Bounce houses can provide hours and hours of entertainment to large and small children, providing a safe and fun space for play. Most kids play in bounce houses very rarely—at the county fair or a birthday party. When they do get the chance, it’s the highlight of their weekend.
Buying a bounce house for your home is easier and cheaper than most people would think, making it a possibility for your kids to use one whenever they want. As a parent, you’ll have the chance for more peace and quiet when all the loudness is confined to a bouncy castle. These are just some of the reasons to invest in your very own bounce house.
In this article, we’ll go over everything you need to know to make an informed purchase decision when buying a bouncy house. Although there are many great bounce houses on the market, it’s a bit complicated to figure out which one is best for you.
Let’s Get Clear on Our Terms
What I’ve called ‘bounce houses’ so far go by a lot of names. You can find people calling them bouncers, bouncy houses, inflatable jump houses, and even moonwalks. These are all regional names that people in different locations use for bounce houses. You should be aware of them just in case you find a good deal on a product that’s marked as a moonwalk or inflatable jump house.
One further note is about the term bouncy castle. Some people will call any bounce house a bouncy castle, but some will only use it to refer to bouncy houses that look like castles.
We understand that these terms are a bit confusing as a result of a low level of standardization in the industry, but once you get the hang of them, there’s no obstacle to buying a great bounce house (or moonwalk, or inflatable jump house, or…you get the picture).
At the end of the day, fun is fun, whatever you call a bounce house.
Should I Buy or Rent a Bounce House?
Most people’s first thought when it comes to bounce houses is about rental companies. However, when you consider that renting a bounce house is expensive and buying one isn’t as expensive as you might think, suddenly the idea of buying one makes sense.
Usually, you’ll end up paying around $100 to rent a bounce house for a few hours. After that, it will go away, and your kids will have nothing but memories of it.
Your other option is to buy a bounce house, which you can find for around $500. If you can see yourself using it multiple times—on a boring weekend or the next couple of birthday parties—then it’s probably worth it to buy. The fifth time you take out the bounce house and use it, you’ve broken even on your investment.
And once you have a bounce house, you’ll end up using more than you think as your kids ask you to inflate it again and again. For the amount of entertainment your children will get from the bounce house, it’s not a bad deal.
What is the Difference Between Residential Bounce Houses and Commercial Bounce Houses?
There’s a large and important difference between residential, or personal, bounce houses and commercial ones that have to do with regulations.
A commercial bounce house that’s meant to be rented out must meet the manufacturing guidelines set out in ASTM F2374 (also known as “Standard Practice for Design, Manufacture, Operation, and Maintenance of Inflatable Amusement Devices”). Businesses that own bounce houses that meet the national regulations can get insurance for them, which is crucial for liability reasons if the bounce house is regularly rented out and used by lots of kids.
Residential bounce houses, on the other hand, have to comply with ASTM F2729 (“Standard Consumer Safety Specification for Constant Air Inflatable Play Devices for Home Use”). This is only a voluntary regulatory framework that sets out how inflatables should be tested, so some playhouses you see for sale might not meet the standards. You might want to keep an eye out for those that do, though.
Zooming out from these regulatory issues, the main differences between residential bounce houses and commercial bounce houses are size, durability, and cost.
Commercial bounce houses are generally larger than residential bounce houses as they are meant to be rented out at large events. Indeed, some commercial bounce houses are massive and wouldn’t even fit into a small to a medium backyard.
Another place where there’s a difference between categories of bounce houses is in terms of durability. Commercial bounce houses are usually more durable because they have to withstand years of heavy use. Their materials are usually thicker and of higher quality than residential bounce houses.
Finally, commercial bounce houses are more expensive than residential ones for the two reasons we’ve just gone over.
You don’t need such extreme equipment as a single-family using a bounce house for entertainment. As long as you keep under the maximum weight specified by the residential bounce house manufacturer, you won’t have any problems as far as durability goes. Unless you plan to rent out the bounce house when your family isn’t using it, the extra expense for a commercial one isn’t worth it.
The Most Important Factors To Consider When Buying a Bounce House
Once you’ve decided to buy rather than rent a bounce house, there are still a lot of things to consider. In this section, we’ll go over the most important questions you need to ask yourself.
Is it the Right Size and Shape for Your Family?
When you buy a bounce house, you want to make sure that everyone in your family will enjoy it. This means that size is one of the most important decisions in the process of buying a bounce house.
You want to make sure that the oldest child in your family will not only have plenty of room in the bounce house but will continue to have it even after a couple of years of growth. Keep this in mind while choosing how high you want the ceiling of your bounce house to be.
The next choice is how large you want the bounce area to be. It’s important not to get one that’s too big for your yard. You should have at least five feet of space between the outside of your bounce house and any objects. Breaking this rule can be very dangerous—you don’t want someone to end up jumping into the house or a pole.
You also want to avoid getting a bounce house that’s too small as there won’t be room for many friends in there. Having lots of space is the best way to keep your kids interested in the bounce house for years to come.
We’d recommend measuring the area where you’d like to put the playhouse so that you know the maximum size you can get. If you have a huge, flat, and grassy yard, you can probably skip this step, but for those with less space, you be careful not to get a playhouse that’s too large.
It’s also crucial to pay close attention to the maximum weight of people that can enter the bounce house. There’s a lot of variation in this metric, so be sure to check it out and do the math on how much your kids weigh and how many other kids will be using it regularly.
Is it Energy-Efficient?
Bounce houses use electricity to blow up and stay inflated, so it’s important to find a bounce house that doesn’t drain too much for the sake of both your energy bill and the environment.
Almost all blowers for bounce houses are rated at 115 Volts, and thus you can plug them into any electrical outlet in your home. What determines the amount of energy that a bounce house will draw is the amount of horsepower that your blower has.
These devices come in three typical sizes: 1 horsepower, 1.5 horsepower, and 2 horsepower. A 1 horsepower air pump will be sufficient for most small residential bounce houses, while some of the larger models will require 2 horsepower. Huge, commercial models will need at least a 2 horsepower blower (and sometimes multiple blowers).
Keeping a bounce house inflated will cost you between $0.13 and $0.15 per hour, so it’s not a significant expense.
How Durable is the Bouncy House?
There are a few ways to evaluate the durability of a bouncy house that you’re considering buying.
You want to look at the materials the bounce house is made from and how thick the out plastic shell is. The bounce houses that have extra material on the surfaces that kids are jumping on are usually more durable.
It’s also a good idea to check out the reviews of a bouncy house you’re looking at to see what problems other owners have had with it. If any of them have been having similar problems with tears or other breakages, you might want to keep looking and find one that has good reviews.
How Easy is the Installation Process?
Depending on the design, some bounce houses are easier and quicker to get set up and inflated than others. On average, it takes between 10 and 35 minutes to set up a bounce house, which includes unpacking everything, laying it all out, and getting the blower going.
You can try to find out how long it takes to inflate the bounce house from the manufacturer. It’s always better to get a bounce house that inflates quickly because children aren’t known for their patience.
You can read our guide on how to set up a bounce house for more details on the step-by-step process.
What Accessories and Add-Ons Do You Want?
Adding a couple of great accessories to your bounce house can make all the difference to its entertainment value. The most popular add-on is an inflatable slide that’s built into the bounce house. You’ll need to pay a little extra for a bounce house with a slide compared to one that doesn’t have one, but many people would say it’s worth it.
The thing is that having accessories in your playhouse extends the amount of time your kids will be happy playing in it. To get the most value for your money, you want to make sure your kids don’t ‘age out of the bounce house too quickly.
You do have more options than just slides to accomplish this goal. You can find bounce houses that include basketball hoops, which sporty kids will love. If you have a bunch of boys with lots of energy, you could consider getting them inflatable joust poles like these to use inside the bounce house.
What Is Your Budget?
You want to make sure you aren’t overstretching your budget when purchasing a new bounce house. While we certainly don’t think cheap bounce houses are necessarily worth it, you should be conscious of what you can afford.
A residential bounce house will cost you around $500 or more depending on the features you want. If you want to buy a commercial bounce house, those will likely range anywhere from $1,000 to $3,000 depending on the size, accessories, and all the other factors we talked about above.
Used bounce houses will also typically cost less, but can come with some concerns on previous maintenance, lack of a warranty, and other potential issues.
What to Keep an Eye Out For
You should be aware that a great many companies from all over the world manufacture bounce houses, and not all of them offer the same quality. One easy way you can check out how serious a manufacturer is is by looking for information about materials, warranties, sizes, etc. Unless the manufacturer is clear and forthright with all this information, you shouldn’t consider buying from them because you might get an inferior product.
There’s also a trend of manufacturers misleadingly listing the height of slides by measuring to the top of the bounce house rather than the top of the slide. Some will even put features like a flag above the slide to increase the height even more. It’s best to find a labeled diagram that displays the heights of all the features in the playhouse as well as the other dimensions.
Hopefully, you feel more able to make an informed purchase decision having read our guide to buying a new bounce house for your family’s use. We can’t stress just how much the sound of a playhouse inflating will brighten up your child’s day. Now that you know how to select a great inflatable playhouse, don’t hesitate and pick one out.