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Archive for the ‘spa heater’ Category

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

 

The Winterized Spa – How to Close a Spa for Winter

December 12th, 2013 by

hot-tub-in-winter

There comes a time for many hot tub lovers in the north, when they need to ask the question – close the spa for the winter, or keep it operating?

If you think you’ll use the spa occasionally, even if it’s only a few times per month, I would suggest that you keep it open. But, if no one is using it, or worse – maintaining it. You may want to winterize the spa.

For many spa owners, it’s the fear of extended power outages that will warrant emptying the spa. Heated and covered, a hot spa should be able to resist freeze damage for 24 hours, but beyond that you could face  expensive repairs to plumbing and equipment.

How to Winterize an Above Ground Spa in 4 Steps

step1 to winterize a spa or hot tub Step One: Remove the spa filter cartridge, and clean it thoroughly with spa filter cleaner like Filter Fresh, and allow it to dry for winter storage. Next, apply a spa purge product like Jet Clean, to clean biofilm and bacteria from the pipes, which will continue to grow in the moist interior of your pipes, unless cleaned before you drain the spa. Don’t skip this step, or you may have funk and gunk in your pipes when you start up the spa again.

 

step2 for spa and hot tub winterizingStep Two: Now it’s time to drain the spa. Shut off power to the spa, and switch the heater off. Find your drain spigot and allow the spa to drain completely, through a hose, so the water drains away from the spa. When almost empty, turn on power again, so you can turn on the air blower (if you have one), and let it run until no more droplets spray out the jets. Use a sponge or shop vac to get every last drop from the bottom of the spa. If you have air jets in the seat or floor, lay a towel over them to absorb water mist as it sprays out.

 

step3 to winterize a hot tubStep Three: Use a powerful shop vac, to suck and blow air through the system. Place a sheet of plastic over a group of spa jets and use shop vac suction on one of the group’s jets. The plastic will suck to the other jets, so you can pull water out of one jet. Repeat until all jets are vacuumed. Switch the vac to a blower, and blow air through all the jets. Now blow air through the skimmer and spa drain. Under the spa, open all unions (don’t lose the o-rings), and use the shop vac to blow and suck air in both directions. Remove the drain plugs on the pump(s), and filter.

 

step4 in winterization of a spaStep Four: Spa covers perform an important function during winter, keeping any rain and snow melt from getting inside the spa. Over winter, some areas can receive two feet of precipitation, and it’s important that this doesn’t get into the spa. If your spa cover is a leaker, and in bad shape, cover it with plywood cut to shape, and then wrap it tightly with a sturdy tarp that will repel water. If your spa cover is in good shape, use a conditioner like our Spa Cover Cleaner, to protect it from winter weather. Use a Spa Cover Cap for the best spa cover protection.

 

Other Thoughts on Winterizing a Portable Spa

  1. Consult your owner’s manual, or find it online, to read specific tips for winterizing your particular spa.
  2. Using non-toxic antifreeze is discouraged, but if you must, refill and drain the spa before use.
  3. Draining a wooden hot tub is discouraged, but if you must, leave a foot of water, to resist shrinkage.
  4. Be sure to shut off power at the breaker, so there’s no chance that the pumps will run without water.
  5. If you have doubts and worry, consider calling a spa service company to winterize your spa.
  6. Inground spas require different procedures, not covered here.

 

- Jack

 

 

Hot Tub Parts: Heater Parts for Spas and Hot Tubs

November 7th, 2013 by

spa-heater-parts

Hot tub heater parts – a spa heater can be one of the more confusing parts of a spa for homeowners to work on, which is why our spa and hot tub heater parts department is laid out in a step by step fashion. This allows you to start your spa heater troubleshooting with the most common replacement spa heater parts, and progress to the more rare causes of spa heater problems.

Here’s a description of each subcategory of spa heater parts, with information on what functions these various parts perform and how to test or troubleshoot them on your own spa, so you can buy replacement spa heater parts with confidence.

 

Heater Elements

spa-heater-elements

Heater elements are housed inside of the heating chamber, or manifold. The power leads are connected to the element, and when all the stars align, this power will heat up the element, which warms the passing spa water.

Warning: Testing and inspection of spa heater elements should be done carefully to avoid injury. Spa heaters also need to be grounded and GFI protected, before connecting power, to prevent serious injury or even death.

Heating elements can be tested for amperage with an amp meter, or the terminals can be tested for proper input voltage with a volt meter.

In many cases, the heater element itself is not damaged, but it begins to leak water out of the terminals, where the wires connect. If this occurs, replace the element or the entire heater immediately, to prevent electrical shock.

Replace a spa heater element with an exact duplicate, in terms of length, terminal orientation and kilowatts of output. Call for spa tech support if you are having trouble identifying the correct hot tub heater element.

Flow Switches

spa-flow-switchA flow switch is a sensor that tells the heater that there is enough water flowing through the heater element to be able to power the heater element safely. Low flow rates can be caused by a dirty spa filter, low water level or closed valves.

A flow switch has a paddle that dips into the flow of water, to sense the pressure of the passing water. It also has an arrow on the side to indicate the proper flow direction of the water, and commonly has two wires that connect into your control panel.

Problems include a flow switch stuck in the wrong position, closed all the time, or open when it should be closed. Wire shorts or loose connections on the wiring can cause this, as can built up scale in cases of very hard water.

If you suspect your flow switch may be the problem, you may be able to jump it out or isolate it from the circuit. Insufficient heat or no heat is the main symptom of a problem with the hot tub flow switch.

Hi Limits

spa-hi-limitThe purpose of a hi limit switch is to shut down a runaway heater. Modern spas use sensors to determine when the water temperature inside the heating chamber is too hot, and older spas will use a mechanical thermodisc, that surface mounts onto the heating chamber or into the control box. Others may use a capillary bulb and wire, with a button that pops out when the hi limit has been tripped, much like a GFI breaker.

A tripping hi limit may be symptomatic of a water flow problem (and the flow sensor or pressure switch), or problems with the spa thermostat. It will have two wires connected, leading to the controller.

Older hi limit switches that are nuisance tripping may be faulty, but it’s more often the case that the hi limit is doing it’s job, protecting you and your spa equipment from dangerous over heating.

Heater Unions

spa-unions-gaskets-o-ringsHeater unions are the connecting bits on the ends of the heating chamber or manifold. Usually the union nuts are collars, which have a screw on each side to remove it in two halves. If these union nuts become stripped, cracked or broken, you can will find it easier to just replace the collar, and not the union tail nut, or the piece that the union nut threads onto.

We also have available the spa union o-rings and gaskets that always tend to fall off and roll to an unreachable location – or, they get pinched and crimped while tightening up a heater union.

If your spa heater begins to leak at the unions on either end, make a fast parts replacement, to prevent water from contacting sensitive heater terminal connections, dripping or spraying on other spa pack components.

Manifolds

spa-heater-manifoldsThe heater manifold is the housing for the heater element, and may also be home to your hi limit and pressure switch. It’s rare that the heater manifold will fail on it’s own, but it can fall victim to freeze damage, or it can be warped in extreme over heating incidents.

Stainless Steel spa manifolds can sometimes rust or oxidize, and this can indicate that the steel manifold has become energized and possibly dangerous. Plastic manifolds won’t develop rust, but could warp or be melted right through if the element gets too close.

Buy exact replacement manifolds, to fit your element. It may come with complete unions, but it’s easier to not use the supplied union tail nuts, just use the new o-ring and union nuts. Be extra careful to secure the element in snug to prevent leakage.

Pressure Switches

spa-pressure-switchesA spa pressure switch is similar to the flow switch, and in practice their function is the same. When water flow or water pressure is insufficient to adequately absorb the heat from the heater element, a pressure switch will shut down the spa heater, in a bit of self preservation.

We have over 40 different pressure switches to choose from. I guess spa manufacturers like to have their own specific pressure switch, with small differences. They vary in the amperage, the pressure settings, the attachment size and how many poles and throws the switch has. Be sure to replace with an exact duplicate pressure switch.

Pressure switch tripping? It’s probably just doing it’s job, and you may have a flow problem. In some cases, a spa pressure switch can become stuck (open, or stuck closed), or the terminals can become rusty, or it can lose it’s calibration and become more sensitive over time.

Sensors

spa-sensorsSpa sensors are used on today’s newer spas, to replace older hi limit switches and mechanical thermostats. These sensors usually have a wire attached that’s about 3 ft. long, to be able to reach over and plug into the spa pack.

If you receive an error code regarding a spa sensor, check the connections at the spa pack, and inspect the wire carefully for crimps or splits. Remove the sensor itself from the spa plumbing, and inspect the bulb or button for scale or corrosion. If it sits in a dry well, check that the well has not developed pinholes.

Spa sensors for temperature are all factory calibrated and are non-serviceable. If both ends look fine and the cord is intact, double check that you have a sensor error. If you’re having trouble diagnosing a spa sensor, give us a call here at the shop, we’ll be glad to help.

Complete Heater Units

complete-spa-heater-assemblyAnd of course, we have the complete heater units at Hot Tub Works. If there are big problems with your spa heater components, replacing the entire unit may give you more peace of mind, and is definitely an easier installation.

You can order replacement spa heaters such by brand, or according to the type of spa pack that you have. We also list our top ten most popular spa heater, many of which are universal, in that they will fit many different spas.

You can also order new spa heaters by dimensions; refer to our chart of 9 measurements that you can match up to on your existing spa heater, to get one that will line up correctly with all of the spa heater components.

 

Happy Hot Tubbin’
Daniel Lara

 

Replacing a Spa Pak – a How To

May 20th, 2013 by

replacement spa packsA Spa Pack is an integrated unit that contains the spa pump, heater, blower and controls. On average, a spa pack will last around 10 years, before one or more components begins to fail, or give you regular trouble.

Replacing your Spa Pak can be a quick and simple affair. In the worst case scenario, it may involve some light plumbing and wiring, and replacement of the top-side spa control, if purchased with your spa pack.

 

Selecting the Right Spa Pack

Digital or Air System?

spa-side-control

You probably have a “spa-side control”, a small control panel “top-side”, that you use to operate the spa from inside the tub. If you have a digital display, you have a digital control. If your spa-side control has a dial for temperature, and air buttons with air hoses running to the control box – this indicates that your spa has an air system control. Since they are close in price, many spa owners may upgrade their new spa pack to a digital system.

Spa Pack or Spa Control?

Spa Packs are the complete kit and kaboodle – control box, heater, pump(s) and sometimes also a blower. Everything, really – with the exception of the spa filter or ozonator. The Spa Control is just the controller for the spa, although some newer controls also include a spa heater.

If your system is fairly new, and you are mainly having problems with the control, with the other equipment in good order, you can save some bucks and replace just the spa control. If the other equipment items are older than 7-8 years, you may want to consider replacing the entire spa pack, to avoid equipment failure in the near future.

Gathering Information

Before you can order a replacement spa pack, grab your reading glasses and a flashlight, and get up close and personal with the existing equipment. You’ll need to locate and write down the following bits of information, from the name plates on the control and pump.

  • Pumps: One pump or Two? Locate the Horsepower (HP) on the motor nameplate.
  • Heater size: Usually, residential spas are either 1.5kw or 5.5kw
  • Control Voltage: Incoming voltage is either 120 volts or 240 volts (or 115/230).
  • Blower – do you wish to replace the blower also?
  • Pipe Size: 1.5″ or 2″? 1.5″ PVC pipe has an outside diameter of 1-7/8″.
  • Inlet Direction: Is Control inlet on the left side or right side of the pump?

Ordering a New Spa Pack

If you’ve done it before, and you are confident of your selection, by all means place your spa pack order online. If our tech support staff can be of any help to you in purchasing the correct spa pack for your application, by all means, call us at 800-770-0292. We have spa experts standing by from 7 to 7 during the week, and 8 to 5 on weekends.

Spa packs are not cheap, but considering it’s the “engine” of your hot tub, a price of $600-$800 may not seem too severe. You’ll find our prices on spa packs to be among the best, and with a wide variety of brands to choose from. Shipping on spa packs is always fast and free.

Installing your New Spa Pack

1. Shut off the Power, at the main Circuit Breaker for the spa. Read the installation instructions.
2. Close the isolation valves to shut off water before and after the pump, or drain the spa.
3. Loosen the unions before and after the existing spa pack, and remove wire connections from the spa light, ozonator, stereo or other accessory equipment.

spa-pak-locationYour spa pack control and heater must be installed after the pump and before the filter (unless your spa filter cartridge is located in the skimmer well of the spa). Make sure that the pipes are connected to the correct in and out ports of the pump and the heater.

Line up your new spa pack, and determine the plumbing arrangement. In most cases, all of the plumbing fittings and pipe you will need are included, but in some situations, a trip to Home Depot may be in order to pick up a few fittings, or a fresh can of PVC glue and a can of primer or PVC pipe cleaner. blower-installation

Dry fit all of your plumbing together before gluing, to make sure that everything is lined up, and all pipes and fittings can be glued to their full depth. NOTE: A spa air blower is not glued onto the pipe. Fumes from PVC glue can be ignited by a blower, so instead, use a screw or clamp to secure an air blower onto PVC pipe, as shown right.

4. Position spa pack components and secure them to the base or skid.
5. Clean and glue the PVC joints. Use Teflon tape on threaded fittings.
6. Attach wire plugs from spa light or other accessory equipment into the labeled ports on the control box.

spa-wiringMaking the electrical connections is fairly straight forward, and safe – as long as the power is off. Tape the breaker in the “Off” position, to prevent someone from accidentally turning it back on.

Make the hard wire connections from the new spa pack to the wires from the main circuit breaker (which is still Off!). If you doubt your abilities, please contact a certified electrician to make these connections.

7. Fill the spa, and inspect for any leaks in the pipes or equipment (before it gets too full).
8. Install the new Spa-Side control, by mounting in place of the existing top-side controls. If your new control is much smaller than the old one, you can use a small saw or Dremel tool to cut small openings in the current control, and mount the new control right on top of the old control.
9. Turn on power to spa, and set the thermostat to the lowest setting.
10. Run the spa jet pump on high for several minutes to purge all air from system before turning up the thermostat and testing the heater.

And, your done! While the spa is heating up, take some time to read the owner’s manual operating instructions, and send in the warranty registration card.

Once again, if you have any concerns about spa pack selection, ordering or installation, our 100% free spa tech support personnel are here to help you – 78 hours per week!

Happy Hot Tubbin’

Daniel Lara
Hot Tub Works

 

Related Information:

Installing your New Equipment Pack
Installing a Spa Equipment Pack (videos)