Above: The best of both worlds. Natural hot springs are channelled into a series of handpacked concrete pools; a ramp at one end of the pool allows bathers safe and easy access.
A Hot Water Spa is a Timeless Remedy for Stress Reduction
Throughout the ages, people have enjoyed a good hot soak to ease their minds, relax their bodies and relieve the day’s stress. Centuries ago, the ancient Romans discovered the pleasure of soaking in hot, natural springs. Today, wherever these occur naturally, people all over the world still make use of them, swearing by the soothing and healing effects the minerals in the water have.
There are many natural hot springs in many parts of the world, where the water is pumped into swimming pools and used in synthetic, factory-moulded spa baths. Many of these sites have been exploited for use as holiday or health retreats.
Even though spas built or installed in private homes do not have the benefit of natural spring water, the jets of air and water they produce are valued for the soothing and therapeutic effects they have. Not only will a soak in a hot water spa relax tired muscles and improve circulation, but it also helps relieve stress. In fact spas have become a vital tool in hydrotherapy and most people find even a single session will improve the quality of sleep and increase energy. Furthermore, arthritis and backache may also be relieved.
It was only relatively recently that the first manufactured spas were made for private use. The very first is attributed to an American man in Santa Barbara, California who is said to have converted an old wine barrel into a hot tub for his own use.
Hot tubs made from timber are still popular in America, but the South African market has followed the Australian trend towards factory-moulded acrylic spas. This is probably because that country doesn’t have the suitable timber resources with access to woods like Canadian redwood. Just as the vacuum cleaner is still sometimes referred to as a ‘Hoover’ (a trade name), spas are often called ‘Jacuzzis’ (also a trade name) in South Africa and Australia.
Some swimming pool contractors will build customised handpacked concrete or gunite spas, often alongside the pool.
Location of Your Hot Water Spa
Many people choose to build spas under cover or partially protected on a patio. However, provided you have a cover or lid to maintain the temperature (and therefore not unnecessarily increase your electricity bill), there is no reason why a spa should not be located outdoors. Anyone who has soaked up the pleasures of a hot water spa on a cold, drizzly winter evening will vouch for this.
When siting a spa indoors, make sure the surround is practical and non-slip and allow for adequate ventilation.
Types of Hot Water Spa
The most common type of spa in Australia and South Africa are made from factory-moulded acrylic materials. Most incorporate moulded seats and some even have a rimflow feature. They are available in several shapes, colours and sizes with hydrotherapy (water) jets as well as air jets. These jets are fitted in situ if the spa is made from handpacked concrete or gunite. Hot tubs also have seats and they work in exactly the same way as any other spa.
All types have their own pump system and are installed with filter – most commonly the cartridge type. Since heated water is central to the whole idea, a heat pump or an electric 3 or 4 kW heater is also essential.
Hot Water Spa Size and Shape
While handpacked concrete and gunite spas may be constructed to any shape, the bigger they are, the more it will cost to heat the water. Simplicity is the usual option.
Factory-moulded spas are available in a variety of sizes and several shapes – usually circular, rectangular or octagonal, and up to about a 2 m diameter with a maximum depth of about 90 cm. They are made to accommodate from two to eight people, depending on design. Most will allow you to submerge your entire body – which is essential for maximum massage and toning.
Unlike spa baths which are designed for the bathroom and are emptied after use, these larger spas are designed to retain their heated water for longer periods of time. For this reason the water must be chlorinated.