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Archive for the ‘life’ Category

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

 

 

 

 

Spa Error Codes – Sn, SnS, Sn1, Sn2…

February 5th, 2015 by

balboa-error-code-Sn-Sn1-Sn2-Sn3-SnS---Continuing in my little series on spa and hot tub error codes or trouble codes, today we take a look at Sensor Errors.

These will present themselves in many forms on the display, such as Sn, Sn1, Sn2, and they refer to temperature sensors located on the heater manifold. The controller display is telling you that either the high limit or the temp sensor are open or shorted. There also could be a voltage problem, excessive voltage creates heat. Or, it could be a problem with the thermostat allowing the heater element overheat.

Like our previous discussions on spa error codes, FLO and OH, the sensor codes Sn, Sn1, Sn2… are very much water flow dependent. If water is not flowing through the heater chamber fast enough, it gets too hot, and the safety high temp sensors go into action – just doing their job.

Spa Error Codes: Sn, Sn1, HL, E2, E3, Prh

For these trouble codes, the high limit sensor is open or shorted. It could be a loose plug connection or bad wire, or it could be a problem related to water flow. Clean or replace your spa filter cartridge as a first step. Make sure that all jets are open, and nothing is blocking the spa drain cover flow. Underneath the spa, check that all valves are open (handles up). If the flow rate still seems less than normal with all jets and valves open, you may consider inspecting for broken valves (closed when they appear to be open), clogged impeller inside the pump wet end, or something stuck in the skimmer pipe. Of course, be sure that you don’t have a pump air lock, and that the spa water level is filled high enough.

Spa Error Codes: Sn, Sn2, Sn3, EO, E1, Prr

With these spa sensor codes, the Temperature Sensor is open or shorted. The temp sensor and the high limit are usually located on the heater housing, with 1-2 small wires coming off and connecting to your controller. With the system powered off, you normally unscrew the sensors from the heater manifold, and unplug the wire from the panel. Inspect the wires for any heat or rodent damage, and the sensor face for corrosion or scaling. However, the usual cause for spa temp sensor error codes is that the water flow is insufficient, and when water moves too slowly through the heater, it doesn’t remove the heat fast enough, which triggers all sorts of error codes for flow rate and overheating. HOT, OL, HL, FLO, Sn…

SPA TEMPERATURE SENSOR ERROR CODE FLOW CHART

Here’s a Cal Spa troubleshooting chart for when your spa topside display shows a sensor error code Sn, Sn1, Sn2, Sn3… As you can see, it could be a nuisance tripping, or the wires could be absorbing excess heat, need calibration, or simply be faulty.

cal-spas-Sn-error-code-flow-chart

In addition to the Sn, Sn1, Sn2 type of error codes, other codes for Smart Sensor spas, such as SA, Sb, SnA, SnB error codes are used on many spas and hot tubs. These are similar to the Sn1 and Sn2 codes, signaled from the high limit or water temperature sensors.

cal-spa-smart-sensor-troubleshooting-flowchart

In summation; when you have spa trouble codes of Sn, SnA, Sn1, Sn2. Sn3, HL, EO, E2, E3, Prh, Prr – these all refer to the heat sensors that are usually attached to your heater manifold. Inspect the wire and plugs, check the spa water level and make sure water is flowing free and fast. If you confirm all those things, and it still throws an Sn error at you, test the sensor as described above; it may be faulty.

 

Happy Hot Tubbin’

Daniel Lara
Hot Tub Works

 

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

hot-tub-spa-decks-1

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.

hot-tub-spa-decks-8

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.

hot-tub-spa-decks-6

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

hot-tub-spa-decks-5

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

hot-tub-spa-decks-4

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

hot-tub-spa-decks-3

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.

spa-drain-covers-recalled

recalled-drain-covers

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

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

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

 

- Jack

 

Hot Tub Pioneers – Baja Spas

December 18th, 2014 by

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

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

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

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

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

The 1971 NSPI Show

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

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

An Acrylic Spa is Born

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

baja-spas-logo

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

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

Selling Acrylic Spas

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

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

Expansion in the 80′s

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

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

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

Award Winners

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

Today and Tomorrow

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

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

baja-spas-logos

 

XOXO;

Gina Galvin
Hot Tub Works

 

Spas and Hot Tubs in the News

December 8th, 2014 by

It’s that time again – for our twice annual look at spas and hot tubs in the news. Often funny, sometimes sad stories involving hot tubs that made the local or national news.

Let’s dive in then, and see what’s been happening in the wacky world of spas and hot tubs!

 3 ARRESTED AFTER SEXUAL ROMP IN APT. HOT TUB

Associated Press, printed on Tuscon.com, July 30, 2014

peoria-police-dept-photosSeveral arrests for public sexual indecency were made after an alleged romp in a Peoria apartment complex hot tub. The three were seen having sex Sunday night in the apartment’s public spa. Police arrived to find 28-year-old Gina Marie Rayner, her boyfriend, Anthony Vechiola and another woman having sex in the public. They continued to have sex even after the officer told them to stop, according to the statement. While they were being interviewed, an officer heard a child, later identified as Rayner’s, crying for his mother. UPDATE:  Anthony was sentenced this week to 7 yrs of supervised probation. The two women face public indecency and child abuse charges later in the month.

 

WORLD’S FASTEST HOT TUB

Kickstarter.com by Phillip Weicker, August 8, 2014

carpool-deville--5Dubbed the “Carpool DeVille”, a converted 1969 Cadillac has the claim to being the World’s Fastest Hot Tub. This September, the creators of the only car that I’m aware of to be turned into a hot tub. It began as a university science project, when the creators were younger, in fact a lot younger. The original car was built in the late 90′s. But this year, the duo raised over $11,000 on Kickstarter, and took Carpool DeVille to the Bonneville Salt Flats, to race and to prove to the world that it’s the fastest Hot Tub on Wheels. Well, it rained out that day, but they still took it out and had it up to 50 mph – definitely the world’s fastest.

 

MISSOURI MOM CHARGED FOR TOPLESS HOT TUB MOTHER/DAUGHTER PHOTO

CBS News, by Crimesider Staff KMOV, September 13, 2014

CBS-KMOV-videoIn Wentsville, Missouri a small town is up in arms about a picture that was shared on Snapchat by a woman’s 14 year old daughter. As she was exiting the spa, her daughter snapped a picture, shared it online, which was quickly reshared by local high school users. The photo, which showed the mother and her 14-year-old daughter topless in a hot tub. The mother was charged with misdemeanor child endangerment as a result of the picture that here daughter posted. KMOV is not revealing the woman’s name in order to protect her teenage daughter – although this was not the first time she had posted semi-nude pictures on the internet.

 

SPA DRAIN COVER RECALL

Pool and Spa News by Rebecca Roblado, October 29, 2014

waterway-drain-coverThe CPSC announced the recall of approximately 26,000 Designer Pro Series Suction Covers installed in certain hot tub models produced by Catalina Spas, Four Winds Spas, Dimension One Spas and Sunrise Spas from June 2011 to June 2013. The hot tubs were sold nationwide and ranged in price from $3,500 to $16,000, according to CPSC. The black and silver, round-shaped drains are stamped with the number 640-52XX S on the outside edge of the plastic. The recall number is 15-014. The CPSC recommends that consumers stop using the affected spas and contact Waterway for instructions on inspection and how to receive a free replacement cover.

 

WOMAN DIES AFTER BEING RESCUED FROM HOT TUB

OC Register, by Alma Fausto  November 13, 2014

one-of-3-pools-at-2100-city-lights-dr - Google ImagesIn sad local news (local for Hot Tub Works), a 52-year-old Aliso Viejo woman died the day after she was rescued from the spa unconcious, but breathing. CPR was performed on her by bystanders, until paramedics took over and transported her to Saddleback hospital. Neighbors in the apartment complex saw her from the balcony and thought she was falling asleep and ran down to help. The coroner’s office confirmed Thursday that the woman, identified as Julie Ann Caruana of Aliso Viejo, died from drowning Tuesday morning after being in critical condition at Saddleback in Laguna Hills.

 

FORKLIFT USED IN THEFT OF SWIM SPA

Toronto Sun, by   November 25, 2014

arctic-spas-swim-pools - image by Arctic SpasA  swim spa can be as large as a car, so when Arctic Spas left it sitting overnight outside their store, they rightly felt it would be safe. Police say it was snatched shortly after 10 p.m. on Oct. 8. It’s believed that the thieves used a forklift, to steal the Hudson Swim Spa, which measures 14′ x 8′, and weighs over 2000 lbs dry, so it’s unlikely it was lifted by people onto a truck.  The hot tub was left in front of the store so that it could be picked up early the next morning and delivered to a customer, Arctic Spa manager Philip Edey said Tuesday. Edey added whoever is behind the theft had access to the equipment needed to move the massive hot tub, either a forklift or a tilt bed tow truck.

 

DISABLED BOY RECEIVES HOT TUB OF HIS DREAMS

North Devon Journal (UK) by NDJDuncan  December 04, 2014

george-palmer - image by northdevonjournal.co.ukA DISABLED boy is enjoying a new hot tub at his home thanks to the Starlight Children’s Foundation, a charity that grants wishes to children with serious illnesses. Seven-year-old George Palmer has quadriplegic cerebral palsy, epilepsy and visual impairment. Since he loves swimming, and being in the water eases the pain caused by his condition, he asked the Foundation for a backyard spa. Mother Nicki said the tub means that George could get into the water every day and have something fun that he can do with friends and family – which is hard sometimes, due to his condition. Nicki said a queue of friends to visit the tub had appeared overnight, since George took a photo of it to school.

 

Love news stories about hot tubs and spas? Want More…?

Spas and Hot Tubs in the News – June, 2014

Spas and Hot Tubs in the News – August, 2013

- Jack

 

Hot Tub Pioneers – California Cooperage

December 2nd, 2014 by

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

- Jack

 

Hot Tubs & Brain Function

November 24th, 2014 by

hot-tubs-make-you-smarterSoaking in water soothes the savage beast. Hot tubs are well known for reducing aches and pains, and research has shown that it relaxes muscles as it improves blood flow and raises muscle temperature. But did you also know that your spa or hot tub can make you smarter?

In a study done with 60 mid-aged women suffering from fibromyalgia, hot water immersion and light exercise was prescribed, including mobility, aerobic, strength, and flexibility exercises for 16 weeks.

Study participants tested for higher cognitive function after the 16 week study, as compared to tests completed prior to the study, and as compared to a control group. In addition, they had a self reported higher pain threshold and reduction in pain symptoms.

By way of contrast, another study at Kent State showed that exposure to acute cold, lead to pronounced reduction of cognition, before and after soaking in cold water at 55°.  Subjects were tested against various known cognition tests for reaction time, before during and after cold water immersion. Brr… I hope they paid those students well!

Hot Tubs Make you Smarter?

You heard it here first, folks. But, how exactly can we make this claim, and what is making some test subjects test better on cognition skills during and after a soak in hot water? According to a study by Titis Wijayanto, at Kyushu University, “passive heat exposure increases oxygen delivery in the pre-frontal cortex to maintain pre-frontal cortex oxygenation”.

So, in the presence of heat, and more specifically an increase in the core body temperature, the body responds by sending more oxygen rich blood to the frontal cortex. This is why you are so brilliant in the hot tub, and immediately afterwards!

Don’t confuse hot tubs with hot weather, however. The US Army has studied the effects of outside air temperature extensively on it’s soldiers, and both hot and cold environments have an adverse effect on soldier performance in various cognition tests, especially at temperatures below 50° and above 90° F.

Power of Water – Known to the Ancients

cleopatra-being-bathedAs far back as Hippocrates, water therapy was appreciated for it’s effect on the mind. The Greek doctor said that water therapy was necessary to prevent “lassitude”, or physical or mental weaknesses. During the rise of the Roman empire, great baths were erected for the ‘spiritual fulfillment’ of the citizenry.

For the ancient cultures of the Inca in South America, water was a deity, and natural hot spring baths were infused with local eucalyptus. The baths are still in operation to this day, known as the Baños del Inca. In North America and Europe, water therapy flourished until the middle ages, when puritan ethics decreed bathing to be something lascivious.

During the 17th and 18th centuries however, this gross misjudgement was corrected, and bathing for health, and well being become popular again.

Hot Water Therapy for Mood Elevation

happy-personMany studies have shown the effects of hot water immersion and an elevated mood, which can last for several hours after soaking, like the runner’s ‘high’. a study in 2020, by Dubois, et al showed that when test subjects (120 persons) were given regular warm water therapy, anxiety was reduced with less prescription drugs.

And in another study on the effects of hot tubs and depression, even the CDC is onboard, stating that hot water therapy improves mood and reduces depression.

 

Carolyn Mosby
Hot Tub Works

 

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