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Archive for the ‘hottubworks.com’ Category

How to Buy a Hot Tub

March 5th, 2015 by

spa-cover-careThinking about buying a hot tub? You’ve come to the right place honey, I’ve purchased a few hot tubs in my day, but helped more people buy theirs. For many years I was a Top-Selling Spa Salesperson. That’s right, two-time Salesperson of the Year, as a matter of fact.

Since my spa store days, I have helped lots of friends and family members become spa owners, by assisting them with a purchase, guiding them through models, the value of features, and helping to select a local dealer, buy through Costco, or buy a hot tub online.

Today’s post is a Buyer’s Guide for Hot Tubs, but not in the normal sense of “here’s all the spas we sell, aren’t they pretty“, but rather a checklist of items to consider before purchase. So relax, friend – I’m going to help you determine how to buy a hot tub – and not get soaked!

WHAT’S YOUR BUDGET?

Hot Tub prices are all over the place, from $2500 to $7500, or more. The lower end tubs have smaller pumps, fewer jets and no bells and whistles. On the opposite end are full featured spas with over 100 jets, super-sized pumps and heater, 10 points of lights, water features, sound system, you name it.

The neck jets and mood lighting are very nice features that I enjoy on my current spa, but I don’t think you need a built-in sound system, but that’s just me. Consider size too, if it’s only going to be 1-2 people 90% of the time, look for a smaller tub, which will be cheaper to operate and easier to care for.

Don’t forget about the “extras” of buying a hot tub. Some spas will include a locking spa cover, and others may not. Spa steps or hand rails for safe entry and exit and normally are not included. Spa chemicals and cleaning tools. Finally, there is delivery and set-up, and – most spas will need a dedicated electrical service. Count on about $400 for an electrician to wire it up.

Where will you Put it?

A very good question. Spas, when full of water weigh thousands of pounds! The spa has to sit on a solid concrete foundation or slab, you can’t put it on a wood deck, or on a balcony. If you plan to put it indoors, you need to consider splash-out and humidity. If outdoors, consider some protection from the sun and rain. No matter where you plan to put it, measure the gates and doors, to be sure you can get it there!

Any location should be fairly close to the home breaker panel, where the power to operate the spa will come from (only very small spas can be plugged into a 115V outlet). And you’ll also need access to a water spigot and hose, to add fill water to the spa.

Finally, consider safety whether installed indoors or outdoors, the spa should be enclosed by a sturdy fence or locked doors, in addition to a locking spa cover.

WHAT FEATURES DO YOU WANT?

A spa or hot tub, like a car, has some standard options – these include a pump, heater, underwater light and a spa-side control panel. Options are plentiful; here’s a list of some popular upgrades that you can add to your spa purchase.

  • More pump horsepower, up to 5 hpchecklist---
  • Two pumps – circulation and jet pump
  • High capacity heater – 5.5 kw or 11 kw
  • Air blowers – to add bubbles!
  • 18 points of light, inside, outside, etc
  • Water Features – neck rollover jets, laminar jets
  • Ozone or UV purification systems
  • Audio or Video systems
  • Upgraded insulation, for cold areas

Where to buy a hot tub?

There are several places to buy a hot tub – online, local spa retailer, big box retailer, carnivals or fairs. The last one, carnivals and fairs – should not be the place to buy a spa, but it could be a good place to test out a spa, yeah right.

Online: Prices online can save you a lot of money on a new spa. Savings of up to $2000, over buying locally, but – you have to expect limited service, and delivery to your driveway by a burly and surly trucker. Empty spas can weigh 500-900 lbs, and can be very unwieldy to move from the driveway into position. But, if you have some large furniture moving equipment and several burly friends to help you move it. If you buy a hot tub online from a well known website (like HotTubWorks.com), you can be confident that there is some technical support and help by phone and email, if you need.

Spa Store: If you want as little risk as possible, and don’t mind spending a premium to have all the details taken care of, visit your local spa store – one that’s been a business for many years. Having a hot tub installed by professionals is really the way to go, if you can swing the added cost. You also will have the advantage of an easy warranty service or repair, if that becomes necessary. And because you spent 8-10 grand, you become something of a VIP client, for awhile anyway.

Costco: Prices at Costco are another way to save a few thousand dollars, and they have an installation service available, in addition to regular driveway delivery. The models at Costco are usually major brand with Balboa components, but double check to be sure you aren’t buying a ‘no-name’ spa pak or knock-off brand. There’s not much service after the sale from the big box stores, they don’t have any spa experts that you can call, although if there is a warranty issue, the local rep can usually be called in to assist.

Buy Name Brand Spas

Be sure to buy a Name Brand spa and spa pack, and not something imported, or built in a garage. The reason is, you want tested equipment and components, not imitation generics that are not made to the same standards. You also want a network of service centers, and parts availability for future repairs.

Do some online searching of the spa make and model and the spa pack (pump/filter/heater/controls), to be sure it’s made by a respected brand that has been around for some time.

Oh – and don’t buy a used spa, the useful life is probably near the end, so even a good deal won’t seem so good if you are plagued with problems. Most used tubs have been neglected and abused by the time they are sold as “slightly used”.

 

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 ~~~ That’s all Folks! I hope your spa buying experience is a good one – and that I taught you at least one thing about how to buy a hot tub. If you have specific questions, leave a comment below, or send an email to us!

 

XOXO;

Gina Galvin
Hot Tub Works

 

How To Clean a Hot Tub that has been Sitting

February 24th, 2015 by

how-to-clean-a-spa-that-has-been-sittingIt doesn’t take long for spa water to go south when the hot tub has been sitting for days or weeks without being filtered or sanitized. How long? In moderate temperatures, spa water can stay fresh for up to two weeks, if covered tightly.

Spa water that sits longer than a week or two will begin to grow algae and bacteria, even without light, under a dark spa cover. Spas that sit untended will begin to grow biofilm or bacterial colonies – the kind of scum you see in a toilet that hasn’t been used or cleaned in awhile (sorry for that analogy!).

For spas and hot tubs that have been sitting, unused and unmaintained, for a period of longer than a few weeks – here’s the process to bring it back online.

TEST FILTER SYSTEM

Before you do a lot of work cleaning the hot tub, make sure that the spa pump and filter are operational. Add water if needed to bring the level up to mid-skimmer, covering the spa filter, which may need to be replaced with a new filter cartridge.

Turn on power at the circuit breaker, then open up the spa cabinet to find the spa equipment. Reset any popped GFCI outlets, and power up the spa pack. Check that all valves are open, before and after the pump, and take a good look for any leaking water under the spa.

Using the spa side control, run the spa pump on low speed and high speed briefly, which will help dislodge gunk in the pipes. Some spas have two pumps, a circulation pump and a jet pump; test them both to be sure that they will be operational after you drain & clean the hot tub.

DRAIN & CLEAN

Draining the spa is the best way to clean a hot tub that has been sitting for awhile. If your water is in fair condition, hazy but without visible algae or biofilm growth, skip ahead to the next step and purge the plumbing, to clean a hot tub without draining.

draining-a-hot-tubTo drain a spa or hot tub, look for the drainage port or hose. Some spas have a small access port at the base of the cabinet to drain water. If not you will usually find a short hose or a hose connection at the lowest point of the spa. Pull out the hose, or connect a hose, and let the water drain by gravity. You can also use a submersible pump to drain a spa. Be sure that the power to the spa is OFF before draining.

As the spa is draining, if the water condition is really bad, use a garden hose to spray off the spa surfaces. You can also spray into the skimmer, or spray water directly into the spa jets, to help loosen slimy gunk. Just be careful not to spray the spa pack, or spa equipment (pump, filter, heater).

REFILL & PURGE

Now that you’ve removed the funky, gunky water from the hot tub (or if you want to clean a hot tub without draining), the next step is to purge the spa, which means to add a chemical that will remove the slimy biofilm that lines the inside of the pipes, and has made a home in various nooks and crannies in the spa air and water plumbing.biofilm-in-spas-and-hot-tub

You can use Natural Chemistry’s Spa Purge, or Leisure Time’s Jet Clean. Follow label directions, adding it to the spa with the pump system running. In a very short time, you will notice the funk and gunk rising to the surface, as a brown foam. Turn on the jet pump and blower to help dislodge any remaining bacterial colonies.

DRAIN & REFILL

Drain the spa again, using a hose or rag to remove the scum around the top of the spa, cleaning as the water level drops. When completely empty, use sponges or a wet/dry vac to suck up the last bits of water.

One more time to the well! Refill your spa with fresh water. When full, test the water chemistry and add adjustment chemicals if needed to balance the pH, alkalinity and calcium hardness. Add a bromine booster (if you use bromine tabs), and then shock the hot tub with 1-3 tablespoons of spa shock, following label instructions.

A new spa filter may also be in order, to keep the hot tub water clean and clear. Replace your spa filters every 18 months, or every 12 cleanings, whichever comes first.

 

Happy Hot Tubbin’

Daniel Lara
Hot Tub Works

 

 

 

 

Spa & Hot Tub Maintenance

February 20th, 2015 by

image from ThermospasWell hello again, my dear readers; I would have thought this topic would go to one of our more technical writers, but my hot tub was voted as the most well-maintained, and they asked to know my secret! :-)

Flattery will get you everywhere I suppose,  so here I am with some basic spa and hot tub maintenance information. What do you need to know to take care of a spa or hot tub? Read on, dear reader.

 

Care = Prevention

When we talk about spa care and hot tub maintenance, you really are practicing problem prevention.  There are a number of things that are done on a regular basis, regular hot tub maintenance tasks, and then there are those best practices or methods that are used to keep your spa running well, while being energy friendly and safe for pets and children.

 

Spa & Hot Tub Chemical Maintenance

  • Test spa water for pH, chlorine/bromine, alkalinity and calcium levels 2-3x per week.
  • Adjust pH, alkalinity and calcium as needed. Maintain a constant chlorine/bromine level.
  • Clean the spa cartridge filter when the pressure gauge rises 7-8lbs, or 1-3x per month.
  • Set the 24 hr pump timer to run on low speed for a total of 12-18 hours daily.
  • Drain the spa every 3 months to prevent buildup of dissolved solids.
  • Refill the spa using a pre-filter that screws onto a garden hose.
  • Shower before using the spa, and Shock after using the spa.

 

Spa & Hot Tub Equipment Maintenance

  • Spa Covers: Use a spa cover lift, air-out the spa cover 2x per week, clean & condition spa cover 3x per year.
  • Spa Filters: After cleaning allow it to dry fully before reinstalling. Use filter cleaner 2x per year, replace filter every 1-2 years.
  • Spa Pumps: Run on high speed only during use or adding chemicals. Don’t allow pumps to run dry, or with an air-lock, or low water level.
  • Spa Heater: Maintain proper water chemistry and keep a clean cartridge filter to protect your heater element.
  • Spa Cabinet: Protect from direct sun, lawn sprinklers or rain splash around edges. Stain and or seal the surfaces as needed.
  • Spa Shell: Acrylic or plastic spas should be polished when emptied, wood hot tubs require cleaning without chemicals.

 

Saving Money & Energy

  • For daily use, keep the temp at 98°, or 94° if you only use it every 3-4 days.
  • Bump up the temperature to 101° – 104°, and then shower before using spa.
  • Keep your spa cover tightly fitted, and for extra insulation, use a floating foam blanket.
  • For colder areas, add R-30 insulation to poorly insulated spa cabinets.
  • Set the spa timer to operate mostly outside of peak daylight energy use hours.

 

Spa Safety

  • Covered: Don’t forget to always keep the spa tightly covered, with safety clips attached.
  • Locked: Indoor spas should be in locked rooms; lock doors and fences to outside spas.
  • Secure: Be sure that spa drain covers are safe and secure.
  • Spa Rules: Use safety signs and teach children the spa is only used with adult supervision.

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Make a list or set a reminder in your calendar to not forget these important hot tub maintenance tasks. And if you have someone else in your family doing it as a chore, believe me, you better follow up behind them!

I hope I was able to answer all of your questions about taking care of a spa! Leave a comment if you have any other ?’s about hot tub maintenance, or you want more information on any of my tips above!

 

Carolyn Mosby
Hot Tub Works

 

 

Hot Tub Pioneers – Brett Aqualine

February 16th, 2015 by

brett spa pack em-100Hot Tubs took a giant leap forward when in 1977, when Jim Brett cobbled together the first spa pack, a single system that united the pump, heater, blower and controls onto one skid.

At the time, spas were being heated and treated with swimming pool equipment, which was oversized and overpriced. Another problem was that a portable spa market was being born, and to be truly portable, it needed a small, compact and portable, filtration and heating system.

“The problem with the first portable [spas] was that they were sold as a true portable that could be plugged into a 20-amp circuit,” said Jim Brett, president of Brett Aqualine.  However,  when you used the jets, the heater had to be turned off or the breaker would trip, and the spa temperature cooled rapidly without the heater, especially if you use an air blower or venture air intakes.

Brett designed a system capable of balancing high amperage loads with a controller, coupled with a spa side panel and a very compact spa package. The “Spa Pack” was born, in the late seventies, and Brett Aqualine dominated the business for many years.

There are still spas and hot tubs that are not capable of running the blower and the heater at the same time, any spa that you just plug into an outlet. Full featured spas require a larger dedicated circuit, hard-wired to the main panel, to power all of the modern span components.

Named to the Inc. 500 list as he #9 fastest growing company in 1987, Brett Aqualine grew sales from just $100,000 in 1983, to nearly $15M by 1987, an amazing growth spurt!

In 1998, Len Gordon purchases the assets of the Brett Aqualine corporation, expanding their products and reach. Just 3 years later, the Brett Aqualine company was sold along with Len Gordon’s other business units to Spa Builders Systems Group, which then reformed the growing company into a new entity – Allied Innovations.

brett aqualine logoToday,  many of Brett Aqualine products are available as Brett Aqualine by Allied Innovations. Truly one of the Pioneers of the Hot Tub industry, Jim Brett, along with co-founder Jim McNicol, helped usher in a more consumer friendly era for home spas and hot tubs.

We salute you!

 

- Jack

 

 

 

 

When Hot Tubs lose Power – Strange but True Stories

January 29th, 2015 by

Around hereoutdoor-spa-full-of-snow-2, at Hot Tub Works, we get nearly 1000 phone calls per day. Most are sales calls to order spa covers or chemicals, but a good percentage of calls are spa tech support calls. It’s enough to keep several spa techs busy on the phones all day, so I guess it’s about 15% of our call volume.

I was talking to Drake at our holiday party recently, and it was a cold night – so cold that I made a comment about “…a lot of spas freezing up tonight”. He told me some funny stories that he had experienced over the phone with customers or had heard about.

IF YOU LOSE POWER - Strange but True Stories

  1. Do not drain the spa! Most winter power outages are resolved quickly, and most spas with any sort of insulation, and a good spa cover, can hold heat for at least 24 hours. If your spa was 90° when the power went off, it can take a long time for temperatures in the pipes and equipment to cool to near freezing, especially in a spa with a tight cabinet and good insulation.
  2. Do not put flames under the spa! Small fires (true story), or a kerosene heater, or any gas heater placed under the spa can cause a big problem with soot, carbon monoxide and melted spa parts. Keep the cover closed, and lay heavy woolen blankets over top if needed to help old spa covers.
  3. Do not pour antifreeze into the spa. Some of you are laughing, but another true story. “I don’t care if the label says non-toxic antifreeze for pools”, it’s not safe to pour into the spa, plus it wouldn’t work unless you poured in an amount equal to at least 10% of your spa water volume.
  4. Do not stuff blankets or comforters underneath the spa. When the equipment starts up, the pump and heater need the air spaces to keep themselves cool. Besides, who would want to use that blanket again? Not me!

WHAT YOU CAN DO - in an Extended Power Outage

  1. Cover the spa cover with heavy woolen blankets and plastic tarp, wrapped tightly around the edge. This can help hold heat in, especially with older covers or spa covers that don’t fit tightly, or seal up all heat loss.
  2. Check the water temperature with a floating thermometer that you can quickly access via a smartphone app, or by quickly lifting the cover just slightly. The water temperature in the pipes will have to reach a few degrees below 32° for several hours before they expand enough to cause damage. At 32°, most water will just turn slushy and not freeze hard.
  3. Add hot water to the spa. Drain half the water, and refill with hot water from a garden hose connected to a spigot in the kitchen or laundry room. You can find an adapter from kitchen sink threads to garden hose threads at most hardware stores and  home stores.
  4. Use Hot Stones, warmed for 30 minutes in a fireplace or wood burning stove. Put them in a large iron skillet and place them under the spa cabinet. 8-10 large stones can be enough to warm the cabinet spaces for the overnight.

bio-film-hot-tubsOf course, you can drain the spa, as a last resort. It may be the best option for a home that is unoccupied during winter, with no one available to maintain the spa. However, if you plan to drain the spa for longer than a day or two, follow these tips on winterizing a spa – not only to protect the spa from freezing water, but from pockets of water and moisture that can grow into a nasty biofilm.

The best thing to do during a power outage, is the same thing that you do with the refrigerator – keep the door closed, and call to let your power company know that you are without power. If it drags on for days, such as after ice storms, keep adding hot water to the spa, or bite the bullet and drain it completely, especially if you are due for a water change anyway.

 

XOXO;
Gina Galvin

 

Deck it Out – Hot Tub and Spa Decks

January 26th, 2015 by

hot-tub-deck-designsAre you tired of the same old backyard? I am – after looking at all of these beautiful pictures of spas and hot tubs wrapped in wood, built by creative and crafty homeowners (and their contractors).

If your spa (like mine), is just sitting on the back porch, on a boring slab of concrete, here’s some inspirational photos of spas sunken into wood decks, with thanks (and image credit) to Decks.com and Houzz.com.

Further down, I have some details on spa deck construction, or considerations when designing a spa or hot tub wood deck.

1. Simple & clean spa deck design provides privacy and space for entertaining

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2. Multi-level deck design with down lights to illuminate steps without blocking stars.

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3. Cantilevered deck sections and faux rock spa skirt and privacy wall.

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4. Hot Springs spa wrap around deck design gives plenty of room for drinks and towels.

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5. This old house got a facelift in the front and back, integrated spa into the back stairs.

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6. Curved composite planks match the circular acrylic hot tub, set below Wisteria blooms.

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7. Ultra modern home with deck wrapped hot tub with lots of access to equipment.

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8. Horizontal privacy wall contrasts perfectly with the stained decking around this spa.

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9. Spa tucked nicely on the edge of the patio, integrates well with custom wall and steps.

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10. Spa appears to float in air, steps on left side lead down to spa equipment access.

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11. Luxuriously finished teak wood for large gatherings with a grand view.

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12. Positioning the spa at a jaunty angle in relation to the house creates better visual flow.

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13. Need more circular shapes in your life? Perfect contrast to a square house and backyard.

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14. Another example of asymmetrical spa placement, in relation to the house; adds more angles.

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15. Pergola! Corner posts can tie-off long drapery; top is great for Clematis or Wisteria vines.

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16. This looks like a dream. Safety fence rails are important for raised decks (and cliffs!).

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17. Wood and stone play nicely together in this spa deck and privacy wall.

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18. A Hot Springs spa deck planner idea, with two wood topped islands, wrapped in faux stone.

hot-tub-spa-decks-19

 

Spa Deck Materials

When building a wood deck, there are usually several options of wood, from basic pressure treated yellow pine, to insect resistant redwood and cedar, to imported hardwoods like Ipe or Balau. Composite deck materials mimic the look of real wood, but can outlast real wood, without the need for future sanding and staining.

Spa Insulation

Another important consideration when building a spa in a deck is the insulation around the tub. When sinking a spa shell into a deck without a spa cabinet, some insulation should be planned for, to save on heating costs. When a wood hot tub is sunk into the deck, a heavy insulated pad can be wrapped around the tub, below deck level.

Spa Deck Structural Design

A full size spa is heavy (nearly 1000 lbs), and a spa full of water can weigh 5x more! When placing a spa in a deck, the spa itself must be resting on a 4″ slab of reinforced concrete, or other suitable base that can handle at least 100 lbs per square foot. Want to install a spa on the upstairs deck? Better call a structural engineer, and get out the checkbook – strong underpinnings are needed for any elevated spa or hot tub.

Spa Privacy

Your location may not need much privacy, but if you have close-by neighbors like I do, a slatted or lattice wall can keep out prying eyes. A low wall can be incorporated into the deck surrounding the wall, as many of pictures above show. Draperies, fabric shades and plants can also be used to add privacy to your outdoor spa or hot  tub.

Spa Safety

Every spa installation demands safety considerations. Fencing or rails around raised decking is important, but even more important is a way to block access to the spa, with fences and gates, and with locking spa covers.

 

Carolyn Mosby
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.

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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