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Swim Spa vs Pool – 9 Key Differences You Need to Consider

Everyone knows what a pool is, but what is a swim spa? Are they just like pools, but smaller? Are they overgrown hot tubs?

Swim spas are not just smaller, cheaper versions of swimming pools. They offer their own advantages and disadvantages. Here are some of them:

  • Designed for swimming and relaxing
  • Year-round usage for an extended swim season
  • The swim experience can be amazing and personalized

Ready to learn more? Let’s get into it.

What is a swim spa? 

swim spa

A swim spa is a pool of water in a large tub and features water jets to create currents for a spa-like experience. Installers ‌place them on a concrete pad for stability. The currents ‌set it apart from a larger pool, as they can create a more relaxing experience or a chance to exercise by swimming against it.

Why have swim spas become so popular?

Aside from the lower installation costs, swim spas tend to be more modular and can be seen as a good starter for an outdoor project as they come in one piece. Here are some of the biggest factors behind the rise in popularity of swim spas:

  • Swim spas are much smaller than the average pool, so they fit into more backyards.
  • The typical swim spa holds and uses much less water than an average-sized pool.
  • Swim spa owners love the exercise in a comfortable water temperature all year round.

A nice above-ground pool or landscaped pool definitely adds value to your home, but many people are choosing the spa day over the pool party. So if you’re wondering “are swim spas worth it“, the answer is many people think so!

Now, let’s talk about why they are making that choice.

Swim Spa vs Pool: 9 Key Differences

  • Space Requirements
  • Installation Costs
    • For an average swim spa, the cost of the spa itself ranges from $10,000 minimum to about $30,000. Whereas average traditional pool costs range from $35,000 to $70,000. When putting in a pool, costs also need to be estimated for excavation and safety features such as fencing. Cost options tend to be lower for swim spa installation ideas. 
  • Running Costs
    • A traditional pool requires a lot of water, both in refill cleanses and due to evaporation. Swim spas come with covers, so there is less waste due to evaporation. Electricity cost also comes into play for a pool, which features larger pumps.
  • Design
    • Designs for both types often vary depending on available yard space and added features: stairs, heating, etc. Swim spas tend to be more modular and owners can choose the outside skirting.
  • Maintenance
    • Swim spa setups often include filtration systems, and antimicrobial acrylic coverings, which means there is less need for ongoing attention to it. A full-sized swimming pool will require near-constant maintenance due to chemical balancing and cleaning. Algae growth can be a problem for both, but pools are more difficult simply because there is so much more surface area in a full-sized pool.
  • Year-round usage
    • Unless the owner has a heating system or is lucky to live in year-round mild weather, regular pools can only be run seasonally and require periods of preparation before and after. Heated pools are nice, but very costly to run. Swim spas come equipped with heat pumps, and the overall smaller footprint allows them to be used throughout the year.
  • Swimming experience
    • Swim spas use their jets to create currents for a swim-in-place experience instead of doing laps, and the pumps double as a hot tub. Pools do not have that capability, so a swimmer needs to make frequent lap changes.  
  • Fitness Options
    • Water aerobics can be a fun time for people of any age, and pools and swim spas both offer plenty of opportunities for these exercises, alongside basic swimming periods. Since they are only a few feet wide, spas are slightly more limited than a pool for fitness variety.
  • Entertainment
    • Similarly, entertainment options are limited only by the owner’s imagination and intended use of the water spot. Both a standard pool and a spa are a great place to spend time with family and friends.

How to Determine Which Is Best For You

Now that you’ve seen the differences between a swim spa and a pool, you may be wondering how to choose. The “right” answer is the option that best fits your yard size, budget, and fitness needs. A couple of other details to consider include if you want to use it year-round, and how much time you are able to spend on maintenance. 

Can you actually swim in a swim spa?

Yes, you can! Swimming and aerobic exercises are one of the most popular reasons to install one. The jets create swim currents that can simulate being in an ocean while you stay in one place. The spa can also be adjusted to produce a consistent current tailored to any individual’s skill level.

Is a swim spa or a pool best for kids?

Again, that depends on how you intend to use it. A pool may offer more opportunities to splash around in or throw one of those torpedo toys than a swim spa, but a spa can be equally entertaining when it comes to swimming or sitting with the jets. Swim spas are like a home fitness pool, so kids can be challenged to develop their swimming skills. Slides and diving boards are probably out of the question, though.

What are the downsides of a spa when compared to a pool?

Compared to a pool, a swim spa may not always be a perfect replacement. A pool, with a built-in deck and landscaping around it, can be a boon to a home’s value. Another possible issue is the size of a covering for a swim spa could be bulky. Also depending on the local weather conditions, there are times when a swim spa has a higher monthly cost due to the heating elements.

Is A Spa A Good Alternative To A Pool?

After comparing the differences between a spa and a pool, the spa in most cases is a better option for families. The positive aspects of a pool put it as the top choice. The smaller footprint, ease of maintenance, and the possibility of water swim training are the main reasons for that.

How Long Will A Spa Last?

With proper care and attention to water quality, as well as avoiding harsh weather, a swim spa is durable for up to two decades. They are well-designed and the acrylic shells are built to last, so the main thing is to keep up with small maintenance tasks over the years. The best swim spa brands are those built with the best materials.

Wrap Up

Do you have more questions about putting in a swim spa or a pool? Our friendly team can help you evaluate your backyard space, budget, and plans. Without any high-pressure sales tactics, we can help you choose the perfect solution for your space. 

About The Author:

Manny Brambila

Pool & Spa Expert

Manny has been in the Pool & Spa industry for over 15 years and is considered a pool, swim spa, & hot tub expert. He has been a Certified Pool & Spa Operator (CPO) since 2009 and worked 15 years in aquatic training and development for the largest pool chemical and customer care company. He also has been an outside consultant for the Pool and Spa industry in Chicago, New York and Los Angeles since 2018. In the past few years Manny has become Director of Operations for Epic Hot Tubs with a priority of providing customers with the most reliable information and best service possible.