Yes, you can build a DIY Swim Spa is the short answer. In general, Swim Spa, Endless Pool, Counter Currents, Swim Jets tend to all be mixed and matched into sentences used to describe a small pool that has a “machine” to enable you to swim continually.
There are a number of different definitions and descriptions but for the purpose of this article, I am going to refer to them as Swim Spa – my definition being a small pool with a machine at the end that will allow you to swim against an artificial current.
How do I build a DIY Swim Spa?
I am not going to focus too much in this article about the actual method used to create the pool itself. I have much more in depth articles here on my site and videos on my YouTube Channel that explain the process. What I do want to focus on in this article is the actual “Swim Jet” portion – the technology that created the current to swim against.
What is not a swim jet?
Before I move onto the definition of what a swim jet actually is, I am going to start with what it is not. Firstly, it is not the same as a strong swimming pool return. Next, it is not a strong hot tub jet or indeed a cluster of hot tub jets.
No, you can’t create your own swim just by using a hot tub jet a and a dedicated pump.
The technology and research that has gone into swim jets has created some pretty cool products. Some pretty cool products that can be used from enthusiast swimmers to Olympians alike so it has to be realistic in terms of the experience. That is also why we are not talking a couple of hundred bucks for a hot tub jet here!
So, if they are not just big hot tub jets, what are they?
What is a Swim Jet?
There are essentially two different types of swim jet. There is electronic one meaning that there is a pump, impellor, special jets and suction which are generally housed in a dedicated unit on the side of the pool. This is used to create the counter current to swim against.
The second type of swim jet is hydraulic. Rather than having any electrical parts poolside, which is arguably safer, hydraulic swim jets create a counter current by sending hydraulic pressure down lines.
How does a Swim Jet Work in a DIY Swim Spa?
We’ve seen that there are two types. The first working rather like a hot tub jet, sucks water from the pool, through the pump’s impellor and back through the specially designed jets at the front of the pool to create the current.
The next being a hydraulic system. There are essentially two parts to a hydraulic swim jet. There is the motor which sits in the pump/control room, and there is the propellor which is separate unit, connected by hydraulic lines that sits in the wall of the pool.
When the motor turns, it puts pressure on the hydraulic fluid which in turn causes the impellor to draw in water from the pool into the pool unit. This water is then returned to the pool under pressure from the return jets creating a counter current to swim against.
I’ve simplified this down a lot here, but I think you get the idea. There is no electric pump pool side, the impellor is driven hydraulically.
How do I choose a swim jet system for my DIY Swim Spa?
There are a few things to consider when choosing which swim jet system to install in your pool:
- Power of the Jet – You need to have a think here wither you are more of a “Homer Simpson” than a “Michael Phelps” ok – so a pretty unfair analogy but you need to know how fast you want to swim. This is going to dictate the machine you will need and the flow rates that it is going to produce.
In general, if you are a pro swimmer then you are going to need a much more powerful unit. More power = more cost. There is no point in putting in the “Michael Phelps” standard machine if you are only every going to be a “Homer Simpson” at best in the pool. It’s a waste of money.
The power of the water streaming from your jets can be the difference between an okay workout and a great swim experience. Water flow is measured in Gallons Per Minute (GPM). Just as a guide, anything below 600 GPM isn’t going to give you much resistance.
- Noise— Nothing ruins a swim like an overly loud noise ringing in your ears. Swim jet systems have varying levels of noise and you want to be purchasing one that has the lowest DB of noise. Do your research, talk to the manufacturers. What I would say on this point is that the hydraulic machines tend to be quieter than the electrical ones.
- Bubbles — This is what I meant by saying that hot tub jets are not counter current swim machines. If your machine is going to add bubbles to your water, this means that it is adding air and you are swimming against air, not water. Do not purchase a system that adds bubbles to its stream because that means your jet is pushing through air, not your pool water. This will increase energy consumption, create a more inefficient workout for sure, and make it difficult to see. You want to be checking with the manufacturer that they are talking about a bubble-free machine.
Built-in or Retro-Fit?
This is quite a straight forward one. If you are building a new pool, then you are going to want to design this in from the outset. This means you are going to have to select the model you need, get the dimensions etc so that it can be built into the pool wall.
The units tend to be self container so it is really like incorporating a “square box” into your walls – pretty straight forward to be honest.
The retro-fit units do tend to be cheaper and are good if you have a pool already and want the functionality of a swim spa. However, I would not recommend these if you are building a new pool. They look so much nicer if they are built into the walls.
How Much do Swim Jets Cost for a DIY Swim Spa?
How long is a piece of string? Loving a car analogy, just because a car is a car, does not mean it is the same as the next car. The same goes with swim jets. In short, they start around the $3000 mark and from there can go up to 10x that price for the all singing all dancing “Michael Phelps” standard model.
Adding one of these to your cocktail or plunge pool is probably going to add 50% to your overall build cost at the least. Substantially more if you are a good standard swimmer that needs a higher spec model.
What about a more cost effective Swim Jet for DIYers?
As it happens, I have put together my own swim jet that not only is more cost effective, it is perfect for DIYers.
This swim jet fits neatly into your wall when you are building your Swim Spa. The ideal location for the pump is right behind the jet – you do not want it 10′ to 20′ away as you will loose too much of the flow.
The whole idea of this jet is to get the maximum about of flow you can and it is a fantastic and cost effective alternative to the expensive swim jets that are on the market.
As you can see, the swim jet housing is concreted into the walls during the build process. The faceplate is only installed once the final surface has been added.
The swim jet is available with and without a pump. If you are adding your own pump, make sure that it is at least a 3HP pump, ideally larger if you are going to use a swimming pool pump as the flow rates tend to be lower.
You can certainly build a DIY swim Spa that creates a counter current for you to swim against. You need to do some research into the models available on the market and pick one that matches your own swim level.
Adding a swim jet to your pool does increase the value and desirability of it – any good realtor will be able to confirm this.
Lastly, they are not cheap. I would even go as far as to say that they are expensive. This is because they are not “just big jets” and a lot of research and design has gone into creating a real swimming experience.
Hope you found this article useful
Happy Swim Spa’ing
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Thanks - Andi
Hi, Andi here. I own Buildahottub.com and also write all of the articles and info pages on the site. Some years back now, I built my own hot tub but struggled to find the information I needed. So, once my tub was complete, I started this website to help others in their own pursuit of hot tub and plunge pools DIY building information.
Today, I've helped over 1000 DIY customers just like you all over the world build hot tubs and pools. Have a good look around the site, there are lots of resources here. Please do get in touch if I can help you. - Cheers, Andi