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Daniel Lara's Posts

Spa Error Codes – Sn, SnS, Sn1, Sn2…

February 5th, 2015 by

balboa-error-code-Sn-Sn1-Sn2-Sn3-SnS---Continuing in my little series on spa and hot tub error codes or trouble codes, today we take a look at Sensor Errors.

These will present themselves in many forms on the display, such as Sn, Sn1, Sn2, and they refer to temperature sensors located on the heater manifold. The controller display is telling you that either the high limit or the temp sensor are open or shorted. There also could be a voltage problem, excessive voltage creates heat. Or, it could be a problem with the thermostat allowing the heater element overheat.

Like our previous discussions on spa error codes, FLO and OH, the sensor codes Sn, Sn1, Sn2… are very much water flow dependent. If water is not flowing through the heater chamber fast enough, it gets too hot, and the safety high temp sensors go into action – just doing their job.

Spa Error Codes: Sn, Sn1, HL, E2, E3, Prh

For these trouble codes, the high limit sensor is open or shorted. It could be a loose plug connection or bad wire, or it could be a problem related to water flow. Clean or replace your spa filter cartridge as a first step. Make sure that all jets are open, and nothing is blocking the spa drain cover flow. Underneath the spa, check that all valves are open (handles up). If the flow rate still seems less than normal with all jets and valves open, you may consider inspecting for broken valves (closed when they appear to be open), clogged impeller inside the pump wet end, or something stuck in the skimmer pipe. Of course, be sure that you don’t have a pump air lock, and that the spa water level is filled high enough.

Spa Error Codes: Sn, Sn2, Sn3, EO, E1, Prr

With these spa sensor codes, the Temperature Sensor is open or shorted. The temp sensor and the high limit are usually located on the heater housing, with 1-2 small wires coming off and connecting to your controller. With the system powered off, you normally unscrew the sensors from the heater manifold, and unplug the wire from the panel. Inspect the wires for any heat or rodent damage, and the sensor face for corrosion or scaling. However, the usual cause for spa temp sensor error codes is that the water flow is insufficient, and when water moves too slowly through the heater, it doesn’t remove the heat fast enough, which triggers all sorts of error codes for flow rate and overheating. HOT, OL, HL, FLO, Sn…

SPA TEMPERATURE SENSOR ERROR CODE FLOW CHART

Here’s a Cal Spa troubleshooting chart for when your spa topside display shows a sensor error code Sn, Sn1, Sn2, Sn3… As you can see, it could be a nuisance tripping, or the wires could be absorbing excess heat, need calibration, or simply be faulty.

cal-spas-Sn-error-code-flow-chart

In addition to the Sn, Sn1, Sn2 type of error codes, other codes for Smart Sensor spas, such as SA, Sb, SnA, SnB error codes are used on many spas and hot tubs. These are similar to the Sn1 and Sn2 codes, signaled from the high limit or water temperature sensors.

cal-spa-smart-sensor-troubleshooting-flowchart

In summation; when you have spa trouble codes of Sn, SnA, Sn1, Sn2. Sn3, HL, EO, E2, E3, Prh, Prr – these all refer to the heat sensors that are usually attached to your heater manifold. Inspect the wire and plugs, check the spa water level and make sure water is flowing free and fast. If you confirm all those things, and it still throws an Sn error at you, test the sensor as described above; it may be faulty.

 

Happy Hot Tubbin’

Daniel Lara
Hot Tub Works

 

Spa & Hot Tub Error Codes – OH, OHH, OMG

January 6th, 2015 by

balboa-control-OH-errorIn our series on spa and hot tub error codes, we turn our attention today to the HOT messages that your topside control may be trying to give you.

OH, or OHH, or OHS (Overheat) all mean that a temperature sensor has detected unsafe water temperatures of 108° – 118° F, and your spa is in an emergency cool down mode, shutting off the heater, and turning on circulation pumps and blower to help dissipate heat.

Open the spa cover to allow excess heat and steam to escape. The spa obviously should not be used when OH or OHH is flashing on the topside control; as the water could be scalding hot for several more minutes. After the water cools, a high limit switch may be need to be reset on some spa packs; look for a red reset button. Press any topside button to reset a digital spa after the water has cooled to 100° F.

What causes a Spa to Overheat?

Low Water Flow (LF, FLO), is the usual cause of an overheating (OH, OHH) spa or hot tub. When water doesn’t flow fast enough through the heater, it removes less heat, and the temperature of the water increases. Eventually, the temp sensors or high limit switches will detect the increased water temperature, and shut everything down. The causes of low water flow in a spa include:

  • Dirty spa filter cartridge
  • Closed or partially closed valves or jets
  • Pump has an air lock, or has lost prime
  • Low water level in spa, skimmer sucking air
  • Spa drain cover is obstructed or pipe is blocked

What else causes a Spa to Overheat?

If your water flow is perfectly fine, then you could have a problem with the thermostat or high limit switches used on older spa packs, which could fall out of calibration, or become too sensitive. Digital spas have electronic sensor circuits, which are more durable than mechanical switches, however temperature sensors, hi limit sensors, relays and circuit boards also eventually fail on modern spas.

In most cases, for newer spas anyway, the water flow problem can be quickly remedied and the spa will cool, reset and start again on it’s own. Some panels need a prompt from you to restart. For spas without digital controls, you may need to manually reset the high limit switch near the heater housing.

Spa Overheating Troubleshooting Flow Chart

Here’s a Cal Spa troubleshooting flow chart that has some other possible triggers of seeing OH, OHS, OHH or HH blinking on your spa panel. Open the spa cover and let the spa cool down for 10 minutes, then touch the control panel to reset the circuits, or push a red reset button on air systems.

cal-spa-OH-OHH-OHS-HH-error-code-trouble-chart

OH, HH or HOT trouble codes, or a hot tub overheating is not usually a spa heater problem - it is almost always a flow problem, and when it’s not a flow problem, it’s a bad temp sensor, high limit or a stuck relay.

Here’s another Cal Spa troubleshooting flowchart for spa error codes OH, including testing the spa heater element for excessive resistance, done with the spa heater and all systems powered Off, and only by someone qualified to test safely.

cal-spas-OH-spa-heater-code-trouble-flowchart

So, the next time your spa throws you a OH, OHH or some other Overheat error code, you know what to do. Clean or replace the spa filter, open all the jets and turn the pump on high. If you still have problems, check over your temp sensor and hi limit circuits for wire or plug or sensor problems.

 

Happy Hot Tubbin’

Daniel Lara
Hot Tub Works

 

Solar Hot Tub Heaters

December 22nd, 2014 by

spa-solar-heatersSolar Hot Tubs are all the rage now for off the grid homes and campsites, or for anyone who wants to operate a spa or hot tub in an eco-friendly way.

Can a solar pool heater be used to heat a spa? You betcha! And it’s a simple Saturday project. Spa solar heaters can heat up a spa to over 100° with just 6 hours of sunshine – ready to use when you come home from work!

I have a friend with an inground pool and spa, and a solar pool heater – his spa is 104° in under 30 minutes – during sunny daylight hours, of course. And,…there’s not much heat in winter, but you can get 3 seasons with a hot tub solar heater!

Your hot tub cover will retain the heat from a solar heater until well into the evening, and if needed, you can use an alternate spa heater or hot tub heater for night hot tubbin’.

 

How to install a Solar Hot Tub Heater

1. Location of Solar Panels: The first thing to think of is where and how the solar panels are going to be mounted. If you have full sun, all day long, you could just lay them on the ground, but for most folks, mounting them on a roof or rack, at a 30-45° angle works best. A rack can be built of angle iron or lumber, topped with plywood or plastic and painted black. You can also hang them on a fence. Choose a spot that will get at least 6 hours of daily sun; a southern facing direction is best.

2. Buy a Solar Pool Panel: A single 4′ x 20′ solar panel, a total of 80 square feet, is a good size for most spas. There are also 4′ x 10′ panels, but they are priced higher per square foot of panel. 80 sq. ft. of solar panel will heat spas under 500 gallons to over 100° during the day, and be ready to go for the evening. If you want to heat the hot tub in under an hour like my friend with the pool/spa, you’ll need 4-5 of the 20′ solar panels.

solar-heater-all-rolled-up3. Installation of Hot Tub Solar Panels: Solar pool panels are polypropylene mats of small black tubes with a continuous backing, so they absorb more heat than black hose DIY solar spa heaters. Inside the box will be two 2′x20′ solar panels, end caps, pipe adapters, mounting kit and a 3-way diverter valve. Secure the panels to the location securely so they are protected from high winds, animals and tree branches. Attach the end caps, and run PVC pipe from the panels to the plumbing line of the spa.

4. Plumbing a Spa Solar Heater: This part is custom for every spa or hot tub, but essentially you connect the plumbing from solar panels to the spa. A 3-way diverter valve will allow for adjusting the flow rate, and for shutting off the solar panels completely. Other items needed for plumbing beside the pipe include some directional fittings (90′s or 45′s) and couplings to connect lengths of pipe. A check valve is needed just before the heated water comes back into the spa plumbing, to prevent water cycling.

Other Thoughts about Solar Hot Tub Heaters

  • A solar controller can be used with an automatic valve turner and temperature sensors to have thermostat control for the solar spa heater, but more importantly, to shut off the unit when conditions are not right for solar, at night or when it’s raining, for instance. This is an extra $325, but is recommended for optimum heating, neither under or overheating the spa.
  • Speaking of overheating, it is possible to overheat the water with a solar spa heater. If you have an electric spa heater, the hi-limit may trip and shut off the spa pump, but at that point the water may already be dangerously hot. Use caution not to heat the water over 104°.
  • As mentioned before, hot tub solar heaters don’t work at night, or when it’s raining or heavily overcast. They drop way off in effectiveness during the winter months, unless you are in the very deep southern U.S..
  • A booster pump is not usually needed for installation on a roof, unless the roof is very tall. If a booster pump is needed these small spa circulation pumps are perfect for the job.
  • For best results, use an insulated spa cover to retain the heat and a solar controller to optimize when the solar panels are used, and to maintain safe water temperatures.

 

sunheater-solar-pool-heater

Hot tub solar heaters work very well in all parts of the U.S. – anywhere that has at least 6 hours of unobstructed sun. For many hot tubs, solar heat is used as a supplemental heater to keep the spa hot during the day, and at night or during rainy periods, the other spa heater takes over.

I wish I could say that we sold solar spa heaters at Hot Tub Works, but we don’t. However, here are some links for solar pool heaters and controllers at Specialty Pool Products, who had the best price on solar pool panels that I could find online.

 

Happy HOT Tubbin’

Daniel Lara
Hot Tub Works

 

Spa & Hot Tub Error Codes – FL, FLO, FLOW, LF

December 12th, 2014 by

balboa-LF-low-flow-error-codeEvery digital spa control is designed with some diagnostics, to self-diagnose problems with pumping and heating your spa or hot tub. Topside controls also give lots of information about your spa status, which are not to be confused with spa error codes.

There are 3 groups of error codes; Flow codes, relating to water flow, Heater codes, and Sensor codes. Let’s start at the top, today’s post is about water flow trouble codes on your spa panel. These are usually presented as FL, FLO or FLOW on your display, although it may be LF, for Low Flow, or PS for Pressure Switch.

LF, or Low Flow error codes on a spa or hot tub is really a self-preservation exercise for your hot tub. When water isn’t flowing fast enough through the heater, the FLO error code shuts things down, to avoid a total meltdown (well, not really a melt-down, but you know).

Flow problems are the number one source of trouble for the spa or hot tub owner. When the water isn’t flowing like it should, the heater stops working, equipment overheats and water quality quickly suffers.

So – FLOW. very important. Here’s what to do if your spa throws a FL, FLO or FLOW error code at you.spa-error-codes-FLO

For Low Flow spa error codes, check the filter, check the pump and check the valves to find something that is obstructing the water flow. Could be a dirty filter, a clogged impeller, closed valve, or a piece of plastic film covering the spa drain. Could also be low water level. Sometimes, it’s actually a bad pressure switch or flow switch, or loose connections or damaged wires or wire connectors.

Proceed step by step, and you should be able to find the cause of the FL, FLO or FLOW error code. If you need assistance with spa trouble codes, you can call us anytime at 800-770-0292 

 

Happy Hot Tubbin’

Daniel Lara
Hot Tub Works

 

 

How To Install a Portable Spa Hot Tub

November 6th, 2014 by

deep-clean-your-spa-smSo, you saw our great prices on new spas, and unless this new spa is a replacement spa, you’re wondering what’s involved in spa or hot tub installation.

Whether you install one of our Plug & Play 120V spas, or a full featured premium spa running on 4-wire 240V, requiring an electrician, you’ll need to plan a few things in advance of receiving your new spa.

Spa Fencing

There are two types of fencing needed, safety fencing, to keep people and animals out, and privy fencing to keep out prying eyes.

For safety fencing – in most localities, a spa is under the same or similar fencing rules as apply to swimming pools, in the interest of public safety. Generally, a spa inside of a fenced-in backyard is acceptable. pergola-privy-fenceThere may not be an inspection of the fence in some cases, but still required nonetheless.

Privy fencing provides privacy, also a consideration when installing a hot tub, and also blocks the wind, which can cool the spa, and give you a chill while soaking. Frame your spa with large plants, and a 2 sided lattice fencing, or a pergola or cabana installed around the tub. Outdoor roll-up shades are also popular.

 

Tub Location

A convenient location is best, near the door. The area should be clean and dry (never muddy), and close to power and water. Shield the spa from as much sun, wind and rain as you can, and take care that storm waters will always drain away from the spa.

ezpads-for-spasThe surface supporting the spa must be solid, when full with water, a 6 person hot tub can weigh close to two tons! No wooden decks and certainly no balconies. A level, 4 inch slab of steel mesh reinforced concrete, on top of 4″ of gravel is sufficient in many cases.

Our hot tubs can be sunk into a deck when proper load bearing support is built to hold 150 lbs per square foot. Finally, consider view – both the view of the spa from the house and the view that you’ll have while in the spa.

 

Moving a Spa

spa-kartWhen the tub is delivered to your home, it won’t go any further than the driveway. From that point on, you have to figure out the shortest and safest route to the spa placement location. Professional spa movers use a Spa Kart to transport spas across lawns, over steps or into tight locations within the home. Check for local spa movers or rental shops for a solution, some even rent Spa Karts. Over smooth concrete it’s easy, but when the surface gets rough and uneven, you’ll need something with big tires, to support a spa of 400-600 lbs, along with straps and several hands to help.

 

Hot Tub Wiring

GFCI-spa-plug120V Spas: Most of our rotomold hot tubs are plug and play; 120V spas that plug into a standard, dedicated outlet. Dedicated means that nothing else is operating on that circuit. Plug the GFCI cord into a weatherproof 120V outlet (not GFCI), on a 15 or 20 amp breaker. The outlet should be between 5 and 10 feet from the spa, and no extension cords. 120V spas use less volts because they have smaller pumps and heaters, and few other features.

240v-spa-wiring240V Spas: Larger spas with 4-5 hp pumps and high wattage heaters require a 6 AWG, 4-wire 240V service to the spa, on a dedicated 40-60 amp breaker, with a cut-off switch or sub-panel, and other requirements, as per local electrical codes. They do not plug in like a washer or dryer, but use 4 wires inside of PVC conduit, with the last few feet of flexible conduit carrying the wires directly in through the cabinet and connecting to the spa pack.

Wiring a spa with 240V is not a recommended DIY project. A permit and an inspection is required in most areas, so it’s best to contact a local electrician who is familiar with the process of wiring spas and hot tubs. In most cases, hard-wiring a spa to the home main breaker, and installing a power cut-off near the spa is a $500-$900 job, depending on the length of the run from the breaker panel to the spa, and the route it must travel.

 

Filling a Spa

When the wiring and inspections are done, you can fill the spa, insert the spa filter cartridge.

loosen-the-pump-union-to-bleed-airWhen you first fill an empty spa, and sometimes when you drain and refill the spa later, and air lock will occur in the pump, and prevent the pump from catching prime. Instead of running the pump without water, which can damage the seals, loosen the union nut in front of, or on top of the spa pump just enough to let the air escape, and allow the water to fill the pump. When water begins dripping around the union, tightly up all unions tightly. Open up all gate valves in the system, and you are ready to begin filtering, heating and chemically treating your new spa!

 

Enjoying your New Spa

enjoy-your-spaThat’s the best part, after all the working of selecting, ordering, receiving, moving, wiring, inspecting, filling…now you finally get to enjoy the fruits of all your hard work and money.

Some accessories to help you enjoy your spa more include a spa cover lifter to help protect your spa top, and a supply of spa chemicals and test strips. Spa steps, handrails, and spa cleaning tools are on our spa accessories page – if you’ll pardon the shameless plugs.

Turn up the heat, and enjoy your New Spa from Hot Tub Works!

 

Happy Hot Tubbin’

Daniel Lara
Hot Tub Works

 

Winterize a Hot Tub in 5 Steps

November 3rd, 2014 by

spa-winterizationWinterizing a spa is simple enough for the average spa owner to perform, with simple tools and equipment. Winterizing a wood hot tub? It is not recommended to drain a wood hot tub for an extended period, or else the wood will dry out and shrink.

To winterize a wood hot tub, you can follow the steps below, but then plug the lines and fill the hot tub back up with water.

To keep the water from freezing solid across a wood tub, use an air pillow like those used for aboveground pool winterization, or fill several gallon sized plastic jugs, filled 1/3 full of pea gravel or pool antifreeze. Float these in the hot tub to absorb ice expansion. Add spa algaecide or sanitizer to control algae growth and cover tightly.

To winterize a portable spa, one with an acrylic or fiberglass shell, follow these instructions:

1aDrain The Spa

You probably know this drill already, but in this case you need to get all of the water out of the spa – every drop. Open up the drain spigot and roll out the hose, or use a submersible pump (which is hours and hours faster). Shut off the power to the spa before draining and plan your drain – first by making sure the sanitizer level is low, and the pH is balanced. It’s best to run the hose to an open yard, and move the hose often, to increase disbursement. In most cases, spa water is safe to use to water planter beds, trees or lawns, as long as your sanitizer level is under 1 ppm, and you move the hose around often.

2a

Turn on the Blower

Once the water is drained out, you can turn on power to the hot tub, but keep the pumps and heater off. Activate the blower only, and unless you want a fine mist shower, put the spa cover over the tub first. After running the blower for a minute or less, allow the water to drain. If you have air jets in the seats or the floor, turn on the blower again and mop up the mist spraying out with a big towel. Wring out the towel and continue to wipe up any spray that continues to spit out from the small air holes.

3aBlow out the Pipes

This is the part that makes people nervous, but it’s really quite easy. You’ll need a large wet/dry vac, reversing the hose so that it blows air through the hose. Remove the skimmer basket and blow air through the skimmer, thru the filter, thru the pump, heater and back out through the spa jets. Be sure that all of the manual air intakes are open, and that all banks of jets are open. When all of the water has blown out, move the wet/dry vac inside of the spa, and blow air through the jets. You can also reverse the hose, and use suction to suck the water out. Be sure that all lines are open and all water has been removed.

4a

Winterize the Spa Equipment

Remove the spa filter and give it a good deep cleaning, or dispose of it if it has been in service for more than 12 cleanings or 24 months. Open up the union nuts on the pump and heater, to check for any remaining water, and allow it to drain out. When tightening back up, make sure the union o-ring has not slipped out. Look over the system closely, and open any drain plugs that you see on the pipes or equipment, especially those on lower pipes. Keep the spa drain open, in case any water gets in during winter, and be sure to shut off all power to the spa, at the main circuit breaker.

5a

Cover the Hot Tub

If your spa cover is not in the best of shape, invest in a cover cap, or tightly secure a tarpaulin over the spa, using bungee cords to keep it in place during high winds. If your spa cover is in good shape, it still would be a good idea to cover it, to protect the cover and to keep any rain or snow out of the spa. Another good thing to do during a spa closing is to clean and condition your spa cover, using one of our many spa cover care products.

 

~ That’s it! Just 5 steps to close a spa for winter, and a few more additional steps if you have a wooden hot tub. Drop me a line if you have any questions about winterizing your spa or hot tub.

 

Happy Hot Tubbin’

Daniel Lara
Hot Tub Works

 

Hot Tubs and the Ebola Virus

October 30th, 2014 by

bacteria-in-spasThe recent surge in Ebola cases has prompted a lot of concern and chatter on the subject. Hot tubs have once again become a target of health stories, with several news stories such as How Safe Are Hot Tubs?, WSJ Oct 20, 2014, or Ask Ila: Are hot tubs safe? Masslive Oct 24, 2014.

A great story recently comes from Lifehacker – just 9 minutes ago – Five Fear Mongering Stories That Are True (But Overblown).  The number one story is that Public Hot Tubs are Rife with Disease.

“It seems like once or twice a year, the news decides to remind us all that any type of public bathing is disgusting. These stories typically come about in overblown, hyperbole-filled rants about diseases like Legionnaires…”

Hot Tub Folliculitis

Some stories are true, in a hot tub with insufficient filtration, poor water balance, low chlorine and unwashed users – bacteria such as Pseudomonas can survive, which can cause hot tub folliculitis. However, even in hot tubs with measurable levels of pseudomonas, it can be prevented by limiting your soak time, removing swimsuits promptly and taking a soapy shower.Spa-and-hot-tub-test-strips-travel-pack

When I travel, I always carry along a travel size hot tub test strips, especially when traveling to places where hot tubs exist, like ski resorts, island resorts and cruise ships. Most hotels have hot tubs too, and unless you are visiting a Ft. Lauderdale beach hotel during spring break, you’ll find resort hot tubs to be nearly always vacant, with crystal clear water.

My two rules when using public hot tubs, are #1: Check the pH and chlorine level and #2: Clean and clear water is a must. A strong smell of chlorine is not the best indicator, as this usually means that the hot tub (or nearby pool) has high levels of combined chlorine, which is a poor sanitizer. A test strip will tell for sure – what the level of free chlorine is and, that the pH level is in a good range for the chlorine to work effectively.

Hot Tubs & Ebola

Can you contract the Ebola virus from a hot tub or spa? The quick answer is No, or at least probably not. The reason for this is that a virus cannot survive extended periods of time outside the host, or the body. According to Alan Schmaljohn from the University of Maryland, in water, the Ebola virus would be deactivated in a matter of minutes. Water is a very different medium than bodily fluids, and viruses cannot survive in hot tubs for long.

Especially in filtered, balanced, chlorinated hot tubs. Chlorine, or it’s little cousin Bromine, are powerful disinfectants, and at levels of 1-3 ppm for chlorine, or 2-4 ppm for bromine, the Ebola virus is killed nearly instantly. As the CDC and others recommend, chlorine bleach solution kills the Ebola virus.

So No – catching the Ebola virus from a hot tub, is probably very unlikely. However, some forms of bacteria can exist in over-used and under-maintained public spas, most notably Pseudomonas, as mentioned above.

Using Public Hot Tubs

As my new friends at Lifehacker would agree, don’t let some overblown media coverage prevent you from enjoying a nice soak at the gym, or while on vacation. Use your eyes and nose to check if the spa is clear (it’s easier to tell when the lights are up and the jets are off).

Use a chlorine / pH test strip to surreptitiously test the spa water. You can just saunter over and act like your testing the temperature with your hand, when hidden in your palm is a test strip, lol – that’s what I do! Then walk back to your seat and compare the strip for good pH and sanitizer level. please-shower

If you decide to enjoy the hot tub, limit your session to 15 minutes, and just to be safe – don’t drink the water or dunk your head underwater.

Oh, and be a good citizen – take a hot, soapy shower before and after you use a public spa or hot tub – a spa is not a bathtub!

 

Happy Hot Tubbin’
Daniel Lara

 

Frozen Hot Tub!

October 6th, 2014 by

frozen-hot-tubWinter is coming! And with El Nino predicted, it could be a cold, snowy winter indeed. That’s good for the spa parts salesmen, I suppose – because it means lots of freeze damage to spas and hot tubs.

But hold on there ~ as long as you have your spa operating, at least on low speed, with all valves/lines open, and the water isn’t allowed to freeze across the surface ~ you needn’t worry about freeze damage to your spa or hot tub.

Most digital spa controllers will have a freeze monitor that will turn on the pump if the outside air temperature reaches 40 degrees. Some will even turn on the heater if the water temperature drops too low. But many air controls or simple hot tubs or inground spas don’t have built-in freeze protection.

WAYS TO PREVENT SPA FREEZE DAMAGE:

  1. Set an Temperature Alert on your Phone: There’s an app for that! Instead of relying on the weather report, you can use one of the many apps that will alert you (via smartphone) that temperatures below a certain set point are expected. Then, make sure the spa is hot and operating.
  2. Install a Digital Spa Pack with Freeze Protection: As mentioned earlier, if you have Air Controls, or an inground spa, you may not have built-in freeze protection. Upgrading to a digital spa pack, or for inground spas, installing a digital timeclock, will allow your system to automatically turn on the pump when low outside temps are sensed.
  3. Keep the Spa hot during Winter: For protection from power outages, keeping your spa hot all winter long will give you the most amount of time. A spa that is kept at 100 degrees and covered tightly can keep it’s heat for 24-36 hours during a power outage. An unheated spa, with very low temperatures, can freeze up solid in only an hour of not circulating.
  4. Keep your Spa Cover Tightly in Place: In some parts of the country, it’s so cold… “How cold is it, Johnny?” – It’s so cold… that leaving a spa cover off for just a few hours can cause the spa water to actually begin to turn slushy… Daiquiri anyone?

STEPS TO UNFREEZE A FROZEN HOT TUB:

Get the Hot Water and Blankets! We’re not having a baby, the hot tub is frozen solid! If you find that the hot tub or spa has ice on the surface, and is not operating…

1. Shut off Power if the pumps are not moving water, until all the ice thaws.
2. Break through Ice on the surface, add hot water from hose, or buckets from the bathtub.
-  Some utility sinks will allow you to attach a hose, or you can connect it to your hot water heater drain.
3. Closely Inspect with a utility light, or large flashlight, the pump, filter, heater, and pipes for cracks.
4. Use a heat gun, or place a small ceramic heater under the spa cabinet that you can monitor.
-  Plug into a GFCI outlet. Raise it up off the ground, and keep away from insulation or wires.
5. Use heavy blankets to help hold the heat in under the spa, if needed.

IDENTIFYING FREEZE DAMAGE:

Most cracking or damage from the expansion of ice happens to the heater body, usually a stainless steel cylinder, mounted horizontally, or the filter body or lid, a vertical plastic cylinder that holds the filter cartridge, or to the pump body or lid. Pipes tend to spider-web crack, not a clean split, but they shatter along long lengths, or through fittings.

As the spa starts to warm up, from the heat beneath and the hot water above, condensation will drip from the spa, don’t be alarmed. But running water… (not slow drips), and you may have some broken equipment or pipe. After identifying that hot tub parts are needed, you can proceed to drain the spa completely, by opening all drain valves or plugs, and using air to blow out pipes and equipment.

smiley---yeaIf you don’t see any running water, and you don’t see any cracked spa equipment or pipes, you can turn the spa back on – to check again for running water while the system is under pressure. If it sounds normal, and looks to be running properly, relax – you caught it just in time!exploded-spa

Most freeze damage is minor – a pump wet end, a bit of pipe, maybe an entire spa pack – but rarely does it total the entire spa. There are cases where a spa has been frozen solid for weeks however, and it’s literally exploded. Even when some parts are reusable, the cost to re-pipe the spa is prohibitive. If you discovered a frozen hot tub early, consider yourself lucky with a few hundred dollars in spa parts.

 

Happy Hot Tubbin!

Daniel Lara
Hot Tub Works

 

Advanced Hot Water Chemistry

September 15th, 2014 by

advanced-hot-tub-chemistry---PM

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