Wonderfull spa!! BEST VALUE FOR THE BUCK BY A LONG SHOT
This is a thorough look at our Gulf Coast Spa - there were no detailed reviews, so I thought I would add this one.
This spa is advertised by Costco, so we immediatley had the impression that it would be a cheap spa and were a little leary of the company. We initially passed on this company for this reason, but changed our mind when we saw them in person. We went to our local state fair and were able to direclty compare the Gulf Coast Spa to every other major spa manufacturer out there from a local company (Leisure Time) to the most expensive company out ther (LA Spas)and EVERYTHING in between. All told, there were 6 companies selling spas out there with a total of 15 manufactureres. We spoke to sales people at every booth, looked at every spa. We entertaied spas in every price range, and with every feature you can imagine. from pop-up Televisions to a base-model with practically no jets at all. the Gulf Coast spa Salesperson had 5 different models available to show us. He carried their full line and knew them frontwards and back. He showed us the various models that Gulf Coast had available but we landed on the 864 because of all of its' features. This spa looks, feels, and acts like the high end spas the big-boys were trying to sell for TWICE the price. It is, by no means, their most high-end model.
First, lets get this out of the way:
Tech support from this company IS DIFFERENT than what you might find other spa manufacturers. Our salesperson went into great detail about how tech support would work, should we need to call. he explained that it was a long-distance number and that they would walk the owner through troubleshooting and ship parts for owner-replacement. He also said that the ONLY time they would send someone out would be to replace MAJOR components. I was perfectly fine with this. It gives me the opportunity to know my spa better and I don't have to wait on a technician to come out.
Now, on to the spa:
These spas are very straightforward and built well. Our spa has a Balboa spa pack for it's "brain" and a generic style heater element, which means heater element replacement will be inexpensive (and yes, the heater WILL go out evntually - count on it on ALL spas) - the great thing about the Balboa brain is that parts are readily available, as well as upgrades!!! Adding a remote to our spa was as simple as ordering the IR module for about $75 and plugging it in!!! voila, remote jet control. NICE!
This spa boast two pumps (a single speed and a 2 speed) as well as a blower for the champaign bubblers, a 24 hour circulation pump and a 24 hour ozonator. a SMALL amount of chemicals is still required to keep the spa clear and sanitary, but the ozonator goes a long way. Underneath, the spa is insulated with a sprayed on reactive foam product that seems to do a very good job. Adding insulation wouldn't be a major problem. All of the external walls are allso insulated with a silver blanket and a foam insert. so far, our electric bill has not fluctuated more than about $10 - but it's still 80 degrees outside. We will see what happens this winter.
The finish on the shell is very nice (the 864 only comes in white-pearl) and the composite exterior means no maintenance!! The "forever base" that they tout is just a poly-based thermo formed bottom piece, but it allows for excellent insulation and super-easy installation. The instructions CLEARLY state that this spa is not meant for below ground or below deck installations. I think the main reason for this is that the manufacturer doesn't use pressure treated wood in it's support structure. This means that the structure needs to breathe, especially if it gets wet. this is only a guess - we have ours under a covered patio, so its a non-issue. The other thing that should be pointed out is that in order to access the spas electrical and plumbing you must unscrew and remove a side panel. Many of the spas we looked at has easy access through a door or hatch. This spa doesn't have that (though it may, thanks to me, in the near future!!)
Inside, the seats are large and comfortable, even for larger people, our spa seats 6 people comfortably and without feeling cramped. There are several "deep" seats, allowing the user to sink all the way down to their chin in warm water - ultra relaxing!!
The jest system is broken in to two main banks. The front bank which includes the lounger and one side seat is serviced by a 2 speed pump, the rear seats and the second side seat are serviced by a single speed pump.
The jets are all chrome-plated and adjustable - all jets include adjustable air injectors which are great for therapy. the waterfall was lack-luster in its volume, but that was quickly fixed by calling tech support. They suggested I switch the waterfall's input with one of the morepowerfull jet inputs, if we wanted more volume out of it - that solved the problem. We sacrafised a little used jet on the lounder and no one has even noticed!!
This spa also included the LED lighting add-on (which was a value add for the limited edition tub apparently) and we just love 'em!! scrolling through all the colors to get different "mood" lighting, or just putting it on a fade-cycle is great. We hardly ever use the tub without the lights on.
The final "add on" feature that was inluded on this "limited edition" model was the aroma-therapy kit. Initially, we didn't think we'd use it at all, but ir turns out that we use it CONSTANTLY. This is the one feature that gets more ooh and aahs from friends than any other. It's tied into the blower and works great, sending wonderfull aromas up through the champaign bubbles. if you need a little more of a boost, unscrew the aromatherapy capsule cover a little until you get a little bit of a "hiss" from it and it will fill the surrouding air with it's wonderful scent of your choice - WE LOVE IT!!
The only complaints we have at this point are this:
1. the jets can be difficult to turn off and on. We've discovered that it's easier to adjust them when they're not on - hard water has played a part in this problem, so at the next drainin we will service the jets, no biggie.
2. the waterfall output mentioned above
3. lack of instructions on how to manage chemicals - this could be a problem for someone who isn't spa-savvy. the instructions should give more detailed information on how to adjust chemicals, and what's ideal for this spa.
4. no Built-in GFI. Unlike most of the other tubs we looked at, there is NO built in GFI on this tub, which means the wiring you install for the tub MUST insclude a GFCI breaker - while they're not hard to install, they are expensive ($150 or so) and they do require a bit of knowledge to wire properly.
5. The electrinic interface is very very basic, not fancy timers, or controlls. We knew going into this spa that we were sacraficing some things when we purchased it, so this was no surprise. The nice thing is that the electronics are all modular, meaning we can add features as we go!
All in all, this is, by FAR, the best spa for the dollar. Be prepared for very courteous people in the tech support department, and be prepared to do a little work on the tub yourself if you have trouble - but mostly, just enjoy!!!
If you're looking for a spa company that will hold your hand, baby you, and send a technician out at the first sign of trouble, Gulf Coast is NOT your company. But if you're even partially mechanically inclined and don't mind using a pair of pliers, you will NOT be sorry!! Save, literally, THOUSANDS with Guld coast!