•Why did you decide to get a spa?
Raised in Southern California with a pool-contractor father, you might say I was born with chlorine in my veins. I was fortunate to spend many wonderful days and nights as a youth in and around our or friend’s swimming pools/spas and know what a wonderful “lifestyle” it is – the sensual experience, the exercise, the relaxation of it. When I got older and moved out, I was “cut-off” from that lifestyle and always yearned to have a pool/spa again. My father is “old school” and hates the modern fiberglass/acrylic spas and so I always turned my nose up to them as well. But when I bought a house a few years ago, it was obvious that I neither had room for a pool and nor could I really justify the expense anyways. So I gave another look to the portable spa and realized that they were in most ways superior to their concrete counterparts, and when I saw that I could get one secondhand installed and running in my backyard for $500, I said, “What am I waiting for?” What finally motivated me was to surprise my girlfriend who had been overseas for some time. She loves swimming and such as much as I do so I thought I’d have a spa waiting for her when she got back.
•Does your spa live up to all expectations?
This is a mass-market spa and therefore is quite low-end and the object of much scorn amongst the spa elite ;-), but I must say it has exceeded all my expectations. Now, my expectations were quite low to begin with! But the spa gets VERY hot and the jets, while not volcanic, are sufficient for our needs and more powerful than I had expected. If you want ultra-powerful jets hitting every square inch of your body, this is not the spa for you. But if you want a hot body of water with some jet action, it will do the trick. The fact that I paid less than $500 for it makes it all the better!
•How long have you owned your spa?
Just a few weeks.
•What accessories/options, beyond the "basic spa" does, your spa have?
Nothing spectacular in terms of bells and whistles – it’s a mass-market “Home Depot” spa so it’s short on the cool stuff. Sounds stupid but just having a “basic spa” is a real treat for me, and the granite finish is really understated and pleasant. Oh, it does have an ozonator – not sure if that was standard or aftermarket.
•What do you like best?
What sold me on this spa were the people I bought it from. I was looking to get a spa cheap and as such it was an adventure to say the least trying to get people to return calls/emails, set up times to view the spas, driving all around, negotiating, etc. I had low expectations and expected to do some restoration work but I can’t tell you how many times I pulled up in front of a dilapidated house, walked through a messy yard/room to view a filthy weatherbeaten Hot Springs Sovereign or Sundance Cameo propped up on its side, redwood warped and falling off, no cover/destroyed cover, missing parts, hadn’t been run in months/years, etc. My Dad is a big believer in buying secondhand and he has always told me that he bases his purchases as much (or more) on what the owners are like, how they live, etc. as on the condition of the item in question.
So when I viewed my Jacuzzi Echo, it was really a no-brainer – normal, nice people, lived in a nice area, kept their house clean and tidy, and the spa itself was in immaculate condition, looked virtually brand-new with a sturdy, flawless shell and had obviously been lovingly cared for. It’s age – 6 years – was also a big selling point as all others in my price range were at least 10 years, most older. And after seeing shade after bizarre shade of “bowling ball” marble acrylic, the understated grey granite “Corian” look was very pleasant. In terms of actual features, the color and lounger are what I like the best. It also came with a virtually flawless cover which alone would be worth over $300 so I couldn’t lose, really!
•Is there anything about your spa you don't like?
I can’t complain too much because I paid about 10% of its sticker price, it runs fine, and it’s plenty hot and the jets all work. I had expected to have to at least replace a motor or pump considering my budget so I am very happy. I didn’t want to make a big investment at first and I consider this to be a “starter spa” and will no doubt sell/give it away in a year or two and get something REALLY nice. In fact, I’m casually looking even now for a used high-end one at a good price!
But if I’d paid full-price, or even double what I’d paid – wow, I’d feel cheated for sure! Virtually no insulation; cheap wood; relatively weak jets; rudimentary analog controls; and apparently inferior motors (Emerson) all adds up to cheap cheap CHEAP! I’m puzzled why a company with the name recognition of Jacuzzi would want their name attached to it, other than sheer greed.
One thing I ponder over and over is: Why so little insulation? What would it cost in terms of manpower and material to put an additional 4” of foam on the shell -- $10? $20? Maybe even less! I plan on tossing a couple rolls of fiberglass in the cavity to compensate, it’s no big deal to me, but my feeling is if you spend THOUSANDS on a hot tub, no matter what the brand or where you buy it, it should have a sturdy cabinet and be well-insulated, and this model is NOT!
Another annoyance is the analog control – it’s fine, but the lack of a separate light switch is frustrating as that means I cannot install a Colorglo LED, which is something I was REALLY looking forward to doing. But no matter, I’ll have one on my next tub.
Yesterday I was at Lowe’s and they had a Jacuzzi for sale there, about $4700 as I recall, very similar to mine (acrylic “granite” finish, similar layout, etc.) I examined it to see if in the past 6 years Jacuzzi had made improvements – other than a basic digital control panel and plasti-wood side panels, they had not! The tub was on its side so I could look at the bottom (featuring a very crudely stapled thin plastic base) and NO insulation! I was amazed. When did FOAM become so precious???
So, unless you get this particular model for free or for a few hundred dollars, DO NOT bother with them. Even if your budget is only $500, look around and find a higher-end spa that is maybe a little older/less attractive or needs a little work. Whatever you do, DO NOT buy one brand new, you’re better off spending the same or a little more for a well-manufactured and engineered model.
•What might you change if you had to "do it all over"?
As I wished to have this spa installed and running for my girlfriend’s return, I put myself under a time constraint. Combined with my modest budget, I got a bit trigger-happy and bought the first decent tub I came across. The tub is just fine for my needs, but in retrospect, I should have waited until an older/more distressed but higher-end model came along and maybe paid a bit more if necessary. If I’ve learned anything from this experience it’s that portable spas don’t hold their value at all and there are people all over the place who need to unload them so a patient person can find something very nice for a very good price.
Overall, I am content with the tub but I know that it is just serving as an appetizer and I’m going to want to get something more powerful and better-engineered shortly. That’s fine but then that means I have to get rid of this one and then convince my friends to go on another 3-hour endurance/friendship test to relocate the new tub into my back yard.
•Are there any features you now feel aren't necessary?
The Jacuzzi Echo Z150 is so basic, there are no features that aren’t integral to the tub! ;-) But my tub does have an ozonator and while I was delighted to see it had one, I’ve since read that the ozone speeds decay of the cover and that many people simply disconnect their ozonator for this and respiratory reasons. If ozone was sufficient to sanitize I’d say this was OK but since you have to chlorinate/shock in addition, what’s the point? Maybe you save $10-$20/year in dichlor costs? Hardly seems worth having.
•Have you encountered any problems, and if so, how were they resolved?
Only problem so far was that the lines to the light had been severed in the past – several inches of the cord were missing and presumably chewed apart by rodents. I was amazed that Jacuzzi charged $55 for the a replacement light assembly and did not simply sell the plug/wire/socket setup, so I bought about $1.00 worth of wire and wire nuts and just spliced a new length of wire in and secured/waterproofed it with silicone – it works fine now.