At this year’s Pool | Spa | Patio Expo, Bullfrog Spas is once again showing off a new hot tub concept, the M Series, which takes a fresh approach to seat configuration, filtration and exterior design. The Series will launch with three models: the M9, M8 and M7.
Samson Madsen, creative director and innovations lead at
Bullfrog, says the company wanted to provide real innovation with its new
series — not just a different style jet or waterfall. Madsen, citing statistic
that only 6-7% of U.S. households own a hot tub, says those tweaks are not what
lead to new customers. Rather, he says, people get frustrated about common
features regarding shell design.
“Let’s look at
the way that hot tubs are going to be used,” Madsen says. “Let’s
look at the way that we want them to be used. Let’s start to make a product
that reflects that ideology.” Taking cues from what his and customers’ families
shared about their hot tub usage, Bullfrog learned that seat configurations can
feel restrictive: Seats were reported to be too deep for children and short
adults. People who don’t want to be neck-deep in water have to balance on the
lip of the spa to cool off.
With this feedback in mind, Bullfrog designed its M Series with
seating concepts that allow for flexibility, giving customers of all heights,
shapes and sizes a place in the spa where they can feel comfortable.
The seats are still therapy-driven and designed for social
interaction. “They each offer
an incredible number of different seating options and, in addition, seats are
designed to be enjoyed in a variety of body positions,” says Jake Ricks,
director of marketing at Bullfrog.
Cool-down seats were a major point of design throughout the line.
The rim of the spa was designed so everybody can use it if need be. “You can stay in the water, but you
don’t have to be buried,” Madsen
Accomplishing all this required not only new molds but also a
reengineering of key pieces of the hot tub.
Footwells and Filtration
As the company looked for ways to eliminate any wasted or
unusable space, one place they were able to do that was by removing suction in
the footwell. Now the bottom of the JetPak — where the water is supplied and
which Bullfrog calls the bulkhead — also functions as the suction. Its A9L hot
tub was the first to have this suction design, and now the entire M Series has
it as well.
That component gives Bullfrog the ability to set up its plumbing
in what it refers to as a hybrid system, a shared suction and a zoned discharge
system, says Nathan Tulett, product development engineer at Bullfrog. “We found in our testing that it
produces a great platform for overall jet performance and efficiency,” Tulett
says. “It reduces the overall
amount of plumbing, even further than what we’ve been able to do with the
JetPaks. It increases our overall insulation and efficiency of the spa.”
The new suction outlets include Virginia Graeme Baker–rated
covers as well.
A redesigned filter also supports the new seating concept.
Bullfrog is switching from a cylindrical filter, the industry standard, to a
flat filter. The current filter pod that accommodates the cylindrical filter
takes up a lot of room on the interior of the spa, Tulett explains — space that
could be used for seating.
“Now we have a
much more symmetric design,” he says. A cylindrical filter can get more media
in a smaller space, giving salespeople the opportunity to tout a spas
filtration square footage. But Bullfrog found that extra media wasn’t being
utilized efficiently in its spas. “Our
new flat filtration design uses 100% of the filter media.”
The flat filter requires less plastic to keep it rigid, reducing
the cost. Tulett says consumers can now think of it as disposable, “rather than something that has a
lot of costs where you would feel obligated to clean it to save on the expense
of replacing your filter.”
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Roughly the size of a sheet of paper, the new filter fits behind
a JetPak, completely out of sight, saving a full seat’s worth of space in the
interior of the spa.
reviewing some shell designs with our steering committee and the CEO said, ‘Why
do we have to have that dumb filter box?’ ” Tulett says, which got the engineering group thinking about what
they could do to get rid of it.
plumbing, suctions and even the filters are now out of the way behind JetPaks,”
Ricks says. “So all of the
spa can be used for connection, therapy and escape without annoyance.”
To help validate and test ideas, Bullfrog Spas will often 3D
print components. For new shells, it will often make them in EPS foam to see if
they work before sending them to tooling to create a new mold.
“We use a lot
of physical prototypes,” Tulett says. “We run water through [the prototypes], and that modifies things
really quickly. You find out how limited your first few ideas are. We’ve done
our best to test thoroughly, and all of the M Series products we’ll launch are
on versions eight
Bullfrog’s steering committee includes members from all aspects
of the organization. For Sean McKinney, director of manufacturing, being part
of that team helps him to push ideas along. “Ultimately what we need to do as an organization is make things
work,” McKinney says. “And
when we see something that looks challenging, it’s our job to put it into
aspects that make it work for us.”
In addition to working the M Series into the company’s facility,
McKinney is also tasked with laying out the company’s new factory. “We’re already putting things in
place to see how we would do this and what it would look like,” McKinney says, “so we’re not caught off guard.”
For all the changes to the inside of the M Series, what’s outside
also counts for most hot tub buyers. “Hot tubs are sold on a showroom looking down into the layout of the
spa, but that’s not really how people are observing their spas,” Madsen says. “We took that 15-foot approach from the
He wanted the exterior of the M Series to blend with the exterior
of homes’ most common paint colors and textures, which is why the company is
offering four warm tones and four cool tones.
“All of these
are fairly neutral and all have coordinated accents throughout the spa,” Ricks
says. “The warm color
palettes, for example, have warmer beige jet bodies and trim, while the cool
tone spas feature coordinated cool grey accents.”
Madsen hopes the M Series starts to bridge the gap he sees
between what the consumer desires and how the industry sells hot tubs. He says
when dealers are excited about new hot tubs, it drives consumer interest. More
than the latest app or fancy, tech-driven hot tub feature, customers want
“[Hot tubs are]
not delivering the expectation to the consumer,” he says. “We’re not holding each other accountable
on a dealer level or on an OEM level to deliver on that. We really do believe
we’re going to be showing something this fall that is going to change the