Sales of hot tubs grow cold as price tag for power climbs : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Sales of hot tubs grow cold as price tag for power climbs

Posted at 10:07 p.m. PDT Saturday, May 12, 2001


The energy crisis is chilling the very essence of laid-back California living. Hot-tubbers are turning off their spas to save power amid rolling blackouts and soaring bills.``I used to use it a lot just by myself, but I turned it off,'' said Sue Lundquist, 66, a retiree in Aptos. ``It seems rather indulgent to have even electric lights.''

Such sentiment is sending shivers through the hot tub industry. After a few record years, many dealers are seeing slipping sales and empty showrooms. ``I've heard grumblings throughout the industry,'' said Scott Clark, manager at South Bay Spa and Sauna in San Jose.``Sales are definitely being impacted.''

Customer comments suggest the energy crisis, rather than layoffs and falling stocks, are chilling sales. `We got a lot of cancellations,'' said Angela Jackson, manager at Spas & Moore, which runs a cleaning service. ``Eight out of 10 say that because of the energy crisis, they're turning them off.''

Fading interest

Lynda Sisk, a local Hot Spring Spas dealer, said customers have almost vanished from her San Jose and Santa Cruz showrooms, and business is the worst she's seen in 25 years. Industry-wide numbers aren't available yet, said Jack Cergol, spokesman for the National Spa and Pool Institute. But preliminary reports suggest industry sales are down as much as 25 percent, particularly in the West, said Jacquie Matzat, spokeswoman for Hot Spring Spas, a Vista manufacturer.

Emphasizing efficiency

While not all dealers are feeling pinched, industry leaders are worried. California, after all, is where the hot tub was born, and the power crisis is jolting the industry at its heart. Industryleaders are mounting a campaign touting the efficiency of modern hot tubs.

``We are concerned,'' Cergol said, adding that California probably has more hot tubs than any other state. State officials have asked consumers to save energy, but they haven't singled out hot tubs.

Officials elsewhere, however, have taken swipes at hot tubs as the power crisis spreads throughout the West. The industry's call to arms came earlier this year when the city of Tacoma, Wash., which runs its own electric utility, considered heavy fines for customers using hot tubs and other ``non-essential'' appliances. City leaders backed off last month under industry pressure.

Hot tubs are getting a bum rap, industry leaders say. They want people to know that today's thermoplastic units are more efficient than the redwood casks of the disco era.``I don't think people understand that hot tubs have evolved,'' Matzat said. ``There seems to currently be a lot of misinformation out there about hot tubs being energy hogs.''

Because there are so many kinds of hot tubs, it's hard to compare their power consumption with other household appliances. The energy consumed depends on how and where the tub is used. The colder the water and the warmer the temperature to which it is heated, the more power it draws.

Comparing energy use

In an area averaging about 65 degrees, a 115-volt Hot Spring portable tub used six days a week, heated to 102 degrees with the jets on 15 minutes and off 15 minutes, would consume 154 kilowatt-hours a month, the company says. At today's rates, that would cost about $18.

But a new rate increase kicking in next month could make that level of power consumption much more costly by charging progressively more for exceeding baseline, or basic, levels of energy use. Average baselines for Pacific Gas & Electric customers during the summer are 364 kilowatt-hours.

State officials say they worry more about air conditioners than hot tubs. Air conditioning is the state's single largest power user during peak periods. Household air conditioning accounts for 14 percent of peak usage. Residential spas, by comparison, account for less than 1 percent.

For some hot tub aficionados, a warm evening soak is worth whatever it costs.``Frankly, it's the best $35 I've spent,'' South Bay Spa's Clark said of his monthly power bill for the hot tub. But many others are having second thoughts. ``It's definitely a luxury, that's for sure,'' said Michael Murdter, Santa Clara County roads and airports director, who likes to relax in a hot tub three or four nights a week. ``If push came to shove, that's probably the first to go.''

Contact John Woolfolk at or (408) 278-3410.

-- Swissrose (, May 13, 2001


I'm surprised to read that air conditioning usage comes to only 14%. I would have thought it would be closer to 25%-33%.

-- Uncle Fred (, May 13, 2001.

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