insulation are top-notch, have a look at the following features next.

Pumps

There are several ways of rigging pumps to drive the jets and the heating and sanitation system. At the bottom end of the scale, you find a single-speed pump that takes care of everything. It’s loud and only really good for one thing, which is either circulating the water for heating and filtering (in which case it’s useless for driving jets) or driving jets (in which case it goes full-tilt at all hours, wasting loads of electricity when there’s no on there to enjoy the jets). 

One step up, you find the two-speed pump. It’s better, but still not great; this pump circulates the water for heating and sanitation at a low, energy-saving speed, and revs up the speed to drive the jets. Problem is, it only does one or the other. It won’t heat and filter the water whilst you’re enjoying the jets, which can make it quite impractical anywhere outside of the hottest tropics. 

Take another step, though, and you’ve reached the top of the ladder, where you have one or several pumps dedicated to driving jets and one smaller pump set aside to circulate the water for heating and sanitation only. This system is by far the most convenient; it’s very economical to run and virtually silent when no one is using the jets. 

Never judge the pump setup based on horsepower or wattage alone. These values only tell you how much energy will be used – they don’t tell you what output you will enjoy in terms of efficient heating and powerful jets.  Instead, check out the flow rates of the system. It’s quite simple, really. A system that uses little energy and pumps great amounts of water per hour is good. A system that uses heaps of energy but only pumps a small amount of water per hour is – yes, you guess it – not good. 

Diverter valves

In order to allow a greater choice of jet arrays, pumps are equipped with diverter valves that will shift the flow of water between different seats, so that activated jets are fed a stronger flow of water. These valves also permit activation of the jets in all seats by keeping the valves half-open. However, due to poor pump-to-jet ratio, running all jets simultaneously can result in an average performance in some spas. 

Jets

There are two types of jets: directional and rotational. 

As the name implies, the directional jets can be manually pointed to target particular parts of your body. With a feel similar to that of penetrating Thai massage, they are particularly useful for reaching deep muscle tissue. 

Rotational jets spin the water at high speeds, giving you a gentler massage akin to that of the sliding techniques employed in Swedish massage.

For optimal hydrotherapy, a spa should have a balanced combination of relatively large rotational and directional jets. In family and party spas, this isn’t as important, but having at least a couple of seats with rotational jets is probably a good idea. 

With shoulder and neck pain being widespread, having some seats with shoulder massage and two-inch-jet collars above the waterline is recommended, and powerful, five-inch jets at the small of the back (another common problem area) are also valuable.

The minimum diameter of the jets is important. You will want a range of 30-50 good-sized jets. Quality spas feature air-induction jets that mix air and water in a controlled ratio, and if the jets are too small, the ratio of air to water will be 50/50 or above, making for an extremely itchy or piercing feeling. Very small jets will also make for exceedingly high resistance, causing pumps to work harder than they should and wasting loads of electricity. Make sure that jets are no less than an inch (25mm) in diameter.

Since jets should be cleaned about twice a year (which won’t require you to empty the spa), they should be easy to remove and replace. Jets with clips that you have to pop out and twist in order for the jet to unlock are a nuisance, making it difficult if not impossible to remove the jets. They also break easily. Give them a miss. Instead, opt for jets that you remove by turning a little tab anti-clockwise. Or, better yet, go for screw-in jets, which are the latest in spa design and last a lot longer than the other alternatives. And, of course, only ever purchase high-quality jets made from stainless steel, such as those from CMP and Rising Dragon. Replacing all jets costs a considerable amount of money, so it definitely pays to purchase jets that will last the distance.

Finally, beware that some manufacturers will sprinkle their spas with countless jets regardless of the pumping power. On the surface, it might look as though such a spa could send you straight to nirvana without passing go. But if the number of jets is too large, even very powerful pumps will come up short, and you won’t enjoy the massage you came for. What’s more, numerous small holes make spa shells liable to crack.

Sanitation

Spas sanitise the water in three ways: through filtration, ozone dispersion and additives. The more efficient the filtration and ozone dispersion, the less additives (which usually spells expensive chemicals) will be needed. 

Filtration

Water travels to the filters via intakes called skimmers. These should be wide-mouthed to capture all debris floating at the surface, and they should be moulded into the shell. They should not be cut into the shell, as this will weaken the structural integrity of the spa. Make sure that the skimmer box is large enough as it is when you buy the spa. You don’t want to modify it down the track. 

The filters themselves should offer a large surface to be efficient – twin 100% no-bypass filters of anything from 100ft2 and up is acceptable for standard 5-8-seater spas. For easy maintenance, they should be top-loading. 

Ozone dispersion

Ozone dispersion is a very efficient and safe means of sanitising water. It’s used in spas, swimming pools and even water-bottling factories. However, in order to dissolve and have maximum effect, ozone needs to travel through about 700mm of water. Ozone generator outlets should therefore be placed at the very bottom of the spa, and the water depth should be at least 700mm. Any ozone that doesn’t dissolve will rise through the water surface and cause deterioration of neck collars and spa covers over time. To eliminate the risk of this happening, you can ask your supplier to install a mixing device such as the Mazzei venturi injector, which will ensure that all ozone is dissolved in the water.

Sanitary additives

Additives, finally, are always necessary to ensure clear, clean water, and many of these products are quite strong, smell like a lab session and irritate sensitive skin. Fortunately, granted that you’ve got an efficient filtration and ozone dispersion system, you can use natural enzyme alternatives that don’t contain any toxic and pungent chemicals. 

Wiring and electronic components

Plug-in vs. hardwired wiring

Electricity supply requirements vary a lot between different spas depending on heater size and power; number of pumps; and whether the system employs load-shedding, preventing all functions from being run simultaneously in order to avoid excessive load on the power supply. Most plug-in 10-15A spas feature load-shedding, and it’s also used in hardwired 32A-40A spas with three pumps or more. 

Plug-in spas are naturally convenient in that you can simply plug and play; no professional installation is required (noting that all spas have to be connected to a separate safety-switch-protected circuit on the switchboard). However, these systems lack the oomph to power more than one jet pump, and they will usually load-shed (shut down) the heater as soon as that pump is started. They are consequently only suitable for spas that feature relatively few jets and are used in hot climates. So, consider how many jets you want and what the weather usually is doing where you live, and you’ll know whether you can make do with a plug-in system or if you should step up to a hardwired spa. 

Hardwired 32-40A spas let you enjoy maximum water flow through a large number of jets. These spas usually employ load-shedding to prevent all pumps from being run at the same time, but since they have several jet pumps, you don’t have to turn off the jets altogether to run the circulation pump and heater. What’s more, hardwired spas with several pumps are generally more energy-efficient than plug-in spas. They do however require installation by a licensed electrician.

Controller

Integrating the heater, spa controls don’t only put you in command of the water temperature and jets; they are also a vital safety component, ensuring that the spa doesn’t overheat; that water is filtered properly; and that bathers aren’t electrocuted. The quality of the spa controller is not something that you want to overlook.

Unfortunately, there are a number of unreliable controllers on the market. These are usually not waterproof and therefore represent a very real safety hazard, and as they are impossible to repair, you have to replace the whole system when they break. Sometimes, these controllers are more or less creative adaptations of systems originally made for whirlpool bathtubs or steam rooms. Looking a world apart from quality controllers, they may consist of a tangle of cables and feature built-in radio or telephone connections. They may also use locally sourced bathroom fittings in chrome rather than US hot-tub controls in plastic. Such fittings might look nice and shiny when new, but after a few months of being subjected to hot, treated spa water, they will not. 

If you’re unsure of a spa controller, check out the website of the manufacturer (hint: if the brand of spa controller doesn’t even have a website, it probably isn’t a genuine brand). Well-known quality brands include Gecko, Spa Net, Balboa and Spa Quip. These manufacturers produce controllers that come in neat, waterproof boxes with ports for all pumps. 

You will also get an indication of the quality of the spa if you ask the seller whether they offer custom-built spas. Sellers who rely on quality suppliers will have no problem doing this, and you may want to consider the economical and environmental benefits offered by spas that are tailored to your gas heater or heat pump. 

Cabinet

You have two main choices when it comes to cabinet design – wood or plastic – and what’s best is largely a matter of taste. Both are durable, and price differences are minor, if any. 

Wood cabinets can obviously be sanded back and oiled if they get scratched, which you can’t do with plastic cabinets, but plastic, on the other hand, requires no maintenance at all. However, should you want a plastic cabinet, know that plastic panels longer than about 120cm shouldn’t be mounted horizontally, as that easily makes them warp during the heat of the day. 

Lastly, whether you choose a plastic or wooden cabinet, it should optimally feature an enclosed bottom to protect against vermin and add another layer of insulation.

Spa cover

A hard thermal cover should be part and parcel of any quality spa. Remember that heat rises, so the insulation provided by the cover will make a big difference to the running costs of your spa. Cheap covers made from floating foam should be avoided; they don’t really do much to keep the water warm.  

Extra features

You can purchase spas with everything from built-in phones and stereos to LED rim lights and aromatherapy. At first glance, this might seem a bit over the top, but the truth of the matter is that, if you want to enjoy the benefits of any of these products, you’re better off making sure that they are included in the spa design. Since everything has to be shock- and waterproof and withstand many years’ exposure to hot sun and treated water, it’s not all too easy to come up with your own solutions after the fact. So, have a think about what’s important to you and make sure to select a spa that includes it. As far as the quality of these extra features is concerned, it’s probably safe to assume that it will be on a par with that of the shell, pumps, controller, cabinet and cover. 

Delivery and installation

A spa is a fairly complex piece of technology that should be treated with care. Make sure that the delivery includes transit insurance and that the spa will be put in its place. Optimally, the delivery should be carried out by spa technicians who can answer any questions you might have then and there. 

Choosing your spa

Knowledge is power, and you have just been given some. Put it to use when you browse for spas, and don’t hesitate to ask your seller if there’s anything that is unclear. You’re about to make a choice that could give you joy for many, many years to come. Be passionately particular about what you want, and you will be rewarded with lasting relaxation. 
Link to an eBay page Remove
Add up to 3 more photos
Link to an eBay page

About Oz Splash

Oz Splash is a premium online spa store bringing you a large range of luxury outdoor spa and swim spa’s made from the highest quality Aristech acrylic and offering numerous unique relaxation and entertainment features to provide a real spa experience at home.

With 20 years experience, providing superior quality and a long warranties, Oz Splash is a brand you can trust whilst getting a better deal every time and saving you thousands.  Our spa’s are all energy efficient and come with a free lockable cover and steps. Check out what our customers say about their purchase from us! 

Oz Splash understand that some of our customers want to see our Spa’s before they buy, that’s why we have set up a showroom based in Sydney so you can view our Spa’s and feel confident with your brand choice.

Oz Splash believes that everyone deserves some real luxury at home that’s why we offer layby with all our spa’s so you can spread out the cost and have something exciting to look forward to!

Oz Splash – quality, choice and the luxury you deserve!

Showroom address: 40/9 Salisbury Road, Castle Hill 2154
Contact us: 1300 00 77 27
Oz Splash Spa Range
Link to an eBay page Remove
Add up to 1 more photo
Link to an eBay page
Oz Splash Spa Range
Link to an eBay page Remove
Add up to 1 more photo
Link to an eBay page
Oz Splash Spa Range
Link to an eBay page Remove
Add up to 1 more photo
Link to an eBay page
Oz Splash Spa Range
Oz Splash Como 4.5 - Most Popular Swim Spa
Link to an eBay page Remove
Add up to 3 more photos
Link to an eBay page
Oz Splash Como 4.5 - Most Popular Swim Spa
Oz Splash Tacus - Best Selling Party Spa
Link to an eBay page Remove
Add up to 3 more photos
Link to an eBay page
Oz Splash Tacus - Best Selling Party Spa
Have something to share, create your own Guide... Write a Guide
Explore more Guides