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Hot Spring Highlife Non-Salt setup?

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I really like the layout of the Envoy (and possibly the larger Prism), but I am unsure about running it as a salt system.  With the exception of most Hot Spring dealers / Hot Spring YouTube personalities,  it seems most sales people and web discussions are quite negative on salt vs. chlorine/bromine.  In speaking with one of the two HS dealers in my area, one is all salt no exception but the other says I can run the Envoy on chlorine/bromine just the same.

Is is a mistake to get a HS spa and not run it on the salt system that is already built in?

I'm looking for ease of maintenance, and wonder if just using the frog @ease or some additives like Aquafiness or Spa Marvel enzymes will help with sanitization/softness/water quality in chlorine/bromine systems.


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Hot Spring dealer here.  You can absolutely NOT do saltwater if your not wanting to.  

Just because the hot tub is pre-plumbed for salt doesn’t mean you have to use it.  And you can always add salt at a later time if you want.  You can opt for ozone and use chlorine or bromine instead.  I have no experience with Spa Marvel or AquaFinesse, so can’t help with those.

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Love my 2019 Hotspring Highlife spa. However I opted NOT to use the saltwater system in my hot tub - instead I run an ozonator with a silver mineral cartridge and dose with chlorine as needed.  Note I have a saltwater pool sitting next to my spa - so I have plenty of experience with them.

Here are a few notes I'll add about Hotspring Saltwater system:

  • This is the second-generation saltwater system from Watkins - it's the best implementation of a salt system out there - and it's only available on Hotspring and Caldera spas.  If you *MUST* go with saltwater, this is the best system out there.  There is a ton of documentation about the system, the salt cells are easy to replace, and the topside interface control gives you the ability to regulate chlorine output and know when it's time to replace the cell. 
  • The salt cells are rated to last four months, but lifespan can be greatly impacted by things like high phosphates (which can come from fertilizers, lotions on skin, soapy bathing suits, etc) - high phosphates can kill a $100 salt cell in less than a month.  You'll read many complaints from people who can't seem to generate adequate chlorine with the salt setup and that's usually either because their phosphate levels are too high, they didn't sanitize enough initially (new tubs are filthy things - a trickle feed of chlorine isn't enough to clean internally), or their water is too hard.
  • Salt systems require the water to be specifically balanced (softer than usual) to generate adequate chlorine.  If you have hard water you're going to need to use a water softener unit or softening pillows every time you refill.
  • The salt cells are a proprietary part.  Watkins distribution agreement with retailers prohibits the resale online (this prevents a pricing war dropping the price).  This means you're stuck buying replacement salt cells from your local dealer.  This makes great sense for the manufacturer and dealer - guaranteed residual income from customers.  However this makes the spa expensive to operate - figure on $300+ a year in salt cells, not including any other chemicals and salt to maintain the water.    For reference with my setup I'm spending less than $50 total on my chemicals (plus $90 in silver mineral cartridges, which are often suggested even for saltwater setups).  With that in mind - of course many dealers will push the saltwater setup.


Overall with my Ozonator setup I am dosing the spa with a bit of granular chlorine after each soak (I use a dosed sugar dispenser so it's easy for my wife and guests - one click of the trigger per person per 30 minutes of use).  Once a month I clean the filters and test pH (boost if lower than 7.5) - the granular chlorine is acidic so it pulls the pH down with usage.   Every six to eight months I purge/drain/refill the spa.    Almost 32 months into ownership and I have zero complaints - my water stays crystal clear with minimal maintenance. 

I might consider the saltwater system in the future once the replacement cells are more widely available at a lower cost, but for now I'll skip the hassle.   That's the nice thing as Castletonia mentioned - the tubs are pre-plumbed and compatible with every accessory even if you don't order them - IE you can add the CoolZone system after delivery if desired, you don't *need* to get it now.   Same with the Salt system and ozonator - these are accessories which can be added or removed after delivery.  If you opt for the salt system and loathe it, you can swap it out if desired.

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Another option if you do want a salt water system is going with a drop in salt generator like the Saltron Mini. Running one of these systems is less expensive than using the Hot Springs system but may impact your warranty so choose carefully.

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