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Daniel Lara's Posts

Cost to Repair a Hot Tub

September 19th, 2016 by

spa repairmanLots of people ask the question “what’s the cost to fix a hot tub”, but it’s kind of like asking how much does it cost to fix a car. The answer is the same in both cases, “it depends”. That’s because the cost to fix a hot tub is directly related to what’s wrong with it.

So – what’s wrong with your hot tub? Many hot tub problems can be fixed for under $100 in spa parts, but larger equipment purchases can set you back $500 or more. Let’s look at costs for some common spa repairs and equipment replacements.

Cost to Repair a Spa Leak

DIY: Depends where the leak is and what is actually damaged, but it could be a leaky pump union or shaft seal, leaking filter o-ring or jet gaskets, all of which are very inexpensive to replace yourself. With exception to large scale freeze damage, most spa leaks are easily found and fixed, if you can just reach it!

PRO: For the leak detection itself, probably 1-2 hours time, or a few hundred bucks. The cost for repairing the spa leak, again depends on where and what is leaking, but in most cases spa leaks are fixed for under $500. Larger leaks buried deep in foam, or under the spa, are more likely $1000, and large scale freeze damage could be two thousand, or more.

Cost to Repair a Hot Tub Pump

DIY: Most Jet Pump (Main Therapy pump) repairs are either a wet end replacement for about $65, or a motor replacement for around $200. You can also just replace the entire jet pump for $200-$300. Circulation pumps, aka Circ Pumps, which run low speed most of the time, are replaced for $150-$200. Other spa pump parts such as impellers, seals and o-rings are fairly inexpensive.

PRO: Having a spa guy repair or replace your hot tub pump is a lot easier and safer, but also costs more money. Cost for hot tub pumps professionally installed run about $500, and smaller pump problems like leaking or squeaking spa pumps should come in around $350.

Cost to Repair a Hot Tub Heater

DIY: If your hot tub heater is tripping the breaker, replace the element for around $30, or the complete Balboa style spa heater, tube and all for around $120. Titanium spa heaters by Sundance and Hot Spring are $320. If it’s just not heating up enough, it could be a temp sensor, high limit, pressure or flow switch, most of which are $20-$50 in spa heater parts. Your topside control may give an error codes to help guide troubleshooting a spa heater.

PRO: The last spa heater invoice I remember seeing was just under $500 for a diagnostic call, and an additional trip to install the new spa heater. If done in one trip, the cost may be more like $350, for either just the element, or the entire flow thru tube heater. Titanium proprietary heaters from Sundance or Watkins cost more to purchase and may be $750, installed.

Cost to Repair a Spa Light

DIY: A hot tub light is usually LED or halogen. Spa light bulbs or LEDs can be purchased in the range of $15-$72, depending on the size. Entire spa light kits with transformers and small incandescent bulbs average $25.

PRO: How many hot tub guys does it take to change a light bulb? Probably just one, but he’s got to get paid. A spa light repair service call would probably cost around $150, parts and labor. To save money, troubleshoot the spa light, so they know what parts to bring.

 


Cost to Replace a Spa Ozonator: Ozonators for hot tubs cost $70-125.

Cost to Replace a Spa Blower: Hot tub blowers cost $70-$110, and check valves are about $15.

Cost to Replace a Hot Tub Cover: Spa covers cost $250-$450, depending on size and options.

Cost to Replace a Spa Pack / Controls: Digital Spa Packs average $750. Control systems average $450.

Cost to Replace Spa Jets: The cost to replace a spa jet varies from $20-$50 on average.

Cost to Replace Spa Circuit Board: Hot tub PCBs range from $200-$600, with an average cost of $300.


 

Cost to Operate a Hot Tub?

Most people spend about $250 per year on average, some years more, some years less. Spa filters, spa covers, chemicals, parts and supplies, every cost to run a hot tub will average out to about $250 per year, not including electricity. In ten years, you can expect to spend around $2500 maintaining and caring for your spa, along with occasional equipment replacements. Some spend less, some spend more!

Cost to Buy a New Hot Tub?

animated-hot-tubLike automobiles, hot tubs and spas have a wide price range. For the well known Cadillac spa brands like Jacuzzi and Hot Spring, their top models range from $12-$15K. Lesser known brands are available in the $9-12K range, and online hot tubs can be purchased for $4-7K.  Some spend less, some spend more!

 

Happy Hot Tubbin’

Daniel Lara
Hot Tub Works

 

 

Hot Tub Leaking from the Bottom

August 1st, 2016 by

spa-cutaway-hot-tub

A spa or hot tub that is leaking is cause for alarm. But don’t freak out, it’s almost never the spa shell, and in most cases spa leaks can be found and fixed easily.

Take a deep breath, after your blood pressure drops, we can get up under there and find out what is leaking, and where.

Here’s a list of the most common hot tub leaks, and how to fix a leaking spa.

water-drop-smSpa Pump Leaking

We covered this in detail in an earlier post called Help! My Spa Pump is Leaking! and to summarize the article, when a spa pump is leaking, it’s either the shaft seal, unions or the wet end volute. Look closely with a flashlight to determine the exact source of the leak on a spa pump, and then you know the parts that may be needed to fix a leak on a spa pump.

water-drop-smSpa Light Leaking

The lens for the spa light can become loose or can crack, especially on high heat halogen spa lights. The light housing or niche is usually located on the same side as the spa pak, so that the bulb can be serviced easily. Shine your flashlight onto the area around the housing to determine if water is leaking from the spa light. The fix for a leaking spa light is usually a new spa light kit, or maybe the locknut is just loose.

water-drop-smSpa Filter Leaking

We also covered this topic in detail in a post  called Hot Tub Filter Leak Repair and to summarize that article, the usual spa filter leak fix is a new gasket or o-ring, or a new filter housing, if the body is cracked. Or the locking filter ring could just be loose and need to be tightened up! Like I said, most spa leaks are small and easily fixed, but if you’ve got worse problems, read on.

water-drop-smSpa Plumbing Leaks

It happens often enough, but leaks in the PVC pipe is actually rare. More common are leaks on the back side of Spa Jets, from loose locknuts or deteriorated spa jet gaskets, on the inside of the spa.

Spa leaks occur in other gasketed equipment, or anything with o-rings and gaskets, like skimmers, lights, pumps, unions, chlorinators, and ozonators.

Freeze damage can shatter PVC pipe, but most spa plumbing leaks actually occur at the glue joints, or where the pipe is glued into a coupling, spa jet, union or tee fitting. If the original PVC glue was thin in one area, over time water can seep out between the pipe and fitting walls.

Locating a Spa Plumbing Leak: If you don’t see the spa leaking anywhere inside of the equipment bay, then you have a real spa plumbing leak. On one of the fittings, jets or somewhere on the pipe. But where? It takes some sleuthing to decide where to remove the cabinet panel.

Shut the pump off, and allow the spa to drain to its lowest level, until it stabilizes and stops leaking. At the level where it stops, the jets also at that level are a likely leak source. Sweep or use a leaf blower to dry off any standing water around the tub. Then add water to the spa for a few minutes and watch closely where the water begins to run out. A doctor’s stethoscope or just a paper cup can be used to listen for leaking water.

Spa plumbing leaks will often leak more when the pipes are pressurized, or when the pump is running. Some hot tubs may stop leaking altogether when the pump is off. In this case, you’ll need to refill the spa, and run the pump while looking for the leak source.

Leak-Seal-by-LeisuretimeSmall leaks in hot tub fittings and spa jets can be fixed by adding the emulsion Leak Seal by Leisure Time. Leak Seal seeks out leaks, and clots together to form a permanent repair. It works great on small voids, seepers and weepers, but does have it’s limitations – it won’t fix large cracks or stop large spa leaks, but for small leaks, give it a try.

Removing Cabinet Panels: Once you have determined where the spa plumbing is leaking, you can carefully remove the cabinet panels, which are often glued or stapled onto the frame or studs around the spa shell. In some cases you’ll find screws under the trim on top and bottom of the panels. If glued or stapled, find the seam, or space where two panels join, and use a large flathead to pry one of them up. You won’t need your power saw, but you may need to remove the header or footer strip to make it easier to pull out the cabinet panel.

Digging Thru Spa Foam: Once the panel comes off, you may have full visibility of the plumbing, or you may have a wall of insulating foam. Just dig it right out, using a screwdriver or large kitchen spoon, and search for the wettest area of the foam. Keep digging towards the moisture until you expose the pipes, fittings or spa jet that is leaking. A wire brush on a drill can be used to clean up the little bits stuck onto the PVC, or you can use pipe cleaner to dissolve the foam bits.

spa-foam-removal-by-JD-Finley

Spa Plumbing Leak Repair: Once you have found the leak, you want to fix it. Leaking spa jets may need a new gasket (or just tightening). Leaking pipes and PVC fittings (90’s, 45’s, couplings) should be replaced if you can; cut it out and replace the fitting with new. There are some PVC repair products such as Mr. Sticky’s that can be tried, but they are not always successful. Snap-on PVC repair cuffs or compression couplings can also be used in tight spots. As a drastic option, the line (or jet) can be abandoned by cutting out the leaking area, and capping the pipe on both ends.

After the spa leak repair is complete and your spa is leaking no more, you can pick up a few cans of spray foam and replace most of what was taken out, to help retain heat and block cold winter temperatures. Replace the wall cabinet panel in the same fashion as before, using screws, a staple gun or a wood adhesive like Liquid Nails.

 

Happy Hot Tubbin’

Daniel Lara
Hot Tub Works

 

Saltwater Chlorine or Saltwater Bromine?

July 25th, 2016 by

saltwater-chlorine-or-saltwater-bromineSalt water chlorine vs. salt water bromine. Which is better?

The chlorine vs. bromine debate, along with the pros & cons of using a hot tub salt system have been hashed out before on this blog, but what if you already love spa salt water generators, and wonder about using sodium bromide, instead of sodium chloride as the necessary salt.

Bromine is better than chlorine in a hot tub, as it stays potent in high temperatures and in a wide range of pH values, and has less odor. So why not use Sodium Bromide instead of Sodium Chloride in a spa or hot tub with a salt generator?

  • Sodium Bromide salt is much more expensive than Sodium Chloride salt. This is because of the higher cost of raw materials. It costs only $5 in NaOCl after draining the spa (unless you use Dead Sea Salts, which are much more costly), but to replace the NaOBr, it can cost $25, each time you drain.
  • Bromine Generators cost twice as much to purchase than equivalent spa chlorine generators. Roughly $200 for salt systems, and $400 for bromine systems.

But wait ~ aren’t Bromine tablets also twice as expensive as using spa chlorine tablets? Yes. Bottom line is that Bromine costs more than chlorine, no matter how you introduce it to the water.

For many spa owners, it’s worth the extra cost to have a Bromine spa.

Spa Chlorine and Bromine Generators

saltron-mini-power-supply-and-cellCan you use bromide salts with a salt chlorinator? You could, after draining and refilling with fresh water, add sodium bromide ions to the water to create bromine, instead of chlorine. However, salt chlorine generators such as the Saltron Mini are optimized to work with sodium chloride, although the manufacturer told me that either salt can be used.

Is there a difference between Salt Brominators and Salt Chlorinators? There are small differences in the salt cell coatings and in the salt level required for operation, but the operation or technology is the same. They both convert ions into a sanitizer, which afterwards revert back to the base salt, where the process can begin again. Spa Salt Bromine Generators, such as Blu Fusion (formerly the unfortunately named ISIS salt system), and the Gecko Alliance in.clear bromine salt system for spas.

What type of Salt is used in a Saltwater Hot Tub? If you are using sodium chloride, be sure to use a pool salt with a high 99% level of purity, without added caking agents, desiccants or iodine added. For a bromine spa, add pure sodium bromide salts to the spa, the same bromide booster that is used to build the ‘bromine bank’ when using bromine tablets. Many spa salt system owners also use Dead Sea Salts, which contain potassium and magnesium, in addition to sodium.

 


 

Happy Hot Tubbin’

Daniel Lara

 

 

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Clean Spa Filters – in the Dishwasher?

June 27th, 2016 by

dirty-to-clean-filtersCan you clean your spa filters in the dishwasher? I think the idea came about when cartridge manufacturers suggested that Dishwasher detergent (not Laundry detergent!) could be used as an alternative to TSP, for soaking cartridges, to remove greasy oil deposits before cleaning.

But I’ve not seen a manufacturer of spa filters come out and suggest cleaning spa filters in the dishwasher. There are some people online that say that they clean their spa filters in the dishwasher (without soap or rinse aid), and using a no-heat drying cycle. Sounds OK, but will it really get the cartridge clean?

My dishwasher hardly removes all of the tomato sauce it should, but it’s a decent model. So I thought I’d put this to a test. Would my home dishwasher clean my spa filters?

The Dishwasher Spa Filter Cleaning Test

My spa filters had not been cleaned in a month, which is my usual schedule, so I removed my filter cartridge. It’s about 15″ tall, so was able to place it standing up on the lower rack of the dishwasher, and it just barely fit. I added a small amount of dishwasher detergent to the reservoir, and set it on the longest cycle, 115 mins, but with a no-heat drying cycle.

The Result? There was still debris stuck down in the pleats, even though it definitely looked a lot cleaner, from the outside. I’ve seen some suggest laying the spa filter on the top rack of the dishwasher, so I repeated the test in this manner, even rotating the cartridge twice during the cycle. However, there was still small debris and discoloration deep in the pleats.

How to Clean Spa Filters

The old method is still the best method. Hosing clean with a handheld garden hose nozzle. It’s wet and not particularly comfortable experience, but cleaning pleat by pleat in an up and down motion does the best job.

Here’s a step by step for cleaning spa and hot tub filter cartridges:

  1. Shut off Spa, open filter canister and remove cartridge.
  2. Spray carefully with a high pressure hose nozzle, to remove debris from each pleat.
  3. Soak the cartridge in a TSP solution, 1 cup per 5 gals hot water for 8 hours, rinse clean.
  4. Soak the cartridge in an ACID solution, 1 cup per 1 gal cool water for 1 hour, rinse clean.
  5. Allow filter to dry completely before reinstalling, to kill remaining microbes.unicel-filter-guy-using-protective-gear

Steps 3 and 4 are not always necessary. TSP (or dry dishwasher detergent) is a great grease remover, for oily deposits on spa filters. Muriatic acid (or dry acid) is used to remove mineral scale like calcium deposits. Be sure to wear proper protective gear when handling muriatic acid, and always add the acid to water (not water to acid).

Steps 3 & 4 can be combined into one, with a commercially available spa filter cleaning chemical, to accomplish both tasks of removing oils and minerals. We have Leisure Time Filter Clean for an overnight soaking, or Leisure Time Spa Instant filter cleaner; spray on formula works in minutes, not hours.

What Not To Do with Spa Filters

  1. Don’t clean them in the dishwasher, it’s not very effective and could damage the filter.
  2. Don’t clean them with a pressure washer, for obvious reasons.
  3. Dishwasher soap (dry) is OK, but Laundry detergent is Not OK.
  4. Don’t forget to Rinse thoroughly after Soaking, to remove all chemical traces.
  5. Don’t use DE powder as a Filter Aid, although Puri-Fiber or Aqua-Perl may be used.

 

unicel-guy-spraying-hose on spa filterIn conclusion; if you want to use your dishwasher to clean a hot tub filter, be my guest – it shouldn’t hurt the filter cartridge, unless you use a high heat dry cycle, which could melt the rubber and make a real mess. You can also use a small amount of dry dishwasher detergent, as long as you remember to rinse the filter well after the dishwasher shuts off.

As for me – I’ll just keep doing it the old fashioned way, I take a seat next to an empty trash can, and hose it clean inside the can. Difficult, but it keeps my shoes dry.

 

Happy Hot Tubbin’

Daniel Lara
Hot Tub Works

 

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