Everyone wants the spa bath experience these days. Whether they crave a zen-like retreat for quiet meditation or a practical paradise that incorporates hydrotherapy, chromatherapy and aromatherapy, consumers want baths that will look good, feel good, smell good and even help support their good health.
“Homeowners are beginning to realize that they can recreate the serenity and rejuvenation that they feel at the spa, right in their own homes,” says Andrew Stokely, marketing manager for Jacuzzi Whirlpool Bath, in Chino, CA
Dan Reinert, v.p., Mr.Steam, in Long Island City, NY agrees. “The trend is to search out holistic solutions to your health,” he says.
Heat therapy in the form of water or air jetted tubs, steam showers or saunas, is central to recreating the spa experience at home. Choices abound in these products, and what people are asking for depends a lot on what they hope to get from the experience, say manufacturers recently surveyed by Kitchen & Bath Design News.
“Customizing the bath environment – both in and out of the tub – is huge right now,” says Stokely.
“The people who are purchasing our tubs are putting a lot of thought and a lot of money into them,” agrees Michael Kornowa, director of marketing for MTI Whirlpools, in Sugar Hill, GA. “That all fits with the whole approach of creating your own home spa environment, that area where you can get away from the rat race and just rejuvenate,” he explains.
Water VS. Air
There has been much discussion about which type of jetted tub is most in demand – air or water. The answer varies greatly among manufacturers, designers and consumers.
Stokely says, “There’s no doubt that whirlpools still represent the bulk of hydrotherapy purchases. However, air tubs and combination units are fast-growing items.” He adds, “Combination units give homeowners the best of both worlds and combine both whirlpool and air tub technologies. In the case of Jacuzzi’s Salon Spa models, for instance, the consumer can control both systems completely independently, allowing a totally customized bathing experience.”
Combination units are getting a lot of attention for the choices they offer the user – or multiple users in the same household. “[Air is] a light full body massage compared to a deep tissue massage provided by a whirlpool,” Kornowa says. “Those are two different therapies, and one does not take the place of another. We find a lot of customers ordering their products with both so that they can have the best of both worlds.”
Scott Tennant, COO of the Cliffwood, NJ-based Acryline USA, Inc. stresses the importance of knowing that there are two types of air systems – injection air and channel air. With channel air, a therapeutic muscle massage is possible, and for some, it’s even more appealing than the water jet massage, says Tennant. “Our clients have told us that our channel air system delivers a very significant body pressure massage and it’s the kind they want. What they mean is they are tired of getting pounded by a whirlpool, and they want something that gives them a whole body massage without beating them up.”
Tennant wants to dispel the idea that you can’t get a pressure massage from an air system. “You can’t get a forced water column pressure,” he says, but “you get enormous amounts of air volume at velocity real low in the bath well. Air doesn’t shoot into the center of the bath, it goes an inch, inch and a half in, looks for the surface and races towards the surface. The more air you get racing towards the surface and along the perimeter of the bath well, the more water you push into motion. That’s how channel air systems create water pressure,” he explains.
Kip McFarland, national sales and marketing manager USA for Oceania Baths, Inc. in Thetford Mines, Quebec agrees. “We tell people the air does not massage you. What the air does is create turbulence in the water. It’s the turbulence that actually is moving the muscles every direction in the world. That’s what does the massaging.” And while 70% of what Oceania sells has bottom air using the injection technology, he says, “injected air on bottom is strictly an accessory, not the primary.”