Pool Heat Pumps
Z200 Pool Heat Pump
If you’ve been to a pool or spa shop lately, you’ve probably heard the buzz about swim spas. That’s because they bridge the gap between a spa and a swimming pool. You get all the therapeutic benefits of a spa with the perks of a swimming pool. What’s more, they’re compact and affordable, making them a great option if you have limited space or a small budget.
But is it worth getting a swim spa over a full-sized swimming pool? Can you actually swim in a swim spa? Or is it just a glorified hot tub? In this guide, we’ll explain what a swim spa does and how it compares to a traditional pool. We also look at key factors you should consider before buying one, like price, size, running costs, maintenance and energy efficiency, and then we give you a quick guide on how to choose the right pool for your needs. Let’s get stuck in!
A swim spa is a cross between a spa and a swimming pool. It’s a self-contained unit that gives you the best of both worlds – therapeutic massage on one side and continuous swimming on the other – without spending a fortune or digging up your backyard.
Much like traditional spas, swim spas have massage jets and bench seating. But while spas have seating all around, swim spas only have them on one side. The other side has adjustable swim jets to produce a steady current that allows for continuous swimming. Plus, swim spas don’t need to stay warm. You can adjust the temperature depending on the season or your needs. This means you can have cool water on the swimming end and warm water in the spa.
Swim spas tend to be smaller than a full-size pool and larger than a spa. The average swim spa is 4 metres long, 2 metres wide and 1.3 metres deep. This can accommodate 2–4 adults, depending on whether you plan to swim or just relax. Deluxe models can be as long as 6 metres and 1.5 metres deep, which allows for more users.
Like most spas, swim spas are kept above ground and come with customisable cabinetry and ladders. This allows you to move them to different locations or replace external components as needed. However, if you want to install a swim spa in-ground or on a deck, there are models specifically designed for this application.
There are many things to consider before you buy a swim spa or swimming pool. How much space do you have? What’s your budget? How many people will use it? To help you make the right choice, here’s a rundown of how swim spas and swimming pools compare across a range of different factors.
Swim spas are compact compared to swimming pools. An average swim spa is 4 x 2 metres in size, which can fit comfortably in a small courtyard or on a deck. If you live in a small townhouse or space in your garden is limited, a swim spa can give you all the benefits of a pool but without the large footprint.
By comparison, swimming pools require a large backyard. On average, a rectangular pool can be 9 x 7 metres in size and 1.7 metres deep. This can take up a significant amount of real estate on your property, limiting space for gardens or recreation. And while small pools might be an option for tight spaces, it can be difficult to justify the excavation expenses for such limited swimming space.
WINNER: Swim Spa
When buying a swim spa, all you need to worry about is the cost of the product. There won’t be any installation costs or additional permissions (unless the spa has a capacity of more than 2,000 litres). Typically, high-quality swim spas will cost you between $16,000 and $40,000. What’s more, they have built-in filtration and cleaning functions, which means you don’t have to purchase extra equipment.
With in-ground swimming pools, the cost of purchase, installation, fencing and equipment can be anywhere between $50,000 and $100,000. Expenses can also blow out if there are unforeseen issues or sloping blocks. However, if you’re considering an above-ground pool, the costs are much lower. You could end up paying between $10,000 and $20,000, inclusive of fencing and equipment. When compared to a swim spa, this could be more affordable – and you’ll get more space for swimming and recreation. For a more detailed comparison between in-ground and above-ground pools, see this article.
WINNER: Swim Spa and above-ground swimming pool
Ongoing costs for swim spas are low compared to other pools. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, they don’t contain as much water. This means that you consume less, both at the start of the season and when you top up. Second, the pool pump and heater are smaller than you would find in a full-size pool, keeping energy consumption low.
Chemical costs are a different story. Even though a swim spa has a smaller volume, the temperature is much higher than a pool, which can deplete your chemicals faster. Plus, the heat can cause your pores to open and release more oils, polluting the spa water and throwing it off balance. As a result, you’ll need to balance your spa water more often, which can lead to higher chemical use.
Due to their size, swimming pools consume a lot of energy, water and chemicals. According to HiPages, pool maintenance (that is, running a pump, heater and cleaner) can cost you between $600 and $1500 a year. But this doesn’t include equipment repairs/replacement, water usage, lighting or chemicals. So overall, you could be spending more than $2000 a year just to maintain your swimming pool!
WINNER: Swim Spa
Swim spas don’t require complex installation. You can just plug them, fill up the tub, and within 24 hours they’re ready to go. The only time when installation may be delayed is when your backyard is difficult to access or your swim spa needs to be installed in the ground or on a deck. In that case, you may need a crane (the supplier usually arranges this) and some light excavation work.
In-ground pools are a different story. They can take months to plan, build and complete, particularly if there’s high demand, limited materials or persistent rain. This means it could be months before you get to use your pool. But if you’re considering an above-ground pool, installation should only take 1–3 days, depending on its size.
WINNER: Swim Spa and above-ground swimming pool
While swim spas can be installed in the ground or on a deck, most are kept above ground. As a result, they come with attractive wood panelling designed to blend in with your landscape or decking. But not everyone finds swim spas attractive. They may interrupt your view or look obtrusive. In that case, you may want to opt for an in-ground pool. Not only do they blend in seamlessly with your landscaping and look stunning at night, but they can also increase the value of your home.
WINNER: Swim spa and swimming pool
There’s no off-season when you’ve got a swim spa. The unit has a built-in heater and high-quality insulation that keeps the water toasty all year round. What’s more, if it’s placed indoors or on a sheltered patio, you’ll be able to use it without worrying about the weather conditions outside. In-ground pools, on the other hand, are exposed to the elements. This means that you have to increase the temperature of your heater, which can raise your energy bills and make your pool expensive to run in winter.
WINNER: Swim Spa
A Swim spa offers a range of different features. Not only do you get all the relaxing and therapeutic benefits of a hot spa, but you also have adjustable swim jets that create resistance for swimming, jogging or stretching. Some high-end models even have treadmills and fitness app integration. Plus, swim spas have two water environments where you can adjust the temperature to suit your preferences or activities, giving you endless flexibility.
Due to its size and depth, a full-size swimming pool provides plenty of options for your family. You can dive and swim as you please, unhindered by space constraints or obtrusive seating. You can even get an integrated spa for therapeutic massages, or install water features to add drama or improve water circulation.
WINNER: Swim Spa and swimming pool
Most swim spas have inbuilt filtration, heating and cleaning, which means that you don’t have to worry about operating or maintaining external equipment. Plus, the acrylic surface of the spas is also antimicrobial, eliminating the need for scrubbing. All you have to do is wipe the surface with a sponge and non-abrasive cleaner. As for maintaining the water quality, all you have to do is test and adjust the spa water each week, rinse your filter monthly and remove any floating debris as required.
In-ground or above-ground pools require more attention. Because of their larger surface area and heavy use, they attract more environmental debris and bacteria. This means you need to maintain a weekly pool maintenance schedule that includes cleaning or backwashing filters, balancing water chemistry, adding clarifiers and algaecides, scrubbing the walls and running your cleaner regularly.
WINNER: Swim spa
Swim spas are fully portable – even the big ones – which means you can take them to your new home or move them to a new location in your yard. An in-ground swimming pool, on the other hand, needs to stay put. This can be hard when you think about how much money you’ve spent on it over the years. Plus, if your next home doesn’t have a pool, you’ll have to go through the long and expensive process of installing one again. On the other hand, if you have an above-ground pool, moving it to a new location is easy. Just make sure it’s done by a pool professional to avoid damage or incorrect installation.
WINNER: Swim spa and above-ground swimming pool
Due to their foam insulation and sturdy covers, many swim spas have low energy needs. They stay warmer for longer, and the inbuilt heat pump doesn’t have to work as hard to maintain the water temperature. They also use less water than a pool due to their size. This means that your water use is lower, not just when you fill it up, but also when you replace the water twice a year.
By comparison, in-ground pools are energy guzzlers, particularly if you’ve got a single-speed pump or gas heater. What’s more, if you don’t use a pool cover, you could be losing tens of litres of water every year due to evaporation or wind. This could result in water imbalances that lead to excessive chemical use or frequent top-ups. Of course, there are plenty of ways to make your pool more energy-efficient, like using a variable speed pump, covering your pool and using a media filter, but running costs will still be higher than a swim spa.
WINNER: Swim Spa
Depending on the brand, your swim spa could last up to 20 years. Many come with a 10-year warranty for the shell and a 5-year warranty for the pump and parts. Longevity will depend on usage and how well you look after your swim spa. If it’s used often and left uncovered, you’ll see more wear and tear, and if you don’t keep up with weekly maintenance, you’ll find cracks, leaks or deterioration that can reduce its life.
Because of their materials and installations, swimming pools last much longer. In fact, a concrete pool can last more than 40 years if properly maintained. Other pool surfaces have a slightly shorter lifespan. Vinyl and fibreglass pools can last about 20–30 years, as long as the vinyl is replaced and fibreglass resurfaced.
WINNER: Swimming pool
While swim spas are designed for multiple users, they aren’t always big enough to accommodate large families. Even the largest size may only fit 5–6 users – as long as they don’t move too much. And your kids will have to take turns using the swimming feature, which isn’t always easy!
A large pool, on the other hand, allows everyone to swim together. You can even throw in floating pool toys, a ladder and a playful dog and still have plenty of space. Swimming pools are also great for kids who want to join the school swim team. Unlike swim spas, which create an artificial current, in-ground pools (particularly if they’re long) provide ideal conditions for training and measuring swimming speeds.
WINNER: Swimming pool
Buying a swim spa or swimming pool is a big investment, and there are many factors to consider before you take the plunge. This can include purchase price, running costs, longevity, maintenance and energy efficiency. Once you’ve considered these factors, you’ll know which pool is best for your needs. If you haven’t made up your mind yet (or if you skipped ahead!), here’s a quick guide to help you out.
You should buy a swim spa if:
You should buy a swimming pool if:
We hope this guide has been helpful and that you’re one step closer to buying a swim spa or swimming pool! For more pool tips, check out our pool and spa guides or subscribe to our emails.