Thinking about a Hot Tub?
Hot tubs and saunas are great additions to back yards, patios and decks. But they have special power requirements and not every home’s electrical system can support them.
*This article is for informational purposes only. Make sure you have a qualified and licensed electrician do any electrical work on your home!*
Below are the items involved in the electrical hookup for most hot tubs (or spas, whirlpools if you prefer):
1. The main electrical service for the home
2. The main electrical panel, or sub-panel depending on the individual home
3. A breaker in the electrical panel, which powers the hot tub.
4. The “spa panel”, which is mounted usually on the wall of the home, which should be at least 5 feet away from the hot tub itself.
5. A GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupter) breaker installed within the spa panel
6. Wiring and conduit to connect these items all together
What size of electric circuit do hot tubs use?
Most hot tubs require either a dedicated 240 volt, 50 or 60-amp circuit, meaning that your electrician will need to install a 50- or 60-amp breaker. In houses that have more than one electrical panel, the best location to install the beaker is usually in the panel closest to the hot tub loca
tion. Some hot tubs are known as “plug and play”, and they’re designed to connect directly to a standard wall outlet.
How large of a main electric service do hot tubs require?
Homes with 150-amp or 200-amp electrical service can almost always support a hot tub. You’ll also need space for a 240-volt (AKA “2-pole”) breaker in your electrical panel. If you’ve got 150-amp service, it’s usually best to have a licensed electrician evaluate your service and panel to make sure it’s ready for a hot tub. (In Alto Home Inspection’s service area, many houses with 150-amp service have unrelated electrical issues that would make me nervous about installing a hot tub before fixing these issues.)
What type of breaker do hot tubs need?
The National Electric Code requires that circuits powering “wet areas” are protected by Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCI’s). For hot tubs, the breaker that the hot tub control panel connects to must have this GFCI protection built in. Without a GFCI breaker, being in or near a
hot tub could be deadly.
What’s a “spa panel”?
A spa panel is an electrical box that’s installed on the side of the house. It is wired into the control panel of the hot tub and should be within view of the hot tub users. However, it should never be closer than 5 feet away from the edge of the hot tub. Spa panels usually contain the required GFCI breaker, which should quickly and automatically shut off power to the hot tub if a short circuit causes wiring to come into contact with the earth.
What gauge wire should be used to connect the spa panel to the breaker?
For those hot tubs that require a 50 or 60-amp circuit breaker, the wiring between the home’s electrical p
anel and the spa panel should be 6-gauge wire. If smaller wire is used, then the chances of the wire overheating increase dramatically.
How should the wire from the spa panel to the hot tub control panel be run?
This wire should be installed in conduit, buried under the ground or run under the patio. Make sure the conduit is sized properly, and that it’s installed tightly to the spa panel and hot tub control panel.
How much does a hot tub cost to operate?
According to some hot tub retailers a hot tub typically costs around $30/month of electricity to operate. They report that in some cases, bills of $80/month have been reported. In addition to electrical charges, don’t forget that you may need chemicals to keep the water clean. You’ll also want to have an annual inspection of the hot tub performed by a qualified service company.