Wood-Burning vs. Electric Hot Tubs: Choosing the Perfect Soaking Experience

via The Window Rock A-Frame on Airbnb.

 Key Takeaways:

  • Wood-fired hot tubs (also referred to as wood-burning hot tubs) offer a natural, off-grid, sauna and spa-like experience, as the hot water is heated from fire, and their aesthetic, high-quality design often blends in seamlessly with nature.

  • Electric hot tubs are a great choice for porches, backyards, and patios, and offer many benefits such as precise water temperature, multiple jets, and customizable features.

  • When deciding between the two styles, you should take into consideration your lifestyle and preferences, such as location and accessibility, usage frequency, and desired experiences and aesthetics.

Wood-Burning vs. Electric Hot Tubs: Choosing the Perfect Soaking Experience

Soaking in a hot tub allows us to combine the sauna and spa-like health benefits (think: hydrotherapy) of hot water with an opportunity for quiet reflection or social interaction, oftentimes in nature. Unlike cold plunges or swimming in cold water, both of which wake up your senses, hot water helps soothe. Hot tubs help you enjoy nature in a relaxing way in a variety of climates and weather, from cool California nights to freezing Canadian winters. With the growing popularity of personal hot tubs, the question arises: should you go for a wood-burning or an electric one? As advocates for harmonious living with nature, we will delve into the core aspects of these two choices, ensuring you make a decision that provides you with the perfect hot tub experience, and aligns with your lifestyle, budget, and preferences.

Wood-Burning Hot Tubs: Features and Benefits

A wood-burning hot tub, often referred to as a wood-fired hot tub, relies on a natural source of warmth: burning external wood. An easy way to think of this is as if your hot tub is being heated by a wood-burning stove. Wood-burning hot tubs feature:

  • Natural Heating: Unlike its electric counterpart, a wood-burning hot tub offers a high-quality, primal experience, similar to that of using a Japanese Ofuro soaking tub. The mesmerizing sight and sound of crackling wood, paired with steam rising from the hot water, creates an unmatched ambiance of serenity. It is worth noting that wood-fired hot tubs may take a bit longer to turn cold water to warm when compared to electric models, as the process of heating is a natural convection.

  • Portability: Designed as standalone units, these hot tubs don't require permanent installation. Whether you're relocating them within your property or moving homes, you have flexibility.

  • Off-Grid Suitability: Ideal for remote locations without steady access to electricity. Whether it's a DEN mountainside retreat or cabin in the woods, these tubs are the perfect match.

  • Aesthetic Appeal: Wood-burning hot tubs are made with many types of wood. The rustic design, often seen in redwood, western red cedar or cedar hot tubs, complements natural surroundings beautifully, capturing the essence of a traditional outdoor soak you may experience in a lake or hot springs.

Electric Hot Tubs: Features and Benefits

Electric hot tubs are the modern iterations of this ancient relaxation method. Often made with stainless steel, acrylic, marine grade aluminum or fiberglass, these hot tubs are heated with electric heaters and are packed with features and offer a spa-like experience in the comfort of your backyard or on your patio.

  • Consistent Heating: Electric hot tubs come equipped with thermostats and heaters that maintain a precise water temperature, ensuring your soak is consistently comfortable.

  • Multiple Jets: Tailored for therapeutic benefits, adjustable jets allow bathers to target specific muscles or enjoy a soothing water massage.

  • Ease of Use: User-friendly control panels mean you can adjust settings like temperature, jet intensity, and even lighting.

  • Customizable Features: Many models offer extra features like LED mood lighting, built-in speakers for music, and even aromatherapy modules.

Comparing Maintenance and Operating Costs

While both types of hot tubs promise a wonderful soaking experience, their operating and maintenance costs differ:

  • Wood-fired hot tubs: Regular cleaning is necessary, especially after extended use. The cost of wood can accumulate over time, but the lack of electricity usage can offset this. It's essential to source dry, untreated wood to ensure efficient burning and minimal residue.

  • Electric hot tubs: Monitoring hot tub water chemistry is crucial to ensure a clean, safe soaking environment. Filtration systems and hot tub heaters require routine cleaning and occasional replacement. Electrical consumption, especially in colder climates where more heating is needed, can result in significant utility bills.

Installation and Setup

Both hot tubs have distinct setup processes, influenced by their design and function:

  • Wood-fired hot tubs: These are typically easier to install. Being standalone, they require a solid, level base and access to fresh water, which is something important to consider when building an off-grid model. The chimney or flue installation is straightforward, ensuring smoke is directed away from users.

  • Electric hot tubs: These require a dedicated electrical supply, often needing professional installation. Factors like water connection, drainage, and safety features also play a role, especially if you're looking at in-ground or semi-in-ground models.

Where to Buy and Additional Resources

Whether you're purchasing in-store or online, doing your research is essential:

  • Wood-Burning: Specialty stores, outdoor equipment retailers, and online marketplaces like Etsy or specialized spa websites are ideal places.

  • Electric: Home improvement stores, spa & pool stores, and online giants like Amazon or dedicated spa websites offer a myriad of choices. Always consult customer reviews and even local spa owners for firsthand insights.

Making Your Decision: What to Consider

Your hot tub should be a reflection of your lifestyle and preferences:

  • Location & Accessibility: Consider the location. Electric tubs might require proximity to your home for electrical access, while wood-burning ones offer more placement flexibility.

  • Usage Frequency: Occasional soakers might appreciate the authenticity of wood-burning tubs. Daily users might lean towards the convenience of electric tubs.

  • Aesthetic and Experience: Envision your ideal setting. Is it a rustic, back-to-nature soak beneath the stars in a wooden hot tub, or a luxurious sauna-like dip with modern comforts?


  • Are wood-burning hot tubs eco-friendly?
    While they don't consume electricity, and are heated using a natural convection, burning wood produces emissions. However, using sustainably sourced or reclaimed wood can mitigate environmental concerns.

  • How difficult is it to install a wood-burning hot tub compared to an electric one?
    Typically, wood-burning tubs are less cumbersome to install. However, the complexity of electric hot tub installation varies based on model features.

  • What safety precautions should I take when using a hot tub?
    Safety is paramount. Ensure steady water temperature, chemistry, supervise children, and use safety covers when not in use. For wood-burning hot tubs, maintain a safe distance from the external heater and firebox and ensure proper ventilation.

  • Can I convert an electric hot tub into a wood-burning hot tub or vice versa?
    Though theoretically possible, conversions can be challenging, expensive, and might void warranties. It's advisable to choose the right model initially.

  • Where can I find more information and reviews about specific electric hot tub models, and the best wood fired hot tubs on the market?
    Apart from online reviews, forums dedicated to spa enthusiasts or local dealers can offer valuable insights. Some popular hot tub brands include Goodland, Sundance Spas, and Jacuzzi.

Your choice between wood-burning and electric hot tubs boils down to personal preferences, location constraints, and budgetary considerations. Take your time, do your research, and anticipate countless relaxing soaks in your future. Whichever you choose, let it be a space of rejuvenation, relaxation, and connection with nature or loved ones.

Whether you're crafting the perfect relaxation corner with a hot tub or building a dream retreat from the ground up, DEN is with you every step of the way. Discover the boundless possibilities with our BuiltBy You plans or immerse yourself in the full-service experience of BuiltBy DEN.