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Archive for the ‘spa heater’ Category

3 Enemies of Hot Tub Heater Elements

September 6th, 2016 by

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Hot tub heater elements are similar to the electric immersion elements used in household hot water heaters and washing machines, with a few important distinctions. Hot tub water chemistry tends to vary and it swings widely when 4 people jump into the tub. Spa heater elements are also subject to issues from low water flow or air inside the heater chamber, and all of these variables can lead to a shorter spa heater element lifespan.

Air Bubbles and Air Pockets

The main enemy to all spa heater elements, besides low water flow, are air bubbles & air pockets that can reduce element life. Air that comes in contact with the element, allows the outer sheath to rapidly heat unevenly, which breaks the protective sheath and exposes the filament. Low flow heaters are mounted vertically, so the bubbles are constantly exiting the chamber without entrapment. Tube heaters like the Laing design do not trap bubbles, so they can be bent into bizarre shapes, & even lay on the floor.

Spa pumps are designed to be flooded & should not leak air or be allowed to cavitate by drawing in air, then sending the air through the hot tub heater. Ozone injectors should not be placed before the heater, which would reduces heater element lifespan and confuses hot tub heater sensors.

Bad Hot Tub Chemistry

Poor hot tub water chemistry is damaging to spa heater elements, particularly low pH and Alkalinity and high hardness levels. Additionally, fill water that is naturally high in salt, lime and calcium can also promote a slower, but still premature death. Corrosion is an etching and rusting effect that happens to ferrous metals (made with iron). As water becomes acidic (low in ph) high in TDS or overly chlorinated, corrosion is accelerated and your heater element is most at risk.

Hard Water Problems

Hot tubs in hard water areas, or those that are filled from an onsite well can have trouble with metals and minerals. Lime & calcium can naturally collect on a heater element surface, forming a white coating. This layer of scale will slow heat transfer, resulting in lower efficiency, longer heater run time, and a higher internal element temperature. The plaque buildup will not let heat escape efficiently, and in time the element will essentially cook itself to death. Use a Pre-Filter to fill your tub with pure water, a lot cheaper than 300 gallons of mineral water!

High Flow Heaters

No matter what shape the heater is, a high flow heater (typical name flow thru) utilizes a hi-watt density element (hwd) that requires a minimum 22.5 gpm to keep it cool. A typical 2 speed spa pump provides this minimum flow at low speed. When flow is restricted below 22.5 gpm, the element runs hotter than designed, and the spa heater element life is shortened. Bath and Jetted Tub heaters are always high flow and use the high density element (hwd), as bath pumps always exceed 25gpm. HWS heaters come in many shapes like Flow Thru, Tee, L-shape & Canister. You will not find hot tub parts catalogs separated into high flow & low flow heaters, but you do need to know this info to be a true hot tub expert.

Low Flow Heaters

Low flow heaters are designed for vertical mount operation. The exception is the tube or Laing spa heaters we supply. Either design is made with a much longer, cool running low watt density element (lwd) These heaters & elements are made to operate on flows greater than 9+ gpm. It makes perfect sense that low flow heaters are paired with low flow circulation pumps like the Waterway, Laing & Grundfos spa pumps, which provide minimum 9+ gpm with a spa ozone injector. Low flow heaters contain more material & labor, this is why they cost more money.

Some repair techs either don’t know, or try to save money by placing a high flow heater into a low flow circulation plumbing system. It actually works for a while, then the element burns out, along with plastic parts, piping & wires. Be sure and confirm that you are using the correct heater for your spa.

 

– Jack

 

Spa & Hot Tub Noises

July 11th, 2016 by

loud-hot-tub-vibration-noiseSpas and Hot Tubs are not too dissimilar to automobiles, and I’ve made that reference before. And just like cars, a hot tub making funny noises is enough to make you sit up and take notice.

Today’s post is all about noisy hot tubs and spas, or sounds that spas make – what might be it, where to look, and how to reduce or correct hot tub noise.

Vibration Noise on Spas

Vibration noise coming from a hot tub is all too common, and the source of much friction between neighbors. Hot tub noise nuisance or noise from a neighbor’s hot tub can lead to noise complaints. But there are ways to reduce hot tub noise and save your neighborly relations.

There are two causes of spa vibration noise, 1. Hot Tubs sitting on small wooden decks, and 2. Hot Tub equipment vibration, underneath the spa.

In the first case, outdoor wood decks act like a drum and resonate a low frequency that sounds like a constant drone, even with pumps on low speed. The sound can be amplified as it conducts through nearby fences or reflects off exterior walls. To correct this situation, the wood deck can be cut-out to fit the spa, with a 4″ thick reinforced concrete slab poured for the spa to rest on. Another option would be to place thick rubber mats, or patio squares underneath the entire spa, on top of the wood deck. These can also be used on concrete patios that are connected to the house to reduce hot tub vibration noise. In addition to these two sound solutions, tall planters or short fences can be used adjacent to the hot tub/spa, to reflect sound away from the house(s) toward a more open area.

In the second case, vibration can come from the equipment located under the spa cabinet. Circulation pumps and jet pumps are the usual suspects, check that the base bolts are tight on each pump, or install them if they are missing. Alternatively, you can place a thick rubber mat underneath to dampen pump vibration noises. The Spa Pack or blower could also be the culprit. Placing your hand on pumps, valves, spa pack – you should be able to feel what you hear, and can tighten the equipment to the base, or use dense dampening rubber squares beneath. You can also use sound dampers or insulating material on the inside of the cabinet wall panels to contain spa equipment noise.

There is a third case, and that’s hot tubs that are up on a concrete slab, located against the house, or under a bedroom window. Even on low speed operation, they can be annoying to light sleepers. In this situation, you could adjust the timer to run only during day time hours, or add a dampening sub-floor to absorb some of the sound. A small enclosure around the hot tub, either a pavilion or large wooden wall planters, can be used to contain and deflect the sound away from the house.

Clicking

A spa or hot tub that makes a clicking sound may be working just fine, but if the pump won’t turn on high speed, and all you hear is clicking, or the heater is not heating and you hear a clicking noise, they may be coming from spa relays or contactors. If you try to locate the offending part – do so carefully, with the power turned off, as a shock hazard may exist.

Squealing

A spa or hot tub that makes a squealing noise will usually have a pump that is nearing the end of a lifespan. The motor bearings specifically, eventually wear out after a number of years, and will begin to shriek like a banshee! The sound becomes progressively louder over time, and not fixing it will lead to motor failure. To verify that the sound is bad bearings, close all valves and remove the motor from the wet end. Turn on power for a few seconds and if it still makes the noise, you need a motor rebuild from a local motor shop, or replace your motor with a new motor, or buy a whole new pump.

Softer squeals may be heard on spas coming from open air intake jets or some spa ozonators make a low squeal when they are operating.

Humming

A pump motor that is not starting may make a humming sound, from the motor capacitor. Sometimes the humming noise precedes the popping of the circuit breaker. Another usual source for a spa humming noise is vibration – either of the sub-floor beneath the spa, or the equipment housed beneath the spa. As suggested above, check that all equipment is tightly secured, or strapped if needed. Rubber patio squares can also be used to

Buzzing

Now a buzzing sound… that may also be the same as a squealing or humming sound, and can even be a variation on the clicking sound. In other words, it could be the pump or blower motor that is having trouble starting, a heater contactor or relay. Some ozonators have a faint squeal to them. To find out what’s making all that noise, first check your control panel for any error codes, and barring that, stick your head under there with a flashlight, and listen…

 

stop-look-listen-againAnd that’s really the secret to troubleshooting a noisy Jacuzzi or hot tub, look and listen – and you will likely find the cause of any spa or hot tub noises or odd sounds.

 

– Jack

 

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Hot Tub Heaters: Gas vs. Electric

July 7th, 2016 by

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In the old days, all hot tub heaters were gas-fired heaters; small pool heaters specifically. And most hot tubs were not hot all the time, and not covered with a thick insulated spa top; they were heated up on demand.

When portable spas came on the market in the late 70’s, manufacturers were looking for a way to market a plug and play appliance that could be easily installed without too much hassle. The Spa Pack was born, an integrated electric heater and controller system.

Nowadays, most spas and hot tubs are heated with an electric heating element, tucked into a stainless steel tube. Gas heat is always an option however… which is better? Today they fight it out, to the finish – Gas Spa Heaters Vs. Electric Spa Heaters!

 

hayward-gas-spa-heaterGAS SPA HEATERS

Gas spa heaters such as the Hayward H-100 or the Raypak 106A, powered by either propane or natural gas are used on inground spas, free standing wooden hot tubs, or even for portable spas, installed outside of the heater cabinet. A gas line is connected to the heater by a gas contractor to provide a constant supply of fuel, which is ignited by spark ignition.

 

PROS: Gas spa heaters do have some benefits, including:

  1. Low Operation Cost: Natural gas has become less expensive in recent years. Propane gas is more costly, but produces slightly more BTU’s than NG.
  2. Fast Heating: Gas heaters are the clear winner in the speed of heating competition. A gas spa heater can add 1-2° per minute, but an electric heater can take an hour to add a few degrees. This lets you keep the spa at a lower resting temp, and heat it up quickly.
  3. Overcomes Obstacles: For large spas over 700 gallons, or for poorly insulated spas or wooden hot tubs that are used year around in freezing climates, electric spa heaters can cost a small fortune to operate as compared to gas heat.

CONS: Gas spa heaters have a downside, like most everything, including:

  1. Higher Initial Cost: A gas spa heater costs about $1000, plus it needs to have a gas line connected to the natural gas meter (or the propane tank). Costs for a buried gas line vary on the distance of the meter to the heater, and can exceed the price of the heater itself.
  2. They’re Gas: For those of you concerned about the safety of gas appliances, with possible gas leaks and carbon monoxide exhaust, accidents with gas spa heaters rarely happen, but they do happen.
  3. External Installation: Not that they are ugly, but you can’t tuck a gas heater underneath a portable spa, it needs to sit outside in the open air with access to fresh air and clear sky above for the exhaust.

 

spa-heater-manifoldsELECTRIC SPA HEATERS

Electric spa heaters are sometimes called Flow-Thru heaters, and are basically a long electric heating element inside of a stainless steel tube. Union connectors on the end make it easy to access the element, inside of the slim and compact tube. Attached to the tube are temperature sensors, high limit and pressure switches to monitor temp and water flow.

 

PROS: Electric spa heaters have their own benefits, including:

  1. Low Operation Cost: If your spa is located in a mild climate, and is well insulated and has a good spa cover, using electric spa heaters is  usually less expensive to operate than gas heaters. Unless you live in a very expensive electricity area, that is.
  2. Low Initial Cost: Electric spa heaters cost much less than gas heaters, in the $100-$300 range, and there’s no gas line to run. Most spa heaters, or Spa Packs, are powered with 240 volts, from a 60 amp GFCI circuit breaker.
  3. Low Repair Costs: Electric spa heaters are simple devices, and repairs are usually under $100. Gas heaters are by design much more complicated, and repair costs are much more costly.

CONS: Electric spa heaters also aren’t perfect. Here’s some common complaints:

  1. Slow to Heat: The best you can hope for is 2-3 degrees per hour on a small, well insulated spa with a 5.5 or 11 kw element(s). Cold outside temperatures and high winds can reduce heat gain to just 1° per hour on spas with smaller 4 or 5.5 kw elements, and smaller 1.5 kw heaters may not keep up.
  2. They’re Electric: We all know that water and electricity don’t mix, but spa heaters are protected by a GFCI and several safety components to prevent overheating and electric shock. However, accidents can still happen with 240 volts.
  3. Higher Operational Costs: Possibly. If your electrical costs are greater than 25¢ per kw, you’ll reach a tipping point where it costs more to heat with electric spa heaters than with a gas spa heater. Especially for spas/hot tubs with poor insulation located in cold northern climates; you will find it more expensive to maintain hot water, during winter.

 



BOTTOM LINE: 
For most people, myself included, an electric spa heater is simpler and cheaper in the short run and the long run. For those who live in much colder regions than southern California 🙂 however, a small gas heater may be a better choice, especially for low use spas, which can be maintained at 85°, and cranked up to 104° in just a half hour.

COST COMPARISON: If you want to figure out the cost comparison between gas and electric, it takes 8.34 BTUs to raise one gallon of water one degree Fahrenheit. Assume that heat loss is constant in both cases (although it does increase during colder months), and know that gas heaters are only 80% efficient, but electric heaters are close to 100% efficient. Then you can compare your cost of gas (in therms) and electricity (in Kilowatts) to produce your own analysis. bromine-wins

I’m not sure who wins this battle royale between two heavy weight spa heaters. Gas heaters are costly to install (and replace), but can be cheaper to operate (in many cases) than an equally sized electric spa heater.

Let me know in the comments ~ whatcha think?!?

 

XOXO;

Gina Galvin
Hot Tub Works

 

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10 Spa and Hot Tub Energy Conservation Tips

December 21st, 2015 by

bullfrog-spas-heat-map-of-full-foam-spaSome spas are built for a warm climate, while other spas are specifically designed for use in cold weather areas. A spa or hot tub that is energy efficient can use half of the energy of one that is not.

Spa insulation is the main factor, but there are many other variables that influence the amount of electricity used by your spa or hot tub. Here’s a few ways to curb your spa’s appetite for energy.

 

ADD WIND BLOCKS

hickorydickorydecksWind sweeping across the surface sure feels nice, but it also pulls a lot of heat from the surface. If your spa is not protected from the winds, consider installing small walls or plants on the side(s) with the most wind. They are usually installed on two sides, to preserve a preferred view, and can also serve as a privacy screen. Custom build it to your specifications, or you can order retractable spa wind screens online.

CLOSE THE AIR JETS

close-the-spa-air-knobAfter using the spa, remember to close the knobs that allow air to be sucked into the jets. Cold air being introduced constantly will cool the water, requiring your heater and pump to work harder to replace the heat that is lost. Heat loss is minor when using the spa for 15 minutes or so, but if you leave them open for days and days, you may notice an increase in hot tub energy use. For me, it’s the last thing we do, but I don’t usually open all of the air jet knobs, so I just close the one off before putting the cover back on. Remember to close the air jets!

TURN OFF THE BLOWER

The air blower, if your spa is equipped with one, is a real energy hog, besides being noisy and also cooling down the water with cold air injection. If you can go without forced air in the hot tub, you will absolutely reduce a hot tub’s energy usage. And when your spa blower finally bites the dust (and they all do someday), consider not replacing it.

FIND THE PUMP RUN TIME SWEET SPOT

spa-timers-can-save-moneyModern spas are somewhat self regulating with certain programmable modes, but for older spas or hot tubs, your filter pump or spa pump should use a timer, or be programmed to run in 2 or 3 shifts of about 3 or 4 hours each. When the pump is running, the filter, heater and purifiers can also operate, so it’s important to run it long enough each day (every day) to maintain water quality. Program your pump to run 2-4 times during the day, paying close attention to water quality. Some spas are fine with 4 hours per day, but others need 8 hours per day of pump run time, to both maintain water quality and water temperature.

TIP: Remember that spa pumps (and all motors) use a lot of power (amperes) just to start, so starting and stopping too often will increase spa energy consumption.

TURN DOWN THE SPA HEATER:

Turn down the heater to 90° if you won’t be using the spa for a week. For 2 weeks or longer, set it lower, but keep the spa water well above freezing – we recommend no lower than 65 degrees, to maintain some heat in the event of a winter power outage.

Turning down the heat for just the weekend, or even a week, and it can cost more to re-heat the spa than it would’ve cost to just to maintain the heat. Even so, many weekly spa users (myself included), maintain a temperature of about 95°, and bump it up to 102° an hour before using the spa.

RUN YOUR SPA DURING OFF-PEAK HOURS:

Off peak pump/heater operation, according to Energy.gov, may save you money over time. Check with your local power provider for peak times in your area, and available Time of Use rates. Generally speaking, peak rates are during weekdays, from 9-5 pm, although it varies by region and season.

USE A BETTER OR BEST SPA COVER

Notice I didn’t say a Good spa cover, or the El Cheapo spa covers; go for the Better or even the Best spa cover, if you really want to save energy by reducing heat loss. Our lower tier spa covers are only suitable for warm southern climates. If you have any kind of winter – buy a hot tub cover that can really hold in the heat.

you-need-a-new-spa-cover-1It goes without saying that a good spa cover can save money, while a bad spa cover can waste money. Spa covers that are waterlogged lose over half of their R-value, or insulation value. Hot tub covers that are warped, torn, or broken will not fit properly around the edges and leak precious heat from the sides or along the center hinge. Replacing an old spa cover before you really need to – is a surefire way to save money on heating a hot tub.

TIGHTEN UP YOUR SPA COVER

spa-cover-wind-straps-smAdjust your spa cover straps if necessary so that there is a slight downward pull on the strap, as you click the clip into place. This helps to pull-down the spa cover to snug-up against the spa top edge. Loose spa cover straps allow heat to leak out and high winds to get under the spa cover. Spa strap clips can be replaced if broken, or if your spa straps are completely torn off, you can use our heavy-duty over-the-top spa cover wind straps. A less elegant, but also effective way is to use a sheet of 1/2″ plywood, to gently hold it down and reduce heat loss from a loose or ill-fitting spa cover.

USE A FLOATING SPA COVER

floating-spa-blanketA secondary floating spa cover can increase your overall R-value by up to a third. Floating spa blankets are 1/4″ closed cell foam, to keep heat trapped in the water, and reduce moisture beneath the spa cover. It also prevents chemical damage to a hot tub cover, by containing the chemicals in the water. Foam spa blankets work much better than solar blanket type, which is a heavy duty bubble wrap type material – but any secondary spa cover will help, even plastic kitchen wrap!

INCREASE CABINET INSULATION

For spas that didn’t come with a lot of insulation around the cabinet, energy efficiency can be increased by strategically adding insulation underneath and around the spa or hot tub. There are several ways to do this, but remember that your pumps still need adequate air ventilation and circulation to prevent overheating. Never cover air intake vents or reduce the size of the equipment bay.

Spray Foam: There are spray foam kits that you can use to cover pipes and the back of the spa shell. Be sure to use a spray foam that has a high R-value and that you apply it according to directions. For best results, remove all cabinet panels before applying foam. A full-foam treatment may be difficult, but an inch or two on the spa shell and covering exposed pipes (outside of the equipment area) is do-able.

owens-corning-fiberglassInside Cabinet: You can also use wall or attic insulation, in soft rolls or rigid panels, to line the inside of your spa cabinet panels. Reflective bubble wrap insulation, placed on the inside of cabinet panels, can help by reflecting heat inward, back towards the spa.

Outside Cabinet: Another method is to construct an enlarged cabinet around the existing cabinet and fill the space with insulation. Or described another way, affix rigid insulation panels to the outside of your cabinet panels, and soft insulation on the corners, then build another cabinet from wood paneling, on the outside of the new insulation. Cap it with a heavy board on top of the enlarged cabinet.

 

Carolyn Mosby
Hot Tub Works

 

How to Replace a Spa Heater

November 2nd, 2015 by

spa-hot-tub-careYour Hot Tub or Spa will at some point have heating problems. There are two types of spa heater problems, not heating enough and not heating at all.

If your spa heater is not heating enough, but has lost some percentage of it’s oomph, it’s likely not a heater problem, but a water flow problem from a dirty filter or partially closed valves or clogged pipe or pump. It could be heat loss from your spa cover or around the spa. Some smaller spas may have trouble just keeping up, during very cold outside temperatures.

If your spa heater is not heating at all, but there are no error codes or tripped circuit breakers or GFCI outlets, or other faulty components, it’s likely that the heater element has failed. Over time, even coated hot tub elements will succumb to the erosive effects of moving water, scale build-up and galvanic corrosion. After 8-10 years, most spa heater elements will one day stop working.

Testing Spa Heater Elements

electric-test-meterUsing any handheld electric meter, you can test your spa heater element to determine if water has leaked through tiny fissures in the carbonized shell. With all spa power turned Off at the circuit breaker, first test for any incoming voltage, with the meter set to VAC 250 or greater. Then you’ll set your test meter to the Ohms scale, 2K or greater.

RESISTANCE TEST: Place your meter leads onto the power leads on the heater body, or the heater element terminals, where the wires connect. You should see 0 volts, and if so, switch your meter to Ohms Ω (2000+) to measure resistance. A good spa heater element, up to 5.5 Kw (5500 watts) should have around 10 Ohms of resistance, or in the range of 8-12 on your meter. Larger spa heater elements of 11 Kw, are generally in the 20-24 Ohm range.  If your spa heater element tested for resistance has zero Ohms, -or- goes off the chart to infinite ∞, then the heater element or the entire spa heater needs replacement.

TEST FOR SHORT CIRCUIT: For this test you’ll have to remove the heater from the Spa Pak, to get your meter lead directly onto the heater element. Again with power completely Off, first test for any incoming power by setting your meter onto VAC 250. If no voltage is found, switch the meter to Ohms to test for a short circuit in the heater element. With one meter lead on one of the heater terminals, or element bulkhead nuts, touch the other lead to the surface of the heater element. Your meter should peg to infinite ∞, which is good. If you get an actual lower reading, the element is bad.

 

Replace the Heater Element or Replace the Heater Assembly?

There are two ways to replace a spa heater, you can replace the internal immersion element only, or replace the entire spa heater assembly, which includes the stainless steel heater chamber and the union ends.

spa-heater-elementsREPLACE THE HOT TUB HEATER ELEMENT: You can buy the spa heater elements alone for under $30, and save some money over buying the entire spa heater, which can cost $90 on average. Replacing the heater element only is more work, and more risk is involved. The new element must be installed carefully to avoid damage and positioned exactly to not overheat.

spa-heater-manifoldsREPLACE THE COMPLETE HOT TUB HEATER: Replacing the complete spa heater assembly is the best route if your heater is over 8 years old, because of the galvanic corrosion that can occur to the stainless steel tube, which can develop pinhole leaks. Many complete heaters also include new sensors and it’s much faster and easier to replace the entire hot tub heater, with much less chance of installation errors.

 

 Ordering the Correct Spa Heater Replacement

Replacing with an exact duplicate spa heater is important, there are many variations in electrical size; volts, watts, amps, and in dimensional size as well – it has to fit. We often are asked “can you upsize the spa heater?”, or install a heater with more ‘oomph’ than what is currently used. Unfortunately, No – the existing heater is matched to the Spa Pak electronics, and back to my first point, it’s [very] important to replace a spa heater with an exact duplicate.

Installing the incorrect spa heater will just not work, at best, and at worst, it could burn out circuit boards, or even melt down into an electrical fire. Fortunately, we make things easy here at Hot Tub Works, and we have 3 ways to order new spa heaters, by Make/Model, by Most Popular, or by taking measurements of your existing heater and nameplate information.

spa-pakORDER BY MAKE & MODEL: Order a new spa heater by the Brand of your Spa Pak. We list 17 top spa pak brands like Balboa, Brett, Gecko, HydroQuip. Select the Brand of your spa pak (the combination control unit and heater), and our database returns the available heater models, with electrical and dimensional specs. If you can’t see it readily, you may have to stick your head in there with a flashlight.

most-popular-spa-hot-tub-heatersORDER BY MOST POPULAR: Isn’t that how we make most of our decisions anyway? It turns out that listing our Top Ten Spa Heaters is a useful resource for our shoppers. That’s because the majority of spa heaters that we sell complete, are one of six (6) different models, and the two (2) most popular hot tub heaters are the 4.0 Kw and 5.5 Kw Universal hot tub heaters. You’ll still want to check your voltage (120/220V) and wattage (1.5/4.0/5.5/11Kw) to match your existing heater size.

ORDER BY DIMENSIONS: To be really sure that a new spa heater fits exactly, both in electrical size and dimensional size, break out the measuring tape! Shut off all power first and close valves to prevent water loss (some water will spill). Remove the heater assembly by carefully removing and labeling all wires, and then loosening the union nuts fully on each end. spa-heater-measurement-diagram

Remove the union nut ends, so you can measure from the flange end. Measure from the end to Point A, B, C, D and so on, writing each number down as you go. Measure all the way to letter I – very important, as there are spa heater tubes that are very similar, up until you get to the H and I measurements.

Take all 9 measurements, write them down, and refer to the hot tub heater replacement list or table. In addition to matching dimensions, also match the electrical size. Before you buy, check the label on your existing spa heater to match the voltage (120V or 240V) and watts (1.5 Kw/4Kw/5.5 Kw) to the new hot tub heater.

stamped-spa-heater-elementOne more thing, it’s a UL listing requirement that all heater elements are stamped with electrical identifiers. When the label is gone, faded or burned, you can always look on the element itself, and you should find tiny imprinted voltage and wattage information.

Installing a Replacement Spa Heater

We have instructions on replacing a hot tub heater element on the website. Replacing the complete hot tub heater manifold is much easier. After receiving the new heater, check it over carefully to be sure it is an exact duplicate to your existing heater, not just physical size, but also electrical size.

O-RINGS: Check that the union o-rings are still in place on both ends, and all sensors or switches are installed in the heater tube or chamber. Slide the new heater unit in position. Tighten up the union nuts very snug, but only hand tight (but very hand tight!).

WIRES: Next, you can connect the power wires or element leads to the heater element terminals, also very snug, using the correct wrench size. Just like connecting a car battery.SPA-HEATER-ELEMENT-2

SENSORS: Connect the wires of any safety switches; pressure switch and high limit switch and temp sensors. New hot tub heaters often include new sensors or switches. Make tight wire connections and tape loose wires to PVC pipes (not to heater body).

Fill the hot tub if necessary, and flood the water lines, remove any air lock by loosening pump or heater unions to allow air to escape, as water pushes the air out of dry pipes. With the tub full of water, loosen the pump union slightly, just until you begin to hear air hissing. Tighten the union quickly, just as water begins to leak. Then give the union another turn past hand tight, being sure ANY dripping subsides.

 

Happy Hot Tub Heatin’

Daniel Lara
Hot Tub Works

 

 

Hot Tub Not Heating Enough? 10 Reasons Why

September 28th, 2015 by

hot-tub-not-heating-tooIf the water temperature is warm or hot-ish, but not quite the skin searing temperature you like – you’ve come to the right resource.

When your spa heater takes too long to heat the hot tub, or if your hot tub won’t get hot enough like it used to – here’s the troubleshooting steps to take. Some Hot tubs can heat-up to as high as 105°, although the recommended temperature for healthy adults is 104°.

Let’s Assume that you are receiving No Error Codes on the display panel. Everything seems normal, but the water is not as hot as it used to be, in the past.

Thermometer is Incorrect

digital-thermometer-2First Off, thermometers can be wrong – they are not usually “precision instruments”. Even digital display temp readings can be wrong (see #5 below), and off by a few degrees. A digital spa thermometer can be considered more accurate than the rubber ducky spa thermometers.

Hot Tub Cover is Inefficient

An economy spa cover is not going to provide the type of heat trapping efficiency of thicker and denser spa covers. The R-value of the best spa covers can be 3x the R-value of a basic spa cover.

bowed-spa-cover-smSecondly, as spa covers age, they can start to take on water, and sag in the middle. other covers can begin to rip on the edges or along the fold. If you see any steam leaking out of the sides of your spa cover, this can be enough heat loss to reduce overall spa temperature.

Finally, you have to keep the hot tub cover on the tub while heating, or the spa will never heat up. For extra heat trapping, use a floating foam spa blanket.

Thermostat is Mis-Calibrated

mechanical-spa-thermostat-adjustmentOn older gas-fired spa heaters, and old hot tubs with mechanical thermostats (without any digital panel display), the spa thermostat can be adjusted. These thermostats have a copper wire and capillary bulb used to sense the water temperature. On the end of the switch is a 1/8″ hex head adjustment screw. Turn it 1/4 turn clockwise, and give it a few hours to see how high the temperature rises.

Test water temperature before using and be careful not to raise the temperature above 104° – which is possible to do on some hot tubs. Adjusting the set point too high can be dangerous or unhealthy for spa users. It’s also possible that the thermostat is defective, they don’t normally just go out of adjustment by themselves.

Outside Temperature Too Low

spa-under-snowSome spas are just not able to overcome low outside temperatures. Especially for 110V plug-in portable spas, or spas built without a lot of insulation, a small 1-3 kw spa heater can not heat up fast enough to overcome heat loss.

Also true for spas and hot tubs that have small heater elements, under 4 Kw, or 4000 watt. The fact is – less expensive spas will have more trouble keeping up with low outside temperatures.

Using a top quality spa cover, floating spa blanket and improving insulation underneath the spa, even wrapping the outside of a wood hot tub, can all help to compensate and correct for low air temperatures. Spa heaters can also be up-sized.

Bad Temperature Sensors

balboa-temp-sensorModern spas use electronic temperature sensors and high-limits to constantly check water temperature, inside and outside of the spa heater. These are connected by wires to a plug-in on the main control panel.

On digital spa packs, you will usually see an Error Code (Sn, Sn1, HL, Hot, OH), when a temp sensor is causing the heater to shut off, but if they are off a few degrees, a temperature sensor or thermostat can shut off the heater, thinking the spa is hotter than it is.

Using the Air Blower

Using a forced air blower or opening the air intake knobs will always cool the water, because the air temperature is much colder than the water temperature.

Spa Heater Not Running Long Enough

Spas and hot tubs heat slowly, some as low as 1 degree per hour, although most can do 2-4 degrees per hour. If the timer is not set to run long enough each day, it can have trouble keeping up, especially with low outside temperatures.

To bring it up to speed, run the circulation pump and heater continuously. It can take up to 24 hours – depending on starting water temperature, outside air temperature, spa cover efficiency and most importantly, the size of your spa heater.

Spa Filter is Dirty

SPA-PARTS-SPA-FILTERSEarlier in the article, we agreed to assume that there are no error codes – and a dirty spa filter should produce an Error Code (FL, Flo, FL1) if the pressure switch is sensing low flow and keeping the heater off.

You can remove the spa filter (spa cartridge) to see if flow improves because of a dirty spa filter. You may need to hit the heater element Reset button in this case. Replace spa and hot tub filters every 12-24 months to keep the water flowing and filtering well.

Spa Was Just Drained and Refilled

For spas that have been drained and refilled, you may want to run the heater continuously for a day or two, until the water gets hot, then reset the timeclock to run for 4-8 hours daily, or as much as it needs to maintain most of the heat.

Also, be sure that the spa circulation pump is fully primed, and not in an air lock condition, or drawing in air – both of which will cause the heater to overheat and shut off. You may need to hit the heater element Reset button in this case.

Spa Water Level is Low

spa-water-level-over-skimmerIf your spa skimmer begins to draw in a steady stream of air in a vortex inside the skimmer, or gulps down air because of a stuck skimmer door or thermometer, this will cause the heater to overheat and shut down. You may need to hit the heater element Reset button in this case.

Add water regularly to your spa to keep the level from dropping too low and drawing air into the suction intakes.

 

– Jack

 

 

 

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