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Jack Stone's Posts

Hot Tub Covers: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

January 26th, 2018 by

When shopping for new hot tub covers, you should know your options.

But I’m not talking about spa cover options like Foam Density or a Double Wrapped Core, but I’m talking today about the types of spa covers on the market.

There are 3 main types of spa covers – Soft Spa Covers, Hard Spa Covers and Aluminum Spa Covers.


Spa Soft Covers (aka soft spa covers), are a durable vinyl fabric that is stretched over the spa top and fastened to the spa cabinet with rubber straps. They are used with an air filled vinyl pillow floating underneath the soft cover, to reduce pooling of rain water.

The Good: Lightweight and much less cumbersome than traditional folding spa covers. Lowest cost for a spa cover, $150-$200.

The Bad: Not a thermal spa cover, very low R-value which makes it unsuitable for most heated hot tubs.

The Ugly: Even with the air pillow used underneath, heavy rain can cause water (and stains) to collect on the cover.


hard spa cover shownHard Spa Covers are the traditional vinyl wrapped foam cores with a center hinge for folding. The most popular type of spa cover, hard spa tops are made to fit the spa dimensions exactly, and are fastened to the spa cabinet with straps and clips.

The Good: Seals tightly to spa edges to perform at the highest possible R-value for heated spas. Affordably priced from $300-$500.

The Bad: Larger hot tub covers may require two persons to remove and replace the cover, unless a cover lifter is used.

The Ugly: The foam cores can break under a heavy load or horseplay, and can absorb water if the foam core seal is cut or punctured.


Aluminum Spa Covers are a close cousin to the Hard Spa Cover, and have been around for years. A Styrofoam core is sandwiched between two aluminum plates, and edged with a thick aluminum border. Can attach to spa cabinet with optional straps.

The Good: Lightweight and sturdy aluminum frame, Styrofoam cores that can’t absorb (much) water, many attractive colors.

The Bad: Lower R-value. No skirt over the edge of the spa, heat seal is made by a 1/2″ rubber gasket between spa lip and cover.

The Ugly: Hard to place without a spa cover lifter. Easily slips into the water, can scratch spa finishes. Highest cost of $1200-$1500.



So, when shopping for a new spa cover, take a lesson from the irony contained in Eastwood’s great western epic, “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” (1966). Not everything good is all good, and not everything bad is all bad, and maybe ugly is just that, and nothing more.

I’ve seen a lot of new spa covers introduced over the years, including many that were supposed to ‘revolutionize’ hot tub covers – but here we are, decades later, with the same 3 main spa cover options.

For most spa owners, the Hard Spa Cover is the most suitable cover, in terms of cost, ease of use, and thermal efficiency. You decide what’s best for you.


– Jack


Winter-Proof Your Hot Tub

December 21st, 2017 by

spa-under-snowThere are two types of hot tubs, those built for hard winters, and those that are not. In fact, many hot tubs models sold in southern markets, such as here in southern California, are built a bit ‘thinner’ – not intended to handle sub-zero or high altitude climates.

A hot tub that works perfectly well in a Tampa or Los Angeles winter will have trouble holding hot temps in Chicago or Colorado. Snowbelt spas are built with better insulation, around the shell, cabinet and plumbing, larger heaters and heat recapture, and a spa cover with thicker and denser foam.

Occasionally I hear about the unfortunate who buys a sunbelt spa, and/or a very cheap model, and installs it at his mountain cabin, only to find out that it tops out around 90° F, spinning the electric meter non-stop just to keep the water warm.

There are ways, however – to improve on poor spa insulation, responsible for most heat loss in hot tubs. Even if your hot tub is a well-insulated model from a well-known brand, you can improve your energy efficiency and improve your R-value.


The number one way, is to increase the insulation inside of the spa cabinet, unless you already have a ‘fully-foamed’ spa where the shell and pipes are buried in spray foam. Don’t block air flow, there needs to be some air intake, but you can line the insides of spa cabinets with pink insulation board or bats of attic foam, held in place with construction adhesive.

Spray Foam is taking it a step further, you can thick layers of spray foam on the back side of the spa shell, the PVC pipes can be sprayed, you can even bury the spa jets in foam. Regular construction foam like Great Stuff can be used on small areas, or to encase 3/4 of a spa in foam, look at Dow Froth 200, fills 16 cubic feet of area with foam! Foam can be cut-out in the future if access to a jet is needed. Just be sure not to encase anything electric, or anything that moves or spins!


floating-foam-insulating-blanketA floating spa blanket is an easier economical step to make, but no less as effective! Floating spa blankets are quite effective at reducing heat loss through spas and hot tubs. Especially if your spa cover doesn’t fit quite right, or is put on just slightly ajar – a floating blankets stops the bleeding, or most of it.

There are 3 types of floating spa blankets, which is a perfect example of a good, better and best product line. Our Good PE spa blanket has air-filled pockets on a 12 mil thick polyethylene backing. For better heat retention, our closed cell Foam spa blanket does a much better job, but the best spa blanket is the foam and aluminum, Radiant spa blanket.


For spas and hot tubs in the very coldest of temperatures, nothing is more important than “The Works” spa cover, made with 2 lb Foam weight, in a 6″ to 4″ taper for the ultimate in heat retention. New spa covers that come with a spa are more often than not the “Economy” spa cover, made with 1 lb Foam and a thinner profile.

When a spa cover foam panels absorb water, the heat retention of the foam is reduced, and the sagging raises the cover from the spa, allowing more heat to escape. A new spa cover is the number one way to increase your efficiency.


And to protect the important investment that is your spa cover, the Spa Cover Cap is a cover for your cover! Stretches over your spa cover like a fitted sheet. Shields your hot tub cover from harsh UV sun, rain and snow, birds and squirrels and more. 2 sizes are available to fit most spas, 7’square and 8′ square.

Spa Cover Caps are made in silver reflective woven polyethylene to last for many winters to come. Might add a small amount of R-value to your spa, but not much.


The Protecta Spa Cover is a cover for an entire spa or hot tub, available in 3 sizes. Rugged protective cover encloses your entire spa to keep wind, rain, dirt, snow, and harmful UV rays from direct contact with your spa cover and cabinet. Protecta-Spa features a Velcro closure for a snug fit, a vented area for the equipment. Like the Spa Cover Cap, Protecta Spa Cover is not marketed as a thermal cover, but every little bit helps!


For spas that are in high wind areas, perched out on a high deck or cliff overlooking a fabulous view, wind can be a large heat thief from your spa. Strong winds at the right angle can work their way under the spa cover skirt and blow across the surface of your hot tub water! Adjust your spa cover clips, so that it is necessary to push down slightly on the cover to latch them. For strong wind areas, our ‘Hurricane’ spa cover straps are over-the-top straps to lock your cover down tight in strong winds of any type. Wind blocks are another good idea, privacy walls or hedges to block wind around the spa.


So – if your spa is struggling to heat up fully, or stay warm overnight, improve your insulation to raise your hot tub R-value. And if your spa has trouble maintaining temps when you are using the spa, or when the blower is running, you may want to look into our larger spa heaters.


– Jack



10 Ways to Destroy your Hot Tub

October 24th, 2017 by

Taking care of a hot tub nowadays is not too difficult, but if you’re not careful, small slips can cause big problems. Most of these won’t DESTROY your hot tub, that’s just my attention grabbing headline, but any of these will cause minor to major problems, which are best avoided.

We take phone calls (and emails) all day from customers who have found themselves in a bit of hot water (or cold water), due to some small oversight on their part. Learn from their mistakes, and from mine too!

drain the spa and leave it empty

If you want to destroy the hot tub, this can be the number one way. One or two days won’t cause much problem, but beyond that, the water and moisture remaining in the pipes and equipment will begin to ‘funkify’, and grow into a bacteria biofilm, which can be hard to eradicate completely, once large colonies are established. Secondly, without water in the tub, seals and gaskets can more easily become dry and begin to leak, and dried out cartridges require new spa filters.

use your hot tub as a bath tub

This won’t destroy your hot tub, but jumping in the hot tub after a workout, or a day of digging in the garden causes poor water conditions, overwhelmed filter cartridges, and could be unhealthy, as it pummels the pH and sanitizer. Not like you have to shower every time before using the spa, but if you are in a practice of bathing in your spa, or inviting the team over for a soak after your winning game, your spa water and spa filters can be compromised.

add bubble bath

Well, this is an obvious one, and really just to put a funny image in your mind. Imagine adding just a few ounces of soap to your spa and turning on the jets. It would be like that Brady Bunch episode when Bobby added a whole box of detergent to the washing machine. In fact, wearing bathing suits that have been washed with soap, is a no-no in your spa. Even with a dual rinse cycle, enough soap remains to give you a hot tub foam problem.

use pool chemicals

spa chemicalsSpa chemicals are specially formulated to work in hot water, and with hot tub surfaces. More importantly, spa chemicals are labeled for use in a spa or hot tub, with dosage and application information for very small bodies of water. For spa shock treatments, do not use pool shock, as the granules do not dissolve quickly enough, and more importantly, a 1 lb. bag of shock cannot be resealed safely, being designed for one-time use.

use a pressure washer

Even a small pressure washer is too much pressure for cleaning cartridges, forcing dirt, oil and scale deeper into the fabric, and will separate the fibers at the same time, bunching up fibers and essentially ruining or severely damaging your spa filter. What about cleaning your spa filter in the dishwasher? Also not a good idea, which could ruin not only the cartridge, but the dishwasher too! Use a regular garden hose with spray nozzle, and be sure to use a spa filter cleaner 1-2x per year, to gently loosen dirt, oil and scale.

shut off power to the spa

Keep the spa running, and check on it often, to be sure it is still running. If you leave town for a few weeks, or otherwise unable to use the spa for extended periods, you must keep it running, with at least a few hours of high speed circulation daily, and low-speed circulation for most other times. Spa pumps don’t need to run 24/7 to keep a covered spa clean, but you do need Daily circulation, filtering and sanitation, or larger spa water problems are sure to arise.

overfill your hot tub

Orbit Hose Spigot Timer at DripDepot.comIt’s happened to most spa owners, you’re adding water to fill the spa or top off the hot tub, when the phone or doorbell rings. Overflowing spas usually don’t cause problems, but depending on your spa make and model, some components can become water damaged if a spa overflows. After overflowing my own spa twice, I bought a plastic timer that screws onto my hose spigot. It can be set for up to 2 hours, before it shuts off the water flow. Also, don’t under-fill the spa, or air can be sucked into the pump – keep it full.

overtreat with chemicals

Spas and hot tubs are small bodies of water, and most chemical adjustments require just a few ounces of liquid or powder. Overdosing your spa with hot tub shock, or over-adjusting the pH or Alkalinity can create a see-saw effect that costs money and time. Make small adjustments, read the label and add doses appropriate for your spa size, in gallons. You can also use to compute exact amounts of spa chemicals to add, for a desired result.

run the spa without the filter

There are situations when you want to briefly test the system without the spa filter cartridge in place, to see if the heater will come on with the filter removed, for example. But running the pump for long periods of time without the filter could lead to clogged pump impellers, and rapid water quality problems. However, if your spa filter is cracked or broken, or if your dog carried off and buried your filter – it’s better to leave the pump running on low speed, than to shut down the spa completely.

leave your spa uncovered

Besides getting dirty, wasting water and chemicals, and causing your spa heater to work overtime, leaving a spa uncovered and unattended is unsafe for children, animals and some adults. On the other hand, covering it too tightly, with plastic wrap or tarps tightly sealed can also cause a problem for electronics and cabinet trim, when moisture is under pressure. Be sure to keep your spa cover on the spa when un-used, clipped snugly in place.


– Jack


Installing a Hot Tub Ozonator

August 7th, 2017 by

Ozone is a powerful natural sanitizer that requires only annual attention (or less), and can handle the bulk of your water sanitation. And now, new models of Del spa ozonators now have 5 year lifespan on the CD ozone generator.

Installing a spa ozonator is nearly just as easy. Many spas already come with ozone, or are ‘ozone ready’, with an injection manifold already plumbed in place. Even if your spa has never had an ozonator, installing ozone on a hot tub can be an easy job.

With basic hand tools, and the manufacturer owner’s manual or installation instructions, you are ready to install an ozonator in 3 steps.

  1. Mount the Ozonator Unit inside the Cabinet
  2. Connecting the Ozone Hose to the Injection Manifold
  3. Connecting the Ozonator Unit to Power


Mounting the Ozonator

Many hot tub ozone installation manuals will advise to install the ozonator above water level, even though check valves and a ‘Hartford Loop’ in the Ozone Hose will protect the unit from water, described below. For most portable aboveground hot tubs, the ozonator is placed under the cabinet, high up on the wall, in an accessible area with good air circulation. For inground spas or for tubs with equipment sheds, if you can mount the ozonator above the water level easily, by all means do, but it is not a strict requirement.

Use all screws to firmly attach the ozonator unit to the wall or stud, high up on the inside wall. A secondary piece of plywood can be used for added strength, and to prevent drilling through the spa cabinet from the inside. Mount in a location that indicator or status lights can easily be seen and future maintenance or replacement can be easily accomplished.

Connecting the Ozone Hose to the Injection Manifold

Ozone Ready Spas: An ozone ready spa will already have an Ozone Injector plumbed in place, or may utilize an Ozone Jet Fitting to draw the ozone into the spa. Or you may just need to add an Ozone Injector to the pipe already designated for ozone, both described below, but – check your owner’s manual for ozone details.

For spas and hot tubs that have not had an ozonator before, and are not ‘ozone-ready’, there are 3 ways to introduce the ozone gas into the water line.

  1. ozone-injectorPlumb an Ozone Injector into a 3/4″ Water Hose: For this method, locate the 3/4″ diameter water hose that leads to one of your spa jets. Choose a jet on the ‘end of the line’, or by itself, and preferably near the bottom of the tub if possible, to give the ozone another second or two to work as it bubbles up to the surface. Coordinate the ozonator installation with a drain & refill of the tub, unless you have a valve or other means to stop water flow while the injector is quickly inserted. Cut the hose with a razor knife or shears, and push the hose over the Ozone Injector and clamp firmly in place. The injection fitting, where the Ozone hose connects, should be facing up, and the indicator arrows should point in the direction of water flow. If there are no arrows, the end that you cannot blow air into, is the exit for the water.
  2. Attach Ozone Hose to a Spa Jet Air Intake: Most spa jets are combination Air and Water jets, mixing at the jet for increased force. Some spa jets receive air from an Air Manifold, and on other spas using ‘Stacked Jets‘, the air line runs in/out of each jet, and to the next. If you have a single hose and a single air port on your spa jets, cut the hose at the manifold and at the jet, and plug the manifold end. For a stacked jet configuration, remove one jet from the air loop, bypassing that valve, and use adapters and plugs to connect your Ozone Hose.
  3. Plumb an Ozone Injector Manifold: This method uses a large PVC manifold to connect to your 1.5″ or 2″ PVC plumbing – after the pump and heater. You will need about 24″ of clear space to install the large manifold, or with several 90° fittings, you can create the space. Glue the manifold in place, and you are ready to connect your Ozone hose.

Hartford Loop & Check Valve: In addition to the connection point for the Ozone Hose, you also need to run the hose in a loop above water level, and install a check valve, to prevent water from backing up into the ozonator, which could easily damage or destroy the unit.

A Hartford Loop is simply running the hose above the water level with a 6-8″ wide loop, in between the ozonator and the injector. An ozone check valve is then placed in the ozone hose, between the loop and the injector, as redundant protection against water damage.

All Ozone check valves will fail eventually, and should be replaced every 12-18 months, as a preventative measure. Ozone Hose also becomes brittle in a few years, and should also be on a replacement schedule.

Connecting the Ozonator Unit to Power

Most hot tub ozonators are equipped with either a J&J mini plug or AMP plug, to connect directly to your spa controller circuit board, and as such, is controlled by your system to only operate when the pump low speed is operating, instead of running 24 hours per day. If your ozonator comes with an AMP plug, but you have J&J plugs, short ozone adapter cords are used to connect to your spa pack.

For hot tubs without a spa pack controller, or old systems without an ozone connection port, the power wires can be hard-wired directly to the spa pump time clock, to operate only when the pump is operating, preferably only on low speed. You can also connect your ozone hose into the plumbing of a 24 hour circulation pump.

Finally, if your spa has a GFCI outlet powered by the pump or controller, you can power the ozonator directly into the 115V outlet with a regular 3-Prong grounded plug.



– Jack



Spa Cover Review on a Custom Spa Cover

July 17th, 2017 by

spa cover shapes, standard stuffWe make thousands of spa covers every month and most are straight forward, but there are a few each month which keep us on our toes. Custom spa covers require careful measuring on the customer’s end, but very careful handling on our end to ask all the right questions, and match the measurements and images to fit snugly, yet still be manageable.

This was one of those spa covers, because when the specs are very tight-  due to waterfalls, custom rock designs, uneven stone coping, all while being over-sized, it’s critical to get it right the first time.

The client was kind enough to send a picture back and let us know how happy they are with their new hot tub cover. We can crank out Hot Tub Sovereign and Jacuzzi J-300 hot tub covers blindfolded with one arm tied behind our back, because they are made to manufacturer specs.

Custom Spa Covers however, require a dedicated team, with focus on the smallest details, to produce the best fitting custom spa cover, for inground spas, swim spas, or any custom shape or oversized hot tub. Trust your custom spa cover to the experts at Hot Tub Works, we come through every time!

But when we mess up, we fess up! It hasn’t happened in a while, but if it does – we stand ready to admit our mistakes and make it right by the customer.



Actual Customer Review:

Hi Drake,

Just wanted to thank you guys for a great job on the spa cover. I was a little nervous about it properly fitting my custom sized spa, but as you can see from the picture, it turned out perfect. I hope you guys keep the template on file in case I would need to reorder another cover in the future (hopefully many years from now). Thanks again for your help and for making this process relatively pain-free.

Regards, Saba

Another Custom Spa Covers Satisfied Customer! Give Drake a call when you are ready to take the next steps in having a custom spa cover made – perfectly!


– Jack

Earth Day Hot Tub Tips

April 15th, 2017 by

>>> In honor of our fragile island home, 3rd rock from the sun – here are 3 ways to make your hot tub more eco-friendly this Earth Day – April 22! Saving Energy with improved insulation, Reducing Chemicals with alternative sanitizers and Saving Water by improving your spa filtration. Make your hot tub more eco-friendly >>>

Save Energy: Improve Insulation

Spas and spa covers are made for mild, moderate and severe winter climates. Spas and hot tubs that are not as well insulated as they could be, around the sides and on top, take more energy to maintain hot water and overcome radiant heat loss. This becomes more pronounced during very low temperatures and high winds. Fortunately, there are some things you can do to add more R-value to a poorly insulated spa. The Pink Panther brand (Dow-Corning) has lots of boards and thin bats that can be retrofitted into a spa cabinet to increase spa insulation.

On the topside, look at our Ultra or Works spa covers, for the best performance in a thermal spa cover. Replacing a thin, ill-fitting or waterlogged cover with a heavier weight 1.5 lb. or 2 lb. foam, in a 6-4″ taper, will really improve your spa or hot tub insulation, and save money on heat loss around the cover. For high winds, which can seep in under a spa cover and cool your spa, our High Wind Straps keep your spa from lifting up slightly during heavy winds. Finally, adding a floating foam spa blanket traps heat in the water where it belongs, and the added heat barrier helps reduce heat loss.

Reduce Chemicals: Secondary Sanitizers

When you reduce your use of chlorine and bromine, the Earth wins, because when you reduce your demand for chlorine or bromine, the supply (and production, and transport) slows down to compensate, as supply always adjusts to meet demand. Adding secondary sanitizers to your spa can cut your usage of chlorine or bromine by as much as half. I’m speaking about adding Minerals or Ozone purifiers to your spa, to remove the majority of the contaminants in the water, allowing you to use a much lower level of bromine or chlorine in the spa. Many people use Minerals and Ozone together, along with regular use of MPS shock, for a completely chlorine free hot tub.

Mineral sanitizers for spas are so easy to use, just drop the Nature2 Spa Stick or other brand mineral stick into the hole in your filter cartridge. Water passing by picks up the minerals, instantly purifying copper/silver ions. Connecting a spa ozonator like the Del Spa Eclipse is a piece of cake on any ozone ready spa or hot tub. For tubs without a Mazzei injector manifold, or other port to connect the ozone hose, you can install your own Mazzei injector into 3/4″ or 1″ water hose leading to a low-water ozone jet. It’s best to push ozone out of a dedicated ozone jet near the floor of the tub, but ozone can also be introduced through certain low wall jets.

Save Water: Improve Filtration

anti-microbial-filter-spasYour spa filter is the most important part of maintaining good water. And a good spa filter can be the difference between a water change every 3 months, or every 4 months, or even longer – if you have a really good spa filter. There are some things you can do to improve water filtration, for longer lasting water, and fewer chemicals needed to maintain water quality.

Firstly, many spa filter cartridges are available in the standard square footage size (25 sq. ft. for example), but also you can find the same size filter cartridge with more square footage (37.5 sq. ft. for example). Same dimensional size spa filter cartridge, but it has more pleats, for more square footage, or greater filter surface area. Secondly, many spa filter cartridges are also available in the blue Microban cartridge, which kills bacteria on contact, and it never wears off, although the cartridge itself will not last any longer than normal. Another thing you can do to really improve your spa filtration is to add a second spa filter. We’ve blogged about that before in more detail. Having two spa filters can drastically extend the time between water changes, and with a large spa filter, a spa could conceivably go an entire year between water changes! Finally, remember that filter cartridges should replaced every 12-24 months, depending on how big your filter is, and how often the spa is used. Regularly replacing your filter cartridge is the first step to maintaining water quality, and preventing excessive water changes.


Happy Earth Day!


– Jack



Troubleshooting Spa Circuit Boards

February 27th, 2017 by

Printed Circuit Boards, often abbreviated PCB, are the brain of a spa controller system, allowing intelligent switching on/off of spa components from a user friendly topside control panel.

Circuit boards control your spa components (pumps, heater, blower, light, ozone) and apply the chip programming which controls safety circuits, user interface and operation modes for the spa. Hot tub circuit boards handle all of the spa program modes, monitors the operation of spa equipment, and most importantly, keeps the spa hot and ready to use.

To allow the spa user to communicate with the board and vice versa, a compatible topside control panel is used to view spa component status indicators, program modes, water temperature and error messages. Circuit boards and topside control panels must be compatible with each other, in order to communicate.

Circuit Board Troubleshooting Tip #1 – It’s Not Usually the Circuit Board

Balboa topside controls9 times out of 10, when your topside control panel has gone out-of-control, or one of your pumps, or heater stops working, it’s not a circuit board problem. It’s most often a problem with the topside control panel, and when it’s not, it’s a problem with the transformer, or a blown fuse, a tripped circuit breaker, or a problem with the component, like a bad pump or blower motor or a bad heater element.

Circuit Board Troubleshooting Tip #2 – What Does the Topside Panel Say?

If you have no display on your topside control panel, check the cable for damage, following it right to where it plugs in, on the circuit board. Unplug it from the board and the low-speed pump will come on within 1 minute, on both systems. If that doesn’t happen, either the pump or the circuit board is bad.

cal-spas-flo-errorIf you do have a display visible on the topside panel, what does it say? You can find common spa error codes for spa controls on our blog, or consult your spa owner’s manual. FL, FLO or — codes refer to low water flow, Sn, SnS or Sens refer to high limit or temp sensors, OH or HOT refer to overheating.

Aside from error codes, an important clue for spa troubleshooting is – when you turn on a component (heater, pump, light…) on the topside panel, does the indicator also turn on? An icon or indicator light should display, when you activate any component on your spa. If not, the trouble is with the topside control, but if you do see the icon/light come on, but the pump/heater/blower/light is not actually working, the issue could be with the spa component, or the spa circuit board.

Circuit Board Troubleshooting Tip #3 – Testing a Spa Circuit Board

spa-controllerSo assuming that your topside control panel is operating properly, and there are no error messages that indicate a water flow issue, overheating issue or other potential issue, the next step is to put your eyes on the circuit board itself.

First, cut off the power to the spa, then open up the Spa Controller, usually located under the spa, above the heater. You should be able to find the screws that allow you to remove or open the control box cover, to access the circuit board.

When you first see it, it’s a confusing array of resistors, relays, capacitors and wires. The longer you stare at it, you’ll begin to see where the power come into the terminal block, and where the heater connects to the board. You can also see where the other spa components are connected. A large square or rectangle computer chip is usually central, marked with the chip number and a date code. Circuit boards also often have indicator lights that can provide a clue that may not be displaying on the topside control.


Take a long look at your circuit board to inspect for any signs of burning, melting or cracking. Often you can smell a burnt circuit board. Check all of the bits on the board for any signs of damage, looking closely also at the wire or cable connection points on the board. Check that all the wire connections are tight, and look for any signs of water damage to the board. Some damage may be only visible on the opposite side of the board.

Transformers and fuses are often mounted directly on spa circuit boards. A transformer changes voltage (transforms it) to a lower voltage, whatever is needed to power the circuit board. Fuses are in place to protect your circuit board from irregular voltage, and if your fuses are blown, check all contacts, the GFCI,  and incoming voltage.electrical test meter

Transformers and spa fuses can both be tested with a multi-meter, set on 220V for the transformer, and set on the lowest Ohms setting for fuses, to check for continuity. You can also test across the incoming terminals to verify transformers and fuses all at once. With power off, and meter set to the lowest Ohms setting, place one meter probe on L1 (line 1), and the other meter probe onto Neutral. On 120V wired boards, you should get about 20 Ohms, or 40 Ohms for 220V wired boards.

Circuit Board Troubleshooting Tip #4 – Replacing a Spa Circuit Board

If you find that your circuit board is damaged, pay close attention to where it was damaged, and think hard about why it was damaged. Common causes are loose wire connections, loose heater connections especially, insect or rodent damage, water damage, or relay or transformer failure. As mentioned above, blown fuses may seem like you dodged a bullet, but you still want to find out what caused fuse failure, or it may happen again.

buy new circuit boards at hottubworks.comWhen replacing hot tub circuit boards, the most important thing is to make sure that you have the correct part number, serial number and chip number revision. Many boards are compatible with one another, however many spa circuit boards that look identical, are not. Most circuit boards are printed with the part number, and the chip number. If you have any doubt, call our spa techs to help you order correctly because, once a circuit board is removed from the sealed anti-static bag, they are non-returnable!

With the correct replacement spa circuit board in hand, you can carefully replace it into the control box, being careful to handle it only by the edges. Wire connections should be firmly connected, and heater wires should be torqued to 35 lbs, to prevent vibration problems. Be sure to correct any issues with moisture, insects or wiring that led to the original circuit board failure.

Bonus Tip – if facing replacement of your spa circuit board, consider replacement of the entire spa controller. Spa Controls are not much more (maybe double the cost) than the cost of a circuit board, but you also get a new heater and topside control.


– Jack


Hard Water Issues in Spas and Hot Tubs

January 29th, 2017 by


Do you live in the “Red Zone”? Having hard water means that you have a lot of calcium in your water, and soft water means that you have less, as it comes out of the tap. Hard water is less sudsy in the shower, and it can leave scale deposits in your sinks, shower and also in hot tubs.

In most cases, a little scale is no problem, but in some cases, calcium hardness levels can reach levels of 400 ppm or more, which can lead to problems.

Hard water problems in hot tubs start when calcium begins to come out of solution, giving you frequently cloudy water and scale deposits on your spa. Scale can deposit in out of the way places, like your heater element or less frequently used jets, or can build up along the water line of your spa or hot tub.


How Hard is Too Hard?

The water hardness map of the US shows the generally accepted maxim that anything over 180 ppm is classified as “Extremely Hard” water. However, many spas and hot tubs can operate effectively with much higher levels. If you have a test kit or test strips that measure for calcium hardness levels in your spa, you can easily check your spa water to see if you have hard (or soft) spa fill water. Most spas and hot tubs will be fine with calcium hardness levels of up to 400 ppm. After that, and you may begin to see signs of scaling and cloudy water conditions.


So What, Who Cares?

OK, fair question, and a great SNL skit phrase. How about this? You don’t care if you don’t have a calcium hardness problem. If your hot tub water is very hard, you’ve seen scale deposits before, and know that these salts leave ugly waterline deposits, but they can also scale inside of a spa heater, filter or ozone injectors. Hard hot tub water can be corrosive and when high enough, excessive calcium can interfere with sanitation and filtration. Hot water temperatures makes the calcium more active, causing cloudy water and scale deposits more easily, as opposed to cooler pools.


Treatments for Hard Hot Tub Water

They used to say there was nothing you could do, but nowadays there are several ways to manage hard water levels in a spa, so it doesn’t become a problem. The most important thing is a LOW pH and Alkalinity, which helps keep calcium in solution, so it won’t come out to cloud the water or deposit as scale. For hard water hot tubs, keep your pH in the 7.2-7.3 range, and Alkalinity in the 80-90 ppm range.

Pre-Filter1. Filter the Calcium. Maybe you have an expensive home water softening system, and can fill the spa after it’s been treated. Many outside hose spigots are not connected to home water treatment systems. Fear not, you can use the Pleatco Spa Water Pre-Filter, to take out minerals, metals, chloramines and other particulate contaminants in your fill water. Just screw it onto your hose and turn on the water, the Pre-filter traps sediment, metals, minerals, and removes foul odors! Good for 2-3 fills.

2. Combine the Calcium. There is a pool chemical called CalTreat, by United Chemical Co., which bonds to calcium carbonate, until a large enough particle is created to be removed by your filter cartridge. Follow the instructions carefully, and over a period of one to two weeks, you may reduce calcium hardness levels by up to 200 ppm (results and reviews are mixed for Cal Treat). Afterwards, soak your cartridge in a spa filter cleaner, or replace with a new spa filter. calcium-and-scale-control

3. Control the Calcium. Calcium and Scale control, like Spa Metal Out, are chemicals that keep calcium and other minerals (and also metals like iron and copper) tied-up in solution (sequestered), keeping them dissolved, so they don’t precipitate out to make the spa cloudy or deposit as scale or crystals. After the initial dose, just add a maintenance dosage weekly, to keep minerals in a “sequestered” state. It will also loosen and dissolve some scale deposits from heater elements and filter cartridges.


Treatments for Soft Hot Tub Water

Hard water is a common issue for spa and hot tub owners, but so is Soft Water. If you live in one of the purple, blue or white areas on the map, add a Calcium Hardness Increaser to your spa or hot tub, each time you fill with new water. Whereas hard water can produce stains and scale, soft water can be corrosive to the soft and shiny parts of your hot tub. It also leads to excessive spa foaming problems.

Add Calcium Hardness Increaser when your spa or hot tub is less than 150 ppm. Try to maintain at least 180 ppm in your spa, for proper water balance, equipment and surface protection and preventing spa foam. Each time you drain and fill your tub, you’ll need to add calcium again, but once you add it, calcium does not deplete, but stays in the water.


– Jack



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Spas & Hot Tubs in the News

December 12th, 2016 by


I always look forward to curating a new episode of spas and hot tubs in the news, which we do twice annually. News stories (no fake news here) from around the world, that have a spa or hot tub element to them.

There are always some similar stories and always some new and interesting news about hot tubs in popular culture. Today’s collection is no exception, with 5 stories to help you pass the time, or have a laugh or two.




beppu-city-hot-tub-roller-coasterA city in Japan is teasing plans of the world’s first spa-themed amusement park. In a concept video, Beppu City on Japan’s Kyushu island showed off an idea for a new “spamusement park.” The video featured visitors at typical amusement park attractions—a carousel, ferris wheel and roller coaster – but instead of seats for each ride, there were hot tubs. Beppu is already an onsen tourist destination – there are more than 2,000 hot springs for visitors to choose from. However the city recently launched an initiative to become the “spa city of the world.” Last year, Beppu welcomed nearly a half million foreign tourists. No completion date for the project has yet been announced. Full Story.



hiding-in-a-hot-tub-nbc-los-angelesSan Diego Police say multiple 911 calls Thursday led them to a man hiding in a backyard hot tub in Rancho Bernardo. The man was in custody, accused of breaking in or attempting to break into several homes. The suspect ducked his head when NBC 7 showed up but he couldn’t hide for long as officers pulled him out of the cruiser to have witnesses confirm they’d gotten the right guy. The suspect, whose name was not released by police, lives in Los Angeles and was driving home from Mexico. For some reason, police say, he made an inland detour into this neighborhood – he was going from backyard to backyard when police finally caught him. Full Story.



bear-in-hot-tubA homeowner’s backyard security cameras caught a bear making itself at home last weekend in a hot tub. The bear wandered into the backyard Saturday night of the La Crescenta residence in the foothills east of Los Angeles and other than taking a long thirsty drink, the bear basically ignored the pool, opting instead for a relaxing dip in the hot tub. The stealthy visitor soaked for a few minutes, enjoying a solo pool party. The bear appeared to pluck something from a tree, possibly a snack, before pawing open a gate and lumbering back into the Pickens Canyon area. Bears like water, be sure to keep your backyard safe from entry, for bears and people! Full Story.



By User Submission December 10, 2016,

elephants-drinking-from-hot-tubIn the African savannah, elephants are a common sighting. They are not especially fearful of people, and when no one is around, they don’t mind taking a dip or a drink of cool water on a hot summer day. This woman was startled when she saw a group of elephants drinking water from her pool. She slid her door open and watched as the majestic mammals dunked their trunks into the pool and sprayed their mouths. Taking video while speaking what appears to be Swahili, she calmly films and narrates the scene for the viewer. The water in this hot tub doesn’t look especially inviting, but the elephants don’t seem to mind.  Full Story.



By Staff Writers July 16, 2016, ABC6 Philadelphia

hot-tub-hoppers-in-paModern technology ended the fun times for a group of hot tub hoppers. A trail camera at a home in Montoursville, Pennsylvania caught the uninvited guests. Police say four young women were trespassing when they used a hot tub without permission, late at night. Investigators posted the pictures on social media. Within 15 minutes, tipsters identified them. Neighbors say they’re glad more people have cameras out and on at night. Elizabeth Labacher, a Montoursville Resident said “Trespassing when you’re twenty-years-old and in both of our opinions they are kids, but they also know not to do something like that.” Resident Steve Sheare added, “Thirty-some years ago, I’m glad they didn’t have cameras, have that stuff, because I was a teenager, too.” There’s no word yet if the hot tub hoppers will be charged. Full Story.


Want more News Stories about Spas and hot Tubs? See our earlier 6 episodes.


– Jack


Replacing a Hot Tub Circulation Pump

November 29th, 2016 by

Spa circulation pumps are low flow, single speed pumps that run 24 hrs to keep your water filtered and heated. They run all the time, but are low energy use, drawing between 0.5 and 1.5 amps.

Running all the time does accelerate wear and tear, and makes the average circ pump lifespan about 7-9 years. If you need to replace a hot tub circ pump, here are the steps taken to do it yourself.

Do I need a new circulation pump?

Before you run off and buy a new replacement circ pump, you want to check a few things first, namely power and water flow. See our earlier post on circulation pump troubleshooting to see if you’ve checked all of the simple stuff first.

Which Circulation Pump do I need?

There are two main types of hot tub circulation pumps, high flow circ pumps and low flow circ pumps.

iron-might-circ-pump High Flow Circ Pumps look more like jet therapy pumps, and are often confused with such because of their size and appearance. They use a 48 frame motor, with a connected steel foot, and have 1.5″ union connections. They can be 115V or 230V, but only use up to 1.5 amps. The most common high flow circ pumps are the AquaFlo Circmaster and Waterway Iron Might, shown here.


tiny-might-circ-pumpLow Flow Circ Pumps look more like large aquarium pumps, and operate in the 6 to 15 gpm range, to work with low flow spa heaters. They have hose barb connections to fit to  3/4″ or 1″ flexible hose, with clamps. They can be 115V or 230V, and less than 1 amp. The most common low flow circ pumps are made by Laing, Grundfos and Waterway.


The circulation pump that you need, is the exact replacement, in voltage, amperage and hose or pipe connection type and location. High flow pumps can be center discharge or side discharge, and low flow pumps can have 3/4″ or 1″ connections, and may have a left or right side discharge. If you need help finding your replacement, just give us a call or send an email.

Hot Tub Circulation Pump Replacement

1aShut off the Power: Hit the main breaker or cut-off switch to kill all power coming into the spa pack. Wires will be exposed and water will spill, so don’t take any chances and play it safe. If water splashes on any circuitry or wire connections during the process, take the time to dry it up before energizing the spa.

2aShut off the Water: Most circ pumps don’t have isolation valves on either side; slice valves that can be closed to shut off water, although common on jet pumps and on high flow circ pump systems. You can drain the spa to make the repair, if you need to drain anyway, but it’s not necessary. The hoses can be plugged using wine corks or stoppers, or pinched using large needle nose locking pliers (Vice-Grip type). Or you can do a quick swap, described below, and spill a few gallons.

3aWiring the Circ Pump: Circ pumps don’t usually come with a new power cord, so you’ll use the existing one. If you have a plug-in type of connector at the end of the cord, disconnect it from the spa pack. If the power cord runs directly into the control box and connects to terminals, leave those connections intact, and remove the wires only from the back of the existing motor – or you can just cut the wire where it enters the old motor, strip back the casing and the ends to put into the new motor.

Insert the wires into the new circ pump, tighten the cord collar or strain relief where the cord enters the motor, and insert the stripped wire ends into the spring loaded tabs. The black wire will plug into L (Line), white wire will connect to N (Neutral), and the green wire goes to G (Ground). Disconnect the bare copper wire that is connected to the outside of the old motor, this is the bonding wire, that you’ll connect to the new pump once it’s in position.

4aPlumbing the Circ Pump: For very old and crusty connections, a heat gun or hair dryer can be used to soften the vinyl hose or tubing, which makes it easier to remove from the pump without a lot of pulling and jerking. The circ pump is also likely screwed into the base of the equipment bay, remove the screws in the pump base, and set aside to use later on the new pump.

Since there commonly are no cut-off valves on either side of a low flow circ pump, if your spa is full of water you will spill some water while installing a new circ pump. As mentioned above, if the spa is full of water, you can crimp the hose with locking needle nose pliers, or plug the hoses with corks until you are ready to switch, or if you have snipped off the power cord and reinstalled into the new pump already, you can make a quick swap, and spill just a few gallons.

Loosen the hose clamp and slide it down the hose. I usually pop off the top (discharge connection) first and cork it, then separate the incoming hose from the front center and very quickly swap pumps and insert the incoming hose over the front center hose barb. Then the top discharge hose can be unplugged and connected, also quickly, with minimal water loss.

If you have a high flow circ pump or a Waterway Tiny Might pump, you will loosen the unions and quickly make a swap with your new pump, being sure that the union o-rings stay in place while tightening up the union nuts.

5aFinishing Up: Now that you have reconnected the hoses on your pre-wired pump, the only things left to do is reconnect the bare copper bonding wire to the lug on the new circulation pump, and replace the screws to secure the pump, to reduce vibration. That, and testing your new circulation pump, followed by a hearty self-congratulation for diagnosing and fixing your hot tub problem!


– Jack