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

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

 

Winterize a Hot Tub in 5 Steps

November 3rd, 2014 by

spa-winterizationWinterizing a spa is simple enough for the average spa owner to perform, with simple tools and equipment. Winterizing a wood hot tub? It is not recommended to drain a wood hot tub for an extended period, or else the wood will dry out and shrink.

To winterize a wood hot tub, you can follow the steps below, but then plug the lines and fill the hot tub back up with water.

To keep the water from freezing solid across a wood tub, use an air pillow like those used for aboveground pool winterization, or fill several gallon sized plastic jugs, filled 1/3 full of pea gravel or pool antifreeze. Float these in the hot tub to absorb ice expansion. Add spa algaecide or sanitizer to control algae growth and cover tightly.

To winterize a portable spa, one with an acrylic or fiberglass shell, follow these instructions:

1aDrain The Spa

You probably know this drill already, but in this case you need to get all of the water out of the spa – every drop. Open up the drain spigot and roll out the hose, or use a submersible pump (which is hours and hours faster). Shut off the power to the spa before draining and plan your drain – first by making sure the sanitizer level is low, and the pH is balanced. It’s best to run the hose to an open yard, and move the hose often, to increase disbursement. In most cases, spa water is safe to use to water planter beds, trees or lawns, as long as your sanitizer level is under 1 ppm, and you move the hose around often.

2a

Turn on the Blower

Once the water is drained out, you can turn on power to the hot tub, but keep the pumps and heater off. Activate the blower only, and unless you want a fine mist shower, put the spa cover over the tub first. After running the blower for a minute or less, allow the water to drain. If you have air jets in the seats or the floor, turn on the blower again and mop up the mist spraying out with a big towel. Wring out the towel and continue to wipe up any spray that continues to spit out from the small air holes.

3aBlow out the Pipes

This is the part that makes people nervous, but it’s really quite easy. You’ll need a large wet/dry vac, reversing the hose so that it blows air through the hose. Remove the skimmer basket and blow air through the skimmer, thru the filter, thru the pump, heater and back out through the spa jets. Be sure that all of the manual air intakes are open, and that all banks of jets are open. When all of the water has blown out, move the wet/dry vac inside of the spa, and blow air through the jets. You can also reverse the hose, and use suction to suck the water out. Be sure that all lines are open and all water has been removed.

4a

Winterize the Spa Equipment

Remove the spa filter and give it a good deep cleaning, or dispose of it if it has been in service for more than 12 cleanings or 24 months. Open up the union nuts on the pump and heater, to check for any remaining water, and allow it to drain out. When tightening back up, make sure the union o-ring has not slipped out. Look over the system closely, and open any drain plugs that you see on the pipes or equipment, especially those on lower pipes. Keep the spa drain open, in case any water gets in during winter, and be sure to shut off all power to the spa, at the main circuit breaker.

5a

Cover the Hot Tub

If your spa cover is not in the best of shape, invest in a cover cap, or tightly secure a tarpaulin over the spa, using bungee cords to keep it in place during high winds. If your spa cover is in good shape, it still would be a good idea to cover it, to protect the cover and to keep any rain or snow out of the spa. Another good thing to do during a spa closing is to clean and condition your spa cover, using one of our many spa cover care products.

 

~ That’s it! Just 5 steps to close a spa for winter, and a few more additional steps if you have a wooden hot tub. Drop me a line if you have any questions about winterizing your spa or hot tub.

 

Happy Hot Tubbin’

Daniel Lara
Hot Tub Works

 

Hot Tub Pioneers – Jacuzzi Brothers

October 27th, 2014 by

Joseph-JacuzziMy wife, of all people, just said “I didn’t know that Jacuzzi was a family name.”  The story of the Jacuzzi brothers, and the origins of the business efforts that eventually became a household name, is simply fascinating, I told her.

Take a look, this is Joseph Jacuzzi, one of the seven Jacuzzi brothers who worked together to create innovations that the world could not live without. “Mmm-hmm” she says as her head tilts to her shoulder.

In his hand, he holds a closed vane impeller, used on their vertical pump design, the one that used the injection pump in the well and a multistage centrifugal pump above ground – and which revolutionized the agricultural well water pump and later spawned the origin of the Jacuzzi whirlpool bath? “Yeah.”

The Jacuzzi Impeller Design created more flow with less resistance, capable of much more lift with less work, than other impeller designs. During the last century, Jacuzzi Bros., inc. patented over 300 designs for impellers, propellers and turbines, for pumps, planes and ships.

jacuzzi-propeller-adThey started with propellers, for airplanes, and patented a very successful impeller, and later designed and built the first high wing monoplane with an enclosed cabin, and sold it to the US Postal Service and to commercial airline operators. They were propeller and aviation engineers before they were ever in the water business.

But, an unfortunate crash of one of their airplanes in 1921, which killed Giocondo Jacuzzi, led to the Jacuzzi brothers directing their knowledge of propellers and air dynamics into the development of impellers and flow dynamics.

jacuzzi-j300-pumpCalifornia farmers during the depression were needing a reliable way to bring up deep water at low pressure, to water crops. The Jacuzzi brothers designed a unique vertical pump design, which is still in use today by many farmers, across the world. It protects the motor from water, while reducing seal problems with the shaft. A multi stage volute, using multiple stack impellers, creates lift and suction from one centrifugal stage to the next.

jacuzzi-j300A scaled down, portable and submersible version of their popular agricultural pump was created for home use, and was found to serve a multitude of industrial and commercial water movement needs, especially for rural Americans. The J-300 pump was introduced in the fifties and became wildly popular for personal hydrotherapy (it’s original purpose) by just dropping it into a hot bath. Many more inventions followed, for marine, agriculture and consumer use.

It’s all about the Impeller

The impeller, which they also termed a “spider” was unique in design and function. From the original patent, US 2424285 A, filed in 1929 “These spiders are of star-shaped contour, having a plurality of ribs across the upper surface, extending from the points of the star toward the center. The ribs are curved to define passages offering minimum resistance to flow of liquid.”jacuzzi-impeller

Jacuzzi was not the first to use a curved vane, but they continued to refine the art with their dozens of patents filed on improvements in impeller efficiency, creating more output with less energy, and with less wear and tear, pump leaks, both common problems of the day.

A Spa is Born

Jacuzzi-spaAs the Jacuzzi company entered it’s third generation of family ownership, Roy Jacuzzi, fresh out of college, champions a new line of products – personal whirlpools, in 1968. In the seventies, this expanded to larger models called spas, with molded seats, pumps, filters and heaters. The determined Roy Jacuzzi traveled thousands of miles at trade shows and county fairs, building enthusiasm for this new lifestyle product, which caught on quite well I’d say. Through the eighties and nineties Jacuzzi Whirlpool sales represented 80% of company wide sales, completely overshadowing the swimming pool and agricultural line of products.

The Jacuzzi Brand

jacuzzi-logoSo yes, Jacuzzi is a family name, (Hi, Honey) – a brand name and not just a generic term for a hot tub. They are credited with the creation of what we call hot tubs and spas, and although the Jacuzzi family has long ago sold off the family business, the company continues to inspire with creative whirlpool and bath design and quality construction.

 

- Jack

 

How to Find a Good Hot Tub Repair Service

October 13th, 2014 by

spa-repair-forum-guy

 

At Hot Tub Works, we like to think of ourselves as a friend to the DIY spa or hot tub owner – which is why we write so many posts about troubleshooting spa equipment, identifying spa parts, and making DIY spa repairs.

However, there comes a time when an experienced spa tech can be invaluable. Locating electrical faults precisely and quickly, isolating a bad component is one strength of a  good spa tech. Regular maintenance services, to clean and maintain spas and hot tubs can also fill part of most spa technician’s day.

Leaking spas can trigger a spa service call. Spa heater problems are about half of all spa repair calls for a typical spa technician. People want a hot spa, what can you do? In many cases, there are no failed components, just a dirty filter, closed valve, tripped breaker – something easy to fix.

Hiring a spa service repair technician isn’t cheap – hourly rates range from $95-$150 per hour, depending on region. The rate is proportional to the number of spas and hot tubs in your areas. In regions where spas and hot tubs are plentiful, and there is local competition, repair rates will be cheaper.

To keep spa repair costs as low as possible, check these things below, before you call…

BEFORE YOU CALL FOR SERVICE:

  • Is the GFCI test button on the electrical outlet tripped?
  • Dirty filter, clogged lines, or closed valves?
  • Water level is high enough?
  • Spa is clean and sanitized?
  • Spa cover is being used?

 

How to Find a Local Hot Tub Repair Company

1. GOOGLE

Use a search query like “Spa and Hot Tub Repair” or even more specific “Hot tub heater repair“. You can add the negative operator -pool after your search string, to omit results that are primarily swimming pool related. You can also add your city or region to the search, i.e., “Hot tub repair in Syracuse“.

2. YELLOW PAGES

Although you can also refer to your local printed Yellow directory book, under the heading of Pool & Spa to find local spa repair companies, I’m speaking of using yellowpages.com. It has a clean layout and lots of good results in their Spas Hot Tubs Repair Services category, along with a map, and reviews.

3. APSP MEMBERS

APSP, the Association of Pool and Spa Professionals, is the main trade association for pool and spa technicians. It is not guaranteed that a member business will be any better or faster than a non-member – but it’s a good place to find a certified professional. Enter your zipcode and select a radius to see APSP members near you.

4. BBB

The Better Business Bureau has information on just about every business in the country, if they’ve been around long enough. If a consumer places a complaint against a company with the BBB, they contact the company and try to help create a mutually agreeable solution. You can search the BBB database by keyword, to find local spa techs, and see if there have been any complaints made.

5. SPA MANUFACTURER

Your spa manufacturer (Hot Spring, Jacuzzi, Sundance…) likely maintains a list of their spa dealers, with a locator utility on the main website. Just search online with a phrase like “Jacuzzi hot tubs dealer locator” – or find the manufacturers website, and if they have a dealer search function, you should be able to find it easily in the top level navigation of the home page.

 

When You Have Many Choices:

too-many-choices---pmmediaDo some research on the best spa service companies in your area – if you have many choices of local spa repair companies, drill down to individual searches on them, to find out more information like:

  1. How long have they been in business?
  2. Are they spa and hot tub specific, or is it a sideline business?
  3. Are there any reviews posted online about the company?
  4. Any local or community news about the company?
  5. Do they have a local brick and mortar office, or store?

 

When you Have Few Choices:

1. Pool Service Company – many pool service companies are also spa service companies, but they may not employ a full time spa tech. If they advertise for spa and hot tub repair, then you can call or email to ask if they will do a service call to your spa or hot tub, for your particular problem.

2. Jetted Tub – Whirlpool – large local companies that refurbish bathrooms, often have a person knowledgeable in jetted tubs or whirlpools, which are quite similar to a portable spas or hot tubs. Even if they have not worked with your particular model spa before, a good bath water tech could figure out your issue.

3. Home Appliance Repair – a spa or hot tub is really just another home appliance, and those familiar with working on dishwashers or clothes washers or other small home appliances may be able to also work on spas and hot tubs. It can become complicated quick, however on many spas.repairman

 

And one more thing – don’t be afraid to give the little guy a call – the new guy, the young guy starting a small business. Sometimes they try harder than the large established firms.

 

- Jack

 

 

What’s the Best Hot Tub Temperature?

August 25th, 2014 by

hot-spaWhen I was younger, the target temperature for hot tubs was 105°, but that’s changed – now the CPSC recommends temperatures no higher than 104°. They also caution that one should always check the thermometer before entering a spa, and be aware that thermometers can be incorrect!

So, 104° for the regular hot tub soak – but that comes with a disclaimer. High temperatures over 100° are NOT recommended for pregnant women, hypertensive persons (with high blood pressure), or those with heart disease.

High temperatures can also irritate certain skin conditions, and temperatures of over 100° are not recommended for children, who overheat more easily than adults.

But what about all those other spa activities, besides a spine-tingling hot soak? There are other recommended temperatures, depending on the use of the spa, hot tub or whirlpool.

 

Exercise

Exercises such as Yoga, or various types of core workouts or stretching can be exhausting in a hot spa. If you use your spa for exercise, especially active exercise, you’ll find a temperature below 90° to be more comfortable. It’s also safer, to prevent overheating and hyperthermia.

Therapy

For conditions such as arthritis, fibromyalgia and other chronic pain diseases, warmer water increases circulation to the joints and allows for a more comfortable therapeutic exercises. Also helpful for rehabilitative movements or therapies. For most warm water therapy, a temperature below the body temperature 98.6° is desirable, something between 92-94°.

Special Conditions

Children, obese persons and those with MS can overheat easily, and should not exceed 100° in a spa or hot tub. In addition, it’s important to limit your spa session time to 15-20 minutes, and take in non-alcoholic beverages to cool the body.

Pregnant women should take care not to exceed 92 degrees in the spa or hot tub, and take in plenty of water or juice before and after hot tubbing, according to the Aquatic Therapy & Rehab Institute.

Those recovering from accidents or stroke can use a warm spa to slowly regain movements, by practicing simple flexion and extension exercises. Every patient may prefer a different temperature, but most will fall in between 88-92 degrees F.

Air Temperature

Also a factor in how hot or warm the water feels, is the air temperature outside. An air temperature of 75° may feel nice walking around outside, but can feel chilly as one sits in water that is below body temperature. 88° may be perfect when the air temperature is above 80°, but feel too cold when air temps are just above 60°.

~ So, whatever temperature you like, whichever feels most comfortable, that’s usually the ideal temperature. Just remember that the hotter the water is, the shorter the soak should be. Don’t want you overheating!

 

Carolyn Mosby
Hot Tub Works

 

Hot Tubs & Spas: Cutting Energy Costs

August 21st, 2014 by

green-spa-2There are an estimated 3.5 million spas and hot tubs in the United States, about half a million in California alone! Each spa can use around 2500 kWh of energy per year – that’s almost 9 Billion Kilowatt hours!

This has caused various state and federal energy agencies to look closely at the way spas and hot tubs are designed, and how this affects their energy consumption. Several studies have been done in the last ten years, and they give us a good idea of where manufacturers and citizens can save energy around a spa or hot tub.

From a study commissioned by PG&E, for instance, we know that there are measures that can improve spa efficiency by up to 40% for spas of average to low efficiency. States with scarce power supplies (like California), are very interested in reducing demand on the grid.

The study aforementioned was responsible, in 2006 for the insertion of spas and hot tub standards being inserted into Title 20, California’s energy saving initiative. This set efficiency standards for new spas and hot tubs, similar to the cafe standards, which mandate minimum mpg for automobile manufacturers.

The standards have been revised and tweaked, and as a result of more research we now know more about how spas and hot tubs use energy. Here’s what we’ve learned:

 

Top 5 ways to Reduce Hot Tub Energy Costs

1a LIGHTS: Starting the list are our spa light or lights. Using LED lights, with a consumption around 3 watts, beats out halogen or other bulbs as the way to go. Most new spas are entirely LED, with some exception. Older spas can retrofit to use LED bulbs, in some cases without changing the light housing, or replace with a spa light kit. If your spa light does not have an auto shut off, install an indicator light in the circuit that you can see from the house, to keep off when not being used.

Possible Energy Savings: 5-10%

 

2aCONTROLS: Smarter control systems are now possible, with pumps that have a dozen programmable speeds, and timer clocks that allow you to optimize energy usage with multiple run times, programmed for your usage patterns, and taking advantage of cheaper off peak energy. Most spas are programmable, even if they have a mechanical time clock – but many people fail to optimize it.

It takes a lot of energy to start the pump motor and heater, extra amps aid in the starting-up, so although many daily on-off cycles are good, too many can be too much. For your spa, Experiment by reducing the hours, to find a sweet spot where the water quality or temperature won’t suffer, and you can cut energy costs. You don’t need to run it 24 hours a day!

Run the pump(s) less during the day, to avoid peak usage hours. My spa pump mostly runs on low speed, but it takes a long break in the morning and then another mid-afternoon siesta.

If you have two pumps, you have one smaller circulation pump, and a larger jet pump. Experimenting with run times on these can also result in savings.

Possible Energy Savings:  10-20%

 

3aPUMP: Running your pumps less helps yes, but for those spas out there with the 20 year old pumps, or the single speed pumps, or the pumps that suddenly disabled their low speed, or the failed circulation pump that was never replaced. I’m talking to you!

Replacing with the most current spa pumps will give you a boost in economy with a more energy efficient motors used nowadays. Side discharge pumps also have a boost in efficiency over center discharge.

Possible Energy Savings: 10-20%

 

4aCOVER: Your spa cover can either be saving you money, or costing you money. If you can see steam creeping out of the edges of it, or if your cover has taken on water, it’s not holding the heat in like it should.

The heat retention in a spa cover has to do with 3 things, the density of the foam, the thickness of the foam and the foam core wrap or seal. Although we offer a 1.5lb spa cover, a 2.0 foam density is best for holding heat in, with a taper of 3 to 5 inches at least. And when you order your next replacement spa cover, go for the options of the double wrapped foam core and the continuous heat seal – worthy add-ons that will save heat and protect your core from moisture.

Possible Energy Savings: 15-20%

 

5aINSULATION: And now, drum roll please – the most significant thing you can do to increase your spa or hot tub energy efficiency is to make sure your tub is well insulated underneath and around the sides. There are many portable spas that have virtually no underside foaming, and have a thin sheet of padding on the inside of the  cabinet walls. Hot tubs, true wooden tubs don’t normally have any insulation around the outside and can be extremely inefficient, which is why most are heated on demand, and not kept hot.

You can increase your spa’s efficiency by stuffing bats of fiberglass insulation everywhere you can under the spa, with the exception of the air space around the spa equipment. You can also use spray foam to fill in gaps, and eliminate air spaces and gaps – but it would be easier to use removable insulation, especially for future access to pipes or jets around the spa.

Possible Energy Savings: 25-30%

 

Other things you can do to prevent heat loss include:

  1. Build wind blocks around outdoor spas
  2. Use a floating spa cover in addition to your regular spa cover
  3. Avoid using the air blower, which cools the water
  4. Turn down the heat if you won’t be using the spa for a week or more
  5. Replace the cover promptly after using the spa

 

Happy Hot Tubbin’!

Daniel Lara
Hot Tub Works

 

Hot Tubs & Spas TOC – Total Cost of Ownership

August 15th, 2014 by

total-cost-of-spa-or-hot-tub-ownership

 

I hear the question all the time – “What’s it cost to own a hot tub?” The real cost of operating a spa includes a lot more than just chemicals.

In this post, we break down all of the costs in owning a hot tub, and add them all up.

What can you do with this information? Well, if you are thinking of buying a spa, or purchasing a home with a spa, you may want to know the cost of this backyard appliance.

If you already own a spa, I’ve included several cost savings tips, or ways to reduce your hot tub expenses.

 

Electricity

The largest energy user is the spa pump. Two-speed pumps are designed to run on low all the time, except for a few hours per day on high during off-peak hours. You can experiment with run times, and short periods of off times, to reduce operation costs, but be sure to filter the water every day for at least 12 hours on low speed, and 30 minutes on high speed. Maintaining good water balance and sanitation levels can reduce your filtration demand.

Your spa heater is  also electrical, and depending on it’s size, it can draw as much amperage as the spa pump. Reducing the temperature in a spa can save money, but not much unless you keep it below 95°. A good spa cover, floating spa blanket and good levels of insulation around the spa or inside the cabinet are ways to improve heat retention, and lower  consumption.

Spa blowers also consume energy, and your spa pack circuitry uses a small amount.

How much electricity will the average spa consume? Depending on a host of variables, most spas use around 2000 kWh of juice every year. The national average for electrical cost is currently 12 cents per kWh, Annual Electricity Costs – $240

Spa Chemicals

Most spas need very few chemicals to maintain water quality. You’ll need pH control, and some form of spa shock or oxidizer. If your water is soft, you may need to raise the calcium hardness level, and if your water is very hard or has high mineral content, you can use a stain & scale control chemical. Enzymes are a good chemical for spas that are used almost daily, by many people.

Many spas use an ozonator or mineral sanitizer. These are excellent purifiers and reduce the amount of bromine needed to keep the water sanitary. Mineral sticks last for 6 months, and ozonators usually need a ‘recharge’ in 18 months.

Bromine tablets are a usual expense, and a bottle of bromide booster to use after draining the spa. This builds a residual of bromide ions, which continuously convert to bromine with the addition of tablets.

Let’s say you have a bromine spa, and you test it, balance and shock it twice weekly, and you use either a mineral stick or an ozonator as a secondary purifier. This is what I do, and for me, my Annual Chemical Costs – $150

Hot Tub Tools

I’m speaking about spa cleaning tools mainly – skim net, vacuum, hose nozzle or a pre-filter if your fill water is hard or mineral rich. These tend to last for several years, so the amortized expense may be close to Annual Tools Cost – $10

Spa Accessories

These are items that also last a long time, such as spa steps or spa furniture, which is usually a one time expense. Recurring expenses could include a thermometer or a bromine tablet floater, or waterproof playing cards. Annual Accessories Cost – $10

Hot Tub Parts

Spas don’t normally need spa repair every year, and then you have a year that requires several hundred dollars in spa parts. At some point in the life of a hot tub, repairs are inevitable, I suppose. You may get lucky, but I would plan on Annual Parts Cost – $40

Spa Cover

Spa covers that are well built and well maintained are likely to last 5 years on average. Spa cover prices vary, but let’s say you spend $400 every 5 years for a new cover. Averaged out per annum, we have the Annual Spa Cover Cost – $80

Spa Filters

The spa cartridge filter won’t last forever. Each time they are cleaned they lose a little bit of their filtering ability. Replace your spa cartridge every 12-24 months, or after 12-15 cleanings. The cost of replacement spa filters is low in most cases. At $20 a pop, every 18 months, the Annual Spa Filter Cost – $12

Fill Water

The cost of city water varies dramatically around the country, but if your average monthly water bill is $50, and you drain your spa every 3 months, your spa is only using 1-2% of your total household use. Annual Fill Water Cost – $8

 

Let’s Add it all Up!

CALCULATE-YOUR-POOL-HEATING-COSTS

Electricity 240
Chemicals 150
Tools 10
Accessories 10
Parts 40
Cover 80
Filters 12
Water  8
         Total    $550

Of course, your mileage may vary, depending on the variables such as the size of your spa, climate, how much it’s used, how hot you keep it, how well insulated your spa is … your total cost of ownership for a spa or hot tub could vary either way by $100 or more.

 

- Jack

 

Wood Hot Tubs vs. Acrylic Spas

August 11th, 2014 by

 

animated-hot-tub

WOOD HOT TUBS vs. ACRYLIC SPASanimated-spa

Born in the fifties, growing up in northern California in the sixties, I can remember when my parents installed their first hot tub. It was a used oak wine vat that my father got from a winemaker he knew in Napa.

He set it up in the backyard, and filled it with hot water from the kitchen. After the first soak, when we all got out, our skin was stained a burgundy color! Mom was very nervous and put us in the bathtub and scrubbed our skin until it hurt.

Later on, he added a small Jacuzzi® brand pump, and pumped the water through a wood burning heater. A year or two after that he added a small pool filter, so he wouldn’t have to change the water so often. He also put in a gravity fed shower with a pull chain. It was a great outdoor shower, because the water was hot, straight from the tub.

This was 1965-ish, so remember there were no spa or hot tub suppliers back then, things were sort of cobbled together. And no, my parents weren’t hippies – they would consider themselves more avant garde – what you might call ‘early adopters’ nowadays.

Wooden Hot Tubs or Acrylic Spas - which is better?

 

ROUND ONE – APPEARANCE

round-1Both spas and hot tubs have appealing designs, but the natural wood staves of a hot tub, and the round shape has a more zen-like feel. Wrapped in a beautiful wooden deck and steps (which also hides the equipment and helps to retain heat, is the most beautiful approach to hot water soaking. The smell of the redwood or cedar wood gives off a natural aromatherapy

Winner: Hot Tubs

ROUND TWO – COMFORT

round-2Early wooden hot tubs didn’t even have benches, you had to stand up! Most hot tubs have simple wooden benches around the edge of the tub at different levels or depths. Hot tub walls are straight, and frankly, not that comfortable. Spas, on the other hand, have buckets seats, molded lounges and head rests.

Winner: Spas

ROUND THREE – COST

round-3With a wooden spa, you can definitely spend more than for an acrylic spa. Or, you could also build your own, from a kit or from scratch, (or from an old wine vat like my father) and save quite a bit of money. But comparing an assembled wooden hot tub with heater and filter to a modern spa of similar size, hot tubs are more expensive. A DIY wood hot tub, coupled with one of our spa packs is cheaper than most new spas.

Winner: Hot Tubs

ROUND FOUR – FEATURES

round-4Spas pummel hot tubs in this round! Modern spas have cool lighting, controls, waterfalls, audio/video. Hot tubs with a spa pack also have digital controls, and lights can be added to a hot tub, but most hot tubs are decidedly low-tech, and not usually feature rich. With a transistor radio and a nearby stream, you have all you need.

Winner: Spas

ROUND FIVE – MAINTENANCE

round-5Hot Tubs made of wood understandably require more maintenance than a hard acrylic or rotomold spas. The wood exterior should be stained and sealed every few years (just like a spa cabinet), and the inside should never be treated, only cleaned with a stiff brush and a hose when draining. Filter and chemical maintenance should be the same on both types, although the more equipment you have – the more potential for maintenance exists.

Winner: Spas

ROUND SIX – SANITATION

round-6Spas and hot tubs are equally sanitary when filtered and treated with spa chemicals, without which, both types would become green and potentially unsafe. However, spas, with their miles of hose and pipe, creates an ideal environment for biofilm, which can grow in poorly treated spas, or spas left empty. Hot tubs typically have very little plumbing for biofilms to form colonies. Although the smooth surfaces used in spas help with a clean surface, wood contains natural antiseptics, especially the rot and insect resistant types of wood used in hot tubs. This helps inhibit algae and bacteria from growing on the surfaces, kind of like Microban.

   Winner: Hot Tubs

ROUND SEVEN – EFFICIENCY

round-7Hot tubs made of wood are not as efficient as a well insulated acrylic spa with cabinet, even though both can use insulated hot tub covers. The thickness of the wood matters, and a hot tub can hold heat for hours, but it can never be as efficient as a well insulated spa. A poorly-insulated spa perhaps, but not one that is well insulated. However (always a caveat), if your hot tub is heated with wood, your electrical use will be less than a spa.

Winner: Spas

ROUND EIGHT – DURABILITY

round-8Even a well maintained wood hot tub will eventually develop wood rot. This can be repaired and stopped, or one can use a vinyl liner made to fit your spa, like a small aboveground pool. Even so, it is unlikely that a wooden hot tub can be continuously used for longer than 30 years. The surfaces of plastic or acrylic spas can scratch, chip or fade, but are generally impervious to structural damage. You could continue to rebuild a spa forever, I suppose – or at least 50 years.

Winner: Spas

 

>>> Let’s see, that’s 5 rounds for Spas, and 3 rounds for Hot Tubs. Some rounds were close, and both fighters gave it their all – but Spas Win!

On the surface, it looks like Acrylic Spas have more benefits than their wooden ancestors. But for people like my father, proud to have once told me that he has “never been in one of  those flooded boats” – there is nothing like a wooden hot tub with a wood fired heater, especially for homes that have lots of ‘natural’ appeal.

Either way you do it ~ enjoy your soak!

 

Carolyn Mosby
Hot Tub Works

 

 

 

Replace or Renovate an Old Hot Tub?

August 4th, 2014 by

old-ugly-spaMost spa owners grapple with this question, if they live in one place long enough.

It usually happens like this – one day a spa repairman hands you an estimate for repair, in excess of $1000, and in addition to that, it’s time for another spa cover, and the cabinet is looking, well – less attractive than it once looked.

The manufacturers life expectancy of a spa, even good spas, is only 10-15 years.

However, you could keep renovating the spa every 10 years, and keep the same spa shell forever. A new spa pack every 10 years, maybe a new topside control. Excluding any catastrophic damage from extreme neglect, you could operate this way for 30 years, easy.

However, you just happened to catch a glimpse of the glitzy new spa models, with so many jets and features, and you think it may be time for a brand new spa. I know many people that do it like this; every 10 years, they just go out and buy a new spa.

 

What’s your Type?

It all comes down to what type of person you are. Take my little quiz below:

[] Yes  [] No – Do you prefer to replace or repair other home appliances, when they need repair?

[] Yes  [] No – Do you buy a new car every 3-5 years?

[] Yes  [] No – Do you enjoy DIY repair projects around the home?

[] Yes  [] No – Do you own 3 or more flat screen Televisions?

If you answered Yes to 3 or more of these questions, you are what experts call a “replacer”. If you answered No to 3 or more questions, you are what we call a “repairer“.

 

What’s your Threshold?

New Spas range in price from about $3000 to $9000, with the average price falling just north of $5 grand. For many people, they would consider a new spa when repair costs exceed half of the cost of a new spa. Like an insurance actuary, you analyze the risk and benefit of repairing, renovating and refurbishing your existing spa, versus ‘totaling’ the spa, and plunking down some cash on a new one.

sick-carThe comparisons to automobiles are intentional, and here’s another one; keep in mind that your old spa has very little trade-in value. You may sell it to a close friend or family member, but really, no one else wants to buy somebody’s used spa. Some spa dealers will take it off your hands, if they are in the business of refurbishing, or if you buy a new spa from them – but  don’t expect them to write you a check for it.

It’s mostly a financial decision, or it should be, but often some emotion creeps into the equation. You may start to weigh the benefits of a new spa such as high tech features, warranty, appearance, size or seating configuration. Go ahead, add in these benefits, crunch the numbers again and see where you stand.

 

Spa Renovation Ideas:AquaRock Morocco 90 Spa

  • Refinish the wood Cabinet exterior
  • Construct a Pergola or Privacy Screen
  • Replace the Spa Pack and Control Panel
  • Clean and Polish the Spa Surfaces
  • Replace the Spa Cover
  • Replace the Spa Filter

You can do all of these things above for less than $2000, so if it were me, I’d Renovate my spa, until the cows come home. But then, I guess I’m just a repairer at heart. But I also have a threshold – I’m in year 11 now with my current spa – I think I can make it to 20 years…!

 

Carolyn Mosby
Hot Tub Works