Looking to add a relaxing water feature to your home? You may be deciding between a hot tub or a plunge pool. If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: Hot tubs are small, heated pools designed for soaking, while plunge pools are larger pools, often unheated, meant for brief dips.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll compare and contrast hot tubs and plunge pools in depth. You’ll learn about differences in size, costs, heating, hydrotherapy features, maintenance, and more to help choose the best option for your home.

Size and Dimensions

Typical hot tub sizes

Hot tubs come in a variety of sizes to accommodate different needs and spaces. The most common sizes range from small two-person tubs to larger models that can comfortably seat six or more people. The dimensions of hot tubs can vary, but a standard two-person hot tub typically measures around 5 to 6 feet in diameter and can fit into a compact backyard or patio space.

For larger hot tubs, the dimensions can go up to 7 to 8 feet in diameter, providing ample room for a group of people to relax and unwind.

Standard plunge pool sizes

On the other hand, plunge pools are designed for a different purpose and have different dimensions compared to hot tubs. Plunge pools are typically smaller and deeper than hot tubs, which makes them perfect for cooling off and swimming against a current.

The standard size of a plunge pool can range from 8 to 12 feet in length and 6 to 8 feet in width. The depth of a plunge pool can vary, but it is usually around 4 to 6 feet, offering a refreshing and invigorating swimming experience in a compact space.

Weight and capacity differences

When it comes to weight and capacity, hot tubs and plunge pools also differ. Hot tubs are designed to hold water and people, so they are built to be sturdy and durable. The weight of a hot tub can vary depending on its size, but a typical two-person hot tub can weigh around 500 to 800 pounds when empty.

When filled with water and people, the weight can increase significantly. Plunge pools, on the other hand, are usually made of lightweight materials such as fiberglass or acrylic, which makes them easier to install and transport.

The weight of a plunge pool can range from 1,000 to 2,500 pounds when empty, depending on its size and construction.

It’s important to consider the size and dimensions of both hot tubs and plunge pools when deciding which one is right for you. The available space, intended use, and desired capacity should all be taken into account to ensure that you make the best choice for your needs.

Cost Comparisons

Initial installation costs

When it comes to the initial installation costs, there is a significant difference between hot tubs and plunge pools. Hot tubs tend to be more expensive to install due to the additional plumbing and electrical work required.

On average, the cost of installing a hot tub can range from $3,000 to $15,000, depending on the size, features, and materials used.

On the other hand, plunge pools are generally more affordable to install. The cost of installing a plunge pool can vary depending on factors such as size, materials, and any additional features. However, on average, the installation cost of a plunge pool can range from $2,000 to $10,000.

It’s important to note that these costs are just estimates and can vary depending on your location and specific requirements. It’s always recommended to get quotes from multiple suppliers to ensure you get the best deal.

Operating costs

When it comes to operating costs, hot tubs and plunge pools also differ. Hot tubs generally require more energy to operate, especially if they are equipped with features like jets and heating systems. The cost of heating the water and running the jets can add up over time.

Plunge pools, on the other hand, tend to have lower operating costs. Since they are typically smaller in size and don’t have as many features as hot tubs, the energy consumption is generally lower. This means that you can enjoy your plunge pool without worrying too much about high utility bills.

It’s worth noting that the actual operating costs will vary depending on factors such as the frequency of use, the temperature at which you keep the water, and the efficiency of the equipment. It’s always a good idea to consider these factors when comparing the operating costs of hot tubs and plunge pools.

Maintenance fees

Both hot tubs and plunge pools require regular maintenance to keep them clean and functioning properly. However, the maintenance requirements and associated costs can differ.

Hot tubs often require more maintenance due to the presence of jets, filters, and heaters. Cleaning and replacing filters, balancing the water chemistry, and ensuring the jets are working properly are some of the tasks involved in hot tub maintenance.

The cost of chemicals, filters, and other maintenance supplies can add up over time.

Plunge pools, on the other hand, usually have simpler maintenance requirements. Regular cleaning, monitoring the water chemistry, and checking the equipment for any issues are typically the main tasks involved. The maintenance costs for plunge pools are generally lower compared to hot tubs.

It’s important to follow the manufacturer’s guidelines and recommendations for maintenance to ensure the longevity and optimal performance of your hot tub or plunge pool.

Heating and Temperature

When comparing hot tubs and plunge pools, one of the key differences lies in their heating capabilities and temperature ranges.

Hot tubs always heated

Hot tubs are specifically designed to be heated, allowing users to enjoy warm, soothing water regardless of the weather. Whether it’s a chilly winter evening or a cool summer night, hot tubs maintain a consistently warm temperature to provide a relaxing and therapeutic experience.

The water temperature in hot tubs typically ranges from 100 to 104 degrees Fahrenheit (38 to 40 degrees Celsius), providing the perfect environment for unwinding and relieving stress.

Plunge pools often unheated

On the other hand, plunge pools are often left unheated. These pools are typically used for quick dips or cold water therapy, making them popular for cooling off during hot summer days or after a workout.

Plunge pools can be a refreshing way to invigorate the body, but they are not designed to maintain a warm temperature like hot tubs.

Temperature ranges

While hot tubs offer a consistent warmth, plunge pools provide a wide range of temperatures depending on the surrounding climate. In warmer regions, the water in a plunge pool can be quite refreshing, with temperatures ranging between 60 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit (15 to 27 degrees Celsius).

In cooler climates, plunge pools may have lower temperatures, closer to the ambient air temperature.

Heating expenses

It’s important to consider the heating expenses associated with hot tubs. Since hot tubs are constantly heated, they require energy to maintain the desired temperature. This energy consumption can result in higher utility bills.

On the other hand, plunge pools, being primarily unheated, do not have the same heating expenses as hot tubs.

For more information on hot tubs and plunge pools, you can visit reputable websites such as The Spruce or Swim University.

Hydrotherapy Features

Both hot tubs and plunge pools offer a range of hydrotherapy features that can provide relaxation and therapeutic benefits. These features are designed to enhance the overall experience and provide relief for various ailments.

Let’s take a closer look at the hydrotherapy features of hot tubs and plunge pools.

Hot tub jets

Hot tubs are equipped with powerful jets that release pressurized water to create a massaging effect on the body. These jets can be adjusted to target specific areas, such as the back, neck, and legs, providing a personalized and invigorating hydrotherapy experience.

The pulsating water from the jets helps to relieve muscle tension, improve blood circulation, and reduce stress levels. Some hot tubs even offer different types of jets, including rotating, pulsating, and directional jets, allowing users to customize their massage.

Plunge pool water features

While plunge pools may not have jets like hot tubs, they often incorporate water features that create a soothing and therapeutic environment. These water features can include air bubbles, waterfalls, and fountains.

Air bubbles, when released into the water, create a gentle massage effect and help to relax the body. Waterfalls provide a calming sound and visual effect, enhancing the overall ambiance of the plunge pool.

Fountains, on the other hand, can offer a gentle flow of water that can be used for relaxation or even as a form of hydrotherapy.

Air bubbles, waterfalls, fountains

Both hot tubs and plunge pools can incorporate air bubbles, waterfalls, and fountains to enhance the hydrotherapy experience. Air bubbles, when combined with the warm water, create a soothing and massaging effect on the body.

The gentle movement of the water can help to relieve muscle tension and promote relaxation. Waterfalls and fountains not only add a touch of elegance to the pool or hot tub but can also provide a tranquil environment for relaxation.

The sound of flowing water and the visual appeal of these features can contribute to a sense of calm and well-being.

When it comes to hydrotherapy features, both hot tubs and plunge pools offer unique options to cater to different preferences. Whether you prefer the targeted massage of hot tub jets or the soothing ambiance created by water features, both options can provide a rejuvenating and therapeutic experience.

Maintenance Requirements

Cleaning frequency

When it comes to cleaning frequency, both hot tubs and plunge pools require regular maintenance to ensure they stay in optimal condition. However, the frequency of cleaning may vary depending on the size and usage of the tub or pool.

Hot tubs typically require more regular cleaning due to the higher temperatures and the presence of jets. It is recommended to clean the hot tub at least once a week to remove any debris, oils, or bacteria that may accumulate. This can be done by using a mild cleaner and a soft cloth or sponge.

On the other hand, plunge pools, being smaller in size, may require less frequent cleaning. However, it is still important to regularly remove any leaves, insects, or other debris that may have fallen into the pool. This can be done using a pool skimmer or a net.

Water chemistry

Maintaining the proper water chemistry is crucial for both hot tubs and plunge pools to ensure the water remains safe and clean. Regular testing of the water is necessary to monitor the pH levels, chlorine or bromine levels, and alkalinity.

Hot tubs generally require more attention to water chemistry due to the higher temperatures and the presence of jets. The pH levels should be tested and adjusted regularly to prevent the growth of bacteria or algae.

Additionally, the sanitizer levels, usually chlorine or bromine, should be maintained within the recommended range.

Plunge pools also require regular testing of water chemistry, but the frequency may be slightly lower compared to hot tubs. The pH levels should be monitored and adjusted accordingly, and the sanitizer levels should be maintained to keep the water clean and safe for use.

Drainage and refilling

Both hot tubs and plunge pools require periodic drainage and refilling to maintain the water quality. The frequency of drainage and refilling may vary depending on the usage and water chemistry.

In hot tubs, it is recommended to drain and refill the water every three to four months. This helps in removing any accumulated minerals, chemicals, or impurities that may affect the water quality. Additionally, it provides an opportunity to clean the tub thoroughly.

Plunge pools may require less frequent drainage and refilling, typically once every six months. However, it is important to monitor the water quality and adjust the maintenance schedule accordingly.

Equipment maintenance

Both hot tubs and plunge pools are equipped with various components that require regular maintenance to ensure proper functioning.

In hot tubs, the filter should be cleaned or replaced regularly to remove any debris or contaminants from the water. The jets should also be inspected and cleaned to ensure optimal performance. Additionally, the heater and pump should be checked periodically to ensure they are functioning correctly.

In plunge pools, the filter should be cleaned regularly to maintain water clarity and prevent clogging. The pump and any other equipment should also be inspected and maintained as per the manufacturer’s recommendations.

It is important to refer to the manufacturer’s guidelines for specific maintenance requirements and recommendations for both hot tubs and plunge pools.


When deciding between a hot tub and plunge pool, consider your budget, desired hydrotherapy options, heating preferences, and maintenance commitments. Hot tubs provide targeted warm water massage, while unheated plunge pools offer brief refreshing dips.

Weigh the pros and cons to choose the best backyard water feature for relaxation and fun.

Now that you understand the key differences between hot tubs and plunge pools, you can make an informed decision for your home.

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