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Jack Stone's Posts

How to Make a Cheap Spa Cover

November 11th, 2013 by

Don't buy a spa cover from this guy! - purchased thru istock

There’s a lot of cheap spa covers out there. Do a Google search for discount spa covers and you’re hit with some pretty low prices. $195 for a spa cover?

How can you sell a spa cover so cheaply? To sell cheap spa covers, you have to make cheap spa covers.

In the interest of science (and corporate espionage), we ordered a few of these discount spa covers, to see what they’re made of, and how they’re made. We were pretty excited when these 2 covers arrived at our offices, ready for their dissection. What we found however, was nothing short of shocking…

Manufacture of a Cheap Spa Cover

Poor Materials

Let’s start with the foam, that’s where the cost cutting begins, by using a cheaper grade of extruded polystyrene, more prone to premature water absorption and breakdown. Secondly is the rigid support channel that runs across the fold, instead of using steel, substitute the cheaper aluminum, or even use PVC.  Third, use a thinner foam core wrap to save more money – 3 mil wrap is much cheaper by the roll than 6 mil wrap. Cheaper zippers and scrim, cheaper thread used for stitching and cheaper vinyl used for covering, are other ways that a spa cover can be made more cheaply.

Poor Construction

Or more accurately, a lack of workmanship or craftsmanship.  A cheap spa cover looks like a cheap suit. Not a good fit, poor stitching, and the liner hanging loosely inside. These spa tops had single stitching (not even straight), taped or stapled seams (not heat welded), loose fitting foam core wrap, and lightweight hinges or support channels. The vinyl is a single ply (no backing), and is as thin as you would expect. The weight of these spa covers – incredibly lightweight. That’s because they are made of cheaper, thinner and well, much less  material.

Poor Warranty

Question: If a spa cover has a warranty is for 5 years, and is pro-rated, and you have to pay to ship it back (both ways), is it really a warranty? Most of these so called warranties on these cheap spa covers only cover defects in materials or workmanship for one year. Longer warranties can be pro-rated so heavily that it makes the shipping costs prohibitive. And be sure to read the fine print, the exclusions, and you’ll find that most damage to the spa cover is not even covered.

Poor Service

Question: If you can’t even get in touch with them, how are going to lodge a warranty claim anyway? Many low budget spa cover dealers shave costs by not having customer service staff, or spa cover designers that you can speak with, chat with, or get a fast email reply from. They may or may not have a sales line, answered by a call center – somewhere, which will be “happy to take [another] message for you”.

Poor Selection

Even local dealers are getting in on this disposable spa cover market, advertising ‘basic’ spa covers, in only two or three sizes. Don’t buy a spa cover that isn’t an exact match to your specific spa. Color doesn’t matter, but a proper fit is essential to keeping your spa hot and as energy efficient as possible. Spa covers that don’t fit perfectly are also more susceptible to damage to the foam core.

 

How to Make a Good Spa Cover

Making a quality spa cover is what we do at Hot Tub Works. We’re proud of our materials and craftsmanship, and the reviews we get from satisfied spa cover customers say the same thing. And with prices starting at $269, you don’t have to shell out big bucks for a good spa cover.

Four Panel Spa Cover

Here’s how to make a spa cover that won’t fall apart in a year or two. These are some of the things that sets our spa covers apart from the “competition”.

  • Our spa covers meet or exceed ASTM safety standards
  • Computer aided design and manufacture process
  • 30 oz Marine Grade Vinyl is super tough
  • Double stitched with heavy Dacron thread, Quadruple stitched hinges
  • Vacuum heat sealed 6 mil Double-Ply foam core wrap
  • 20 ga. steel reinforcement channel on both spa cover halves
  • 5 year warranty, non-prorated, covering water absorption and shipping
  • Free shipping on every spa cover

 

- Jack

 

Cleaning Tools to Make Spa Maintenance Easier

November 4th, 2013 by

pleatco-cartridge-guyCleaning your spa or hot tub can be a bit of a chore. In my house, I was only able to pawn off some of the spa duties when I brought home some of these spa cleaning tools and supplies. Such as vacuuming the spa or cleaning the spa cover.

If you’re tired of certain spa maintenance tasks, and you are having trouble pawning them off on others, or making the spa off-limits until the spa is taken care of – take a look at some of these workload reducing hot tub tools.

Spend more time enjoying your spa, not cleaning it!

 

Easy Clean Filter Spray Nozzleeasy-clean-spa-filter-spray-nozzle

Some pool cartridge spray tools are too large for small spa filters. I always used my regular multi-purpose spray nozzle, and would have never thought to use anything else, until we had a manufacturer’s sales rep come to our office, handing these out.

I told him that I really didn’t need it, but he insisted, and left it on my desk. I took it home about a week later, and finally used it several weeks after that. I was so impressed, that I called him up to thank him. It makes an adjustable sharp or fan spray, which really gets in between the pleats.

Grit Getter

grit-getter-spas

This is the simplest little device, one of those things that I kick myself for not inventing. Squeeze the Grit Getter and it pushes out the air and water, and creates a strong suction that’s perfect for grit like sand or dirt.

The debris gets trapped in the body, just twist it to open, and dump out the grit. Made of a soft rubber-plastic, it floats when not being used, and is pretty much indestructible. Easy to use, and even kind of fun, everyone wants to give it a try. Also available with an extension pole, for use when you’re not in the spa.

 

Pool Blaster Spa Vac

spa-vac

For something beyond the manual vacuum power of the Grit Getter, this vacuum power vacs your spa, operating on 3 “C” batteries, which gives about an hour of cleaning time, which should last for several months, assuming you keep your spa covered, and your guests are clean!

There are several types of spa vacuums on the market, this one is the most maneuverable and easiest to set up. It also has an internal valve to keep debris inside, should you begin to lose battery power, a feature not shared by other spa vacs.

Comes with 3 extenders, which can extend the spa vac up to 8 foot in reach.

 

Spa Fill Water Filter

spa-pre-filterIf you pre-filter the water that you use to fill your spa, your spa water will be pure to start. This puts less demand on your spa filter and sanitizers, and mineral control chemicals. Helps reduce foaming and staining by removing impurities, minerals, salts and scale. It also removes organic contaminants, chloramines, and sulfides, which make water smell bad.

Just attach the hose water pre-filter to your garden hose, and turn on the water. You’ll notice a difference immediately if your water contains silt, is colored or has a strong odor. Each pre filter lasts for 3 spa fills, plus as many top offs to the water level as you need.

A must to use if you are using well water, or if your water comes from old systems or travels very far to reach your home.

 

Spa Skimmer Net

spa-skimmer-netIt’s tempting to think that you may never need a skimmer net for your spa or hot tub. After all, it’s covered most of the time, and probably out of the way of most large trees. But, a skimmer net can be a handy tool to have on hand. Leaves, bugs, fibers or dust can be quickly swept from the surface.

You might use it to scoop off loads of foam out of the spa, retrieve tossed toys or the floater. It can also be used to scoop leaves or items from the floor or benches of your spa. Our spa leaf skimmer has a large head and a telescopic pole that extends from 3 to 8 feet. Frame is weather resistant plastic, with urethane handle and polished aluminum tubing.

Earlier this summer my spa skimmer nets kept disappearing. After my third replacement, I found them down by the creek behind my house. Apparently these also work great for catching tadpoles and turtles, as my grandsons taught me.

 

Tub Rub

hot-tub-scrubber-pad-tub-rubThis is like a Magic Eraser for hot tubs and spas. You can use it by itself, or along with a spa cleaning chemical (never use household cleansers to clean your spa shell). It has a textured surface and is soft enough to get into the many grooves and curves of spa surfaces. Can also be used for your spa cover, although I normally prefer to use the 303 Spa Cover Wipes for cleaning the spa cover.

Textured sponges could be too harsh for some delicate spa surfaces, and may scratch like steel wool. Tub Rub is a textured fabric – not plastic, so it’s always gentle, and works great for scum removal, or for high gloss polishing.

 

These are some of the most useful tools and hot tub accessories that I use around my spa, to reduce the maintenance, or at least make it more manageable. It may even help you pawn off some spa duties to others! Or you could start charging admission, to use the spa! Yeah, right.

 

- Jack

 

Spa Cover Lifter Repairs

October 24th, 2013 by

animated-spa-cover-lifterBroken spa cover lifter? Cover lifters can often be repaired, if you have the time and inclination. Sure, a new hot tub cover lifter is only one to two hundred bucks, but if you’re counting your pennies these days, many damaged spa cover lifters can be fixed quickly and cheaply.

Damage to spa cover lifters may result from water logged covers, improper use, acts of God, or teenagers.

Spa cover lifter repairs are usually to the mounting system, the lift assist system, or to the pivot arms or tubes that support the cover.

Replacement parts for some spa cover lifters can be scarce and in some cases, not available – forcing you to replace a damaged spa cover lifter with new. In some cases, you may be able to find suitable replacements for the parts your cover lifter needs, in a good hardware or home store.

Spa Cover Lifter Mounting System Repairs

If you have an undermount spa cover lift, with a metal plate that slides under the spa, you usually avoid complications such as this. Spa cover lifters that are screwed into the spa cabinet, via a mounting bracket, can suffer broken brackets, stripped screws, cracked bushings. It’s recommended to tighten spa cover lifter bracket bolts and check connections twice per year.spa-cover-mounting-bracket-repairs

If the wood of the cabinet has begun to rot, and there are soft spots in that area, could you remount the bracket on the opposite side of the spa? Or, can you empty and turn the spa to remount the brackets?

If not, maybe you can add a mounting strip to the spa cabinet. Glue and screw – a 2x4x8 piece of finished and stained wood or composite material from one end of the spa to the other. On top of the strip, or on the side of the strip, remount your brackets, following manufacturer’s installation instructions.

Broken or bent mounting brackets, bushings, or pivot points attached to the mounting system will put tubes out of alignment and create stress on attached parts. Metal brackets may be able to be returned to new shape with the use of a vice and a small torch to heat the metal. If not, replacement brackets are generally available online.

Spa Cover Lifter Lift Assist Repairs

Many spa cover lifters utilize a gas shock, also known as a gas spring or gas prop, with many uses. Although these may look the same as the one on your storm door, or car hatchback, they have different diameters, lengths, and output force of the piston. They also have different end fitting types. I wish that all spa cover lifter manufacturers would use the same shock for their lift assist systems, but most are different and specific to the model of spa cover lifter.

spa-cover-lifter-repairsGenerally, you will need the exact OEM shock, but if you are having trouble finding the ‘factory’ replacement gas shock for your spa cover lift, you could take the shock into an auto parts store to see if they can match it up [exactly]. They are usually sold in sets of two, and it would be best to replace both, so that their piston force and size will match.

Other cover lifters may have Lift Assist in the form of a fulcrum device. Heavy winds or accidents can topple a cover while it’s in the up position, and bend the bend of the fulcrum. Heavy wind or cover ‘accidents’ can be especially hard on joints, pivot points and fulcrums.

Spa Cover Lifter Arm Repairs

The arms of your spa cover lifter, those that go alongside the spa and over the hinge, or fold of your spa cover – could be the most fragile part of your spa cover lifter. Heavy, soggy spa covers can cause the tubes to sag under the weight. Heavy winds, as mentioned above, can also do damage, especially for covers that are stored in a position above the spa.spa-cover-lifter-arm-repair

If your tubing, or spa cover lifter arms become bent or crimped, you may be able to find replacement parts from the dealer you purchased it from, or directly from the manufacturer. If you can’t locate replacement parts, and don’t want to buy a new lifter, some spa cover lifter arms can be replaced with steel tubing of a very similar diameter. Steel or PVC electrical conduit of slightly smaller or larger diameter could be measured, cut, inserted and screwed down – to replace bent portions of the pivoting arms or connecting tubes.

Spa cover lifter repairs are usually successful, if you use the right materials and take your time. OEM (original equipment manufacture) parts can be expensive however, so you’ll to weigh the costs of repair parts, vs. buying an entire new identical cover lift, and using the old lift for future spare parts.

If you haven’t been really satisfied with the cover lifter performance and are facing a repair, maybe now is the best time to look at other cover lifter models. We have ten spa cover lifters, and depending on your spa shape, there are usually 2-5 models that will fit your spa and spa cover.

 

- Jack

 

Spa and Hot Tub Parts: Controls and Spa Pak Parts

October 10th, 2013 by

spa-packs-before-after-replacing-spa-pak

 

Today, we look at parts for your Spa Pack and Spa Control. These can be either air button controlled, or digital. If you have a digital temperature readout, yours is digital. If you have a temp dial, and no digital readout, you have an air control.

The Control for your spa or hot tub is the main brain that controls all of the components of your spa – namely the pumps(s), heater and blower. It connects to the top side controls that allow you to turn on jet pumps, lights, blowers and adjust the heater temperature.

Newer systems can allow you control over different banks of spa jets, or activate waterfalls or turn on some music to soak by. Controls include the heater element (either 1.5kw or 5.5kw), and a new topside control that will replace your current control panel.

 

spa-packThe Spa Pak (or Spa Pack), includes the Control (which includes the heater), and also includes the pump(s) and blower. Spa Paks and Controls are available for Air systems and Digital systems. A spa pack includes all of the equipment, with the exception of the spa filter or lighting. So, then parts for spa packs actually means parts for spa pumps, heaters, blower and controls.

 Panels

spa-pack-spa-control-parts-topside-controlsPerhaps your spa side panel has failed or been smashed by a tree limb. If you only need the panel that is topside, or accessible while in the spa, we have over 50 to choose from on our Topside control panel page. We also have replacement labels for some panels, if yours has worn away.  Replacement spa control panels come with a wire to plug into your control, and are available in Air or Digital. If you don’t see your panel listed, give us a call while you’re near the spa and we can figure out if your panel is still available, and if not, which substitute would be best to use.

Controls

spa-pack-spa-control-parts-controlsThe Spa Control, that’s the big square box inside the cabinet. It usually sits on top of the stainless steel heater tube. We have controls for Air or Digital systems that include the heater, or for spas with heaters located elsewhere, our Flex Fit Digital Controls are available. We offer a value priced HTW line of controls, as well as the highly sought after Balboa controls.You can upgrade from an Air control to Digital, and enjoy advantages like freeze protection and other convenience modes.

Selecting a control requires some information beyond whether you have an Air system or a Digital System. Our web page will ask you to select the incoming voltage (110 or 220) and the blower and pump(s) voltage (110 or 220), It also asks for your plumbing size (1.5″ or 2.0″) and the heater size (1.5kw or 5.5kw). All of this info is (should be) printed on the equipment. Take a pad of paper(or a tablet) and get the info, and our database will return you the correct control for your spa. If you have questions, please call!

Heaters

spa-pack-spa-control-parts-heatersIf your heater element has failed, and is not producing heat, you could test the unit for continuity, (with all power off). If the heater element has failed – you can replace just the element. Other parts of spa heaters include the union end pieces, and o-rings, as well as the heater housing, which we call the heater manifold. Spa heaters are available in their entirety too, you can replace the whole shebang with a replacement heater assembly.

 Blower

spa-pack-spa-control-parts-blowers

There aren’t a lot of parts available for spa blowers. We have the pipe clamps or unions available that connect the blower to the pipe, and we have spa blower motors and check valves. And, of course, we sell the entire blower unit, selected by horsepower, voltage and pipe size diameter. Blowers typically last 5-10 years, depending on how much they are used. Replacing the blower motor usually doesn’t save any money, and it’s usually best to replace the entire spa blower, especially if it has some age on it.

Pumps

spa-pack-spa-control-parts-pumpsThe filter pump, circulation pump, jet pump – many spas have more than one pump. And spa pumps have lots of parts! We detailed them in fact, in a blog post dedicated to spa pump parts. When you buy an entire spa pack, you specify how many pumps you have and their horsepower, voltage and pipe size. Many spa pump repairs involve either replacing the wet end, or all the plastic pumping parts, or just the motor. If you need to replace both, you may as well replace the entire pump. Most pumps also last 5-10 years, and then they can be either rebuilt or replaced. You can replace spa pump parts, individual spa pumps, or the entire spa pack. If you need help, call us up!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

There are other parts related to your controls or spa packs. Wire connectors, temp sensors, circuit boards. Whatever spa pack parts you need to keep your spa running, we have it. And, we specialize in parts for older tubs, and in helping customers retrofit new Digital spa packs into an older, air activated spa control. As shown in our feature image (above), newer systems are cleaner, more compact and more efficient.

If you need help with control parts or spa pak parts for your tub, and want fast help, give us a call, we’ve got spa techs standing by!

 

- Spa Jack (or Spa Jak)

 

Hard Water Issues in Spas and Hot Tubs

September 30th, 2013 by

water-hardness-map-of-US

Are you located in the “Red Zone”? If so, you may have hard water in your home that you use to fill the spa. 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, the scale is no problem. Go about your business. In some cases, calcium hardness levels can reach levels of 400 ppm or more, which can lead to problems.

They reach a point where it begins to come out of solution, giving your 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 chart we’ve used here shows the generally accepted maxim that anything over 180 ppm is classified as “Extremely Hard” water. If you have a test kit or test strips that measures for calcium hardness levels in your spa, you can easily check your spa water to see where you lie on the continuum. 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?

so-what-who-caresOK, fair question, and a great SNL skit phrase. How about this? You don’t care if you don’t have a problem. If your hot tub water is some of the hardest, you’ve seen scale deposits before, and know that these salts leave ugly water spots, can be corrosive and when high enough, can interfere with sanitation and filtration.

Treatments for Hard 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.

Pre-Filter1. Filter the Calcium. Maybe you have an expensive home water softening system, and can fill the spa after it’s been treated. If not, you can use our Pre-Filter, to take out minerals, metals, chloramines as well as other particulate matter. Just screw it onto your hose and turn on the hose! Good for 2-3 fills.

2. Combine the Calcium. Using a product called CalTreat, by United Chemical, which bonds to calcium carbonate, until a large enough particle is created to be removed by your filter system. Follow the instructions carefully, and you can see your calcium level drop considerably.calcium-and-scale-control

3. Control the Calcium. Calcium and Scale Control is a product that keeps calcium and other minerals tied up in solution, making it unlikely that they will come out of solution. After the initial dose, just add a maintenance dosage whenever you add water to the spa, to keep minerals in a “sequestered” state. It will also loosen and dissolve some scale deposits.

- Jack

 

 

Hot Tub Covers and the R-Value Myth

September 19th, 2013 by
R-values sign at Penn State

The Myth of R-Value and Spa Covers

R-value is a measurement of the resistance to heat transfer for materials like the fiberglass insulation in your house or the insulating foam in our spa covers. In theory, the higher the R-value, the greater the heat retention and, heat retention is the primary function of any spa cover.

Most industries using R-values are regulated by FTC standards. Commercially sold insulation must pass independent tests created by American Standards and Testing Methods (ASTM) in order to be advertised or marked with their R-Value.

 

The Myth: As there is no FTC recognized independent test for spa covers, so any R-value stated by a spa cover dealer is actually an unregulated, unmonitored “interpretation” of the insulative value. It’s open to speculation and abuse, from adding the R-value of the air space between the water and the cover, the space between the vinyl and the cover insulation, or simply blatantly inflating the number. At HTW, we state only the known R-value of the insulation itself plus a small increment for the vinyl and plastic wrapping the closed cell foam core.

The R-value of the actual foam insulation plus covering in our Standard 1.5 lb foam covers is approximately 13.5 and for the denser 2 lb foam, it jumps to 15. This is based on an average spa cover thickness of 3″; our thicker spa covers will retain proportionally greater amounts of heat, as you can see in the image below.

Best Spa Cover Foam

spa-cover-r-value-char-t-2

Foam Density and Foam Thickness.

These two factors affect the R-value of a particular spa cover.

It’s easy to understand why a thicker and denser foam will reduce heat transfer.

But the type of EPS (Extruded Polystyrene) can also make a difference. EPS is made from melting small pellets into a thick fluid, which is in then poured into molds and formed into sheets of varying thickness. The level of gas present in the mix, as well as mixing and drying methods can produce EPS foam of varying strength and density.

Our spa covers use the most expensive spa cover foam (rigid cellular polystyrene thermal insulation) available, which not only holds in more heat, but resists breakage, vapor absorption and chemical damage better than any other material we’ve tested.

ASTM C578 Type IV, 25 psi, 1.55 pcf density

worlds-thickest-spa-coverWhen shopping for and comparing spa covers, be leery of unsubstantiated claims of R-value. Look at Foam Density numbers and Foam Thickness. Most spa cover dealers should be around the same numbers. Our R-Values shown in the chart above are realistic, and in fact may even be higher, but the new EPS we now use has not yet been tested by the ASTM.

Myth Busted!

R-value testing of materials is done at room temperature, and doesn’t take into account moisture and vapor. In the spa environment, we have hot water and lots of moisture. Both of these can facts will dramatically reduce the R-value of a material. Using the best quality EPS will almost prevent any moisture absorption, but a spa at 105 degrees will challenge the R-value of any material tested at 75 degrees.

Therefore, forsooth and verily I tell you ~ don’t let R-value be your only measurement for spa cover quality, instead look for a spa cover with high density and weight, vacuum wrapped in continuous sheets of 6 mil heat welded polyethylene, sealed in heavy gauge marine grade vinyl, with chemical resistant scrim and stitching.

Come to think of it, I just described our spa covers!

- Jack

 

How to Spot a Junk Spa Cover

September 4th, 2013 by

 

junk-it-2

The spa cover business is rife with imposters these days, making low quality, junk spa covers. And it doesn’t matter which side of the border they are made on, Mexico or North America, you can find poorly manufactured spa covers.

Our business has always been to produce the best spa covers, all computer designed and made to exacting specifications, with quality materials and quality control. But there are cheaper ways to make a spa cover.

Here’s some things to watch out for if you’re shopping for a new spa cover.

First, let’s look at the anatomy of a spa cover. For strength, you have the foam core and the reinforcement channel. For weather and water resistance and to protect the core, it’s covered in marine grade vinyl and the foam core is wrapped and sealed in thick plastic.

spa-cover-anatomy

Solid handles are useful in maneuvering the cover, and good locking straps keep it secure in high winds, and safe for kids and animals. A thick, well sewn skirt helps hold in heat and block any drafts into the spa.

Now, let’s look at some of these spa cover parts one by one, to show how the quality of materials can be manipulated. These are the distinct differences between a good spa cover and a junk spa cover.

TAPERED FOAM CORE

A tapered core will allow water to run off, very important for outdoor hot tubs, and also allows for use of a larger reinforcement channel, for greater strength.

The thickness of the foam core will affect it’s heat retention, strength and water resistance. The best spa covers are 6″ thick in the center, tapering to 4″ on the edges, but you can also find 5″ to 3″ or on the lower end, 4″ to 2″ thick spa covers.

But more than thickness, the weight of the foam or foam density, is important. Spa covers can be made with 1.0 lb foam, 1.5 lb. foam or 2.0 lb. foam. The greater the foam density or weight, the greater R-value your spa cover will have.

REINFORCEMENT CHANNEL

Galvanized steel channels will provide the best strength for a hot tub cover. These are available in many thicknesses, but almost all are superior to aluminum channels, which don’t have the strength of steel. I’ve seen some aluminum channels with the rigidity of thick aluminum foil.

As mentioned above, the thicker foam cores allow for using a taller reinforcement channel across the hinge of the spa cover, to add strength and rigidity. With one on each half of your spa cover, they form an I-beam support for your spa cover. Cheap spa covers will use smaller channels, with lower grade steel, or aluminum, to cut costs and maximize profit.

MARINE GRADE VINYL

This is a type of vinyl made for boats that resists moisture and water. It is available in many thicknesses, and with many options for backing the vinyl. Our 30 oz. marine grade vinyl is a heavy weight, and it’s treated with UV and antifungal inhibitors. Light weight 20 oz vinyl are common on a cheap spa cover, some used without any woven backing.

A thicker marine grade vinyl, treated against fading and mildew, and with a heavy gauge woven backing makes a longer lasting cover that can take years of heavy sun and snow, and even a little dragging around.

FOAM CORE WRAP

This is another profit center for cheap hot tub cover production. We wrap our foam cores with heavy duty 6 mil polyethylene sheeting, in a continuous sheet. Then we fold over and heat seal the edges, before vacuum sealing to remove air. Cheaper spa covers have thinner plastic that won’t stand up to spa chemicals, and use either tape or staple their seams, with no heat sealed edges and vacuum sealing.

As an option, we offer a double-wrapped foam core, with two sheets of 6 mil wrap, and a continuous heat seal that runs across the entire bottom of the spa cover, to stop mildew from forming and prevent heat loss through the fold.

FourPanelCover

Take a look at our advantages, and our low prices – and you’ll see how we manage to sell 100,000 spa covers every year. We have 6 grades of spa covers, from our Economy Spa Cover to The Works – to fit all budgets. But even our lowest price spa covers have quality materials, computer design and precise construction – unlike some junk spa covers out there!

- Jack

 

5 ways to Improve your Spa Filtration

August 29th, 2013 by

water-animated-6

 

Is your spa filter too small? Having the best spa filtration you can get will not only make your water cleaner and clearer, but will make it safer and easier to manage, with fewer chemicals.

Without further ado, let’s get on with it – here are 5 ways you can improve your spa or hot tub filtration. If you have tips of your own to add, leave a comment at the bottom of the post.

 

 

Spa Filters with more Square Footage

Some of the more popular spa filters we sell are available in two different square footage. For instance, the HTF-2370 has the same dimensions as the HTF-2390, but the former is 25 square foot of filter surface area and the latter is 50 square feet. This is accomplished by adding more pleats to the cartridge – double the pleats and you double the square footage! Spa filters with more square footage are more expensive, but doubling the surface area will give you longer filter cycles and better overall filtration.

Clean Spa cartridge with Filter Cleaner

Cleaning your pool filter cartridge is an important task that shouldn’t be rushed. Cleaning between each pleats with a garden hose to flush out the dirt and work loose debris in the fabric. To loosen the dirt trapped in the spun polyester fabric, use a filter cleaner before hosing the cartridge clean. Just add the recommended amount to a bucket of water, and soak your cartridge for the time specified. Then hose it clean. Spa filter cleaners loosen mineral deposits, dirt and oils, to allow your cleaning to be much more effective.

Replace your Spa Cartridge on Schedule

I usually recommend that people replace their cartridge on schedule, every 12 – 24 months. The wide range depends on how often you use your spa, and how often the filter needs cleaning. Spa cartridge filters are not meant to last forever. The fibers loosen, and allow particles to begin to bypass over time. It’s a generally accepted notion that you should replace your cartridge after 12-15 cleanings. I have a reminder set on my Outlook calendar that helps me remember when to replaced my spa filter, which helps me keep on schedule.

Drain your Spa on Schedule

I usually recommend that people drain their spa on schedule, every 3-6 months. Here too, the range depends on how often you use the spa, how large the spa is compared to usage, and how well the overall water quality and water balance has been. Over time, total dissolved solids can build up which interferes with water balance. Draining the spa also gives you a chance to use a biofilm remover, like Jet Clean to clean the pipes and hoses of bacteria and polish up the spa with a cleaner like Citrabright.

Use Enzymes or Clarifiers

Spa enzymes are a natural product that digests body oils, make-up, soaps and other sticky substances. Added to your spa, it will reduce sanitizer demand and increase your filter cycles while making your filter more effective. These are the same type of enzymes used in cleaning up oil spills in the ocean, so it can handle your little spa or hot tub oil problem. Using a spa clarifier is another way to increase your spa cartridge filtration, by coagulating small particles into larger, more easily filtered clumps.

Some spas and hot tubs have woefully undersized cartridge filters. If you can’t upsize the filter, you can use these tactics above to improve your filtration, or to compensate for poor filtration, without resorting to heavy doses of sanitizer.

- Jack

 

Comparing Spa Manufacturers – Which is Best?

August 22nd, 2013 by

spa-manufacturers-3Since we don’t sell spas, we may be in a better position to offer unbiased advice on choosing a spa brand or manufacturer. We’ve seen a lot of ‘em come and go over the years.

We spend considerable amounts of time working with manufacturers on issues of defects and warranty claims. And, since we sell spa parts, we also have an in depth view of parts availability, quality and the parts that are replaced more often than others.

We also get to hear the horror stories from customers who have experienced less than world class customer service, or had difficulty locating replacement parts or warranty service, or had a spa that was troublesome.

surveyWe’ve even done some informal research on our own, sort of a JD Power survey on spa owner satisfaction. I call them the JS Power surveys, to find out for myself, which spas and hot tub brands people are most pleased with, by asking one question “Would you buy this brand of Spa again?”.

bogus spa awardsWe also like to point out, here and there, that while most manufacturers have many awards for their spa from various organizations, that these aren’t necessarily worth the paper they’re printed on.

Here’s my short list of spa manufacturers that I think have a shared respect in the industry. There are other good brands out there, but these are some shining examples of well run spa manufacturing companies.

Bullfrog Spas

Founded in 1996, and based in a suburb of Salt Lake City, Utah, Bullfrog Spas is known for it’s “Jet Pak” technology – modular, interchangeable jet paks for their spas. Bullfrog is also known for it’s charitable efforts, and seems to have a spa ready to aid weary athletes in a variety of sporting events, or donate to various good causes.

Dimension One

Founded in 1977, Dimension One was recently acquired by Jacuzzi, who plans to continue the brand, calling it New Dimension One spas. Known in the industry by the abbreviation D1, they were the first to make a fully insulated spa for inground or above ground use. They have been consistent in good dealer and customer relations over the years.

Hot Spring

Founded in One of the largest selling brand of spas, Hot Spring spas are made by Watkins Manufacturing, and is based in San Diego, Ca. Their spa Deck Designer tool is a lot of fun to play with, on their website. They have the most extensive dealer network, with over 800 locations worldwide, and are known for having strong dealer relations.

Marquis Spas

Founded in 1980 in the pacific northwest, Oregon based, Employee owned Marquis Spas has a reputation for building quality and technically advanced spas, with luxury surfaces and cool features. They are also a prolific giver, Marquis Spa dealers have granted over 500 wishes to children with advanced medical conditions, and are a Corporate Sponsor for the Make-A-Wish foundation.

Saratoga

Saratoga Spas are made near the Saratoga Springs, NY, since 1984. We really like the company around here. Easy to work with, for dealers, customers and even aftermarket retailers, (like us!) and their spas are known to be easy to work on as well. A reputation for reliable, energy efficient operation and features that no one else has.

So, there you have it, my personal and unbiased opinion as to some of the best spa manufacturers in today’s market. If you are looking for a new spa or hot tub, I don’t think you can go wrong with any of these brands.

Have you owned one of these spa brands? Would you buy another one? Tell us below in the comments.

- Jack

Spa Parts: Plumbing Parts for Spas and Hot Tubs

August 8th, 2013 by

spa-plumbing-supplies-and-partsSpa plumbing parts. This is going to be a long post, as we have 12 parts categories to go over, so settle in.

This post will help explain each spa plumbing parts sub-category in more detail, so you know how and when they are most useful.

There are many specialized parts in the plumbing category, and parts used only on certain spas and hot tubs, and many parts which are universal.

 

Spa Air Controls

spa-plumbing-parts-air-controlsAir controls are the knobs on the side of the spa that are used as air intakes. Some spas have several air control knobs, which control the amount of air intake (and thus air output) for a certain group of spa jets, or a particular air manifold. It acts as an air valve, to allow the spa user to dial in the perfect mix of air to the water stream, to increase the action and pressure from the spa jets.

We have over 35 different spa air controls, from G&G, Hydro Air and Waterway. They vary by the S hose connection size, and the hole size on the spa. If you’ve managed to lose or break one of these spa air intake knobs, see our selection of spa air controls.

Spa Air Injectors

spa-plumbing-parts-air-injectors

Spa air injectors, or maybe you call them bubblers or aerators in your spa, but this is where the air comes out, not mixed with water. Common on the floor or on lounge portions of the spa. You can replace the air injectors in your spa if they have become broken or missing parts, or you are renovating a spa and adding new or additional air jets or larger capacity jets to your spa or hot tub.

We have over 25 different air injectors, from Air Pro, Hydro Air and Waterway. Air Pro has a model with the Backstop, a check valve that prevents water from entering the air line.  Similar to air controls, the main difference between Air Injectors are in the air S hose connection size and the hole size, or the diameter of the hole through spa shell.

Spa Sealants

spa-plumbing-parts-sealants

This section of our spa plumbing department is stocked with sealants and bonding supplies for making PVC repairs with our Heavy Duty PVC cement, or fastening replacement air injectors, water jets or spa light rings in place with an underwater silicone adhesive. Silicone is also useful for making small leak repairs around the skimmer, air hoses, or on the spa shell, sealing up around leaky jets and fittings.

In the Sealant department, we carry 5 types of hot tub silicone by BOSS to allow you to affix and seal up just about anything on your spa. We also have spray blue RTV gasket maker for pump gasket problems, silicone Grout to use on tile and around spa fittings, and Mr. Sticky’s 2-part underwater epoxy. All in our spa sealants section.

Spa Air Buttons

spa-plumbing-parts-air-buttons

Spa Air Buttons are used to activate the spa blower, lights or jets. They are a safe way to activate a electronic switch when you’re sitting in a tub full of water. Spa air buttons are fairly reliable, but some may fail after many years of use, or become sticky. Like air controls and injectors, replacement air buttons will match up to your current air button by the hose size and hole size.

You can also match up current spa buttons by appearance. We have over 35 spa buttons, in all colors – gold, silver, black, white, taupe, from nearly 10 manufacturers, including Len Gordon, PresAirTrol and Tecmark. Your spa manufacturer likely used one of these specific air buttons, or we also have a universal button on our spa air buttons page.

Spa Drain Covers and Plumbing Fittings

spa-plumbing-parts-suction-plumbing-fittings

We have over 40 Spa plumbing fittings, like sweep elbows, 45′s, 90′s, connectors, reducers, tee fittings.Use these fittings to make repairs or renovations to your spa. Freeze damage repair to a spa will usually involve some plumbing fittings, repositioning equipment, or re-routing your spa plumbing . When plumbing PVC on a spa, be sure to use primer on the pipe and fittings before applying a heavy body PVC cement.

Half a dozen VGB compliant spa drain covers – it’s very important that they are secured to prevent entrapment. Modern spa drain covers or suction outlets have many small holes and improved flow characteristics to make entrapment unlikely. Missing spa drain covers should always be replaced and firmly secured, with both screws.

Spa Flexible PVC Pipe and Air Hose

spa-plumbing-parts-hose-tubing-pipe

This department needs little explaining. We have flexible PVC ‘flex pipe’, in sizes from 1/2″ to 2 inch, sold in long rolls, or by the foot. We just slap a FedEx sticker on the roll of pipe, and ship it without a box – never had a problem. We also carry the clear flexible hose that is connected to air switches or used in air systems.

Spa air hose is sold by the foot, and available in diameters from 1/8″ to 3/4 inch.  And, those little hose clamp clips, that always seem to get lost? We have them also, in two sizes.

Use spa flex pipe when you are fixing major leaks or renovating a spa shell. Spa air hose can be damaged by rodents or heat sources. Whatever the issue, we have your spa flex pipe and spa air hose for small or large repairs.

Spa Plumbing Manifolds

spa-plumbing-parts-manifolds

These are some of the most interesting contraptions I’ve ever seen. They look like props for a science fiction movie. I keep saying that I’m going to make a lamp out of one of these, one day. Spa manifolds are used to split the water and air into several smaller ports attached to pipes and hoses that go to different water jets and air injectors. They are used for air, or for water, and connect to either PVC pipe or clear air hose and reduce from 2″ or 1.5″ pipe, down to 3/4″ or less.

We have over 50 different manifolds for unimaginable uses. You can plumb in 12 new jets into your spa or hot tub, of fix freeze damaged spas with these manifolds. Maybe you can make a lamp, or something else useful out of these spa manifolds.

Spa Skimmers

spa-plumbing-parts-skimmersMany above ground spas don’t have a skimmer similar to a pool skimmer, with a basket and weir. Many spas have a grate, which covers a throttled suction fitting, that slowly draws water from the surface. More or less effective. Other spas may have the more traditional type of skimmer. Either way, your skimmer grate, basket and weirs needs are covered.

We also have entire new spa skimmers, the Hayward SP1099 front access skimmer used on many backyard spas and hot tubs, or can be retrofitted to outdoor spas and tubs that need more skimming action.

Spa Plumbing Unions

spa-plumbing-unionsI’m not talking about the Brotherhood of Plumbers, local 454 – no, here we have connectors for spa pumps and filters that allow you to remove the equipment for service with unions – pipe connectors that can be easily removed. Unions can crack under pressure or from freeze damage. They can also overheat and melt, or if doing considerable plumbing modifications, you may need to replace the unions.

We have union nuts, o-rings and adapters. Over 35 unions available in sizes from 1″ to 3 inches, in every configuration imaginable. Specialty spa unions too, such as reducing spa unions, or barbed hose connection unions. View all of our spa unions.

Spa Valves

spa-plumbing-valvesOur final spa plumbing parts sub-category, is also our largest category, of spa directional valves and check valves. Over two dozen slice valves, aka guillotine valves, by Magic and Valterra. We have diverter valves by Jandy and Waterway, and the hard to find Ortega valves with the iconic brass handle. In this section you’ll find check valves for air and water as well. Valves help control the direction of the water flow, and check valves allow flow to pass through in only one direction.

Valves may need replacing for various repairs, or to replace a defective valve. Check valves also don’t last forever. For this reason, we also stock some of the most popular spa valve parts. Check us out when you need new spa valves.

That’s Ten categories of spa plumbing parts and fittings (I skipped two of them!). Just about everything you need to keep your spa or hot tub humming along.

- Jack