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Archive for the ‘spa heater’ Category

Hot Tub Pressure Switch Adjustments

July 9th, 2015 by

spa-pressure-switchesThe Pressure Switch on a hot tub or spa is a pressure sensor that is mounted onto the heater housing, or very close to the exit point of the heater. It’s sole purpose is to shut off the heater if low pressure (low water flow) occurs.

In a hot tub, pressure is an easy way to determine flow rates through the pipes, pump and heater. Some spas also use a Flow Sensor, in addition to (or instead of) the Pressure Switch, to be sure water is flowing properly for the heater to operate safely.

You See, if an electric or gas heater is On, but the water is not moving fast enough through the heater, it heats up too much, too fast, which could melt pvc pipes and scald spa users. Although it rarely happens, if a hot tub heater were to run without water moving through it, a massive meltdown or fire will result.

Fortunately, spas and hot tubs are equipped with redundant safety checks – pressure switches to shut the system down when water pressure is low, and flow sensors if water flow is low and high limit sensors that are monitoring temperature.

How to Jump Out the Pressure Switch

Don’t “jump” right to this, but check these things first: For Low Flow spa error codes, like FL, FLO, FLC, or OH (OverHeat), check the filter, check the pump and check the valves for something that is obstructing the water flow.

single_eye_movement_150_wht_9341Look for a dirty filter, a clogged impeller, closed valve, or a piece of plastic film covering the spa drain. Check the spa skimmer water level is high enough, and the skimmer isn’t sucking air. Check underneath for any drips or leaks when the system is off that may indicate an air leak when the system is on.

“Jumping Out” the pressure switch refers to placing a jumper wire between the two spade terminals or brass screws on the pressure switch. By connecting a wire between the two “in” and “out” terminals, you essentially bypass the switch itself. Note that jumping out a pressure switch should only be done for testing purposes, do not operate a spa or hot tub with any safety components bypassed.

jump-out-the-pressure-switchThe easiest way to jump out a spa or pool heater pressure switch is to use a short wire with two alligator clips, or other metal clips on the ends. But you can also do it with just a wire if you have a steady hand to hold each end of the wire into the grooves of each brass screw.

With the pump running, and the thermostat turned up, high limits reset – in short, everything ready to go, connect the wire or clips to each side or terminal, onto the brass spade connector (where the wires are connected), and within just a few short seconds, the diagnostic checks are done and the heater should turn on, or you should see an indicator light or heating code on the spa side control panel.

If not – if the hot tub heater does not come on with the jumper wire connected, the pressure switch is not your problem, my friend.

Hot Tub Pressure Switch Adjustments

You may have also read on the internet that the pressure switch can be adjusted, and it’s true, most of them can – but just because you can doesn’t mean you should!

Most pressure switches are factory set for the overall resistance in the system, and making adjustments should be done with careful small steps, and close observation of the entire system.

PRESSURE-SWITCH-ADJUSTMENTSThat being said, pressure switches can be adjusted from 1-5 psi, or from 1-10 psi. After checking first all of those items above to be sure that flow and pressure is proper and normal, you can make micro adjustments to a dial wheel or small screw, to change the pressure minimum required for the switch to close, allowing the heater to work.

Some adjustable pressure switches have an Adjustment Screw of grey plastic that accepts a small skinny flathead. Turn the screw slowly to the left, counter-clockwise, to reduce the minimum required pressure. Turn it slowly just barely beyond the point where the heater turns On.

Other adjustable pressure switches have an Adjustment Wheel that you turn with thumb and finger. Many have a lock mechanism, Len Gordon has a sliding tab lock, Tecmark has a metal clip that needs to be removed or bent out of the way. Again, turn to the left to reduce required minimum pressure, and turn it to the point just beyond where the heater turns On.

If not – if the hot tub heater does not come on with this new pressure switch adjustment, the pressure switch is not your problem, my friend.

 

Carolyn Mosby
Hot Tub Works

 

 

Spa & Hot Tub Maintenance

February 20th, 2015 by

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

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

 

Care = Prevention

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

 

Spa & Hot Tub Chemical Maintenance

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

 

Spa & Hot Tub Equipment Maintenance

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

 

Saving Money & Energy

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

 

Spa Safety

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

dont-forget-2

 

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

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

 

Carolyn Mosby
Hot Tub Works

 

 

Solar Hot Tub Heaters

December 22nd, 2014 by

spa-solar-heatersSolar Hot Tubs are all the rage now for off the grid homes and campsites, or for anyone who wants to operate a spa or hot tub in an eco-friendly way.

Can a solar pool heater be used to heat a spa? You betcha! And it’s a simple Saturday project. Spa solar heaters can heat up a spa to over 100° with just 6 hours of sunshine – ready to use when you come home from work!

I have a friend with an inground pool and spa, and a solar pool heater – his spa is 104° in under 30 minutes – during sunny daylight hours, of course. And,…there’s not much heat in winter, but you can get 3 seasons with a hot tub solar heater!

Your hot tub cover will retain the heat from a solar heater until well into the evening, and if needed, you can use an alternate spa heater or hot tub heater for night hot tubbin’.

 

How to install a Solar Hot Tub Heater

1. Location of Solar Panels: The first thing to think of is where and how the solar panels are going to be mounted. If you have full sun, all day long, you could just lay them on the ground, but for most folks, mounting them on a roof or rack, at a 30-45° angle works best. A rack can be built of angle iron or lumber, topped with plywood or plastic and painted black. You can also hang them on a fence. Choose a spot that will get at least 6 hours of daily sun; a southern facing direction is best.

2. Buy a Solar Pool Panel: A single 4′ x 20′ solar panel, a total of 80 square feet, is a good size for most spas. There are also 4′ x 10′ panels, but they are priced higher per square foot of panel. 80 sq. ft. of solar panel will heat spas under 500 gallons to over 100° during the day, and be ready to go for the evening. If you want to heat the hot tub in under an hour like my friend with the pool/spa, you’ll need 4-5 of the 20′ solar panels.

solar-heater-all-rolled-up3. Installation of Hot Tub Solar Panels: Solar pool panels are polypropylene mats of small black tubes with a continuous backing, so they absorb more heat than black hose DIY solar spa heaters. Inside the box will be two 2′x20′ solar panels, end caps, pipe adapters, mounting kit and a 3-way diverter valve. Secure the panels to the location securely so they are protected from high winds, animals and tree branches. Attach the end caps, and run PVC pipe from the panels to the plumbing line of the spa.

4. Plumbing a Spa Solar Heater: This part is custom for every spa or hot tub, but essentially you connect the plumbing from solar panels to the spa. A 3-way diverter valve will allow for adjusting the flow rate, and for shutting off the solar panels completely. Other items needed for plumbing beside the pipe include some directional fittings (90′s or 45′s) and couplings to connect lengths of pipe. A check valve is needed just before the heated water comes back into the spa plumbing, to prevent water cycling.

Other Thoughts about Solar Hot Tub Heaters

  • A solar controller can be used with an automatic valve turner and temperature sensors to have thermostat control for the solar spa heater, but more importantly, to shut off the unit when conditions are not right for solar, at night or when it’s raining, for instance. This is an extra $325, but is recommended for optimum heating, neither under or overheating the spa.
  • Speaking of overheating, it is possible to overheat the water with a solar spa heater. If you have an electric spa heater, the hi-limit may trip and shut off the spa pump, but at that point the water may already be dangerously hot. Use caution not to heat the water over 104°.
  • As mentioned before, hot tub solar heaters don’t work at night, or when it’s raining or heavily overcast. They drop way off in effectiveness during the winter months, unless you are in the very deep southern U.S..
  • A booster pump is not usually needed for installation on a roof, unless the roof is very tall. If a booster pump is needed these small spa circulation pumps are perfect for the job.
  • For best results, use an insulated spa cover to retain the heat and a solar controller to optimize when the solar panels are used, and to maintain safe water temperatures.

 

sunheater-solar-pool-heater

Hot tub solar heaters work very well in all parts of the U.S. – anywhere that has at least 6 hours of unobstructed sun. For many hot tubs, solar heat is used as a supplemental heater to keep the spa hot during the day, and at night or during rainy periods, the other spa heater takes over.

I wish I could say that we sold solar spa heaters at Hot Tub Works, but we don’t. However, here are some links for solar pool heaters and controllers at Specialty Pool Products, who had the best price on solar pool panels that I could find online.

 

Happy HOT Tubbin’

Daniel Lara
Hot Tub Works

 

Frozen Hot Tub!

October 6th, 2014 by

frozen-hot-tubWinter is coming! And with El Nino predicted, it could be a cold, snowy winter indeed. That’s good for the spa parts salesmen, I suppose – because it means lots of freeze damage to spas and hot tubs.

But hold on there ~ as long as you have your spa operating, at least on low speed, with all valves/lines open, and the water isn’t allowed to freeze across the surface ~ you needn’t worry about freeze damage to your spa or hot tub.

Most digital spa controllers will have a freeze monitor that will turn on the pump if the outside air temperature reaches 40 degrees. Some will even turn on the heater if the water temperature drops too low. But many air controls or simple hot tubs or inground spas don’t have built-in freeze protection.

WAYS TO PREVENT SPA FREEZE DAMAGE:

  1. Set an Temperature Alert on your Phone: There’s an app for that! Instead of relying on the weather report, you can use one of the many apps that will alert you (via smartphone) that temperatures below a certain set point are expected. Then, make sure the spa is hot and operating.
  2. Install a Digital Spa Pack with Freeze Protection: As mentioned earlier, if you have Air Controls, or an inground spa, you may not have built-in freeze protection. Upgrading to a digital spa pack, or for inground spas, installing a digital timeclock, will allow your system to automatically turn on the pump when low outside temps are sensed.
  3. Keep the Spa hot during Winter: For protection from power outages, keeping your spa hot all winter long will give you the most amount of time. A spa that is kept at 100 degrees and covered tightly can keep it’s heat for 24-36 hours during a power outage. An unheated spa, with very low temperatures, can freeze up solid in only an hour of not circulating.
  4. Keep your Spa Cover Tightly in Place: In some parts of the country, it’s so cold… “How cold is it, Johnny?” – It’s so cold… that leaving a spa cover off for just a few hours can cause the spa water to actually begin to turn slushy… Daiquiri anyone?

STEPS TO UNFREEZE A FROZEN HOT TUB:

Get the Hot Water and Blankets! We’re not having a baby, the hot tub is frozen solid! If you find that the hot tub or spa has ice on the surface, and is not operating…

1. Shut off Power if the pumps are not moving water, until all the ice thaws.
2. Break through Ice on the surface, add hot water from hose, or buckets from the bathtub.
-  Some utility sinks will allow you to attach a hose, or you can connect it to your hot water heater drain.
3. Closely Inspect with a utility light, or large flashlight, the pump, filter, heater, and pipes for cracks.
4. Use a heat gun, or place a small ceramic heater under the spa cabinet that you can monitor.
-  Plug into a GFCI outlet. Raise it up off the ground, and keep away from insulation or wires.
5. Use heavy blankets to help hold the heat in under the spa, if needed.

IDENTIFYING FREEZE DAMAGE:

Most cracking or damage from the expansion of ice happens to the heater body, usually a stainless steel cylinder, mounted horizontally, or the filter body or lid, a vertical plastic cylinder that holds the filter cartridge, or to the pump body or lid. Pipes tend to spider-web crack, not a clean split, but they shatter along long lengths, or through fittings.

As the spa starts to warm up, from the heat beneath and the hot water above, condensation will drip from the spa, don’t be alarmed. But running water… (not slow drips), and you may have some broken equipment or pipe. After identifying that hot tub parts are needed, you can proceed to drain the spa completely, by opening all drain valves or plugs, and using air to blow out pipes and equipment.

smiley---yeaIf you don’t see any running water, and you don’t see any cracked spa equipment or pipes, you can turn the spa back on – to check again for running water while the system is under pressure. If it sounds normal, and looks to be running properly, relax – you caught it just in time!exploded-spa

Most freeze damage is minor – a pump wet end, a bit of pipe, maybe an entire spa pack – but rarely does it total the entire spa. There are cases where a spa has been frozen solid for weeks however, and it’s literally exploded. Even when some parts are reusable, the cost to re-pipe the spa is prohibitive. If you discovered a frozen hot tub early, consider yourself lucky with a few hundred dollars in spa parts.

 

Happy Hot Tubbin!

Daniel Lara
Hot Tub Works

 

What’s the Best Hot Tub Temperature?

August 25th, 2014 by

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

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

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

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

 

Exercise

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

Therapy

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

Special Conditions

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

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

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

Air Temperature

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

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

 

Carolyn Mosby
Hot Tub Works

 

Hot Tubs & Spas: Cutting Energy Costs

August 21st, 2014 by

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

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

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

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

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

 

Top 5 ways to Reduce Hot Tub Energy Costs

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

Possible Energy Savings: 5-10%

 

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

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

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

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

Possible Energy Savings:  10-20%

 

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

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

Possible Energy Savings: 10-20%

 

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

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

Possible Energy Savings: 15-20%

 

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

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

Possible Energy Savings: 25-30%

 

Other things you can do to prevent heat loss include:

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

 

Happy Hot Tubbin’!

Daniel Lara
Hot Tub Works

 

Cut Spa Heating Costs with this One Weird Tip!

August 7th, 2014 by

one-weird-tip-too

 

OK, I don’t know if you’ve seen those adsense ads that promise Lose belly fat with this one weird tip! They seem to be following me around, but I like my belly just the way it is, thank you.

It’s become sort of a meme, this “one weird tip” idea – it makes me chuckle just a bit, so I had to use it in the title.

The problem with One Weird Tip blog posts, is that they tend to be rather short. There is, after all, only one tip.

 

 

Cut Hot Tub Heating Costs …with this one weird tip!

pink-insulation

Insulate your Spa!

Huh? Add home insulation underneath your spa, to seal up air gaps and hold the heat in your spa!

It’s an inexpensive way to add more R-value to your spa or hot tub. And it’s so easy to install, just tack it to the inside of the cabinet, lay it on the ground, tape it to the spa shell or just stuff it in there! Just keep it away from your spa pak and other equipment.

How much you need depends on how cold your climate is. If you live in southern California, like me, very little is needed, but if your spa is up north, you’ll need more.

 

Home Insulation is sold at every home store and hardware so it’s easy to obtain for a good price. The selection is absolutely dizzying, sold in many different sizes, in rolls or ‘bats’, and in several R-value ratings, from R-13 (shown) up to R-38.

Even one roll of the cheapest, lowest R-value insulation will increase your spa efficiency! Most heat loss on a spa is out of the sides and bottom, while covered with a good spa cover, of course.

denim-insulationIf you buy the fiberglass insulation, it comes faced (with a paper backing) or unfaced. Unfaced can make you itch like crazy if you aren’t wearing long sleeves and gloves. You could also use rigid insulation, those pink boards, to line the inside of your spa cabinet. Or, you could buy a spray foam kit, and spray every nook and cranny with expanding foam. Some stores carry insulation made from denim, or recycled textiles, if you want to use a natural insulation product.

 

For those of you with a fully foamed spa, where spray foam was injected to completely encase the spa shell in foam, I suppose my one weird tip is not much use. So here’s another weird tip, just for you! Use a floating foam spa blanket, to reduce evaporation and heat loss by creating another barrier between the water and the spa cover.

 

Weird, huh?

 

XOXO;

Gina Galvin
Hot Tub Works

 

Hot Tub Cool Tub – Using Spas During Summer

July 7th, 2014 by

steamy-spaDo you lower your spa temperature during summer? Or keep it blazing hot all year ’round?

I wondered about this, so I took a short office poll, and I asked people on our facebook page this question.

Do you ever use your spa for cooling soaks, with lower water temperatures?

I  didn’t control for location, spa type, or any variables at all, actually – so not a ‘scientific’ study on spa use.

 

Nonetheless, the results were interesting! cool-spa

Of the adults surveyed, 80% of them prefer to keep their spa or hot tub – hot all year around. Assuming of course, that there are no spa heater problems! 18% of respondents indicated that they do use their spa for occasional cool water soaking.

Of course I had some follow-up questions for those who said Yes! to cool water soaking. I asked them what they used it for, and compiled the comments. Most were related to “cooling off!“, and quite a few mentioned exercise, or using cool water to perform low impact stretching or calisthenics.

 

spa-temp-lgrI also wanted to ask a multiple choice question: “What’s temperature is best for cool water soaks?” Some said they don’t even check, they just shut off the heat, and it seems to stay around 70-75 degrees. But for those that I could pin down to a 5 degree range, most preferred the water to be 70-85° – except for the few polar bears out there, that are still using it with water temperatures in the 60′s.

 

So how about you? Do you like to use your spa or hot tub at a lower temperature as a way to beat the summer heat? Or as a way for a low impact exercise, especially for illness or injury recovery?

Give it a try if you’ve never done it before! You can still turn the blower on, and put the jets on high for some hydrotherapy, and add some tropical spa scents to the water to enjoy it even more!

During the survey, I tried a cool spa myself, and I have to say it is great when the night air is hot.

 

- Jack

 

Help – my Spa Heater isn’t Heating!

July 4th, 2014 by

dreamstime_xs_37231190-lgWhat’s a Hot Tub without a Heater? A Cool Bath!

In the second post in our “Help!” series, we take a look at the water temperature in your spa or hot tub, specifically, when it is lower than you want!

Temperatures of 100° to 104° are preferred by most hot tubbers, and nothing is worse than checking your spa temperature, and finding your thermometer dropping!

Troubleshooting a hot tub heater is a step-by-step process, to determine if you have a pressure problem, a power problem or a part problem.

PRESSURE PROBLEMS

Spa heaters need to have enough water flow, or more specifically, enough water pressure to operate. That is why your spa has a pressure switch, a simple device that senses the water pressure, or flow rate. When the water flow is high enough, the switch is open, or ON, which allows the heater to operate. When the pressure falls below the minimum set point of the pressure switch, it flips closed, or OFF, which breaks the circuit, and the heater won’t come on. Pressure switches are important safety devices, to keep a spa heater from running when there is not enough water running through the heater to absorb the heat being produced.

The high limit switch can also be tripped by low pressure or water flow. When the water slows down in the heater, this raises the temperature of the water as it exits the heater. Most high limits are set to trip when they sense water temperatures of around 140° . Tripping high limit switches can be another symptom of a pressure problem.

What can cause pressure (flow) problems? First, clean the spa filter cartridge, or replace if it’s over 2 yrs old. If your circulation pump has a strainer basket, check that it is clean. Obstructed suction inlets, clogged pipes, or clogged pump impellers can also cause flow problems, as can obstructed outlets, closed valves or closed jets.

Is the pump moving water at all? An Air Lock in the pump after draining and refilling is not uncommon. Is the pump on low-speed? Most heaters will only operate with the pump on high speed.

Rule out pressure problems first by making sure water is flowing as fast as it should be to operate the heater.

POWER PROBLEMS

Power to the heater is the next thing to check. Specifically wires and connections. Locate your heater, and the wires that are connected, which should be very tight. Loose connections on the heater can cause overheating and hi-limit tripping, and even failed circuit boards. Inspect the wires for any frayed, chewed or burned wires.

Checking Voltage: If you are comfortable and cautious with testing voltage, you can check the volts on the heater terminals with a multi-meter, or AC volt meter. With the meter set onto AC volts, with a setting higher than 240V. With the thermostat turned up, and the pump running on high, touch or clip each meter lead to each terminal (at the same time), and you should see 220 volts, or something pretty close (215-225v).

If you do get 220V while touching to each heater terminal, but no heat, this usually means that the heater element is bad.  Inspect the coating around the filament of the heating element, any cracks or chips and the element should be replaced.

If you don’t get any volts while testing the heater leads or terminals, check that a GFCI outlet is not tripped, as well as any circuit breakers.  Make sure the thermostat is turned up. If you still get nothing, the circuit board is likely bad.

Checking Continuity: With power off, the two heater terminals can be tested for continuity. Place your multi-meter on the lowest Ohms setting, and touch each lead to each terminal at the same time. If the meter doesn’t move, the element is bad. If the meter does move, and shows steady resistance, the element is probably good, but could still have a short – inspect the element for cracks or chips.

Rule out power problems by testing for voltage coming into your spa pack, and verifying that voltage is reaching your heating element.

PART PROBLEMS

spa-heater-parts-elementHeater Element: Heater elements can fail if the outer coating becomes cracked, corroded or chipped. And, they can also fail without any visible signs on the heater element. Checking for voltage and continuity, as described above can help determine your elements condition. Average lifespan: 5-10 years.

SPA-PARTS-SPA-FILTERSFilter Cartridge: Filter cartridges are not really a heater system part, but so crucial to heater operation. Clogged spa filters may look normal, but be full of small crystallized minerals covered in oily gunk. Average lifespan: 1-2 years.

 

SPA-PARTS-PRESSURE-SWITCHESPressure Switch: When your spa filter, or suction intakes, or return jets are clogged, blocked or obstructed, the pressure switch will stay closed and keep the heater from working. The same if your pump is on low speed, or if valves are closed. A pressure switch can be easily jumped out with a wire and two alligator clips. Many spa pressure switches are adjustable from 1-5 psi, and sometimes the internal diaphragm fails, requiring replacement. Average lifespan 5-10 years.

hi-limit-spaHigh Limit Switch: The hi-limit switch often has a reset button located near the heater. You may experience occasional nuisance tripping, but repeated tripping indicates either low flow or a malfunctioning heater element. High limit switches can also be bad. They can often be jumped out, using a wire and alligator clips, to bypass the component temporarily, for testing purposes. Average lifespan: 10-15 years.

thermostat-hot-tubThermostat: Older spas will have a manual thermostat that is turned with a knob. Often this is on the side of the heater unit. Some very old spa thermostats are adjustable with a small Allen key, but use caution not to turn up the heat to more than 104°. Newer spas will use potentiometers and sensors to control the temperature regulation via the circuit board. Average lifespan: 10-15 years. 

 

spa-contactorContactor: This is a switch before the heater, which confirms the voltage is regular. When so, the contactor closes and allows power to continue to the heat4er element. Some contactors are loud enough to be heard clicking into place when power is sent to the element. Contactors can become insect infested or can pop a spring occasionally. Average lifespan: 10-15 years.

gfi-outletGFCI: Your spa should have a GFCI breaker in the panel, and also may have a GFCI outlet connected to the spa pack. Ground fault circuit interrupters are very sensitive and they can become overly sensitive. These are safety devices which sense current going to ground, so when they trip repeatedly, this indicates that some small amount of voltage is leaving the circuit. They can also fail from time to time. Average lifespan 10-15 years

spa-pcbPCB: This is an abbreviation for Printed Circuit Board, the circuit board that controls the functions of your spa. Failures of the board are unfortunate and not too unc0mmon. They can result from improper or loose wiring, excessive moisture or heat, voltage spikes which ‘fry’ the board. Troubleshooting a pcb is difficult even for a knowledgeable person with equipment. Spa circuit boards can be repaired, but replacement can often be a cheaper, faster solution. Average lifespan: 10-15 years.

Rule out parts problems by testing each component individually. When a spa heater is not working, there is one or more component to the system that is keeping it from operating. And, as I’ve heard many electricians say, …“the problem lies, where the power dies! “

 

Happy Hot Tubbin’

Daniel Lara
Hot Tub Works

 

Spa Maintenance & Safety for Rental Home Hot Tubs

February 24th, 2014 by

cabin-spa

 

Do you own or operate a rental cabin or B&B with a hot tub for the guests to use? If so, you know that a spa can significantly increase the appeal of the property for renters, but that it also brings with it another layer of maintenance in between guest stays.

My husband and I have had a mountain home near Mammoth Lakes, Ca that we rent out when we are not using it, through a rental agency. Over the past 15 years, I have many stories to tell about our little mountain spa.

Like the time we found broken champagne glasses in the bottom, or the time we discovered it missing nearly 1/3 of the water, or the many times we have found it left uncovered, cranked up to the max and low on water.

Here’s a list of ways to improve management of your rental home hot tub, and reduce surprises and potential conflicts with your guests.

Signs

I’m a big believer in signs all around the house – small, tasteful signs that I print up and laminate. Here’s a sample of some useful signs around your spa:spa-rules-sign

  1. Spa Rules – Standard sign warning of potential health dangers.
  2. Spa Operation – Custom sign telling how to remove cover, turn on jets, air, heater, lights. How to add water if needed. How to shock if needed.
  3. Spa Closing – Sign by the door, reminding users to turn off the spa, replace the spa cover and latch it securely.
  4. Spa Heating – Tips on spa heating, troubleshooting checklist of simple fixes for the spa temperature.

 

Equipment

In order to be sure that our spa stays as sanitary as possible, we have a small inline brominator installed under the skirt, an ozonator, and we use a mineral stick. In most cases this amount of overkill is not needed, but it can be a little insurance against the occasional group of guests that really push sanitation to the limit, with heavy spa use.

The spa filter cartridge should be replaced every 6 months in a heavily used spa, or at least that’s the schedule we keep. We buy 6 at a time, and keep them stocked at the property. Same with the mineral sticks, which gets replaced at the same time.

Draining Schedule

We have a formula that we use to calculate when to drain the spa, based on the number of guests, but we also try to tell whether or not the spa has seen heavy use. The water level is always a good indicator, since most guests will never add water. If the water level is close to the level where we always leave it at, and other indicators don’t point to heavy spa use, we don’t drain the spa after each guest, but we vacuum, clean the filter, balance the chemistry and shock the spa.

However, in order to maintain a sanitary spa in your rental, you should drain and refill the spa if it looks like your guests really enjoyed it! Our spa gets drained about every month, but sometimes twice per month, if the unit has seen heavy usage, or if we rent to snowboarders (jk, lol).

Spa Safety

First off, the spa should be isolated on your property. If there are adjacent town homes or condos, a safety fence should be built around the patio, to cordon off the spa, and also add some privacy.

Secondly, a covered spa is always safer than an uncovered spa. Make sure your cover clips and straps are in good shape. A spa cover lifter should be installed to protect your spa cover and prevent guest injury.

Third, our Spa Rules sign makes these specific restrictions:

  1. Children under 14 with Adults only
  2. No single use, 2-4 people only
  3. No alcohol or drugs
  4. No pregnant women
  5. No Hypertensive people

Fourth, keep all spa chemicals safely stored, and out of the reach of children.

Fifth, make sure that your spa is in good electrical condition, without any chance of accidental electrocution.

What’s a Spa Worth?

Adding a spa or hot tub to your rental property will add another recreational element to your offerings, and will allow you to charge a premium – to at least cover the additional costs and maintenance involved. In our case, our property management company raised their price a set amount, and we have figured out our annual expenses for the spa. From there, we were able to figure out a fair amount to add to a night’s rental, which has by now, over the last 10 years ~ paid for the spa many times over!

 

Carolyn Mosby
Hot Tub Works