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Daniel Lara's Posts

Spa & Hot Tub Ozone Problems

September 20th, 2017 by

spa ozone bubblesOzone is one of the world’s most powerful sanitizers – over 200 times more powerful than chlorine. But one day your spa ozonator will quietly quit working.

Spa ozone is produced in a small ozonator underneath the spa cabinet, and it is delivered to the water by a small hose that carries the O3 gas to an injector fitting, where it is sucked into the spa plumbing.

But, over time, ozonator output decreases, and after a few years, it’s time for a renovation or replacement of the ozone generator.

 

Is My Spa Ozonator Working?

When released into the water, ozone immediately begins to kill contaminants in your spa – when it’s working. But, how do you know if the ozone is working, or if it’s time for a new spa ozonator?

  1. Fine bubbles in the tub, from the ozone line, a steady stream of fine ‘champagne bubbles’ entering the spa.
  2. Spa ozonators have a power indicator light, which may mean that ozone is being produced.
  3. When you lift the spa cover, you may be able to briefly smell ozone that has gassed-off.
  4. If you remove the ozone hose from the check valve, you should be able to smell the ozone.
  5. Water quality deteriorates when ozone is no longer being produced, requiring more chemicals.
  6. Is your unit past its prime? Ozonators all lose effectiveness and fail after a few years.
    1. UV ozone bulbs last about 2-3 years, less if cycled on/off frequently
    2. Del MCD-50 CD chips last 3-5 years, Del CDS Spa Eclipse models last 2-3 years

Clogged Ozone Injector

ozone-injector Mazzei Ozone Injectors are the point of entry for the ozone gas, a venturi tee manifold, shown here. The injector draws in the ozone, mixing it with the water, where sanitation begins immediately. Injectors have an internal check valve for one-way flow only – ozone can enter the injector, but water cannot exit. If water comes out of the injector cap, or enters the ozone hose – this indicates a clogged or damaged injector check valve.

If an injector becomes clogged with debris, gunk or scale, it will block the small amount of ozone gas pressure. To clean an ozone injector, remove the hose, and ream out the injector with a piece of wire or a very small screwdriver. Vinegar can also be used to help dissolve scale deposits. A new ozone injector will eventually be needed, if the injector is leaking water into the hose.

Broken Ozone Check Valve

A second, inline check valve is used on many spa ozone systems, to prevent water from backing up through the hose, and getting into your ozone unit. This is installed between the ozonator and the injector manifold. Check valves are one-way flow devices, designed to only allow gas (or water) to flow away from the unit.

ozone-check-valveOver time, ozone check valves can become stuck, or blocked by gunk or scale, much like the injector problem discussed above. Del ozone recommends replacing their in-line ozone check valves (shown here) every year. Cleaning a check valve with vinegar can remove deposits, but be sure that the one-way valve is still doing it’s job. You should be able to easily blow air through it, but only in one direction.

Damaged Ozone Tubing

ozone-hoseThe tubing, or hose that carries the ozone from the ozonator to the injection manifold will deteriorate over time. Clear ozone/air hose often becomes yellowed and brittle from the ozone, and will eventually split, requiring replacement.

Inspect your ozone hose often, from end to end for degradation, discoloration or cracking. Del recommends that ozone tubing be replaced every year, to prevent unexpected failure. Also inspect the barbed connections on the end of the hoses. Too much pressure can cause these to crack, and leak ozone.

Expired Spa Ozonator

DEL Ozone MCD-50, it's what I use on my spaFinally, the ozone generator itself may have expired. There are two types of spa ozonators, UV and CD. Most spa ozonators have an indicator light, but they don’t usually have a failure light, so take note of manufacturer replacement recommendations.

Spa ozonators using UV, or ultraviolet light to produce ozone, will need a new UV bulb after a certain number of operational hours, usually 8000-10000 hours. Most UV ozone bulbs will still turn on, or light-up, but no longer produce the wavelengths needed to create ozone, so remember to replace the UV bulb on schedule.

CD, or corona discharge ozonators, will require a new chip or electrode every 3-5 years, to maintain ozone output. Del sells renewal kits for their larger CD ozonators, and it’s quite a simple repair. Newer spa ozonators by Del, such as the MCD-50 and the Spa Eclipse are now so affordable and long lasting, the entire unit is replaced, including hose and check valve (included).

Spa Ozonator Maintenance

Maintaining a spa ozonator is not difficult, once you know what to look for. The most important thing is to replace the ozonator or ozone parts (hose, check valve, bulb, chip) on a schedule, to prevent damage to the ozonator, and poor spa water conditions.

Hot Tub Works carries a full line of spa ozonators, and ozonator parts to keep your spa ozone equipment running smoothly; and doing it’s job.

Your spa ozonator probably won’t make it known that there is a problem – you have to go looking for it. Remember, eventually (2-3 years), your spa ozonator will quietly quit working one day. Maintain your spa ozonator to keep your spa sanitary.

 

Happy Hot Tubbin’

Daniel Lara
Hot Tub Works

 

Troubleshooting Spa Topside Control Panels

August 30th, 2017 by

The Spa Topside control panel is used on hot tubs, portable spas, jetted tubs – just about every spa uses a display panel to allow the user to easily control the functions of a typical spa – pumps, heater, lights, blower.

And that’s all the topside control is – a control panel, think of it as a remote control for your hot tub, wired into your spa controller, which is really the brains of the spa system. The spaside control panel, it’s just a convenient way to turn things on and off, and view equipment status lights and water temperature.

Topside controls typically consist of a small LED or LCD screen, touchpad membranes and LED indicator lights, topped with a pretty decal or overlay, as they are called. Topside controls can be digital, analog, or a combination, and are made for both air control systems and digital control systems for spas.

Topside controls will only work with a particular spa system control board(s). Another TV reference would be appropriate; you have to use the TV remote that is made for your make and model of television. It’s the same with spa topside controls, they only work with the spa control make and model for which they were designed. And even more specifically, many topside controls only work with circuit boards that have a particular chip version, which is printed on the spa control circuit board main chip label.

Topside control panels are also not easily test-able. The best way to see if a topside control is bad, is to plug in another one and see if it works. Since spaside panels are not returnable, this entails some risk on the spa owner. But there are some ways to reduce the risk… read on.

No Display on Topside Control Panel

  • Reset Spa Controller, power down and restart
  • Check for condensation under display glass
  • Check cable for crimps or any visible damage
  • Clean plug-in cable connections on both ends
  • Check power at Transformer on control circuit board
  • Check power at fuse on spa control circuit board
  • Check that topside control number works with spa control chip version
  • Inspect circuit board for damage and correct power output
  • Replace topside control

Spa Control Panel Displays Incorrectly

  • Error messages or error codes may indicate the problem
  • Flickering display may indicate low voltage from transformer
  • Partial display may indicate dirty contacts or moisture
  • Blinking lights or flashing — indicates a system reset is needed
  • Check that topside control number works with spa control chip version
  • Inspect circuit board for damage and correct power output
  • Replace topside control

Spaside Control Panel Buttons Not Working Correctly

  • Check for moisture under glass or on contacts
  • Check cable for any rodent damage, crimping or melting
  • Clean plug-in cable connections at both ends
  • Membrane or touch pad buttons may be faulty
  • Inspect circuit board for damage and correct power output
  • Replace topside control

Bottom line is – it could be a bad spaside control panel, or it could be a bad spa control board, or a bad cable that runs between the control panel and the control board. Or it could be fuse on the circuit board or the transformer, not sending the correct power to the topside panel. If you recently replaced the topside control panel and are having issues, check that your topside control panel is compatible with your circuit board and chip revision number.

If you need help identifying the correct topside control panel to use with your spa controller, first check the backside of the topside control for a part number. If that is missing, open up the controller and write down all the numbers on the circuit board, including the main chip number, and give us a call, we can help you get the right topside, or advise further on your topside control troubleshooting process.

 

Happy Hot Tubbin’

Daniel Lara
Hot Tub Works

 

 

 

 

Filling a Hot Tub with Well Water

July 24th, 2017 by

Hot Tub filled with Well Water
Today’s topic came from a new spa owner that asks “Is it OK to fill a hot tub with well water?“.

The short answer is yes, you can – and it’s done every day all over America. Nearly 48 million people get their water from a private well, or 15% of the US population. That equates to nearly 1 million spa owners, using well water to fill a hot tub.

The short answer is incomplete though, without addressing the concerns in using well water in a hot tub. On the good side, well water is naturally pure, filtered for decades underground, without chemical additives or byproducts of treatment. On the bad side, well water can contain high levels of minerals and metals, dirt and dust which can stain spa surfaces, and make water balancing more difficult.

Will Filling a Hot Tub Burn-Out the Well Pump?

In all likelihood, filling a hot tub with well water won’t burn out the well pump, because you’ll only need to run the hose for a few hours, and you’ve probably run a garden hose for several hours before, watering or pressure washing around the house. Most hot tubs use only 300-400 gallons to fill, and when you consider that some people fill a 20,000 gallon pool from a well, filling a hot tub from a well shouldn’t be a problem.

 

Can Well Water Stain my Spa?

Metals and minerals contained in spa water can stain soft surfaces, and at high levels and under the right conditions can deposit onto slick spa surfaces. Minerals such as calcium or magnesium can mix with dirt and other particles to form scale deposits or rough calcium nodules, again under the right (poor) water chemistry conditions. Metals like iron and copper can also discolor the water, or stain some surfaces – shades of brown to red for iron, and from blue to green for copper.Leisure Time Metal Gon & Defender, 2-Pack

To prevent staining and scaling in a spa or hot tub using well water, you want to both filter out as much as you can (see below) before filling, and secondly keep minerals and metals dissolved in solution, by using a sequestering agent to lock them in solution. Leisure Time Metal Gon, Defender and our own Metal Out are 3 such chemicals that are used (1-2 oz. every few weeks), to keep metals and minerals from precipitating out of solution, clouding the water or staining spa surfaces.

 

Is Well Water Hard to Balance in Spas?

By “Balance” I’m speaking balancing the levels of pH (7.3-7.6), Alkalinity (80-120 ppm) and Calcium Hardness (180-220 ppm). When using well water to fill a hot tub, you may expect some of these levels to need adjustment.

Depending on the types of soils and rock in your area, well water may test low or high for pH, Alkalinity and Calcium Hardness. pH and Alkalinity are usually easily adjusted, except in cases where pH is low and Alkalinity is high, this can take several treatments of pH Decreaser (followed by pH Increaser), over several days, to bring into proper ranges.

And depending on how hard or soft your well water is, your Calcium Hardness level may be low (soft) or high (hard). Soft spa water (under 150 ppm) is easily corrected by adding Calcium Hardness Increaser, but hard spa water (over 400 ppm), has no chemical reducer available. Spa water softeners like Defender don’t actually remove the excess Calcium from the water; molecular bonds keep it chemically locked in solution, where it can’t deposit as films or nodules.

Water clarity is an issue that affects some hot tubs filled with well water. Silty brown or green water can be avoided by using a Pre-Filter on the end of your garden hose, or using other methods to filter the water before it enters the hot tub, described below. Your spa filter will trap much of the suspended solids, but using it will shorten its lifespan by a small amount. Spa Clarifiers can also be used, to coagulate very small particles into larger, more easily filtered clumps.

 

Pre-Filtering Well Water While Filling a Hot Tub

Many homes with a well also have a home water softening system, which also filters the water. However, most outside water spigots are not connected to the water treatment system, because it is assumed that you are just washing the car or watering the lawn. With the use of a sink faucet hose adapter, you can connect a garden hose to the kitchen sink or utility sink for pre-filtered well water. You could also connect directly to the clothes washer hose, or to the water treatment system itself.

hot tub pre-filter for filling tub from well waterThe second way to filter your well water before adding it to the hot tub is to use a Pre-Filter, which attaches to the end of your garden hose to remove particles smaller than 1 micron. It can remove metals, minerals, silty dirt and other things much too small to see, and is useful also for those with city water to remove treatment chemicals or chlorine byproducts.

A DIY bucket filter can also be used, by filling a 5-gal bucket (with a lid) completely full of Poly Fill, or polyester filling used in pillows and comforters. Drill holes in one half of the bucket lid, and on the bottom of the bucket, use silicone and thread sealant to secure a female garden hose adapter. Poly Fill can trap silty dirt in the 5-10 micron range, but not minerals and metals.

 


 

So yeah, go ahead and fill your spa with well water, just be sure to pre-filter before filling, and treat with Metal Out or Metal Gon to keep iron, copper and manganese locked in solution, and use Defender if your well water is hard, or has calcium hardness levels above 400 ppm.

 

Happy Hot Tubbin’

 

Daniel Lara
Hot Tub Works

 

Spa Electrical Component Testing

May 22nd, 2017 by

Image by Canadian Spa Company blog
Warning,
geeky electrical component post coming up! Today I’m talking about testing spa and hot tub electrical component resistance, namely how to test for continuity on hot tub heater elements, fuses, transformers, sensors and switches.

Warning, testing electrical components can be hazardous, and should be performed by confident individuals aware of electrical hazards. For testing continuity or resistance, shut all power off to the spa, at the main breaker, testing resistance when under power can damage your meter, the equipment tested, or yourself! Shut down all spa power disconnects.

To test a spa heater, transformer, sensors and switches, you will need a multi-meter that tests for Ohms Ω. You can find a digital multi-meter at any home or hardware store for under $15. Ohm meters will measure the known resistance in a spa electrical component, and can also be used to check for shorts in wires, cables and cords.

 

Testing Heater Elements

  1. Shut off all power to the spa at the breaker and spa pack
  2. Remove the wires or copper tabs on the heater element terminalsspa heaters diagram
  3. Set your Ohm meter to the lowest setting
  4. Place your meter leads on the tip of each element terminal
  5. A reading of 10-14 Ohms is good for most heater elements

If your spa heater element (with wires or tabs removed) reads zero resistance, or displays ‘Open’, that means that the element sheath has a crack or the coil inside is otherwise grounding out, and should be causing your circuit breaker or GFCI to trip. Time for a new hot tub heater element or a complete spa heater assembly.

Testing Spa Transformers

  1. Shut off all power to the spa at the breaker and spa pack
  2. Set your Ohm meter to the lowest setting
  3. Locate the resistance values printed on the transformer
  4. Place your meter leads onto a Primary wire and a Secondary wire
  5.  Compare the reading to the transformer specs specified

Transformers take 120V or 240V power and step it down to a reduced voltage to operate specific spa component circuits. Spa transformers that are soldered to the board are not as easy to test with an Ohm meter, and also keep in mind that many modern spas have several board mounted transformers.

Testing Spa Temperature Sensors

  1. Shut off all power to the spa at the breaker and spa packspa-sensors
  2. Set your Ohm meter to the 20K setting
  3. Locate the wire ends and remove the plug from the board
  4. Place your meter leads onto the green and red wire
  5. Compare readings to Thermistor Resistance vs. Temperature Chart

Most spa and hot tub high limits, aka thermistors, thermal cut-offs and temperature sensors – will have a resistance reading of around 10000 at 77 degrees Fahrenheit. Colder water produces higher readings up to 50K, while warmer 100° F water will produce lower readings. Refer to your spa manufacturer resistance vs. temperature chart. Or, if you get “0”, or a zero reading, the sensor or cable is likely bad. Many hot tubs have more than one temperature sensor; a heater sensor, water temp sensor and air temp sensor.

Testing Spa Fuses

  1. Shut off all power to the spa at the breaker and spa packpicture of spa fuse
  2. Set your Ohm meter to the 1K setting
  3. Remove the fuse from the board or fuse housing
  4. Place your meter leads on each end of the fuse
  5. Compare readings to printed Ohms level

Blown spa and hot tub fuses will not show any continuity, or a “0” reading when testing. Some meters will display “Open” or O.L. (for Open Loop). A clear fuse can also be visually inspected to see if the wire or coil inside is broken of course, but for opaque fuses, you can test them with your Ohm meter.

Testing Pressure Switch or Flow Switches

  1. spa pressure switch shown being testedShut off all power to the spa at the breaker and spa pack
  2. Set your Ohm meter to the 1K setting
  3. Remove one wire from the pressure switch
  4. Place meter leads on both wire terminals
  5. If anything other than “0”, adjust pressure switch

With one wire removed, the pressure switch, or flow switch, should have zero resistance, as the switch should be ‘Open’. An Ohm meter can be used to adjust the pressure switch back to ‘zero’, by turning the adjustment knob or screw slightly until the meter drops to near zero.

 


In most spa components, Resistance is Good, with exception to pressure switches. No resistance is bad, as it means that there is another path that the electricity is taking, which usually means a defective component or cable, and it could also pose a safety hazard – where is the power loss going?

You can also use your multi-meter to test resistance of lengths of wire or cable. One probe on each end, and there should be resistance measured, NO resistance and there is a short somewhere.

Always remember, Shut Off Power completely down when testing spa electrical components for resistance, in Ohms.

Ohm SymbolNow everyone say “Ohhhhmmmmmsssss” – doesn’t that feel good?

 

Happy Hot Tubbin’

 

Daniel Lara
Hot Tub Works

 

 

 

New Uses for Old Hot Tub Water

April 25th, 2017 by

Reduce, Reuse and Recycle your hot tub water. Hot tub and spa owners generally replace their spa water every 90-120 days, or every 3-4 months. The reason for this is that the water becomes choked with invisible (at first) solids, minerals and contaminants that overwhelms the spa filter and sanitizer. This leads to cloudy, dull spa water which may be unhealthy.

Draining and refilling a spa or hot tub is a relatively simple and painless process, but what if your region is undergoing water restrictions, or for your own environmental reasons, you want to drain the spa fewer times per year?

In some cities and counties, draining your spa can be a punishable offense, with fees or fines that create an incentive to extend the time between spa water changes.

Here’s 6 ways to recycle old hot tub water or re-purpose spa water to other uses, and 8 ways to extend your hot tub water lifespan, so you don’t need to drain so often.

 

<<< 6 Ways to Reuse Hot Tub Water >>>

 

Water your lawn

Spa water makes fine lawn water, as long as you open the cover and allow the chlorine or bromine level to drop to around 1 ppm. It need not be at zero, but it shouldn’t be higher than 3 ppm, or certain types of grasses may object and start to turn a yellow color after a few days. Your spa water should also be relatively well balanced, or at least the pH level should be below 7.8, and even 7.0 to 7.2 if possible, as most lawn grasses prefer a slightly acidic pH level. Move the hose around every half hour, so you don’t over-saturate one area of the lawn.

Water your trees and bushes

Spa water also makes fine water for trees and bushes, again as long as the chlorine or bromine level is not off the chart, it’s ok to have 1-2 ppm, which is the same amount you might find in a tap water test. Plants that have been accustomed to chlorinated water (from municipal water supply), can tolerate even higher levels, but it’s always best to open the spa cover, and run the jets for awhile, to allow chlorine to dissipate to a safer level, below 3 ppm. If your spa uses a saltwater spa system, be sure that your plants and trees are salt-tolerant before using spa water for irrigation.

Water your home foundation

For those that live in the drier parts of the country, you may have heard horror stories of home foundations cracking when the ground becomes too dry. Or new concrete driveways or walkways that can settle if the ground beneath dries and shrinks too much. In times of drought, when rainfall is scarce, hot tub water can be used to soak the ground around the home, or near concrete placement. This soaks into the soil, expanding it to a greater volume, for support of heavy concrete and steel structures.

Pump it into your pool

Sure why not? Unless it’s dark green and super funky, a large swimming pool can easily absorb a few hundred gallons of spa water without batting an eyelash. It’s actually what I do, when I’m not needing to water the lawn or my plants, I just run the hose over to the pool and recycle my spa water, magically turning it into pool water.

Pump it into a doggy pool

During the hotter parts of the summer, my dogs love to take a dip, but they know not to go in the pool, with my direct (adult) supervision. I bought a Walmart kiddie pool a few years ago for my dogs. Now when I do a spa water change in the summer, I use about 80 gallons of hot tub water to fill up the doggy pool (kiddie pool), repurposing my old spa water, and (magically) turning it into doggy pool water.

Wash your car or boat

For this trick you will need a submersible pump, and a long garden hose to reach the driveway. I have used my spa water to wash our 2 cars, with some left over to water the front lawn. Since a submersible pump should not be used with a spray nozzle, the hose is constantly running. Place the hose on the lawn during the times you are scrubbing the car (or boat), you can kill two birds with one stone. If you have a community water watch organization on patrol, you may need to explain that you are recycling your hot tub water, and not just letting tap water run down the driveway.

 

<<< 8 Ways to Extend Hot Tub Water Life >>>

 

Maintain optimum water balance

Keeping your spa pH, Alkalinity and Calcium Hardness levels not only makes the water more enjoyable to soak in, but allows your sanitizer and filter to work more effectively, keeping your water from spoilage sooner.

Shower before using your spa

Reducing the amount of oily, flaky, gunky stuff into the spa could be the number one thing to extend your spa water lifespan. For those that treat their hot tub like a bath tub, this creates a huge demand on your spa filter and sanitizer, and leads to smelly, cloudy and possibly unsafe water conditions. You don’t have to take a shower every single time, but if you need a shower, be sure to wash up well with soap and water before using the spa. And keep your head and hair out of the water, to reduce oil and soap contamination.

Shock after using your spa

Even though you are careful to wash before using the spa, shocking the spa after use is a good way to extend hot tub water life. But depending on how many people are using the spa, and for how long, a spa shock treatment may not be always needed. Use your judgement, but try to shock the spa at least once per week, to break apart chemical compounds and contaminants and kill any algae or bacteria.

Install a larger or second spa filter

We’ve covered this idea before, you can sometimes find the same size spa filter cartridge in a larger square footage size. This means that you increase the filter surface area, with a cartridge that has more pleats per inch. More surface area means better filtration. Another way to improve filtration is to use a Microban cartridge, which is coated with a bacteria killing layer (these are the Blue spa filters). Thirdly, you can install a second spa filter, inline underneath the spa, or an external filter placed beside the spa. With enough square footage of filter area, you could easily double or triple your spa water life.

Install an ozonator or mineral purifier

Anything that helps kill bacteria or remove contaminants from the spa water will increase water quality and lengthen the time between draining a hot tub. Ozonators and Mineral Sanitizers are two ways to do this, without heavy reliance on bromine and chlorine. You can reduce the need for halogen sanitizers like bromine and chlorine, while at the same time improving water quality and increasing the time between water changes.

Use spa clarifier or spa enzymes

Spa clarifiers are used to improve your spa filtration. They work to increase the particle size by coagulating suspended particles together, in a size that won’t pass right through the filter. Used regularly, spa clarifiers can stave off an impending water change by allowing the filter to keep the water cleaner, reducing cloudy and dull water. The same is true for spa enzymes, many of which are mixed with clarifiers. Enzymes are organic creatures that consume oils and gunk in the water, actually removing them and reducing the work for your filter and sanitizer.

Use a spa water prefilter when filling

Especially for those on a well, or for city water supply that is not always clean or perfectly balanced, using a spa pre-filter when you fill the spa can lead to a longer water life. A hot tub pre-filter screws on the end of your garden hose and filters out minerals, metals, chloramines, contaminants, oils – leaving you with very pure water – H2O. When you start with clean fresh water, with a low TDS (total dissolved solids) level, you can add weeks or months to the life of your spa water. I always use a pre-filter, and can tell you that it does make a difference!

Filter the water longer each day

Many spa owners naturally try to reduce their energy use with the spa, but reducing your filtering time too much can cost you more money in chemicals and water changes. For those spas with a 24 hr circulation pump – run the pump 24 hours, but also be sure to have a few jet pump runs during the day, to force high pressure water through the pipes and filter. This helps avoid biofilm cultures from growing and prevents dead zones in the spa circulation. If your spa water turns cloudy or dull too easily, you may need more daily filtration, and/or a new spa filter cartridge.

 


 

Look to find ways to reuse your spa water around the home, and try to improve your water quality so you only need to drain your spa 2 or 3 times per year, instead of 3 or 4 …

 

Happy Hot Tubbin’

Daniel Lara
Hot Tub Works

 

FEATURED SPA PRODUCTS

Hot Tub Wiring

February 13th, 2017 by

Installing a new hot tub? Wiring for a full featured portable hot tub has to be done correctly, as we all know that water and electricity don’t mix. A 50 or 60 amp breaker provides power to a secondary GFCI box, which powers the spa pack controller. Hire an electrician and pull a permit, so that you can be sure it was all done up-to-code.

PERMITTING A HOT TUB

Do you need a permit for a hot tub? Probably. Most local building and zoning boards want to certify that hot tub wiring has been done safely, properly and ‘up to code’. The Permit-Inspection-Approval process is in place to prevent unsafe spa wiring, which can result in electrocution and fire.

Having an inspector certify the work ensures that electricians don’t cut corners like using small wire size, cheap connectors, incorrect or absent conduit, or ignoring important safety regulations. It also ensures that your contractor is licensed in your state to perform hot tub wiring.

Wiring a hot tub is best left to licensed electricians that have experience working with Article 680.42, and with local electrical inspector interpretations of the code, which can vary. Avoid using ‘cousin Billy’s son’, or anyone other than a licensed and established electrician, and if they tell you that you don’t need a permit, run for the hills (find another contractor)! Remember, it’s for your protection and safety, to have hot tub wiring done properly, and up to the most current code.

WIRING A HOT TUB

There are plug-n-play hot tubs that you can literally plug into a 15 amp wall outlet, but if you want a tub with powerful equipment and features, these require hard-wiring to a 50 or 60 amp breaker, on a dedicated circuit (nothing else powered by the breaker).

Square D 50-amp GFCI panel for outdoor installationThe first question is, do you have enough room (spare amperage) in your existing home breaker panel, to add a rather large 50 amp circuit breaker? You can add up the amps listed on the breaker handle, and compare it to the label at the top of the panel, that tells how many amps the panel supports in total (usually 100, 200, or 400 amps).

The second question is, how far away from the main home breaker panel, do you want to place the spa? You will need to run 4 wires in conduit, from the new circuit breaker, to the GFCI power connection in the spa pack. A secondary GFCI power cut-off outside of the spa, but at least 5 feet from the spa, is connected to the breaker in the main home breaker panel. Many electricians like to use this Square D 50-amp GFCI panel, shown right.

Once you get power into the spa from a dedicated circuit, the 4 wires (Ground, Neutral, Hot 120V, Hot 120V) will connect directly into your spa pack. Consult your owner’s manual for specific connections and settings, accessed inside the control box. Once connected, follow your particular spa instructions for filling and starting up your new hot tub or spa pack.

BONDING A HOT TUB

Bonding for hot tubs is an important part of electrical safety. A bare copper wire is attached to bonding lugs on metal and electrical spa equipment. Bonding captures stray voltages or short circuits that any one load (pump, blower, heater) may be producing. The large gauge bare copper wire creates an easy pathway for fault currents to flow, to protect spa users from electric shock.

Equipotential bonding is another type of bonding that connects a body of water (pool or spa) to the rebar steel used in the pool deck. In 2014, the NEC amended Article 680.42 to permit spa and hot tub installations without equipotential bonding, but with these exceptions:

  • Must be Listed as a “Self Contained Spa” on the certification label.
  • It cannot be Listed as “For Indoor Use Only” on the certification label.
  • It must be installed according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • it must be installed 28″ above any surface within 30″ of the tub.

 

Happy Hot Tubbin’

Daniel Lara
Hot Tub Works

 

5 Hot Tub Repairs you can Do Yourself

January 10th, 2017 by

DIY-HOT-TUB-REPAIR

Around here, we are decidedly DIY, and we do what we can to encourage spa and hot tub owners to manage their own water chemistry, spa care and maintenance. And being that we sell thousands of spa and hot tub parts, we also want our customers to feel comfortable making spa equipment repairs.

There are literally hundreds of spa repairs that you can do yourself, today we are going to focus on 5 common hot tub repairs, breaking down the process involved, so you can fix it and feel proud.

 


 

Leaking Spa Pump Seal

Leaking Spa PumpsWhen a spa therapy pump is leaking, it’s either going to be where the pipes screw in and out of the wet end, or it’s going to be the shaft seal. A leaking shaft seal can be visually observed by looking at where the motor shaft enters the wet end. A shaft seal is a spring loaded, 2-piece part that seals up the motor shaft, as it passes into the wet end and connects to the impeller.

The easiest way to replace the shaft seal is to replace the entire wet end, as shown in these wet end replacement videos. The wet end is everything that in front of the motor, we have center discharge and side discharge wet ends to fit most spa pumps. In this way the entire pump is new, not just the shaft seal, including the impeller, seal plate, diffuser and volute housing. You could just replace the shaft seal, most spa therapy pumps use the #200 seal or the #201 seal.

 

New Topside Control Panel


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Most topside control panels (the buttons you push to control the spa equipment), can last 10 years or more – before they become unresponsive, or some calamity befalls them. Replacing a Topside Panel is not complicated, you just want to make sure to use the correct replacement panel, so that it fits the cut-out in your spa, and will connect or plug-in to your spa control.

The hardest part about replacing a spa control panel is buying the correct replacement. We have almost 100 different topside panels available from ACC, Balboa, Hydroquip, Len Gordon, Gecko and Tecmark. Most spa topside panels include the power cord of the correct length, so all you have to do is “glue it and screw it” to the panel, and connect the cord or cable. If you are having trouble finding your exact replacement topside control, give us a call and we can find it for you.

 

Hot Tub Ozonator Repairs


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Spa ozonators are wonderful devices that can make your spa water practically drinkable, but maybe you shouldn’t. Ozone is produced by either a UV bulb or a CD chip, and then delivered via hose into an ozone injector.  Over 12-24months, the ozone production will deplete, and eventually fall to zero. Since there is no simple test for ozone, other than no more bubbles from the ozone jets, it’s wise to schedule ozone repair on your calendar.

Every 12-24 months, or whatever is recommended by your ozone unit manufacturer, replace the ozone hose, ozone check valve, and either the CD chip or the UV bulb. With ozonator prices so low, many people find it better to replace the entire ozone unit every few years. Dimension One spas and others, may blow out the ozone air pump, and not need further repair.

 

Spa Heater Replacement


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Spas and hot tubs are most often heated by an electric immersion element, housed inside of a 15″ long ‘flow-thru’ stainless steel tube, or other vessel. Replacing a hot tub heater element is something that can be done DIY, but for simplicity, it’s usually best to replace the element and tube, as a complete unit. If you feel confident and are careful in repair however, you can replace just the element and reduce your repair cost.

Like other spa repairs, the hardest part is correctly identifying and ordering correctly, the correct spa heater element or spa heater assembly. We have several ways to do this, you can find spa heaters listed by Brand (Balboa, Gecko, Hydroquip), Popularity and by Dimensional size. You also need to match the element output in Kilowatts, usually 1kW, 4kW and 5.5kW. 11kW spas use two 5.5 kW elements. If you have any doubt about your selection, give us a call, we’re happy to help you find the right hot tub heater or element.

 

Leaking Spa Plumbing


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We’ve already talked about leaking pump seals above, but spas and hot tubs can leak almost anywhere. Common spa leaks include leaking spa jets, leaking manifold plumbing fittings, leaking unions and filters or skimmers. The first thing to do is to locate the exact source and find a spa leak. As per Murphy’s Law, it’s almost never going to be easily accessed. You may have to remove cabinet panels, and get yourself into awkward positions to find and fix the leak.

If it’s your filter or a spa union, you may just need to tighten up the lock ring, or it could be a pinched or dry-rotted internal sealing o-ring. Leaking spa jets are usually a deteriorated spa jet gasket. Leaking glue joints, on valves or fittings will usually need to be cut-out and replumbed. Draining the spa below the level of the repair will be necessary. Other than that, it’s just regular PVC plumbing, with primer and glue and the right spa plumbing fittings.

 


 

For help diagnosing a spa or hot tub problem, or help selecting the right replacement spa parts, you can contact us anytime at 800-770-0292, or you can send info and images to us in the email, at info@hottubworks.com.

 

Happy Hot Tubbin’

Daniel Lara
Hot Tub Works

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Winter Hot Tub Accessories

December 19th, 2016 by

It’s officially winter now, and I can tell because our call center has begun fielding calls from new spa owners, with anxious questions about hot tub winterization or could they keep the spa open all winter? Or, can they safely drain the spa during winter?

We’ve talked about winter hot tub tips before, or how to get the most out of your spa during the winter months. Today I want to show you several cool winter hot tub products, or accessories that help protect your spa, and make winter hot tub use safer and more enjoyable.

 

spa covers

spa-cover-for-winterWell, of course you need a spa cover during winter. Without a tight fitting spa cover in good condition, your hot tub may have trouble staying hot. Spa tops that are waterlogged can lose half of their insulating properties, and a bad fitting spa top that doesn’t fit well, or is not strapped down tightly will lose heat. Replace cover clips that are broken or use high wind straps to pull the cover down tightly over the spa, and prevent heat loss. If you see steam escaping around the edges, or on the fold seam, just imagine it as dollar bills with wings.

 

spa caps

spa-cover-cap-for-winterIt’s a cover for your cover! Spa covers take a beating during winter, from sun snow and ice. The spa cover cap fits over top of your spa cover like a fitted sheet to protect it from moisture and UV rays. Available in 7’x7′ and 8’x8′ square sizes, to fit most hot tub shapes and sizes. Can improve heat retention performance on covers that are losing heat, and helps extend the life of any spa cover. The CoverCap spa cover cap is made from strong woven PE, using a silver reflective surface to melt snow faster, which also deters most birds, squirrels and bears, oh my!

 

spa blankets

floating-foam-insulating-blanketFor spas and hot tubs in cold northern climates, a floating spa blanket can increase heat retention by up to 50%. Without a spa blanket floating on the surface of the water, heat rises to fill the air space between the water and your spa cover. Floating spa blankets are available in 3 types, the durable Radiant Spa Blanket with an aluminum underside, the Floating Foam Blanket made of closed cell foam, and the economy Spa Bubble Blanket made of extruded PE. All spa insulating blankets are sold in square sizes, and trimmed at home with scissors to fit your spa.

 

spa jackets

spa-insulating-jacketFor spas with little internal insulation, wrap the Spa Jacket around the cabinet to instantly improve heat retention. Spa Jackets block wind and keep insects and rodents out of your spa cabinet. Constructed of two layers of vinyl covering a 1/2″ thick foam blanket, each Spa Jacket is custom made to fit your spa perfectly. Comes in 4 panels that snap to your spa cabinet and Velcro connect to adjacent panels. Can be used to improve hot tub efficiency, or simply as a way to hide ugly or damaged cabinet panels. 7 available colors, to match your spa cover.

 

spa enclosure

hot-tub-gazebo in winterYou may have a hot tub umbrella, but do you have a hot tub enclosure? Sometimes called pavilions, gazebos or cabanas, the Japanese were the first to popularize the use of Onzens, or small huts built above a hot spring. Hot tub enclosures are available as inflatable domes, retractable domes, or wood structures with large window panels that can be opened. In addition to protecting your spa from sun, snow and wind, enclosures also can improve the efficiency of heating a hot tub in winter, and they can be the best way to add a little privacy to your hot tub.

 

heated floor mats

heated-mats-for-spa-steps-during-winterUnless your spa is located just steps from the door, on a covered patio, winter hot tubbers often have to cross a frozen tundra to reach their bubbling spa. Ice and snow can be dangerous and a slip and fall on your way to the hot tub, can ruin your whole evening. For hot tubs in snowy winter areas, consider heating patio pavers with floor heat cables placed beneath, or use heated floor mats to keep the path to your hot tub free of ice and snow. You can find them in many sizes, and also find heated stair mats to use on your spa steps, for safe entry and exit.

 

spa handrail

spa-handrails-for-winterSpeaking of safely entering and exiting a spa, Spa Handrails are the perfect winter spa accessory. Spa steps may be icy from splashed out water, or rain/snow; a spa handrail helps you make that awkward last big step into the spa, without making a fool of yourself. And getting out of the hot tub, when your legs are like jelly, and the blood rushes to your head as you stand-up, the Spa Handrail is at-your-service. We have several spa safety hand rails, one that screws into the cabinet, or two with a large plate that slips under the spa, and one that attaches to a spa step.

 

a good hat

hat-for-hot-tub in winterPossibly the best winter hot tub accessory, a good hat will keep you from losing heat from the top of your head, and keep your hair dry. When your head is cold, you risk getting a head cold! Along with my trusty Red Sox hat, I also swear by my spa slippers and robe, two other winter wardrobe essentials for hot tubbers. Wearing a hat while in the hot tub, even if that’s the only thing you’re wearing 😉 is always a good idea.

 


 

Enjoy your hot tub this winter with some of these popular winter hot tub accessories!

 

Happy Hot Tubbin’

Daniel Lara
Hot Tub Works

 

Hot Tub Circulation Pump Troubleshooting

October 31st, 2016 by

HOT-TUB-CIRCULATION-PUMPS
Circulation pumps used in spas and hot tubs, also called Circ Pumps or Hush Pumps, are low-flow pumps that constantly circulate the water (24/7) very slowly, to continuously filter, heat and chemically treat the water. Common spa/hot tub circulation pumps are made by Aqua-Flo, Grundfos, Laing and Waterway.

spa-circ-pump-motor-labelNot all spas have a circulation pump however. Many spas use a 2-speed therapy pump, with low speed used for constant circulation, and high speed used for turning the jets on high. The way to tell if a spa pump is a Circ Pump, and not a Therapy Pump, is by the Amps listed on the motor label. Anything under 1.5 Amps would be a Circ pump. Therapy or Jet pumps have much higher Amp usage, and you would see at least 6 Amps listed on the motor label.

Circulation pumps tend to last 5-10 years, although your mileage may vary. I’ve seen them last only a few years, and I’ve seen them last 20 years, and I wish I knew the secret to a long life, but it seems random. One thing for sure however, is that at some point in the life of a spa or hot tub, a circulation pump will develop problems.

Here’s how to troubleshoot a circulation pump on a spa or hot tub, to determine if the circ pump needs repair or replacement.

CIRCULATION PUMP IS DEAD

If there is no action at all from the circulation pump, your topside control panel should be giving you an error code, perhaps a FLO or OH. Check that power is on, and the breaker or GFCI test button are not tripped. Check that all valves are in the open position. For slice valves, the handle should be Up, and for ball valves, the handle should be parallel to the pipe. Follow the circ pump plumbing, and look for any possible kinks in the hose. Pull out the cartridge filter, to see if flow improves and the circulation pump is doing better.

CIRCULATION PUMP IS MAKING NOISES

One of the best things about a hot tub circulation pump is quiet operation; they make almost no noise. Gurgling, humming or grinding noises on a spa circulation pump are good indicators of a problem. It could be Air, Scale or a Clogged Impeller. Maybe a dirty spa filter. Or, it could be the bearings in the motor going bad.

AIR IN THE LINES: If you have just drained the spa, you may have an air lock on the circ pump. Some circ pumps have an air bleeder knob, or you can loosen the union nut to release the air. Open the lock nut slightly until you hear air hissing, then tighten up again as water begins to leak. You can also pull out the spa filter and insert a garden hose into the hole, sealing around the hose with a clean cloth or sponge, to force air out of the lines.

SCALE DEPOSITS: Calcium or lime deposits can built up and create noise that makes a ‘hush pump’, not so quiet. The impeller housing or the wet end cover plate of a circ pump can be removed to inspect the impeller. Be sure to cut off power first, and close valves on each side of the pump. If there are no valves, you can use a hard clamp on soft hoses, or plug a 3/4″ line with wine corks. Inspect the hoses (pipes) and the impeller surfaces for any deposits. They can be removed with a stiff brush, or a chemical like CLR.

CLOGGED IMPELLER: Circulation pumps usually pull water from the skimmer/cartridge filter, and it’s not uncommon that bits of debris, or even parts of the filter itself get sucked into the pump, clogging the impeller. Open up the circulation pump as described above to check this possibility. Other possible clogs include downstream obstructions, in an ozone injection manifold, or specifically the Mazzei injector, or if a return fitting or drain cover is used, where the water returns to the spa, it could be clogged on the inside.

BAD BEARINGS: Inside of a normally quiet circulation motor are two bearings that ensure smooth rotation of the rotor within the stator. When these bearings age, they begin to shriek and squeal, or grind loudly. A test to confirm is to disconnect the plumbing and turn it on very briefly, to see if it still makes funny noises. At this point, you either need to replace the bearings, replace the motor, or replace the entire circ pump.

CIRCULATION PUMP IS BARELY PUMPINGpump-system-spa-hot-tub

Spa circulation pumps don’t wear out and pump less water over time, they either work or they don’t. If you feel low volume of water coming out of your heater return, the first thing to do is to remove the spa filter and see if the flow improves. If after cleaning the spa filter, the problem reoccurs, replace the spa filter.

Secondary causes of extra low flow on a low flow hot tub circulation pump include the items mentioned above; either there is air in the line, or something is blocking flow before the pump on the suction side, or after the pump on the pressure side.

 


 

If you decide to replace your hot tub circulation pump, the job of actually replacing a circ pump seems to be less trouble for most people than ordering the correct replacement circ pump for your particular hot tub. In my next post, I’ll cover Replacing a Hot Tub Circulation Pump, or how to select the correct make and model of circ pump, and install it yourself.

 

Happy Hot Tubbin’

Daniel Lara
Hot Tub Works

 

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