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Daniel Lara's Posts

Preventing Freeze Damage to a Spa or Hot Tub

January 20th, 2014 by

frozen-spaFreeze damage  is when water freezes and expands inside of spa pipes or spa equipment, like your filter, pump or heater.

Water expands about 10% when it freezes. For pipes or equipment that have a small amount of water inside, for instance a pipe that is less than half full of water, unused space inside the pipe allows for some ice expansion.

When pipes, pumps or filters are more than half full of water, there is little room for expansion, and even very thick materials can burst from the ice pressure inside.

Today’s lesson centers on how to avoid freeze damage in a spa or hot tub, which can be a complicated and expensive spa repair, and in some cases, could ‘total’ the spa, with repair costs of thousands of dollars.

There are 3 ways to prevent freeze damage in a spa or hot tub

1. Winterize the Spa

We don’t recommend that you winterize your spa, unless you are sure that it won’t be used for at least 3 months, or it cannot be maintained (at a vacation home, for example).

Winterizing the spa is a process that takes a few hours, to drain all of the water from the spa, and use air to ‘blow the lines’, to force water from the pipes, hoses and equipment.

We did an article on How to Winterize a Spa, if you are thinking about winterizing the spa. It’s not difficult, but if you want assurances of a proper winterization, most spa service companies offer this service.

2. Use Freeze Protection

Modern spas packs will have a freeze protection mode on the spa that will turn on the circulation pump when temps get close to freezing. If you don’t see this available in your control options for the spa, you may not have freeze protection.BALBOA-SPA-PACK

Freeze protection works with an air temperature sensor that communicates with a controller, wired into the pump power circuit. Freeze protection is standard equipment on all of our Digital, Flex-Fit and Balboa spa packs, which is the simplest way of adding freeze protection for older spas with air activated spa packs.

For help adding freeze protection to your spa, feel free to call our spa techs with some information about your spa.

3. Run the Pump

As long as water is moving through the pipes – all of the pipes, the water won’t freeze. Open up all of your jets, if your spa has the ability to isolate banks of jets. Low speed can be used, as long as all pipes are utilized.

The water need not be hot, or even heated at all – in most cases. As long as it’s moving through all of the pipes and equipment when temperatures are below 32 degrees. The heat from the spa pump, under a closed skirt, is also helpful to heat up the equipment. Of course, a spa cover should be used during winter to avoid ice forming on the spa surface.

During winter, it may be wise to operate your pump 24 hours per day in cold northern areas, or set the time clock to turn on the pump for 10 minutes every half hour.

 

ALSO HELPFUL TO PREVENT FREEZE DAMAGE: frozen-jacuzzi

  • Adding heat to your spa, a hot spa can give 24 hours of protection
  • Keeping a tight fitting spa cover in place and secure
  • Spa insulation – the more there is, the more protection you have
  • Hang a 100 watt shop light, under the skirt, next to the spa pack

 

FROZEN SPA!

If you discover a spa or hot tub that is solid frozen, and maybe you spot some freeze damage already, the equipment needs to be thawed out. If there are cracked pipes, using electric space heaters could be unsafe, under the skirt.

If you have a camping tent large enough to place over the spa, you can thaw out a spa in a few hours. When I was servicing spas in Colorado, we had a tent we used whenever we’d get a ‘frozen spa’ call. We used a small kerosene heater once the tent was set up over the spa, and monitored it closely. If there was freeze damage, (and there usually was), we would drain it completely, make the repair and fill it back up.

Adding hot water to the spa is another old trick. With a small adapter, a garden hose can be attached to most sink faucets, to bring hot water to the spa, to raise the water temperature for a faster thaw. In some cases, you can gently wet frozen pipes with warm water – just don’t spray any motors, electronics or controls.

 

SPA POWER FAILURE!

COLD!

If your power fails during winter, remember that a heated spa with a good fitting spa cover has enough warmth to prevent freeze damage for 24 hours or so, longer if it’s very well insulated.

To maintain some heat under the spa skirt during a power failure, you could hang a 100 watt shop light in a location close to the spa pack. In some scenarios, a small space heater may be safe to use also, inside the spa cabinet, in a dry location, until power is restored.

 

Happy Hot Tubbin’
Daniel Lara
Hot Tub Works

 

Spa & Hot Tub Ozone Problems

January 6th, 2014 by

spa ozone bubblesOzone is one of the world’s most powerful sanitizers – over 200 times more powerful than chlorine. Using ozone in a spa or hot tub allows you to use fewer chemicals and may even require less filtration time.

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 2-3 years, it’s time for a renovation or replacement of the ozone unit.

 

Is My Spa Ozonator Working?

When released into the line, ozone immediately begins to kill contaminants in your spa – when it’s working. But, how do you know when it’s working?

  1. Bubbles in the heater return line. A steady stream of champagne bubbles entering the spa.
  2. Spa ozonators have a power indicator light, but this doesn’t mean that ozone is being produced.
  3. There are ozone test kits, which tells you if your ozonator is producing ozone.
  4. If you remove the supply tube from the check valve, you should be able to smell the ozone.
  5. Water quality will deteriorate when ozone is no longer being produced, requiring more chemicals.

 

Clogged Ozone Injector

ozone-injectorAn injector is the point of entry for the ozone gas, which is located in the center of a venturi manifold, shown here. The injector draws in the ozone, mixing it with the water, where sanitation begins immediately.

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 heavier deposits.

Broken Ozone Check Valve

A check valve is used on many spa ozone systems, to prevent water from backing up through the hose, and getting into your ozone unit. 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 check valves (shown here) every year. Cleaning a check valve with vinegar can remove deposits, but be sure that the mechanism inside is still doing it’s job.

Split Ozone Tubing

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

Inspect your ozone hose often, from end to end for degradation. Del recommends that the 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.

Ozonator Expired

ozone-CD-chipFinally, the ozone generator itself may have expired. There are two types of spa ozonators, UV and CD. 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.

CD, or corona discharge ozonators, will require a new chip or electrode every few years, to maintain ozone output. Del sells renewal kits for their CD spa ozonators, and it’s quite a simple repair.

Spa Ozonator Maintenance

…is not so difficult, once you know what to look for. The most important thing is to replace ozone parts 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; 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. Maintain your spa ozonator to keep your spa sanitary.

 

Happy Hot Tubbin’

Daniel Lara
Hot Tub Works

 

DIY Spa Cover Repair Videos

December 19th, 2013 by

spa-cover-repair

 

Making my own repairs around the house is something I take great pride in. I’ve been accused of being too independent, and taking it a bit too far sometimes. Like the time I thought I’d install my own whole house generator. That was a big job, too big. But spa cover repair, how bad can it be?

If you like to make your own repairs around the home, and don’t mind patching things up, to get a few more years of life, this blog post is for you. Here’s some videos of some real boot strap pioneers, with ideas on how to repair a few common problems with spa covers.

Spa covers can be repaired if they aren’t allowed to go to far before receiving some attention. And if you have two of these major defects at the same time, it may be more economical to replace the entire thing with a new spa cover.

Here’s some ideas for you spa owners with an independent streak! There’s a lot of DIY hot tub repairs happening!

 

Repair Tears in the Vinyl Covering

The cover of your spa or hot tub cover is made with marine grade vinyl. It’s tough, but not tough enough. Over time, UV rays will deteriorate the vinyl, and you may notice threadbare areas. Or, your spa cover may have fallen victim to the sharp claws and teeth of a pet or wild animal. Or, It could have been dragged against something sharp, tearing or ripping the fabric. As this video shows, you can patch a spa cover, using tapes and a vinyl repair kit or patch glued on top of the problem area. This will help to lock out moisture and prevent the hole from becoming larger over time.

Replace the Vinyl Covering

If your problem is not an isolated hole or trouble spot, you may choose to recover the spa top with new marine grade vinyl. With a large sheet of unbacked vinyl, a can of contact cement and a large spreader, you can cover over the entire top of the spa cover, and the sides too. In this way, you not only get a newer appearance, but you cover many holes or thin areas all at once. You can find marine grade vinyl at a boating supply shop, or at a good fabric store. You may not find the heavy duty 30 oz weight that we use on our spa covers, but if you get something close you can add a few years to your hot tub cover.

Replace the Foam Inserts

The foam panels of your spa cover is what gives your spa much of it’s rigidity and is the main insulation for the spa cover as well. Large dogs, heavy snow load or kids using it as a dance floor can all cause the panels to break. As this video shows, you can open up the panels and replace with a high r-value home wall insulation board, which you cut to the shape of your existing foam panels. Then wrap it tightly in 6 mil plastic. It won’t have the r-value of our 2 lb foam, nor the advantage of our vacuum sealed 6 mil wrap, with heat welded seams, but a panel replacement of this type can be quite effective.

Replace the Cover Straps

Your hot tub cover straps serve an important dual purpose – to keep the cover secure during high winds, and also to help lock out youngsters and others who shouldn’t be using the spa, at least not alone. You can add extra spa straps if you want more protection, or if your spa cover straps have dry rotted and broken off, you can replace your spa cover straps and clips. We sell a set of spa cover strap clips and you can buy nylon webbing (strapping) at any fabric store.

Of course, there are some things that you can do yourself – you can even make your own spa cover! We would like to remind you how important your time is, and suggest that when the time comes, take it easy and buy a new spa cover from Hot Tub Works instead!

 

Happy Hot Tubbin’
Daniel Lara

 

Hot Tub Repair Business – Train to be a Spa Repair Man

December 16th, 2013 by

spa-repairman-hot-tubs-tooMany of us here at hottubworks got our start in the retail end of the spa business, but others are from the service business.

A Spa and Hot Tub repair company will offer several services, namely equipment repair and replacement, regular service and maintenance accounts, winterize, summerize and spa relocation services. They could also have spa inspection services for realtors, and orientation services for new spa owners. With factory training, you can perform warranty service for major spa manufacturers.

Spa and hot tub repair companies may also work on Jetted Tubs, usually installed in modern bathrooms. They could work with commercial spas and hot tubs like municipal spas, hotels, condos, resorts and therapy centers, or they can go a more residential route and work on inground or aboveground home spas; some indoors, but mostly outside on the patio.

So that’s your customer. But what about you? What skills are needed to become a successful spa entrepreneur? A successful spa technician, or a spa repair person will wear many hats.

  1. Chemist: You will be called upon to correct bad water conditions, with accurate testing and chemical additions.
  2. Electrician: Most spas are quite electrical, with loads like the pump motors, heater, blower controlled by a pcb, or printed circuit board.
  3. Engineer: Hydraulics and flow mechanics. Make repairs to the plumbing, install new spa equipment or an entirely new spa.
  4. Teacher: A good spa tech and business owner will make a business of teaching and instructing spa owners how to manage their spa.

I find that people with HVAC experience, including home appliance techs tend to understand spas and hot tubs pretty well. It really is not that much different than a large washing machine! Well, that’s not entirely true, they are indeed more complicated than a washer, but that’s what also makes it interesting!

 

Where to Get Spa Training

CPO TrainingCPO

The Certified Pool Operator CPO, course is a national certification program, that yeah – mainly is focused on pools, but there is also a lot of spa information. Many of the concepts of swimming pools cross over to spas and hot tubs.

Professional Training

CHTT

Many professional associations, such as the American Pool & Spa Professionals APSP, or the International Hot Tub Association IHTA, offer training through their local chapters, or at their national and regional trade shows. Some even have a certified professional courses that you can take and earn a ‘degree’ in spa repair.

Spa Repair Forums

SPA-FORUMS

Bulletin Boards are a great way to learn about spas and hot tub repair. Read the posts, read the replies – now you know! There are a few discussion boards or forums out there that deal with spa topics. I’d like to point out the Hot Tub Works spa repair forum first and foremost. Spa Forums.com also has a nice chunk of info online. RHTubs has another good spa forum.

Retailer Resources

HOT-TUB-TOOLBOX

At Hot Tub Works, we are proud of the videos and articles that we have put together on all sorts of spa and hot tub technical topics. The Hot Tub Toolbox is our library of articles and videos on various pool topics. Our friends at Spa Depot also has a nice spa info section, laid out by category. You can find lots of high quality spa and hot tub information online, and it’s all free.

Spa Repair Books

ULTIMATE-GUIDE

There are not a lot of books about spa repair on the market. Most books about spas are glossy coffee table books, or cover a very limited range of information. There is one book called The Ultimate Guide to Spas and Hot Tubs, which is jammed full of good information, in 320 illustrated pages, spread over 9 chapters. Tool Tips and Tricks of the Trade are given in each subject area.

What Else Is Needed?

Aside from good knowledge of spa care and repair, you’ll also need have a few other things for a successful spa repair company.

  1. Business License and registered Trade Name.
  2. Separate bank account and insurance policy.
  3. Advertising and Networking to add clients.
  4. Service vehicle with tools and supplies.
  5. Webpage or Online Directory listings.
  6. Great customer service skills.open-for-business

Your state or city may have other specific licenses to register the business, such as an Occupancy Permit, or special contractors license. You’ll need to file tax returns for the business, and pay any other license fees in your area.

 

Happy Hot Tubbin’
Daniel Lara

 

Hot Tub Parts: Filter Parts for Spas and Hot Tubs

December 5th, 2013 by

spa-filter-assembly

 

 

Spa Filter Parts – it’s one of the smaller categories of hot tub parts that we carry, and one of the easiest components of your spa to troubleshoot and repair.

Almost all portable, above ground spas use a cartridge filter set-up, similar to the spa filter assembly shown here to the left. A pipe carries water from the skimmer and or spa drain, into the filter body, where the water is forced to pass through the cartridge before exiting the filter on the opposite side.

However – there are many manufacturers of spa filter assemblies, or complete spa filters. In alphabetical order, we carry spa filter parts for Hayward, Jacuzzi, Rainbow, Sonfarrel, Sta-Rite and Waterway.

The first step to finding the right spa filter part is to know which spa filter assembly you have on your spa.

 

Which Brand of Spa Filter do you Have?

As mentioned above, there are many manufacturers of spa filters, and even though we carry parts for the most popular brands, there are dozens more. If you have a Jacuzzi brand spa, it’s a good bet that you also have a Jacuzzi brand filter assembly, but with other makes, you can’t be sure without crawling under there and taking a close look.

spa-filter-logos

You should be able to find the name of the filter manufacturer, or at least a part number stamped onto the filter body, or filter lid to help you determine the make of your filter assembly. Your spa owner’s manual may also help point you in the right direction. Still no luck? Take a photo, and email it to us, we’ll be glad to help.

Which Types of Spa Filter Parts do you Need?

1. Skimmer Parts: That’s right, I said skimmer parts, like the mounting plate or gasket, diverters, skimmer baskets, skimmer weirs… on spas, these are considered to be filter parts. Not so for swimming pools, but on spas and hot tubs, skimmers are often connected to the filter, and in some cases, the spa filter sits inside of the skimmer, underneath the basket, in a combination skimmer and filter body.

2. Filter Body: The filter body is often one of the first things to crack due to freeze damage – even a small amount of water left in the bottom of the filter tank can expand and crack the filter body. When this happens, the filter head or top may also crack, or the filter body lock ring – the large nut that tightens the filter lid to the filter body. If your spa filter is leaking around the lock nut, you may need to replace the o-ring for the filter lid. Probably the most common parts we sell for filter bodies is the drain plug, or the air relief plug – these just seem to grow legs, or roll up under the spa, never to be seen again.

3. Filter Guts: Inside your filter body, we have the filter cartridge. Some spa filters also contain inserts or additional parts that are used to seal up the cartridge, to force the water to go through the filter cartridge and not around the filter cartridge. A few spa filters have an internal bypass parts, to allow excess flow to bypass the cartridge. Yours may have internal o-rings, spacer rings or one-way flow check valves, or small filtering screens.

Ordering Spa Filter Parts

spa-and-hot-tub-electric-parts-sm

Our website displays over 100 different spa filter parts, all with pictures to help you positively identify the correct part – to correct your filter problem. Or, if you want to replace the entire spa filter, we have over 50 different complete spa filters to select from. If you have any confusion, or need any assistance at all, give our helpful and knowledgeable spa part techs a call. Spa Techs are standing by, from 7am – 7pm, Monday thru Friday, and 8-4 on Saturdays. Call 1-800-770-0292.

 

Happy Hot Tubbin’
Daniel Lara

 

DIY Hot Tub Cover – Make Your Own Spa Cover

November 21st, 2013 by

wood-circlesSpa Covers are a large part of our business here, that’s why when we heard about people making their own spa covers, we had to look into it. Is this a threat to our core business? No, we don’t think so at all – well, at least I don’t think that.

I think that American individualism has always led people to can their own food, sew their own clothing, and even make their own spa covers. In some cases, it’s born of necessity, necessity to save money that is. Even though a new spa cover from Hot Tub Works can be less than $300, for many cash-strapped spa owners, making their own spa cover for under $100 sounds a lot better.

I apologize to the wives and girlfriends out there, if I’m giving your “handy” man some kooky ideas. Most people would rather have a proper hot tub cover, I understand. At the end of the article, I have some talking points for you – reasons for not building your own spa cover.

Materials Needed to Make Your Own Spa Coverhardware-stores

  • 2- 2″ thick 4×8′ Polystyrene Foam Boards
  • Heavy Duty Adhesive in caulk tube
  • 2 – 4×8′ Plywood Boards
  • Heavy Duty Plastic
  • Exterior Paint for Wood
  • 2 – 4′ Continuous Hinges and screws

STEP ONE: MEASURE YOUR SPA

You know what they say, measure twice, cut once. Measure both the inside and outside dimensions of your spa shell, and draw a guide on paper. Your DIY spa cover must be large enough to sit on the rim of the spa, without the risk of falling in if you just bump into it, or look at it wrong. Both the wood and foam will be closer to the outside diameter, so that the foam rests on top of the spa. Alternatively, if you think you can get a better seal by having the foam cut to fit the inside of the spa (while the wood extends over the spa edge), you can cut the foam a few inches smaller than the plywood.

STEP TWO: CUT THE MATERIALS

Measure again before cutting, just to be sure. For square spas, you’ll have less cutting to do of the plywood and foam boards, in fact, you may choose to not even cut them at all. For spas with rounded corners, octagonal cuts or circular spas (hot tubs), break out the jig saw, so you can cut the radius curve in the plywood. The foam can be cut with a sharp kitchen knife or with a hacksaw blade. After you have cut both pieces, lay them on top of each other, to remove any rough edges and to make sure that they are pretty close to identically sized.

STEP THREE: WRAP THE FOAM IN HEAVY PLASTIC

You won’t get the vacuum sealed, heat welded seams that you see on the best hot tub covers, but it is still important to spend time wrapping the foam as tightly as possible to keep moisture from the spa from coming in contact with the foam board. Wrap it with painter’s plastic, at least 4 mil in thickness. Wrap all sides like a gift box, folding over the corners and taping tightly, with a large roll of packing tape.

STEP FOUR: GLUE THE FOAM TO THE WOOD BOARDSliquid-nails

Use a heavy duty adhesive like Liquid Nails, or something similar. Use a liberal amount, squirting it directly onto the wood. Be sure to cover all areas, with special attention on the edges. Press your wrapped foam board onto the board. Flip it over, so the foam is on flat ground, and place a few heavy items on top of the wood, to help improve adhesion.

STEP FIVE: PAINT THE WOOD AND INSTALL THE HINGE

Sand the edges to remove any splinters or rough spots. Use exterior paint, and don’t be afraid to go heavy on it, or paint two coats on the side that faces up. After the paint dries, you can install the hinge. You can use several door hinges, or use one long continuous hinge, with a 1/4″ screw in every fifth hole.

That’s It! Five steps. The only thing left is to put it on the spa (use two people if it’s heavy) and check for heat loss. Now to come up with a solution to the heat loss that’s coming through the hinge, or at certain spots around the spa rim, like the control panel area. If you have a cover lifter, you may also be able to connect your cover lifter to work with your new spa cover.

 

Reasons for Not Making Your Own Spa Cover

I promised earlier to give some ‘talking points’, on how to dissuade a handy (and frugal) housemate from attempting a DIY spa cover. We know it’s a lot cheaper, and we understand the pride of making something with your own hands, but…

  • The heat retention of this type of spa cover is far less, easily half of what a real spa cover can provide.
  • Homemade hot tub covers may be difficult to latch or lock, to keep the spa safe and secure.
  • Without steam stoppers and skirts to prevent heat loss, a spa in cold weather may be unable to stay hot.
  • Without a rigid support panel, a DIY spa cover won’t stay flat, and quickly warps and bends to the water.
  • When it bends toward the water, rain and snow melt will drain into the spa, bringing contaminants. how-to-buy-a-spa-cover

 

For a real cover, see the benefits of a Hot Tub Works spa cover. You can still make a contribution however, and put your talents to good use, like building a wood bench or shelves to wrap around the spa. Rocks and plants? How about a gazebo, privacy screen or some pergola around the spa?

 

Happy Hot Tubbin’

Daniel Lara

 

 

Top Spa Repair Forum Discussions

November 15th, 2013 by

Visit our Spa and Hot Tub Repair Forum - image purchased thru ClipartofWith 475 threads and over 1200 posts, our Spa Repair Forum, now in it’s 5th year, has been very active lately. On Sept 15th of this year, we had the highest daily visits ever, with nearly 1000 spa and hot tub enthusiasts seeking answers, from our collective knowledge.

A forum, (aka discussion board, or bulletin board) represents one of the best virtues of the internet, sharing and helping each other. In a forum, the helpless and the helpful support each other, in perfect harmony. Where there is a gap in this, or answers don’t come quickly enough from the group, MaryH, Super Moderator, steps in with answers to questions. When a reply or response is made to a post that you make, you receive an immediate email.

As one of the oldest uses of the world wide web, many people find that forums are a better place to find more specific and complete answers to their technical and mechanical issues around the home. A conversation, or thread, is started that allows you to engage the question more fully, and report back results and resolutions.

The anonymous conversation is recorded in perpetuity, and is ‘evergreen information’. This means that it keeps giving, and is always available for other spa owners to read, solving their similar problems. Indeed, most forum users find their answers just by reading the posts and threads of those who came before them. Our forum is very organized and searchable, and you can view posts by category, or by keyword search.

 

#1  ‘SL’ > Spa went to Sleep…Died. Whatever. The spa is sleeping, should you wake it up?

hot-tub-repair-question-1 spa in sleep mode

#2  Sundance optima – starts, trips GFI, starts again, trips  Trippy spa problem! Turns out to be a temp sensor.

hot-tub-repair-question-2 Spa trips GFI

#3  Small Rust Stains Use a dab of fingernail polish after cleaning to seal it up.

hot-tub-repair-question-3 Rust Stains

#4  2000 Cal Spa (No Heat) – Chewed wires! Replace spa wires with exact duplicate gauge and type.

hot-tub-repair-question-4 No Heat

#5  No Heat – A bad PCB (printed circuit board) keeps the spa heater from coming on.

hot-tub-repair-question-5 No Heat

#6  I have to clean my filter every few days Why? – Oily Lotions, Sticky Cosmetics and Hair Goop maybe?

hot-tub-repair-question-6 - clogged filter

#7  Master Spa – OHH error  Overheating spa causes spa owner to overheat himself!

hot-tub-repair-question-7 OHH error

 

Hats off to our hot tub repair forum participants – on the quest for enlightenment and money savings by doing their own spa repairs. There’s a real pioneer spirit in these conversations – bold spa owners who persist in their search for answers to their hot tub dilemma.

Save some money yourself, chances are, someone just like you has struggled in the past with the same spa issues you are having right now. Search our hot tub forum and our Spa Toolbox for yourself, or post your own question and help other spa owners like yourself!

 

Happy Hot Tubbin’
Daniel Lara

 

Hot Tub Parts: Heater Parts for Spas and Hot Tubs

November 7th, 2013 by

spa-heater-parts

Hot tub heater parts – a spa heater can be one of the more confusing parts of a spa for homeowners to work on, which is why our spa and hot tub heater parts department is laid out in a step by step fashion. This allows you to start your spa heater troubleshooting with the most common replacement spa heater parts, and progress to the more rare causes of spa heater problems.

Here’s a description of each subcategory of spa heater parts, with information on what functions these various parts perform and how to test or troubleshoot them on your own spa, so you can buy replacement spa heater parts with confidence.

 

Heater Elements

spa-heater-elements

Heater elements are housed inside of the heating chamber, or manifold. The power leads are connected to the element, and when all the stars align, this power will heat up the element, which warms the passing spa water.

Warning: Testing and inspection of spa heater elements should be done carefully to avoid injury. Spa heaters also need to be grounded and GFI protected, before connecting power, to prevent serious injury or even death.

Heating elements can be tested for amperage with an amp meter, or the terminals can be tested for proper input voltage with a volt meter.

In many cases, the heater element itself is not damaged, but it begins to leak water out of the terminals, where the wires connect. If this occurs, replace the element or the entire heater immediately, to prevent electrical shock.

Replace a spa heater element with an exact duplicate, in terms of length, terminal orientation and kilowatts of output. Call for spa tech support if you are having trouble identifying the correct hot tub heater element.

Flow Switches

spa-flow-switchA flow switch is a sensor that tells the heater that there is enough water flowing through the heater element to be able to power the heater element safely. Low flow rates can be caused by a dirty spa filter, low water level or closed valves.

A flow switch has a paddle that dips into the flow of water, to sense the pressure of the passing water. It also has an arrow on the side to indicate the proper flow direction of the water, and commonly has two wires that connect into your control panel.

Problems include a flow switch stuck in the wrong position, closed all the time, or open when it should be closed. Wire shorts or loose connections on the wiring can cause this, as can built up scale in cases of very hard water.

If you suspect your flow switch may be the problem, you may be able to jump it out or isolate it from the circuit. Insufficient heat or no heat is the main symptom of a problem with the hot tub flow switch.

Hi Limits

spa-hi-limitThe purpose of a hi limit switch is to shut down a runaway heater. Modern spas use sensors to determine when the water temperature inside the heating chamber is too hot, and older spas will use a mechanical thermodisc, that surface mounts onto the heating chamber or into the control box. Others may use a capillary bulb and wire, with a button that pops out when the hi limit has been tripped, much like a GFI breaker.

A tripping hi limit may be symptomatic of a water flow problem (and the flow sensor or pressure switch), or problems with the spa thermostat. It will have two wires connected, leading to the controller.

Older hi limit switches that are nuisance tripping may be faulty, but it’s more often the case that the hi limit is doing it’s job, protecting you and your spa equipment from dangerous over heating.

Heater Unions

spa-unions-gaskets-o-ringsHeater unions are the connecting bits on the ends of the heating chamber or manifold. Usually the union nuts are collars, which have a screw on each side to remove it in two halves. If these union nuts become stripped, cracked or broken, you can will find it easier to just replace the collar, and not the union tail nut, or the piece that the union nut threads onto.

We also have available the spa union o-rings and gaskets that always tend to fall off and roll to an unreachable location – or, they get pinched and crimped while tightening up a heater union.

If your spa heater begins to leak at the unions on either end, make a fast parts replacement, to prevent water from contacting sensitive heater terminal connections, dripping or spraying on other spa pack components.

Manifolds

spa-heater-manifoldsThe heater manifold is the housing for the heater element, and may also be home to your hi limit and pressure switch. It’s rare that the heater manifold will fail on it’s own, but it can fall victim to freeze damage, or it can be warped in extreme over heating incidents.

Stainless Steel spa manifolds can sometimes rust or oxidize, and this can indicate that the steel manifold has become energized and possibly dangerous. Plastic manifolds won’t develop rust, but could warp or be melted right through if the element gets too close.

Buy exact replacement manifolds, to fit your element. It may come with complete unions, but it’s easier to not use the supplied union tail nuts, just use the new o-ring and union nuts. Be extra careful to secure the element in snug to prevent leakage.

Pressure Switches

spa-pressure-switchesA spa pressure switch is similar to the flow switch, and in practice their function is the same. When water flow or water pressure is insufficient to adequately absorb the heat from the heater element, a pressure switch will shut down the spa heater, in a bit of self preservation.

We have over 40 different pressure switches to choose from. I guess spa manufacturers like to have their own specific pressure switch, with small differences. They vary in the amperage, the pressure settings, the attachment size and how many poles and throws the switch has. Be sure to replace with an exact duplicate pressure switch.

Pressure switch tripping? It’s probably just doing it’s job, and you may have a flow problem. In some cases, a spa pressure switch can become stuck (open, or stuck closed), or the terminals can become rusty, or it can lose it’s calibration and become more sensitive over time.

Sensors

spa-sensorsSpa sensors are used on today’s newer spas, to replace older hi limit switches and mechanical thermostats. These sensors usually have a wire attached that’s about 3 ft. long, to be able to reach over and plug into the spa pack.

If you receive an error code regarding a spa sensor, check the connections at the spa pack, and inspect the wire carefully for crimps or splits. Remove the sensor itself from the spa plumbing, and inspect the bulb or button for scale or corrosion. If it sits in a dry well, check that the well has not developed pinholes.

Spa sensors for temperature are all factory calibrated and are non-serviceable. If both ends look fine and the cord is intact, double check that you have a sensor error. If you’re having trouble diagnosing a spa sensor, give us a call here at the shop, we’ll be glad to help.

Complete Heater Units

complete-spa-heater-assemblyAnd of course, we have the complete heater units at Hot Tub Works. If there are big problems with your spa heater components, replacing the entire unit may give you more peace of mind, and is definitely an easier installation.

You can order replacement spa heaters such by brand, or according to the type of spa pack that you have. We also list our top ten most popular spa heater, many of which are universal, in that they will fit many different spas.

You can also order new spa heaters by dimensions; refer to our chart of 9 measurements that you can match up to on your existing spa heater, to get one that will line up correctly with all of the spa heater components.

 

Happy Hot Tubbin’
Daniel Lara

 

Tips to Avoid Chemical Damage to your Hot Tub or Spa

October 22nd, 2013 by

DOS-AND-DONTSYour spa is beautiful, but to keep it that way you have to be careful. Spas are much less forgiving of chemical mistakes than pools, being up to 50 times smaller.

Part of the problem is you, and other spa users. 4 people in a 400 gallon spa is an equivalent bather load to 200 people in a 20,000 gallon pool. Spa users bring in loads of oils, body wastes, perspiration, cosmetics, soaps and hair care products, which your spa filter and spa chemistry have to deal with, since you don’t drain the spa after every use.

Here’s my tips on carefully managing your spa chemistry. Take care of these things, and your spa or hot tub will stay looking good, and you’ll avoid damage to the spa equipment, spa shell and spa cover.

DON’T USE CHEAP CHEMICALS

Cheap spa chemicals have been flooding the market in the last few years. These products are made in countries with lax environmental and product controls. Labeling is usually proper, but the ingredients are always cheap. Low grade clays, gums and oils used as binders. Cheaper derivative bases can have a reduced shelf life or create ‘side effects’ in your spa water chemistry. I liken it to the pharmaceutical industry. A generic drug may be OK, but there are other options out there you’d be best to stay away from. Cheap spa chemicals can be damaging to the spa filter, pump seals, and spa surfaces.

DON’T USE POOL CHEMICALS

Many spa manufacturers will void their warranty if you use pool chemicals in your spa or hot tub. The first problem is that the dosage rates are for pools, usually in 10,000 gallons, so it’s easy to screw up the math. Secondly, the big containers and scoops don’t allow proper measurement. Pools take pounds of adjustment chemicals, but in spas, we work in ounces. Third, Trichlor tablets (pool tablets) have a very low pH, and will give you trouble with your pH. Other pool chemicals are not made for the rapid dissolve rate that is necessary in spas, to keep harsh chemicals from contacting your shiny spa surfaces.

DON’T USE BIGUANIDES

Biguanides are a product that replaces bromine or chlorine in a pool or spa. I might get in trouble saying this, because we sell spa biguanides – but the truth is that they can gum up the filter, dry out the hoses, and attack some spa surfaces. Despite these side-effects, those users who are very careful in their dosage and water balance can avoid most of the downside, and enjoy the benefits of biguanides. How’s that for double speak? :-)

DO TEST & BALANCE WEEKLY

Test your water at least weekly, with a good set of test strips or a liquid test kit. And then – add the chemicals needed to adjust the range of Alkalinity, Calcium Hardness and pH. Low pH and Alkalinity can become corrosive and damage shiny spa surfaces, or weaken soft hoses and seals. If you have hard water, use Calcium and Scale Control, and for soft water, with low calcium hardness, add some calcium increaser. Keeping balanced spa water not only protects your spa shell and equipment, but allows your sanitizer to work more effectively at removing the loads of contaminants in the spa.

DO DRAIN & CLEAN REGULARLY

Draining and cleaning the spa is recommended every 3-4 months for spas that get used 1-3 times per week. For heavier use, drain the spa more frequently. Before draining, or at least twice per year, use a spa pipe cleaning product, like Jet Clean, to remove film and funk from inside your tubes, hoses and pipes. Once drained, use a spa friendly cleaning product like Spa Care cleaner to clean the spa surfaces. Don’t use household cleaning products, they can contain abrasives or phosphates. After cleaning the shell, restore the gloss to your spa with a spa polishing product like Citrabright.

DO SHOCK & SANITIZE CAREFULLY

Use anyone of our spa shocks, either chlorine or non-chlorine shock, according to directions and you’ll have no problems. Always use the measuring scoop, and add spa shock to the water with the jet pump on and circulating. To protect the spa cover, leave it half open or completely remove it for an hour after shocking the spa. Continuous high levels of bromine or chlorine in the spa can be very corrosive. Use a floater or feeder for tablets and monitor the level closely, so that it stays above 1.0ppm, and below 3.0ppm. If the level goes to high, turn on the jet pump and open the cover. Adding fresh water also helps dilute high sanitizer levels.

 

Daniel Lara
Hot Tub Works

 

 

Winterizing a Spa or Hot Tub

October 7th, 2013 by

spa-under-snow

Most portable spas are not winterized, many spa owners find that winter is one of their most enjoyable seasons with their hot tub. But, if this is a summer home, or if you are more of a 3 season spa user, you can shut down the spa for the next 3-4 months. Power outages or maintenance needs may also make you decide to winterize the hot tub. If a tub full of water were to freeze hard for several days, it can destroy a hot tub beyond repair.

 

Essentially the process is the removing all water from the spa equipment, pipes and hoses. Any water left in the spa can grow stagnant bacteria, or if there is enough to fill a tight space in the pipes, it will freeze and expand, and crack pipes or equipment.

Clean the Pipes

Using a product like Tub Rinse, added to your spa the night before draining will remove bacteria formed in the pipes or jets. If untreated before draining the water from the spa, the bacteria can thrive with just the moisture left in the pipes. This is a very important step that should not be overlooked, or dismissed as spa suppliers just trying to sell another chemical. :-) We do like to sell spa chemicals, but really – this one is a very necessary chemical. Use twice per year, and always before draining the spa for an extended period of time.

Drain the Spa

Open up the spigot on the bottom of your spa, most spas will have one that you can attach a garden hose. A small submersible pump can also be used. A siphon could also be used, with some degree of success. In addition to the spigot, remove any drain plugs you have on your pump or filter, or unscrew the unions on each side of the equipment (don’t lose the o-ring), to allow all of the equipment (pump, filter, heater…) to drain out.

Once the spa is drained completely, and the lines are blown out, use towels or sponges to get any remaining drops of water, and allow the shell to air dry for several hours with the spa cover removed. It’s important to remove every bit of water, from the pipes, seats, floors, equipment – everything.

Blow the Lines

When the spa is nearly drained, turn on the spa blower (if you have one), and let it run for several minutes. If you have air controls for the blower (jets or seats, for example), adjust the controls so that the blower is forcing air into all areas.shop-vac

You can blow the lines out, or suck them out with a wet/dry vac (just reverse the hose). Use a large wet/dry vac, and seal the end of the hose up against the hole in the bottom of the skimmer, and the drain, and on all of the spa jets. Depending how your jets and plumbing are arranged, you may have more success with vacuuming, or vice-versa, with blowing. Usually, some combination of both will be most successful.

In most cases, for the spa jets, you’ll want to start up at the higher jets, and work your way down to the floor jets. Seat air jets or ring jets take some precisely focused air and a dry towel laid across the bench or floor to absorb the water as it spits out of the air jets. When vacuuming, a sheet of plastic may be helpful, to cover other jets connected to the same manifold, to increase suction on the jet you are vacuuming water from. Blow or suck (sorry), the air until you no longer see any water or mist being extracted or pushed out. Important!

Non-toxic RV or Pool antifreeze can be used as a last resort, but it can get a little slimy and smells bad, so I’d advise you to do without, unless you are not certain that all the water has been removed, with no puddling areas inside air or water manifolds or pipe.

Miscellaneous

  1. Use spa filter cleaner It’s crucial to remove scale, minerals, dirt and grime from the cartridge.spa-cover-conditioners
  2. Lubricate union o-rings on equipment connections with a Teflon based lubricant.
  3. Shut down power at the breaker, be sure the spa will not turn on while empty.
  4. Secure the cover tightly, and treat with spa cover conditioner.

 

Daniel Lara
Hot Tub Works