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Archive for the ‘Spa Parts’ Category

Spa Electrical Component Testing

May 22nd, 2017 by

Image by Canadian Spa Company blog
Warning,
geeky electrical component post coming up! Today I’m talking about testing spa and hot tub electrical component resistance, namely how to test for continuity on hot tub heater elements, fuses, transformers, sensors and switches.

Warning, testing electrical components can be hazardous, and should be performed by confident individuals aware of electrical hazards. For testing continuity or resistance, shut all power off to the spa, at the main breaker, testing resistance when under power can damage your meter, the equipment tested, or yourself! Shut down all spa power disconnects.

To test a spa heater, transformer, sensors and switches, you will need a multi-meter that tests for Ohms Ω. You can find a digital multi-meter at any home or hardware store for under $15. Ohm meters will measure the known resistance in a spa electrical component, and can also be used to check for shorts in wires, cables and cords.

 

Testing Heater Elements

  1. Shut off all power to the spa at the breaker and spa pack
  2. Remove the wires or copper tabs on the heater element terminalsspa heaters diagram
  3. Set your Ohm meter to the lowest setting
  4. Place your meter leads on the tip of each element terminal
  5. A reading of 10-14 Ohms is good for most heater elements

If your spa heater element (with wires or tabs removed) reads zero resistance, or displays ‘Open’, that means that the element sheath has a crack or the coil inside is otherwise grounding out, and should be causing your circuit breaker or GFCI to trip. Time for a new hot tub heater element or a complete spa heater assembly.

Testing Spa Transformers

  1. Shut off all power to the spa at the breaker and spa pack
  2. Set your Ohm meter to the lowest setting
  3. Locate the resistance values printed on the transformer
  4. Place your meter leads onto a Primary wire and a Secondary wire
  5.  Compare the reading to the transformer specs specified

Transformers take 120V or 240V power and step it down to a reduced voltage to operate specific spa component circuits. Spa transformers that are soldered to the board are not as easy to test with an Ohm meter, and also keep in mind that many modern spas have several board mounted transformers.

Testing Spa Temperature Sensors

  1. Shut off all power to the spa at the breaker and spa packspa-sensors
  2. Set your Ohm meter to the 20K setting
  3. Locate the wire ends and remove the plug from the board
  4. Place your meter leads onto the green and red wire
  5. Compare readings to Thermistor Resistance vs. Temperature Chart

Most spa and hot tub high limits, aka thermistors, thermal cut-offs and temperature sensors – will have a resistance reading of around 10000 at 77 degrees Fahrenheit. Colder water produces higher readings up to 50K, while warmer 100° F water will produce lower readings. Refer to your spa manufacturer resistance vs. temperature chart. Or, if you get “0”, or a zero reading, the sensor or cable is likely bad. Many hot tubs have more than one temperature sensor; a heater sensor, water temp sensor and air temp sensor.

Testing Spa Fuses

  1. Shut off all power to the spa at the breaker and spa packpicture of spa fuse
  2. Set your Ohm meter to the 1K setting
  3. Remove the fuse from the board or fuse housing
  4. Place your meter leads on each end of the fuse
  5. Compare readings to printed Ohms level

Blown spa and hot tub fuses will not show any continuity, or a “0” reading when testing. Some meters will display “Open” or O.L. (for Open Loop). A clear fuse can also be visually inspected to see if the wire or coil inside is broken of course, but for opaque fuses, you can test them with your Ohm meter.

Testing Pressure Switch or Flow Switches

  1. spa pressure switch shown being testedShut off all power to the spa at the breaker and spa pack
  2. Set your Ohm meter to the 1K setting
  3. Remove one wire from the pressure switch
  4. Place meter leads on both wire terminals
  5. If anything other than “0”, adjust pressure switch

With one wire removed, the pressure switch, or flow switch, should have zero resistance, as the switch should be ‘Open’. An Ohm meter can be used to adjust the pressure switch back to ‘zero’, by turning the adjustment knob or screw slightly until the meter drops to near zero.

 


In most spa components, Resistance is Good, with exception to pressure switches. No resistance is bad, as it means that there is another path that the electricity is taking, which usually means a defective component or cable, and it could also pose a safety hazard – where is the power loss going?

You can also use your multi-meter to test resistance of lengths of wire or cable. One probe on each end, and there should be resistance measured, NO resistance and there is a short somewhere.

Always remember, Shut Off Power completely down when testing spa electrical components for resistance, in Ohms.

Ohm SymbolNow everyone say “Ohhhhmmmmmsssss” – doesn’t that feel good?

 

Happy Hot Tubbin’

 

Daniel Lara
Hot Tub Works

 

 

 

Troubleshooting Spa Circuit Boards

February 27th, 2017 by

spa-circuit-boards
Printed Circuit Boards, often abbreviated PCB, are the brain of a spa controller system, allowing intelligent switching on/off of spa components from a user friendly topside control panel.

Circuit boards control your spa components (pumps, heater, blower, light, ozone) and apply the chip programming which controls safety circuits, user interface and operation modes for the spa. Hot tub circuit boards handle all of the spa program modes, monitors the operation of spa equipment, and most importantly, keeps the spa hot and ready to use.

To allow the spa user to communicate with the board and vice versa, a compatible topside control panel is used to view spa component status indicators, program modes, water temperature and error messages. Circuit boards and topside control panels must be compatible with each other, in order to communicate.

Circuit Board Troubleshooting Tip #1 – It’s Not Usually the Circuit Board

Balboa topside controls9 times out of 10, when your topside control panel has gone out-of-control, or one of your pumps, or heater stops working, it’s not a circuit board problem. It’s most often a problem with the topside control panel, and when it’s not, it’s a problem with the transformer, or a blown fuse, a tripped circuit breaker, or a problem with the component, like a bad pump or blower motor or a bad heater element.

Circuit Board Troubleshooting Tip #2 – What Does the Topside Panel Say?

If you have no display on your topside control panel, check the cable for damage, following it right to where it plugs in, on the circuit board. Unplug it from the board and the low-speed pump will come on within 1 minute, on both systems. If that doesn’t happen, either the pump or the circuit board is bad.

cal-spas-flo-errorIf you do have a display visible on the topside panel, what does it say? You can find common spa error codes for spa controls on our blog, or consult your spa owner’s manual. FL, FLO or — codes refer to low water flow, Sn, SnS or Sens refer to high limit or temp sensors, OH or HOT refer to overheating.

Aside from error codes, an important clue for spa troubleshooting is – when you turn on a component (heater, pump, light…) on the topside panel, does the indicator also turn on? An icon or indicator light should display, when you activate any component on your spa. If not, the trouble is with the topside control, but if you do see the icon/light come on, but the pump/heater/blower/light is not actually working, the issue could be with the spa component, or the spa circuit board.

Circuit Board Troubleshooting Tip #3 – Testing a Spa Circuit Board

spa-controllerSo assuming that your topside control panel is operating properly, and there are no error messages that indicate a water flow issue, overheating issue or other potential issue, the next step is to put your eyes on the circuit board itself.

First, cut off the power to the spa, then open up the Spa Controller, usually located under the spa, above the heater. You should be able to find the screws that allow you to remove or open the control box cover, to access the circuit board.

When you first see it, it’s a confusing array of resistors, relays, capacitors and wires. The longer you stare at it, you’ll begin to see where the power come into the terminal block, and where the heater connects to the board. You can also see where the other spa components are connected. A large square or rectangle computer chip is usually central, marked with the chip number and a date code. Circuit boards also often have indicator lights that can provide a clue that may not be displaying on the topside control.

spa-control-circuit-board-diagram

Take a long look at your circuit board to inspect for any signs of burning, melting or cracking. Often you can smell a burnt circuit board. Check all of the bits on the board for any signs of damage, looking closely also at the wire or cable connection points on the board. Check that all the wire connections are tight, and look for any signs of water damage to the board. Some damage may be only visible on the opposite side of the board.

Transformers and fuses are often mounted directly on spa circuit boards. A transformer changes voltage (transforms it) to a lower voltage, whatever is needed to power the circuit board. Fuses are in place to protect your circuit board from irregular voltage, and if your fuses are blown, check all contacts, the GFCI,  and incoming voltage.electrical test meter

Transformers and spa fuses can both be tested with a multi-meter, set on 220V for the transformer, and set on the lowest Ohms setting for fuses, to check for continuity. You can also test across the incoming terminals to verify transformers and fuses all at once. With power off, and meter set to the lowest Ohms setting, place one meter probe on L1 (line 1), and the other meter probe onto Neutral. On 120V wired boards, you should get about 20 Ohms, or 40 Ohms for 220V wired boards.

Circuit Board Troubleshooting Tip #4 – Replacing a Spa Circuit Board

If you find that your circuit board is damaged, pay close attention to where it was damaged, and think hard about why it was damaged. Common causes are loose wire connections, loose heater connections especially, insect or rodent damage, water damage, or relay or transformer failure. As mentioned above, blown fuses may seem like you dodged a bullet, but you still want to find out what caused fuse failure, or it may happen again.

buy new circuit boards at hottubworks.comWhen replacing hot tub circuit boards, the most important thing is to make sure that you have the correct part number, serial number and chip number revision. Many boards are compatible with one another, however many spa circuit boards that look identical, are not. Most circuit boards are printed with the part number, and the chip number. If you have any doubt, call our spa techs to help you order correctly because, once a circuit board is removed from the sealed anti-static bag, they are non-returnable!

With the correct replacement spa circuit board in hand, you can carefully replace it into the control box, being careful to handle it only by the edges. Wire connections should be firmly connected, and heater wires should be torqued to 35 lbs, to prevent vibration problems. Be sure to correct any issues with moisture, insects or wiring that led to the original circuit board failure.

Bonus Tip – if facing replacement of your spa circuit board, consider replacement of the entire spa controller. Spa Controls are not much more (maybe double the cost) than the cost of a circuit board, but you also get a new heater and topside control.

 

– Jack

 

Hot Tub Wiring

February 13th, 2017 by

Installing a new hot tub? Wiring for a full featured portable hot tub has to be done correctly, as we all know that water and electricity don’t mix. A 50 or 60 amp breaker provides power to a secondary GFCI box, which powers the spa pack controller. Hire an electrician and pull a permit, so that you can be sure it was all done up-to-code.

PERMITTING A HOT TUB

Do you need a permit for a hot tub? Probably. Most local building and zoning boards want to certify that hot tub wiring has been done safely, properly and ‘up to code’. The Permit-Inspection-Approval process is in place to prevent unsafe spa wiring, which can result in electrocution and fire.

Having an inspector certify the work ensures that electricians don’t cut corners like using small wire size, cheap connectors, incorrect or absent conduit, or ignoring important safety regulations. It also ensures that your contractor is licensed in your state to perform hot tub wiring.

Wiring a hot tub is best left to licensed electricians that have experience working with Article 680.42, and with local electrical inspector interpretations of the code, which can vary. Avoid using ‘cousin Billy’s son’, or anyone other than a licensed and established electrician, and if they tell you that you don’t need a permit, run for the hills (find another contractor)! Remember, it’s for your protection and safety, to have hot tub wiring done properly, and up to the most current code.

WIRING A HOT TUB

There are plug-n-play hot tubs that you can literally plug into a 15 amp wall outlet, but if you want a tub with powerful equipment and features, these require hard-wiring to a 50 or 60 amp breaker, on a dedicated circuit (nothing else powered by the breaker).

Square D 50-amp GFCI panel for outdoor installationThe first question is, do you have enough room (spare amperage) in your existing home breaker panel, to add a rather large 50 amp circuit breaker? You can add up the amps listed on the breaker handle, and compare it to the label at the top of the panel, that tells how many amps the panel supports in total (usually 100, 200, or 400 amps).

The second question is, how far away from the main home breaker panel, do you want to place the spa? You will need to run 4 wires in conduit, from the new circuit breaker, to the GFCI power connection in the spa pack. A secondary GFCI power cut-off outside of the spa, but at least 5 feet from the spa, is connected to the breaker in the main home breaker panel. Many electricians like to use this Square D 50-amp GFCI panel, shown right.

Once you get power into the spa from a dedicated circuit, the 4 wires (Ground, Neutral, Hot 120V, Hot 120V) will connect directly into your spa pack. Consult your owner’s manual for specific connections and settings, accessed inside the control box. Once connected, follow your particular spa instructions for filling and starting up your new hot tub or spa pack.

BONDING A HOT TUB

Bonding for hot tubs is an important part of electrical safety. A bare copper wire is attached to bonding lugs on metal and electrical spa equipment. Bonding captures stray voltages or short circuits that any one load (pump, blower, heater) may be producing. The large gauge bare copper wire creates an easy pathway for fault currents to flow, to protect spa users from electric shock.

Equipotential bonding is another type of bonding that connects a body of water (pool or spa) to the rebar steel used in the pool deck. In 2014, the NEC amended Article 680.42 to permit spa and hot tub installations without equipotential bonding, but with these exceptions:

  • Must be Listed as a “Self Contained Spa” on the certification label.
  • It cannot be Listed as “For Indoor Use Only” on the certification label.
  • It must be installed according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • it must be installed 28″ above any surface within 30″ of the tub.

 

Happy Hot Tubbin’

Daniel Lara
Hot Tub Works

 

5 Hot Tub Repairs you can Do Yourself

January 10th, 2017 by

DIY-HOT-TUB-REPAIR

Around here, we are decidedly DIY, and we do what we can to encourage spa and hot tub owners to manage their own water chemistry, spa care and maintenance. And being that we sell thousands of spa and hot tub parts, we also want our customers to feel comfortable making spa equipment repairs.

There are literally hundreds of spa repairs that you can do yourself, today we are going to focus on 5 common hot tub repairs, breaking down the process involved, so you can fix it and feel proud.

 


 

Leaking Spa Pump Seal

Leaking Spa PumpsWhen a spa therapy pump is leaking, it’s either going to be where the pipes screw in and out of the wet end, or it’s going to be the shaft seal. A leaking shaft seal can be visually observed by looking at where the motor shaft enters the wet end. A shaft seal is a spring loaded, 2-piece part that seals up the motor shaft, as it passes into the wet end and connects to the impeller.

The easiest way to replace the shaft seal is to replace the entire wet end, as shown in these wet end replacement videos. The wet end is everything that in front of the motor, we have center discharge and side discharge wet ends to fit most spa pumps. In this way the entire pump is new, not just the shaft seal, including the impeller, seal plate, diffuser and volute housing. You could just replace the shaft seal, most spa therapy pumps use the #200 seal or the #201 seal.

 

New Topside Control Panel


balboa-54155-serial-deluxe
Most topside control panels (the buttons you push to control the spa equipment), can last 10 years or more – before they become unresponsive, or some calamity befalls them. Replacing a Topside Panel is not complicated, you just want to make sure to use the correct replacement panel, so that it fits the cut-out in your spa, and will connect or plug-in to your spa control.

The hardest part about replacing a spa control panel is buying the correct replacement. We have almost 100 different topside panels available from ACC, Balboa, Hydroquip, Len Gordon, Gecko and Tecmark. Most spa topside panels include the power cord of the correct length, so all you have to do is “glue it and screw it” to the panel, and connect the cord or cable. If you are having trouble finding your exact replacement topside control, give us a call and we can find it for you.

 

Hot Tub Ozonator Repairs


del-ozone-apg
Spa ozonators are wonderful devices that can make your spa water practically drinkable, but maybe you shouldn’t. Ozone is produced by either a UV bulb or a CD chip, and then delivered via hose into an ozone injector.  Over 12-24months, the ozone production will deplete, and eventually fall to zero. Since there is no simple test for ozone, other than no more bubbles from the ozone jets, it’s wise to schedule ozone repair on your calendar.

Every 12-24 months, or whatever is recommended by your ozone unit manufacturer, replace the ozone hose, ozone check valve, and either the CD chip or the UV bulb. With ozonator prices so low, many people find it better to replace the entire ozone unit every few years. Dimension One spas and others, may blow out the ozone air pump, and not need further repair.

 

Spa Heater Replacement


spa-heater-element-tests
Spas and hot tubs are most often heated by an electric immersion element, housed inside of a 15″ long ‘flow-thru’ stainless steel tube, or other vessel. Replacing a hot tub heater element is something that can be done DIY, but for simplicity, it’s usually best to replace the element and tube, as a complete unit. If you feel confident and are careful in repair however, you can replace just the element and reduce your repair cost.

Like other spa repairs, the hardest part is correctly identifying and ordering correctly, the correct spa heater element or spa heater assembly. We have several ways to do this, you can find spa heaters listed by Brand (Balboa, Gecko, Hydroquip), Popularity and by Dimensional size. You also need to match the element output in Kilowatts, usually 1kW, 4kW and 5.5kW. 11kW spas use two 5.5 kW elements. If you have any doubt about your selection, give us a call, we’re happy to help you find the right hot tub heater or element.

 

Leaking Spa Plumbing


leaking-spa-pump-causes-sm
We’ve already talked about leaking pump seals above, but spas and hot tubs can leak almost anywhere. Common spa leaks include leaking spa jets, leaking manifold plumbing fittings, leaking unions and filters or skimmers. The first thing to do is to locate the exact source and find a spa leak. As per Murphy’s Law, it’s almost never going to be easily accessed. You may have to remove cabinet panels, and get yourself into awkward positions to find and fix the leak.

If it’s your filter or a spa union, you may just need to tighten up the lock ring, or it could be a pinched or dry-rotted internal sealing o-ring. Leaking spa jets are usually a deteriorated spa jet gasket. Leaking glue joints, on valves or fittings will usually need to be cut-out and replumbed. Draining the spa below the level of the repair will be necessary. Other than that, it’s just regular PVC plumbing, with primer and glue and the right spa plumbing fittings.

 


 

For help diagnosing a spa or hot tub problem, or help selecting the right replacement spa parts, you can contact us anytime at 800-770-0292, or you can send info and images to us in the email, at info@hottubworks.com.

 

Happy Hot Tubbin’

Daniel Lara
Hot Tub Works

Shop For These Featured Products:

 


Spa Preppers – Hurricane Spa Protection

November 14th, 2016 by

hot-tubs-vs-hurricanes
Spas and Hot Tubs that sit aboveground in the backyard have a lot to contend with. Rain, Sun and Snow take their own toll on your spa cabinet and spa cover, but Hurricanes are on a whole ‘nuther level.

Hurricane winds have been known to pick up and hurl hot tubs across the yard or flip them into the house. Flooding around your spa or tub is also common from drenching rains that last for days.

For our friends in Hurricane Alley, which is a large portion of eastern and gulf coast states, here’s how to prep your spa for hurricane force winds and flooding.

protecting your spa from hurricane winds

hurricane--istkHurricane force winds can’t be prevented, but you can do several things to protect your spa from high winds. First and foremost is a well-planned location, using the back of the house to block winds or sculpting the earth and patio to wrap around a spa. But aside from that, follow these tips:

DON’T DRAIN THE HOT TUB: The weight of the water inside the spa is important to keeping it in one place.

DO ADD EXTRA SANITIZER: Load up a spa floater with bromine tabs, or add granular sanitizer to hold the water in the event of power loss.

STRAP DOWN THE SPA COVER: Check your spa cover clips for proper tension, you should need to push down on the cover slightly to release the clip, they should be taut and fairly tight, to prevent heat loss and prevent wind from getting under the spa cover skirt. For extra protection for spa covers, use our High Wind Straps for spa covers, also known as Hurricane Straps, coincidentally. These over-the-top straps can hold your cover down even in the strongest winds, which have been known to rip spa cover straps and send a spa cover flying, damaging it beyond repair of course. To protect your cover from damage from flying debris, you can place a sheet of cut plywood over top of the spa cover, but you must hold it down tight with Hurricane Straps, or a heavy webbed strapping at least 2″ wide.

REMOVE THE PROJECTILES: Anything that is not strapped down can become a projectile when the winds really start blowing. Even heavy planters and steel patio furniture can become airborne or be thrown against your spa or the sliding glass door to the house. If there is time, pruning trees and removing downed branches quickly to a safe area can help reduce the chances of damage from flying tree branches.

protecting your spa from hurricane flooding

hurricane--istkThe second danger that comes with a hurricane or tropical storm event is the possibility for flooding around the spa, submerging electrical motors and spa packs. First and foremost is a well-planned location on high ground, but aside from that, follow these tips:

SHUT OFF THE POWER: On the main breaker, cut all power to the hot tub by shutting off the circuit breaker for the spa or hot tub. This simple step can prevent electrification of the tub and nearby spaces, and could save a life when hot tubs flood.

SAND BAGS: Old school, but a tried and true method of keeping a spa from flooding. Build a wall around the hot tub with bags filled with sand. Don’t have sand or sand bags? Fill heavy duty plastic garbage bags with 50-100 lbs of soil or gravel. Don’t build a wall with lumber, block or brick, which don’t work well, and could be blown away in strong winds.

SUMP PUMP: A submersible pump can be used to pump out water that seeps through a sand bag wall and prevent a flooded hot tub. Larger pumps, like the Spa Drainer 1/3 HP pump, are powerful enough to keep encroaching flood water levels from rising. Pumping 3000 gallons per hour, the Spa Drainer pump drains the average spa in 5-7 minutes.

If your spa or hot tub has flooded, above the level of the pump or blower motors, or over the spa control box, keep the power safely off. Close valves or drain spa, to remove affected equipment to a dry location where they can be opened up and dried out. In most cases, flooded motors or spa packs will need to be replaced, but if wet only briefly, they can sometimes be dried out and work fine.

Tim Baker watches his spa float away - image by examiner.co.uk

Tim Baker watching as his spa floats away…

 

Hurricanes can be Deadly, the most important thing is protecting your own safety. Don’t risk accidents to yourself by working outside trying to protect the spa. When the winds top 50 mph, you’ve done all you can do – time to head for shelter.

 

XOXO;

 

Gina Galvin
Hot Tub Works

Hot Tub Electrical Safety

October 3rd, 2016 by

hot-tub-catches-fire-in-coldstream

We’ve talked about hot tub safety before, in a more general sense, and today I want to speak directly about spa electrical hazards.

We all know that water and electricity don’t mix. Indeed, spa electric hazards can cause electrocution, or they can also cause fires (see above).

Proper Power Supply

electrical-symbol-by-ocalThe first thing for a spa to be safe is that it needs to have the proper power supply. Portable spas and hot tubs in the US run on either 120V or 240V. The second thing is that your GFCI breakers, outlets and spa pak gfci works properly. Test your GFCI’s monthly. Just push the Test and Reset buttons, to be sure they are working.

There are small hot tubs that are plug-n-play, 120V, they also need to be plugged into a GFCI circuit. This means that the breaker in the main house panel or electrical box, is a GFCI breaker, with the yellow test button, or the outlet itself is a GFCI outlet. Plugging it into a regular back patio outlet may not be safe.

For larger spas, 240V is required, often coming from a 50 amp breaker on the main circuit panel. In addition, an external cut-off box, located between the main panel and the hot tub, is often placed, but at least 5 feet from the water, to prevent touching it while in the hot tub water.

If your plug-in hot tub is tripping the breaker, you may need to upgrade the circuit amperage or even better, install a separate GFCI breaker and outlet, at least 5 feet from the spa. Small spas that plug into an outlet should always be plugged into a GFCI circuit, and never used with an extension cord.

If your 240V hot tub is tripping the breaker, you probably have a bad heater element, 9 times out of 10. Remove the heater from the circuit and see if the breaker holds steady, to verify.

Nearby Metal Objects

unsafe-hot-tubConsider metal objects that may be near your spa, within touching distance. If they are attached to something other than the spa, the possibility exists that they could become energized by something unseen, and make ground with a person in the hot tub who touches it. Inspect any metal objects near the hot tub to be sure there’s not nearby power source. It’s safest to just not have any touchable objects around the spa at all, especially metal. Unlike this picture here, how many electrical hazards do you see in the photo?

 

Nearby Power Sources

There should be no electrical outlets, outdoor lighting or other electrical appliances or supply within reach of the spa. Do not plug in your phone, and have it next to the spa. Same with small space heaters or fans propped up next to the spa. Keep all electrical products and power away from the hot tub. Use battery operated items instead.

Bonding & Grounding

These are two different things, bonding is a bare copper wire that connects the outside of the electrical equipment (pumps, heater, blower, ozonator), to prevent an electrical short in one item from energizing other parts of the spa. Grounding is a wire that accompanies all power wires leading to the electrical equipment (pump, heater, blower…), and connects to the green ground screw on the load. On the other end, the ground wire is connected to the ground bar in the breaker box.

Spa Pack Wiring

scary-spa-pak-wiringThe most common spa and hot tub electrical hazard is not being shocked while in the tub, it’s being shocked while under the tub! I have seen some scary wiring of spa packs in my day, and if something looks hazardous, it probably is! Wires cut by sharp door edges, rodent damage, bare terminals, insect damage, are just some of the things that can be dangerous. A bad ground or incorrect bonding can energize the entire control box in some cases. Proceed with caution, and call an electrician if your spa pack wiring is not right.

 

Spa Lighting

SPA-PARTS-LED-LIGHT-BULBSSpa lights are sealed units, that are self draining, and for most portable spas, there is little danger of electrocution from defective spa lights, which are usually low voltage 9-12 volts. However, if your spa light should leak, and it did not self drain, and your GFCI did not work properly, or if the spa light was wired incorrectly, yes – spa light hazards could exist. If it worries you, remove the light!

 


So that’s it for me today on electrical safety, take a few minutes to look over your spa or hot tub, and if anything looks unsafe – it probably is!

 

Carolyn Mosby
Hot Tub Works

 

Spa & Hot Tub Plumbing Fittings Explained

September 27th, 2016 by

spa-and-hot-tub-plumbing-fittings
Spa and Hot Tub Plumbing Fittings are made of PVC or ABS, and are those bits of spa plumbing that are used to connect the sections of pipe running from the skimmer and drain, thru the pump, filter and heater, and back again thru the spa jets, in just a matter of seconds.

Today I’ll explain spa and hot tub plumbing fittings, with pictures and words, so that you can identify them, and know when to use them, on your next spa repair.

90’s – The classic elbow fitting is available in 3 flavors, With SlipxSlip aka SocketxSocket, the pipe goes on the inside. The other two are known as ‘street 90’s (don’t ask me why). SlipxSpigot has one side that glues into a union, adapter or coupling, and the SpigotxSpigot 90 degree elbow is ‘slip male’ on both sides.

90-fittings

 

45’s – Half of an elbow, the 45 degree elbow is used a lot on octagonal spas, and two 45’s can be used in place of one 90° fitting, with less resistance. Like the 90’s, they are available in 3 flavors, to suit almost any repair situation, where 1/2 an inch matters.

45-fittings

 

Air Intake Fittings – You’ll find these connected to a pipe or hose that connects to an air intake valve. These versatile side outlet 90 with 3/4″ side port are also used to direct water to smaller jet lines.

air-intake-spa-fittings

 

Sweep Elbows provide less resistance to the flow of water than regular 90 degree fittings, and are often found installed on the exit of the spa pump. Sweep elbows are SxS, or use the versatile street sweep 90, which glues directly into a pump or heater union.

sweep-elbows-have-lower-resistance

 

Pump Unions are a half union really, just the tailpiece with o-ring and the lock nut. The most common size is 1.5″, followed by 2″, but larger and smaller are also available. A split nut union, shown below, is held in place by two small screws, after being screwed or placed into position. Union o-rings and locknuts are sold separately.

pump-union-for-hot-tubs

 

Pipe Couplings are used to join together sections of pipe or hose. SxS couplings are glued around the pipe, while insert ‘pipe extender’ fittings are glued inside of a pipe and inside of a coupling, for no-space repairs. Barbed fittings are primarily used inside of hose lines to connect them together.

pipe-couplings

 

Check Valves – one way flow valves that keep water (or air) traveling in only one direction. Check valves protect a spa blower, or prevent cycling of water in loops. They often fail under normal conditions.

spa-check-valves-2

 

Spa Valves or Hot Tub valves if you prefer, control the direction and flow rate of the spa water. Some valves handles turn left or right, some pull up and down or spin all the way around. Spa valves can fail over time, some can be serviced others are replaced whole.

spa-valves

 

Spa Unions or the complete union, as shown below right, joins together two sections of pipe, usually located on either side of spa equipment like the pump, heater or filter. Half unions, as shown left, are also called pump unions, and also used on spa heaters.

spa-unions-for-hot-tubs

 

Spa Manifolds are some of the most interesting designs, used to split water or air into smaller branches, terminating at a spa jet or air bubble zone. Highly specialized, but many spa manufacturers use the same ones. We carry over 50 different spa plumbing manifolds.

spa-manifolds plumbing

 

180-deg-fitting-or-double-90

180 fittings are used in a spa blower plumbing, specifically for the Hartford Loop, employed on the air line attached to the blower, which takes a vertical run up 2 ft, then 180’s and comes back down to connect to the pipe again. Used to help keep water out of the blower.

If you didn’t have a 180° fitting, you could of course, use two 90 fittings, or four 45’s, but spa builders like this handy fitting, which has really only one use.

 

We have other plumbing fittings besides these listed here for spa and hot tub plumbing. I hope you enjoyed reviewing these fittings, you are now more qualified to do your own spa plumbing repairs!

 

– Jack

 

Cost to Repair a Hot Tub

September 19th, 2016 by

spa repairmanLots of people ask the question “what’s the cost to fix a hot tub”, but it’s kind of like asking how much does it cost to fix a car. The answer is the same in both cases, “it depends”. That’s because the cost to fix a hot tub is directly related to what’s wrong with it.

So – what’s wrong with your hot tub? Many hot tub problems can be fixed for under $100 in spa parts, but larger equipment purchases can set you back $500 or more. Let’s look at costs for some common spa repairs and equipment replacements.

Cost to Repair a Spa Leak

DIY: Depends where the leak is and what is actually damaged, but it could be a leaky pump union or shaft seal, leaking filter o-ring or jet gaskets, all of which are very inexpensive to replace yourself. With exception to large scale freeze damage, most spa leaks are easily found and fixed, if you can just reach it!

PRO: For the leak detection itself, probably 1-2 hours time, or a few hundred bucks. The cost for repairing the spa leak, again depends on where and what is leaking, but in most cases spa leaks are fixed for under $500. Larger leaks buried deep in foam, or under the spa, are more likely $1000, and large scale freeze damage could be two thousand, or more.

Cost to Repair a Hot Tub Pump

DIY: Most Jet Pump (Main Therapy pump) repairs are either a wet end replacement for about $65, or a motor replacement for around $200. You can also just replace the entire jet pump for $200-$300. Circulation pumps, aka Circ Pumps, which run low speed most of the time, are replaced for $150-$200. Other spa pump parts such as impellers, seals and o-rings are fairly inexpensive.

PRO: Having a spa guy repair or replace your hot tub pump is a lot easier and safer, but also costs more money. Cost for hot tub pumps professionally installed run about $500, and smaller pump problems like leaking or squeaking spa pumps should come in around $350.

Cost to Repair a Hot Tub Heater

DIY: If your hot tub heater is tripping the breaker, replace the element for around $30, or the complete Balboa style spa heater, tube and all for around $120. Titanium spa heaters by Sundance and Hot Spring are $320. If it’s just not heating up enough, it could be a temp sensor, high limit, pressure or flow switch, most of which are $20-$50 in spa heater parts. Your topside control may give an error codes to help guide troubleshooting a spa heater.

PRO: The last spa heater invoice I remember seeing was just under $500 for a diagnostic call, and an additional trip to install the new spa heater. If done in one trip, the cost may be more like $350, for either just the element, or the entire flow thru tube heater. Titanium proprietary heaters from Sundance or Watkins cost more to purchase and may be $750, installed.

Cost to Repair a Spa Light

DIY: A hot tub light is usually LED or halogen. Spa light bulbs or LEDs can be purchased in the range of $15-$72, depending on the size. Entire spa light kits with transformers and small incandescent bulbs average $25.

PRO: How many hot tub guys does it take to change a light bulb? Probably just one, but he’s got to get paid. A spa light repair service call would probably cost around $150, parts and labor. To save money, troubleshoot the spa light, so they know what parts to bring.

 


Cost to Replace a Spa Ozonator: Ozonators for hot tubs cost $70-125.

Cost to Replace a Spa Blower: Hot tub blowers cost $70-$110, and check valves are about $15.

Cost to Replace a Hot Tub Cover: Spa covers cost $250-$450, depending on size and options.

Cost to Replace a Spa Pack / Controls: Digital Spa Packs average $750. Control systems average $450.

Cost to Replace Spa Jets: The cost to replace a spa jet varies from $20-$50 on average.

Cost to Replace Spa Circuit Board: Hot tub PCBs range from $200-$600, with an average cost of $300.


 

Cost to Operate a Hot Tub?

Most people spend about $250 per year on average, some years more, some years less. Spa filters, spa covers, chemicals, parts and supplies, every cost to run a hot tub will average out to about $250 per year, not including electricity. In ten years, you can expect to spend around $2500 maintaining and caring for your spa, along with occasional equipment replacements. Some spend less, some spend more!

Cost to Buy a New Hot Tub?

animated-hot-tubLike automobiles, hot tubs and spas have a wide price range. For the well known Cadillac spa brands like Jacuzzi and Hot Spring, their top models range from $12-$15K. Lesser known brands are available in the $9-12K range, and online hot tubs can be purchased for $4-7K.  Some spend less, some spend more!

 

Happy Hot Tubbin’

Daniel Lara
Hot Tub Works

 

 

Hot Tub Leaking from the Bottom

August 1st, 2016 by

spa-cutaway-hot-tub

A spa or hot tub that is leaking is cause for alarm. But don’t freak out, it’s almost never the spa shell, and in most cases spa leaks can be found and fixed easily.

Take a deep breath, after your blood pressure drops, we can get up under there and find out what is leaking, and where.

Here’s a list of the most common hot tub leaks, and how to fix a leaking spa.

water-drop-smSpa Pump Leaking

We covered this in detail in an earlier post called Help! My Spa Pump is Leaking! and to summarize the article, when a spa pump is leaking, it’s either the shaft seal, unions or the wet end volute. Look closely with a flashlight to determine the exact source of the leak on a spa pump, and then you know the parts that may be needed to fix a leak on a spa pump.

water-drop-smSpa Light Leaking

The lens for the spa light can become loose or can crack, especially on high heat halogen spa lights. The light housing or niche is usually located on the same side as the spa pak, so that the bulb can be serviced easily. Shine your flashlight onto the area around the housing to determine if water is leaking from the spa light. The fix for a leaking spa light is usually a new spa light kit, or maybe the locknut is just loose.

water-drop-smSpa Filter Leaking

We also covered this topic in detail in a post  called Hot Tub Filter Leak Repair and to summarize that article, the usual spa filter leak fix is a new gasket or o-ring, or a new filter housing, if the body is cracked. Or the locking filter ring could just be loose and need to be tightened up! Like I said, most spa leaks are small and easily fixed, but if you’ve got worse problems, read on.

water-drop-smSpa Plumbing Leaks

It happens often enough, but leaks in the PVC pipe is actually rare. More common are leaks on the back side of Spa Jets, from loose locknuts or deteriorated spa jet gaskets, on the inside of the spa.

Spa leaks occur in other gasketed equipment, or anything with o-rings and gaskets, like skimmers, lights, pumps, unions, chlorinators, and ozonators.

Freeze damage can shatter PVC pipe, but most spa plumbing leaks actually occur at the glue joints, or where the pipe is glued into a coupling, spa jet, union or tee fitting. If the original PVC glue was thin in one area, over time water can seep out between the pipe and fitting walls.

Locating a Spa Plumbing Leak: If you don’t see the spa leaking anywhere inside of the equipment bay, then you have a real spa plumbing leak. On one of the fittings, jets or somewhere on the pipe. But where? It takes some sleuthing to decide where to remove the cabinet panel.

Shut the pump off, and allow the spa to drain to its lowest level, until it stabilizes and stops leaking. At the level where it stops, the jets also at that level are a likely leak source. Sweep or use a leaf blower to dry off any standing water around the tub. Then add water to the spa for a few minutes and watch closely where the water begins to run out. A doctor’s stethoscope or just a paper cup can be used to listen for leaking water.

Spa plumbing leaks will often leak more when the pipes are pressurized, or when the pump is running. Some hot tubs may stop leaking altogether when the pump is off. In this case, you’ll need to refill the spa, and run the pump while looking for the leak source.

Leak-Seal-by-LeisuretimeSmall leaks in hot tub fittings and spa jets can be fixed by adding the emulsion Leak Seal by Leisure Time. Leak Seal seeks out leaks, and clots together to form a permanent repair. It works great on small voids, seepers and weepers, but does have it’s limitations – it won’t fix large cracks or stop large spa leaks, but for small leaks, give it a try.

Removing Cabinet Panels: Once you have determined where the spa plumbing is leaking, you can carefully remove the cabinet panels, which are often glued or stapled onto the frame or studs around the spa shell. In some cases you’ll find screws under the trim on top and bottom of the panels. If glued or stapled, find the seam, or space where two panels join, and use a large flathead to pry one of them up. You won’t need your power saw, but you may need to remove the header or footer strip to make it easier to pull out the cabinet panel.

Digging Thru Spa Foam: Once the panel comes off, you may have full visibility of the plumbing, or you may have a wall of insulating foam. Just dig it right out, using a screwdriver or large kitchen spoon, and search for the wettest area of the foam. Keep digging towards the moisture until you expose the pipes, fittings or spa jet that is leaking. A wire brush on a drill can be used to clean up the little bits stuck onto the PVC, or you can use pipe cleaner to dissolve the foam bits.

spa-foam-removal-by-JD-Finley

Spa Plumbing Leak Repair: Once you have found the leak, you want to fix it. Leaking spa jets may need a new gasket (or just tightening). Leaking pipes and PVC fittings (90’s, 45’s, couplings) should be replaced if you can; cut it out and replace the fitting with new. There are some PVC repair products such as Mr. Sticky’s that can be tried, but they are not always successful. Snap-on PVC repair cuffs or compression couplings can also be used in tight spots. As a drastic option, the line (or jet) can be abandoned by cutting out the leaking area, and capping the pipe on both ends.

After the spa leak repair is complete and your spa is leaking no more, you can pick up a few cans of spray foam and replace most of what was taken out, to help retain heat and block cold winter temperatures. Replace the wall cabinet panel in the same fashion as before, using screws, a staple gun or a wood adhesive like Liquid Nails.

 

Happy Hot Tubbin’

Daniel Lara
Hot Tub Works

 

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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