What is a spa heat pump and does it save you money? (Cost, pros, cons and more)

Want to save money on spa running costs? A heat pump could be just what you need to keep your spa warm for less, all year round.

Is a spa heat pump worth it?

Spa pools and swim spas are great for relaxation and fitness but unless they’re set up right – they can cost a bit to run. That’s where a spa heat pump comes in.

It’s an energy efficient, cost effective way to heat water without draining your wallet.

What is a spa heat pump?

A spa pool heat pump is similar to a heat pump you would use in your home but instead of heating or cooling the air in a room – it works to heat (or cool) the water in your spa.

Heat pumps can be used with spas, swim spas, plunge pools and even swimming pools.

These heaters take about the same amount of time to warm the water as standard built in electric elements but they do it way more efficiently.

Also, while other spa heating methods can only heat the water – a spa heat pump is able to actively cool the water down. This is ideal if you want to use your spa or swim spa to cool off on hot summer days.

Watch: Does a spa heat pump save you money?

How does a spa heat pump work?

Spa heat pumps work like reverse cycle air conditioners. A spa heat pump takes the heat from the ambient air and transfers it to your spa through a heat exchanger.

A spa heat pump can also reverse the cycle and cool your spa in the summer months by taking heat from your spa and putting it out into the ambient air.

By using refrigeration technology, a heat pump can output up to five times more energy in heat compared to what it consumes in electricity. That’s a fraction of the energy gas or electric heaters require to generate the same amount of heat output.

Are spa heat pumps energy efficient?

Heat pumps are by far the most energy efficient and cost effective way to heat your spa.

Using refrigeration technology, they heat your spa water much faster and use less energy than the spa’s inbuilt electric heaters.

In fact, heat pumps are the most energy efficient and cost effective way to heat your spa – up to 75 percent more efficient than electricity and 55 percent more than gas.

Given that a spa should last you up to 20 years, that’s thousands of dollars in savings over the lifetime of your spa.

How much does a heat pump cost to heat a spa?

How much it will cost you to heat your spa with a heat pump depends on a range of factors including:

  • The size of your spa or swim spa
  • How often you use it
  • What type of insulation you use
  • If you put the cover on after use
  • The price per unit of electricity in your area

As an example, a conventional spa heater turns 1 kilowatt of electricity into 1 kilowatt of heat.

In comparison, the Vortex™ hybrid heat pump turns 1 kilowatt of electricity into 5 kilowatts of heat – effectively giving you up to 4 kilowatts of heat for free.

Over a short amount of time, the electricity savings repay the investment outlay resulting in a $0 net cost. In fact, the return on investment can be as short as 12 months for a swim spa and 2 to 3 years for a spa.

How much does a spa heat pump cost to run?

For every 1 kilowatt of electricity a standard electric heater consumes it only outputs 1 kilowatt of heat.

In comparison, for every 1 kilowatt of electricity the SV Series heat pumps consume they output up to 5.5 kilowatts of heat.

The higher output 8.8kW and 12kW models generate even larger amounts of ‘free’ energy.

How much does a spa heat pump cost?

Spa heat pumps range in price from $1500 to around $4,500 depending on the brand, model and size of the unit.

Even within the same brand, you will find quite a price difference depending on the kilowatt rating, unit size and quality.

As an example, we’ve compared four models of SpaNet® heat pumps (one of the world’s most popular heat pump brands).

SpaNet® heat pump prices:

  • SpaNet® Universal Spa Heat Pump XS 5.5kw - $1,790
  • SpaNet®Heat Pump SV 5.5kw - $2,485
  • SpaNet®Universal Spa Heat Pump 8KW - $3,260
  • SpaNet® Heat Pump SV 8.8kw - $3,990

Electric element or spa heat pump?

Most spas are heated using the existing spa element.

This is fine for small spas or a spa that doesn’t have much use, but if you own or are buying a swim spa, 5+ seater spa, or using your spa more than three times a week – a heat pump is a great option for reducing running costs.

You might say – “I dont’ want to pay $3k for a heat pump”, but you will be paying for it anyway in electricity. After just a few years of spa use with a heat pump it will have paid for itself through power savings.

For example, if you have a 6kw heater element built into a spa using 6kw of energy that’s chewing a lot of power in winter. Whereas a heat pump is using 3kw of power.

Put another way, a standard inline heater element is 100 percent efficient. So that’s one unit of power in one unit of energy out. With a heat pump it’s 1.3 units of energy in and 8.8 units of power out. Quite a return on your investment.

Another benefit of heat pumps over inbuilt spa heaters, is that In summer, you can reverse the cycle to cool your spa pool water and provide respite from high temperatures.

Is a spa heat pump worth it?

Yes, in the right circumstances – we think a spa heat pump is definitely worth it.

Don’t be put off by the price of a heat pump. The power savings on a mid-range spa can pay your heat pump off in as little as three years or less – making it an incredibly worthwhile investment.

As mentioned above, it does depend on your circumstances. For example, we would not recommend a spa heat pump for spas that cost under $7k as the heat pump would be almost half the total cost of your investment.

In this situation – you might be better off opting for a heavy duty ‘insulation upgrade’ which will still help reduce heating costs but the upfront cost is a lot less.

Should I get a heat pump for my spa or swim spa?

It is well worth considering a heat pump for your spa if you want an energy efficient, cost-effective way to heat your spa or swim spa.

While a spa heat pump can be an excellent long term investment that can pay for itself in the long run through reduced heating bills – they are suited to some situations more than others, as we explain below.

A spa heat pump is a good option if:

  • You’re buying a swim spa or a large spa–5-person or over–and are wanting to reduce your heating costs.
  • You already own a larger spa or a swim spa. You can easily switch the heating over to a heat pump. Once installed, you should notice a big reduction in your heating bill. Learn more about installing a spa heat pump and what’s involved, in this detailed article.
  • You want the option of being able to cool your spa in summer.

If you answered yes to either of the above options, then you should definitely consider purchasing a spa heat pump with your new spa or adding one to your existing spa or swim spa.

A spa heat pump may not be a good option if:

  • You own or are buying a small spa–4-person or less–as spas of less than 2m by 2m in size cost less to run compared with larger options.
  • You are buying a cheap spa that costs the same or not much more than the heat pump itself and don’t mind the extra running costs associated with entry-level spas.
  • You’re only wanting a spa for a few years while the kids are young. If so, a cheap spa with higher running costs could work out better.
  • You don’t care about the running costs or you have endless free power.

What size heat pump do I need for my spa?

As a general rule, spas up to 2,500L in volume will need a heat pump of around 5.5kW to 6kW.

A bigger spa or swim spa with a volume of up to 5,000L will need a heat pump with power output of 9kW.

The bigger the heating unit, the faster it will heat up. (But bigger heat pumps will use more power too!)

Heat pump size guide:

  • Spas up to 2,500L 5.5kW - 6kW
  • Spas and Swim Spas larger than 2,500L 8kW - 9kW
  • Swim Spas larger than 7,000L 12kW+

Spa pool and swim spa heat pump pros and cons

Spa heat pump pros:

  • The most energy efficient heating option for spas and swim spas
  • Consumes less energy which means smaller power bills
  • Power savings offset initial cost of the heat pump
  • Instant heat – no waiting for the element to heat up
  • Can cool and heat water for summer/winter soaking

Spa heat pump cons:

  • Takes up space
  • Extra upfront cost
  • Not compatible with all spas (Check with the retailer)
  • Extra noise – around 56 decibels when running, not loud but noticeable
  • Installation costs – some retailers may include cost in spa purchase, check with retailer for details

I already own a spa or swim spa – can I install a heat pump? Can I add a heat pump to my existing spa or swim spa?

Depending on your spa or swim spa installation, you can easily switch the heating on your existing spa or swim spa over to a heat pump. Once installed, you should notice a big reduction in your heating bill.

Where is a heat pump located in your spa?

The heat pump is an external unit that can be located anywhere from right next to your spa to a few metres away (depending on the situation).

Keep in mind that as an external unit it will need to be installed by a spa technician.

You will also need to find somewhere nearby to place it – the closer to the spa, the better. We recommend no further than 5 metres from the spa for optimal performance.

How does a heat pump connect to a spa or swim spa?

The heat pump is connected to your spa or swim spa via plumbing and electricity cables.

The power for your heat pump comes directly from the spa itself. The heat pump will override the spa’s built in conventional electric element to heat the water.

Heat pumps are ideally integrated with the spa’s operating system so it detects the heat pump on startup and the temperature control is synced.

Important: Be aware that not all spas are compatible with heat pumps. Check with the salesperson if the spa you are interested in or already own will work with a heat pump.

In summary

We hope this article has helped you decide if a spa heat pump is worth it or not.

For more information about heat pumps and anything spa-related – we are here to help.

Visit your local Spa World showroom or schedule a virtual consultation with one of our spa experts. We are here to help you make the best decision for you.

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