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Archive for the ‘Consumer Research for Best Hot Tub’ Category

Hot Tub Recycling or Hot Tub Graveyard?

May 7th, 2015 by

hot-tub-recyclingIf you have ever wondered what to do with an old, unused and probably non-working hot tub – this post is for you. The lifespan of a hot tub needn’t be short, the shell and other parts can last a lifetime, with occasional equipment repair and replacement, or a few spa parts here and there.

And that’s part of the problem, is that acrylic spas are built to last, and they aren’t biodegradable, as a wooden hot tub can be. Plus, it’s too big to fit in your blue recycle bin! If you call a local junk pickup service, they take the spa straight away to the landfill and just kick it off the truck. This is the least “green” option of getting rid of an old hot tub.

Trade-in your Hot Tub

If you are planning to buy a new spa, a slightly more green way to recycle a spa is to trade it in on a new model. Many spa dealers and manufacturers have a program to haul off your previous spa at no charge, and may even pay you something for it. Spa shops may then strip the spa of any useable parts, or they may sell it to a spa scrapper who may rebuild or refurbish the spa, to resell it as reconditioned. But most of the time, they just haul the tub around back to the spa graveyard. Photo below is of several spa manufacturers lots, courtesy of Google Earth.

spa-graveyards

Sell your used Hot Tub

You can sell it to a local spa scrapper / refurbisher, if you can find one. Check with friends and family. Post a listing on craigslist.com, or on freecycle.org. But don’t offer it for Free, ask for at least $100, up to $500 or more if the spa is in operating condition. When you offer a spa for free, it doesn’t seem that enticing, even if it holds water and heats up. If you can rent or borrow a truck and trailer, perhaps you may be able to deliver the spa (for a few hundred bucks more!).

Strip it Down and Recycle what you can

First, remove the spa pack and spa side controls, all of the equipment. You may have a better chance of selling the components. New spa packs can run over $1000, so you may be able to get some money for the equipment from a spa guy, or a fellow spa owner. At the very least, it can be useful for spare parts. After all of the electronics are removed, you can strip away the cabinet from the shell. Wood and plastic cabinets can be recycled. Next, cut off all of the PVC fittings, valves and pipes, which can also be recycled. Finally, the spa shell itself can be cut up into smaller pieces, using a reciprocating saw with a 9″ blade.  The acrylic spa shell is not recyclable, but a rotomolded (thermoplastic) spa shell can be recycled. The spa cover can also be recycled, separately into it’s components – vinyl, foam, steel, nylon.

Turn it into a Backyard Pond or Water Feature

hot-tub-garden-pond

After stripping down the spa as described above, the spa shell can be placed into the ground, and covered with a vinyl or rubber pond membrane, and surrounded by rocks and plants. A small pump in the bottom can supply water for a 3-tier fountain, spouting frogs or urinating boy statue – whatever you want. Keep it sanitary with copper sulfate or other natural sanitizer. Or, stock it with Koi fish and use plants and circulation to keep it clear. Be sure to consider safety, and place the water feature behind a fence or within the fenced backyard.

 

Turn it into a Gardenhot-tub-garden

After stripping down the spa and removing plumbing fittings, set it in the ground and fill it with dirt to make a very colorful box garden!

Choose a sunny spot in the yard, close to water and not too far of a walk, and you can grow your own summer and fall garden! An 8-person spa can hold a lot of vegetables!

 

Turn it into a Dog Househot-tub-dog-house

That’s what this energetic dog owner did, and not only did he create a warm dog house by flipping the spa shell upside-down, but he also integrated a water fountain into the top!

Using a reciprocating saw, he cut out the doggie door and placed a utility light on the inside to provide heat during the winter.

 



So, you see there are many options for recycling or re-purposing an old spa or hot tub. The easiest thing to do is to just pick up the phone and call a junk removal service, but remember, the easiest way is also the least green way of dealing with an old, unwanted spa or hot tub.

 

XOXO;

Gina Galvin
Hot Tub Works

 

 

Inflatable Hot Tubs: the Good, the Bad & the Ugly

April 24th, 2015 by

intex-purespa-cutaway

The Inflatable Hot Tub is a relatively new product on the market, and it has a surprising amount of internet activity or “buzz” happening.

They’ve not only caught on in the U.S., but are also quite popular in the U.K. and Australia, according to my little keyword tool.

Why so popular? Also known as portable spas, inflatable hot tubs can set-up nearly anywhere, which is a huge part of it’s appeal, and it’s low cost makes it a perfect entry level spa – to get your feet wet, so to speak.

 

But there is also a dark side, some less appealing traits to inflatable spas. If you’re considering a small investment in one of these – here’s a few Good, Bad and Ugly considerations to make before you buy an inflatable hot tub.

 

GOOD – GOOD – GOOD – GOOD – GOOD

  1. Entirely portable, comes in a box not much bigger than a microwave oven. Comes with a carry bag to pack it off to sporting events, camping or fishing trips or to the beach.cute-british-girl-showing-off-bestway-inflatable-hot-tub
  2. Quick set-up. The spa has an air blower of course, and this is used to quickly inflate the chambers. After inflation, drop a hose in the tub and it fills in under an hour. Plug into any grounded outlet. Put on the cover and turn up the heater.
  3. Sturdy and durable. Vertical ‘I-beam’ construction gives the walls rigidity. Reinforced vinyl material ranges in thickness from 30-50 mil; which is not puncture-proof, but is resistant to scrapes and punctures.
  4. Easy to operate. Self contained pump, filter, heater and blower unit has digital controls to operate equipment and display temperature and status lights. Lock out feature prevents tampering.
  5. Locking spa cover is included to keep the spa clean and warm, and ready to use. Also comes with test strips and floating chlorinator.

PRO TIPS:

  • Make sure it’s completely dry before packing for storage or transport.
  • Don’t overfill an inflatable tub, and don’t sit on the sidewalls.

 

BAD – BAD – BAD – BAD – BAD

  1. Not as deep as  you might imagine. Only 22-24″ maximum water depth for most models.
  2. coleman-spa-tubNot as large as the picture seems. Look at these happy campers in this “4-person” inflatable hot tub – where are their legs? I suppose it’s fine for the young and beautiful, to commingle legs with their young and beautiful friends, but for me – I prefer personal leg space.
  3. MUST be installed on a level surface, at ground level. Not suitable for balconies, rooftops or elevated floors. Full of water and people, inflatable hot tubs can weigh up to 2500 lbs.
  4. Slow to heat. The heater on these units is small, and although the water is only 200 gallons, it can take awhile to heat up. If you keep it covered, and outdoor temperature is 70-90° F, expect 2-3° increase per hour.

PRO TIPS:

  • If you can fill your inflatable tub from a utility sink with hot water, you can save a lot of time in heating.
  • 2 persons is plenty-o-people for the “4-person” inflatable hot tubs.

 

UGLY – UGLY – UGLY – UGLY – UGLY

  1. Funky water. If you do put 4 persons into a 200 gallon hot tub, let’s see – that’s 50 gallons per person, which will overwhelm the undersized spa filters. In other words, the water can get funky and germy fast, even if everyone showers first.
  2. tiny-tubNot safe for children. At only 28″ tall, a toddler may be able to climb into an open hot tub and possibly drown. The latching cover should prevent most entry, but only until about age 5, which is when my daughter learned how to operate the spa cover strap clips.
  3. Not energy efficient. You’ll find out fast that it’s costly to keep this type of spa hot, and nearly impossible in very cold outdoor temps. In fact, in temperatures of below 50°, a 1 kw heater may not get past lukewarm.
  4. Disposable. Unfortunately, many inflatable hot tubs will be neglected, abused and set out to the curb for the trash after a few years of service. They won’t all end up that way, but in general, portable spas have a short lifespan.

PRO TIPS:

  • Add a capful of MPS (non-chlorine shock) before and after each use, and keep the floater filled with bromine tablets. Run the filter daily, and change the water monthly.
  • A heavy plywood sheet, carefully placed over top the spa cover may discourage some toddlers, and may improve heat retention somewhat. At least on top.
  • You can recycle a vinyl inflatable hot tub, call your local trash service for information.

 


intex-purespa-inflatable-hot-tubSo, that’s my rant about inflatable hot tubs – we had to join the conversation, it’s become such a popular topic online, and a story line that we needed to cover here on the hottubworks blog.

If I haven’t scared you away from inflatable hot tubs, and you’re looking for an easy way to join the 5.9 million Americans who own spas or hot tubs, take a look at our portable inflatable hot tubs – we carry the Intex PureSpa and the AiriSpa – 2 great entry level spas!

 

Happy Hot Tubbin’

Daniel Lara
Hot Tub Works

 

 

Spa & Hot Tub Safety – Drain Cover Recalls

January 22nd, 2015 by

RISING-DRAGON-DRAIN-COVERYour spa drain can kill! Numerous entrapment injuries have occurred, where the powerful suction of a spa drain has trapped persons under the water. They are either suctioned onto an unsafe drain cover, or have hair or hands stuck in the pipe, when drain covers go missing.

The number of entrapment fatalities over the years prompted the CPSC and other agencies to demand safer standards for pool and spa drains. Commercial spas are now required to have dual drains set far enough apart to prevent entrapment, and drain covers must be of a safe design, to diffuse the suction and prevent entrapment.

In 2008, manufacturers produced redesigned drain covers which would diffuse the suction around the top and sides of the drain cover, reducing the chance of entrapment. Most of these early spa drain covers were voluntarily recalled, in 2011, as not meeting rate of flow requirements.

Here’s a summary of some of the more common spa drain covers that have been recalled. Check your own spa or hot tub to be sure you don’t have these drain covers, and also check that your drain cover is securely screwed in place. Missing or broken drain covers are more dangerous than an unsafe drain cover.

spa-drain-covers-recalled

recalled-drain-covers

Most portable, aboveground spas are plumbed in such a way that the drain and skimmer are connected to the same pipe. This design is inherently safer, because if you block the drain cover, it will automatically start sucking more from the skimmer. However, this does not reduce the danger of entrapment. Be sure that your spa drain covers are safe, and secured in place at all times.

Never use a spa or hot tub without safe drain covers in place – and if your spa has separate spa and main drain pipes, as many inground spas do, a dual drain system should be installed, far enough apart so that coverage of both at the same time would be unlikely. For added protection, install an SVRS (suction vacuum release system), to automatically shut off the pump when suction or vacuum pressure increases (indicating that something is blocking the drain cover).

Spa drains or suction outlets can be dangerous – check that your system is safe by contacting the manufacturer of your drain cover, and by having your system certified safe, or modified to be safe.

 

- Jack

 

Spa & Hot Tub Error Codes – OH, OHH, OMG

January 6th, 2015 by

balboa-control-OH-errorIn our series on spa and hot tub error codes, we turn our attention today to the HOT messages that your topside control may be trying to give you.

OH, or OHH, or OHS (Overheat) all mean that a temperature sensor has detected unsafe water temperatures of 108° – 118° F, and your spa is in an emergency cool down mode, shutting off the heater, and turning on circulation pumps and blower to help dissipate heat.

Open the spa cover to allow excess heat and steam to escape. The spa obviously should not be used when OH or OHH is flashing on the topside control; as the water could be scalding hot for several more minutes. After the water cools, a high limit switch may be need to be reset on some spa packs; look for a red reset button. Press any topside button to reset a digital spa after the water has cooled to 100° F.

What causes a Spa to Overheat?

Low Water Flow (LF, FLO), is the usual cause of an overheating (OH, OHH) spa or hot tub. When water doesn’t flow fast enough through the heater, it removes less heat, and the temperature of the water increases. Eventually, the temp sensors or high limit switches will detect the increased water temperature, and shut everything down. The causes of low water flow in a spa include:

  • Dirty spa filter cartridge
  • Closed or partially closed valves or jets
  • Pump has an air lock, or has lost prime
  • Low water level in spa, skimmer sucking air
  • Spa drain cover is obstructed or pipe is blocked

What else causes a Spa to Overheat?

If your water flow is perfectly fine, then you could have a problem with the thermostat or high limit switches used on older spa packs, which could fall out of calibration, or become too sensitive. Digital spas have electronic sensor circuits, which are more durable than mechanical switches, however temperature sensors, hi limit sensors, relays and circuit boards also eventually fail on modern spas.

In most cases, for newer spas anyway, the water flow problem can be quickly remedied and the spa will cool, reset and start again on it’s own. Some panels need a prompt from you to restart. For spas without digital controls, you may need to manually reset the high limit switch near the heater housing.

Spa Overheating Troubleshooting Flow Chart

Here’s a Cal Spa troubleshooting flow chart that has some other possible triggers of seeing OH, OHS, OHH or HH blinking on your spa panel. Open the spa cover and let the spa cool down for 10 minutes, then touch the control panel to reset the circuits, or push a red reset button on air systems.

cal-spa-OH-OHH-OHS-HH-error-code-trouble-chart

OH, HH or HOT trouble codes, or a hot tub overheating is not usually a spa heater problem - it is almost always a flow problem, and when it’s not a flow problem, it’s a bad temp sensor, high limit or a stuck relay.

Here’s another Cal Spa troubleshooting flowchart for spa error codes OH, including testing the spa heater element for excessive resistance, done with the spa heater and all systems powered Off, and only by someone qualified to test safely.

cal-spas-OH-spa-heater-code-trouble-flowchart

So, the next time your spa throws you a OH, OHH or some other Overheat error code, you know what to do. Clean or replace the spa filter, open all the jets and turn the pump on high. If you still have problems, check over your temp sensor and hi limit circuits for wire or plug or sensor problems.

 

Happy Hot Tubbin’

Daniel Lara
Hot Tub Works

 

Baby It’s Cold Outside: Winter Hot Tub Tips

December 29th, 2014 by

spa-during-winterFor many spa or hot tub owners, winter is the perfect time to enjoy a hot soak in your outdoor tub. Here in Southern California, the winter temperatures rarely dip below 50°, which hardly qualifies as cold for most of the country.

If you live in colder climates, where 50° would be a winter heat wave, you can safely (and sanely) enjoy your hot tub. In winter, the air is crisper and the stars are brighter, and even if there is snow all around, it’s the perfect time to enjoy your hot tub with family and friends.

Here’s some tips to help enjoy your hot tub, during the holidays, and all through the winter.

 

1. Wear a Hat

For women (or men) with long hair, wearing a hat helps to keep your hair dry, which will help to regulate your body temperature, and prevent catching a chill while using the hot tub. Not only important for keeping your hair dry, we all know that 70% of heat is lost through the top of your head – so break out a ball cap, knitted cap or even your ten gallon Stetson®.

2. Wear Face Moisturizer

Skin cream, or hand lotion will help protect your face from bitter winter winds, which can be drying from low humidity. A layer of moisturizer (or even suncreen) will keep your skin from drying out, and keep the moisture in your skin. It also forms a barrier over your pores, to reduce absorption of spa chemicals that may be released at the surface of the water.

3. Wear Sandals or Slippers

Most outdoor spas are at least 10 steps from the door. And unless you have a red carpet runway from the doorway to the spa, slippers or sandals will help keep your spa clean, and keep your tootsies warm and dry, as you make the mad dash to the hot tub. Surfaces around a spa can also be slippery, so wear something on your feet to keep from becoming a slip and fall statistic.

4. Warm Towels

My favorite spa accessory is a towel warmer, which my wonderful husband gave me (us) as gift on my last birthday. It’s a small box, about the size of a micro-fridge, that holds 2-3 towels, always toasty warm and ready for use. Don’t have a towel warmer? No problem, pop some towels in the dryer beforehand, and store them in a small box just inside the door to the house.

5. Cool Umbrellas

If you have a patio umbrella near the spa, have it ready to pop open in the event of rain or snow. If you wear a hat, you may not need to use an umbrella, but if not, it’s nice to have a large umbrella or small parasol to keep winter weather from raining on your parade. Hold on tight in high winds, and if a rare winter thunderstorm develops, it’s best to head indoors.

6. Hot Drinks

In warmer outside temperatures, nothing is as refreshing as a cool beverage (I like infused waters), to help regulate body temperature. During the winter however, we like to make up a batch of Mexican hot chocolate, and pour it into an insulated coffee carafe, to keep it warm. Coffee mugs are perfect for the liquid chocolate; just be sure not to spill any in the tub!

7. Spa Covers

The colder the weather is outside, the faster your spa will lose heat. Spas without an effective cover will have trouble maintaining the heat during freezing temperatures, and may not recover fast enough after losing ten degrees while the cover is off. If your cover is struggling to keep the heat in, consider that it may be time to buy a new spa cover, and perhaps also investing in a floating spa blanket.

Don’t let the cold weather temperatures drive you indoors! Enjoy your spa or hot tub all year round, just remember to limit your soaks to 20 minutes, and enjoy your soak without alcohol or drugs, which can be dangerous.

 

Carolyn Mosby
Hot Tub Works

 

Solar Hot Tub Heaters

December 22nd, 2014 by

spa-solar-heatersSolar Hot Tubs are all the rage now for off the grid homes and campsites, or for anyone who wants to operate a spa or hot tub in an eco-friendly way.

Can a solar pool heater be used to heat a spa? You betcha! And it’s a simple Saturday project. Spa solar heaters can heat up a spa to over 100° with just 6 hours of sunshine – ready to use when you come home from work!

I have a friend with an inground pool and spa, and a solar pool heater – his spa is 104° in under 30 minutes – during sunny daylight hours, of course. And,…there’s not much heat in winter, but you can get 3 seasons with a hot tub solar heater!

Your hot tub cover will retain the heat from a solar heater until well into the evening, and if needed, you can use an alternate spa heater or hot tub heater for night hot tubbin’.

 

How to install a Solar Hot Tub Heater

1. Location of Solar Panels: The first thing to think of is where and how the solar panels are going to be mounted. If you have full sun, all day long, you could just lay them on the ground, but for most folks, mounting them on a roof or rack, at a 30-45° angle works best. A rack can be built of angle iron or lumber, topped with plywood or plastic and painted black. You can also hang them on a fence. Choose a spot that will get at least 6 hours of daily sun; a southern facing direction is best.

2. Buy a Solar Pool Panel: A single 4′ x 20′ solar panel, a total of 80 square feet, is a good size for most spas. There are also 4′ x 10′ panels, but they are priced higher per square foot of panel. 80 sq. ft. of solar panel will heat spas under 500 gallons to over 100° during the day, and be ready to go for the evening. If you want to heat the hot tub in under an hour like my friend with the pool/spa, you’ll need 4-5 of the 20′ solar panels.

solar-heater-all-rolled-up3. Installation of Hot Tub Solar Panels: Solar pool panels are polypropylene mats of small black tubes with a continuous backing, so they absorb more heat than black hose DIY solar spa heaters. Inside the box will be two 2′x20′ solar panels, end caps, pipe adapters, mounting kit and a 3-way diverter valve. Secure the panels to the location securely so they are protected from high winds, animals and tree branches. Attach the end caps, and run PVC pipe from the panels to the plumbing line of the spa.

4. Plumbing a Spa Solar Heater: This part is custom for every spa or hot tub, but essentially you connect the plumbing from solar panels to the spa. A 3-way diverter valve will allow for adjusting the flow rate, and for shutting off the solar panels completely. Other items needed for plumbing beside the pipe include some directional fittings (90′s or 45′s) and couplings to connect lengths of pipe. A check valve is needed just before the heated water comes back into the spa plumbing, to prevent water cycling.

Other Thoughts about Solar Hot Tub Heaters

  • A solar controller can be used with an automatic valve turner and temperature sensors to have thermostat control for the solar spa heater, but more importantly, to shut off the unit when conditions are not right for solar, at night or when it’s raining, for instance. This is an extra $325, but is recommended for optimum heating, neither under or overheating the spa.
  • Speaking of overheating, it is possible to overheat the water with a solar spa heater. If you have an electric spa heater, the hi-limit may trip and shut off the spa pump, but at that point the water may already be dangerously hot. Use caution not to heat the water over 104°.
  • As mentioned before, hot tub solar heaters don’t work at night, or when it’s raining or heavily overcast. They drop way off in effectiveness during the winter months, unless you are in the very deep southern U.S..
  • A booster pump is not usually needed for installation on a roof, unless the roof is very tall. If a booster pump is needed these small spa circulation pumps are perfect for the job.
  • For best results, use an insulated spa cover to retain the heat and a solar controller to optimize when the solar panels are used, and to maintain safe water temperatures.

 

sunheater-solar-pool-heater

Hot tub solar heaters work very well in all parts of the U.S. – anywhere that has at least 6 hours of unobstructed sun. For many hot tubs, solar heat is used as a supplemental heater to keep the spa hot during the day, and at night or during rainy periods, the other spa heater takes over.

I wish I could say that we sold solar spa heaters at Hot Tub Works, but we don’t. However, here are some links for solar pool heaters and controllers at Specialty Pool Products, who had the best price on solar pool panels that I could find online.

 

Happy HOT Tubbin’

Daniel Lara
Hot Tub Works

 

Hot Tub Pioneers – Baja Spas

December 18th, 2014 by

baja-spas-early-logoA booth at the 1971 NSPI show and the opening of the Dallas-Forth Worth Airport led to the creation of the world’s first acrylic spa.

Baja Spas, based in Tucson, Arizona, founded by Bernie Burba and Ed Price, began as pool builders in Naperville, Illinois, in 1960. Ed Price founded West Suburban Pools, a high-end concrete swimming pool builder, and Burba joined him in 1962.

When the pool builders finally had money in the bank, they expanded into other areas. In 1965 they formed Aqua-Gon, one of the nation’s first pool product distributors, then they opened several pool stores in the area.

In 1971, Baja began producing fiberglass and acrylic diving board stands. They were the first to use these two materials together in the pool business, and patented the process of vacuum forming fiberglass and acrylic. Burba and Price chose the name Baja because it was short and didn’t pigeon hole them into one product line. Also, it was one of their favorite areas to visit in Mexico.

Sales of diving boards jumped, and by 1972, Burba and Price sold their business ventures in Illinois. Burba moved to Tucson to dive into the diving board business. The same year they were joined by Randy Price, currently the President of Baja Spas.

The 1971 NSPI Show

Life changed forever after the 1971 NSPI annual show. Baja Products, displaying its diving boards, found itself next to a booth held by Riviera Spas. Few people stopped by to look at the new diving board design, but the Riviera Spa booth was packed. The two realized that spas represented a timely business venture.

They researched spas and discovered weaknesses in current design and manufacturing of spas and hot tubs. At the time, spas were made of fiberglass covered by gelcoat, similar to boats and pool slides. However, gelcoated fiberglass couldn’t stand the intense heat of spa water, the chemicals used for sanitation and water balance, or bright sunlight. “The gelcoat caused a lot of problems,” Randy Price says. Blistering and cracking were the main problems, in addition to delamination of the two materials, and fading from UV rays.

An Acrylic Spa is Born

Baja however, was already manufacturing an acrylic-fiberglass stand for its aluminum diving boards. “We believed in our acrylic. So we decided to manufacture a spa made of acrylic. Our competitors said it wouldn’t work,” Ed Price says.

baja-spas-logo

The company could not find a sheet of acrylic big enough for a spa. “Manufacturers at the time just weren’t making sheets that size,” sighs Burba. “Finally, we found the only one in the world” that could help them. It was Swedcast Acrylics (now Aristech) in California.  Swedcast had large sheets of acrylic on hand because it was making sheets for the monorail cars at the new Dallas-Fort Worth Airport. Swedcast sold Baja some of these same acrylic sheets, large enough (9′ square), to produce a vacuum formed spa shell.

Baja manufactured it first spas with three employees, and tested them by setting up a few spas in the intense Arizona sun. They also shipped their new acrylic spas to Illinois to test it out in a winter climate. “Those spas today still look like new,” Burba says proudly.

Selling Acrylic Spas

One of their first customers was Phil Horvath, president of Aqua-Gon, the distributor that Burba and Price had founded. Horvath says when he saw Baja’s first spa, it took his breath away. “It was gorgeous” he says. But it took some convincing to sell people on the idea of an acrylic spa.

Horvath held seminars for potential customers to sample the new acrylic spa. “We told them the acrylic was indestructible. We wanted to show them how strong the material was, so we hit it with a 2 x 4. It worked!” Horvath recalls.

Expansion in the 80′s

In 1981, Randy Price opened a new production plant in North Carolina for the company. “We can reach 70 percent of the U.S. population in a few days by truck from that location,” says Price. In 2005 they stopped manufacturing in Tucson, AZ but kept their corporate office and service department. Even now, they continue to ship from both locations keeping transit time for their hot tubs to a minimum. Sales are worldwide.baja-luv-tub

Baja is perhaps best known for a specialty item, a heart shaped spa called the Luv Tub. The company decided to develop this tub in 1974 after Ed Price was looking through a brochure for the Mt. Airy Lodge, a honeymoon resort in the Poconos. One of the suites had a heart shaped red bathtub made of concrete and tile. “Ed Price looked at the photo and said, ‘We can make that in acrylic,’” recalls Bernie. Soon after, the Luv Tub was in production.

After some of their spas were in place for 10 years now, some of the same trouble of blistering and delamination that had plagued fiberglass spas, now began to appear in the acrylic spa shells. Working with the boating industry, a solution was soon found by switching from polyester resins to ester resins. No more gas blisters!

Award Winners

Randy Price and Bernie Burba have received two prestigious awards in the spa industry. In 1992, Randy was honored with the John Silver Award recognizing his technical contribution to the industry in the development of vacuum formed spas. In 1987, Bernie was given the Eagle Award by the Spa and Tub Council of NSPI (now APSP) for his contribution and leadership in the industry.

Today and Tomorrow

Bernie Burba and Ed Price are now retired, but Baja Spas continues operations and a legacy of innovation. Credited with the first acrylic spas in production, they were ahead of their time (by about 10 years), and way ahead of competitors like Cal Spas and other copycat manufacturers. The cost of vacuum forming equipment, and a lack of knowledge, gave many trouble migrating to acrylic production.

Baja Spas continues to lead the field, not only with quality products, but with solid, feel good marketing. At Hot Tub Works, we wish them well in their bright future!

baja-spas-logos

 

XOXO;

Gina Galvin
Hot Tub Works

 

Hot Tub Pioneers – California Cooperage

December 2nd, 2014 by

california-cooperage-adIn the late 50′s, California was (and still is) an area of the country where a spirit of fun inventiveness took root. The first hot tubs were fashioned from wine barrels and olive vats – cut in half. During the 60′s sales grew, but supplies of spare barrels and vats dwindled. By the time the 70′s rolled around, California Cooperage had set up operations in SLO – San Luis Obispo, a cool central coast college town, near Morro Bay.

The first customers were friends, then friends of friends, and after a year, a mail order catalog was produced, and the company began shipping pre-fab hot tub kits of cedar and redwood, according to Beth Hamil, VP of Del Ozone, but on staff as lead engineer in the early years.

“The original fellow at California Cooperage was Cliff Branch, a marketing genius, in my opinion” says Beth. Cliff is given some credit to the sexy image of the California Hot Tub, and many of the ads had racy themes.cal-coop-ad-1979

According to Branch, “it all started when Playboy magazine did a centerfold of a “California” girl in a Hot Tub. Several other magazines and newspapers, more mainstream than Playboy, soon followed with their own articles and pictorials of the “Hot Tub lifestyle” taking place in California. And then an episode of the television show “Charlie’s Angels” featured Jaclyn Smith and Farrah Fawcett in a steamy hot tub, seemed to push it over the top.

“California Cooperage helped to nationally promote hot tubs. Cliff Branch was a wizard of getting onto national TV talk shows. He became an industry spokesperson. I remember him filming programs on “Good Morning America,” sitting in the hot tub with the hosts.”, from Bill Jaworski in the hot tub business at the time.

Evocative and provocative as it was at the time, the use of subtle sexuality was embraced by the public. As Branch told the San Bernadino Courier in 1978, “…there’s a new awareness among the middle class… Back-to nature, getting in touch with your feelings, nudity and sex.”

But the largest publicity stunt ever was probably the pool and spa show, held at Cow Palace, near San Francisco. Although no one admitted to hiring three young women to strip naked and climb into the California Cooperage hot tubs, many had a good idea who was behind it. It made regional and national news, with the commotion nearly shutting down the convention.

early-acrylic-hot-tub-by-california-cooperageCliff Branch partnered with Jim Smith and John King, two local investors, and built a 60,000 square foot sales and manufacturing building. The seventies were good for California Cooperage, and when the eighties were ushered in, California Cooperage began also making acrylic tubs, like the type being made by Jim and Jon Watkins in Vista, Ca – but still using a classic wood frame, barrel style.

In 1985 Coleman Spas bought the company for 10 million, and moved the operations to Chandler, Arizona. They soon stopped making the wood tubs altogether, due to sagging sales and cost and availability of expensive redwood materials. Maax purchased the company some years later, in 1998.

CLiff-branch-in-a-hot-tubCalifornia Cooperage hot tubs can still be purchased today, although they have come a long way from the original barrel tanks used for water storage or wine aging.  Digital controls and a spa pack have replaced wood stoves and a single spa jet. Molded acrylic seats have replaced redwood benches.

They can call it progress, but there’s nothing like a real wooden hot tub. And California Cooperage will ever be known as one of the first companies not only to mass produce a hot tub kit, but export a lifestyle to all parts of the country.

I don’t know what has become of Cliff Branch, I knew him years ago and thought him to be incredibly engaging – the right guy at the right time for a start-up industry like spas and hot tubs. Wherever you are, Cliff – I wish you well, and if you have anything to add to the article – send me an email!

 

- Jack

 

Hot Tub Pioneers – Len Gordon

November 17th, 2014 by

Our story begins here in southern California, in the late 60′s. Pool builders like Len Gordon (1925-1997) were adding attached spas to the gunite pools they were building.

spa-shell-patent-application-US-4142337-A--Interested in how he could simplify spa construction, and avoid the structural problems of adding a separate body of water – he and fellow builder Jack Stangle dreamed up drop-in fiberglass spa shells, similar to the hydrotherapy tanks that Jacuzzi was making.

Len Gordon saw potential in the inground spa market, and set up a manufacturing facility in a rented gas station; soon making several spa shells per day.

Len Gordon’s Fiberglass Spa Shells

The innovation and mass production of a drop-in fiberglass spa shell is often credited to Len Gordon Co., and soon after many other small manufacturers joined in, revolutionizing (or creating) the market for inground hot tubs. As Len told Spa and Sauna magazine in 1986, “The fiberglass shell was a contractor’s dream, all you had to do was dig a hole in the ground and you were just about finished. It cut the costs dramatically over gunite.”

Suddenly, an inground spa was within reach of nearly everyone, being that it was now much cheaper to buy and much simpler to install. Not too many years later, innovative manufacturers like Jacuzzi and Watkins began to create complete aboveground spas, which didn’t require digging a hole in the ground, or hiring lots of contractors.

Len Gordon’s Air Switches

I’m not old enough to remember, but in days gone by, the spa equipment was separate from the hot tub, and you had to climb out of the warm water to activate functions like jets, lights, heater, blower. There was no safe way to control this with electrical switches that were activated from inside the spa.

len-gordon-spa-controlUntil one day in 1974, while driving his truck to a job site; Len Gordon came up with the idea of an air switch, which could be operated from inside the tub. From a Len Gordon patent application:

“These air switches incorporate bellows which are compressed when the switch button is depressed thereby forcing air through a pneumatic tube to activate an electrical switch”

Len Gordon’s Legacy

Len Gordon company received other patents, one for an insulated high voltage switch which could be safely used from inside the spa, and in 1983 a top side control panel that integrated many air controls onto a single panel. The Len Gordon company discontinued spa manufacturing by 1980 and focused on their core products of spa switches and controls. They continued to operate for over 25 years, until Len’s passing in 1997.

len-gordon-ss2After Len’s death, the business carried on, buying a manufacturer of spa packs and controls, Brett Aqualine, in 1998. The Len Gordon company was sold by Len’s descendants in 2001 to Allied Innovations, where the business has carried on to this day.

One of the great “Hot Tub Pioneers”, Len Gordon was also a great guy to know or do business with – and is remembered fondly here in southern California, by many of the founders and friends of Hot Tub Works.

 

XOXO;

Gina Galvin
Hot Tub Works

 

How To Install a Portable Spa Hot Tub

November 6th, 2014 by

deep-clean-your-spa-smSo, you saw our great prices on new spas, and unless this new spa is a replacement spa, you’re wondering what’s involved in spa or hot tub installation.

Whether you install one of our Plug & Play 120V spas, or a full featured premium spa running on 4-wire 240V, requiring an electrician, you’ll need to plan a few things in advance of receiving your new spa.

Spa Fencing

There are two types of fencing needed, safety fencing, to keep people and animals out, and privy fencing to keep out prying eyes.

For safety fencing – in most localities, a spa is under the same or similar fencing rules as apply to swimming pools, in the interest of public safety. Generally, a spa inside of a fenced-in backyard is acceptable. pergola-privy-fenceThere may not be an inspection of the fence in some cases, but still required nonetheless.

Privy fencing provides privacy, also a consideration when installing a hot tub, and also blocks the wind, which can cool the spa, and give you a chill while soaking. Frame your spa with large plants, and a 2 sided lattice fencing, or a pergola or cabana installed around the tub. Outdoor roll-up shades are also popular.

 

Tub Location

A convenient location is best, near the door. The area should be clean and dry (never muddy), and close to power and water. Shield the spa from as much sun, wind and rain as you can, and take care that storm waters will always drain away from the spa.

ezpads-for-spasThe surface supporting the spa must be solid, when full with water, a 6 person hot tub can weigh close to two tons! No wooden decks and certainly no balconies. A level, 4 inch slab of steel mesh reinforced concrete, on top of 4″ of gravel is sufficient in many cases.

Our hot tubs can be sunk into a deck when proper load bearing support is built to hold 150 lbs per square foot. Finally, consider view – both the view of the spa from the house and the view that you’ll have while in the spa.

 

Moving a Spa

spa-kartWhen the tub is delivered to your home, it won’t go any further than the driveway. From that point on, you have to figure out the shortest and safest route to the spa placement location. Professional spa movers use a Spa Kart to transport spas across lawns, over steps or into tight locations within the home. Check for local spa movers or rental shops for a solution, some even rent Spa Karts. Over smooth concrete it’s easy, but when the surface gets rough and uneven, you’ll need something with big tires, to support a spa of 400-600 lbs, along with straps and several hands to help.

 

Hot Tub Wiring

GFCI-spa-plug120V Spas: Most of our rotomold hot tubs are plug and play; 120V spas that plug into a standard, dedicated outlet. Dedicated means that nothing else is operating on that circuit. Plug the GFCI cord into a weatherproof 120V outlet (not GFCI), on a 15 or 20 amp breaker. The outlet should be between 5 and 10 feet from the spa, and no extension cords. 120V spas use less volts because they have smaller pumps and heaters, and few other features.

240v-spa-wiring240V Spas: Larger spas with 4-5 hp pumps and high wattage heaters require a 6 AWG, 4-wire 240V service to the spa, on a dedicated 40-60 amp breaker, with a cut-off switch or sub-panel, and other requirements, as per local electrical codes. They do not plug in like a washer or dryer, but use 4 wires inside of PVC conduit, with the last few feet of flexible conduit carrying the wires directly in through the cabinet and connecting to the spa pack.

Wiring a spa with 240V is not a recommended DIY project. A permit and an inspection is required in most areas, so it’s best to contact a local electrician who is familiar with the process of wiring spas and hot tubs. In most cases, hard-wiring a spa to the home main breaker, and installing a power cut-off near the spa is a $500-$900 job, depending on the length of the run from the breaker panel to the spa, and the route it must travel.

 

Filling a Spa

When the wiring and inspections are done, you can fill the spa, insert the spa filter cartridge.

loosen-the-pump-union-to-bleed-airWhen you first fill an empty spa, and sometimes when you drain and refill the spa later, and air lock will occur in the pump, and prevent the pump from catching prime. Instead of running the pump without water, which can damage the seals, loosen the union nut in front of, or on top of the spa pump just enough to let the air escape, and allow the water to fill the pump. When water begins dripping around the union, tightly up all unions tightly. Open up all gate valves in the system, and you are ready to begin filtering, heating and chemically treating your new spa!

 

Enjoying your New Spa

enjoy-your-spaThat’s the best part, after all the working of selecting, ordering, receiving, moving, wiring, inspecting, filling…now you finally get to enjoy the fruits of all your hard work and money.

Some accessories to help you enjoy your spa more include a spa cover lifter to help protect your spa top, and a supply of spa chemicals and test strips. Spa steps, handrails, and spa cleaning tools are on our spa accessories page – if you’ll pardon the shameless plugs.

Turn up the heat, and enjoy your New Spa from Hot Tub Works!

 

Happy Hot Tubbin’

Daniel Lara
Hot Tub Works