One of the biggest decisions you’ll make when you’re buying a swim spa is whether to opt for a single or dual-zone model.
So many of our WhatSwimSpa? magazine readers ask ‘Can a swim spa be used as a hot tub?’, so here we’ll break down all the differences and benefits of single and dual zone swim spas to help you decide which might be best suited!
As the name suggests, both the swimming area and the hot tub in a single-zone swim spa are contained in the same body of water.
This means these models only need a single set of expensive circulation, filtration, heating and treatment equipment, making them quite a bit cheaper than their dual-zone equivalents.
A single-zone swim spa is also a great option if you’re a bit tighter on space, as they start at around 12 feet long.
And some of the best swim experiences can be found in single-zone models, as their designs aren’t compromised by trying to fit in extra hydrotherapy seats. Most also feature moulded spa seating at the opposite end to the swim jets where you can enjoy a post-swim hydrotherapy massage.
However, because power and flow are diverted between the hot tub jets and swim propulsion system in a single-zone swim spa, neither can operate at full capacity when the other is on. This means it might not be the ideal option if you’d like to use both functionalities at once.
Because they’re contained in the same body of water, the hot tub and swimming area are always the same temperature as each other. This means they can’t be used as well simultaneously, because you’ll generally want a much higher temperature while you’re soaking in your hot tub (36°C – 39°C for most people) than when you’re swimming (usually 25°C – 29°C).
You’ll therefore have to raise the temperature of the entire body of water when you want to relax in the hot tub section and then lower it again when you want a more conventional swim temperature.
This temperature adjustment can take a good few hours, so if you’re looking to enjoy the swimming area and the hot tub together then a dual-zone model – or a single-zone swim spa and a separate hot tub – will be the right option for you.
Single-zone swim spa models are also often significantly cheaper than a traditional swimming pool or in-ground swimming pool, with the cheapest of our 2023 WhatSwimSpa? Best Buy awarded models starting at a modest £16,995.
The swimming area and hot tub of dual-zone / dual-temperature swim spas are two self-contained bodies of water, with their own separate sets of equipment and heating split by a divider.
This means you can independently maintain the water in the swimming area at the ideal temperature (usually between 22 – 30°C) for swimming and the hot tub at the perfect temperature (around 40°C) for a soak. Plus, the hot tub and the swim jets can both be operated at full power simultaneously.
And because the hot tub is contained in its own section of the spa, anyone enjoying a soak won’t be disrupted by the splashing and turbulent water created by whoever is swimming in the swim zone.
The downside of a dual-zone or dual-temperature swim spa is that because they have twice the amount of expensive electronics, they cost considerably more to manufacture – meaning one will set you back quite a bit more than you can expect to pay for a single-zone model.
Also, completely depending on what type of swim spa cover system you choose to opt for, many automatic covers don’t allow you to remove the lid of the swim area while keeping the lid of the hot tub side sealed, meaning you, unfortunately, won’t benefit from retaining maximum heat and energy within your hot tub area if you only want to enjoy some aquatic exercise within the swim side of the spa (rolling covers do however allow for this!).
So how much does a dual temp swim spa cost you ask? Of WhatSwimSpa?’s 2023’s best buy awarded models (which you can view and compare all 30 of by requesting our completely FREE magazine), the first dual-zone swim spa starts at £29,995,
They’re also typically longer than their single-zone equivalents, with most models starting at around 16 feet long, a size comparable to a small fibreglass in-ground pool that is only really useful for fun & recreation as opposed to low-impact water fitness, recreation and health & recovery.
You’ll also need a larger outdoor electrical supply to power both sets of pumps and heaters, which you may have to have specifically installed at an extra expense.
Of course, the right swim spa for you depends on both your and your family’s needs.
You might be looking for a swim spa you can use to train for a triathlon, in which case a single-zone model specifically designed for a rigorous swimming schedule would be your best bet.
But that would be far from the best option if you’re looking for a hot tub to relax in at the end of each day with a swimming section you can enjoy the occasional swim in.
There’s a huge range of swim spas available, from models you can transform into a fully-equipped hydrotherapy gym to large party pools with bench seating around their entire interior you can entertain plenty of guests.
So, think carefully about how you’ll be using your swim spa before you start your search to make sure you’re getting the perfect swim spa for you.
And be sure not to compromise on the areas that will impact how much you’ll enjoy using it every day for features you’ll use once in a blue moon – whether that’s a large hot tub section or a swim section fit for an athlete.
Our Best Advice? Trying Before you Buy!
As you can see, there are clear differences between single- and dual-zone swim spas.
But the only thing that will help you know which is the ideal interior layout for you is to try it before you buy.
So, round up your family, grab your bathing suits, and head to a WhatSwimSpa? approved dealership to test out the top models. When you arrive, you’ll find private test swim facilities and changing rooms you can use to take both kinds of swim spas for a spin.
You’ll quickly find that getting hands-on with each option is a totally different experience from comparing specifications online.
Be sure to get showroom staff to walk you through the features of a number of dual- and single-zone swim spas then put them through their paces.
Pay particular attention to whether:
Each model is a good fit for your and your family’s needs and swimming abilities.
There’s ample room for the number of people you’re planning on regularly having in the hot tub section.
The hot tub jets provide a good massage – even when the swim jets are on.
The swimming area is big enough to allow the largest person to swim without any danger of hitting the sides.
The ‘sweet spot’ of the swimming section’s current is easy to find, and you can comfortably maintain a steady position like a jogger on a treadmill.
The controls of both the hot tub and the swimming section are easy to reach and intuitive to use.
It comes with all the fitness equipment you’d be interested in using, whether that’s swimming cables to faux ores to underwater exercise bikes.
Thoroughly testing a handful of both single- and dual-zone swim spas will help you quickly get clear on which type best suits your needs.
Be sure that you don’t skip this step if you want a swim spa that fits your exact needs.
A Good Alternative: A Separate Swim Spa and Hot Tub
If you can’t quite find a swim spa that ticks every box for you during your wet tests, a good alternative is to buy a single-zone swim spa that suits your swimming abilities perfectly and then purchase a separate hot tub.
Then when you’ve finished your workout, you can simply hop across to your separate hot tub and instantly enjoy a restorative soak.
Buying a separate single-zone training pool and hot tub will cost a bit more than a dual-zone swim spa, but it’s often the best option if you’re after a swim spa designed for a serious training regime as well as both a hot tub you can relax in whenever you want.
It can also be a good option if, due to the layout of your property and outdoor living space, you have space for two smaller home spas but not one larger unit.
For help picking out the perfect swim spa for you, be sure to read our swim spa buying guide – as well as grab your free copy of the latest edition of WhatSwimSpa? magazine today.
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I am the Content Writer and Marketing Officer at WhatSwimSpa? Magazine. I recently graduated with Distinction from Northumbria University with a Master's degree in Occupational and Organizational Psychology. My role at WhatSwimSpa? is to ensure that all swim spa and hot tub lovers can easily access the highest quality and most up-to-date content, news and information from within the UK wet leisure industry. In my spare time, I love to produce music and DJ across the country, possessing a significant passion for all underground dance and electronic music genres.
To find the latest advice and information on selecting your swim spa retailer, request your FREE copy of the latest edition of WhatSwimSpa? As well as the latest advice, you can also view the best swim spas across every price range with the WhatSwimSpa? Best Buy Awards.