Whirlpool Tub vs Air Tub
What is the difference between a whirlpool bath and an air tub, also known as an aromatherapy tub?
Let's first look at the whirlpool tub.
The Whirlpool Tub
Most of the bath tubs built today are made using acrylic for the interior and fiberglass on the exterior for structural integrity. For more information on exactly how they are made see the Leisure Concepts Acrylic bath construction page.
A whirlpool bath starts out as a normal soaking tub. A whirlpool system is then installed in the soaking tub turning it into a whirlpool bath.
Holes are drilled into the sides and on the top lip of the tub to install whirlpool jets, suction fittings, lights, air controls and on/off or electronic pump controls. All fittings are permanently sealed with a special waterproof silicone material and are tested for leaks prior to leaving the factory.
Water is sucked from the tub by a water pump or "jet pump" through a suction fitting normally located on one sidewall of the tub near the bottom. This suction fitting has what's called an "anti-vortex" cover on it. The anti-vortex cover is there to prevent anything from being sucked into the pump and to prevent any kind of entrapment situation. The water is sucked into the whirlpool pump which then forces it through the jets and back to the tub under a fair amount of pressure.
The pumps on most Leisure Concepts whirlpool baths will move about 90 gallons per minute or more. The water leaves the pump and is forced back into the tub via the whirlpool jets that are installed on the sidewalls of the tub. This water is divided by the number of whirlpool jets in the tub, normally at least 6 jets and as many as 20 in some of the more powerful and upgraded models.
Each jet has a water line and an air line running to it. As the water moves through the jet on its way back to the tub, you have the option of allowing air to mix into the water flow using the venturi principal. Air controls installed on the top lip of the tub to allow you to control the amount of air that is mixed into the water flow as it passes through each jet. The addition of this air makes the massage feel much more powerful and at the same time nice and soft. It's similar to the feel of water flowing from a brand new kitchen faucet with a good aerator but with much more power.
Whirlpool baths provide direct massaging pressure to your muscles. Leisure Concepts tubs use mainly jets that are both directional and volume controllable. That means that you can aim the water flow any direction just by moving the directional eyeball in the center of the jet. You can also turn each jet face to increase or decrease the amount of water moving through that one particular jet. This is a nice feature because it allows you to turn off a few jets which will then increase the pressure at the remaining open jets. If you have a sore back you can turn down a few jets at the foot end of the tub and increase the water flow and pressure of the jets behind your back. If your feet hurt you can turn off a few side or back jets and get a super powerful foot massage. We also offer upgrades where you get some back jets that are not directional but instead they force the water out in a rotating pattern. These jets are not adjustable but instead they force the water into the tub in a constantly moving, rotating pattern which is especially nice for a good back massage.
Most standard whirlpool baths have a single speed pump that is turned on and off by an air switch. This switch is normally mounted on the top lip of the tub. It's a simple button that you press. Press once to turn the pump on, another time to turn it off. The button is connected to a ¼ " vinyl tube that runs back to the motor where the switching actually takes place. Air switches are incredibly simple, effective, and really reliable and because of this air operated design you can use it with wet hands and while sitting in the tub with complete safety.
Leisure Concepts also offers more powerful pumps and even variable speed pumps too. Since each whirlpool is custom built to your specifications with no extra cost for that you can add extra jets if you want. If you add more than a couple it's a good idea to also increase the output of the pump so the jets still give you a great massage. Our more powerful variable speed pump comes with an electronic control that allows you to choose the exact level of water pressure you want. There's even a pulsating mode that automatically increases and decreases the water pressure for you. Nice! This electronic control will also control an underwater light and even an air pump if you choose to make your whirlpool into a combination whirlpool / air tub.
A Leisure Concepts whirlpool baths can also be built with inline heaters. An inline heater will allow you to sit in your tub for as long as you want with the temperature of the water holding right at 104 degrees. There is no need to add any hot makeup water saving you money while you soak in hot turbulent water as long as you want.
Leisure Concepts whirlpool baths are built using special full draining "V" shaped jets. They are designed so that the pipes coming off each jet go upward. No water can be left behind when the tub is drained. They are designed to be 100% full draining tubs. Most of our models include high density foam insulating spray on the exterior. This serves several purposes. It insulates the tub to keep it warm, it helps to deaden any sound for quiet operation and it helps protect the plumbing lines, jets, and fittings during transit and the installation process.
Each whirlpool is filled and tested at the factory then it is drained, cleaned, inspected one last time and finally padded and boxed for shipping.
The Air tub aka Aromaspa or Aromatherapy tub
Leisure Concepts air tubs are very different from a whirlpool tub. Like a whirlpool tub an air tub starts out as a regular soaking tub and the air jet system is added to make it into an air tub.
There are 2 methods used to manufacture air tubs. In the first method tiny air jet holes are drilled along the sidewalls of the tub right near the bottom, usually only an inch or two up from the floor of the tub. These holes are positioned most of the way around the tub in most models. On the outside of the tub a channel is installed that covers the small holes. Fiberglass is applied over the row of air jets leaving a channel for air to feed to the air jets. It's kind of like a small tunnel with the air jets entering at the very bottom of that tunnel.
At one point that air channel has a pvc fitting installed right into the fiberglass to allow the heated air to enter. A heated air blower is then installed with the air outlet pipe connected to the pvc fitting that leads into the air channel. When you turn the system on the heated air is forced into that channel pushing all the water out and forcing hot air out of all the air jets that are connected to that channel.
When you turn off the air blower with the tub, full water will enter into the air jets and fill the air channel. When you drain the water out of the tub it will also drain out of the air channel via the air jet holes because that air channel is at least an inch higher than the bottom of the tub and the air jet holes are right at the bottom of the channel. This type of system normally has a single check valve right at the blower so there is no chance of water accidentally making its way into the blower. This method has been in use almost from the beginning of air jets.
The second method is a little new system and is available in 2 varieties. The first consists of air jet holes drilled right into the bottom of the tub. There are normally 12 to 24 air jets spread out across the floor depending on the model and size of the tub. On the back side of each one of these air jet holes, the underside of the tub, is a special fitting attached with a powerful permanent epoxy. This fitting allows a single small air tube to be connected to it and has a built in check valve to prevent any water from entering the air jet. Since the air jets in this system are actually under the floor of the tub they are also directly under your body. As far as being effective this system will give you a better air jet massage then the side jet system because the jets are under you, not at your sides. This type system also includes an electronic control inside the heated air blower that will automatically turn on for 30 or 40 seconds about 20 minutes after you finish using the tub. Just in case any water was able to sneak through any of the check valves (one way valves) and is sitting in an air tub below the tub, this automated system will blow that water back into the tub so it can go down the drain. It insures that no water can remain inside the system to become stagnant.
The other variety of this system is the same in all respects except that instead of installing a check valve with epoxy on the bottom side of the tub, the holes are drilled a little bigger and an actual air jet fitting about the size of a dime is installed. These fittings are nearly flat against the bottom of the tub and have the check valve built right in. Each of these fittings will normally have 6 or 8 tiny air jet holes. Because each has several holes it's possible to use a little less of these to achieve the same air massage. One advantage with this system is that there are no areas that expose the laminated layers of the acrylic and fiberglass because the air jet fitting is sealed using silicone rubber. It also requires a few less holes be drilled in the tub floor. For more information call us at 1-800-809-9111.