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INTERIORS : Whirlpools Are Terrific--If You Don't Get Soaked

August 28, 1993|From Associated Press

With whirlpools accounting for nearly 20% of all bathtubs sold today, it's clear many people are soaking in style. Before you give it a whirl, however, there are some points to consider.

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They are expensive. Prices start at around $1,000 for a small, basic model. Most tubs cost between $2,000 and $7,000, so it's not a purchase most people take lightly.

Lauded for their health benefits--both physical and mental--whirlpool baths are used to soothe strained muscles and to help people unwind.

The combination of hot water and surging water massages the body and facilitates relaxation. Basking for 15 to 20 minutes raises the body temperature and increases blood flow, pulse rate and water loss. It dilates blood vessels, lowers blood pressure, opens pores and improves circulation. The body's attempt to cool itself even burns calories.

Although these physiological responses are stimulating for healthy people, manufacturers warn that people with disorders such as diabetes, respiratory problems or high blood pressure should take precautions.

Some manufacturers suggest that anyone with health problems, as well as children, pregnant women and the elderly, consult a physician before using a whirlpool. Many also advise that water temperature not exceed 104 degrees and that you limit your stay to a maximum of 20 minutes.

Before you buy, it's important to decide whether you'll get your money's worth. People who prefer baths over showers, for example, tend to use their whirlpools more often than people who seldom take baths. Similarly, whirlpools for one person tend to be used more frequently than the larger whirlpools for two, because large tubs take a long time to fill and use a lot of water.

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Here are some additional points to consider:

* A whirlpool tub requires its own electrical circuit, which will have to be added by an electrician before the tub is installed.

* Make sure your floor joist system can hold the weight. Even a small tub holds 70 gallons of water, which weighs about 575 pounds.

* To determine if you have enough hot water, first find out the tub's capacity in gallons. Subtract 15 gallons per person in the tub and multiply this amount by two-thirds.

The resulting number of gallons is the amount of hot water you'll need to fill the tub. For example, a 150-gallon-capacity whirlpool with two people in it would require 80 gallons of hot water. If your water heater cannot handle this capacity, you'll need to add an auxiliary heater.

* The frequent surges of water make whirlpools relatively noisy. To muffle the sound, you can install a rubber pad underneath the pump or enclose the pump on three sides. Make sure, however, that you can still easily access the pump for repairs.

* Adequate ventilation is needed to prevent moisture damage to the bath and to keep your head cool and comfortable while the rest of your body soaks.

* You'll need to measure hallways and doors to be certain the tub you select can be maneuvered into the bathroom. Tub widths start at 30 inches and go up to 48 inches. Depths range from 16 to 32 inches, and lengths range from 4 to 7 feet.

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