THE 3 TYPES OF SWIM CURRENT SYSTEMS
There are currently three different swim spa current systems.
- Paddlewheel systems. These current are powered by a large spinning paddlewheel.
- Propeller systems. These swim spas use one or more propellers to power their swim current.
- Jetted systems. By far the most common swim spa propulsion system. These swim spas create their current using powerful jet pumps to force water through 2 or more swim jets.
At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter which propulsion system the swim spa uses to create the current. What is more important is that the swim spa has the 4 elements that make for a good swimming experience.
THE 4 ELEMENTS OF A GOOD SWIMMING EXPERIENCE
No matter how the current is generated, there are 4 elements that make up a good swim spa current. These are:
1) A Strong Current
If you’re able to easily out swim the current then you won’t get the full fitness benefits that swim spas offer. The current should be strong enough to challenge you.
2) An Easy To Control Current
A current that can’t be properly controlled isn’t much good, no matter how powerful it may be. If you aren’t able to vary the speed of the water enough, the current may be too strong for some to enjoy the swim spa.
3) A Smooth Current
Along with being powerful and controllable, the swim current should also be relatively smooth. Turbulent water is difficult to swim in as it pushes you around in unpredictable ways.
4) A Wide Swim Lane
The “swim lane” of the swim spa is the area where you can actually feel the water pushing on you. The wider the swim lane is, the easier it is to stay in the current and the more enjoyable the swim experience is.
THE MOST COMMON PROBLEMS WITH SWIM SPA CURRENTS
Swim spas have exploded in popularity over the last few years. Since they are still relatively new to the mainstream market, most swim spa manufacturers have only been in business for a few years. This inexperience leads them to make basic errors that really affect the quality of their swim experience.
The most common problems with swim spa currents today are:
- Not enough power. Undersized pumps and inefficient plumbing means that most swim spas made today produce currents that even a novice swimmer can exceed. A common way to make up for this lack of power is to include a tether to hold you back as you swim. While this tether does prevent you from out-swimming the current, it is a little awkward to swim with.
- Lack of proper control. Another problem with many swim spas is an inability to properly control the speed of their swim current. This means that many people are not able to swim at a comfortable pace; either easily out swimming the current, or struggling to keep up.
- Using narrow, round jets. Probably the most common problem with swim spa currents is the jets that most swim spas use to power their swim. Most swim currents are powered by several round hot tub style jets. While these jets are great for therapy, they weren’t designed to be used to swim against. They produce a very narrow and turbulent current that is very hard to swim against.
- Poorly designed shells. Most people looking to buy a swim spa don’t realize that the design of the outer shell of the swim spa actually has a big part to play in how well the swim current performs.If you look at the shell of most swim spas, you’ll see that the inside of them is a simple rectangle. While this design makes them easy to manufacture, it also produces a lot of turbulence in the swim lane. The flat side and back walls allow the current to simply “bounce” off them and back at the swimmer. This water then interacts with the rest of the swim current and produces a ton of turbulence.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR WHEN BUYING A SWIM SPA
So now that we know the most common problems, what are the solutions? Here are a few indicators of a good quality swim current.
Powerful Swim Pumps
To get a powerful swim you first need powerful pumps. When looking at different pumps ignore the horsepower rating of the pump in favour of its GPM (gallons per minute) rating.
Two pumps with identical HP ratings can produce very different currents. The 5HP AquaBoost pumps used by Hydropool swim spas, for example, produce a 360gpm flow, more than some 7HP pumps! These powerful pumps allow Hydropool’s AquaTrainer swim spas to produce swim currents of up to 18km/h!
Horsepower simply measures how much power the pump uses, not how much water it moves. Since water movement is the true measure of a swim current’s power, gallons per minute is a much more better measurement.
Most swim spas are only able to vary their currents by 20%-30%. A swim spa with a max speed of 10km/h, for example, is only able to be turned down to between 7-8km/h. The reason for this is that they use manual, hot tub style valves to control their current. These valves simply aren’t robust enough to properly deal with the amount of water needed to power the swim currents.
Electronic valves are much stronger and allow the current to be properly controlled. The electronic valve that Hydropool use in their AquaTrainer swim spas, for example, allow you to vary the swim speed from anywhere between 3-18km/h!
This level of control means that anyone who uses the swim spa – regardless of their swimming ability – will be able to find a comfortable speed to swim in.
Hot tub jets are designed to massage a very narrow, focused area. When swim spa manufacturers try to use them as a swim jet, they therefore produce a very narrow, focused swim lane.
Swimming in a narrow swim lane is very difficult. If your body moves to the left or right you can be pushed out of the swim lane and have to fight to get back in.
To make a wider swim lane, you need a wider jet. Widestream jets – like Hydropool’s AquaFlo Widestream jet – spread the current out over a much wider area than round jets will, making it much easier to stay in the swim lane.
Aquaflo jets are also equipped with industry exclusive “swim fins”. These fins are mounted inside the mouth of the jet and are designed to greatly reduce the turbulence created by the jet pumps.
Jet pumps naturally create a turbulent swim. This is because they move water using a spinning impeller. As the water exits the pump it continues spinning, which creates turbulence. The fins in the Aquaflo pump break up this spinning, creating a very smooth current that is much more enjoyable to swim in.
AquaChannel Shell Design
The AquaChannel Shell Design is a swim spa shell designed by Hydropool to greatly reduce the amount of turbulence in the swim lane. It does this with two specially designed protrusions on the “therapy end” of the swim spa. These protrusions cause the swim current to curl around them and move harmlessly up the sides of the swim spa.
By forcing the water up the sides – instead of back into the swim lane – the AquaChannel shell eliminates the turbulence caused by the current “bouncing” off of the walls of the swim spa.
If you’ve never used a swim spa before, it can be very hard to know what type of swim current system is right for you. Following this guide should give you a great start, however the only real way to know for sure is to test out a few swim spas before you buy one.
To see why we think Hydropool swim spas offer the best swim in the industry, contact us today to book your wet test!