Free Shipping on all Spa Covers and orders over $100 $10 OFF $50 or more! - Plus Top Ten Products Sale!
1-800-770-0292
Sunday - Saturday
7am - 7pm CST

Carolyn Mosby's Posts

Acrylic Spas vs. Rotomolded Spas

November 22nd, 2016 by

ACRYLIC-VS-ROTO-HOT-TUBS
In the old frontier days, all hot tubs were made of wood, then came fiberglass, and then Acrylic became the spa shell of choice. Acrylic spas are injection molded or blow molded into the spa shell, which is backed with many layers and set into a wood or composite material cabinet.

In the late 90’s, a few small manufacturers like Strong, Freeflow and DreamMaker began to produce spas with a radical new concept – rotational molding. Building a spa out of a single polymer plastic shell, reduces the cost and time of spa construction tremendously.

At first, major spa manufacturers poo-pooed the idea that John Q. Public wants to soak in a gray or brown plastic tub, but as sales and demand for the much less expensive hot tubs increased, they began to take notice.

Nowadays, most major players like Watkins, Cal Spas, Baja and Coleman are offering “Entry Level” rotomolded hot tubs, but still feature Acrylic models to offer a “Trade-up” product in their line of acrylic hot tubs. Sort of like a car dealer that sells both Chevrolet and Cadillac models.

ROTOMOLDED SPAS

rotomolded-hot-tubPROS: First of all, rotomold spas are 30-50% less expensive than similar sizes of acrylic spas. They are many rotomold models that are ‘plug and play’, and don’t require an electrician, just fill with water and plug it in. Finally, rotomolded hot tubs are extremely durable, and most have a lifetime spa shell warranty.

CONS: The appearance of the spa internal surface is not as beautiful as the lustrous colors and shine of acrylic hot tubs. The plug and play models don’t withstand very cold temperatures, and don’t have many jets, and often can’t run the spa heater at the same time as the spa jet pump.

ACRYLIC SPAS

acrylic-hot-tubPROS: That deep lustrous shine is a definite plus, you just can’t get that with a rotomolded tub. Wood panel cabinets are another nice feature of acrylic tubs. Acrylic hot tubs are often more full featured with many standard options, dozens of fancy jets, and large pumps, filters and heaters.

CONS: First of all, acrylic spas can cost $8-12K, or more, nearly twice the cost of rotomolded tubs. They are much heavier, bulkier and harder to move around easily. Most acrylic models require a full 230V electrical service, which usually involves an electrician.


 

At Hot Tub Works, we sell both Acrylic and Rotomolded Spas, to appeal to every budget. So, it comes down to what you want, a Chevy or a Cadillac? Major spa manufacturers agree, there seems to be room in this frontier town for both Acrylic and Rotomolded spas and hot tubs.

 

Carolyn Mosby
Hot Tub Works

 

Hot Tub Electrical Safety

October 3rd, 2016 by

hot-tub-catches-fire-in-coldstream

We’ve talked about hot tub safety before, in a more general sense, and today I want to speak directly about spa electrical hazards.

We all know that water and electricity don’t mix. Indeed, spa electric hazards can cause electrocution, or they can also cause fires (see above).

Proper Power Supply

electrical-symbol-by-ocalThe first thing for a spa to be safe is that it needs to have the proper power supply. Portable spas and hot tubs in the US run on either 120V or 240V. The second thing is that your GFCI breakers, outlets and spa pak gfci works properly. Test your GFCI’s monthly. Just push the Test and Reset buttons, to be sure they are working.

There are small hot tubs that are plug-n-play, 120V, they also need to be plugged into a GFCI circuit. This means that the breaker in the main house panel or electrical box, is a GFCI breaker, with the yellow test button, or the outlet itself is a GFCI outlet. Plugging it into a regular back patio outlet may not be safe.

For larger spas, 240V is required, often coming from a 50 amp breaker on the main circuit panel. In addition, an external cut-off box, located between the main panel and the hot tub, is often placed, but at least 5 feet from the water, to prevent touching it while in the hot tub water.

If your plug-in hot tub is tripping the breaker, you may need to upgrade the circuit amperage or even better, install a separate GFCI breaker and outlet, at least 5 feet from the spa. Small spas that plug into an outlet should always be plugged into a GFCI circuit, and never used with an extension cord.

If your 240V hot tub is tripping the breaker, you probably have a bad heater element, 9 times out of 10. Remove the heater from the circuit and see if the breaker holds steady, to verify.

Nearby Metal Objects

unsafe-hot-tubConsider metal objects that may be near your spa, within touching distance. If they are attached to something other than the spa, the possibility exists that they could become energized by something unseen, and make ground with a person in the hot tub who touches it. Inspect any metal objects near the hot tub to be sure there’s not nearby power source. It’s safest to just not have any touchable objects around the spa at all, especially metal. Unlike this picture here, how many electrical hazards do you see in the photo?

 

Nearby Power Sources

There should be no electrical outlets, outdoor lighting or other electrical appliances or supply within reach of the spa. Do not plug in your phone, and have it next to the spa. Same with small space heaters or fans propped up next to the spa. Keep all electrical products and power away from the hot tub. Use battery operated items instead.

Bonding & Grounding

These are two different things, bonding is a bare copper wire that connects the outside of the electrical equipment (pumps, heater, blower, ozonator), to prevent an electrical short in one item from energizing other parts of the spa. Grounding is a wire that accompanies all power wires leading to the electrical equipment (pump, heater, blower…), and connects to the green ground screw on the load. On the other end, the ground wire is connected to the ground bar in the breaker box.

Spa Pack Wiring

scary-spa-pak-wiringThe most common spa and hot tub electrical hazard is not being shocked while in the tub, it’s being shocked while under the tub! I have seen some scary wiring of spa packs in my day, and if something looks hazardous, it probably is! Wires cut by sharp door edges, rodent damage, bare terminals, insect damage, are just some of the things that can be dangerous. A bad ground or incorrect bonding can energize the entire control box in some cases. Proceed with caution, and call an electrician if your spa pack wiring is not right.

 

Spa Lighting

SPA-PARTS-LED-LIGHT-BULBSSpa lights are sealed units, that are self draining, and for most portable spas, there is little danger of electrocution from defective spa lights, which are usually low voltage 9-12 volts. However, if your spa light should leak, and it did not self drain, and your GFCI did not work properly, or if the spa light was wired incorrectly, yes – spa light hazards could exist. If it worries you, remove the light!

 


So that’s it for me today on electrical safety, take a few minutes to look over your spa or hot tub, and if anything looks unsafe – it probably is!

 

Carolyn Mosby
Hot Tub Works

 

16 Funny TV Ads Featuring Hot Tubs

September 12th, 2016 by

Hot Tubs are a favorite theme for advertisers, because of their appeal to the emotions. In this collection of 16 product ads featuring hot tubs, spas are portrayed as sexy, relaxing, awkward – or all of the above. Take a look, and share this post if you chuckled, even just a little bit.

 

 

Too Funny ~ Hot Tubs as popular culture! Hat Tip to Bullfrog Spas blog who first posted their Funniest Hot Tub Commercials on TV, and inspired this updated version.

 

Carolyn Mosby
Hot Tub Works

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? 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 near the pool surface is near 72°, and this gives wet divers a chill after their dives.

Unlike swimmers, who may only swim 1 event per day, divers compete in rounds of several dives. Competitive divers typically take a warm shower, followed by a hot tub soak and a toweling off with a tiny towel. (what’s up with that 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.

There is another recent diving pool complaint in the news, are you ready for this? That the entire indoor diving pool facility ‘smells of far..’ [rotten eggs]. That could be a water problem or chemical reaction, off-gassing some sort of sulfide.  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

 

Save

Save

Save

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