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What is a spa heat pump and does it save you money? (Cost, pros, cons and more)

Want to save money on spa running costs? A heat pump could be just what you need to keep your spa warm for less, all year round.

Hot Tubs and swim spas are great for relaxation and fitness but unless they’re set up right – they can cost a bit to run. That’s where a heat pump comes in. It’s an energy efficient, cost effective way to heat water without draining your wallet.

What is a spa heat pump? A hot tub/swim spa heat pump is similar to a heat pump you would use in your home but instead of heating or cooling the air in a room – it works to heat (or cool) the water in your spa. Heat pumps can be used with hot tubs, swim spas, plunge pools and even swimming pools. These heaters take about the same amount of time to warm the water as standard built in electric elements but they do it way more efficiently. Also, while other spa heating methods can only heat the water – a spa heat pump is able to actively cool the water down. This is ideal if you want to use your spa or swim spa to cool off on hot summer days.

How does a spa heat pump work? Spa heat pumps work like reverse cycle air conditioners. A spa heat pump takes the heat from the ambient air and transfers it to your spa through a heat exchanger. A spa heat pump can also reverse the cycle and cool your spa in the summer months by taking heat from your spa and putting it out into the ambient air. By using refrigeration technology, a heat pump can output up to five times more energy in heat compared to what it consumes in electricity. That’s a fraction of the energy gas or electric heaters require to generate the same amount of heat output.

Are spa heat pumps energy efficient? Heat pumps are by far the most energy efficient and cost effective way to heat your spa. Using refrigeration technology, they heat your spa water much faster and use less energy than the spa’s inbuilt electric heaters. In fact, heat pumps can be upto 75 percent more efficient than electricity and upto 55 percent more than gas. Given that a hot tub should last you up to 20 years, that’s thousands of pounds in savings over the lifetime of your hot tub.

How much does a heat pump cost to heat a spa?

How much it will cost you to heat your spa with a heat pump depends on a range of factors including:

  • The size of your spa or swim spa

  • How often you use it

  • What type of insulation you use

  • If you put the cover on after use

  • The price per unit of electricity in your area

As an example, a conventional spa heater turns 1 kilowatt of electricity into 1 kilowatt of heat.

In comparison, the SPANET hybrid heat pump turns 1 kilowatt of electricity into 5 kilowatts of heat – effectively giving you up to 4 kilowatts of heat for free.

Over a short amount of time, the electricity savings repay the investment outlay resulting in a £0 net cost. In fact, the return on investment can be as short as 12 months for a swim spa and 2 to 3 years for a hot tub.

How much does a spa heat pump cost to run?

For every 1 kilowatt of electricity a standard electric heater consumes it only outputs 1 kilowatt of heat.

In comparison, for every 1 kilowatt of electricity the SV Series heat pumps consume they output up to 5.5 kilowatts of heat.

The higher output 8.8kW and 12kW models generate even larger amounts of ‘free’ energy.

How much does a spa heat pump cost? Spa heat pumps range in price from £1000 to around £4,500 depending on the brand, model and size of the unit. Even within the same brand, you will find quite a price difference depending on the kilowatt rating, unit size and quality. As an example, we’ve compared four models of SpaNet® heat pumps (one of the world’s most popular heat pump brands).

SpaNet® heat pump prices:

  • SpaNet® Universal Spa Heat Pump XS 5.5kw - £950.00

  • SpaNet®Heat Pump SV 5.5kw - £1,295.00

  • SpaNet®Universal Spa Heat Pump 8KW - £2,295.00

  • SpaNet® Heat Pump SV 8.8kw - £1,795.00

Electric element or heat pump? Most spas are heated using the existing electric element. This is fine for small hot tubs or one that doesn’t have much use, but if you own or are buying a swim spa, 5+ seater spa, or using your tub more than three times a week – a heat pump is a great option for reducing running costs. You might say – “I dont’ want to pay £3k for a heat pump”, but you will be paying for it anyway in electricity. After just a few years of hot tub use with a heat pump it will have paid for itself through power savings. For example, if you have a 6kw heater element built into a spa using 6kw of energy that’s chewing a lot of power in winter. Whereas a heat pump is using 3kw of power. Put another way, a standard inline heater element is 100 percent efficient. So that’s one unit of power in one unit of energy out. With a heat pump it’s 1.3 units of energy in and 8.8 units of power out. Quite a return on your investment. Another benefit of heat pumps over electric heating elements, is that In summer, you can reverse the cycle to cool your spa pool water and provide respite from high temperatures.

Is a spa heat pump worth it? Yes, in the right circumstances – we think a spa heat pump is definitely worth it. Don’t be put off by the price of a heat pump. The power savings on a mid-range spa can pay your heat pump off in as little as three years or less – making it an incredibly worthwhile investment. As mentioned above, it does depend on your circumstances. For example, we would not recommend a heat pump for spas that cost under £3k as the heat pump would be almost half the total cost of your investment. In this situation – you might be better off opting for a heavy duty ‘insulation upgrade’ which will still help reduce heating costs but the upfront cost is a lot less.

Should I get a heat pump for my spa or swim spa? It is well worth considering a heat pump for your spa if you want an energy efficient, cost-effective way to heat your spa or swim spa. While a heat pump can be an excellent long term investment that can pay for itself in the long run through reduced heating bills – they are suited to some situations more than others, as we explain below.

A spa heat pump is a good option if:

  • You’re buying a swim spa or a large hot tub (5 people) or over–and are wanting to reduce your heating costs.

  • You already own a larger hot tub or a swim spa. You can easily switch the heating over to a heat pump. Once installed, you should notice a big reduction in your heating bill. Learn more about installing a spa heat pump and what’s involved, in this detailed article.

  • You want the option of being able to cool your spa in summer.

If you answered yes to either of the above options, then you should definitely consider purchasing a spa heat pump with yo