Oceania offers tubs with channel air, injection air and also whirlpools, but he believes, “The trend is that the whirlpool in the upper end…is dying very rapidly.”
While others disagree and believe whirlpools will always be in demand, the growth in combination tubs suggests that consumers are intrigued by the idea of having different therapy options in their tubs.
Beyond the Basics
Indeed, regardless of the jet system selected, a choice of options is important for all therapy baths, manufacturers say. “Tailoring customers’ bath environment and home spa experience to [homeowners’] unique desires has taken on a whole new meaning now that we’ve brought the technology from professional spas into the home,” say Stokely.
The desire for deeper baths is still strong, manufacturers say.
And yet, “People want a deeper water level but no larger a bath,” says Tennant. Acryline has responded by creating the Immersion bath, where the overflow was inverted to gain 3" of water depth without creating a larger bath. The Immersion bath is available as both a soaking tub and air system bath, and will soon have an island version as well.
Another major trend is the growing emphasis on aging-in-place and Universal Design, says Stokely. “Multi-generational access units including walk-in bath units are extremely hot in the marketplace and appeal to a wide age range of consumers,” he says. Jacuzzi has introduced the Finestra Walk-in Bath, with an airtight magnetic door seal to ensure no leakage. “It is proven technology from the refrigerator market, but unique in the bath industry,” says Stokely.
There are a multitude of other enhancements available for jetted tubs, including innovations such as MTI’s Stereo H2O system, which turns the bathtub into a sounding board, allowing for music without speakers mounted to the walls or ceilings.
Controls for the tub are also advancing in their technology. McFarland says that Oceania Baths has a floating remote control that is highly engineered, but at the same time simple. With a significant percentage of tubs being undermounted, the remote adds to the overall look by keeping the deck clean, and not requiring a keypad on the wall, McFarland says.
Tennant notes that people buy baths for the look, and, “the cleaner the look, the better. The fewer objects on it, the more attractive it is.” To that end, Acryline’s Ultimate II System is a removable control that gives the user the ability to control the channel air, injection air and light systems independently or choose from three preprogrammed massage cycles and nine light programs. The system, Tennant says, consolidates all controls from an aesthetic standpoint and provides individuals with a very simple routine.
Maintenance & Safety
Maintenance issues have also long played a role in whirlpool and air bath trends. “There’s no doubt that everyone seems to have less time than they used to. Busy homeowners are always looking for ways to streamline the maintenance and cleaning of their bath units,” says Stokely.
Kornowa says that the rise in popularity of air baths is in part due to the perception that air baths are cleaner. “The fact of the matter is you can have a dirty whirlpool and a dirty air bath,” he says. “It depends on how the system is engineered, [and] what kind of sanitary features and precautions are built into the system.”
Manufacturers have developed their own cleaning and maintenance systems in response to these concerns, and are using varied technologies such as inverted “v” drain jets, ozone sanitation, check valves and automatic purge cycles.
McFarland addresses ozone as a hygiene measure, saying that it is not UL approved in confined spaces such as a bathroom because of foreign gases being introduced into an enclosed space. He feels strongly that, for safety reasons, people should stick to products that are UL certified, and cautions that although each piece (blower, jets) may be approved, when they are all put together, the bathtub itself may not be, so it’s important for design professionals to check this before specifying a product.
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