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Daniel Lara's Posts

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

 

 

Restore or Replace your Spa Skirt?

September 23rd, 2013 by

SPA-CABINET-RESTORATIONThe spa skirt, also known as the spa cabinet, or spa surround, is traditionally made of redwood or cedar for long life and resistance to rot and insects. Nowadays, composite materials are also common. These are mixtures of wood pulp and plastics, which resists rot and fading better than real wood.

In either case, there will come a time when your spa cabinet, or spa skirt doesn’t look so hot anymore. It may be faded, stained or rotting near the base. Moisture from overgrown plants or splattering rain or sprinklers can really damage the finish and appearance within a few short years. If left untreated, the spa skirt will begin to fall apart, like an old barn.

If your spa skirt is stained or faded, but the structure is intact, with very little wood rot – you can refinish your spa cabinet, in the same way you would any outdoor wood furniture or decking.

Restoring a Wood Spa Cabinet

  1. Remove the Panels: Use a cordless drill with a proper size Phillips head to remove panel mounting screws. If you have full access all around the spa, you could leave the panels on, but you can sand and finish the panels more easily when they are horizontal.
  2. Clean the Panels: Use a mild soap and a rough brush, or textured sponge. Scrub the entire panel to remove dirt, grime and oils. Rinse clean and use an old towel to scrub them dry.
  3. Sand the Panels: With a belt sander or orbital sander, and block sander. Start with about a 50 grit, and sand the entire surface. Clean with a shop vac, then sand again with a 100 grit. Clean again and finish with a fine grit, around 150. Clean very well to remove all dust from cracks and edges.
  4. Stain the Panels: Using a brush, rag or spray, apply your chosen outdoor stain according to directions. Minwax makes some nice products for staining hot tub cabinets.
  5. Seal the Panels: Unless your stain is a 1-step product with polyurethane, apply a wood sealer or waterproofing over the dry stain, to protect it from moisture and dirt.

Replacing a Spa Cabinet

If you have advanced wood rot that a simple patch won’t repair, or if you want to change the look of your spa cabinet, you could consider replacing your spa skirt. Here’s a few spa cabinet ideas that you can do yourself – DIY.

  1. Wainscoting: Sold in various size panels, or in more expensive packs of pre-cut cedar or pine tongue and groove boards. Just as you would use them on the bottom half of your dining room, you can apply this to the outside of your spa, and add a pressure treated base board, and molding around the top and sides of each panel.
  2. Replacement Spa Cabinet Kits: Available in 3 colors, these kits are a quick solution to a long lasting replacement spa skirt. Made of composite materials and in 3 colors, our Spa Cabinet Kits make spa cabinets with rounded corners easy to renovate, and will fit radius corners of 5″ to 12″, and any spa up to 96″ wide.
  3. Faux Stone or Brick Panels: and hundreds of other patterns of wood or stone. These panels are interlocking, and join with corner stacks that work well for square spa cabinets. Carry the design to surrounding walls, or add faux boulders, Omni Rocks, around the spa

spa-cabinet-renovation

Happy Hot Tubbin’

Daniel Lara

 

 

Guide to Hot Tub and Spa Chemicals

September 16th, 2013 by

bogus book, photoshop invention, not for sale, lol

 

Hot tubs and spas would be so much more fun if they didn’t need any guides! One of those important care areas is managing the spa water chemistry.

Spa chemicals are used for water balance (pH, alkalinity and hardness), and then there are the sanitizer chemicals, and oxidizers for shocking the spa. And there’s minerals, and ozone, enzymes and clarifiers. And half a dozen other spa chemicals.

 

It’s enough to make you dizzy. To make it easier, we group our spa chemicals into five groups:

leisure-time

 

Spa Sanitizers

Bromine is the usual method, although you can sanitize with chlorine. Sanitizing a hot tub usually means adding sodium bromide, to establish a bromine bank, and then using enough bromine tablets to reach 2-3 ppm. Shocking the spa with an oxidizer is used to help reactivate the bromide ions. This is known as the 3-part system.

Free is a non-chlorine sanitizer by Leisure time that is completely chlorine or bromine free. If you want to operate a spa without either of these halogens, you can use this biguanide based system to sanitize the spa water.

Minerals can help reduce the necessary bromine level to 1.0 ppm in most cases, and provide extra power to fight and kill bacteria, viruses and pathogens in the spa water. Silver and copper ions will seek out and attack these contaminants, and they work continuously, just replace the cartridge every 4 months. We have 3 major brands, shown below, plus Mineral cartridges for Hot Spring and Sundance Spas. spa-mineral-sticks

 

MPS / Shock

MPS, or MonoPerSulfate, is a non-chlorine type of spa oxidizer, an option to using chlorine granules in the spa to remove contaminants and to boost up the bromide bank on a brominated spa.

Most people I know – will shock the spa after a group of people use the spa, but maybe not if it’s just a quick single person dip. Shocking a spa is not like shocking a pool, in such a small vessel, only tablespoons of spa shock is used to quickly do the job.

We carry many types of spa shock, all are either MPS or chlorine granules. A few of my favorite spa shocks are shown below. spa-shocks

 

Clarifiers

Clarifiers are helpful for small, marginal spa filters. If your water ever gets hazy or cloudy, or if you can see particles floating around in the water, above the spa light, you may want to use a clarifier to coagulate and improve filtration.

Algaecides work by invading the algae cells directly and disrupting their processes. An algaecide can be a good back-up to your spa sanitation, helping to reduce effects of low bromine levels or inconsistent chemical maintenance.

Foam Out is used when your spa becomes foamy, although it can also be an indication that it’s time to drain the spa! If you have already drained it, and still get sudsy, adding a small amount will remove surface spa foam.

Enzymes are a great way to eliminate spa foaming. They also digest oils and suds, making your sanitizer more effective with less oily organics and detergents to deal with.

Metal Out is a chemical used to lock up minerals in the spa water, to keep them from staining or attacking shiny spa surfaces. Hard water areas, or spas filled from an untreated well should use a metal sequestering agent.

 

Balancers

Balancers will help you control the water balance of your spa. Test your spa water at least weekly and make any needed adjustments to keep your spa water in balance. This is important for important for sanitizer effectiveness, protecting your spa components and for bather comfort.

spa-balance-chemicals-htw

 

Cleaners

The cleaners category has everything you need to clean your spa, top to bottom. Cleaners for spa covers, cleaners for the inside of your spa shell, spa pipe cleaners, spa filter cleaners.

Don’t use household cleaners on your spa, you don’t want any residue from kitchen, bathroom or automotive cleansers to mix with your spa water. Use only products designed for use with spas.spa-cleaners

 

And that’s all there is to it! 5 categories of spa chemicals. You’ll need to use at least some of these spa chemicals from each category at certain points during your spa maintenance.

I hope that this guide to spa chemicals was useful, and has made the plethora of spa and hot tub chemicals more manageable to think about and work with.

 

Happy Hot Tubbin’Daniel Lara

 

Hot Tub Parts: Pump Parts for Spas and Hot Tubs

September 9th, 2013 by

spa-pump-partsContinuing our series of blog posts about the variety and uses for spa and hot tub parts, today we break down the category of spa pumps.

Fortunately, this category of spa parts is not as large as others, so we should be able to dive into more detail about common problems with spa pump parts, and their solutions.

Take a look at the spa pump parts schematic, you can see the parts of a spa pump, one without a strainer basket. Most hot tub pumps have only 15-20 parts, which fit nicely into 6 groups of parts.

Wet Ends

These are the parts of the pump that get wet. In the image above, it’s everything except for the motor, item 24. Contained within a complete wet end assembly is the impeller and shaft seal. In some pumps, a diffuser, or impeller shroud is also part of the hydraulic design, and an impeller wear ring, shown as item 6.

rotating-wet-endThere are two types of wet ends, center discharge and side discharge. Center discharge pumps shoot the water out of the pump at 12:00, and side discharge pumps, as shown in our example above, shoot the water either left or right of center, and can be rotated to different mounting positions.

To order the correct wet end, it’s helpful to know your spa pump make and model. Otherwise, the motor frame type, horsepower. Also whether it’s side or center discharge, and for pipe size, 1.5″, 2.0″, or larger. As a last resort, measure your wet end, and compare it to our pictures.

Volutes

spa-voluteThe volute is also called the impeller housing, and it’s both halves of the wet end assembly. To make it simple to define, we call them the front volute and the rear volute. The front volute has the incoming pipe connection, the rear volute attaches to the motor. Items 2 and 7 in the schematic above.

In cases of a cracked volute, many of our customers prefer to replace only the offending part and not trash the entire wet end.

Motors

In cases of a burned out spa pump motor, many of our customers prefer to replace the motor, instead of replacing the entire spa pump. And that’s not a bad idea – the parts of a wet end do not ‘wear out’, rather they are either broken or melted, but they don’t wear away, with the possible exception of the shaft seal.

spa-motor-blueMotors typically last around 5-7 years, in most situations. To order a new spa pump motor, you need to know several key pieces of information. Horsepower, Frame, Volts, Amps, Speeds. These are all printed, in tiny print, on the motor label. Comparing pictures of our spa pump motors could be risky, give us a call if you are not 100% sure of your particular motor type on your spa pump.

Unions

spa-pump-unionSpa pump unions are the connectors that allow you to disconnect the plumbing from the spa pump. There are split nut unions, with two screws that hold them together, or types with one large nut, that tightens over the threads on the volute halves. Most pumps have two unions, one on the suction intake of the volute, and the other on the discharge.

spa-union-oringUnions have an internal o-ring to help seal them up tightly. These should be lubricated whenever you put them back together. Lost the o-ring? Don’t worry, happens to the best of us – we have lots of spa union o-rings to choose from.

 

Impellers & Diffusers

spa-pump-impellerThe impeller is the turbine that creates the vacuum suction for the movement of the water. A diffuser is another plastic piece that some designers use to increase water volume or pressure. This fits over top of the impeller, held in place by several stainless steel screws around the edge.

Some impellers have a built in wear ring, like this Jacuzzi impeller shown here with the metal band. Other spa pumps will employ a separate part called an impeller wear ring, that fits over the impeller to prevent the impeller from rubbing on the diffuser or front volute. diffuser

The most common problem may be a clogged impeller, which can be cleared with a bent wire, or small screwdriver. Impellers can break, or melt in some situations, which would call for a replacement. Diffusers break much less often, but if you need one, we have ‘em!

Seals, Gaskets & O-rings

shaft-sealSpa pumps have a mechanical shaft seal, which sits behind the impeller, and is the seal that prevents leakage along the motor shaft. It doesn’t touch the motor shaft, otherwise it would burn up, but instead it’s pressed into the rear volute, and seals up to the impeller.

800-770-0292

When pumps are leaking along the shaft, it’s usually a failed shaft seal, which may have overheated, or been damaged from chlorine and ozone. Be sure to use an ozone resistant shaft seal if you use ozone as a spa sanitizer. Identify your shaft seal from the pump owner’s manual, and if you need help identifying your shaft seal, you can always give us a call!

Pumps will always have at least one o-ring or gasket, to seal up volute halves. If you have a pump basket on your spa pump, you’ll also have a pump lid o-ring. Some drain plugs can have o-rings on some spa pump models.

 

Happy Hot Tubbin’

Daniel Lara

 

Spa & Hot Tub Chemical Safety Lessons

August 26th, 2013 by

spa-chemical-safety

Spa Chemicals can be hazardous. Here’s some stories of  “When Spa Chemicals Attack” – or more correctly, when humans misuse or mishandle spa chemicals, and the injuries and fatalities that can result.

Earlier this month, a small explosion occurred in the New Jersey home of Russell Rocca. He was mixing chemicals used in his hot tub, and doing something wrong. He may have added water to chlorine, instead of the other way around – or, the chlorine may have been contaminated with other chemicals or any organic contaminant.

Lesson #1 – Always add chemicals to water (not water to chemicals), and always keep your chemicals clean – never let dirt, leaves or any contaminant mix with an oxidizer like chlorine or bromine.

And just 5 days ago, a hotel employee in Victoria, Canada mixed together two spa chemicals, and the reaction released a toxic gas, resulting in a hotel evacuation and haz mat response. Fortunately no one was injured, although the employee was taken to the hospital with breathing difficulties.

Lesson #2 – Never mix pool or spa chemicals. Adding an acid and a chlorine together can produce a mustard gas that will dissolve your lungs. Keep chlorine and bromine tablets and shock in a sealed container, stored separately from your acids like pH down or stain removers.

One of our spa techs here has an interesting story. It didn’t make the news, because police and fire were not notified, but it goes like this. He was servicing a spa on a weekly route that he maintained, and needed to shock the spa. Not having a scoop, he cut an ‘empty’ soda bottle in half and used it to scoop out the spa shock from a larger bucket. In a few short minutes, he looked back to see the back of the pickup truck on fire.

Lesson #3 – Never allow any liquids to contact your spa chemicals. Soda pop is very acidic, and alcoholic drinks even more. Use only clean and dry scoops to measure and add your spa chemicals.

According to the CDC, most injuries associated with pool and spa chemicals fall into these groups:

  • Mixing incompatible chemicals
  • Spills and splashes onto skin or into eyes
  • Dust inhaled when opening container

Storage for your Spa Chemicalsfile-box for spa chemicals

Spa and hot tub chemicals need a clean, cool and dry area, out of the reach of children. Some spa steps have storage areas beneath a flip up lid, but these may be unsafe for chemical storage. I use a small plastic file box for mine. Not a large one, but a smaller version that’s just perfect for the upright and narrow bottles used for spa chemicals.

Separate your pH down and other acids from chlorine or bromine tablets, or spa shocks and oxidizers. Sealed plastic chemical containers are safer for storage than bags or boxes. For child safety, make sure that all of your chemicals have child proof lids, and that you store them out of their reach.

 

Happy Hot Tubbin’

Daniel Lara
Hot Tub Works

 

 

 

How to Buy a Used Hot Tub

August 5th, 2013 by

would-you-buy-a-used-hot-tub

Would YOU buy a used hot tub? Two-thirds of people surveyed would buy a used tub, especially if they knew the person. You can always find someone trying to sell their spa, for one reason or another. You’ll find used spas and hot tubs on craigslist and local papers by dealers and home owners.

Used spas and hot tubs can still have much life left in them, and can be purchased for less than half of a new spa. Even if you decide to invest in a new spa cover or cartridge filter element, the cost savings can be substantial.

Here’s some tips on how to buy a Used Spa or Hot tub.

Buying from a Hot Tub Dealer

Many spa dealers take trade-ins, much like a car dealer may sell new and used cars. They may sometimes have older models or demo units they are trying to sell.

The advantage of buying from a dealer is that it will have some kind of warranty, and a thorough ’29′ point inspection and detailing. They can also sanitize the pipes for biofilm removal. Plus – they can also deliver it, set it up with proper power, fill it, and show you how to use it.

Just make sure it’s a ‘real’ spa dealer, not a guy working out of a storage unit. And never buy a spa that you have not seen filled with water, hot, and fully operational.

Buy from a Friend you Trust

If you have a good friend whose personal grooming habits you respect, it might be worth a look into his or her gently used spa. There are those however, who say that you never should transact business with friends – if you want them to stay friends. Nonetheless, if you trust them that the spa was well maintained and is in good working order, you can help out a friend and get a hot tub for yourself at a good price.

Making the offer sweeter would be accessories such as a spa cover lifter, spa steps or furniture, spa chemicals and equipment. A spa cover in good shape, one that looks new and is not sagging, faded, water logged or broken – is also a nice asset.

Buy from Some Guy Online

So, you find a good deal, it looks good, but how do you know what kind of condition it’s in? Take a look at the spa, and if it looks operational but you want to be sure, contact a local spa service company to perform a systems check on the hot tub. A spa inspection, along with other information such as overall condition, age or any necessary repairs. If you decide to buy it, the spa tech may also be able to move the spa for you, with specialized trailers and dollies made for the purpose.

Even if you are buying from a friend, having a spa tech do an inspection, and possibly move the spa and set it up in it’s new location, would be a good idea – especially if you are a novice to hot tubs and spas.

How much Should You Pay for a Used Spa?

odometer for spas?Unfortunately, there’s no mileage indicator on a spa, to see how many hours of use it has, or how long it’s been in service. There may or may not be a record of regular service, repairs and maintenance. If you can identify the spa model, you can try some online searches to find a retail price. If not, you can take some measurements, count the number of jets and other features and try to find comparable models to figure a base price for a new, similar spa.

Generally, the price for a used spa should be about 50% of the retail cost, or the cost paid by the current owner, for a spa less than 10 years old. If it needs a new spa cover, or the shell or skirt look worn and faded, or if the spa pack, pumps or blower look aged, the price should drop another 10% or more.

Moving a Spa to a New Location

spa-dollyNot as easy as it sounds, depending on the size of the spa. A 6 ft spa is much more manageable than an 8 footer, which hangs over the edge of most trailers and is too large for standard dollies. And they’re heavy! Drained of water, and with the spa cover and spa pack removed, a large spa can still weigh 500-800 lbs and be quite unwieldy.

Moving a spa to an indoor location presents even greater challenges, involving moving through doorways and possibly steps. If it’s possible to pull a large trailer right up to the existing location, and also pull it right up to the new location, the job is much easier.spa-moving

Electrical for the spa will need to be planned for in advance. Most spas require a 230V plug, like what you have for a dryer or washing machine. In addition, you may need to have a power cut-off box installed near the spa. An electrician can power up a spa in most cases for  under $300 dollars.

Deep Cleaning a Used Spa

citrabrightWhen buying  a used spa, you’re gonna want to disinfect it really well, am I right?

Once in the new location, start by filling the spa with water, testing the operation of the spa, then super-chlorinate with a granular spa shock product. After circulating for several hours, use a purge product such as Tub Rinse to strip off hidden bacteria and biofilms that may be hiding in the pipes and hoses.

Drain the spa after this treatment, and use a hot tub cleaning product (never use household cleaners) such as Tub Rub or Citrabright to remove grime from the spa jets and surfaces. Refill again and adjust the pH, Alkalinity and Hardness for perfect spa water balance.

Replacing the spa cartridge filter would be a good idea, and if the cover smells musty and looks old, it may be best to start out with a new spa cover.

If the opportunity to buy a used spa or hot tub comes your way, you are now a bit more prepared for the conversation.

Happy Hot Tubbin’
Daniel Lara

 

 

5 Important Spa or Hot Tub Care Tasks

July 15th, 2013 by

spa-hot-tub-care

Owning a spa or hot tub is not so complicated. Compared to a swimming pool, there’s a lot less work involved. But there is some work required, and maybe your spa has been a bit neglected lately, as sometimes happens during summertime.

Depending on your level of spa use, the frequency of these tasks will vary. Following each task below, follow a task frequency, mirroring your hot tub usage.

 

  • High – Daily use by several people; or commercial spas and hot tubs
  • Medium – A few times per week, by a few people.
  • Low – A few times per month, by a few people.

1. Spa Water Care

spa-water-testsTesting the Spa water, balancing the chemistry and visually checking the water clarity. Pretty basic stuff? Yeah, easy to do – and easy to forget to do. Most spas and hot tubs have something of a “chemical personality”, and are usually fairly consistent in what needs to be chemically managed – as long as you are consistent with your water tests and adjustments.

Not even a “spa guru” like myself can avoid the sometimes mundane task of testing the spa water quality and making micro-adjustments to the water balance. pH, Alkalinity, Hardness all need to be checked every time the spa is used. Neglect this task, and your spa water clarity and health can quickly spiral downward.

Draining the spa should be performed on a regular basis, every 1-4 months, depending on your usage, or even weekly, for high use commercial spas. You’ll find the water much more manageable if you set a schedule to drain it regularly.

2. Spa Filter Care

spa-filter-cartsNext up on our list of Hot Tub maintenance items – cleaning your spa filter cartridge. This task is simple enough for my 8 year old to do, once I showed her how to remove the spa filter and spray deeply into the pleats from top to bottom. It’s one of her weekend chores, and only takes a few minutes with the garden hose.

To help us remember, I created an email reminder to myself to make sure it’s done weekly, and another every 4 months, to soak the filter in our Filter Fresh spa cartridge cleaner for a deep cleaning.

Spa filter cleaners remove oils and mineral deposits that clog up the cartridge, reducing water flow and dirt holding capacity. Just soak the cartridge in a solution of filter cartridge cleaner, or use the spray on type of cleaner. Then, hose it off very thoroughly to flush out the deposits and the cleaning chemical.

Over time, even this loses it’s effectiveness, and it’s time to replace the cartridge. If everything is going well with the spa water, I buy a spa filter replacement every 18 months. High use hot tubs may need to replace the cartridge every 3 months, depending on the size of the filter cartridge.

3. Spa Pipe Care

spa-biofilmI’m not talking about leaks, although you should inspect for leaks in your spa, and promptly repair any that occur. I’m talking about bacteria deposits, sometimes called Bio-Film, that can develop and grow inside the pipes, hoses and jets of your spa.

Using a product like Tub Rinse, add it to the spa before you plan to drain the spa. High use spas should use this every time the hot tub is drained. This will reduce the amount of organics in the spa, which allows the sanitizer to work more effectively, and keep your spa water looking clear, even after heavy use. For my medium-use spa, I use it every other time I drain the hot tub.

Just pour it in and allow it to circulate for an hour – before you drain the spa. The first time you use it, you’ll be shocked at all of the nasty brown gunk that it removes and foams to the surface. It would be similar to a person who finally brushes their teeth after months of only using mouthwash. Yuck!

4. Spa Equipment Care

spa-equipmentYour spa pack is the main control center for your spa or hot tub, and includes your spa heater. To care for your equipment, remove the access panel at least monthly to inspect for leaks, the presence of rodents, rust or corrosion. Use bug spray or mice baits if you notice evidence of either. Check your time clock and reset it if there has been a power outage.

Electric terminals can be coated with a dielectric grease (shut off power first) to keep oxidation from forming. If there is nothing out of the ordinary spotted, this job will go quickly.

If something looks amiss with your spa equipment, and you’re not quite sure which steps to take, give us a call for some spa troubleshooting help.

5. Spa Cover Care

spa-cover-care-tipsSpa covers need to “breathe”, and should be removed from the spa several times per week, to allow the spa to gas off – any accumulated odors and gases. It also gives the spa cover a break from the hot water and chemicals. Remove the spa cover completely, and store it folded and upright, to allow any water to drain out.

Inspect the underside of your spa cover for any rips in the plastic, cracks in the insulative foam, warping or water retention. If any of these has occurred, you should plan on replacing with a new spa cover soon.

Cleaning and conditioning the vinyl of your spa cover will keep it looking new and it can often double the lifespan of your spa cover. My spa cover gets a quarterly “spa treatment” – I use the 303 spa cover cleaner and conditioner wipes. It only takes me about 10 minutes to clean and protect the spa cover. This shines it up real nicely, blocks UV rays and helps keep it clean, but the best advantage is that it keeps the vinyl supple and soft.

Ignore this spa task, and your spa cover material will start to shrink, shrivel and eventually it will crack and become threadbare.

 

Happy Hot Tubbin’

Daniel Lara
Hot Tub Works