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Jack Stone's Posts

Bromine vs. Chlorine for Spas & Hot Tubs

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chlorine vs. bromineFor the hot tub or spa owner, a thought might enter their head: “Hey, why not use pool chemicals for the hot tub? They’re a lot cheaper!”

So, why not just use 3″ chlorine tablets and powdered pool shock to sanitize your spa? Isn’t it the same thing?

Bromine vs. chlorine – two challengers will fight for the title of best spa and hot tub sanitizer.

ROUND ONE: COST

Trichlor chlorine tablets, the 1″ size, are about 20% cheaper than bromine tablets. The 3″ tablets are over 40% cheaper when you buy in bulk. Chlorine does have a shelf life, however, and after about a year, depending on the temperature it is stored at, the chlorine can lose half of its power. Cal-hypo or dichlor shock, two types of pool shocks, are also cheaper than non-chlorine shock.

Round one goes to chlorine – definitely a cheaper alternative!

ROUND TWO: CONVENIENCE

hot tub works bromine boosterBoth challengers are fairly convenient. Simply purchase a small quantity of 1″ tablets (3″ tablets are too slow dissolving for hot tubs), and put enough in a floating dispenser to give a good reading when the water is tested.

However, bromine requires a bank of built up bromides before you can register a reading with your test kit. Adding another small step in the process, you can shake a little Brom Booster into the tub after draining a spa, or you can use the 2 oz. sodium bromide packets.

Chlorine comes out slightly ahead in round two.

ROUND THREE: STAYING POWER

Bromine is not as easily protected from the sun as chlorine is from adding stabilizer or cyanuric acid. But then again, most hot tubs are covered and out of the sun. And although bromine lost the first round for being more expensive than chlorine, it has the curious property of reactivation.

Bromide salts can be reactivated into bromine by adding a small amount of chlorine shock or MPS shock. This allows you to reuse the bromide again and again, and you use less bromine tablets. With chlorine, however, once the killing work is done, the chlorine molecule becomes inert.

Bromine wins this round, with an amazing ability to regenerate.

ROUND FOUR: KILLING POWER

bromine-has-an-extra-layerWhich is stronger, chlorine or bromine? Chemically speaking, chlorine is a stronger halogen, with a quicker oxidation reaction. But bromine has a larger atomic size with an extra valence shell.

Bromine has a big advantage over chlorine in killing bacteria and viruses, whereas chlorine has an advantage in killing algae more rapidly. Bromamines continue to be an active sanitizer, in contrast with chloramines, as we will see in the next round.

Bromine wins round four; it’s stronger in more water conditions and molecular states.

ROUND FIVE: STABILITY

Bromine comes out swinging! At a high pH, say of 7.8, only about 25% of chlorine is active. Bromine is not affected by pH swings as much and continues to be effective, even when a full hot tub quickly raises pH levels.

Being stable at high temperatures is another characteristic of bromine. Chlorine becomes really active at high temperatures and tends to quickly gas off at temperatures around 100 degrees.

Third, when bromine or chlorine combine with nitrogen or ammonia, they form bromamines or chloramines. In chlorine, the compound formed becomes an ineffective sanitizer, and is responsible for red eyes, itchy skin and that awful chlorine smell. Bromamines, on the other hand, continue to be active sanitizers without the smell or irritation.

Bromine wins round five!

ROUND SIX: OTHER

  • ODOR – Chlorine smells similar, but the bromine odor, both in the container and in the water, is softer.
  • IRRITATION – Skin irritation can occur with bromine or chlorine, but bromine is less irritating.
  • pH – Trichlor has a very low pH, bleach has a very high pH, and bromine has a pH level of 7.5. Perfect!
  • ADDITIVES – Cal-hypo adds calcium to a spa, and trichlor and dichlor will add cyanuric acid.

Bromine has chlorine against the ropes, and in the sixth round, has delivered a knockout blow!

 

bromine-winsIf you have a spa, bromine has a lot of advantages over using chlorine. It may cost a little bit more, but it lasts longer and does a much better job than chlorine at killing bacteria, especially at high temperatures and high pH levels.

So, which is better – bromine or chlorine? Bromine is best for spas, use chlorine for pools.

 

Shop For These Featured Products:

sodium bromide packets leisure time bromine tablets spa mps shockfloating bromine dispenser

 

10 Reasons Why Your Spa Water is Cloudy

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Cloudy Hot Tub WaterWhy is my spa water cloudy? If we’ve heard that question once, we’ve heard it a thousand times. It may be the number one spa water problem plaguing spa owners.

There is a lot of misinformation out there about cloudy spa water – such as, “Bromine will make your spa cloudy”, or “Metals in the water cause cloudy hot tub water”, or the constant sales pitch – that if you just had this super-special-magical spa water treatment, your spa water problems will disappear.

If your spa or hot tub water is cloudy, hazy, milky – turbid, as we sometimes call it, your problem will be one of these situations below, or a combination of more than one.

1. High Calcium Hardness or Total Alkalinity

Your spa water chemical balance may be to blame. Take an accurate reading of your calcium hardness, alkalinity and pH levels. In areas where hard water is common, calcium can easily come out of solution and cloud the spa water. If your calcium hardness levels are greater than 300 ppm, use a chemical balancer to lower your pH, calcium and alkalinity levels in your spa.  This will help to keep your spa water clear and help to prevent the scaling that causes cloudy hot tub water.

If your test for Total Alkalinity shows high levels, in excess of 150 ppm, excess carbonates can come out of solution, and make the spa cloudy. High TA levels will also make it hard to control your pH, or keep it in range. Use pH decreaser to lower TA to around 100 ppm. If your spa pH level is outside of the range of 7.2-7.6, adjust accordingly for easier control of cloudy water.

TDS, or total dissolved solids, is not usually a concern in spas and hot tubs – but, if you have not drained your spa in years, for whatever reason – you may have a very high level of dissolved solids in the water. When water reaches it’s saturation point, where it can absorb no more solids, frequent bouts of cloudy water are the result. Time to drain and refill the spa.

2. Low Spa Sanitizer Levels

Some people are sensitive to bromine or chlorine, and try to operate the spa with as little as possible. That may be OK, if you have other sanitizers working, such as an ozonator, or a mineral cartridge, and your water chemistry is balanced, especially your pH level.

Otherwise, spas should always have a level of 2-3 ppm of bromine, or slightly less if using chlorine. When sanitizer level drops below 1.0ppm, particles and contaminants in the water begin to run rampant or grow at a rate faster than they are being destroyed.

A proper sanitizer level should destroy the particles that induce cloudy water. To help it out, shock the spa water regularly, especially after a several people have used the spa, or if sanitizer levels have mistakenly dropped to very low levels. If a chlorinated spa shock is clouding your water, try using MPS shock instead.

3. Cloudy Fill Water

Maybe the problem is not with your spa, but in your fill water. Nonetheless, balanced and sanitized spa water with proper filtration should be able to self-correct, and clear the water within a day or so. A spa clarifier can help coagulate suspended particles for easier filtration. In most cases, it may be better to use a spa pre-filter, to remove particulates that cloud your spa water. Just attach it to your garden hose when adding water or refilling your spa or hot tub.

4. Air in the System

Small particles of air, tiny bubbles – can make the spa water appear cloudy. If your spa has bubbles coming into the returns, but your air blower and spa ozonator are turned off – you may have an air leak, on the suction side of the pump. The suction side is anything before the spa circulation pump. A loose union fitting before the pump, or a loose pump drain plug can pull air into the system.

Low water level in the spa can also bring air into the spa, and give the water the appearance of being cloudy or hazy. Inspection of the pipes and equipment before the spa pump can reveal the source of the air leak, which can then be sealed up with sealants or lubricants.

5. Spa Filter Problems

This is a common cause of cloudy spa water. A spa filter cartridge may be positioned incorrectly, allowing for water to bypass the filter cartridge. Make sure the cartridge is fully seated on both ends to force the water to go through the pleated spa filter material.

A spa filter cartridge won’t last forever, and each cleaning reduces it’s efficacy a little bit more. After about 15 cleanings, replace the spa filter and you’ll notice an immediate improvement in water clarity. Depending on how much the spa is used, and how much is asked of the filter, you should replace the spa filter every 12-24 months.

Spa filter cartridges can also become gummed up with oils or minerals, drastically reducing their filtration ability. These substances can be very difficult to remove with a garden hose alone. Spraying a cartridge in spa filter cleaner before cleaning will break down greasy or crystallized deposits, and restore full flow to your filter.

DE filters are more commonly used on inground spas, and if a DE filter grid develops a hole, it will allow DE filter powder to come into the spa. This will cloud the water, and leave deposits of a light brown powder on the seats and floors of the spa.

6. Spa Pump Problems

There are a number of pump problems that can lead to cloudy spa water, the first being the amount of time the spa filter is running each day. You may need to increase the amount of time that the spa pump operates, to increase your daily filtering time. Running a pump only on low speed can also contribute to ineffective filtration. Run it on high for at least 2 hours every day.

Another issue could be with the spa impeller. It could be clogged – full of pebbles, leaves, hair or any number of things. The vanes on a pump impeller are very small and can clog easily, which will reduce the flow volume considerably. Another possibility is that the impeller is broken – the pump turns on, but the impeller is not moving, which will reduce flow rates to zero.

If you have no flow from your pool pump, there could be an air lock, especially if you have just drained and refilled the spa. To fix an air lock, shut off the pump and loosen a union on the pump and allow air to escape, tightening it when water begins to leak. If the pump doesn’t turn on at all – well, there’s your cloudy spa water problem. There could be a tripped GFI button, loose wires, bad contactor or relay, or another control problem.

Air leaks before the pump, as discussed above, also makes the pump less efficient by reducing the overall water volume. Water leaks after the pump is also a problem, in that your water level will soon drop below the skimmer intake, begin to take on air, lose prime and stop pumping your water through the filter.

7. Biofilm Problems

Biofilm is a slimy bacteria that coats the inside of pipes and fittings. In extreme cases, it will cloud the water, and you may notice slimy flakes floating on the water, or have severe issues with spa foaming. Biofilm forms quickly in a spa that has sat empty and idle for some time. If you suspect a biofilm contamination, lower the pH to 7.2 and use spa shock to raise the chlorine level above 10 ppm. Follow this up with a treatment of Jet Clean, to remove biofilm deposits.

8. Salt System Problems

Salt systems are becoming more popular with spa owners, although they are much more prevalent on swimming pools. The issue with salt systems is that it is possible to place too much reliance on them, and never check your chlorine level. Spa salt cells also need occasional cleaning to maintain chlorine output.

Adding salt to your spa when needed may cloud your spa temporarily, until the salt becomes fully dissolved. When adding salt, be careful not to overdose, and run the jets on high for greater agitation of the water.

9. Biguanide Problems

If you use a non-chlorine, biguanide sanitizer in your spa, and have difficulty with cloudy spa water, you are not alone. This is the main complaint of using a PHMB sanitizer. You may find relief by draining and refilling the spa, and changing the spa filter, which is probably gummed up with residue. Using spa chemicals with any amount of chlorine, or using algaecides or any non-approved chemical will not only cloud the water in a biguanide treated spa, but can also create some wild colors, too!

10. Soaps, Lotions, Cosmetics and Hair Products

This problem is common to just about every spa, unless you shower well before using your spa. Everything we put on our body and in our hair can end up in the spa, and can bring oils, phosphates and detergents into the water, and a hundred other undesirable chemicals. These can consume sanitizer, clog spa filters and make the spa water cloudy and foamy. If your spa has a high bather load, or is used as a giant bath tub, you can expect issues with water clarity. Adding spa enzymes can help control greasy gunk, and reduce sanitizer demand and clogging of your spa filter.cloudy-spa-water

Cloudy spa water is not so difficult to find and fix – but remember that you may have more than one of these issues working against you. Consider each cause of cloudy spa water carefully – it’s likely one or more of these situations above. Draining the spa regularly is one more piece of advice to prevent cloudy water – depending on how much the spa is used, draining it every few months is a good preventative way to keep your spa water from becoming cloudy in the first place!

 

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

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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

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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.

ADD INSULATION

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 BLANKET

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.

NEW SPA COVER

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.

SPA COVER CAP

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.

PROTECTA-SPA COVER

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!

SPA COVER WIND STRAPS

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

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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 Spacalculator.com 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

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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

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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.

HOT-TUB-COVER-REVIEWS

 

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

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>>> 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

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spa-circuit-boards
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.

spa-control-circuit-board-diagram

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

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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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