Question time...Wood-fired or Electric tub - which is the best for you?
Updated: Oct 20, 2022
Which is best, a wood-burner or electric hot tub? It's that age-old question that is making the Hot Tub headlines once again because of the rising fuel prices across Europe. Obviously, I try to stay on top of everything hot tub related because a) I enjoy browsing the internet in the name of 'research', and b) I want to be able to share the latest research with our customers. For me it's also important that anyone looking to invest in a new tub is armed with all the details they need to make an informed decision.
Comparing wood with electric version
Whether you opt to buy wood-fired or electric, nobody should be spending their hard-earned cash on something that is not going to last or doesn't suit their needs. And when I say 'suit their needs' I'm referring to things like convenience, energy-efficiency and usability. So that's what I'm going to base my blog on - everything that I think is important for any potential or existing hot tub owner to know. And for a more realistic one-to-one comparison I'm going to base my findings on similar size (5-6 person), solid tubs.
Use your imagination
When it comes to hot tubs, there is no one-size-fits-all because we all have different needs and preferences. So it's really important to choose a hot tub that has features that meet your household's needs. For example, if you suffer from aches and pains then you might want adjustable massage jets to help relax your muscles. Both wood and electric hot tubs come in a wide range of colours from and sizes and with a little bit of imagination, you can create a hot tub experience that is perfect for you (and anyone else you want to share it with).
From an installation point of view as long as you have a good solid base which is sturdy enough to support the weight of a full tub of water plus 6 adults, then wood and electric versions are very much the same. Yet it has to be said, the electric version tubs will need either a crane or an army of fit men to get it on to the base. On the other hand, Tim (the human fork lift) can get a wood-fired hot tub (except for the extremely heavy new Moreton) into most places, with support from me and a few willing helpers. The Burford Deluxe 5/6 person tub only weighs 200kg as opposed to the electric tub dry weight of at least 373kg.
True enough though, an electric version can be sited inside a barn or a summer house, and it is slightly more difficult to site a wood-burning tub undercover because of the smoke - but it's not impossible. All you need to do is make a small hole in the roof of the structure and extend the boiler chimney through it. We have successfully fitted several different size tubs under hangars and pergolas.
There’s really nothing more soothing though than soaking in the tub while you're gazing up at the stars. This is when the wood-fired tub scores a few extra points because it can be placed anywhere you want as long (as it's a solid foundation). With electric tubs the location is limited to the proximity of an electric socket, so you could have extra costs for professional installation of a suitable power outlet. Whereas, there are no specialist electrics required with a wood-fired hot tub - simply 'plug and play'.
2. Cleaning and maintenance
If your tub is for your own domestic use, you are in control of how often often it requires draining. However, if it is used by multiple people, especially a holiday business, then it is best to include emptying and refilling the tub as part of your change-over routine. With an electric tub this could prove difficult, due to the length of time it takes to re-heat and the cost of heating it.
Both tubs can be used with water treatments - chemicals (chlorine, bromine and salts) or the very popular non-chemical sanitising treatment, Active Oxygen treatment.
A huge bonus, for wood-fired hot tubbers is the option to keep it 'eau naturelle' with tap or well water, but for hygiene purposes we would advise refreshing your water after 2/3 uses.
Both wood-fired and electric versions need to be drained and cleaned to suit the user. Draining is simple with the wood tub - just open the tap at the bottom of the tub and the water will quickly flow out. Or attach a hose so you can use the water on your garden.
Slightly more difficult with electric as you need to ensure the power is switched off, valves opened to drain the water from the tub and the pipes, and filter cartridges changed. Cleaning of the interior shell, which is normally made from fibreglass or acrylic plastic, is easy and requires nothing more than a wipe down using a soft, damp rag or a little diluted disinfectant. We can drain it, give it a wipe-down and refill our Burford Deluxe in 1.5 hours!
3. Heating your tub
At the flick of a switch and the push of a button your electric tub will start to heat up. Sadly, that's where the convenience ends. An electric tub can take 12-15 hours to heat the same amount of water as a wood-burner (average tub holds approx. 1500 litres) , depending on the outside weather temperature and water temperature before heating. Whereas a wood-fired hot tub, with integrated boiler can take around 2.5 hours from ice cold in the winter, and much less in the summer.
If you use your tub frequently, then naturally the heat up time decreases, due the fact that the water in the tub isn't as cold. Using an insulated cover (supplied as standard on our range of Cotswold Eco Tubs) can substantially reduce the heat-up time - sometimes by as much as an hour. Even if you factor in emptying the ash and building the fire, the wood burning tub still beats the electric version hands-down. As I'm feeling generous I'll give the electric version a bonus point because the temperature is more controllable. But once you get used to lighting the wood-burner it is easy to ensure a steady temperature once you have reached your ideal water temperature.
How long will a hot tub last?
With proper care and attention a standard hot tub will last between 5 to 10 years. As an electric hot tub has mechanical parts such as a pump, circulation system, control panel, music and lights, there are more elements that can go wrong. So mechanical problems can and will happen over the course of the tub’s life. These can be kept to a minimum if you have a reliable electrician on hand to fix any issues as and when they arise.
With a wood-fired hot tub, there are fewer things that can go wrong because there are fewer mechanical elements. The natural wood exterior is strong enough to resist the elements, but the wood might just need a touch up every now and again to keep it looking as good as new!
Both versions have similarities and differences, but if you are used to a wood-burner stove then you will have no problems with a wood-fired hot tub, and you’ll also save on installation and running costs. Also, bear in mind that while an electric hot tub can be kept at a constant temperature, you’ll need to heat the water from scratch every time (up to 15 hours) or leave it running 24 hours a day, which does not fit in well with the French governments current energy saving campaign. To sum up, you can still have a luxurious hot tub in your garden, on your patio or under a pergola for low cost and with easy maintenance if you choose wisely...you can say I am biased, but who would not want an energy saving, eco friendly, wood-fired hot tub?
Which one do you prefer?
Our customers say they prefer the wood version because of it's traditional rustic look, the feeling of being more at one with nature and the fact it is eco-friendly. Whereas the appeal of the electric version is that they often have more stylish and modern features. So check out our new Hydro models - the Moreton is the wood-fired hot tub that has it all!
But, whatever style you prefer, as long as you choose a quality manufacturer, follow their instructions and give your tub the care and attention it needs, then both versions should last many years and provide lots of happy memories and hours of fun. Happy Hot Tubbing!