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Archive for the ‘Chemicals & Water Chemistry’ Category

Hard Water Issues in Spas and Hot Tubs

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water-hardness-map-of-US

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

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

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

 

How Hard is Too Hard?

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

 

So What, Who Cares?

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

 

Treatments for Hard Hot Tub Water

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

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

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

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

 

Treatments for Soft Hot Tub Water

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

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

 

– Jack

 

 

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Spa & Hot Tub Chemicals for Dummies

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spa-chemicals-for-dummies-book2In today’s post, we follow up on our popular Beginner’s Guide to Spa & Hot Tub Care, and get more granular with Spa Chemicals for Dummies.

The book pictured is not a real book, not one that you can purchase anyway. Don’t think I’m calling our blog readers Dumb; just a fun blog title.

Because such a book does not exist, this post will explore some basic hot water chemistry topics that may confuse a novice spa or hot tub owner.

Like how to test spa water, or what chemicals are needed for a hot tub. How to treat common spa water problems, and info about alternate sanitizers like ozone or minerals.

So, without further ado – here’s our beginner’s guide to Hot Tub Chemicals, or Hot Tub Chemistry for Dummies!

 

Spa & Hot Tub Chemicals

We have over 100 different spa chemicals in our online store, no wonder it’s confusing! Below is a primer on 6 categories of spa chemicals, with a short description of when they are used, and for what purpose.

Balancers: Spa chemistry is not overly complicated, but when I speak about ‘water balance’, some people’s eyes glaze over. Balanced spa water is simply when your spa chemical readings are all within the proper ranges. Specifically, spa chemical ranges are pH at 7.4-7.6, Alkalinity at 80-120 ppm, and Calcium Hardness at 150-250 ppm. When all 3 are in range, your water is ‘balanced’. If you really want to geek out however, you can use a Saturation Index calculator to determine water balance more accurately. Of spa balancer chemicals,  pH down is probably the most used of the balancers, as spa pH and Alkalinity tends to rise, and pH down reduces both. If spa water is soft, raise it with Calcium Increaser, for low hardness levels. For a low pH and/or Alkalinity test, use pH up and/or Alkalinity Increaser to raise the levels.

Clarifiers: If your spa water is cloudy, or lacks clarity and sparkle, it may be time for a new spa filter cartridge, or there may be issues with water sanitation. Clarifiers are polymers that have a positive charge and attach themselves to negatively charged water particles floating around the hot tub. What starts as a microscopic particle eventually ends up as a large clump of hundreds of particles, large enough to get trapped in the filter. So then, clarifiers are used for spa filters that need a little help, or if water conditions turn poor. Be careful not to overdose with clarifier however, or it may have the opposite effect, and it can gum up your spa filter. If your hot tub water is always sparkling, you may have no need to use a clarifier chemical.

Cleaners: In this category of spa chemicals, we have hot tub cleaners for your spa filter cartridges, spa cover cleaner and conditioner, spa shell cleaners and polishers, Leak Seal to seal up small leaks and Jet Clean to purge or strip plumbing lines. Be careful never to use household chemicals to clean your spa or accessory items, with the exception to a mild soap (with lots of rinsing afterwards to prevent spa foaming). In my own spa, I do use spa filter cleaner, spa cover conditioner (my tub gets a lot of direct sun), and I use Jet Clean once per year to prevent a biofilm buildup in the pipes.

Sanitizers: A sanitizer is the everyday chemical used to kill pathogens like bacteria, fungus, mold, viruses, etc. Most spa owners will use either bromine or chlorine as the main sanitizer. Granular chlorine is hand fed (don’t use chlorine tablets in a spa) when chlorine is preferred, or you can use bromine tablets (the easiest route), or add bromide salts and then a small amount of regular shock (chlorine or MPS) to activate the bromide salts into bromine. You must keep an active level of sanitizer at all times in spas and hot tubs. If the level drops to near zero, pathogens, algae and other contaminants immediately begin to grow and multiply, even in hot water, and even when covered tightly.

Shocks: Spa shocks are also sanitizers, but they are used differently in spas and hot tubs. Chlorine or non-chlorine (MPS) spa shocks are quick dissolving and quick acting, and are used to kill anything that your daily sanitizer has missed, or to supplement your daily sanitizer, after a 4-person soak for example. Spa shocks are also used to activate bromide salts, and convert them to bromine. If you use bromine tablets however, this is not necessary, but shock is still useful to give the spa a sanitizer boost after heavy use, or as a weekly or bi-monthly shock treatment, just to be sure the water is sanitary. A third use of spa shocks is to kill algae, or remove foul odors, water discoloration or poor clarity, or variety of water issues with from many causes. For best results, always check water balance and adjust if necessary before shocking a spa. Follow label instructions for treatment info and dosage to match your spa size, in gallons/liters.

Specialty: Specialty spa chemicals are those chemicals that don’t fit neatly into other categories. Chemicals like Foam Out or Foam Down (removes surface foam) or Metal Gon / Defender (keeps metals in solution), or enzymes like Natural Clear that dissolve oils naturally, or Algaecides to prevent algae growth in hot water spas. You may have some need for these chemicals at some point, to remove foam, stains, oils or algae, or you may be lucky and may only rarely need specialty chemicals – you know where to find them!

 

How To Test Spa Chemistry

snake-oil-salesman-smThere are two ways to test hot tub water, with Test Strips or a Test Kit. Unless you fancy yourself a chemist, I usually recommend the AquaChek 6-in-1 Test Strips, which test for all the important stuff in just 1-2 minutes. The secret to spa chemistry is not sold in a bottle; test your spa water 2-3 times per week. You will begin to see patterns in your chemical fluctuations, especially if you keep a test log book. But even if you don’t write down your readings, or enter them into an app, over time you’ll come to know your own hot tub chemical personality.

 

How To Store Hot Tub Chemicals

  1. Keep out of Reach of Children.
  2. Cool & Dry Location 50-80° F
  3. Open Only One Container at a time
  4. Tight Lids Keep Out Moisture, Children and Prevent Spills
  5. Protect Chemicals from Spills and Mixing and Contamination

We’ve covered the topic before with some neat spa chemical storage ideas, but the general idea is to, number one, keep out of reach of children. Secondly, store spa chemicals in a Cool and Dry location, that usually means indoors. 50-75° is best for chemical shelf life and to prevent gas formation or hardening of granules. Always open, use, and close tightly only one chemical at a time; tight lids keep out moisture and children, and prevent spills. Don’t hold onto old spa chemicals, use or dispose of them, and keep chemicals close to the ground, not high on a shelf where they may fall and spill their contents, especially if you live in an earthquake zone. Very Important – never allow spa chemicals to mix with each other, or become contaminated with any substance (dirt, leaf, soda, ashes) that accidentally mixes with spa chemicals. A fire or explosion could result.

 

What Chemicals Do I Need for a Spa or Hot Tub?

  1. Spa Sanitizer – Bromine or Chlorine
  2. Spa pH increaser and decreaser
  3. Spa Alkalinity and Calcium Increaser
  4. Spa Shock – Chlorine or MPS

As a minimum, you’ll need most of these spa chemicals. You may use primarily pH down and not so much pH up, probably adjusting 2-3x per month. For Alkalinity and Calcium levels, those usually hold steady for a month or more, once adjusted after a spa water drain and refill. And you will use Spa Shock for weekly use and a different Spa Sanitizer for daily use. You may also have a need for other chemicals from time to time such as Filter Cleaners, Metal Removers, or Clarifiers. Many of our customers like the convenience of our Spa Care Kits, complete 6-month chemical packs for Bromine or Chlorine or Nature2 spas that include a water fill Pre-Filter and up to a dozen other items.

 

What are Natural Spa Chemicals?

  1. Mineral Sticks
  2. Ozone
  3. Enzymes

ozone-minerals-mpsFor those that want to avoid the smell of chlorine or the slightly softer smell of bromine on your skin, you can approach water sanitation from a different angle. Instead of using chlorine or bromine, you can use Spa Mineral Sticks, which use Silver/Copper ions to help purify the water, or you can use ozone, injected into the pipe from an Ozonator. Both of these systems, coupled with regular shocking with MPS, a non-chlorine oxidizer, and some extra filtering and attention to good water balance, can allow you to operate most spas without the use of chlorine or bromine. Also in the natural chemical category are Enzymes, which are natural scum-eaters, helping to remove contaminants in the water by naturally digesting them.

 


 

dummies-guyIf you made it all the way to the end of this post, you are now 10x smarter than the average Spa Chemistry Dummy! One good thing about spa chemistry is that if things go really bad, you can always replace the water, and should anyway, every 90 days or so. Remember to re-balance your chemistry, or rebuild your ‘bromine bank‘ after refilling.

 

Talk to you later;

 

– Jack

Saltwater Chlorine or Saltwater Bromine?

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saltwater-chlorine-or-saltwater-bromineSalt water chlorine vs. salt water bromine. Which is better?

The chlorine vs. bromine debate, along with the pros & cons of using a hot tub salt system have been hashed out before on this blog, but what if you already love spa salt water generators, and wonder about using sodium bromide, instead of sodium chloride as the necessary salt.

Bromine is better than chlorine in a hot tub, as it stays potent in high temperatures and in a wide range of pH values, and has less odor. So why not use Sodium Bromide instead of Sodium Chloride in a spa or hot tub with a salt generator?

  • Sodium Bromide salt is much more expensive than Sodium Chloride salt. This is because of the higher cost of raw materials. It costs only $5 in NaOCl after draining the spa (unless you use Dead Sea Salts, which are much more costly), but to replace the NaOBr, it can cost $25, each time you drain.
  • Bromine Generators cost twice as much to purchase than equivalent spa chlorine generators. Roughly $200 for salt systems, and $400 for bromine systems.

But wait ~ aren’t Bromine tablets also twice as expensive as using spa chlorine tablets? Yes. Bottom line is that Bromine costs more than chlorine, no matter how you introduce it to the water.

For many spa owners, it’s worth the extra cost to have a Bromine spa.

Spa Chlorine and Bromine Generators

saltron-mini-power-supply-and-cellCan you use bromide salts with a salt chlorinator? You could, after draining and refilling with fresh water, add sodium bromide ions to the water to create bromine, instead of chlorine. However, salt chlorine generators such as the Saltron Mini are optimized to work with sodium chloride, although the manufacturer told me that either salt can be used.

Is there a difference between Salt Brominators and Salt Chlorinators? There are small differences in the salt cell coatings and in the salt level required for operation, but the operation or technology is the same. They both convert ions into a sanitizer, which afterwards revert back to the base salt, where the process can begin again. Spa Salt Bromine Generators, such as Blu Fusion (formerly the unfortunately named ISIS salt system), and the Gecko Alliance in.clear bromine salt system for spas.

What type of Salt is used in a Saltwater Hot Tub? If you are using sodium chloride, be sure to use a pool salt with a high 99% level of purity, without added caking agents, desiccants or iodine added. For a bromine spa, add pure sodium bromide salts to the spa, the same bromide booster that is used to build the ‘bromine bank’ when using bromine tablets. Many spa salt system owners also use Dead Sea Salts, which contain potassium and magnesium, in addition to sodium.

 


 

Happy Hot Tubbin’

Daniel Lara

 

 

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Hot Tub Ozonator VS. UV Light VS. Minerals

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OZONE-VS-UV-VS-MINERALS
When it comes to sanitizing your spa or hot tub, you have a lot of choices. When I first started hot tubbing, we didn’t have all these fancy purifiers, and until the 80’s we had to use pool chemicals!

Chlorine and Bromine are an easy way to keep the water constantly protected. But – there’s a dark side! It smells bad, bleaches suits, dries skin and hair, and can be unsafe to store and use.

And that’s why a cottage industry sprung up, offering alternatives to traditional sanitation methods. Let’s talk about all 3 – Ozonators, Ultra Violet light, and Mineral Purifiers.

Hot Tub Ozone

del-mcd50-ozoneHow it Works: Ozone is called the ‘World’s Most Powerful Sanitizer’ and indeed packs quite a punch. An ozonator or ozone generator shoots a small electric charge across an air filled gap to separate oxygen O² into O¹. The singular oxygen atom quickly bonds to a nearby O² molecule, to become O³, or Ozone. The additional oxygen atom makes O³ very unstable, destroying any unfortunate particle that gets in the way.

Down Side: Ozone is cheap to produce, however the circulation pump must be running, to draw the gas into the line. When the pump is off, ozone is not being produced. Ozone also has a very short life, and due to the gaseous state, it will rise to the surface and gas-off quickly.

Maintenance: Spa ozonators require replacement of the ozone tubing and check valve every 1-2 years. CD (Corona Discharge) models require CD Chip replacement every 1-2 years, while AGP (Advanced Plasma Gap) units can last up to 5 years.

Effectiveness: Using a spa ozonator can allow you to reduce reliance on high levels of chlorine and bromine, by as much as 50%, according to manufacturers. Ozone destroys Giardia, Pseudomonas and Crypto and is a powerful oxidizer.

Hot Tub UV Light

spectralightuv-lampHow it Works: UV light purifiers work by irradiating the water, as it rushes by a UV lamp that is producing a specific wavelength 254 nm within the UV-C spectrum. When exposed to UV light of this specific wavelength, living particles actually have their DNA rearranged and become unable to reproduce. This renders the particles as inert, and only from a millisecond of exposure to the UV-C light.

Down Side: Like Ozone, UV light is cheap to produce, but is only being produced while the pump is running, pushing water over the UV-C light bulb or lamp. UV system strength can be reduced by high water flow rates, cloudy water and water temperature. And it has no ‘shelf life’, sanitation only takes place for an instant, while the water is passing under the eerie blue light.

Maintenance: Spa UV light systems use a special bulb to create the UV-C light. In most cases, these bulbs will need to be replaced every 1-2 years, as they begin to lose effectiveness over time. Cleaning the quartz lens regularly is also recommended, to remove dust or grime deposits.

Effectiveness: Like Ozone, UV purification is a tried and true secondary sanitizer, and can reduce your reliance on chlorine or bromine. It also inactivates (renders inert) parasites and pathogens like Ozone, when sized and used properly.

Hot Tub Mineral Purifiers

spa-mineral-sticks-for-hot-tubsHow They Work: Mineral purifiers for hot tubs and spas are slim cartridges that you drop into the hole in your cartridge filter. They’re filled with Silver and Copper pellets which slowly dissolve at a controlled rate. The silver and copper act together as a biocide, with silver oxide as the sanitizer and copper working as an algaecide. Using a mineral stick, like the others, can allow you to reduce chlorine or bromine usage by up to 50%.

Down Side: Mineral sticks for spas are also not as powerful as ozone, and cannot kill the strongest of pathogens that may come into the water, although they come close.

Maintenance: Most mineral sticks are replaced every 4 months, when the silver and copper depletes. No other equipment involved, so no other maintenance is needed.

Effectiveness: Unlike ozone and UV, mineral sticks create lasting protection by maintaining a residual of silver in the water. You will notice an immediate improvement in water quality and can appreciate using less sanitizer or filter aids to keep the water clear.

 

Your mileage may vary, but having a secondary sanitizer makes sense and is recommended by the MAHC (Model Aquatic Health Code). It can help reduce reliance on harsh chlorine or bromine, and also acts as a nice back-up for those occasional gaps in coverage, if you know what I mean.

In most cases, all of these systems tend to cost the spa owner about $100 per year, but you can realize some savings in other chemical costs, and will enjoy the peace of mind knowing that your spa water is extra-clean, I know I do! I use Nature2 and Del Ozone on my own spa.

 

– Jack

 

 

How to Shock a Hot Tub

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cloudy-spa-water-after-shockingSpa shock is an oxidizer that is used to destroy organic contaminants that have been able to escape normal daily sanitation. Oxidation involves the transfer of electrons, and when hot tub water contaminants or pathogens are oxidized, they lose electrons, and quickly expire, or cease to exist.

Today’s blog post is all about shocking a spa or hot tub. What, how, when and why a spa or hot tub is shocked. A shocking topic to be sure!

 

What is Hot tub Shock?

Hot tub shocks are made from a powdered form of oxidizer, either a form of granular chlorine, non-chlorine potassium sulfate salts or liquid chlorine (bleach). When using a biguanide sanitizer system (Aqua Silk), the spa shock is made of liquid hydrogen peroxide, which can not be used in a bromine or chlorine treated spa/hot tub.

Why do I need to shock a hot tub?

There are 3 main reasons to shock a spa: 1. To destroy excessive contaminants in a hot tub after use by several people, 2. To reactivate bromide ions into active bromine, and 3. To kill algae, bacteria, viruses and pathogens that may escape your normal daily sanitation chemical.

How to shock a spa with bromine?

Trick question – you don’t shock a spa with bromine. There is no such thing as bromine shock, although many people confuse bromide ions with spa shock. Bromides (aka Bromine Boosters or Reserve) are used sparingly to boost the ‘bromide bank’, which is reactivated into bromine by using chlorine granules, or MPS (aka non-chlorine shock).

How to shock a spa with chlorine?

Chlorine granules are available in varying concentrations or strengths, so follow label instructions closely for proper dosage. For a 300 gallon spa, 0.7 oz of Chlorine Granules shaken over the water surface, will raise the chlorine level up to about 10 ppm. This should be done with a balanced pH (in the low range of 7.2-7.4), and with the circulation pump running on high to help distribute the shock quickly. Keep the spa cover open or removed for about 30 minutes after adding spa shock, to allow reaction gas to escape and prevent damage to the spa cover. The hot tub should not be used until the chlorine/bromine level drops back below 5 ppm.

How to shock a spa with bleach?

Regular household bleach (non-scented and without additives) can be used in a spa, but the pH level may rise as bleach has a very high pH of 13. For this reason many spa owners may find it easier to use dichlor (chlorine granules) or non-chlorine shock (MPS), which are more pH neutral. Testing the water with a chlorine test kit will determine the proper amount, but for a 300 gallon spa, 1 cup (8 oz) of 5% strength bleach will raise the level to 10 ppm.

How to shock a spa with non-chlorine shock?

Chlorine free shock, also known as MPS (or PPMS) is Potassium Monopersulfate, or Potassium Peroxymonosulfate, is a quick dissolving and powerful oxidizer that is popular for use in spas and hot tubs. It’s not measured with a regular spa test strip, so following dosage instructions is important. For example however, when shocking a 300 gallon spa, 1-2 oz. of non-chlorine shock is used, broadcast over the water surface, with the spa pump running. Like other types of spa shock – add after you use the hot tub, not before.

Is Hot Tub Shock Dangerous?

spa-and-hot-tub-shock-smSpa Shocks are dangerous – if mixed with any other chemical, or allowed to become moist, or contaminated with dirt or debris, it has the ability to produce noxious fumes, catch fire or explode.

Yes, spa shock can be extremely hazardous, and must be stored in a cool, dry location, safely out of the reach of children. Overdosing your spa or hot tub with shock may damage the finish, or the spa cover. And using the spa before allowing chlorine/bromine levels to subside can bleach swimsuits or cause skin irritation or breathing difficulties.

Always follow the label instructions closely for dosage and use instructions, and keep your spa oxidizers clean, cool and closed. Be safe with spa shock because – oxidants happen! 🙂

 

XOXO;

Gina Galvin
Hot Tub Works

 

 

Saltwater Hot Tub – Bromine or Chlorine

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saltwater-hot-tubs Before I write a post, I survey the ‘information landscape’ with a few keyword searches, to see what’s been written about the topic. There’s a lot of misinformation out there about saltwater hot tubs. Sounds very familiar, I heard the same discussions ten years ago about swimming pool salt water systems.

It smells like fear – fear of change, fear of losing bromine tablet sales, fear of the unknown. What really happens is that when a saltwater bromine or chlorine generator is installed, you won’t need to buy, store, transport or handle bromine tablets anymore.

You’ll still need other spa chemicals, because you still have to balance the pH, alkalinity and calcium hardness levels. You may still need to use clarifiers, enzymes or foam out. And, you’ll still need to test the water regularly, and clean and replace your spa filters. In short, you’ll still do everything you do now, with exception to adding bromine tablets or oxidizer to the hot tub.

Saltwater systems for hot tubs are not a miracle product, but it does have a few benefits over sanitizing with bromine tablets or bromides/oxidizer or chlorine.

  • Softer water due salts; sodium chloride (for chlorine) or sodium bromide (for bromine).
  • Fewer peaks and valleys of sanitation. With other methods, levels are less consistent.
  • No worry about checking and adding tablets or shock to reactivate bromine.

SOFTER SPA WATER

Water softness or hardness is in direct relation of how much calcium is in the water, or the calcium hardness measurement of the water. For spas and hot tubs, low calcium from soft water is not a good thing, but that’s not what I mean when I say that saltwater hot tubs have softer water.

What I really mean is that the water feels softer on your skin, it feels almost silky, slick, or oily. This is because of the salts in the water, similar to how adding bath salts or spa crystals to your spa or bath water makes the water feel more … luxurious? It’s also less drying to the skin, as opposed to using tablets or shock oxidizer.

FEWER PEAKS AND VALLEYS

peaks-and-valleysA salt chlorine or salt bromine system can maintain a very consistent level of sanitizer in the water, with digital controls to program an exact level of chlorine or bromine. When using bromine tablets, it’s harder to control the dissolution rate of the tablet. When the floater or brominator is first filled, more bromine will be released than when the tablets are almost gone. To control this problem, you will need to turn down the brominator dial (or the floater holes), and as the tablets dissolve, open it up more.

For bromine spas that don’t use tablets but use a shock (MPS or Dichlor) to activate bromide ions, turning them into bromine, the problem is even more pronounced. Immediately after adding the oxidizer, the bromine level can shoot up very high (peak), and then slowly drop back down to a low level (valley).

LESS WORRY

With a saltwater hot tub system, bromine or chlorine production is steady and controlled, and you don’t have worry about adding more sanitizer at the exact moment it runs out, or catching it before it runs out, or drops to near zero levels. However, keep in mind that inline saltwater chlorinators or saltwater brominators only make chlorine or bromine when the pump is running. The Saltron Mini and other drop-in types of salt cells are an exception to this, since they are not plumbed inline, but hang over the edge of the spa or hot tub. But if your spa pump is running daily, any type of salt system can create enough chlorine needed for daily disinfection.

A lot of people don’t know that a saltwater hot tub can be either bromine or chlorine. Add sodium chloride NaCl, regular table salt, and your salt cell will create chlorine. Add sodium bromide salts however, and your saltwater hot tub will be a bromine hot tub. Bromine is more stable than chlorine in high temperatures and in varying pH levels, and is considered a better sanitizer for hot tubs.

Hot Tub Salt Systems are not a miracle productSalt systems for spas allow you to make your own ‘locally sourced and organic’ chlorine or bromine, on-site. But that’s all it does – replacing bromine tablets or other means of sanitation. Not a miracle product – it won’t reduce spa maintenance by too much, but it does have at least three clear benefits over traditional methods.

 

Happy Hot Tubbin’

Daniel Lara
Hot Tub Works

 

Spa Chemical Dosage Charts

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trutest-strip-reader-spa-lgI’ve heard it said that “spas and hot tubs are not just small pools” – indeed, they are very small pools.

So small in fact, that the equivalent of 4 people in a spa is like having 200 people in a pool! Wacky things happen to water chemistry when even one person is using the spa or hot tub – pH jumps, alkalinity drops, and sanitizer is pummeled.

But you know this – if you take care of a spa or hot tub, regular water testing confirms irregular water chemistry, in most hot tubs. And you know how to take care of it too, a little bit of this, a little bit of that… and your spa water is balanced once again.

Today’s post is designed to be a resource for the busy spa owner, a printable reference sheet of how much spa chemical to add, for an expected result. Print Out the image below and tape it inside the spa cabinet door, or on the lid of your chemical box. Plastic sleeves or report binders will keep it dry and readable.

OverDosing the Spa is very common. Measure spa adjustment chemicals carefully, using 1/8 cup (1 oz) or 1/4 cup (2 oz) kitchen measuring cups. Another useful tool, the kitchen tablespoon is 1/2 ounce, and the tablespoon is 1/6 ounce, or 0.17 oz. Add small amounts and test again after an hour or so of circulation. Keep a log book of chemical test strip readings and adjustment chemicals used – I know, sounds geeky – but it can be very helpful in getting to know your spa’s chemical personality, and how it reacts to people chemistry.

Not sure How Many Gallons is in your Spa? Mathematical formulas exist, but can wrongly estimate the gallons in a portable spa, due to the varied internal seats and shapes. The best way to calculate the number of gallons in a spa is to time exactly how many seconds it takes to fill the entire spa using a stopwatch. Then time the exact amount of time it takes to fill in five gallon bucket, in seconds. Divide Spa Fill time by bucket fill time to determine spa capacity. For example, if it takes 1800 seconds (30 minutes) to fill your spa, and 30 seconds to fill a 5 gallon bucket, then… 1800 ÷ 30 = 60 buckets x 5 gallons = 300 gallons. Another way to find out is to consult the owner’s manual, or search online by make/model – if the spa was built by a known manufacturer.

Spa Chemical Dosage Charts

Print out this chart and place it near your spa chemical storage area, for quick reference. Write or circle the number of gallons in your spa or hot tub.

spa-chemical-dosage-charts

spa-chemical-dosage-charts

One more tip: Always add one chemical at a time, allowing 15 minutes of circulation before adding other spa chemicals. Adding chemicals right on top of each other can affect the effect!

 

– Jack

 

Is Your Hot Tub a Chemical Soup?

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chemical-soup-hot-tubsThe first question about the so-called “Chemical Free Hot Tub” is “What does it Mean to be Green?” The second question is “Can it be done?”; a chemical-free hot tub, that is.

When you speak of eco-friendly spas and hot tubs, you may be talking about saving energy, saving water, or preventing pollution.

It’s that last part I want to discuss today – preventing pollution of local watershed, while enjoying a hot tub without unnecessary and unnatural chemicals.

 

What Does it Mean to be Green?

There are several categories of spa and hot tub chemicals that are considered “Green”, most made of natural ingredients and harmless to plants and animals.

Spa Enzymesnatural-spa-chemicals--: Enzymes are all-natural, microscopic organisms that eat oil and organics for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Reduces the amount of sanitizers needed, and helps filtration by removing oily gunk.

Citrus Cleaners: When cleaning a spa, to remove water line marks or polish up the shell, be careful not to use household cleaners that contain harsh chemicals, but instead use a citrus or vinegar solution.

Natural Clarifiers: Companies like SeaKlear have used crab shells for years as a natural clarifier for pools and spas. Natural polymers help your filter by coagulating smaller particles into easily filterable clumps.

There are also several “Alternative” purifiers, or systems that can supplement your bromine or chlorine residual, but aren’t complete sanitizers – they can’t usually do it all.

Ozone: Ozone generators create small amounts of the O³ molecule, which is very powerful, and kills anything that can exist in water. But, the distribution method can’t get the gas in contact with everything.

Minerals: Even the Ancients knew the power of copper and silver to purify water; and for a spa it’s super easy to add minerals with a Spa Mineral Stick, there are many brands available.

UV systems: The Ancients also knew of the power of sunlight to kill algae and mold. When water is bathed in UV light, most pathogens, bacteria and viruses will die – but not everything.

In addition to sanitizing the water daily and continuously, a hot tub needs periodic oxidation, or spa shock.

Is a Chemical Free Hot Tub Possible?

You can reduce reliance on chlorine and bromine by using supplemental sanitizers like minerals or ozone or UV systems. Use non-chlorine shock (MPS), if you want to be chlorine-free.

But, you will still need to test the water and add balancing chemicals, to lower pH, or raise alkalinity and calcium levels, for example.

Unless you drained the water every time you use the hot tub (not very Green), you will need to maintain balanced water (pH, alkalinity, calcium), as well as daily disinfection to sanitize, and regular shocking to oxidize the water.

However – if you want to operate a spa or hot tub without bromine or chlorine, it is possible.

For low-use hot tubs, an ozone or UV system AND a mineral stick will keep the water clear. Shock (oxidize) the water with MPS after each use (very important). Filter the spa water for at least 6 hours daily, and buy a new spa filter cartridge every 12 months (very important). Adding a natural clarifier or enzymes to the spa can also aid in reducing the amount of sanitizer and oxidizer needed.

Chemical Soup Hot Tubs?

With supplemental sanitizers and careful water balancing, you don’t need to add 9 kinds of spa chemicals to maintain clear and healthy water.

Instead, over-filter the water and combine natural spa chemicals and alternative purifiers for daily disinfection, and oxidize with MPS after each use, or weekly.

 

Happy Hot Tubbin’

Daniel Lara
Hot Tub Works

Most Popular Hot Tub Chemicals

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top-ten-spa-chemicals

 

Going over sales spreadsheets is one of my primary jobs here at hottubworks. Sales trends are interesting to watch, and important to know – so we can meet seasonal demand.

Knowing the most popular hot tub chemicals can also be useful to the spa owner! Don’t get left behind – here’s the spa chemicals that your neighbors buy most frequently.

This isn’t just a unit sales contest, to be fair we also used velocity and frequency, to produce a more accurate list of the most popular spa chemicals – by category. “May I have the Envelope Please….”

 

aquachek-spa-test-stripsAquaChek 6-In-1 Test Strips: We have a lot of Test Strips to choose one, but the 6-in-1 is usually the top seller in the category, seconded by the TruTest digital test strips. The 6-in-1 will test for everything you need bromine/chlorine, and also Free Chlorine, which lets you know if there are high levels of bromamines or chloramines in the water. Aside from total, free and combined sanitizer – this strip also checks your water balance levels of calcium hardness, total alkalinity and pH, all on one test strip.

 

spa-frog-floaterSPA FROG Floating System: Nature2 or the other mineral sticks are popular, but for an all-in-one solution, you can’t beat the Spa Frog, which has a bromine cartridge and mineral cartridge that fit into a cute little floating dispenser. The bromine cartridge (yellow) has an adjustable openings so you can set the amount that is released, and the mineral cartridge natural filters the water as it passes through the mineral cartridge (green). With just a few pounds of MPS on hand, this may be all you need to keep your spa clean!

 

brom-booster-twoHTW Brom Booster: This product is popular for the bromine spa or hot tub (which is about 60% of spa users, by my estimate). When you drain the hot tub, as you should do every 3-4 months, you lose the “bank” of bromide ions in the water. It takes weeks and weeks for enough bromine tablets to dissolve to produce enough bromides in the water, so that bromine can be created. Complicated, just add a capful of Brom Booster after draining the spa , or significant dilution, to “build the bromide bank” again.

 

leisure-time-spa-56Leisure Time Spa 56 Chlorinating Granules: 56% blend is pH neutral and more stable in hot water than other types of granular chlorine. Don’t ever use pool shock in your hot tub, it’s too strong and evaporates within hours. Spa 56 can be used for regular chlorination or weekly spa shocking, and is a great way to reactivate bromides (see above) in a bromine spa. Just a capful of chlorinating granules can bring levels up quick, or be used as an effective way to control algae and biofilm.

 

leisure-time-defenderLeisure Time Spa Defender: A blend of organic polymers that locks up minerals like calcium, phosphorous, sodium, which can cause cloudy water and scale – and scale is bad for spas. If you live in a hard water area (and nearly 50% of the country does, by my estimate), you want to control the minerals by using a sequestering agent like Spa Defender. Natural formula protects your filter, heater and beautiful spa surfaces, which is why it’s one of our 10 most popular hot tub chemicals!

 

rendevous-natural-clearRendezvous Natural Clear for Spas:
Natural Clear is an enzyme that removes scum lines and foam by digesting oils, lotions, make-up, and other oily gunk that we bring into our spas and hot tubs. Helps control biofilm development by attacking the outer layers that protect the colony. Just 1 oz every other week removes oils from the water, which protects your filter cartridge, and keeps your spa and spa water looking good. This product is a must for high-use hot tubs or spas with small-ish spa filters.

 

culator-spa-pakCuLator Metal & Stain Spa Pak:
This is the only product that actually removes metals from your spa or hot tub water. Other chemicals just lock-up the chemicals with strong bonds, but CuLator actually absorbs metals in the safe and non-toxic pouch. Drop the Spa Pak into your skimmer or filter, it attracts all heavy metals, like iron, copper, manganese, cobalt, lead and other stain-causing minerals.

 

spa-alkalinity-increaserHTW Spa Alkalinity Increaser:
Your water’s Alkalinity is what keeps the pH in check – not enough Alkalinity and the pH level will bounce around a lot. In most hot tubs and spas, pH tends to rise when used regularly. That’s because all the oils, lotions, dirt, dead skin and other unmentionables that we bring into the spa – tend to raise the pH level. Spa Owners lower the pH regularly; which also lowers the Alkalinity over time. Keep Alkalinity above 80 ppm.

 

htw-spa-ph-minusHTW Spa pH Minus: And here’s the other part of the equation, the reason the Alkalinity level tends to drop over time, is that pH minus, while lowering pH very effectively, also lowers Alkalinity somewhat. Each time you add a half capful of pH Down into the spa, the Alkalinity takes a little hit. What are you gonna do? You have to keep the pH in check, or everything else will quickly go out of whack. Use pH Minus as needed to keep pH in the 7.4-7.6 range, so that your sanitizer is most potent, and stains and scale can be prevented.

 

leisure-time-filter-cleanLTO Leisure Time Spa Filter Clean – Overnight Soak: To really get your spa filter cartridge clean, you have to soak it in a solution. A good, complete spray with the hose is still needed, but afterwards, soak your spa or hot tub filter cartridge in a solution of Spa Filter Clean. Double action formula removes greasy deposits as well as scale, dissolving and lifting them from the cartridge fabric. After an overnight soak, hose off and then allow it to dry fully, to kill any bacteria. This is why it’s good to have a spare spa filter cartridge.

 

 

Back to my spreadsheets! I’m sure you can find many of these in your spa chemical storage. I use most of these products above in my own spa, and can attest to their usefulness!

 

Carolyn Mosby
Hot Tub Works

 

CDC Report on Recreational Water Illness

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CBS-News-Sick-SwimThe media is all abuzz about a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control that shows that Recreational Water Illness (RWI’s) are on the rise in American pools and spas.

Since 2010, a National Outbreak Notification System (NORS) has been established that allows public pool and spa operators to voluntarily report any outbreak of water related illness.

For the 2011-2012 reporting period, NORS has documented 1300 RWI’s in public pools and spas, with 75 hospitalizations and one reported death. Over half of the illnesses were caused by Cryptosporidium, or Crypto as it is more ominously known. Pseudomonas accounted for the majority of other illnesses.

What Causes Recreational Water Illness?

Where does it come from – it comes from bathers! Mostly from unwashed behinds, or from “accidental fecal release” of those infected with the parasite. Very tiny amounts of poop from an infected person can infect others – who accidentally drink the water, or absorb it into their eyes or open sores.

Crypto and other pathogens are not only found in human and animal stools, but can also be found in soil, food and on unclean surfaces. It can enter the spa in more ways than just the backside of an infected person. The CDC estimates that 750,000 Americans are infected each year with Cryptosporidium.

 

Why Doesn’t Chlorine Kill Crypto?

DEL Ozone MCD-50, it's what I use on my spa

Usually it does, but cryptosporidium has the ability to cloak itself from low levels (1-3 ppm) of chlorine or bromine. And if the pool or spa has high pH and/or a high level of chloramines – it becomes a very weak sanitizer, not strong enough to kill all pathogens. For this reason, the CDC recommends supplemental sanitation by Ozone or UV light systems, for pools or spas that have a high risk or history of infection.

 

Reducing Recreational Water Illness Risks

  • Shower with soap before using a pool or spa
  • Do not use a pool or spa if you’ve had recent diarrhea
  • Maintain spa bromine at 3-5 ppm, and use Ozone or UV
  • Balance the pH and shock the spa after each use
  • Keep your head above water and don’t drink the water
  • Limit spa sessions to 15 minutes

 

Is Your Hot Tub – Infected with Crypto?

bacteria-in-spasIt could happen, all it takes is one infected person who hasn’t showered to infect a spa or hot tub. The data collected by the CDC is entirely gathered from Public pools and spas, not residential – but a residential spa can become infected just as easily – all you need is an unclean bather, insufficient sanitation and poor water balance.

But I don’t mean to scare you – I would estimate that 90% of well-maintained residential spas are pathogen-free. When in doubt, shock the spa or change the water!

 

– Jack