Free Shipping on all Spa Covers and orders over $100 Up to 30% Off Chemicals, Aromatherapy, and Accessories!
1-800-770-0292
Sunday - Saturday
7am - 7pm CST

Daniel Lara's Posts

Spa Steps and Hot Tub Handrails

May 23rd, 2016 by

smart-step-with-planters

The number one spa accessory has to be a spa cover, but after that, the most important spa and hot tub accessories are spa steps and hand rails.

Like a spa cover, steps and handrails are an important safety feature for any spa owner. It’s awkward and unsafe to enter or exit a hot tub without assistance from spa steps and handrails.

Today’s post then, is a buyer’s guide for spa steps and handrails.

Spa and Hot Tub Steps

Spa and hot tub steps have snap-together, no-tools required assembly. We offer many different spa step styles, the main difference is in height, and weight capacity. Added spa step features include internal storage, non-skid surfaces, and built-in or available hand rails.

Dura Step II

  • Large slip resistant treadsdura-step-II
  • Locks together in seconds, no tools
  • Strong, stable, & attractive
  • Reversible tread fits round or square spas
  • Supports up to 700 lbs
  • Measures 15″ tall x 27″ wide x 26″ deep
  • 2 colors, Grey and Redwood

 

Handi Step

  • Snaps together, no hardware or tools neededhandi-step-2
  • Fits both straight and curved spas
  • Supports up to 300lbs
  • Extremely durable blow molded plastic
  • Multi-purpose; garage, home and camping
  • Dimensions per step: 29″ wide x 23″ deep x 14″ tall
  • Available in 12 colors

 

Signature Step

  • Dual handrails and 3 Stepssignature-spa-step-3
  • Drink holder/towel bar
  • Strong, sturdy construction
  • Easy, quick assembly
  • 36″W X 24″H X 38″D
  • Available in 5 colors
  • Our tallest spa step

 

Smart Step

  • Slip-resistant rubber tread is soft on feetsmart-step-II
  • Locks together in seconds with no tools
  • Smooth dark colors resist dirt and stains
  • Reversible top tread fits round or square spas
  • Holds up to 700 lbs
  • 36″W x 16-1/4″H x 28″D
  • Available in Redwood or Coastal Grey

 

Step n Stow

  • 3 Styles, Rectangular, Cake or Roundedstep-and-stow-cake
  • Quick, easy assembly with no tools
  • Steps have hidden, lockable storage area
  • 100 % impregnated color
  • Removable drain plug
  • Planters available (sold separately)
  • 5 cool colors available

 

Universal Spa Step

  • universal-spa-stepReversible top step fits round or square tubs
  • Maintenance free, heavy thermoplastic
  • Attractive styling complements your spa decor
  • UV Treated for long lasting sun protection
  • Anti-slip tread for added safety
  • Supports over 800 lbs.
  • 16″H x 32″W x 24″D
  • Grey, Java or Redwood colors

 

 

Spa and Hot Tub Hand Rails

Spa and hot tub rails are important to help make a safe transition from the spa to the spa step. Hand rails either screw to the supports on your spa cabinet, or are secured by a flat plate that slides under the spa.

 

Spa Handrail

spa-side-handrails-animGet a grip with the Spa Side Handrail - a durable, zinc-plated & powder coated 2-piece design with a flat steel plate that slips under your spa cabinet (6 1/2″). No hardware or assembly are required, and no drilling into your spa cabinet.

The Spa Handrail can also be used as an umbrella stand for our spa umbrella. Fits on spas up to 40″ in height from the ground. Handrail is 57″ tall, overall. Includes LED light in handle for visibility and added beauty.

 

 

Safe-T-Railcovermate-safe-t-rail

The Safe-T-Rail by Covermate is for free-standing spas and makes spa entry and exit safe and easy. Features rugged construction, 5 minute installation. Black powder coated aluminum or polished stainless steel finish available.

Ultra-sturdy, rust-free construction has two composite mounting brackets and 16 SS screws. 49″ tall, Fits all above ground spas, no matter the shape or height. Classic figure 4 design with long lasting rubber grip.

 

 

SmartRail Spa Railingsmartrail-spa-railing

The SmartRail features a rotating bracket that works on virtually any spa configuration, and attaches to freestanding as well as spas with a wrap around deck.

Rust-proof powder coated aluminum, and a single corrosion-free bracket with 12 screws. Foam hand grip and ergonomic figure-4 design make the Smart Rail spa handrail a feature packed winner!

 

 

Happy Hot Tubbin’

Daniel Lara
Hot Tub Works

 

Replacing a Spa Pack

April 18th, 2016 by

balboa-vs-spa-pack-newToday we cover, in detail – how to replace your spa or hot tub “Spa Pack”, the combination Controller, Heater and Pump system that connects to the Top Side panel and controls all of the functions for filtering, heating, lighting and purifying your spa; automatically.

The controller and heater of a Spa Pack (without the pump) can be installed separately; but if you want a complete upgrade, install the Balboa VS Spa Pack with 1 or 2 pumps, which will include the new digital Topside Panel, LED spa light and all new wiring. Blower is optional.

 

REMOVING THE OLD SPA PACK

1. DRAIN THE SPA

Unless you have valving on either side of your existing spa pack, you’ll need to have the water removed to replace your spa pack.

2. SHUT OFF ALL POWER

Disconnect completely at the circuit breaker in the panel or breaker box, and also at any secondary cut-off boxes that may be located nearby the spa or hot tub. Lock the boxes or place tape over the breaker to keep anyone from turning it on again, while you are working. Use a voltmeter to be sure that power is completely Off.

3. UN-PLUG THE PACK

Start by disconnecting the incoming electrical wiring (checking first with a voltmeter to be sure power is Off). Remove the front panel and simply unscrew the nuts or disconnect the wiring from the main terminal block, inside your existing spa pak control.

Next you can remove the accessory items that are plugged into the spa pack. Pump(s), blower, lights, panel, ozone, stereo, sensors. Fold over a piece of masking tape on each wire and write the port code, or write a color – code legend on paper, so you remember which wire goes where.

Look for a bare copper bonding wire that connects to the bar outside the control box. Remove or clip off with wire cutters.

4. UN-PLUMB THE PACK

Disconnect the plumbing unions that connect in and out of the heater, and the spa pack should slide out, mounted on a small skid made of plastic or plywood. Disconnect the unions on the pool pump or blower if necessary.

Inspect the floor beneath the old spa pack for rots and damage which is not uncommon, if the floor is not bare concrete, but a frame.Sweep up around the area, removing any dust or leaves, or excessive water loss.

 

INSTALLING THE NEW SPA PACK

1. ASSEMBLE THE PAK

balboa-spa-pack-partsThere’s some minor assembly required to connect the controller to the pump, via the double-90 fitting arrangement. The heater connection is made with the white gasket and the pump union is sealed up with the black gasket. Be sure that the o-ring and gasket is sitting in place properly and don’t overtighten the union nut on the pump or the split nut union on the heater.

2. PLUMB THE PACK

Connecting the plumbing in and out should be pretty fast, just position the new spa pack in place so that the plumbing lines up, the connection into the heater and the connection out of the pump.

plumbing-a-balboa-vs-spa-packFor the suction line, bringing water into the heater and then the pump, tighten the union together, using the old union, or cutting the pipe and gluing into the new split nut union.

For the return line, coming out of the top of the pump, this is a standard 2″ threaded pvc fitting or union, often a 90° fitting is used. Put Teflon tape or RTV silicone (or both) on the threads before hand tightening, very snug, and lined up with the pipe.

Use the same fitting from the old pump, if possible. If you cannot loosen the fitting in the old pump by hand, use very large channel lock type pliers to remove, or use a strap wrench. Or you can gently tap the ridges counter clockwise, with a small screwdriver and hammer.

Once your plumbing is connected, check that the skid is level using a small carpenter’s level. Shim the pack if necessary, with steel or plastic, and secure it the floor by running a  screw through the corners of the mounting base, into a wood frame or directly into the concrete.

3. WIRING THE PACK

All wiring is done with the power still Off. Double check with a voltmeter to be certain that power has not been mistakenly turned back on again while your plumbed the new spa pack in place.

Open the front cover of the Spa Control by loosening the top two cover screws, the bottom of the panel is hinged, swing the door down and open from the top.  On the inside of the panel door or cover you will see the wiring diagram for the receptacles, switches and components. Main power wires enter through the upper left side access hole, below which is the grounding and bonding bar on the left side, outside the cabinet.

balboa-vs-control-panel-wiring

New power cords are included for the various components, it’s best to replace the cords rather than use the old ones, even if they look intact. Plug in the cord to all the electrical loads like secondary pumps, blower, ozonator, lights, topside panel and the other end into the labeled slot on the motherboard. For single pump spas, or twin spas without a blower, the VS501 circuit board below is used.

balboa-vs-spa-pack-wiring-diagram

Wire the panel by bringing the wires inside on the upper left and connecting the power and the ground wires. Pumps, blowers and ozonators should also be bonded in accordance with your local codes. This is essentially connecting any metal component within 5 ft of the spa to the bonding grid or buss bar. Make sure that ground connections are solid. Torque to 27-30 lbs, which is pretty tight!

TEST DRIVING YOUR NEW SPA PACK

balboa-VS-spa-pak-installation-smFill the spa to normal level and check underneath the new spa pak for any leakage around the new plumbing connections. Turn on power to the spa pak and follow the quick start guide included with your  spa controller.

That’s it; 1001 words about how to replace your spa pack. We’ve just got a truckload of new Balboa spa packs and spa controllers in, and can have a new one shipped to you this week for the swap!

If you have any questions about replacing your old worn out spa controller pump and heater with a brand spanking new spa pack, you can order online, or give us a call to ask any questions about ordering or installing.

 

Happy Hot Tubbin’

Daniel Lara
Hot Tub Works

 

 

 

Hot Tub Filter Leak Repair

March 23rd, 2016 by

leaking-spa-and-hot-tub-filtersHot Tub filters need some repair from time to time, besides replacing the cartridge. Today’s post is about common spa hot tub filter leaks that you can do yourself.

Common hot tub filter leaks can include cracked filter housings, leaking o-rings or gaskets, or pipe fittings that have shrunken or otherwise lost their seal where the pipes connect.

There are essentially three types of spa cartridge filters; the Skim filter, the Inline filter and the Top Load filter…

 

Skimmer Filter Leaks

waterway-skim-filter-at-htwThe usual problem with a skimmer filter is leaking around the filter housing. If the spa skimmer is leaking where the skimmer connects to the backside of the spa shell, you can seal it up with silicone or replace the square gasket that fits between the skim-filter and the spa shell. In either case, lower the water level below the skimmer by draining. A new spa skimmer gasket will be the best leak repair option, just remove the front cover plate to access the screws. Use a large #3 Phillips head to get the screws really tight, without damaging the heads.

Skimmer filters that have cracks in the filter housing or cartridge canister have a different problem. This is usually caused by freeze damage, from water freezing inside of the hot tub filter housing. Small cracks on skim-filters can be successfully repaired with a two-part epoxy sealant, or heavy duty silicone – if the crack is small enough. If the entire bottom of the filter canister cracked, it may be wise to repair the entire skim filter assembly, or at least the canister portion of the skim-filter.

Skimmer filters for spas also have a few other parts to keep them in working order. Over time you may need to replace the skimmer basket or weir (the flapper door thingy). Some spa skimmers have a floating weir, or may have small clips and seals or adapters that need to be in place for proper operation.

boss-siliconeLeaking Pipes? The piece that connects to the bottom of your skimmer filter may be a threaded fitting (aka spigot or MPT), or it may be smooth pipe (aka socket or slip). If either begin to leak water, you can repair it two ways. First, lower the spa water to a point below the skimmer bottom. If you can access the inside of the skimmer with a small tube of high temp silicone, you can place a thick bead on the inside, where the fitting connects to the port. If you can’t reach it, you can try sealing the outside of the fitting, while running the pump, to suck the sealant into the void. Not always a permanent repair however.

 

Inline Filter Leaks

inline-spa-filters-at-htwAn inline filter is one that is not a combination skim-filter, but a separate filter assembly that is plumbed ‘in-line’, or attached to the pipe. In some cases, the inline spa filter is plumbed in place before the pump, although in most cases it is connected after the pump (and before the heater).

For a spa filter that is attached before the pump, cracks or loose filter parts can cause the pump to pull air into the system. When installed after the pump, the filter housing is under pressure and any crack or loose parts (like the lock-ring) will cause the pressurized filter body to leak water when the pump is on. In either case, the filter will leak water while the pump is off, since it’s installed below the water level.

A leaking spa filter housing (aka canister or body) cannot usually be successfully repaired for pressurized spa filters. The best repair is to replace the filter housing body or replace the entire filter assembly, which includes a new cartridge. A new complete spa filter will also include a new top assembly and bypass valve, to allow water to bypass the filter when the pump is running on high speed.

Small cracks on a hot tub filter housing that is installed before the pump (under suction) may be successfully repaired with an effective two-part resin-hardener type of epoxy sealant. For large cracks however, the best repair is to replace the spa filter housing or canister, or the complete filter.

spa-and-hot-tub-lubeMany times however, an inline spa filter may not be cracked, but leaks where the filter body attaches to the filter lid, via the round lock ring. A cracked lock-ring can cause this problem, as can a loose lock ring. Before you go hammering on the lock ring however, they are designed to require only hand-tightening. Over-tightening the spa filter lock ring can cause it to crack, so proceed carefully. In most cases, replacing the filter canister o-ring, and lubricating it with a proper o-ring lube will solve this problem.

 

Top Load Filter Leaks

waterway-top-load-spa-filterTop Load filters are accessed while in the spa, or standing outside the spa – no need to climb into the equipment bay to check the filter, although they can also be installed underneath, inside the cabinet. Top Load filters have the plumbing connections at the bottom of the filter housing or body, while the inline filters (shown above) have the pipe or hose connecting through the lid, at the top of the filter assembly.

If a Top Load filter is leaking from the lid, a new o-ring is the usual solution, properly lubed with a lubricant specifically designed for o-rings. Of course be sure that the lid is tight and threaded on correctly, but be careful not to over-tighten the lid.

If your spa filter canister is cracked and leaking water, the best repair is to replace the canister / housing with new. For spa filters that are installed before the pump, small cracks might be successfully repaired with a strong epoxy repair product, but for pressure filters, I would recommend replacing the filter body, or the entire filter assembly.

Hot tub filters leak also at the drain plug or air bleeder knob, if loose or without thread sealant like Teflon tape. Some filter plugs also have a tiny rubber gasket or o-ring that will need replacement after many years.

For spa filter pipe leaks, determine if you have threaded fittings or the more common slip fittings, connecting at the bottom inlet/outlet ports. If a slip (glued) fitting is leaking, you’ll need to replace the filter housing (or complete spa filter). For threaded fittings, screwed into the inlet/outlet port, you can cut the pipe and remove the fitting with large pliers. Replace with new, first smearing hi-temp sealant, followed by several wraps of Teflon tape (in a clockwise direction). Reconnect the pipes with a coupling or union.

spa-unionsIf the union is leaking, unions on either side of the filter inlet/outlet – first try to tighten the union nut gently to seal up the leak. Use large channel type pliers if needed, if hand tightening alone doesn’t seal up a leaking union. If pliers won’t work, close the spa valves and open the union (water will spill), and replace the internal o-ring with lube.

 

Happy Hot Tubbin’

Daniel Lara
Hot Tub Works

 

How to Read a Hot Tub Owner’s Manual

February 22nd, 2016 by

old-hot-tub-owners-manual

Unlike old spa owner’s manuals, the modern spa owner’s manual is a real piece of work. Some of the better ones are over 50 pages, with excellent color graphics, tables and step by step photo illustrations.

Early hot tub manuals from the 70′s and 80′s were laughably lackluster, and probably that’s why you can’t find them online. In the days before desktop publishing, you know.

A hot tub owner’s manual is a great resource for the spa or tub owner. But in talking to spa owners over the years, most of them don’t know where they put their Owner’s Manual, or had not thought to look at it for answers.

 

 INSTALLATION

Always the first section, after the obligatory precautionary statements, are an abundance of tips about how to choose a proper location for the spa, and other considerations like overhead protection, drainage around the spa, access for service, and location of power and water. Some useful gems about spa installation that you can find in your owner’s manual include:

  • A 4-6 inch poured concrete slab of concrete with rebar or mesh on compacted and level soil
  • For easier draining of the spa, and for flood protection, locate your spa in an elevated area.
  • Electrical Requirements: 230V, 50-60 A, 4-wire, GFI protected and grounded dedicated circuit with external cut-off box.
  • Bonding Requirements: Bonding wire bare #8 copper wire to spa, and grid or nearby metal fixtures, per local code.
  • Set-Up: Some general tightening or parts installation before fill-up and start-up.

OPERATION

Operation of the Spa, knowing how it all works. This section has grown large now that spas are so full-featured, with lots of equipment and so many jets.  Fortunately, owner’s manuals are becoming very visual, with large clear photos, flow charts and even infographics!

  • Understanding the User Interface: aka the Topside Control. How to program the filter and heater and run different operational modes.
  • Diagnostics: Status Codes and Error Codes. Nicer models also have low/high Chemical Alerts and Service Reminders.
  • How to control different banks of spa jets, or water falls and air blowers or air intake valves.
  • How to work everything else: Spa lighting, sound system, ozonator, sanitizer system.

MAINTENANCE

By this point in the manual most people naturally start to glaze over. I recommend coming back to it in a day or two with fresh eyes ~ because your spa maintenance is what you really need to learn fast – because it begins now! Maintenance items can include maintaining the surfaces, equipment, spa cover and also the water.

TROUBLESHOOTING

In general, most troubleshooting sections for spas and hot tubs are a bit thin, but complete enough for the average spa owner to check all the basic stuff, without getting in over their head. Most spa manufacturers would prefer that spas are serviced by trained mechanics, but will help you over the phone or by email if you try all of their suggestions (twice!) before calling.

  • Equipment Problem/Cause/Remedy tables
  • Flow Charts with Yes/No paths
  • Low water / No water flow from Spa Jets
  • Spa does not heat properly
  • Spa water is not clean

 

solana-owners-manual-coverSo you see – spa and hot tub owners manuals can be an invaluable resource to the spa owner. If you are looking for your old owner’s manual, and your spa is older than the 90′s – it is probably hard to find.

We have a huge list of links to spa owners manuals available, on a blog post we did last year, and updated – just now!

 

Happy Hot Tubbin’

Daniel Lara
Hot Tub Works

 

Hot Tub Jets Not Working?

February 15th, 2016 by

rotating-spa-jets

It’s a common spa question that we get asked all the time. One day you’ll get in the spa and notice the hot tub jets don’t feel as strong as usual.

It’s almost always an easy fix, so don’t worry that you have major problems, you probably don’t. There should be a simple reason that the jets don’t have much ‘oomph’ lately.

Here’s the step by step process that we use in our call center to guide a spa or hot tub owner through a Hot Tub Jets Not Working issue.

 

 

is the pump working right?

spa-and-hot-tub-pumpThis is the important first question, but it’s really many questions. Like, is the pump “Air-Locked”? Which can occur if you just drained the hot tub. Some systems need to “burp” out the air in the pipes in front of the pump, usually by loosening the union nut or pump drain plug, to allow air to escape.

Some hot tubs have two pumps, a circulation pump for filtration, and another jet booster pump. Or, many hot tubs have a single, two-speed pump that accomplishes both functions. So another question is, is the Jet pump working, or is the pump’s High Speed working?

If the jets seem to have less than the normal volume of water coming through, be sure that the pump is turning on like normal. Digital spas typically have to push the display to enter the Jet Mode. Older spa controls use an air button to activate the jet pump. The air switch button and the air hose can fail or lose effectiveness over time.

 

Dirty Spa Filter?

filter-cartridge-for-spasA dirty spa filter can slow water flow down noticeably, but not completely. Your spa heater won’t work if your water flow rate is very low, so if your heater is working, chances are your filter is pretty clean. A dirty spa filter can allow small bits of debris to pass through. Replace your spa filters every 12-18 months for best results.

 

Clogged Drain Cover?

spa-drain-cover-twoThe drain covers that are located in the foot well area of a spa or hot tub have very powerful suction, and if something like a napkin, plastic wrap, cup or t-shirt comes close it will block the water flow. Check that your drain covers are not covered with something blocking the water flow.

 

Low Water Level in Spa?

spa-skimmer-levelIf your spa skimmer is drawing in air, or sucking air – this will drastically affect water flow, and also shut off the spa heater. Is the Water Level OK in the spa? You will need to add some replacement water every so often, to replace water lost to evaporation and drag-off. Keeping your spa cover straps clipped helps reduce evaporation further by pulling the cover tight against the spa.

 

Air Leak in Front of Pump?

spa-pump-union-and-drain-plugUsually it’s the pump union in front of the pump that is loose, or the o-ring inside is out of position. But it could be a valve or any connection on the pipe that is in front of the pump, or the pipe that brings water into the pump. If anything is loose or cracked in front of the pump, the pump will suck in air. The point which is leaking air when the pump is On, will also leak water when the pump if Off. With the cabinet door open, shut off the pump and look for any spray or drips on the pipe coming into the pump.

 

Clogged Pump Impeller?

spa-pump-impellerFor most hot tubs with a good spa cover, the tub stays pretty clean. But if your spa was left uncovered and took on leafy or seedy debris, it could clog the pump impeller. The impeller is a closed vane type and for many portable spas, there is no pump strainer basket to catch debris.

To check your impeller, shut off power and close valves on both sides of the pump. Remove pump unions (a gallon or two of water will spill), and turn pump to look inside of the pump impeller housing. If it is clogged, you will usually see some debris in the center eye of the impeller.

To proceed further for cleaning, remove the screws or bolts holding the impeller housing cover in place to expose the impeller. Use flexible wire or plastic to ream out the impeller vanes, to remove the clogging material. Re-secure the impeller housing cover, tighten the pump unions and open the valves.

 

Is the Jet Adjustable?

spa-jetMany jets are adjustable at the nozzle or by rotating the outer ring, and many can be turned almost off, which increases the flow to the other jets nearby. You may find it easier to manipulate the jet adjustment while the pump is off, but should not be necessary. Try turning the jet nozzle left or right, or turn the jet outer ring or ‘scalloped bezel’.

 

Is the Jet Clogged?

Spa Jet InternalSpa Jets can also become clogged, but it doesn’t happen very often. When it does, it’s usually a broken part of a part that has lodged itself in such a way that it blocks part of the water flow. In some cases, spa jets can become clogged from clumps of calcium, or debris that has pushed through the filter. For many spa jets, the internal jet assembly can be removed (unthreaded) from the jet body, for inspection. Inground spas can use a wire or thin rod to ream out the small orifices, when the jet is not easily removable.

 

Are the valves all open?

open-spa-valvesFor most spa and hot tub systems, there are two diverter valves, on either side of the pump. These can be closed for equipment service, without draining the entire spa. Sometimes, these valves will vibrate into a closed position, especially slice valves used on many spas. Check that the valves inside the cabinet are open.

Another type of valve is used on some spas to operate different banks of jets, or sets of spa jets. Usually a large knob or dial will allow a spa user to open and close jets while seated inside of the spa. Some hot tubs or inground spas may require a valve adjustment outside of the spa.

On inground spas, there is often no valve or diverters to adjust individual spa jets, but you can often adjust the jets themselves or turn individual jets on and off.

Air valves will add volume to the water, and are often surface knobs that can be turned to open or close the air intake line. Open them to see if volume increases sufficiently. Air lines should be closed after use, so you don’t bring a continuous stream of cool water into the spa, which will make your heater work harder.

 

 

Happy Hot Tubbin’

Daniel Lara
Hot Tub Works

 

 

 

Saltwater Hot Tub – Bromine or Chlorine

January 18th, 2016 by

saltwater-hot-tubs Before I write a post, I survey the ‘information landscape’ with a few keyword searches, to see what’s been written about the topic. There’s a lot of misinformation out there about saltwater hot tubs. Sounds very familiar, I heard the same discussions ten years ago about swimming pool salt water systems.

It smells like fear – fear of change, fear of losing bromine tablet sales, fear of the unknown. What really happens is that when a saltwater bromine or chlorine generator is installed, you won’t need to buy, store, transport or handle bromine tablets anymore.

You’ll still need other spa chemicals, because you still have to balance the pH, alkalinity and calcium hardness levels. You may still need to use clarifiers, enzymes or foam out. And, you’ll still need to test the water regularly, and clean and replace your spa filters. In short, you’ll still do everything you do now, with exception to adding bromine tablets or oxidizer to the hot tub.

Saltwater systems for hot tubs are not a miracle product, but it does have a few benefits over sanitizing with bromine tablets or bromides/oxidizer or chlorine.

  • Softer water due salts; sodium chloride (for chlorine) or sodium bromide (for bromine).
  • Fewer peaks and valleys of sanitation. With other methods, levels are less consistent.
  • No worry about checking and adding tablets or shock to reactivate bromine.

SOFTER SPA WATER

Water softness or hardness is in direct relation of how much calcium is in the water, or the calcium hardness measurement of the water. For spas and hot tubs, low calcium from soft water is not a good thing, but that’s not what I mean when I say that saltwater hot tubs have softer water.

What I really mean is that the water feels softer on your skin, it feels almost silky, slick, or oily. This is because of the salts in the water, similar to how adding bath salts or spa crystals to your spa or bath water makes the water feel more … luxurious? It’s also less drying to the skin, as opposed to using tablets or shock oxidizer.

FEWER PEAKS AND VALLEYS

peaks-and-valleysA salt chlorine or salt bromine system can maintain a very consistent level of sanitizer in the water, with digital controls to program an exact level of chlorine or bromine. When using bromine tablets, it’s harder to control the dissolution rate of the tablet. When the floater or brominator is first filled, more bromine will be released than when the tablets are almost gone. To control this problem, you will need to turn down the brominator dial (or the floater holes), and as the tablets dissolve, open it up more.

For bromine spas that don’t use tablets but use a shock (MPS or Dichlor) to activate bromide ions, turning them into bromine, the problem is even more pronounced. Immediately after adding the oxidizer, the bromine level can shoot up very high (peak), and then slowly drop back down to a low level (valley).

LESS WORRY

With a saltwater hot tub system, bromine or chlorine production is steady and controlled, and you don’t have worry about adding more sanitizer at the exact moment it runs out, or catching it before it runs out, or drops to near zero levels. However, keep in mind that inline saltwater chlorinators or saltwater brominators only make chlorine or bromine when the pump is running. The Saltron Mini and other drop-in types of salt cells are an exception to this, since they are not plumbed inline, but hang over the edge of the spa or hot tub. But if your spa pump is running daily, any type of salt system can create enough chlorine needed for daily disinfection.

A lot of people don’t know that a saltwater hot tub can be either bromine or chlorine. Add sodium chloride NaCl, regular table salt, and your salt cell will create chlorine. Add sodium bromide salts however, and your saltwater hot tub will be a bromine hot tub. Bromine is more stable than chlorine in high temperatures and in varying pH levels, and is considered a better sanitizer for hot tubs.

Hot Tub Salt Systems are not a miracle productSalt systems for spas allow you to make your own ‘locally sourced and organic’ chlorine or bromine, on-site. But that’s all it does – replacing bromine tablets or other means of sanitation. Not a miracle product – it won’t reduce spa maintenance by too much, but it does have at least three clear benefits over traditional methods.

 

Happy Hot Tubbin’

Daniel Lara
Hot Tub Works

 

Hot Tub Covers 6 Ways

December 14th, 2015 by

worlds-thickest-spa-coverA spa cover cap is one of the most important spa accessories you can buy, and so multi-purpose!

Spa tops not only insulate the spa, keeping the water hot, but they also make the spa safer for kids and animals. In addition, your spa cover keeps the spa clean, blocking out dust, debris and rain water. It also keeps out UV rays which can damage a shiny spa surface and affect water chemistry.

Indeed, your spa cover cap is a very important purchase. That’s why we have so many to choose from! Six different spa cover models, to fit every budget. Spa covers 6 ways!

 

ECONOMY

spa-cover-lt-blueOur Economy spa cover should really be called the indoor spa cover, because it’s not as outdoor-friendly as the other covers below. This is because it uses 1.0lb density foam, and is 4″ thick in the center (2″ at the edges). If outside temperatures dip into the 40′s, this spa cover can have trouble retaining the heat efficiently. It can also be more susceptible to damage from animals, tree branches, high winds, heavy snow, hazards that don’t affect indoor spa covers. On the other hand, it’s the lightest spa cover available!

 

STANDARD

spa-cover-blueOur Standard Spa Cover is great for moderate climates, or those areas that stay semi-warm all year around, or those hot tubs in the deep south. The Standard spa cover has all of the features used in the Economy, with the only difference being that the Foam density used is 1.5lb, 50% more dense than the 1.0lb Foam. The extra density increases the R-value of the cover, making it more efficient, and it also gives the Foam panels more strength and durability.

 

DELUXE

spa-cover-brownThe Deluxe Hot Tub Cover is good for areas that see occasional snow, or near freezing temperatures during winter. With a Full 2.0lb Foam density, your spa cover locks more heat and gives extra resistance against accidental damage to the Foam cores. If you opt for the thinner panels, with a 4″ to 2″ taper, take the option for double wrapping the Foam Cores, to provide more protection against water absorption, even though Deluxe hot tub covers have a five year warranty, not pro-rated, that even covers water absorption.

 

ENERGY SAVER

spa-cover-pinkSaving energy is the primary job of a spa cover, and the Energy Saver Spa Cover does it more effectively with a Continuous Heat Seal™ that prevents heat from escaping along the center hinge, between panels. In addition, the 1.5lb Foam panels are upsized to 5″ in the middle, tapering to 3″ at the edges. This amps up the R-value from 13 (Standard Cover), all the way up to 20 – making the Energy Saver suitable for mild winter areas of the country.

 

ULTRA

spa-cover-whiteThe Ultra Spa Cover is out most popular model, coming in just under $400, it has an attractive price point, and is loaded with features. Made for snowy weather, or mountain cabins, the 1.5lb Foam Panels are the thickest available, with a 6″ thickness in the center, tapering to 4″ on the edges. This boosts the R-value of the Ultra cover all the way to 24, with the included Continuous Heat Seal™ and the thickest possible Foam available.

 

THE WORKS

spa-cover-redFinally, we have The Works – which includes everything from the Ultra, but it uses 2lb Density Foam, with a 6″ to 4″ taper. All Options are included with “The Works”, which is why we call it that (Like a Pizza!). Includes the Continuous Heat Seal, Double Wrapped Foam Cores, and heavy duty wind straps, giving this cover an R-value of 30! For those that want the very best spa cover, the most durable and energy efficient available, just ask for “the Works!”.

 

spa-cover-colors-2Spa Covers Six Ways, something for everyone, from $243 to $499. All covers, including the Economy spa top, is made with the finest materials and workmanship, using 30 oz marine grade vinyl, super strong four layer hinge and 20 gauge steel reinforcement channel. Commercial grade zippers with nylon scrim is quadruple (4x!) stitched with Dacron thread at 37 different stress points! And of course, you can order a spa cover in nearly any color you want!

 

 

Happy Hot Tubbin’

Daniel Lara
Hot Tub Works

 

 

How to Replace a Spa Heater

November 2nd, 2015 by

spa-hot-tub-careYour Hot Tub or Spa will at some point have heating problems. There are two types of spa heater problems, not heating enough and not heating at all.

If your spa heater is not heating enough, but has lost some percentage of it’s oomph, it’s likely not a heater problem, but a water flow problem from a dirty filter or partially closed valves or clogged pipe or pump. It could be heat loss from your spa cover or around the spa. Some smaller spas may have trouble just keeping up, during very cold outside temperatures.

If your spa heater is not heating at all, but there are no error codes or tripped circuit breakers or GFCI outlets, or other faulty components, it’s likely that the heater element has failed. Over time, even coated hot tub elements will succumb to the erosive effects of moving water, scale build-up and galvanic corrosion. After 8-10 years, most spa heater elements will one day stop working.

Testing Spa Heater Elements

electric-test-meterUsing any handheld electric meter, you can test your spa heater element to determine if water has leaked through tiny fissures in the carbonized shell. With all spa power turned Off at the circuit breaker, first test for any incoming voltage, with the meter set to VAC 250 or greater. Then you’ll set your test meter to the Ohms scale, 2K or greater.

RESISTANCE TEST: Place your meter leads onto the power leads on the heater body, or the heater element terminals, where the wires connect. You should see 0 volts, and if so, switch your meter to Ohms Ω (2000+) to measure resistance. A good spa heater element, up to 5.5 Kw (5500 watts) should have around 10 Ohms of resistance, or in the range of 8-12 on your meter. Larger spa heater elements of 11 Kw, are generally in the 20-24 Ohm range.  If your spa heater element tested for resistance has zero Ohms, -or- goes off the chart to infinite ∞, then the heater element or the entire spa heater needs replacement.

TEST FOR SHORT CIRCUIT: For this test you’ll have to remove the heater from the Spa Pak, to get your meter lead directly onto the heater element. Again with power completely Off, first test for any incoming power by setting your meter onto VAC 250. If no voltage is found, switch the meter to Ohms to test for a short circuit in the heater element. With one meter lead on one of the heater terminals, or element bulkhead nuts, touch the other lead to the surface of the heater element. Your meter should peg to infinite ∞, which is good. If you get an actual lower reading, the element is bad.

 

Replace the Heater Element or Replace the Heater Assembly?

There are two ways to replace a spa heater, you can replace the internal immersion element only, or replace the entire spa heater assembly, which includes the stainless steel heater chamber and the union ends.

spa-heater-elementsREPLACE THE HOT TUB HEATER ELEMENT: You can buy the spa heater elements alone for under $30, and save some money over buying the entire spa heater, which can cost $90 on average. Replacing the heater element only is more work, and more risk is involved. The new element must be installed carefully to avoid damage and positioned exactly to not overheat.

spa-heater-manifoldsREPLACE THE COMPLETE HOT TUB HEATER: Replacing the complete spa heater assembly is the best route if your heater is over 8 years old, because of the galvanic corrosion that can occur to the stainless steel tube, which can develop pinhole leaks. Many complete heaters also include new sensors and it’s much faster and easier to replace the entire hot tub heater, with much less chance of installation errors.

 

 Ordering the Correct Spa Heater Replacement

Replacing with an exact duplicate spa heater is important, there are many variations in electrical size; volts, watts, amps, and in dimensional size as well – it has to fit. We often are asked “can you upsize the spa heater?”, or install a heater with more ‘oomph’ than what is currently used. Unfortunately, No – the existing heater is matched to the Spa Pak electronics, and back to my first point, it’s [very] important to replace a spa heater with an exact duplicate.

Installing the incorrect spa heater will just not work, at best, and at worst, it could burn out circuit boards, or even melt down into an electrical fire. Fortunately, we make things easy here at Hot Tub Works, and we have 3 ways to order new spa heaters, by Make/Model, by Most Popular, or by taking measurements of your existing heater and nameplate information.

spa-pakORDER BY MAKE & MODEL: Order a new spa heater by the Brand of your Spa Pak. We list 17 top spa pak brands like Balboa, Brett, Gecko, HydroQuip. Select the Brand of your spa pak (the combination control unit and heater), and our database returns the available heater models, with electrical and dimensional specs. If you can’t see it readily, you may have to stick your head in there with a flashlight.

most-popular-spa-hot-tub-heatersORDER BY MOST POPULAR: Isn’t that how we make most of our decisions anyway? It turns out that listing our Top Ten Spa Heaters is a useful resource for our shoppers. That’s because the majority of spa heaters that we sell complete, are one of six (6) different models, and the two (2) most popular hot tub heaters are the 4.0 Kw and 5.5 Kw Universal hot tub heaters. You’ll still want to check your voltage (120/220V) and wattage (1.5/4.0/5.5/11Kw) to match your existing heater size.

ORDER BY DIMENSIONS: To be really sure that a new spa heater fits exactly, both in electrical size and dimensional size, break out the measuring tape! Shut off all power first and close valves to prevent water loss (some water will spill). Remove the heater assembly by carefully removing and labeling all wires, and then loosening the union nuts fully on each end. spa-heater-measurement-diagram

Remove the union nut ends, so you can measure from the flange end. Measure from the end to Point A, B, C, D and so on, writing each number down as you go. Measure all the way to letter I – very important, as there are spa heater tubes that are very similar, up until you get to the H and I measurements.

Take all 9 measurements, write them down, and refer to the hot tub heater replacement list or table. In addition to matching dimensions, also match the electrical size. Before you buy, check the label on your existing spa heater to match the voltage (120V or 240V) and watts (1.5 Kw/4Kw/5.5 Kw) to the new hot tub heater.

stamped-spa-heater-elementOne more thing, it’s a UL listing requirement that all heater elements are stamped with electrical identifiers. When the label is gone, faded or burned, you can always look on the element itself, and you should find tiny imprinted voltage and wattage information.

Installing a Replacement Spa Heater

We have instructions on replacing a hot tub heater element on the website. Replacing the complete hot tub heater manifold is much easier. After receiving the new heater, check it over carefully to be sure it is an exact duplicate to your existing heater, not just physical size, but also electrical size.

O-RINGS: Check that the union o-rings are still in place on both ends, and all sensors or switches are installed in the heater tube or chamber. Slide the new heater unit in position. Tighten up the union nuts very snug, but only hand tight (but very hand tight!).

WIRES: Next, you can connect the power wires or element leads to the heater element terminals, also very snug, using the correct wrench size. Just like connecting a car battery.SPA-HEATER-ELEMENT-2

SENSORS: Connect the wires of any safety switches; pressure switch and high limit switch and temp sensors. New hot tub heaters often include new sensors or switches. Make tight wire connections and tape loose wires to PVC pipes (not to heater body).

Fill the hot tub if necessary, and flood the water lines, remove any air lock by loosening pump or heater unions to allow air to escape, as water pushes the air out of dry pipes. With the tub full of water, loosen the pump union slightly, just until you begin to hear air hissing. Tighten the union quickly, just as water begins to leak. Then give the union another turn past hand tight, being sure ANY dripping subsides.

 

Happy Hot Tub Heatin’

Daniel Lara
Hot Tub Works

 

 

Is Your Hot Tub a Chemical Soup?

October 12th, 2015 by

chemical-soup-hot-tubsThe first question about the so-called “Chemical Free Hot Tub” is “What does it Mean to be Green?” The second question is “Can it be done?”; a chemical-free hot tub, that is.

When you speak of eco-friendly spas and hot tubs, you may be talking about saving energy, saving water, or preventing pollution.

It’s that last part I want to discuss today – preventing pollution of local watershed, while enjoying a hot tub without unnecessary and unnatural chemicals.

 

What Does it Mean to be Green?

There are several categories of spa and hot tub chemicals that are considered “Green”, most made of natural ingredients and harmless to plants and animals.

natural-spa-chemicals--Spa Enzymes: Enzymes are all-natural, microscopic organisms that eat oil and organics for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Reduces the amount of sanitizers needed, and helps filtration by removing oily gunk.

Citrus Cleaners: When cleaning a spa, to remove water line marks or polish up the shell, be careful not to use household cleaners that contain harsh chemicals, but instead use a citrus or vinegar solution.

Natural Clarifiers: Companies like SeaKlear have used crab shells for years as a natural clarifier for pools and spas. Natural polymers help your filter by coagulating smaller particles into easily filterable clumps.

There are also several “Alternative” purifiers, or systems that can supplement your bromine or chlorine residual, but aren’t complete sanitizers – they can’t usually do it all.

Ozone: Ozone generators create small amounts of the O³ molecule, which is very powerful, and kills anything that can exist in water. But, the distribution method can’t get the gas in contact with everything.

Minerals: Even the Ancients knew the power of copper and silver to purify water; and for a spa it’s super easy to add minerals with a Spa Mineral Stick, there are many brands available.

UV systems: The Ancients also knew of the power of sunlight to kill algae and mold. When water is bathed in UV light, most pathogens, bacteria and viruses will die – but not everything.

In addition to sanitizing the water daily and continuously, a hot tub needs periodic oxidation, or spa shock.

Is a Chemical Free Hot Tub Possible?

You can reduce reliance on chlorine and bromine by using supplemental sanitizers like minerals or ozone or UV systems. Use non-chlorine shock (MPS), if you want to be chlorine-free.

But, you will still need to test the water and add balancing chemicals, to lower pH, or raise alkalinity and calcium levels, for example.

Unless you drained the water every time you use the hot tub (not very Green), you will need to maintain balanced water (pH, alkalinity, calcium), as well as daily disinfection to sanitize, and regular shocking to oxidize the water.

However – if you want to operate a spa or hot tub without bromine or chlorine, it is possible.

For low-use hot tubs, an ozone or UV system AND a mineral stick will keep the water clear. Shock (oxidize) the water with MPS after each use (very important). Filter the spa water for at least 6 hours daily, and buy a new spa filter cartridge every 12 months (very important). Adding a natural clarifier or enzymes to the spa can also aid in reducing the amount of sanitizer and oxidizer needed.

Chemical Soup Hot Tubs?

With supplemental sanitizers and careful water balancing, you don’t need to add 9 kinds of spa chemicals to maintain clear and healthy water.

Instead, over-filter the water and combine natural spa chemicals and alternative purifiers for daily disinfection, and oxidize with MPS after each use, or weekly.

 

Happy Hot Tubbin’

Daniel Lara
Hot Tub Works

 

 

 

 

Spa & Hot Tub Plumbing Repair Tips

September 10th, 2015 by

spa-plumbing-loopsSpa and hot tub plumbing is made up of PVC pipe and fittings. It’s a Closed Loop, similar to an electric circuit, if that makes it easier to understand. The same drop of water can make this trip several times per day.

A Spa Plumbing Loop starts at the skimmer and main drain, where the water leaves the spa, pulled under vacuum (suction) by the pump impeller. Once the water passes the impeller, the water is now pushed under pressure by the pump, through the filter and heater, and purifier equipment.

After the water has been treated and heated, it’s pushed onward into the return manifold, the pipes on the top of the spa (water runs through the lower, larger pipe, and air is pushed or pulled through the upper, smaller pipe), where it returns to the spa, via the spa jets. The same drop of water can make this trip several times per day.

But sometimes water can escape The Loop, finding it’s way into cracks and crevices no larger than 1 mm, and dripping on the ground, beneath your spa. Spa leak repair more commonly involves the equipment (pump/filter/heater/purifier), but a bad glue joint, leaky union, or cracked pipe could have also brought you to this page.

SPA AND HOT TUB PLUMBING REPAIRS

You can make your own spa or hot tub PVC repairs to the plumbing, with just simple tools and basic materials from any hardware store. Before you jump in the car, there are a few more things to learn about spa plumbing repairs.

You see, I’ve already made the mistakes for you – in my years of plying the spa trade, I’ve made hundreds of plumbing repairs, and dozens of complete re-plumbing jobs for old spa shells. Most of those jobs I’m proud of; a few had to be re-done. :-(

HOT TUB PVC PLUMBING SAWS

hacksaw-2If you walk into any hardware store and ask for a PVC saw, you’re gonna walk out with a basic hacksaw. Or you can pay more for PVC saws that resemble small wood saws. Both will cut through a 1.5″ PVC pipe in 15 strokes. However – many times there is not enough room to position a 15-18″ long saw to make a complete (and straight) cut on the pipe.

That’s why I almost never use hacksaws or PVC saws when I do hot tub plumbing repairs. They just don’t fit very well under the cabinet, with pipes so close to the shell of the spa. And forget about using them on an inground spa pipe repair, they are even more cumbersome when you’re upside down in a hole.

cordless-jig-sawWhat do I use to cut PVC pipes? Usually I use my extra small Reciprocating Saw, or if I don’t have that, my cordless Jig Saw. Both allow me to slip the blade behind the pipe, or at weird angles – and, they cut fast and straight (with a sharp blade). However – there are times when even my power saws don’t fit, and I have to pull out some micro saws.

cable-sawAlso useful is a Cable Saw, a length of picture hanging wire with two handles that cuts right through PVC. A cable saw can be wrapped over an extremely tight pipe and cut through in 25 strokes. In a pinch, you can wrap a short handle onto the end of a hacksaw blade with duct tape,  or you could even use a drywall saw – but these saws may take upwards of 100 strokes.

HOT TUB PVC PIPE AND FITTINGS

pvc-pipes-flex-and-rigidPIPES: There are two types of Schedule 40 PVC pipes used in spas and hot tubs – Flex and Rigid. Flex PVC pipes are used for the return manifold, so that the pipes can bend around the spa to all of the spa jets. Rigid PVC pipe is used on the suction manifold, or the pipes from the skimmer and drain to the pump. Be sure to buy Schedule 40 PVC pipe (not thinner walled Schedule 20, used for drainage).

Avoid using Flexible PVC on the suction side, because the ribbed pipe has much more friction loss than smooth, Rigid PVC, and because it can collapse under extreme suction vacuum.  So, use Flex pipe up top, and Rigid pipe down below, got it? We have Flex pipe spa plumbing kits in 1.5 and 2 inch.

Most spas and hot tubs are plumbed with 1.5 inch PVC, although larger spas may use 2 inch PVC. The Outside Diameter of 1.5 inch PVC (if you were to measure across it), is actually closer to 2 inches, or 1-7/8 inches, (with an Inside Diameter of 1.5″). 2 inch pipe has an OD of 2-3/8″ (and an ID of 2″). The Air Line (the smaller pipe above the return pipe), is usually 1″ Flex PVC, or sometimes 3/4″ Flex PVC.

FITTINGS: PVC fittings like couplings, Tee’s, 90′s, 45′s, unions, MTA’s and FTA’s (male and female threaded adapters), are common at most Home stores or a good local hardware store. You can also find good prices online for plumbing fittings.

dont-use-drain-fittingsBe sure to use Pressure Fittings, which will have a deeper socket than Drain Fittings. Bathroom drain fittings often have a glue-able surface of about 9/16″, but Pressure Fittings allow you to glue the pipe up to 1-1/4″ deep. Drain fittings are Never suitable for spa or hot tub plumbing. And like with PVC pipe, be sure to buy schedule 40 PVC fittings, not the thin-walled schedule 20 PVC.

Grey Fittings are often made of CPVC or if much thicker, Schedule 80 PVC, both of which are more heat tolerant, or heat resistant. These can be useful when making connections in and out of a spa heater, but are not required.

Spa Jet Fittings or Spa Manifolds are specialized fittings that you won’t find at your local Home or Hardware store, but we have all you need!

GLUES AND SEALANTS FOR HOT TUBS

There’s one more chapter in this spa plumbing story. Making the PVC pipe and fitting connections.

red-hot-blue-glueFor Smooth PVC pipe and fittings, PVC glue is used to bond smooth pipe to smooth fitting, but is not used on threaded fittings. Use only Fresh medium or heavy body PVC cement. Old glue that’s been in your cabinet for a few years is not going to save you time or money!

Another important distinction exists about PVC Cleaner and Primer. Use Cleaner for Flex Pipe, to remove the slick surface but not overly soften the surface. Primer also functions as a cleaner, but it rapidly softens (decomposes) the pipe, generating heat for a stronger bond. Flex pipe is too soft already, and Primer softens it too much. So remember, Cleaner for Flex pipe, Primer for Rigid pipe (and fittings), just before you apply the glue.  Got it?

red-rtv-siliconeFor a Threaded PVC fittings, you need thread sealants. smear a layer of Silicone over the male threads, then wrap several times (clockwise!) with Teflon Tape. Hand tighten the fitting in as far as you can, and then give another full turn with Channel type pliers, or a strap wrench.

 

Happy Hot Tubbin’!

Daniel Lara
Hot Tub Works