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Archive for the ‘Hot Tub Filters’ Category

Hot Tub Jets Not Working?

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hot tub jets not working

 

Why are my hot tub jets not working?! It’s a common spa question that we get asked all the time. One day you’ll get in the spa and notice the hot tub jets don’t feel as strong as usual.

It’s almost always an easy fix, so don’t worry about major problems right away – it’s probably not the case. There is usually a very simple reason that the jets don’t have much “oomph” lately.

Here’s the step-by-step process that we use in our call center to guide spa and hot tub owners through issues when their spa jets aren’t working.

 

 

Is the Pump Working Right?

hot tub pumpThis is an important first question, but it’s really many questions combined into one. The first part being, “Is the pump air-locked?” This can occur if you just drained the hot tub. Some systems need to “burp” out air in the pipes in front of the pump, which is usually done by loosening the union nut or pump drain plug to allow the air to escape.

Some hot tubs have two pumps – a circulation pump for filtration and a jet booster pump. Many hot tubs just have a single, two-speed pump that accomplishes both functions. So another question would be, “Is the jet pump working?” or “Is the pump’s high speed working?”

If the jets seem to have less than the normal volume of water coming through, be sure that the pump is turning on like normal. Digital spas typically have to push the display to enter the jet mode. Older spa controls use an air button to activate the jet pump. The air switch button and the air hose can fail or lose effectiveness over time, and they may need to be replaced.

 

Dirty Spa Filter?

hot tub filterA dirty spa filter can slow water flow down noticeably, but not completely. Your spa heater won’t work if your water flow rate is very low. So if your heater is working, chances are good that your filter is still pretty clean. A dirty spa filter will also allow small bits of debris to pass through. Replace your spa filters every 12-18 months for best results.

 

Clogged Drain Cover?

hot tub drain coverThe drain covers that are located in the foot well area of a spa or hot tub have very powerful suction, and if something like a napkin, plastic wrap, cup or t-shirt comes close, it can block the water flow. Check that your drain covers are not covered with something that’s blocking the water flow.

 

Low Water Level in Spa?

hot tub water levelIf your spa skimmer is drawing in air, or “sucking air,” this will drastically affect water flow. It will also shut off the spa heater. Is the water level OK in the spa? You may need to add more water every so often to replenish the water lost to evaporation and drag-off. Keeping your spa cover straps clipped helps reduce evaporation by pulling the cover tight against the spa.

 

Air Leak in Front of Pump?

hot tub air leakIn the case of an air leak, it’s usually the pump union in front of the pump that is loose, or it could also be that the o-ring inside is out of position. Then again, it could also be a valve or any pipe connection in front of the pump (the pipe that brings water into the pump). If anything before the pump is loose or cracked, the pump will suck in air. The point that is leaking air when the pump is ON will also leak water when the pump is OFF. With the cabinet door open, shut off the pump and look for any spray or drips on the pipe that goes into the pump.

 

Clogged Pump Impeller?

hot tub pump impellerFor most hot tubs with a good spa cover, the tub stays pretty clean. But if your spa was left uncovered and took on leafy or seedy debris, this debris can clog up the pump impeller. The impeller is a closed vane type, and for many portable spas, there is no pump strainer basket to catch debris.

To check your impeller, shut off power and close the valves on both sides of the pump. Remove pump unions (a gallon or two of water will spill), and turn pump to look inside of the pump impeller housing. If it is clogged, you will usually see some debris in the center eye of the impeller.

To proceed further for cleaning, remove the screws or bolts that hold the impeller housing cover in place. With the impeller exposed, use flexible wire or plastic to ream out the impeller vanes and remove the clogging material. Re-secure the impeller housing cover, tighten the pump unions and open the valves.

 

Is the Jet Adjustable?

hot tub jetMany jets are adjustable at the nozzle or by rotating the outer ring Many can be turned almost off, which increases flow to the other jets nearby. You may find it easier to manipulate the jet adjustment while the pump is off, but it’s not necessary. Try turning the jet nozzle left or right, or turn the jet’s outer ring or “scalloped bezel.”

 

Is the Jet Clogged?

hot tub jetSpa jets can also become clogged, but it doesn’t happen very often. When it does, it’s usually the broken piece of a part that has lodged itself in the jet and is blocking part of the water flow. In some cases, spa jets can become clogged from clumps of calcium or debris that have pushed through the filter. For many spa jets, the internal jet assembly can be removed (unthreaded) from the jet body for inspection. Inground spas with jets that are not easily removable can use a wire or thin rod to ream out the small orifices.

 

Are the Valves All Open?

hot tub slice valveFor most spa and hot tub systems, there are two diverter valves on either side of the pump. These can be closed for equipment service without draining the entire spa. Sometimes these valves will vibrate into a closed position – especially slice valves, which are used on many spas. Check that the valves inside the cabinet are open.

Another type of valve is used on some spas to operate different sets or banks of spa jets. Usually a large knob or dial will allow a spa user to open and close jets while seated inside of the spa. Some hot tubs or inground spas may require a valve adjustment outside of the spa. For inground spas, there is often no valve or diverters to adjust individual spa jets, but you can often adjust the jets themselves or turn individual jets on and off.

Air valves will add volume to the water. There are often surface knobs, which can be turned to open or close the air intake line. Open them to see if volume increases sufficiently. Air lines should be closed after use so you don’t bring a continuous stream of cool water into the spa. Doing so will make your heater work harder and cost you more money.

Clean Spa Filters – in the Dishwasher?

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how to clean hot tub filterCan you clean your spa filters in the dishwasher? I think the idea came about when cartridge manufacturers suggested that dishwasher detergent (not laundry detergent!) could be used as an alternative to TSP (trisodium phosphate) for soaking cartridges and removing greasy oil deposits before cleaning the filter.

I have yet to see a manufacturer of spa filters suggest cleaning spa filters in the dishwasher. There are some people online that say that they clean their spa filters in the dishwasher (without soap or rinse aid), and using a no-heat drying cycle. Sounds OK, but will it really get the cartridge clean?

My dishwasher hardly removes all of the tomato sauce it should, but it’s a decent model. So I thought I’d put this to a test. Can you clean spa filters in the dishwasher? And perhaps more importantly: Should you?

The Dishwasher-Spa Filter Cleaning Test

My spa filters had not been cleaned in a month, which is my usual schedule, so I removed my filter cartridge. It’s about 15″ tall, so I was able to place it standing up on the lower rack of the dishwasher – it just barely fit. I added a small amount of dishwasher detergent to the reservoir, then set it on the longest cycle (115 mins) with a no-heat drying cycle.

THE RESULT? There was still debris stuck down in the pleats, even though it definitely looked a lot cleaner from the outside. I’ve seen some suggest laying the spa filter on the top rack of the dishwasher, so I repeated the test in this manner, even rotating the cartridge twice during the cycle. However, there was still small debris and discoloration deep in the pleats.

How to Clean Spa Filters

THE OLD METHOD IS STILL THE BEST METHOD. Hose the filter cartridge clean with a handheld garden hose nozzle. It’s a wet and not particularly comfortable experience, but cleaning it pleat by pleat in an up and down motion does the best job.

Here’s a step by step guide for cleaning spa and hot tub filter cartridges:

  1. Turn off spa, open filter canister and remove cartridge.
  2. Spray carefully with a high pressure hose nozzle to remove debris from each pleat.
  3. Soak the cartridge for 8 hours in TSP solution (1 cup TSP per 5 gallons hot water). Rinse clean.
  4. Soak the cartridge 1 hour in an acid solution (1 cup acid per 1 gallon cool water). Rinse clean.
  5. Soak the cartridge again in the TSP solution for 10 minutes to neutralize remaining acids.
  6. To kill remaining microbes, allow filter to dry completely before reinstalling.unicel-filter-guy-using-protective-gear

Steps 3 and 4 are not always necessary. TSP (or dry dishwasher detergent) is great for removing oily deposits on spa filters. Muriatic acid (or dry acid) is used to remove mineral scale like calcium deposits. Be sure to wear proper protective gear when handling muriatic acid, and always add the acid to water (not water to acid).

Steps 3, 4 and 5 can be combined into one step when using our Spa Cartridge Filter Cleaner, which can remove both oils and minerals. We also have Leisure Time Filter Clean for an overnight soaking, or Leisure Time Cartridge Clean, which is a spray-on formula that works in minutes instead of hours.

A spray nozzle that works great for cleaning spa filters is the Filter Flosser. It can really get in there to clean between the pleats of your filter, even if the water pressure to your hose is not so great.

Final Tips

  1. DO NOT clean spa filters in the dishwasher! It’s not very effective and could damage the filter.
  2. DO NOT clean spa filters with a pressure washer, for obvious reasons.
  3. Dry dishwasher soap is OK, but laundry detergent is NOT OK.
  4. Remember to rinse the filter thoroughly after soaking to remove all chemical traces.
  5. DO NOT use DE powder as a spa filter aid. However, Puri-Fiber or Aqua-Perl may be used if desired.

Conclusion

unicel-guy-spraying-hose on spa filterIf you REALLY want to use your dishwasher to clean a hot tub filter, be my guest. But be warned: the dishwasher won’t get your filter very clean. It shouldn’t hurt the filter cartridge unless you use a heated dry cycle. You can use a small amount of dry dishwasher detergent as long as you remember to rinse the filter well once the dishwasher shuts off.

As for me – I’ll just keep doing it the old fashioned way. I take a seat next to an empty trash can, then hose the filter clean inside of the can. It’s more difficult to do it like this, but it keeps my shoes dry.

Hot Tub Filter FAQ

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Group of 20 spa filters of different sizesSpa Filters is the topic of the day, a simple product, but one that generates a lot of questions. Let’s start with the general and work our way to the specific.

Hopefully you will find the answer to your vexing spa filter question below! Your edification is guaranteed – if you don’t find an answer to your spa filter question, leave a comment, I’ll add it to the list!

What is a Spa Filter?

A spa filter or hot tub filter is a pleated polyester cartridge that removes fine particles from spa water. The design of a spa filter forces the water to pass through the woven micro-fiber fabric, which traps dirt, debris, oils and other water clouding particulates. Hot tub filters look and function very much like the air filter in an automobile, and like a car air filter, eventually the cartridge becomes clogged and fibers separate, and it needs to be replaced.

What Alternatives Exist to Spa Filter Cartridges?

For aboveground spas (and pools), the cartridge filter is the predominant choice, because so much filter surface area can be packed into such a small filter, it’s hard for designers to resist. Cartridge filters are also an easy filter to understand, use and maintain, as opposed to sand or DE filters, used mainly on pools. However, sand or DE filters can be added to any spa, see Carolyn’s post on adding an external filter to a hot tub, however in most cases, the spa filter cartridge is the easy choice.

What Makes Some Spa Filters Better Than Others?

Spa filter cartridges have many features to provide added strength or longevity. The thickness of the end caps, the strength of the internal core, and overall structural rigidity lead to a better cartridge. The weight of the fabric and the particular weave that is used can also be a distinction between spa filters. A few popular spa filters are also available with more pleats per square inch, for a 50% increase in filter surface area. Microban spa filters (blue spa filters) are treated with anti-microbials and come in a blue color. There are cheaper imported filters on the market, but cartridges from the big three are always reliable (Unicel, Filbur and Pleatco).

When Do Spa Filters Need Cleaning?

As spa filter cartridges load with dirt, the circulation water flow rate is reduced, and soon after the water quality begins to suffer. For many spas, cleaning the spa filter cartridge weekly is the regular rate, for 2-3 users, 2-3x per week. For spas used more often, or less often, you can adjust the rate accordingly, but don’t let it go too long, or the cartridge can be damaged, and your water quality will suffer and perhaps become unsanitary. On the other hand, cleaning your spa filter too often can lead to premature failure. Each time a cartridge is cleaned, the woven fibers separate a tiny bit, eventually opening up to allow small particles to pass through unfiltered. If your spa filter has a pressure gauge, wait until the pressure rises 7-9 psi, as an indicator of needed cleaning. Alternatively, you may notice that flow rate is reduced in the spa, from less ripples on the water surface, or lower jet volume – or, you may notice the water begin to look a little dull and gray.

When should Spa Filters be Replaced?

Tired, worn-out spa filter

My rule of thumb is to replace your spa filter after 12-15 months, or 12-15 cleanings, whichever comes first, for the average residential spa. If your spa is used several times per week, I would recommend closer to the 12 month time-frame, that’s how often I replace my cartridge, every December 31 actually. However, if you use the spa only once or twice per week, and only need to clean the spa filter every 4 weeks, you may be able to go closer to the 15-month time frame. As previously stated, each time you clean a spa filter, the fibers separate a little more and the filter loses a bit more effectiveness, and manufacturers recommend filter replacement after 12-15 cleanings. Spa filters that deal with heavy hot tub use, and/or poor water conditions will also have a shorter lifespan.

Where is a Hot Tub Filter Located?

The filter cartridge on many spas is located underneath the surface skimmer basket, and accessed from the topside of the spa. In other cases, the spa filter housing may be located underneath the spa, in a plastic cylinder that opens with a lock ring to access the filter cartridge inside. For spas that are top load, just remove the filter lid, and pull the cartridge straight out. For bottom load cylinders underneath the spa, look for two shut-off valves to close off water before loosening the filter lock ring.

Where to Buy Hot Tub Filters?

Well I thought you’d never ask! Hot Tub Works of course has a huge stock of spa filters, ready to ship, at low prices. If you need one NOW however, and don’t mind paying a premium for immediacy, you can call a few spa dealers in town, and give them the cartridge number printed on the end cap of your cartridge, to see if they have one in stock. In the rare case where there is no spa cartridge number on the cap, you can also order spa filters by dimensions, or length and width, and the diameter of the center opening. Or if you are away from home, yet know your spa ‘make and model’, you can find your spa filters by manufacturer.

How to Clean Spa Filters with an Acid?

Unicel filter guy, preparing to use acid, carefullyVery Carefully, and only if needed! Acid bathing of a spa filter is best done only when calcium deposits or other minerals have restricted flow through the filter. Aggressively acid washing spa filters can do more harm than good, and is only necessary when dealing with very hard water noticeably clogging a spa filter. But how do you know? An acid solution can be sprayed onto a test area to see if it bubbles, indicating the presence of mineral deposits. No bubbling? No need to acid wash. If bubbles are seen, spray or soak cartridge in an acid solution for 5-10 minutes, or until bubbles stop forming. To acid clean spa filters, use a weak acid solution of 1/2 cup (4 oz) of Spa pH Down, added to 3 gallons of Water. If using a weak acid like Vinegar to clean spa filters, use 1 part Vinegar to 3 parts Water.

How to Clean Spa Filters with TSP?

Trisodium Phosphate, or TSP is a common and generic type of degreaser that works well for cleaning hot tub filters, specifically for the removal of oils trapped within a filter cartridge. TSP works best when mixed with Hot Water. Add 1 lb of TSP to 5 gallons of hot water. Drop in your spa filter and allow it to soak for a few hours or overnight. Remove to bucket of clean cool water for a few minutes, then remove and hose clean very thoroughly. Allow to dry fully before reinstalling to kill remaining bacteria; which is why it is recommended to have two sets of spa filters at the ready.

How Long should the Spa Filter Run Each Day?

That depends – on the size of your spa filter in relation to the number of gallons. It also depends on how well your water is balanced and sanitized, and how much the spa is used and by how many people. Lots of variables affect the number of hours a spa filter should operate each day. In general, most spas run on low speed for 12-22 hours per day, and run on high speed for 1-2 hours per day. For spas or hot tubs with high usage, or small filters, or poor sanitation – more filtering will be required to keep the water clear. For spas used very little, or with high volume filters, less hours per day may be needed. You can experiment by cutting back on daily pump run times, to find the tipping point, where the water quality begins to suffer, or sanitizer demand increases.

How to Clean Spa Filters with Spa Filter Cleaner?

HotTubWorks Spray-On hot tub filter cleanerSpa Filter Cleaner is our one-step cleaning chemical for hot tub filters that both degreases and descales, doing the job of a mild acid bath and a degreaser at the same time. We have two types of spa filter cleaners, a spray-on filter cleaner, or a soaking filter cleaner. Use the spray on cleaner for a quick turnaround, spray-on and hose off after a few minutes. Use the soaking spa filter cleaner when you need to administer a deeper cleaning of your filter cartridges. Oh, and in case you want to ask about cleaning spa filters in the dishwasher – read my earlier post about such experiments.

Can I Run the Spa Pump Without a Spa Filter ?

Yes you can – for purposes of testing the heater, to see if the filter is the cause of the heater not turning on. And if your cartridge were to split in half – and you end up having to wait for a delivery of a new spa filter – you can run the pump without the filter for a short time. The water will not be filtered, so it’s best not to use a spa without a cartridge in place, for healthy and clear spa water. But if you cannot filter the water, at least you can circulate the water, so that it won’t be sitting stagnant while you wait for a new spa filter to arrive.

 


 

As promised, your satisfaction with this blog post is 100% guaranteed! If you have not received full value for your time spent reading this blog, I want to make it right! Leave a comment below about your particular spa filter, and I’ll answer them personally!

 

 

Happy Hot Tubbin’

Daniel Lara
Hot Tub Works

 

Dual Spa Filters: Double the Filtration!

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cabin-hot-tub-has-two-filtersHere’s a short story about how I doubled the filtration on a spa that we have on our vacation home. We rent out the mountain home and hot tub when we’re not using it (which is most of the year), and we were having some trouble keeping the water clean between visitors, without changing the water (too much).

My husband actually gets credit for the idea – he said “why don’t we just add another filter on the spa?”. We took a look at the complete spa filters on Hot Tub Works, and found one that would fit inside the spa cabinet.

Here’s how we added a second filter to our portable spa.

 

Adding a second spa filter

The filter that comes with most portable spas is a skimmer filter, located on the suction side of the spa pump. The second filter is added on the pressure side of the pump, or after the pump. These inline spa filters, as they are called, have an internal bypass feature that opens up when the pump is on high speed, so it won’t affect the jet flow.

Inline spa filters are available in 25ft, 50, 75 and 100 sq ft sizes. The canister becomes very tall, as the square footage of cartridge increases, and in my case, we opted for a 50 sq ft spa filter that we could fit underneath the cabinet.

There are 3 main ways to install a secondary spa filter, under the cabinet, outside the cabinet, or top loading, through the cabinet corner.

UNDER THE CABINET

rainbow-spa-filterThis is how we opted to do it, because our spa shell or cabinet doesn’t have corners where we could cut out a 6-3/4″ hole and use a top load filter. We of course had limited space under the cabinet in the equipment bay area, under the spa, but took some careful measurements and decided that we could use a 50 sf inline spa filter.

Adding a second filter required a little re-plumbing from the pump, in and out of the new filter, and then back to connect to the return pipe. To clean the filter, I just close the suction valve and unscrew the ring, and then pull the entire canister and cartridge out.

You can use inline filters with bottom connections (at ground level), but the top mount style where the pipes connect on top of the filter, is usually easier plumbing, and bottom mounts need vertical space to pull out the cartridge. My inline filter is a top mount, sits a few inches off the ground, so you can separate the canister from the filter top (after loosening the brown lock ring).

Wherever you locate a spa pressure filter, be sure it is after the pump and that you plumb in the filter in the direction of the flow indicator (printed on the manifold, where the pipes connect). It should also be easily accessible for cleaning, without contorting your body in awkward positions!

OUTSIDE THE CABINET

hayward-star-clearIf there is no room inside your spa cabinet, you could go hot tub style, with the secondary spa filter located outside of the spa cabinet. Less attractive, but it makes the filter very accessible for cleaning and easy to monitor the filter pressure gauge. And, outside the cabinet gives you room to add a large second spa filter, like a 100 sq ft Waterway Extended Top Load spa filter. A Hayward Star Clear filter also makes a nice choice.

The usual way to install a secondary spa filter outside the spa cabinet is to use a 2″ hole saw attached to a drill to cut through the cabinet – 2 holes, one for the pipe coming into the filter (from the pump) and one for the pipe coming out of the filter and running back to the return line. Be sure to plan out the complete pipe run before you cut the holes, and be sure there are no wires or studs running over the area where you are using the hole saw.

You can use 1.5″ (or 2″) schedule 40 flexible PVC pipe or rigid PVC pipe, and try to use as few 90’s as possible to decrease the amount of added resistance. We installed our second spa filter using only two 90’s – but when installing outside the cabinet you’ll have to use 3 or 4, 90° fittings. Essentially, you are cutting the pipe after the pump, and diverting the water in and out of the filter, before reconnecting it to where the pipe was cut.

Use fresh PVC glue and primer, and only use deep socket couplings, aka pressure fittings (not drain fittings). You can find all the supplies you need at a good hardware/home store.

TOP LOAD FILTERS

top-load-filter-by-waterwayMany spas with a square cabinet have molded circular areas in the corners of the spa. Top load spa filters are those that stick out of the top of the spa shell, but under the spa cover. They are called Top Load because you unscrew the top and pull out the cartridge, or load the cartridge from the top.

Most Top Load spa filters are sized to fit a 6-3/4″ hole, which is cut into the corner of the spa shell, using a Jig Saw or Dremel tool. A lock nut holds the spa filter canister tightly against the spa shell. Top Load filters are not underwater, they sit above the water level. Spa Skimmers are another type of filter that can also be installed on some spa shells.

The plumbing on Top Load spa filters is on the bottom of the canister, with the connection point dependent upon the size of the filter. You can buy Top Load filters in 25, 50, 75 and 100 sq. ft. sizes, each one taller than the next. The plumbing connection can be either threaded, or slip for smooth pipe connection.

Use fresh PVC glue and primer, and only use deep socket couplings, aka pressure fittings (not drain fittings). You can find all the supplies you need at a good hardware/home store.

 

in-conclusion-3Soooo… if your spa can use extra filtration, to extend the water life (time between water changes), or to help reduce the amount of sanitizer or other needed spa chemicals – consider adding a second filter to your spa or hot tub.

You can thank me later!

 

Carolyn Mosby
Hot Tub Works

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hot Tub Filter Leak Repair

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leaking-spa-and-hot-tub-filtersHot Tub filters need some repair from time to time, besides replacing the cartridge. Today’s post is about common spa hot tub filter leaks that you can do yourself.

Common hot tub filter leaks can include cracked filter housings, leaking o-rings or gaskets, or pipe fittings that have shrunken or otherwise lost their seal where the pipes connect.

There are essentially three types of spa cartridge filters; the Skim filter, the Inline filter and the Top Load filter…

 

Skimmer Filter Leaks

waterway-skim-filter-at-htwThe usual problem with a skimmer filter is leaking around the filter housing. If the spa skimmer is leaking where the skimmer connects to the backside of the spa shell, you can seal it up with silicone or replace the square gasket that fits between the skim-filter and the spa shell. In either case, lower the water level below the skimmer by draining. A new spa skimmer gasket will be the best leak repair option, just remove the front cover plate to access the screws. Use a large #3 Phillips head to get the screws really tight, without damaging the heads.

Skimmer filters that have cracks in the filter housing or cartridge canister have a different problem. This is usually caused by freeze damage, from water freezing inside of the hot tub filter housing. Small cracks on skim-filters can be successfully repaired with a two-part epoxy sealant, or heavy duty silicone – if the crack is small enough. If the entire bottom of the filter canister cracked, it may be wise to repair the entire skim filter assembly, or at least the canister portion of the skim-filter.

Skimmer filters for spas also have a few other parts to keep them in working order. Over time you may need to replace the skimmer basket or weir (the flapper door thingy). Some spa skimmers have a floating weir, or may have small clips and seals or adapters that need to be in place for proper operation.

boss-siliconeLeaking Pipes? The piece that connects to the bottom of your skimmer filter may be a threaded fitting (aka spigot or MPT), or it may be smooth pipe (aka socket or slip). If either begin to leak water, you can repair it two ways. First, lower the spa water to a point below the skimmer bottom. If you can access the inside of the skimmer with a small tube of high temp silicone, you can place a thick bead on the inside, where the fitting connects to the port. If you can’t reach it, you can try sealing the outside of the fitting, while running the pump, to suck the sealant into the void. Not always a permanent repair however.

 

Inline Filter Leaks

inline-spa-filters-at-htwAn inline filter is one that is not a combination skim-filter, but a separate filter assembly that is plumbed ‘in-line’, or attached to the pipe. In some cases, the inline spa filter is plumbed in place before the pump, although in most cases it is connected after the pump (and before the heater).

For a spa filter that is attached before the pump, cracks or loose filter parts can cause the pump to pull air into the system. When installed after the pump, the filter housing is under pressure and any crack or loose parts (like the lock-ring) will cause the pressurized filter body to leak water when the pump is on. In either case, the filter will leak water while the pump is off, since it’s installed below the water level.

A leaking spa filter housing (aka canister or body) cannot usually be successfully repaired for pressurized spa filters. The best repair is to replace the filter housing body or replace the entire filter assembly, which includes a new cartridge. A new complete spa filter will also include a new top assembly and bypass valve, to allow water to bypass the filter when the pump is running on high speed.

Small cracks on a hot tub filter housing that is installed before the pump (under suction) may be successfully repaired with an effective two-part resin-hardener type of epoxy sealant. For large cracks however, the best repair is to replace the spa filter housing or canister, or the complete filter.

spa-and-hot-tub-lubeMany times however, an inline spa filter may not be cracked, but leaks where the filter body attaches to the filter lid, via the round lock ring. A cracked lock-ring can cause this problem, as can a loose lock ring. Before you go hammering on the lock ring however, they are designed to require only hand-tightening. Over-tightening the spa filter lock ring can cause it to crack, so proceed carefully. In most cases, replacing the filter canister o-ring, and lubricating it with a proper o-ring lube will solve this problem.

 

Top Load Filter Leaks

waterway-top-load-spa-filterTop Load filters are accessed while in the spa, or standing outside the spa – no need to climb into the equipment bay to check the filter, although they can also be installed underneath, inside the cabinet. Top Load filters have the plumbing connections at the bottom of the filter housing or body, while the inline filters (shown above) have the pipe or hose connecting through the lid, at the top of the filter assembly.

If a Top Load filter is leaking from the lid, a new o-ring is the usual solution, properly lubed with a lubricant specifically designed for o-rings. Of course be sure that the lid is tight and threaded on correctly, but be careful not to over-tighten the lid.

If your spa filter canister is cracked and leaking water, the best repair is to replace the canister / housing with new. For spa filters that are installed before the pump, small cracks might be successfully repaired with a strong epoxy repair product, but for pressure filters, I would recommend replacing the filter body, or the entire filter assembly.

Hot tub filters leak also at the drain plug or air bleeder knob, if loose or without thread sealant like Teflon tape. Some filter plugs also have a tiny rubber gasket or o-ring that will need replacement after many years.

For spa filter pipe leaks, determine if you have threaded fittings or the more common slip fittings, connecting at the bottom inlet/outlet ports. If a slip (glued) fitting is leaking, you’ll need to replace the filter housing (or complete spa filter). For threaded fittings, screwed into the inlet/outlet port, you can cut the pipe and remove the fitting with large pliers. Replace with new, first smearing hi-temp sealant, followed by several wraps of Teflon tape (in a clockwise direction). Reconnect the pipes with a coupling or union.

spa-unionsIf the union is leaking, unions on either side of the filter inlet/outlet – first try to tighten the union nut gently to seal up the leak. Use large channel type pliers if needed, if hand tightening alone doesn’t seal up a leaking union. If pliers won’t work, close the spa valves and open the union (water will spill), and replace the internal o-ring with lube.

 

Happy Hot Tubbin’

Daniel Lara
Hot Tub Works

 

5 Hot Tub Filter Problems

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tired-spa-filter-smSpa Filters are the Kidneys of your spa water, removing impurities and particles to keep systems working. If you were to run your spa without a filter, even a covered spa will quickly deteriorate in water quality.

And that’s exactly why you are here, searching for solutions to your vexing hot tub filter problems, and related water quality issues. So without further ado; here are the top spa filter problems and what to do about them.

 

stained spa filters

pink-filter-cartridgeA stained filter may not be a bad thing, if it doesn’t affect filter capacity, or even dirt distribution, or length of time between cleanings. Metals such as iron can stain a filter with a light brown orange stain. You may find your filter looking gray, green, yellow or even purple at times.

For spa filter stains that don’t hose off easily, the best thing is to give the filter a good cleaning in a good spa filter cleaner. This will remove oils and minerals and most metal stains from hot tub filter cartridges. Never use acid, bleach or other cleansers that contain soapy phosphates; you’ll never get it out and suds your tub.

If some stains remain after soaking and rinsing, these may not affect the ability of the filter cartridge, but depending on thickness, heavy stains can reduce the microscopic filter pore size to the point where areas of the cartridge are not utilized.

The better question may be – what is it that stains the cartridge? Is it in the water like metals or an algae, or a byproduct of certain chemical combinations? Are calcium hardness and pH levels high? Do you need to prefilter your fill water?

holes in spa filters

holes-in-cartridgeBack when I was servicing hot tubs for a living, I was cleaning a filter cartridge and noticed it had stitches. The lady of the house told me that she had ‘stitched them up!’, very proudly. OK, but for the rest of us a replacement cartridge is in order if holes are noticed. Even very small holes will reduce your filter effectiveness.

The better question may be – what caused holes in the cartridge? In this case, the lady of the house had, unbeknownst to her, a large pool pump installed on a small spa filter. It had blasted holes the size of a pencil in the spa filter cartridge. I’ve also heard tale of certain insects that have a taste for spun polyester, so store your spares accordingly.

cracked spa filters

split-filter-cartridgeWhen you speak of a cracked spa filter, what is usually meant is that one of the colored rubber end caps has developed a split or crack. Spa filters can also crack across the central support cage.  Both instances are rare, but if your spa filter has a crack in either end (not tiny crazing, but real splits) you will need to replace the cartridge.

The better question may be – what caused the end cap to crack in the first place? Could be the same as for holes in spa filters, a crack in the end cap could result from a spa filter pump that is too large for the filter size. Cracks or holes can also happen from closing a valve after the filter while the pump is running, or in some cases when an undersized filter is extremely dirty.

fuzzy spa filters

The tips of your pleated fabric, are they smooth and relatively fur-free? In some cases, spa filters can become fuzzy on the pleats and this can reduce your filter’s ability to trap dirt by reducing the spaces between pleats. It also creates a lot of turbulence for the water and dirt, as it enters the pleats (on a small scale).

Why does the spa filter cartridge seem to unravel at the edges? It’s usually from chemical problems in the spa, poor water balance or high sanitizer levels. It’s also caused by cleaning the cartridge with too much water pressure. A new spa filter is in order.

clogging spa filters

dirty-to-clean-filtersDoes your spa filter clog up again in a few days after cleaning? That’s not gonna work, in most cases a 2-4 week filter cycle can be expected, depending on the size of the filter cartridge, and how much the spa is used, and to some degree as mentioned above, the water balance.

A filter that clogs up quickly is likely coated with mineral scale, oily films, or both. A cleaning with spa filter cleaner is in order to unclog the microscopic passageways between the fibers of the filter. TSP can also be used for oily filters, but it won’t remove mineral scale from hard water.

If your filter is still clogging quickly after cleaning, it’s probably best to replace it, even if it’s relatively new. Assuming that it’s sized properly for the pump and installed properly, the filter cartridge lose life quickly when cleaning certain substances from the hot tub water.

The better question is – what vegetable, oil or mineral is clogging the spa filter?

 

  • Hot tub filter cartridges naturally degrade over time, the woven fibers separate and they are unable to filter the smaller particles. Or, filter cartridges become coated with oily and crusty deposits which are hard to remove, causing them to clog quickly. Replace your spa filter every 12-24 months.hose-off-the-cartridge
  • A few things you should not do – don’t put your spa filter in the dishwasher, and don’t use a pressure washer to clean it. Just hose it clean, soak it in one of our many spa filter cleaners, and rinse it clean again.

 

– Jack

 

 

 

 

Save 4 Ways with a New Spa Filter

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unicel-cartridge-guy-with-htw-logoSpa cartridges are one of our fastest moving products here at Hot Tub Works. We ship over 50,000 spa filters per year to spa owners all over the country. So it’s only natural that we’re going to talk about them on the blog!

Yes, we like to sell hot tub cartridges, but it’s a product that feels good to sell, because I know that it’s improving water quality and health, and reducing energy and water consumption. It’s a win-win for us both!

So for those spa owners out there that still think their cartridge can last another few months (we recommend changing it every 10-15 cleanings or every 12-18 months, whichever comes first), here’s some ways that a new hot tub cartridge saves.

 

save-money-2SAVE MONEY:  A new hot tub cartridge filters so much better than a worn filter cartridge that you will find you need less chemicals to keep it clean like MPS, clarifiers or foam-out. A new spa filter can also reduce staining, or deadly deposits on your heater core. New cartridges on schedule can allow you to run the pump less, while using fewer chemicals. Using an old cartridge requires more pump run time and more chemicals to compensate for the inability of older cartridges to trap fine particles. You’ll save more money than you spend on regularly replacing a spa filter cartridge.

 

saving-water-is-coolSAVE WATER: If you are under water restrictions in your area, or would just prefer to reduce the frequency of draining and refilling the tub (which also saves money), buying a new spa filter on schedule will enable you to increase the length of time between water changes. For those of you under extreme hot tub water restrictions, changing water only once or twice per year, we recommend a new cartridge every 6-12 months. Some of our customers are finding success with draining only halfway every six months, but also replacing the spa filter cartridge at the same time.

 

world-energySAVE ENERGY: Everyone likes to save energy. Spas and hot tubs are not huge energy hogs, but every little bit helps. As mentioned earlier, new or almost new hot tub filters are so much more effective than old or almost old cartridges, that you can actually run the pump 1-2 hours less per day, and maintain the same water quality. As a filter cartridge ages, the constant battering from the water flow and from periodic cleanings forces open small gaps between the woven polyester fibers. This allows small particles to pass through unfiltered, requiring – you guessed it, more filtering (and or more chemicals) to keep the water clean and clear.

 

your-precious-timeSAVE TIME: Why do you save time? A new or almost new spa filter cartridge will filter the water more effectively, which means that your water will stay clean and balanced more easily, with less water problems. It also can last twice as long before it needs cleaning, as compared to a 24 month old spa cartridge, which clogs quickly from oil and mineral deposits that don’t come out, even with chemical soaking. What’s worse is that as spa filters age, they can’t trap the small particles anymore. New filters can filter down below 20 microns, but an old cartridge may not trap sizes of 35 micron particles, which is where particles become visible to the human eye.

 

In case you’re wondering, I change my spa filter every 15 months, like clockwork. Set yourself an email reminder with the link to your particular spa filter, so you can reorder your spa filter on schedule. Maybe we should start a spa filter subscription service!?!

 

– Jack

 

Hot Tub Filters: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

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mystery-filter-cartridgeOnce upon a time, if you wanted a replacement spa or hot tub filters, you went down to your local spa store and bought or ordered a replacement filter cartridge. There wasn’t a choice of brand, they were all made by Unicel, or Aladdin.

As the number of pools and spas using pleated filter cartridges grew to more than 5 million in the US – more domestic manufacturers entered  the ring, namely Filbur and Pleatco.

Spa filter cartridges are surprisingly simple to manufacture, all you need is a machine to make neat pleats in the fabric, and roll it into a tube, and a second machine to shape and stamp the end caps.

This has given rise to a large number of imported spa filters being dumped on US shores, in packed shipping containers. After arrival they are sent to large retailers such as Walmart and Home Depot, and other mass merchants.

reemay-filter-fabricThere are some important quality differences in these cartridges, imported from Singapore. It starts with the fabric, which is not Reemay®, but something called remay, as in “quality remay construction”. That really burns me up, and I hope the DuPont legal team has some recourse against those who use copycat names.

According to sources at Unicel, the fabric used in most imported hot tub filters is inferior; and “low-end manufacturers are using low-grade spunbonded polyester to reduce costs, however there is a significant difference in cartridge performance”.

Let me give a personal opinion, and excuse my French; the spa filters from Home Depot, Lowes, Walmart and others are crap. And not just because they use something other than Reemay, but also because the fabric weight is not posted, or even mentioned.spun-bonded-polyester

For spa filter cartridges, a 3 oz. fabric weight (per square foot) is most suitable, with 4 oz. used on high flow systems, or very large spas. What is the weight of the fabric used in the spa filters sold by Home Depot, Lowes and Walmart? No one knows, it seems to be a closely guarded secret.

Below are some of the features of a Pleatco hot tub filters – compare that to their Pro line filters, which merely says “installs in seconds” – well, duh.

  • High performance pleated polyester media – (100% Reemay)
  • Reinforced antimicrobial end caps
  • Extruded PVC center cores
  • Molded threads, no loose inserts

If you want the best performance out of your hot tub filters, stick with an established and well known brand like Unicel, Filbur, Pleatco or Aladdin. Don’t be tempted to buy a half priced cartridge that won’t even last half as long, and you’ll have a cleaner and healthier hot tub.

Take it from me ~ I’ve used the cheapo cartridges before, and within two days the water is hazy, and within a week I had to clean the cartridge. After two months, I threw it in the trash can. A good hot tub filter, from the brands I mentioned above, can last 2-3 times as long, with less cleaning and better filtering.

 

XOXO;

Gina Galvin
Hot Tub Works

 

How to Clean a Hot Tub That Has Been Sitting

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how to clean out a dirty hot tubIt 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 and under a dark spa cover. Spas that sit untended will begin to grow biofilm or bacterial colonies. It’s the kind of scum you see in a toilet that hasn’t been used or cleaned in a while (sorry for that analogy!).

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

TEST THE 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 and clean the hot tub.

DRAIN & CLEAN

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

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 water into the skimmer or 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. In this step, you’ll add a specialized chemical to remove the slimy biofilm lining the inside of the pipes, which makes its home in the various nooks and crannies in the spa’s air and water plumbing.

hot tub biofilm removal

We recommend using products like Leisure Time’s Jet Clean to remove biofilm, mineral deposits, oils and other organic contaminants from the spa plumbing. 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 once more, using a hose or rag to remove the scum around the top of the spa, cleaning as the water level drops. When the tub is completely empty, use sponges or a wet/dry vac to suck up the last bits of dirty water. This will help get rid of all the bacteria and other gunk that the purge removed from the spa lines, ensuring that you’ll have a fresh start with nice, clean water in your hot tub!

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), 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.

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

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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