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Daniel Lara's Posts

Advanced Hot Water Chemistry

September 15th, 2014 by

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Beyond pH and Bromine levels, beyond alkalinity and calcium hardness – what else is there?

Maintaining a healthy hot tub is crucial not only for the users of the spa, to avoid sickness, but also for the integrity of your hot tub spa.

The following article on hot tub water chemistry will focus on 3 important tenets:

1. A Hot Tub is Not a Small Pool.

2. Chemicals behave differently in Hot Water.

3. Spa filters are important to chemistry.

 

1. HOT TUBS ARE NOT SMALL SWIMMING POOLS

Although many spa owners treat their spas and swimming pools the same, using the same test kits and even the same chemical treatments, there is a world of difference between the two. The largest difference is in volume. Easy enough to understand, a spa of 400 gallons is quite a bit smaller than a pool containing 20000 gallons.

The main distinction here is in gallons per bather. When 4 persons slip into a 400 gallon spa, that’s the equivalent of 200 swimmers in a 20000 gallon pool. A radical change in water chemistry occurs when people enter a hot tub. The pH tends to jump up dramatically, and the sanitizer is pummeled. The small cartridge filter, adequately sized for an unused spa, becomes immediately overwhelmed.

Bromine tends to respond better than chlorine in this situation, maintaining more efficacy at higher pH levels than chlorine, but even a high level of bromine is rapidly depleted in the presence of several spa users. This leaves your bathers unprotected from pathogenic microorganisms.

This is why a Hot Tub needs to have additional sanitation methods. Using an Ozonator and a mineral purifier together (in addition to bromine), is the best way to ensure extra protection for a hot tub or spa used by several persons at the same time.

This is also why it is so important for spa users to shower thoroughly before using a hot tub. I know that it’s difficult (if not outright rude) to ask guests to shower before using a spa, but just imagine all of the gunk that is washing off their (and your) body – bacteria, dirt, fungus, feces, oils, urine – to name a few. Not to mention all those chemicals from cosmetics, lotions, hair care products, shampoo and soaps. And your skin pores, opening up in that hot water…

 

2. CHEMICALS BEHAVE DIFFERENTLY IN HOT WATER

As water temperature rises, the viscosity or density of water decreases, and molecular activity increases. Sanitizing agents become hyperactive, and quickly dissipate. Carbonates and bicarbonates, hydrogen and hydroxyl ions, and calcium minerals all ‘fly’ around the water at breakneck speed, combining and separating in bizarre ways, not seen in colder water. Molecules in cold water have a greater atomic bonding, and resist change, whereas in hot water, molecular combinations (not all good) occur much more easily in hot water.

Cold water also holds much more entrained oxygen than hot water, and sound travels faster in cold water. Not much to do with hot tub water chemistry, I just think it’s interesting, that’s all. Everything that is in your hot tub water, every speck of dust, every droplet of bodily fluid, all affect water balance, and contribute to Total Dissolved Solids in a hot tub. It’s another property of hot water that solids break down more easily than in cold water. But they don’t go away, they are simply dissolved in the water.

Pool chemicals are not suitable for spas and hot tubs. Namely because of the labeling and dosages listed. It’s very easy to overdose or under dose a hot tub. Even for those chemicals that may be identical, such as pH up or Alkalinity increaser. Although chemically the same, spa chemicals are produced in finer grades, to dissolve more rapidly.

Other pool chemicals, such as clarifiers and algaecides, are not produced for use in hot water temperatures. They break down more readily in water of higher temperatures, and combine in ways that render them useless. These reasons are why you should not use pool chemicals in your spa or hot tub.

 

3. SPA FILTERS ARE MORE IMPORTANT THAN YOU THINK

You may wonder what the spa filter has to do with hot tub water chemistry, but as the title implies, it’s more important than you may think!

Harkening back to our opening paragraph, when 3 or 4 people jump into a hot tub, it can overwhelm a spa filter. I’m speaking of the pleated filter cartridge that serves to strain out small particles in your hot tub. In most cases, their diminutive size is adequate for a hot tub that is not hosting visitors, but place a few humans in the equation, and it can take hours for it to catch up.

In spas, as in swimming pools, there needs to be a balance of sanitation and filtration. A balance is important, if you will – imagine doing it all with only one of these. If you only had sanitation (and no filtration – stagnant water), you would need a very large amount of sanitizer to keep the water clean and clear. Or – you could do without sanitizer, if you had a filter as big as a house, or circulation of hundreds of gallons of water per minute. But this is impractical, so we rely on a balance.

It doesn’t take long for a small cartridge filter to stop pulling it’s weight around a hot tub or spa. When this happens, much more is required of your sanitizer, or more sanitizer is required, I should say. I know that some of you may be guilty of going years without changing the filter cartridge. Sure you clean it – occasionally, but when was the last time you replaced your spa filter?

For best results, replace your filter cartridge every 10-15 cleanings, or every 12-24 months, depending on how often the spa is used. A spa filter that needs replacement won’t stand up and wave it’s hand for a substitute, it quietly keeps chugging along, allowing microscopic debris to pass through unfiltered.

When your filter is doing less than what is required, your water suffers, and it could affect the health of your spa users and your spa luster. Do yourself a favor and set a calendar reminder to replace your spa filter on a regular basis. Or, do what I do, and buy them in pairs, and alternate cartridges when one is removed for cleaning. This allows me to go 24 months between purchases, and also means that I allow the cartridge to dry fully after cleaning it, which kills any contaminants buried deep inside the fibers.

 

Daniel Lara
Hot Tub Works

 

Hot Tubs & Spas: Cutting Energy Costs

August 21st, 2014 by

green-spa-2There are an estimated 3.5 million spas and hot tubs in the United States, about half a million in California alone! Each spa can use around 2500 kWh of energy per year – that’s almost 9 Billion Kilowatt hours!

This has caused various state and federal energy agencies to look closely at the way spas and hot tubs are designed, and how this affects their energy consumption. Several studies have been done in the last ten years, and they give us a good idea of where manufacturers and citizens can save energy around a spa or hot tub.

From a study commissioned by PG&E, for instance, we know that there are measures that can improve spa efficiency by up to 40% for spas of average to low efficiency. States with scarce power supplies (like California), are very interested in reducing demand on the grid.

The study aforementioned was responsible, in 2006 for the insertion of spas and hot tub standards being inserted into Title 20, California’s energy saving initiative. This set efficiency standards for new spas and hot tubs, similar to the cafe standards, which mandate minimum mpg for automobile manufacturers.

The standards have been revised and tweaked, and as a result of more research we now know more about how spas and hot tubs use energy. Here’s what we’ve learned:

 

Top 5 ways to Reduce Hot Tub Energy Costs

1a LIGHTS: Starting the list are our spa light or lights. Using LED lights, with a consumption around 3 watts, beats out halogen or other bulbs as the way to go. Most new spas are entirely LED, with some exception. Older spas can retrofit to use LED bulbs, in some cases without changing the light housing, or replace with a spa light kit. If your spa light does not have an auto shut off, install an indicator light in the circuit that you can see from the house, to keep off when not being used.

Possible Energy Savings: 5-10%

 

2aCONTROLS: Smarter control systems are now possible, with pumps that have a dozen programmable speeds, and timer clocks that allow you to optimize energy usage with multiple run times, programmed for your usage patterns, and taking advantage of cheaper off peak energy. Most spas are programmable, even if they have a mechanical time clock – but many people fail to optimize it.

It takes a lot of energy to start the pump motor and heater, extra amps aid in the starting-up, so although many daily on-off cycles are good, too many can be too much. For your spa, Experiment by reducing the hours, to find a sweet spot where the water quality or temperature won’t suffer, and you can cut energy costs. You don’t need to run it 24 hours a day!

Run the pump(s) less during the day, to avoid peak usage hours. My spa pump mostly runs on low speed, but it takes a long break in the morning and then another mid-afternoon siesta.

If you have two pumps, you have one smaller circulation pump, and a larger jet pump. Experimenting with run times on these can also result in savings.

Possible Energy Savings:  10-20%

 

3aPUMP: Running your pumps less helps yes, but for those spas out there with the 20 year old pumps, or the single speed pumps, or the pumps that suddenly disabled their low speed, or the failed circulation pump that was never replaced. I’m talking to you!

Replacing with the most current spa pumps will give you a boost in economy with a more energy efficient motors used nowadays. Side discharge pumps also have a boost in efficiency over center discharge.

Possible Energy Savings: 10-20%

 

4aCOVER: Your spa cover can either be saving you money, or costing you money. If you can see steam creeping out of the edges of it, or if your cover has taken on water, it’s not holding the heat in like it should.

The heat retention in a spa cover has to do with 3 things, the density of the foam, the thickness of the foam and the foam core wrap or seal. Although we offer a 1.5lb spa cover, a 2.0 foam density is best for holding heat in, with a taper of 3 to 5 inches at least. And when you order your next replacement spa cover, go for the options of the double wrapped foam core and the continuous heat seal – worthy add-ons that will save heat and protect your core from moisture.

Possible Energy Savings: 15-20%

 

5aINSULATION: And now, drum roll please – the most significant thing you can do to increase your spa or hot tub energy efficiency is to make sure your tub is well insulated underneath and around the sides. There are many portable spas that have virtually no underside foaming, and have a thin sheet of padding on the inside of the  cabinet walls. Hot tubs, true wooden tubs don’t normally have any insulation around the outside and can be extremely inefficient, which is why most are heated on demand, and not kept hot.

You can increase your spa’s efficiency by stuffing bats of fiberglass insulation everywhere you can under the spa, with the exception of the air space around the spa equipment. You can also use spray foam to fill in gaps, and eliminate air spaces and gaps – but it would be easier to use removable insulation, especially for future access to pipes or jets around the spa.

Possible Energy Savings: 25-30%

 

Other things you can do to prevent heat loss include:

  1. Build wind blocks around outdoor spas
  2. Use a floating spa cover in addition to your regular spa cover
  3. Avoid using the air blower, which cools the water
  4. Turn down the heat if you won’t be using the spa for a week or more
  5. Replace the cover promptly after using the spa

 

Happy Hot Tubbin’!

Daniel Lara
Hot Tub Works

 

The Dead Spa: No Power Hot Tub

July 31st, 2014 by

spa-has-no-power

It’s happened to me plenty of times – get myself all ready for a nice soak in the tub, lift the lid and find lukewarm water and no lights on the control panel.

It’s usually an easy fix, when you have no power to the spa – the greater disappointment is not being able to use the spa at that moment.

If you’ve ever found a ‘Dead Spa’, with no power at all, no indicator lights, nothing at all – this post is for you. Use these steps to troubleshoot a hot tub with no power.

 

 

Tripped Breaker

Check the main circuit breaker that provides power to the spa. This may be located in the home main panel, or inside a smaller panel near the hot tub. To reset a circuit breaker, first push it towards OFF, and then flip it back to ON. If the breaker begins to repeatedly trip (known as nuisance tripping), it may need to be replaced, or there could be voltage irregularity. Consult your electrician for testing or replacement.

Tripped GFCI

This one gets me all the time. My spa, and most others, have an electrical outlet attached to the spa pak. This is one of those GFI outlets with the red test button, and a black reset button. If you find it tripped, just push the red button back in. If the outlet continues to pop, either immediately or later, there is some stray voltage grounding out, and causing the button to pop. Consult an electrician to find the source, if not readily apparent (burnt wires, insects or rodent damage, water).

Blown Fuse

Spas and some hot tubs have internal fuses, which are meant to blow when voltage spikes occur, to protect your equipment (pumps, blower, heater). A blown fuse could just be a blown fuse, or it could point to a blower or pump that is shorting out, or it could mean the transformer is allowing too much voltage to pass through. Check your owner’s manual for location of any fuses, and always replace with the exact duplicate fuse.

Faulty Wiring

Incoming wires can be damaged from heat or rodents, or you may have loose connections, or wires touching each other. This will often cause a breaker to trip or fuse to blow, but not always. If it’s the wires carrying power into the transformer, or out of the transformer, you can have a ‘no power’ situation. Shut off all power before touching or replacing any damaged spa wiring.

Tripped High-limit switch

In some spas, a heater high limit switch can cause a complete power shut down, to protect equipment (and you!) from harm. If your spa pak has a hi limit reset button, (usually red), give this a push to see if power is restored. Thermal overloads (motors, blowers), can also prevent equipment from coming on, but don’t usually shut down all power and lights to the spa.

Bad Transformer

A transformer reduces voltage, ‘transforming’ it to a specific lower voltage. A spa may have 220V coming into the transformer and 40 volts coming out, for example – but this varies from spa to spa. A voltmeter can be used to test the transformer output, to see that it’s within 10% of the rated output voltage, which is normally printed right on the transformer.

Bad Panel

Finally, if you have no indicator lights on your control panel, look underneath for lights on the spa pak. For a control panel that is unresponsive, with no LED’s or temp reading, check the wire harness from the spa pak to the circuit board for a loose connection or damaged wire. It could also be a bad circuit board (but I hope not!).

~ Soooo, if your spa has no power, no lights, no nuthin’ – check out these 7 possibilities.

 

Happy Hot Tubbin’!

Daniel Lara
Hot Tub Works

 

Replacing a Wet End on a Spa Pump

July 24th, 2014 by

SPA-PARTS-WET-ENDSWet End Replacement – a wet end is the part of your spa pump that gets wet – the volute halves, and inside, the impeller and shaft seal. It’s sold as a complete unit, for quick field replacement, in the case of volute, impeller or seal failure.

Here’s pictures of Drake replacing a wet end in about 75 seconds, along with the transcript I also lifted from the video. :-) Enjoy!

 

Here’s a quick change wet end for the 56 frame Ultramax spa pump

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What you want to do is take all five bolts out of the volute, and remove the volute, or impeller housing from the front of the wet end. Some models may have only 4 bolts, some have six.

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Take a slotted screwdriver, and insert it into the rear of the motor shaft (you may have to remove a cover plate), to hold the shaft stationary. Now spin off the impeller (counter clockwise). If it’s stubborn, you can use a pair of large Channel Lock type pliers, to assist in removing the impeller from the shaft. It can also be helpful to have a second person hold the screwdriver (or wrench) on the rear of the motor shaft.

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Once the impeller is removed, you need to take note of the color bands on the impeller, that dictates the horsepower of the impeller, which should match the motor hp, and match your new wet end as well.

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Now you want to remove all four motor bolts by loosening with a 5/16″ nut driver and release the tank from the motor. If the motor shaft is rusty, dusty or crusty, clean it up with some sandpaper.

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Your replacement seal will come already in place inside your new wet end – you want to make note that you have the right color bands, which will dictate the horsepower for this particular motor.

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Position the new wet end over the shaft, in the same orientation as your previous wet end (pointing either up, or to the side).

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Use a slotted screwdriver on the back of the motor shaft and turn the shaft, pulling tight the new wet end against the motor, threading the shaft into the impeller and compressing the spring.

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Insert the motor bolts and tighten them all the way by hand, and then use a 5/16″ nut driver to tighten them up in a harmonic cross pattern. Now reach in the front of your new wet end, and be sure that the impeller spins freely.

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Reconnect the wiring and the union connectors, and your wet end replacement is complete!

Remember to use only the exact and correct replacement wet end  – if you have any questions on selecting the right one, feel free to give us a call, or send an email, and we’ll help you out.

 

Happy Hot Tubbin’!

Daniel Lara
Hot Tub Works

 

Hot Tub Folliculitis – Preventing Pseudomonas

July 17th, 2014 by

FOLLICULITISnoun \fə-ˌli-kyə-ˈlī-təs\ – inflammation of one or more follicles especially of the hair.

It’s a skin infection that produces an itchy rash with red bumps.

Pseudomonas Aeruginosa is a germ usually responsible.

 

Pseudomona… What?

pseudomonas-4Hot Tub Rash is a faster way to say it, easier than either folliculitis or pseudomonas aeruginosa! Let’s call our germ “Pseudo“; Pseudo is one of the most common bacterias in our modern society. It is naturally occurring nearly everywhere, and poorly maintained hot tubs present a particularly nice home for the pathogen.

Pseudo is also responsible for over 10% of all hospital infections. In addition to dermatitis, pseudomonas also causes gastrointestinal, urinary and respiratory infections. It’s a very opportunistic bugger, exploiting hosts with a variety of entry points.

In a hot tub that is poorly filtered and sanitized, pseudomonas can thrive, and as you soak in the water, your pores open up, and the pseudo just swims right inside, and makes a home near the root of the tiny hair follicles.

The rash usually appears on legs, buttocks and back, but hot tub rash can appear nearly anywhere on the body. The rash can begin to appear within a few hours, but may take up to 24 hours to become noticeable. The rash frequently appears under the swimsuit areas, due to continued exposure even after leaving the water.

Preventing Pseudomonas

To make sure we get the information correct, I went straight to the experts. Prevent hot tub rash in your spa by following these tips from the CDC’s Pseudomonas Fact Sheet.

  • Remove biofilm slime regularly by scrubbing and cleaning.
  • Replace the spa filter according to manufacturer’s recommendations.
  • Replace the water in a hot tub regularly.  Here’s how.
  • Maintain pH levels in the 7.2-7.8 range.
  • Maintain sanitizer levels; 2-4ppm chlorine, or 4-6ppm bromine.

Public Spas & Hot Tubs

The fact is, most cases of hot tub rash occur in public spas – hotels, resorts, rec centers, gyms. It’s much less common in well maintained home spas. Public spas have high levels of guests, which pummels the sanitizer and pH levels, and quickly allows bacteria to form, unless the operator is constantly monitoring the chemistry and filtration.

To safely use a public spa, which I do on occasion while on vacation – here’s a few tips of my own:

  • I always pack some spa test strips to discreetly test the spa pH and sanitizer in a public spa.
  • Limit your soak to 20 minutes, afterwards, wash yourself and your swimsuit in the shower.
  • Change into dry clothes, don’t stay in your swimsuit.

Hot Tub Rash Treatment

In most cases, the rash will disappear on it’s own in otherwise healthy individuals. Itching can be reduced with a calamine lotion, or similar anti-itch ointment.

In individuals with compromised immune systems, or if symptoms persist past 3-4 days, or appear to be spreading, visit  your doctor or a dermatologist, who may prescribe an antibiotic medication or antifungal cream. Lab tests could be performed to determine the exact type of bacteria or fungus.

 

Happy Hot Tubbin’

Daniel Lara

 

Help – my Spa Heater isn’t Heating!

July 4th, 2014 by

dreamstime_xs_37231190-lgWhat’s a Hot Tub without a Heater? A Cool Bath!

In the second post in our “Help!” series, we take a look at the water temperature in your spa or hot tub, specifically, when it is lower than you want!

Temperatures of 100° to 104° are preferred by most hot tubbers, and nothing is worse than checking your spa temperature, and finding your thermometer dropping!

Troubleshooting a hot tub heater is a step-by-step process, to determine if you have a pressure problem, a power problem or a part problem.

PRESSURE PROBLEMS

Spa heaters need to have enough water flow, or more specifically, enough water pressure to operate. That is why your spa has a pressure switch, a simple device that senses the water pressure, or flow rate. When the water flow is high enough, the switch is open, or ON, which allows the heater to operate. When the pressure falls below the minimum set point of the pressure switch, it flips closed, or OFF, which breaks the circuit, and the heater won’t come on. Pressure switches are important safety devices, to keep a spa heater from running when there is not enough water running through the heater to absorb the heat being produced.

The high limit switch can also be tripped by low pressure or water flow. When the water slows down in the heater, this raises the temperature of the water as it exits the heater. Most high limits are set to trip when they sense water temperatures of around 140° . Tripping high limit switches can be another symptom of a pressure problem.

What can cause pressure (flow) problems? First, clean the spa filter cartridge, or replace if it’s over 2 yrs old. If your circulation pump has a strainer basket, check that it is clean. Obstructed suction inlets, clogged pipes, or clogged pump impellers can also cause flow problems, as can obstructed outlets, closed valves or closed jets.

Is the pump moving water at all? An Air Lock in the pump after draining and refilling is not uncommon. Is the pump on low-speed? Most heaters will only operate with the pump on high speed.

Rule out pressure problems first by making sure water is flowing as fast as it should be to operate the heater.

POWER PROBLEMS

Power to the heater is the next thing to check. Specifically wires and connections. Locate your heater, and the wires that are connected, which should be very tight. Loose connections on the heater can cause overheating and hi-limit tripping, and even failed circuit boards. Inspect the wires for any frayed, chewed or burned wires.

Checking Voltage: If you are comfortable and cautious with testing voltage, you can check the volts on the heater terminals with a multi-meter, or AC volt meter. With the meter set onto AC volts, with a setting higher than 240V. With the thermostat turned up, and the pump running on high, touch or clip each meter lead to each terminal (at the same time), and you should see 220 volts, or something pretty close (215-225v).

If you do get 220V while touching to each heater terminal, but no heat, this usually means that the heater element is bad.  Inspect the coating around the filament of the heating element, any cracks or chips and the element should be replaced.

If you don’t get any volts while testing the heater leads or terminals, check that a GFCI outlet is not tripped, as well as any circuit breakers.  Make sure the thermostat is turned up. If you still get nothing, the circuit board is likely bad.

Checking Continuity: With power off, the two heater terminals can be tested for continuity. Place your multi-meter on the lowest Ohms setting, and touch each lead to each terminal at the same time. If the meter doesn’t move, the element is bad. If the meter does move, and shows steady resistance, the element is probably good, but could still have a short – inspect the element for cracks or chips.

Rule out power problems by testing for voltage coming into your spa pack, and verifying that voltage is reaching your heating element.

PART PROBLEMS

spa-heater-parts-elementHeater Element: Heater elements can fail if the outer coating becomes cracked, corroded or chipped. And, they can also fail without any visible signs on the heater element. Checking for voltage and continuity, as described above can help determine your elements condition. Average lifespan: 5-10 years.

SPA-PARTS-SPA-FILTERSFilter Cartridge: Filter cartridges are not really a heater system part, but so crucial to heater operation. Clogged spa filters may look normal, but be full of small crystallized minerals covered in oily gunk. Average lifespan: 1-2 years.

 

SPA-PARTS-PRESSURE-SWITCHESPressure Switch: When your spa filter, or suction intakes, or return jets are clogged, blocked or obstructed, the pressure switch will stay closed and keep the heater from working. The same if your pump is on low speed, or if valves are closed. A pressure switch can be easily jumped out with a wire and two alligator clips. Many spa pressure switches are adjustable from 1-5 psi, and sometimes the internal diaphragm fails, requiring replacement. Average lifespan 5-10 years.

hi-limit-spaHigh Limit Switch: The hi-limit switch often has a reset button located near the heater. You may experience occasional nuisance tripping, but repeated tripping indicates either low flow or a malfunctioning heater element. High limit switches can also be bad. They can often be jumped out, using a wire and alligator clips, to bypass the component temporarily, for testing purposes. Average lifespan: 10-15 years.

thermostat-hot-tubThermostat: Older spas will have a manual thermostat that is turned with a knob. Often this is on the side of the heater unit. Some very old spa thermostats are adjustable with a small Allen key, but use caution not to turn up the heat to more than 104°. Newer spas will use potentiometers and sensors to control the temperature regulation via the circuit board. Average lifespan: 10-15 years. 

 

spa-contactorContactor: This is a switch before the heater, which confirms the voltage is regular. When so, the contactor closes and allows power to continue to the heat4er element. Some contactors are loud enough to be heard clicking into place when power is sent to the element. Contactors can become insect infested or can pop a spring occasionally. Average lifespan: 10-15 years.

gfi-outletGFCI: Your spa should have a GFCI breaker in the panel, and also may have a GFCI outlet connected to the spa pack. Ground fault circuit interrupters are very sensitive and they can become overly sensitive. These are safety devices which sense current going to ground, so when they trip repeatedly, this indicates that some small amount of voltage is leaving the circuit. They can also fail from time to time. Average lifespan 10-15 years

spa-pcbPCB: This is an abbreviation for Printed Circuit Board, the circuit board that controls the functions of your spa. Failures of the board are unfortunate and not too unc0mmon. They can result from improper or loose wiring, excessive moisture or heat, voltage spikes which ‘fry’ the board. Troubleshooting a pcb is difficult even for a knowledgeable person with equipment. Spa circuit boards can be repaired, but replacement can often be a cheaper, faster solution. Average lifespan: 10-15 years.

Rule out parts problems by testing each component individually. When a spa heater is not working, there is one or more component to the system that is keeping it from operating. And, as I’ve heard many electricians say, …“the problem lies, where the power dies! “

 

Happy Hot Tubbin’

Daniel Lara
Hot Tub Works

 

Help! My Spa Pump is Leaking!

June 9th, 2014 by

leaking-spa-pump-causes It happens to all spa and hot tub owners at one time or another. You first notice that the spa seems to be needing more refill water than usual, and then you notice a wet spot around the spa pack equipment, and it hasn’t rained in a while…

The spa pump is just one of the areas that can leak in your spa, but it is one of the most common. That’s because your pump shaft is spinning around at speeds of up to 3450 rpm – that’s a lot of friction and a lot of heat generated.

Spa pumps can also leak from freeze damage or from experiencing a water hammer effect. Let’s delve into 3 places a spa pump could be leaking – and what to do about it.

LEAKING SHAFT SEAL:

The mechanical shaft seal wraps around the spinning motor shaft, at the rear of the volute. The design of the two piece shaft seal allows the shaft to spin freely, without leaking. Spa pump seals can fail, especially if the pump was run dry, or if valves are closed while the pump is running, known as deadheading, which creates a water hammer effect when the water suddenly stops in the pipes. If the shaft seal is leaking the water will be running down the backside of the volute and dripping off of the bottom center, in tell-tale fashion.

To order replacement shaft seals, you first need to know which type your pump uses, we have dozens of different shaft seals, give us a call or email with your pump make/model and hp and we can look it up for you.

shaft-seal-for-spa-pumpTo replace a hot tub pump shaft seal, you need to open up the wet end of the pump, known as the volute. Clamp the shaft tightly while you spin off the impeller. There you will see one half of the shaft seal (the spring half) on the impeller stem, and one half of the seal is press fit into the back of the volute, where the motor shaft enters. Remove the bolts that connect the volute to the motor. Knock out the rubber and ceramic ring in the volute, and press fit the new seal half in place, being careful to keep it clean. Slide the other half of the seal, the spring half, off of the impeller, and slide the new one on in the same direction. They should both fit very snugly, if you have the right shaft seal (these are not universal, each pump has it’s own seal).

LEAKING UNIONS:

The unions are those large white rings that are threaded onto the pump, one where the water enters and one where it exits. A spa union is a 3-part connector, with two halves – and a large ring or nut to tighten the halves together. One side usually has male threads which screw into the pump. In between the two halves sits a very important o-ring, which can become dislodged if the union is opened or tightened while there is water rushing out. spa-unions

Another type of leaking union occurs when the threads that are screwed into the exit of the pump have heated up and shrunken slightly. This can happen if the pump runs dry, or otherwise generates enough heat. The tell tale sign to look for is water leaking around the union which carries water out of the pump. When it happens on the incoming union, the one that brings water into the pump, this will usually draw air when the pump is running, and leak water when the pump is off.

In both cases, you can quickly repair a leaking union, by reseating or replacing a union o-ring, or replacing a union half that has shrunken. If you have trouble finding the right spa union parts (there are a number of different union types), please let us know!

LEAKING VOLUTE:

The third and final type of leaking spa pump is the leaking volute, aka impeller housing. The volute can become cracked if left full of water at freezing temperatures, which then drains the spa for you as it thaws.

The volute can also become damaged by a water hammer effect, caused by closing off valves after the pump while the pump is running. If your volute has cracked, that should be obvious, it’s usually a fast leaker that is hard to miss, and different than a leaking union or shaft seal. spa-wet-end-schematic

To repair a cracked volute; you can replace just the volute parts that are cracked (front or rear volute half) or you can buy the entire wet end, center discharge wet ends or wet ends for side discharge pumps. The entire wet end includes both volute halves, impeller, diffuser and seal; use if you are more comfortable replacing the entire shebang.

 

~ Spa and hot tub pump parts are always urgently needed, that’s why we triage orders that contain certain pump parts, to meet our goal of shipping pump parts within 2 hours of your order. If your spa pump is leaking water, it’s either a bad shaft seal, bad union or bad wet end.

Place spa pump parts orders early in the day, and remember you can always email us for a fast reply or call a spa tech from 7-7 M-F and until 4pm on Saturday to be certain that you are ordering the correct pump parts to fix your leaking spa pump.

 

Happy Hot Tubbin’

Daniel Lara
Hot Tub Works

 

Chlorine or Non-Chlorine Shock for Hot Tubs?

May 19th, 2014 by

spa-hot-tub-shock-treatments

Spa and Hot Tub Shockwhat’s better – chlorinated granules or non-chlorine shock?

This post takes a look at the differences between two types of oxidizers used for spa shock treatments – Sodium DiChlor (chlorine granules) or MPS – Monopersulfate (chlorine free).

WHY SHOCK SPAS & HOT TUBS? Oxidizers are added to pools and spas to destroy pathogens like bacteria and viruses, and also organic contaminants that lead to algae growth.

The second main reason is to destroy molecular combinations between your main sanitizer (chlorine or bromine), and other organic matter, which create foul smelling -amines in the water.

WHEN TO SHOCK A SPA? The best time to shock a spa is after you have used the spa, or every 7-10 days. Don’t shock just before using the spa which will reduce it’s effectiveness, and could cause skin irritation. Wait at least an hour after shocking (with MPS), while circulating the water with the spa cover open, before getting in the tub.

HOW TO SHOCK A HOT TUB? Follow the label instructions, for specific dosages. Check your pH first, and adjust to within 7.2 – 7.6. This will allow the oxidizer to work harder, with a pH in the lower half of the scale. Just shake the required amount over the water, being careful of winds, which could blow the powder in your face. Don’t rinse off the cap or scoop in the water, keep it dry and clean at all times for safety. Keep the cover open to allow for gassing off, an important part of the process.

WHAT TYPE OF SPA SHOCK IS BEST? Finally, we are at the meat of this post – which is better for spas and hot tubs, MPS or chlorine shock? Let’s create some distinctions between the two types of spa shock, by looking at benefits of each, not shared by the other.

PRICE COMPARISON

SPA-SHOCK-PRICES-COMPARISON-CHARTHow do Chlorine Granules compare to MPS in terms of price? Is there a large difference between the two? Our chart shows 4 chlorine shocks, 5 MPS shocks, and one blend, Replenish, which contains MPS, with some chlorine added.

Chlorine granules come out a bit cheaper by the pound than MPS spa shock, which has a much wider price range, all higher per pound than chlorine, with the notable exception of Activate shock.

 

STRENGTH COMPARISON

SPA-SHOCK-STRENGTH-COMPARSION-CHART-2The reason that DiChlor shock is used in spas, is that DiChlor is more stable at higher temperatures and has a near neutral pH level. Spa shocks are particularly fine, more of a powder than a granular, so that they dissolve quickly.

All 4 of the chlorine hot tub shocks are 56% Available Chlorine. Among the 5 non-chlorine spa shocks, all are blends of MPS in different formulations, with different percentage of MPS.

If one was to generalize the relative strengths of MPS and DiChlor, it could be said that both Dichlor and MPS have equivalent ability as an algaecide, bactericide and virucide. Dichlor shock may have an edge for spas that are heavily used, or in need of high levels of oxidation.

 FEATURES AND BENEFITS

 

Dichlor-molecule - RSC.orgCHLORINATED GRANULES:

Although there are many types of pool shocks available, using Calcium or Lithium or Sodium Hypochlorite, chlorine hot tub shocks are primarily made with Sodium DiChloro-S-Triazinetrione, or DiChlor for short.

  • Neutral pH, Quick dissolving
  • Sanitizes and oxidizes pathogens and organic contaminants
  • Lower price point

MPS-potassium-peroxymonopersulfate  from rsc.orgMPS SHOCK:

There are a few formulations of MPS, but most of the monopersulfate sold for spas and hot tubs is a blend of MPS, primarily purchased from DuPont, and packaged for resale under many brand names.

  • Low pH, Quick dissolving
  • An excellent oxidizer and a fair sanitizer
  • Does not contribute calcium or cyanuric acid to your spa water
  • Can use the spa almost immediately, unlike with chlorine
  • No odor, gentle on spa covers

 

THE BOTTOM LINE: If you are not using bromine tablets to sanitize, but instead using minerals and ozone, DiChlor may be a better shock to use, but – if you use Bromine tablets or Angel Tabs to sanitize, use the MPS shock to oxidize. I’ve always used bromine tablets and shock the spa with MPS after we use it. However, I also keep some DiChlor on hand, and give the spa a super shock about every month.

 

Happy Hot Tubbin’

Daniel Lara
Hot Tub Works

 

Spa & Hot Tub Filters – 3 Ways

May 5th, 2014 by

too-many-spa-filters-to-choose-fromThe sheer number of spa filter cartridges is enough to boggle the mind. I have a cross-reference book on my desk for all of the pool and spa cartridges that are available – I’m guessing that there are 5000 cartridges in this little book.

I think it’s safe to say that there may be some confusion at times, on behalf of a hot tub owner trying to find a replacement spa filter. In most cases, you can look on the cartridge itself, for the filter number, but what if you have a Unicel and are searching in a Pleatco or Filbur database? Or what if you have a manufacturer’s filter cartridge, is there a generic available? And what if the cartridge is destroyed or got thrown out by mistake?

Rest easy my friends, Hot Tub Works has the solutions to these and other spa filter quandaries. Introducing:

Spa Filters 3-Ways!

BY PART NUMBER

find-my-filterMost savvy spa owners already know this – but there is a filter number stamped into the end cap of the filter cartridge. It may be a Unicel, Pleatco or Filbur number. It can even be a manufacturer part number. Just find the number printed on your spa cartridge, and enter it into the box, and click the Find my Filter button.

BY MANUFACTURER

find-my-filterHere’s another way to Find your Filter – when you don’t see a part number printed on the end cap, you probably have an OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) filter cartridge. We have nearly 250 spa and hot tub manufacturers listed. Just select your make from the drop-down menu and click the Find my Filter button.

BY DIMENSIONS

find-my-filterIf these two methods fail you, we have another way to get you the correct spa filter cartridge. Just take an overall diameter and overall length of the cartridge, and choose the picture that matches your cartridge end – open, closed, castle-end, slotted, threaded… and click on the Find my Filter button.

spa-filter-ends

Remember to replace your spa filter cartridge every 12-24 months, depending on several factors. If you’re wondering if your spa filter cartridge is shot ~ check this post that Gina recently wrote ~ 5 signs that you need a new filter cartridge!

Let our super-duper database take all the guesswork out of buying a new spa filter…

 
Happy Hot Tubbin’

Daniel Lara
Hot Tub Works

 

Increasing the Energy Efficiency of your Hot Tub or Spa

April 10th, 2014 by

thermospas-hot-tub-instlation-cutaway

Hot tubs and spas are more energy efficient than ever, and manufacturers have made great gains in efficiency in the last ten years. New insulation materials and better methods of applying it, and energy star certified pumps, blowers and heaters are leading the charge.

How energy efficient is your spa or hot tub? A spa uses electricity to power the pumps, blower, heater and lights. A well insulated spa, with a good spa cover should be able to operate for about $20 per month in electricity. If you spend more than that – read-on for tips on greater hot tub energy efficiency.

Spa Insulation

The price of a spa, in part, depends on how well it is insulated. Top of the line models have “Full Foam” insulation, injected between the spa shell and cabinet. When the quality and density of the foam is very high, that temperature loss out the sides and bottom is very low. A cheaper method of spa insulation is to simply spray the underside of the spa shell with half an inch spray foam. Lining the cabinet interior walls with foil covered fiberglass insulation or a rigid insulation panel is another way to reduce spa insulation cost, and spa efficiency.

To improve your spa insulation, you can buy DIY spray foam kits, or use rigid insulation panels to line the inside of the cabinet. You can also use fiberglass insulation bats, laid around the spa shell or up against the cabinet.

Spa Coverdollar_sign_with_wings_150_wht_13589 - purchased from PresenterMedia (PM)

How’s your spa cover doing? What’s on top of your spa makes a big difference in the energy consumption of a spa. It’s unfortunate that most spa manufacturers include a flimsy spa cover with their new spas. It’s common that these last only a few years, and that’s good, because the R-value of such spa covers is very low. A waterlogged spa cover is even worse. If you can feel steam or heat coming out of gaps in your spa cover, imagine it as dollar bills with wings.

A new spa cover is a sure way to dramatically effect your energy usage. The thicker the foam, the more heat trapping ability a spa cover has, so get a good one! Another way to reduce heat loss from the top is to use a floating spa blanket. It floats on the water, reducing the workload of your spa cover, while also protecting your spa cover from excess moisture.

Spa Heater

Most spa heaters are electrical immersion elements. These heat up, like a coiled electric cooktop burner, and transfer the heat to the water. Most spa heaters are as energy efficient as they can be – it’s up to you to use your spa heater wisely. Do you really need to have it cooking at 105° if you only use it on weekends? Or when airing out the spa cover, or after shocking the spa – might you turn down the heater?

Keeping your spa at 95 degrees, and then heating up to 105 just before getting in makes sense, unless you’re like me, and use the spa nearly every night. I turn the spa heater way down to 75 during vacations or short trips away from home. This is not only to save electricity, but to discourage anyone from using the spa while I’m away.

Spa Pump

Some spas have one two-speed pump, and some spas have two pumps, a low speed pump for circulation, and a high speed pump for jet action. Modern variable speed pumps are popular on pools, but I’ve not seen them used on spas. When your spa pump eventually fails, look at energy efficient spa pumps as a replacement. These operate with reduced amperage draw and larger capacitors to be up to 50% more efficient than standard pump motors. spa-timers-can-save-money

Spa pumps may typically run on low speed for 18 hours per day and high speed for 4 hours. You can however, make adjustments to the timer, to operate less on high speed, or have a few hours daily where it doesn’t run at all. If you experiment closely with pump run time, you can determine the minimum requirement, just before the water starts looking a little hazy. Increase run time above this threshold, and you optimize the energy usage of your spa pump.

Spa Blower

The spa blower injects bubbles into the spa jets, for real hydro-therapy. It makes the water force feel stronger, but at the same time, is gentler than water alone. Using your spa blower tends to cool off the spa water somewhat, requiring your spa heater to work a little bit harder.

When your spa blower eventually fails, you can look to an energy efficient spa blower, or downsize to a smaller blower, or just go without one! To me, a nice hot soak, without all the turbulence, is more relaxing than using the air blower. You can always open up the passive air intakes, to add air without operating a blower motor.

 

In summary, to increase the energy efficiency of your spa or hot tub:

  • Buy energy efficient pump and blower motors; look for the Energy Star logo.
  • Use a quality built spa cover, and a floating foam blanket.
  • Add extra insulation around the spa shell or cabinet.
  • Experiment with your pump run time; and operate it less.
  • Turn down the heat! 10 degrees can save 20%!

 

Happy Hot Tubbin’

Daniel Lara
Hot Tub Works