Pros: Maintenance-free exterior, quiet circulation pump, moderate electrical consumption
Cons: 110v operation doesn't work well
We travel several times a year and always enjoy using the spa at hotel that we stay in. I had always equated spa with pool as far as the "usable season" was concerned here in Cleveland. I thought that you would only use it say May through September and it would sit unused when it was cold. Then friends of ours purchased a spa (not Hot Springs) and changed our mind. So we decided to get one too.
We considered the spas sold at our local home improvement store, as well as inexpensive spas sold at leisure stores. All of these looked "cheap" to us, with few jets and dubious insulation quality. Then we decided to look at Hot Springs. Although more expensive, they seemed to be built with better quality materials, and they were the only place that posted specific energy costs of their product. Energy use was a major concern of mine. At 13 cents/kwh, electricity in northeast Ohio is among the highest cost areas of the country. More on this later.
We chose Hot Springs based on these factors, plus a wet-test. I cannot stress the importance of this, which is another reason not to buy a spa at a home improvement store. Is the spa deep enough? Or is it too deep? Can you get comfortable sitting in it? Will the jets and/or air cause you to float? These are some of the questions that can only be answered by a wet-test. Being 6' 7" tall, I was particularly concerned with the first question because at some hotels I have to lay nearly horizontally across the spa to get my shoulders in the water. We liked the Hot Springs.
The only thing the sales person misled us about was the ability to just "plug it in" to a 110V outlet and obtain satisfactory performance. Perhaps if the spa was indoors or perhaps in a warm climate, but not outside in Cleveland. Running on 110v, the spa's heater shuts off when the jets are running. The first time we used it, on a 40ish degree evening we knew we would need a 220v installation. The water was getting cold after about 20 minutes, and it was defeating the purpose of a spa: to soak in nice, warm water. Fortunately, all Hot Springs spas can be converted from 110v to 220v by flipping a switch in the controller, and of course doing the necessary wiring. Fortunately, I can do my own wiring. For most other people, this is just a cost to keep in mind.
The Classic is perfectly sized for 2-4 people. If you have a large family or large parties, you would be better served getting a larger spa. For us it's perfect. Less water to heat, lower utility bills.
There are enough different kind of jets, placed in all of the right places, to ease any ache or pain that we've had in the three years we've owned it. The Moto-massage jet that goes up and down your back is great for back pain. The jets that spin around are great for neck pain or other muscles that hurt. The large jet at the bottom is great for foot or ankle pain, or for just a gentle soak.
Daily maintenance takes only a few minutes to check the chemical level and add whatever is appropriate. We've found the water really needs to be changed every two months, not every four as the sales person claimed. The water gets too foamy after a couple of months, and that takes the pleasure out of the experience for us. The exterior is nearly maintenance-free since it's plastic, not wood, so a quick squirt with the hose cleans it off. The electric costs average about $20-25/month, and we use our spa frequently, particularly in the winter. The colder it gets, the better the warm water feels. We've used it at 8 degrees F, and with 220v operation the water stayed just as warm in use as when we first opened it.
We've had one problem with it in three years of use. After a year or so, the circulation pump started making a funny noise. We called the dealer, and they came out and replaced it under warranty the next day.