13 Amp vs 32 Amp Hot Tubs: Which One is Right for You?

Posted by Alex Clamp in Buying on 6th March 2023

13 amp ‘plug and play’ hot tub
Photo © RotoSpa

At first glance, it is hard to tell the difference between a 13-amp hot tub and one that requires a dedicated electrical supply of 32-amps.

The 13 amp hot tub, commonly known as a ‘plug & play’ spa has grown in popularity in the last few years as consumers look to select hot tubs that do not require a ‘hard wired’ electrical configuration that can be powered using a standard plug socket.

For anyone buying a hot tub, choosing between these two options is a common consideration at the start of their buying journey.

In this guide, we’ll walk you through the difference between 13 amp and 32 amp hot tubs, how the installation and running costs vary, and which is right for you.

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8 key differences between 13 amp and 32 amp hot tubs

There are a number of crucial differences between a 32 amp hot tub and their 13 amp equivalents, including:

1. The power supply

32 amp hot tub supply
Photo © Kelvin Wakefield

The main difference between the two kinds of hot tubs is the power supply they run on.

13 amp models – known as ‘plug-and-play hot tubs’ – run on a standard three-pronged plug socket, whereas 32 amp hot tubs require a 32 amp electrical supply.

This means a fully qualified and certified electrician will need to install an electrical supply and run an armoured cable to your 32 amp hot tub in order to meet building regulations, which will raise the installation cost by a few hundred pounds.

2. 13 amp hot tubs have fewer pumps

A 13 amp hot tub is limited to either a single two-speed jet pump or a lone jet pump alongside a circulation pump.

Opt for a plug-and-play hot tub and the heater will automatically cut out when you turn its water jets on to full power.

The extra amps mean 32 amp models tend to have at least two jet pumps, meaning they can supply all the jets with more power for a more intense massage.

That’s not to say that 13 amp hot tubs don’t provide you with a pleasant hydrotherapy massage, as you can divert the power to a single seat for a more powerful massage and open the air valves to increase the intensity.

However, opt for a 32 amp model and everyone will be able to enjoy a full-power massage at once.

3. The jet-to-pump ratio

Because it has more power going into more pumps, a 32 amp hot tub can have more jets than a plug-and-play equivalent.

More jets make for a better hydrotherapy massage and help unlock the full benefits of a hot tub.

4. Noise from the circulation pump

Photo © Horst Gossmann

Many 13 amp hot tubs don’t have separate circulation pumps, which means the main water pump will be activated at low speed whenever the temperature of the water needs to be raised to meet your set desired temperature (usually 37-39°C).

While the circulation pumps that maintain the temperature of 32 amp hot tubs are almost silent, the main water pumps of 13 amp hot tubs can be a fair bit louder, especially if water is being circulated into the hot tub via massage jets that have moving parts in them.

The jet pumps will also kick in at random times throughout the day and night unless you stump for a model that allows you to control what time of day the jet pump activates.

If your hot tub is near your house or your neighbour’s, this ambient noise can be a real nuisance – especially if your hot tub sits on decking, as extra vibration can be created by the decking structure itself.

When the heater of a 13 amp hot tub without a separate circulation pump is activated, the main pump also has to be on (at low speed) in order to push the water through the jets from the heater.

So, if relaxing in silence for long periods of time without the jets running is important to you, a 13 amp spa without a separate circulation pump is possibly not the ideal choice.

5. 13-amp hot tubs cannot run the heater at the same time as the pumps

One of the biggest functional differences between 13 amp hot tubs and their 32 amp equivalents, is that a 13 amp hot tub cannot generate enough power from its limited power supply for its heater and jets to run concurrently at the same time.

Because hot tubs lose around 60% of their heat through the surface of the water, they can cool down quite quickly without the help of their heater – especially in winter on a cold day.

Of course, insulation helps a lot here – so if you decide a 13 amp model is the right option for you, be sure to go for other models from high-end brands that are fully insulated with top-quality foam.

13 amp hot tubs are also typically restricted to 2kw heaters, while 32 amp models can have 3kw heaters that heat the water much faster. So, you have to wait quite a bit longer – up to seven or eight hours in the depths of winter when the ambient temperature is in the single digits – to use a 13 amp hot tub after refilling it compared to a 32 amp model.

A 13 amp hot tub doesn’t have enough power to run its heater and jets at the same time.

6. The cost of installing the electrical supply

A 32 amp hot tub needs to run through a 32 amp supply with an isolator switch. So, if you don’t already have one of these in your garden you’ll need to have one installed to use a higher-voltage home spa.

13 amp plug & play spas can run through a standard waterproof RCD-protected three-pronged outdoor socket, shaving a few hundred pounds off the upfront cost of the hot tub.

It will cost around £150-£450 to have a socket installed for a 13 amp spa and up to £750 to have a 32 amp feed installed, meaning it typically costs £300-600 more to install a 32 amp hot tub compared to a 13 amp equivalent.

Of course, a 32 amp model also has better performance. Plus, if you keep your hot tub for a decade, that installation cost breaks down to £30-60 a year – and the feed is already there if you opt for another 32 amp spa as well.

No matter which kind of hot tub you opt for, make sure its electrical outlet is at least two metres away from the hot tub at its closest point.

Also ensure that you connect your hot tub to the power supply with armoured (steel braided SY) cable, making sure trailing cables aren’t causing a trip hazard.

And don’t be tempted to plug in a 13 amp hot tub via standard extension cables running to indoor sockets, as cables that aren’t protected by steel wire armour and RCDs can be extremely dangerous – especially when water is present.

7. The hot tub running costs

Counterintuitively, the estimated running cost difference between 13 and 32 amp hot tub models is actually negligible. See more details in our dedicated guide to running hot tub costs.

32 amp hot tubs cost more to run due to having more power, but 13 amp models need to work harder to make up for the heat that’s lost when the jets are on and get the water up to temperature after it’s been changed, reducing their energy efficiency.

How well insulated your hot tub is and how often you use your spa will all have a bigger impact on your electricity bills than what voltage your tub runs on and the power supply required.

However, the maintenance cost of a 13 amp hot tub is likely to be cheaper over time, simply because fewer electronics could potentially go wrong.

8. Portability

Finally, it’s slightly easier to relocate a plug-and-play hot tub, as there are no permanently fixed electrics or electrical installations to worry about. You can simply unplug the hot tub from your outdoor socket, drain it, and move it to your new home without having to get a qualified electrician to safely disconnect the electrics.

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Should I choose a 13 amp or 32 amp hot tub?

There’s no doubt that a 13 amp spa from a leading brand is a big step up from an inflatable hot tub or a cheap grey import.

It will not only give you a better massage than an inflatable hot tub but also cost less to run, as it will be much better insulated.

Because they have fewer components and don’t require you to install a specialist power feed, the installation of a 13-amp hot tub will cost a few hundred pounds less than a higher amperage equivalent.

However, fewer jets won’t give as powerful a massage as a 32 amp model, especially when more than one person is in the spa at a time.

So, if you want a premium experience for you and your guests whenever you slip into your hot tub, then a 32 amp model is the right way to go.

However, a 13 amp tub from a reputable brand is a great choice for someone looking for a quality hot tub on a budget and is mainly planning on using their spa for solo soaks on a mild or warm day.

Whether a 13 amp or a 32 amp hot tub is the right option for you, be sure to buy yours from a WhatSpa? approved dealership to make sure you’re getting a quality spa that’s installed by certified engineers and a friendly team.

And be sure to pick up your free copy of WhatSpa? magazine for help making the right hot tub purchase – no matter what voltage you opt for.

Find your ideal 13 Amp or 32 Amp hot tub in your FREE copy of WhatSpa? magazine

Find the best 13 Amp & 32 Amp hot tubs across every price range with WhatSpa? Hot Tub Best Buy Awards only available in the latest edition of WhatSpa? Request your free magazine now!

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Frequently Asked Questions:

What are the pros and cons of plug-and-play hot tubs?

What are the pros and cons of plug-and-play hot tubs?

About the author

Alex Clamp

I am the Content Writer and Marketing Officer at WhatSpa? Magazine. I have worked at WhatSpa? for over 8 years, and I recently graduated with Distinction from Northumbria University with a Master's degree in Occupational and Organizational Psychology. My role at WhatSpa? is to ensure that all hot tub lovers can easily access the highest quality and most up-to-date content, news and information from within the UK wet leisure industry.

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