Learn best practices for starting and running a float center:
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A large part of what we do here at Float Tank Solutions is field calls and emails about floatation therapy from potential float center owners, manufacturers, spas, and general floatation enthusiasts from around the globe.

After seeing certain questions come up again and again, we decided to create blog posts which tackle these questions directly, and offer an easily accessible and searchable database of float tank information. To start things off, we’re tackling the question: “Which heating system is best for float tanks?”

As with any large investment, purchasing a float tank can be overwhelming. It’s important to understand the differences between the various styles and functionality available in order to ensure that your tank is able to provide you and your customers the types of floats you desire.

The two most common ways to heat a tank are an in-line heating system (also known as circulation heaters), or heating elements underneath the tank. Most float tanks are going to use a combination of both.

a titanium, spa, inline-heater       
titanium, inline heater foil laminated
heating element
waterbed heater

Water Temperature

To begin, let’s discuss the temperature of the water. An in-line heating system offers the benefit of heating up water more quickly and efficiently, but can only be run between floats, as the water is pumped and circulated through the system itself. This puts limitations on offering longer floats, as the temperature of the water slowly drops from the desired temperature over time. An in-line system can usually handle floats under two hours (this will vary, depending on how well insulated the tank is), but after that the solution starts to feel noticeably cold. Inline heaters can get your temperature up really quickly though. This is extremely important if you’re refilling the tank or just opening up for the day and need to get the water heated.

A heating element beneath the tank, by contrast, offers continuous heating, as it maintains the temperature of the water constantly. This means that extended floats can be offered, even for hours at a time, as the water’s temperature won’t ever reach the point of being uncomfortably cold. An issue, however, is that this method is less efficient, as it dissipates heat through the fiberglass shell of the tank (a natural insulator), and doesn’t heat the water directly.

You may see recommendations for waterbed heaters, but those are only going to be useful for tanks with liners, and even then, their efficacy is limited.

Maintenance and Repairs

The two systems also differ in regards to maintenance, something which is very important to consider as a float center operator. In-line systems can be swapped out and repaired with ease, as they are located outside of the tank in the pump mechanism. Heating element systems can vary quite a bit. Some manufacturers make them easily accessible for maintenance, others have them woven into the fiberglass to heat more evenly.

Unless you’re using a tank with a liner, you’ll likely have to deal with an inline system in some capacity, so be prepared for that. If you have a tank with a liner, you’re going to have to consider the issue of leaks damaging your undertank heater as well.


Heating elements are EMF machines, and when things aren’t going right this can mean buzzing or humming inside the tank. Since the in-line heaters only run when the pump is running, there is little chance of them causing any sound during the float.

Float Tank Heaters

In Conclusion

In summary, both methods have their benefits and pitfalls, and you likely should be prepared to deal with both of them. Inline heaters will be helpful for rapid temperature increases, while the undertank heaters are going to maintain that temperature. Talk with your manufacturer about what they use, and other float centers about what they recommend. Information and products are constantly changing and what may work well one day may become less than ideal later on down the line.

Frank Ciavarello


Float Tank Conference