So your Holiday Cottage is up and running or your about to go live and your letting agent has said you need at hot tub to maximise your earnings, where do you start?
Firstly, from our experience at Better Living Outdoors, your letting agent is right! Your property will see increased revenue if you install a spa for your guests to use, as much as a 50% increase in many instances. This comes around twofold, your property rental value goes up as you have a Hot Tub installed, on average £80 a week but this can be more or less depending on many factors your agent will explain. The next factor is your rental season will be longer, as we move into autumn and winter your guests will be looking for things to make there break away more enjoyable when its cold outside. That lovely little local pub down the road, the roaring log burner back at your property and of course the Hot Tub to drop into at the end of the day.
So, it’s a no brainer then, order your hot tub now!!!!
Please read on, yes as a Hot Tub dealer we do think it is a no brainer but we would like you to know about what you will need to do as the Hot Tub owner in a Commercial Setting before you commit to a big investment.
In 2017, the Health & Safety Executive published Health & Safety Guidance 282 (HSG282) which was focused on Spas, Pools and Hot Tubs in a Commercial Environment. Although this covers Hotels, Leisure Centres it also includes Holiday Let Accommodation, like Holiday Cottages, Caravans or Glamping Pods where a Hot Tub is part of the supplied equipment. Ultimately, the guidance is there to protect the public but also you as the Business Owner. Consequently, there are things you must do to comply with this guidance (which is assumed to become law at some point soon).
1. Risk assessment
Firstly it’s risk assessment, without knowing the risks then you will not be able to implement any procedures. You need to consider all the potential risks associated with the hot tub and decide on a set of actions to how you are going to manage these risks.
2. Suitable hot tub
The market place has caught up with HSG282 and there are a number of compliant tubs on the market or modifications you can make to a non-compliant tub to make it compliant. These features include an Inline Chemical Feeder, adequate filtration with appropriate circulation and a maximum bather load. We can advise you on this and ensure you buy a tub that is suitable for your needs.
3. Maintenance and operation
You will need a plan which you adhere to that covers maintenance, operation and water care. This plan will need to be reviewed on a regular basis. Part of the ongoing maintenance will include regular microbiological testing with periodic tests to be carried out at an accredited laboratory (UKAS).
4. Record keeping
Part of the on-going process is record keeping, primarily these will be water care records that demonstrate the hot tub has been regularly inspected, a minimum of twice a day for water quality and condition. Then there will be records of cleaning and water changing. You must change the water once a week or every set of guests (so think about those weekend special offers). You will need to keep records of any maintenance undertaken and of course cleaning, be that you doing a quarterly deep clean or getting an outside company in to do so (Hot Tub Service)
So that all sounds a bit frightening but what does this mean in reality?
Better Living Outdoors will ensure you buy a Hot Tub that is compliant for your property and number of guests that it can accommodate as this directly relates to bather load.
Testing and inspecting the tub twice a day will typically take about 3 minutes each time and if the inline chemical feeder is doing its job correctly, that’s it. At worst, you may need to top up the sanitiser level using chlorine granules, wipe around the water line and swap the filter. This might make it a 10 minute visit.
Changeover day is where more time is needed and this is an area that is often overlooked prior to purchase, Sadly if you think about it before you go live, you can make it slick which is what changeover day needs to be! Draining the tub via standard drain valve is going to take a couple of hours so you need either a tub with a fast drain or the simplest option invest in a submersible pump and flat hose. The tub is now emptying in around 20 minutes. (If you are not on mains drainage, think about where you are going to pump it to, as a sceptic tank will not cope). Whilst it is draining, you will need to clean the inside of the tub with specialist soap (remember to order some) that ideally you will wash into the water as it drains out. Once all the water (and grit) is out of the tub, swap the filter, check the inline chemical feeder is good and you are then refilling.
The time in refilling & getting the water up to temperature is nearly always overlooked and your guests always like to arrive to a Spa that is hot. Most standard hot tubs will heat at around 2 degrees an hour (13 amp 1 degree an hour), in winter filling water can be 10 degrees or less, so to heat your Spa to 38 degrees is going to take 14 hours!!! With good water pressure, it will take 2-3 hours to refill and only when it is full can you turn it on to start the heating.
Options at this point, advise your guests the tub is not available on the first night (some are understanding and they have piece of mind it is fresh water for them) or look for another way to get hot water into the tub faster. Quick solution 1, if you have a combi-boiler or similar, you have an infinite amount of hot water so you could fill the tub with a mix at your operating temperature meaning the tub is good to go after 3 hours (approx.) of filling. (This can also be cheaper as at time of writing Gas/Oil is cheaper than standard electric for heating water). Solution 2, pre-capture water ready for a fast refill. I have seen several situations where a catch tank is set to fill the day before where water pressure is low then the caught water is pumped into the tub in around 20 minutes allowing the heater to go on a little sooner. Solution 3, find a way to heat the pre-captured water but clearly be mindful of creating a breading ground for bacteria. (I have seen a customer purchase a cheap Lazy Spa for this very purpose). Solution 4, can your heater be upgraded, some tubs can cope with a higher Kilowatt Heater but this will normally mean a higher amp supply is required to the tub or functionality of the spa must be reduced when the heater is on.
You’ve got Changeover day sussed, what else do you need to be thinking about?
We would always recommend you handover the spa to your guests, it is far simpler to demonstrate the functionality of the spa than leave a set of instructions. Removing the cover often proves to be the hardest thing to the uninitiated so spend the time to do this (and do order a cover lifter with your tub, it will save you £££’s in the long run).
Explain to guests, showering first and removing make up, fake tan etc will ensure the water stays cleaner and make it far nicer for them to bath in. Washing swimwear in clean water before the first use of the tub will remove any soap which again, will ensure the tub is more pleasant to be in without plumes of foam piling out. Essential, no glassware around the tub. If your starting out with your holiday let, buy only plastic glasses and you reduce much of the risk. If glass is broken in the tub that is game over for those guests, the tub will need to be professionally drained which includes wet-vaccing the pipework to ensure no shards remain.
Most HSG282 compliant tubs benefit from two control panels with the one the guests can access only allowing them to turn jets on/off and lights on/off. If your tub allows them access to temperature, filter cycles etc, explain to them it does and ask politely them not to adjust it as they will only spoil things for themselves. 37-38 degrees Celsius is a comfortable bathing temperature which most people can cope with for 30 mins. 40 degrees Celsius, the maximum your tub will run at will normally to too hot for most people after 5 minutes. So advise you guests this, most will listen.
The guests are in and the hot tub is in full swing, you have now got to keep on top of the chemical levels. You will have balanced the water when you refilled so typically now you just need to keep on top of the sanitiser (it is rare the other levels will move much over a week). Your inline feeder solution can be set at a level that it ought to keep your Chlorine/Bromine in the OK zone (3-5ppm typically) but as you will appreciate usage is a bit like a wave so you may have to top up the level with fast dissolving Chlorine Granules. This is fine and normal. Remember on at least one of your daily visits, check the filter. Depending on how good your guests are being at showering first, this may need a hose off or possibly swapping with your spare filter (remember to order one, you will need it).
If everything has gone to plan, its change over day again, happy guests are leaving and new guests are on their way so off you go again. Before you start draining the tub, it is worth boosting the tub sanitiser level up to 10ppm meaning any water you don’t get out from the pipework is as clean as it can be. We would also advise use of Hot Tub flush either quarterly or if you have had guests that have used the tub a lot. Using Hot Tub Flush will add around an hour onto the change over as it needs to run in the pipework for an hour before you drain so remember this.
The last thing not to forget is the Microbiological Testing of your tub water. HSG282 sets out a number of criteria but in simple terms, a water sample is going to need to be sent away for analysis on a monthly basis. Better Living Outdoors can advise you of laboratories that can help you with this.
Some of our competitors in the market will not tell you the above in the fear you will not buy a hot tub. If they are not upfront about this, it is worth considering what else they are not telling you.