Electric vs Wood Fire Hot Tub: Which Costs More to Run?

Posted by Redwood Outdoors on Jan 20th 2017

Electric vs Wood Fire Hot Tub: Which Costs More to Run?

Each person will have unique costs for heating their electric or wood fire hot tub, so there isn’t a definitive answer about what the total operational costs will be. However, there is a clear winner price-wise (spoiler: it’s the fire hot tub). We’ll break down all the expenses in just a moment to help you gauge. Some considerations include:

  • How often you use it.
  • Your climate.
  • The style (internal, external) and efficiency of the heater.
  • The size of the unit.
  • And other factors.

Cost of Owning an Electric Hot Tub

Upfront Expenses

Expect to spend a minimum of $5,000 for an electric variety. They’re typically a few hundred less than gas-powered versions, but still much pricier than their wood-burning cousins. It’s also worth noting that there are typically upgrades available for the electric versions, such as stronger heaters and pumps with multiple settings. Opting for these can set you back hundreds or thousands more.

Heating Expenses

Generally speaking, people leave their electric units on all the time or at least have it maintain some semblance of heat, as it takes a full 15 hours to go from cold to ready with electric. A common figure for electric heaters is about 6 kWh, or 6 kilowatts per hour, and an average person might run the heater for about three hours per day. As Redwood Outdoors is based in Washington, we’ll use our electric costs to do this math, but bear in mind, your power company will likely have different rates. From July through September, the cost per kilowatt hour is about 9 cents, so it’s $0.54 per hour to heat.

Day (at three hours of heating): $1.62

Month: $49.28

Year: $591.30

Maintenance Expenses

Most people who use electric versions keep the water in them for an extended period of time and use chemicals to maintain a hygienic environment. These tend to run somewhere between $150-250 per year. Filters usually run another $100 annually.

The components which might need repair or replacement as time goes by vary—there are quite a few working parts in electric heaters. Here’s a quick overview of what you might expect.

  • Pump replacement: $65-200+ if DIY; $350-500+ if you hire a pro
  • Heater replacement: $120-300+ if DIY; $700+ if you hire a pro
  • Light replacement: $15-75+ if DIY; $150+ if you hire a pro (the service call is the expensive part here)
  • Circuit board replacement: $300+ if you hire a pro (this is not really a DIY project unless you’re an electrician)

Cost of Owning a Fire Hot Tub

Upfront Expenses

Although there’s a wide variance in sizes and styles, wood-burning versions tend to cost about half of what an electric or gas-powered unit will. Pricing tends to start at around $2,500.

Heating Expenses

Wood heaters work quicker than electric ones do, so while your time waiting might be 15 hours with the electric variety, you’d be looking at a little over two hours if your unit starts out cold.

Most people prefer to use a mixture of hardwood and softwood to heat their fire hot tubs. The hardwood burns hotter, so you can use less, but the softwood will help you get the fire going. Costs vary depending on where you live, so we grabbed the costs from a local firewood seller in Washington. Firewood is usually sold by the “cord,” which is a 4”x4”x”8 space, though you can sometimes purchase by the ½ or ¼ cord too. That in mind, a full cord could easily get you through a full year of use (a cord can heat a small home for up to four months, and we’re just talking about a tub of water here), and a cord costs $75 if you pick it up or $110 if you need it delivered. If you’re a super user and you need two cords to last the year, it’s $150. You probably won’t use anywhere near that much, but the figure can help illustrate the savings.

Day: $0.41

Month: $12.50

Year: $150

Maintenance Expenses

As noted earlier, many owners of fire hot tubs go chemical-free. They simply fill it up and use it until they want fresh water again. When they drain, they recycle the water in their lawn and garden. This means there is absolutely no cost associated with maintaining a hygienic environment.

Wood fire hot tub heaters have fewer working parts and most are easily repaired. However, let’s say something catastrophic happens and you have to replace the whole heater. Replacing it will likely run around $1,000. That sounds pricey, but remember, it costs $700+ to replace an electric heater and $500+ to replace an electric pump.

Electric vs Fire Hot Tub: Which Costs More to Run?

If you haven’t already been doing the math in your head as we’ve been going through the expenses, electric hot tubs cost way more to purchase, run, and maintain than fire hot tubs do. Here’s a quick breakdown (not including repairs):

CostsFireElectric
Minimum Purchase Price$2,500$5,000
Heating Costs (year)$150$592.30
Chemicals (year)0$150
Filters (year)0$100
$2,650$5,842

Even using conservative estimates for the electric version and high estimates for the wood-heated version, you’re looking at half the cost to own a wood fire hot tub.

Find Your Ideal Fire Hot Tub Today

Like the idea of owning an energy-efficient low-cost hot tub? Check out our selection of fire hot tubs today.