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Carolyn Mosby's Posts

Olympic Divers Love Hot Tubs

August 15th, 2016 by

nbc-video-olympic-divers-using-hot-tub Photo by NBC Universal
If you’ve been following the Rio Olympics this past week, you may have noticed that Olympic divers take to a hot tub after their dives, awaiting their scores and looking, oh so relaxed.

What is this – Olympic athlete pampering gone amuck? I don’t know of other sport besides diving where the participants can relax in bubbling bliss after their events. Why do Olympic divers get in a hot tub after their dives?

Twitter has caught fire with the question, and trending on Google last week was the query “Why do Olympic divers get in the hot tub?”. The people want to know!

tweets-about-why-do-olympic-divers-get-in-the-hot-tub

The reason why divers jump into a hot tub after a dive is simply to keep the muscles warm and limber, in preparation for their next dive. Indoor pool stadiums filled with spectators can become too warm, so officials lower the water temperature and the air temperature.

So while the pool water is fairly cool (79°F or 26°C), the ambient air temperature is even cooler, and this gives divers a chill after their dives.

Unlike swimmers, who may only swim 1 event per day, divers compete in rounds of several dives. Divers typically take a warm shower, followed by a hot tub before toweling off with a tiny towel.

But not all Olympic divers jump in the hot tub, some opt for a short warm shower, and a long insulated coat between dives. Maybe some divers were purposely avoiding the hot tub in Rio, given the color and clarity of the spa water [below].

Video screen shot, credit NBC Universal

Maybe you thought they were rinsing off from their dives in the green water at the Rio Olympic diving pool? After struggles with returning the water to blue after green algae infested the diving pool, Rio 2016 spokesman Mario Andrada said, “We first learned that chemistry is not an exact science”. What?

nbc-green-diving-poolRio 2016 officials have resorted to draining the 3.7 million gallon diving pool, which they blame on the introduction of 160 gallons of Hydrogen Peroxide into the water by a technician.

Hmmm. There is also another recent complaint in the news, are you ready for this? That the entire indoor diving pool facility ‘smells of fa… [rotten eggs]’. I’m not sure what water problem or chemical reaction causes that, unless untreated water was used to fill the pool. But the training pool, located right next to the diving pool, is blue and clear.

 


Anyway, the reason why divers take a shower and get in a hot tub after their dives – is to prevent muscle cramping, and maintain the body core temperature, so they can perform at their best! Most have hot tubs at their home training facilities, and it becomes part of their routine!

Enjoy the rest of the Rio 2016 Olympics!

 

Carolyn Mosby
Hot Tub Works

 

 

Off Season Hot Tub Maintenance Tips

June 20th, 2016 by

spa-closed-for-season
For seasonal users of hot tubs, some adjustment to your maintenance routines can be made, during times of non-use or very low use.

But that doesn’t mean you can ignore the spa sanitation and filtration altogether! Leave a spa to it’s own devices, without intervention, for too long and you’ll have bacteria buildup, damaged filters or at least a very smelly hot tub.

If you tend to use the spa less during warmer weather (or less during colder weather), here’s some tips on protecting your investment and avoiding costly clean-up of a spa gone too long without care.

 

DRAIN & REFILL THE SPA

draining-a-hot-tubIt’s tempting to leave the water in the hot tub or spa after the season, and drain it before using it again, but depending on how old the water is, and how long the tub will sit (all summer?), you may want to drain it now, as a step to ‘summerizing’ the spa. If your spa water is over 90 days old, and has been used semi-regularly, I would advise draining and refilling with water from a Pre-Filter. After refilling, balance the pH, alkalinity and calcium hardness, and shock the spa water with MPS.

 

TURN THE HEATER DOWN TO MINIMUM

A covered spa that is not heated will drop and stabilize to a temperature that is a bit lower than the outside air temperature. During freezing weather, it’s important to keep the spa pump running, to avoid freeze damage. During hot summer weather, even with the heater off and spa covered, water temps can rise into the 80’s. It’s important to keep the spa pump running, to avoid algae and bacteria from growing during hot summer months.

 

BALANCE THE CHEMISTRY MONTHLY

spa-water-testsEven though no one is using the spa, protect your shiny surfaces, cover, filter and rubber bits by checking the pH, alkalinity and calcium hardness levels on a monthly basis. After you balance the water, add a full dose of spa shock, to disinfect and oxidize the spa water, destroying any germs in the hot tub. Keep the hot tub cover open for about an hour after shocking, to allow the water to gas-off. If the water was cloudy during the monthly inspection, increase filter run time and/or sanitizer levels and consider using a clarifier to help the filter.

 

SANITIZING THE OFF-SEASON SPA

Because you aren’t using the spa, you may not need to run a 3-5 ppm level of bromine, because the contaminants introduced to the water are very low. However, you will still need to keep some type of constant sanitizer in the water, to kill bacteria, viruses, algae. A spa Mineral Stick is a good idea to manage daily disinfection, with a monthly balancing and shocking of the spa. An ozonator can also accomplish the majority of the daily sanitation needs for the un-used hot tub, coupled with regular spa shocking. Bromine tubs can also just use fewer tablets in the floater or feeder, just 1 or 2 bromine tabs, to keep a low-range 1-2 ppm of bromine in the water. If you fill a spa floater with 9 tabs and close it the vents all the way, you should be able to deliver about 1ppm of bromine to the spa, constantly. Avoid allowing the spa water to filter only, without bromine, ozone, minerals or shock, it won’t last long without some form of daily sanitation.

 

SECURE THE SPA COVER

spa-is-closed-signA tight fitting spa cover is important not only for spa safety, but also to keep out debris and sunlight. Be sure to clamp all of the cover clips around the spa cover. For protection from summer storms and high winds, use spa cover wind straps, and cover the spa cover with the Spa Cover Cap, to protect the cover from summer sun and rain, and also to make the spa more inaccessible or off-limits. If you want to be more explicit, post a Spa Closed sign, especially for rental properties or commercial spas that aren’t of the single-family type.

 

RUN THE FILTER PUMP DAILY

Just as you need daily sanitation for the off-season spa, you also need daily circulation and filtration of the water. And just as you need less sanitation for an unused spa, you can get by with less filtration for a spa that is sanitized and un-used. Program your circulation pump to run on low speed for 3-6 hours daily, with a daily high speed run of about an hour. With summer weather comes greater possibility of power outages which can affect your pump timer programming or leave the spa in an OFF mode. Keep an eye and an ear towards the spa to be sure that the filter is running like it should.

BONUS TIP: Before putting the spa to bed, remove and clean the cartridge filter, or replace the spa filter if it’s close to 24 months old.

 

Carolyn Mosby
Hot Tub Works

 

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What’s the Best Number of Spa Jets?

May 30th, 2016 by

spa-jets-3up

When we bought our first hot tub, I think it had 12 spa jets – and at the time that was a lot! Fast forward 30 years, and you can find spas with over 100 Jets! Is that too many?

It’s not just the number of spa jets that makes a spa awesome, it’s more than that. The type of spa jets, their location, and how adjustable they are – and how powerful the jet pump is, all play a role.

Type of Spa Jets

spa-with-many-spa-jetsSome spa jets are non-adjustable, where other jets can be pointed or positioned in many directions with a swivel eyeball. Larger spa jets have multiple nozzles and may also rotate or swirl, and be mixed with air to add more oomph to the water flow. The nicer spa jets are fully adjustable, and can be closed easily by turning the outside bezel or ring, finished in soft rubber, chrome or stainless steel.

 

Location of Spa Jets

bank-of-spa-jetsWhere the spa jets are located may be important for your particular aches and pains. Powerful floor jets are nice for a good foot massage, and calf jets, neck jets are also nice to have. But, do you really need so many spa jets? Think about the areas of your body where you would like to target, and let your pain be your guide, I suppose. Air Jets are usually small holes for air only (no water), and shouldn’t be called spa jets, technically.

 

Spa Jet Adjustments

4-spa-jets-blastingIf you run water through too many jets as one time, the amount of water coming out of each jet is reduced. And since you probably don’t fill every seat in your spa, you want to be able to turn off spa jets that are not being used, which increases water flow to the jets that are open. Some spas will allow you to control different spa jet banks, or ‘sets of jets’, by turning a large knob, or should at least allow you to close off individual spa jets that are not needed.

 

Jet Pump Power

spa-with-too-many-spa-jetsSpa jets don’t increase the water flow, the amount of flow is entirely dependent on the spa jet pump. A 4hp spa pump will produce a lot more flow than a 2hp spa pump, in most cases. But any size pump has to split all the water flow among all of the jets. For a theoretical example, say your spa jet pump is pumping 100 gallons per minute, and let’s say that you have 100 jets – that’s only 1 gallon every minute from each jet, if they were all open at the same time. So, a hot tub with twice as many jets may need a pump that’s twice as large, if you plan to fill all the seats in the spa.

 

So when shopping for a new spa, remember it’s not just the number of jets that matter. Consider the types of spa jets used, their location, how adjustable the spa jets are, and the size of the spa jet pump – they all play a role!

 

Carolyn Mosby
Hot Tub Works

 

 

Dual Spa Filters: Double the Filtration!

April 25th, 2016 by

cabin-hot-tub-has-two-filtersHere’s a short story about how I doubled the filtration on a spa that we have on our vacation home. We rent out the mountain home and hot tub when we’re not using it (which is most of the year), and we were having some trouble keeping the water clean between visitors, without changing the water (too much).

My husband actually gets credit for the idea – he said “why don’t we just add another filter on the spa?”. We took a look at the complete spa filters on Hot Tub Works, and found one that would fit inside the spa cabinet.

Here’s how we added a second filter to our portable spa.

 

Adding a second spa filter

The filter that comes with most portable spas is a skimmer filter, located on the suction side of the spa pump. The second filter is added on the pressure side of the pump, or after the pump. These inline spa filters, as they are called, have an internal bypass feature that opens up when the pump is on high speed, so it won’t affect the jet flow.

Inline spa filters are available in 25ft, 50, 75 and 100 sq ft sizes. The canister becomes very tall, as the square footage of cartridge increases, and in my case, we opted for a 50 sq ft spa filter that we could fit underneath the cabinet.

There are 3 main ways to install a secondary spa filter, under the cabinet, outside the cabinet, or top loading, through the cabinet corner.

UNDER THE CABINET

rainbow-spa-filterThis is how we opted to do it, because our spa shell or cabinet doesn’t have corners where we could cut out a 6-3/4″ hole and use a top load filter. We of course had limited space under the cabinet in the equipment bay area, under the spa, but took some careful measurements and decided that we could use a 50 sf inline spa filter.

Adding a second filter required a little re-plumbing from the pump, in and out of the new filter, and then back to connect to the return pipe. To clean the filter, I just close the suction valve and unscrew the ring, and then pull the entire canister and cartridge out.

You can use inline filters with bottom connections (at ground level), but the top mount style where the pipes connect on top of the filter, is usually easier plumbing, and bottom mounts need vertical space to pull out the cartridge. My inline filter is a top mount, sits a few inches off the ground, so you can separate the canister from the filter top (after loosening the brown lock ring).

Wherever you locate a spa pressure filter, be sure it is after the pump and that you plumb in the filter in the direction of the flow indicator (printed on the manifold, where the pipes connect). It should also be easily accessible for cleaning, without contorting your body in awkward positions!

OUTSIDE THE CABINET

hayward-star-clearIf there is no room inside your spa cabinet, you could go hot tub style, with the secondary spa filter located outside of the spa cabinet. Less attractive, but it makes the filter very accessible for cleaning and easy to monitor the filter pressure gauge. And, outside the cabinet gives you room to add a large second spa filter, like a 100 sq ft Waterway Extended Top Load spa filter. A Hayward Star Clear filter also makes a nice choice.

The usual way to install a secondary spa filter outside the spa cabinet is to use a 2″ hole saw attached to a drill to cut through the cabinet – 2 holes, one for the pipe coming into the filter (from the pump) and one for the pipe coming out of the filter and running back to the return line. Be sure to plan out the complete pipe run before you cut the holes, and be sure there are no wires or studs running over the area where you are using the hole saw.

You can use 1.5″ (or 2″) schedule 40 flexible PVC pipe or rigid PVC pipe, and try to use as few 90’s as possible to decrease the amount of added resistance. We installed our second spa filter using only two 90’s – but when installing outside the cabinet you’ll have to use 3 or 4, 90° fittings. Essentially, you are cutting the pipe after the pump, and diverting the water in and out of the filter, before reconnecting it to where the pipe was cut.

Use fresh PVC glue and primer, and only use deep socket couplings, aka pressure fittings (not drain fittings). You can find all the supplies you need at a good hardware/home store.

TOP LOAD FILTERS

top-load-filter-by-waterwayMany spas with a square cabinet have molded circular areas in the corners of the spa. Top load spa filters are those that stick out of the top of the spa shell, but under the spa cover. They are called Top Load because you unscrew the top and pull out the cartridge, or load the cartridge from the top.

Most Top Load spa filters are sized to fit a 6-3/4″ hole, which is cut into the corner of the spa shell, using a Jig Saw or Dremel tool. A lock nut holds the spa filter canister tightly against the spa shell. Top Load filters are not underwater, they sit above the water level. Spa Skimmers are another type of filter that can also be installed on some spa shells.

The plumbing on Top Load spa filters is on the bottom of the canister, with the connection point dependent upon the size of the filter. You can buy Top Load filters in 25, 50, 75 and 100 sq. ft. sizes, each one taller than the next. The plumbing connection can be either threaded, or slip for smooth pipe connection.

Use fresh PVC glue and primer, and only use deep socket couplings, aka pressure fittings (not drain fittings). You can find all the supplies you need at a good hardware/home store.

 

in-conclusion-3Soooo… if your spa can use extra filtration, to extend the water life (time between water changes), or to help reduce the amount of sanitizer or other needed spa chemicals – consider adding a second filter to your spa or hot tub.

You can thank me later!

 

Carolyn Mosby
Hot Tub Works

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hot Tub Tips for Rental Homes

April 4th, 2016 by

Home Rental Hot Tubs The vacation rental and short term housing rental market is booming. One amenity that can help grow a rental home’s popularity as well as fetch a higher rental price is a hot tub.

Hot tubs are fairly self-regulating, and require only minimal care in between tenants, but there are a few things to keep in mind, if you currently offer a hot tub or are thinking about adding a hot tub to your rental home.

Here are 5 Tips for owners/managers of vacation rentals with hot tubs.

 

Get it in Writing

pool-guy-contractFor homes that are rented with a hot tub, we recommend a separate agreement be signed by the tenant, in addition to the usual agreement covering the home and other appliances. Having a separate agreement will help to reinforce important safety requirements, and help to protect your investment. After all, it may be the most expensive appliance in the home.

Though not an all-inclusive list of potential problems (check with your legal adviser), however, any good spa and hot tub addendum should include:

  • Minimum age for unsupervised use of the hot tub. (typically 14-18 yrs)
  • Minimum age for supervised use of the hot tub. (typically 5 yrs)
  • Maximum number of persons in spa (capacity).
  • Maximum safe spa temperature is 102° or less.
  • …must replace spa cover and latch cover clips after use.
  • …must add water if level drops below indicator on skimmer.
  • …must shower or bathe before use.
  • …no pets allowed at any time.
  • …no eating, no smoking, and only drink water from plastic cups only
  • …do not use spa if pregnant or hypertensive (high blood pressure)
  • …do not use spa if under the influence of drugs or alcohol
  • …do not use spa if water looks poor, smells bad, or without pump running
  • Notify management of any equipment failure or water problems
  • Use at your own risk. Tenant agrees to hold owner harmless for any injuries…
  • Responsibility for any damage to equipment, spa cover or spa surfaces…

 

Put it in Writing

The more instructions you give to your renter, the better. I’m often frustrated at rentals that don’t have a master ‘Operations Manual’, where one can find answers to just about anything, including the spa and hot tub.

HOT-TUB-GUIDEHot Tub Guide: A 3-ring binder, with plastic inserts to display spa operation modes (jets, heating, filter), and basic functions. A sheet detailing safety and health requirements, and information on basic spa care tasks like adding water, shocking the spa, or refilling the bromine floater. A page on how to safely remove and reinstall the spa cover can help prevent spa cover damage. Finally, insert the spa owners manual for those that want to really delve into spa functions.

Service Log Book: Even if you do all of the maintenance on the spa yourself, keeping detailed records of spa chemical readings, filter cleanings, equipment replacement, etc, could be required in your area. And even if it’s not required, you may be called upon to defend your spa maintenance practices, if a renter developed a rash or suffered physical injury in your hot tub. If you have a service company maintain the spa, require that they fill out the log book on each visit. Keep it in a dry location with the other supplies.

spa-safety-sign-smHot Tub Signs: I’m a big fan of signs, and in my mind it’s well worth it to pay for professional and durable printed signs that help to protect spa users and also your spa. The obligatory Spa Rules sign can be used, but you can also find premade signs for No Food/Drink, No Smoking or No Glass. Ideas for custom signs may include age limits, temperature limits, time in tub limits, or reminders to check water level, replace the spa cover, or turn down the temperature on check-out.

Get Hot Tub Help

If you live nearby and generally manage the entire guest experience, you may want to manage the spa/hot tub as well. Or you can sub-contract spa care to a local spa company or rental assistance company that caters to the rental industry. Depending on your location, weekly hot tub service calls cost $60-$90.

You can also ask your guests to help maintain the spa. Asking them to balance the water, vacuum the spa and clean the cartridge may be a bit much, but you may want to consider asking for help with:

  • Shock the spa after each use (with specific directions).please-help-with-the-spa
  • Add water to spa if below the mid-skimmer mark.
  • Keep the spa cover installed and latched when not using spa.
  • Shower or bathe before using spa, for everyone’s health.
  • Notify management of any hot tub problems.

 

Water Changes

cloudy-spa-waterIt’s common practice among some rental homes with hot tubs to drain the water after each renter, after check-out. However, this can be difficult to do in one day, and have it hot again by check-in time; and it may not always be necessary.

A good look at the water quality, along with testing water balance and bromine or chlorine levels, can quickly tell you if the water needs to be changed. An option to a complete water change is a partial water change with complete balancing, shocking and cleaning the spa filter cartridge.

Most spas in a rental environment can go as long as 4-8 weeks between complete water changes, as long as filter cycles are lengthy and effective, and water balance and sanitizer levels are maintained properly. Other things can also help lengthen water life, see below.

 

Water Problems

Notwithstanding the above statements, if your tenants leave the spa or hot tub water in a cloudy, gray condition, it may be best to drain the tub. If you find that you have regular problems with water quality in your rental spa, or want to increase the length of time between water changes, here’s some things to do:

  • Add a Second Filter. Many spas have enough vertical space to install a second Spa Filter cartridge to double the filtration.
  • Add a Purifier. In addition to bromine or chlorine, use Minerals or Ozone to help prevent water problems or health issues.
  • Shock after Use. Keep a bottle of labeled MPS or Spa Shock, and ask tenant to add a specific amount after use.
  • Use a Clarifier. Pods, tablets or liquid clarifier to assist your filter in trapping microscopic debris.
  • Replace the Cartridge. Every 6-12 months, replace your spa filter with new.

 

 

Carolyn Mosby
Hot Tub Works

 

Natural Hot Tub Maintenance

March 3rd, 2016 by

my-natural-hot-tub-istkMy hot tub is not 100% natural, but it’s close. I use very few bottled spa products, either for cleaning the water, or for cleaning the hot tub.

Having a “Natural” hot tub or spa is more than just adding a mineral purifier or ozonator, or using enzymes – all of which I use.

If you really want to reduce reliance on spa chemicals, you have to take some action to replace the work done by spa sanitizers, clarifiers, algaecides, defoamers, etc..

Here is my short list of things that I do to maintain my Natural hot tub:

RUN THE PUMP LONGER

  • I know, not very “green”, to run the pump longer each day, but stagnant water starts to get funky quick without strong sanitizers in the water. For this reason, I run my circulation 3x as much as most people. I also run the pump on high speed almost every day to loosen any filmy or crusty deposits, opening the air intakes (or you can turn on a blower), to aerate the water. And when we use the spa, I add MPS afterwards and leave the spa running for about an hour, with the cover open.

SHOWER BEFORE USING

  • This is really necessary to maintaining a natural hot tub. If you don’t want to run a high bromine level, or have to shock the spa after every use, take a serious shower before getting in the hot tub. And ladies, don’t forget to put your hair up (or wear a cap) and remove make-up before getting in the tub. If your natural tub is not au-naturel (you wear something), be sure not to use swim suits, shorts or shirts that have been washed with soap. If so, wash them again on a long cycle without soap.

NEW SPA FILTER EVERY YEAR

  • A natural spa – one without bromine or peroxide sanitizers, has to replace the spa filter cartridges more often. Simply more stuff needs to filter out of the water, so your spa filter has to work harder. Spas that aren’t trying to be “Natural” may get up to two years out of a spa filter, but I always change mine every December.

CLEAN YOUR SPA NATURALLY

  • clean-your-spa-with-a-lemon-istk istockCleaning your cartridge in a 50/50 vinegar solution is a natural way for those with very high calcium levels, or hard water, to keep their filters and jets from tiny crystalline deposits. Use baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) on a wet scrubber sponge as a way to clean and scour very dirty surfaces. Natural citrus based cleaners can also be used, in fact you can cut a lemon in half and use it as a tub scrubber!

KEEP WATER BALANCED

  • Another very important part of natural hot tub care, is keeping the water balanced. If the pH or Alkalinity get too high, it makes a perfect environment for all sorts of things to grow. I keep mine between 7.2 – 7.4, and always check it before I get in the water. If there are 2 or more people using the spa, I check it again afterwards, it’s almost always higher. Add calcium hardness increaser if your level is below 150 ppm, and alkalinity increaser if below 80 ppm.

ADD ONLY GOOD FILL WATER

  • Your tap water may not be the best water for your spa, with chloramines, metals, minerals and other invisible gunk. Just like we filter our drinking water, we filter it before I put it into the hot tub! Just use the Pre-Filter on the end of your garden hose when filling the tub. I can’t over-emphasize how important this is to maintaining a natural hot tub! Start off with bad water, and it quickly becomes hard to maintain it naturally.

MAINTAIN PURIFIERS

  • I have a Del Ozonator and I use the Nature2 mineral stick. Because I don’t also use bromine tablets or chlorine granules in my hot tub – I have to make sure these units are working properly, and replace them as needed. Every 4 months for the skimmer stick (my calendar alert pops up), and I just replaced my ozonator with the Next Gen model that lasts up to 5 years. I also add a small amount of spa enzymes to my spa weekly, natural proteins that consume microbes. And I use only as much shock as needed.

MPS SHOCK AS NEEDED

  • I use MPS shock, or non-chlorine shock, about every other time I use the spa, or about once per week. If that seems fairly often, it’s because I’m not using any bromine or chlorine in my hot tub. If I don’t use the MPS shock at least 1-2x per month, my water begins to look gray and dull, and I begin to ‘question its sanitary’, so I add just two tablespoons of MPS every week or so.

DRAIN / REFILL MORE OFTEN

Also not green, or environmentally friendly, and possible illegal in your area – but there comes a point when the water is literally choked with solids and needs to be changed. The water gets so crowded, that  some of it gets thrown out of solution and becomes visible. First as a dull appearance, followed by a slight haze, progressing to cloudy water. When spa water becomes ‘old’, it becomes harder to keep clean and clear and harder to keep sanitary. For most natural hot tubs and spas, including my own, a drain and refill is done every 90-100 days.

 

ecofriendly-natural-hot-tub-istkNatural Spa maintenance doesn’t need to involve so-called ‘natural’ hot tub treatments, or systems that claim to do everything with one monthly treatment. It’s not easier than a bromine/chlorine spa – it is more work and more multi-layered than many would have you believe.

But it is quite possible, to maintain a spa or hot tub with very few spa chemicals – my tub is nearly all-natural, and my hubby and I love it that way!

 

Carolyn Mosby
Hot Tub Works

 

 

 

Buy a Used Hot Tub? Don’t Get Soaked!

January 25th, 2016 by

spa-for-sale-by-ownerHow to buy a used hot tub is “hot topic” these days, with showroom prices over $10,000 it’s natural that many people consider buying a “Gently Used Hot Tub”.

For many, a used hot tub is not something they would consider, especially given that online portable spas can be purchased for less than $5,000.

Regardless, if you have your eye on a “pre-loved” spa or hot tub, here’s some tips on making a smart purchase.

 

Will it Fit Your Space and Budget?

Setting a firm budget up front is smart – you don’t want to pay more than you can afford and, you don’t really want to pay less than you should. A hot tub in good condition, fully operational, will cost around $2500, in most cases. You can find a lot of used hot tubs for under $1000, but most are empty, non-working spa shells, that need a lot of reconditioning – new spa pack (heater and controls), pumps and perhaps plumbing.

Secondly, where are you going to put your new (used) hot tub? When full, they can weigh a ton (literally!), so it needs to be set on a solid base of reinforced concrete. Never set a spa directly on the ground, or on a wood deck, and absolutely never on a second story balcony or elevated deck. Spas should also not be placed indoors, unless you have plastic or tiled walls and ceilings, floor drains and a suitable dehumidification system.

Thirdly, will it fit? You will need room to access the equipment underneath the spa, and for other reasons, you may need to access the underside of the spa from a side other than where the spa equipment is located. Spa covers are big and bulky, and should be used with spa cover lifters, to protect the cover (and your back!). These require anywhere from 6″ to 36″ of clearance, depending on the model, and some cover lifts need room vertically (above the spa), for upright spa cover storage.

Fourth, choose a location that is out of direct sunlight if possible, and avoid lawn sprinklers, or placement under a roof eave that will allow rain water to fall onto the spa. The best location will protect the hot tub from sun, rain and snow.

Fifth, consider privacy if you have close neighbors. You can construct a privacy screen or a gazebo of sorts to block prying eyes and prevailing winds while hopefully preserving the best view to take in while soaking in the spa.

Ask the Right Questions – in the Right Way

Studies show that the way you ask a question about maintenance issues or problems affects the probability of an honest response. Framing your questions with negative assumptions elicits more honest responses. I know you want to be nice, but the get the best information you have to be almost accusatory.

questions-about-spasFor example, asking “What mechanical issues have you had with the spa” will produce a better answer than “There aren’t any problems with the spa, are there?” Other questions to ask include: “Tell me what repairs you have made to the spa”, and “What repairs will I need to do soon?”, in addition to asking to see service records, or repair invoices.

When you want the unvarnished truth, you have to ask for it – don’t throw soft balls, or you’ll get soft answers. Ask pointedly negative questions to get the best negative answers, or the most believable responses.

Inspecting a Used Hot Tub

When buying a used hot tub, make sure that it’s full of water and hot, as measured by a floating thermometer. Bringing your own thermometer is a good idea, because you can’t always trust the temperature display. 104° is the maximum safe temperature, and for most people, an ideal hot tub water temp. If it only reads 100°, it could be any number of problems, or it just could be set too low. Turning up the thermostat should raise the water temperature fast, around 5° for every 10 minutes.

An owner’s manual can be incredibly useful for running the spa through it’s paces, to test out all features and to diagnose any error codes, if presented. If the spa owner doesn’t have an owner’s manual handy, you may be able to find it online and view it on your smartphone or tablet.

flashlight-for-spa-inspectionBe sure to bring a flashlight, so you can get a good look underneath the spa, looking for any drips or leaks, although on cold days some condensation water can be normal. Look closely at the pipes, fittings, pumps, blower and other equipment to check for leaks and also to check for smooth operation. Pump and Blower motors aren’t quiet, but they shouldn’t be loud, or screeching, which indicates near failure (most spa pumps last about 7-8 years).

Look and Listen when inspecting a hot tub. Be sure to also inspect the spa cabinet for signs of wood rot or decay, which can literally fall apart during removal, transport or set-up at the new location. Spa cabinets can be replaced, but not without significant cost and effort. The spa cover should not be heavy, or waterlogged, and the foam panels inside should not be cracked. Most spa covers last about 5 years before needing to be replaced, at an average cost of $400.

Alternatively, you can hire a local spa service company to inspect the spa for you for about $150, which could be the best way to go. I’d recommend using a spa repair service, rather than a local spa store, who may use the opportunity to downgrade the spa in the hopes of selling you a new one instead.

Transport & Installation

This is often the biggest hurdle to buying a used spa; getting it to the new location. Empty spas can weigh 750 lbs, and are quite cumbersome to move. In California and other “spa happy” states, you can find companies that specialize in moving spas, for a price of around $400. Most spa stores and spa repair companies can offer this specialized service. If not, you can hire a tow company with a Jerr-Dan type truck, or rent a flatbed truck to transport the spa to the new location.spa-moving

But, transporting the spa is only half the job – you still have to get the spa on and off the truck, and move it through fence gates, or down hillsides or across rough terrain. Spa movers use oversized dollies, with large wheels and lots of straps to keep the spa from falling off the dolly. You could also use 4 burly guys to carry the spa by hand, but even so, that’s 200 lbs per person, which could be dangerous to consider.

Once you get the spa to the new location, there will likely be electrical upgrades needed. Spas require a dedicated 220V service, with a breaker of 50-60 amps, and a cut-off box located near the spa. An electrician should be hired to perform these tasks, at a cost of $400-$800, depending on how far the main circuit panel is from the spa location. It could cost more than that if the main panel is already maxed out, and there is not enough amperage available for the additional breaker.

Deep Cleaning before Use

When you get your new (used) hot tub situated and filled with water, before you use it – I recommend using a chemical like Jet Clean or Spa Purge to strip the pipes of any biofilm. You’ll also want to clean and condition the spa cover, spa cabinet and inside surfaces to remove any dirt or films, and replace the spa filter cartridge. See Gina’s post on Deep Cleaning a Hot tub, and then check out our other posts on spa and hot tub care – you’ll be an expert in no time!

 

Carolyn Mosby
Hot Tub Works

 

10 Spa and Hot Tub Energy Conservation Tips

December 21st, 2015 by

bullfrog-spas-heat-map-of-full-foam-spaSome spas are built for a warm climate, while other spas are specifically designed for use in cold weather areas. A spa or hot tub that is energy efficient can use half of the energy of one that is not.

Spa insulation is the main factor, but there are many other variables that influence the amount of electricity used by your spa or hot tub. Here’s a few ways to curb your spa’s appetite for energy.

 

ADD WIND BLOCKS

hickorydickorydecksWind sweeping across the surface sure feels nice, but it also pulls a lot of heat from the surface. If your spa is not protected from the winds, consider installing small walls or plants on the side(s) with the most wind. They are usually installed on two sides, to preserve a preferred view, and can also serve as a privacy screen. Custom build it to your specifications, or you can order retractable spa wind screens online.

CLOSE THE AIR JETS

close-the-spa-air-knobAfter using the spa, remember to close the knobs that allow air to be sucked into the jets. Cold air being introduced constantly will cool the water, requiring your heater and pump to work harder to replace the heat that is lost. Heat loss is minor when using the spa for 15 minutes or so, but if you leave them open for days and days, you may notice an increase in hot tub energy use. For me, it’s the last thing we do, but I don’t usually open all of the air jet knobs, so I just close the one off before putting the cover back on. Remember to close the air jets!

TURN OFF THE BLOWER

The air blower, if your spa is equipped with one, is a real energy hog, besides being noisy and also cooling down the water with cold air injection. If you can go without forced air in the hot tub, you will absolutely reduce a hot tub’s energy usage. And when your spa blower finally bites the dust (and they all do someday), consider not replacing it.

FIND THE PUMP RUN TIME SWEET SPOT

spa-timers-can-save-moneyModern spas are somewhat self regulating with certain programmable modes, but for older spas or hot tubs, your filter pump or spa pump should use a timer, or be programmed to run in 2 or 3 shifts of about 3 or 4 hours each. When the pump is running, the filter, heater and purifiers can also operate, so it’s important to run it long enough each day (every day) to maintain water quality. Program your pump to run 2-4 times during the day, paying close attention to water quality. Some spas are fine with 4 hours per day, but others need 8 hours per day of pump run time, to both maintain water quality and water temperature.

TIP: Remember that spa pumps (and all motors) use a lot of power (amperes) just to start, so starting and stopping too often will increase spa energy consumption.

TURN DOWN THE SPA HEATER:

Turn down the heater to 90° if you won’t be using the spa for a week. For 2 weeks or longer, set it lower, but keep the spa water well above freezing – we recommend no lower than 65 degrees, to maintain some heat in the event of a winter power outage.

Turning down the heat for just the weekend, or even a week, and it can cost more to re-heat the spa than it would’ve cost to just to maintain the heat. Even so, many weekly spa users (myself included), maintain a temperature of about 95°, and bump it up to 102° an hour before using the spa.

RUN YOUR SPA DURING OFF-PEAK HOURS:

Off peak pump/heater operation, according to Energy.gov, may save you money over time. Check with your local power provider for peak times in your area, and available Time of Use rates. Generally speaking, peak rates are during weekdays, from 9-5 pm, although it varies by region and season.

USE A BETTER OR BEST SPA COVER

Notice I didn’t say a Good spa cover, or the El Cheapo spa covers; go for the Better or even the Best spa cover, if you really want to save energy by reducing heat loss. Our lower tier spa covers are only suitable for warm southern climates. If you have any kind of winter – buy a hot tub cover that can really hold in the heat.

you-need-a-new-spa-cover-1It goes without saying that a good spa cover can save money, while a bad spa cover can waste money. Spa covers that are waterlogged lose over half of their R-value, or insulation value. Hot tub covers that are warped, torn, or broken will not fit properly around the edges and leak precious heat from the sides or along the center hinge. Replacing an old spa cover before you really need to – is a surefire way to save money on heating a hot tub.

TIGHTEN UP YOUR SPA COVER

spa-cover-wind-straps-smAdjust your spa cover straps if necessary so that there is a slight downward pull on the strap, as you click the clip into place. This helps to pull-down the spa cover to snug-up against the spa top edge. Loose spa cover straps allow heat to leak out and high winds to get under the spa cover. Spa strap clips can be replaced if broken, or if your spa straps are completely torn off, you can use our heavy-duty over-the-top spa cover wind straps. A less elegant, but also effective way is to use a sheet of 1/2″ plywood, to gently hold it down and reduce heat loss from a loose or ill-fitting spa cover.

USE A FLOATING SPA COVER

floating-spa-blanketA secondary floating spa cover can increase your overall R-value by up to a third. Floating spa blankets are 1/4″ closed cell foam, to keep heat trapped in the water, and reduce moisture beneath the spa cover. It also prevents chemical damage to a hot tub cover, by containing the chemicals in the water. Foam spa blankets work much better than solar blanket type, which is a heavy duty bubble wrap type material – but any secondary spa cover will help, even plastic kitchen wrap!

INCREASE CABINET INSULATION

For spas that didn’t come with a lot of insulation around the cabinet, energy efficiency can be increased by strategically adding insulation underneath and around the spa or hot tub. There are several ways to do this, but remember that your pumps still need adequate air ventilation and circulation to prevent overheating. Never cover air intake vents or reduce the size of the equipment bay.

Spray Foam: There are spray foam kits that you can use to cover pipes and the back of the spa shell. Be sure to use a spray foam that has a high R-value and that you apply it according to directions. For best results, remove all cabinet panels before applying foam. A full-foam treatment may be difficult, but an inch or two on the spa shell and covering exposed pipes (outside of the equipment area) is do-able.

owens-corning-fiberglassInside Cabinet: You can also use wall or attic insulation, in soft rolls or rigid panels, to line the inside of your spa cabinet panels. Reflective bubble wrap insulation, placed on the inside of cabinet panels, can help by reflecting heat inward, back towards the spa.

Outside Cabinet: Another method is to construct an enlarged cabinet around the existing cabinet and fill the space with insulation. Or described another way, affix rigid insulation panels to the outside of your cabinet panels, and soft insulation on the corners, then build another cabinet from wood paneling, on the outside of the new insulation. Cap it with a heavy board on top of the enlarged cabinet.

 

Carolyn Mosby
Hot Tub Works

 

Swim Spa or Hot Tub?

November 9th, 2015 by

michael-phelps-swim-spaSwim Spas are like a Limousine, stretched out 2-3x longer on one side, so that you can swim, row, stretch, train or recuperate.

When it comes time to replace your spa or hot tub, or even if it’s your first tub, you’ll at least take a glance at Swim Spas.

I’ve also considered Swim Spas during a recent spa replacement a few years ago, so the considerations are still fresh in my mind. I love the idea and we came close to buying a swim spa, especially when our grand kids thought it was the coolest thing ever!

Here’s some things to be aware of when thinking about a swim spa.

 

Swimming in a Swim Spa

phelps-swimmer-costumeAre you a real strong swimmer? If you have swimming medals on display, you’ll want to look on the upper end of the scale, or at the deluxe swim spa models. Swim spas are fine for a medium-speed crawl or breast stroke, or a strong kickboard workout, but if you are a serious swimmer, you’ll literally “hit the wall”, or be able to swim faster than many of the swim jet type of swim spas. Deluxe models, with larger pumps, paddle wheels and additional jets, are more suitable, if you want to swim as fast as in a regular pool.

Secondly, it’s different than swimming in a regular pool. It’s loud first of all, very loud from the pumps that are delivering hundreds of gallons per minute. It’s also very turbulent, as you might imagine, especially in the lower priced swim jet models. Turbulence makes it hard to keep yourself aligned; you have to work at keeping your body in the center of the flow. Paddle wheel models or propeller systems with large grates can produce greater volume over a larger surface area, greatly reducing turbulence and air volume.

swim-spa-tether-systemAn alternative to swimming against the current is to use a harness / belt, called a Tether System, and swim against the resistance of the Tether cord, instead of swimming against a current. In this way, you don’t need large swim jets and pumps at all, which reduces much of the cost of purchasing and maintaining a swim spa.

Swim Spa Walking is another popular form of exercise that can be done in a swim spa, either against the current, or using an optional underwater treadmill.

 

Hot Tub vs. Swim Spa – Maintenance

In terms of chemical, cleaning and covering a spa or hot tub, keep in mind that a swim spa holds around 2000 gallons of water, roughly 5x the size of your average spa.

That does not mean 5x the amount of maintenance however! The time spent cleaning and maintaining a swim spa is not much more than a regular spa.

swim-spa-cover-ingrondA swim spa uses a double-size and double-cost 4-panel type of swim spa cover. The additional swim jet pumps or swim current system will require maintenance at some point, and prices for these super-sized pump parts can be expensive.

I should also mention that your water and electrical consumption will also be more with a swim spa, as compared to a regular spa or hot tub.

In all, you will spend more on maintenance with a swim spa, probably twice as much as a regular spa.

 

Separate Hot Water Sections

swim-spa-separate-sectionsAll manufacturers of Swim Spas offer models that have a separate spa section. This is very useful if you want to heat up the water to 104°, and don’t want to heat the entire swim spa. Many models have a separate spa area with multi-jet captain’s chairs, but don’t have a wall to divide the swim and spa areas.

Maintaining two separate temperatures, hot in spa, cool in swim area, is a typically only available in the higher end models. Otherwise, they are both at the cooler swim temperature, and when you want to heat spa only, you can have it hot in under an hour, at the push of a button, (or turning a few valves).

 

Swim Spa Prices

swim-spa-at-homeSwim Spas generally start at the high end of spas, around $15,000. They do rise in cost with size and features however, and a top of the line swim spa installation can cost (hold onto your hat), over $40,000. However, most swim spa purchases are in the $25,000 range.

Swim Spas can also be built in-ground, or placed into a deck, using a pre-fab shell, vinyl pool kit, or gunite/plaster; traditional pool materials.

Swim Spa prices are generally about 3x the cost of a regular 8-person spa.

 

~ Swim Spas are a wonderful invention, and we came very close to owning one! Before you buy, do your research and physically try out at least one model (in the water), to be sure that it’s what you expect.

 

Carolyn Mosby
Hot Tub Works

 

 

 

Most Popular Hot Tub Chemicals

October 5th, 2015 by

top-ten-spa-chemicals

 

Going over sales spreadsheets is one of my primary jobs here at hottubworks. Sales trends are interesting to watch, and important to know – so we can meet seasonal demand.

Knowing the most popular hot tub chemicals can also be useful to the spa owner! Don’t get left behind – here’s the spa chemicals that your neighbors buy most frequently.

This isn’t just a unit sales contest, to be fair we also used velocity and frequency, to produce a more accurate list of the most popular spa chemicals – by category. “May I have the Envelope Please….”

 

aquachek-spa-test-stripsAquaChek 6-In-1 Test Strips: We have a lot of Test Strips to choose one, but the 6-in-1 is usually the top seller in the category, seconded by the TruTest digital test strips. The 6-in-1 will test for everything you need bromine/chlorine, and also Free Chlorine, which lets you know if there are high levels of bromamines or chloramines in the water. Aside from total, free and combined sanitizer – this strip also checks your water balance levels of calcium hardness, total alkalinity and pH, all on one test strip.

 

spa-frog-floaterSPA FROG Floating System: Nature2 or the other mineral sticks are popular, but for an all-in-one solution, you can’t beat the Spa Frog, which has a bromine cartridge and mineral cartridge that fit into a cute little floating dispenser. The bromine cartridge (yellow) has an adjustable openings so you can set the amount that is released, and the mineral cartridge natural filters the water as it passes through the mineral cartridge (green). With just a few pounds of MPS on hand, this may be all you need to keep your spa clean! 

 

brom-booster-twoHTW Brom Booster: This product is popular for the bromine spa or hot tub (which is about 60% of spa users, by my estimate). When you drain the hot tub, as you should do every 3-4 months, you lose the “bank” of bromide ions in the water. It takes weeks and weeks for enough bromine tablets to dissolve to produce enough bromides in the water, so that bromine can be created. Complicated, just add a capful of Brom Booster after draining the spa , or significant dilution, to “build the bromide bank” again.

 

leisure-time-spa-56Leisure Time Spa 56 Chlorinating Granules: 56% blend is pH neutral and more stable in hot water than other types of granular chlorine. Don’t ever use pool shock in your hot tub, it’s too strong and evaporates within hours. Spa 56 can be used for regular chlorination or weekly spa shocking, and is a great way to reactivate bromides (see above) in a bromine spa. Just a capful of chlorinating granules can bring levels up quick, or be used as an effective way to control algae and biofilm.

 

leisure-time-defenderLeisure Time Spa Defender: A blend of organic polymers that locks up minerals like calcium, phosphorous, sodium, which can cause cloudy water and scale – and scale is bad for spas. If you live in a hard water area (and nearly 50% of the country does, by my estimate), you want to control the minerals by using a sequestering agent like Spa Defender. Natural formula protects your filter, heater and beautiful spa surfaces, which is why it’s one of our 10 most popular hot tub chemicals!

 

rendevous-natural-clearRendezvous Natural Clear for Spas:
Natural Clear is an enzyme that removes scum lines and foam by digesting oils, lotions, make-up, and other oily gunk that we bring into our spas and hot tubs. Helps control biofilm development by attacking the outer layers that protect the colony. Just 1 oz every other week removes oils from the water, which protects your filter cartridge, and keeps your spa and spa water looking good. This product is a must for high-use hot tubs or spas with small-ish spa filters.

 

culator-spa-pakCuLator Metal & Stain Spa Pak:
This is the only product that actually removes metals from your spa or hot tub water. Other chemicals just lock-up the chemicals with strong bonds, but CuLator actually absorbs metals in the safe and non-toxic pouch. Drop the Spa Pak into your skimmer or filter, it attracts all heavy metals, like iron, copper, manganese, cobalt, lead and other stain-causing minerals.

 

spa-alkalinity-increaserHTW Spa Alkalinity Increaser:
Your water’s Alkalinity is what keeps the pH in check – not enough Alkalinity and the pH level will bounce around a lot. In most hot tubs and spas, pH tends to rise when used regularly. That’s because all the oils, lotions, dirt, dead skin and other unmentionables that we bring into the spa – tend to raise the pH level. Spa Owners lower the pH regularly; which also lowers the Alkalinity over time. Keep Alkalinity above 80 ppm.

 

htw-spa-ph-minusHTW Spa pH Minus: And here’s the other part of the equation, the reason the Alkalinity level tends to drop over time, is that pH minus, while lowering pH very effectively, also lowers Alkalinity somewhat. Each time you add a half capful of pH Down into the spa, the Alkalinity takes a little hit. What are you gonna do? You have to keep the pH in check, or everything else will quickly go out of whack. Use pH Minus as needed to keep pH in the 7.4-7.6 range, so that your sanitizer is most potent, and stains and scale can be prevented.

 

leisure-time-filter-cleanLTO Leisure Time Spa Filter Clean – Overnight Soak: To really get your spa filter cartridge clean, you have to soak it in a solution. A good, complete spray with the hose is still needed, but afterwards, soak your spa or hot tub filter cartridge in a solution of Spa Filter Clean. Double action formula removes greasy deposits as well as scale, dissolving and lifting them from the cartridge fabric. After an overnight soak, hose off and then allow it to dry fully, to kill any bacteria. This is why it’s good to have a spare spa filter cartridge.

 

 

Back to my spreadsheets! I’m sure you can find many of these in your spa chemical storage. I use most of these products above in my own spa, and can attest to their usefulness!

 

Carolyn Mosby
Hot Tub Works