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Archive for the ‘Spa Parts’ Category

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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8 Top Hot Tub Light Problems

June 14th, 2016 by

spa light troubleshooting

Troubleshooting spa lights is just like any other lighting – the problem lies where the power dies.

Spa lighting on new spas presents a bit more challenge with more lights to maintain, since many spas now come with sets of lights, internal and external, not just a single bulb in the foot basin.

Yet, the process for troubleshooting modern spa lights is the same as for traditional hot tub lights. Let’s go through it step by step – here’s a list of things to check when your spa light is not working.

 

Spa Light Switch Not Working

If you have an older tub that uses Air Switches to turn the light on and off, the first thing to check is the switch itself. An air switch is operated by a white button on the top of the spa shell that when pushed, sends a pulse of air to activate the switch. Check that the button functions up and down properly, and that the air hose is connected on both ends. You can blow air through the hose with your mouth to test the air switch operation. Modern spa lights are turned on by pressing the air button on the topside control panel, and usually has an indicator that displays when the light is on (or when it thinks it’s on).

Spa Light Fuse is Blown

spa-light-fuseMany spa packs use a small fuse to protect the lamp and bulb (and spa users), should the voltage rise above safe limits. The typical type of spa light fuse is the tube type – metal ends with a glass center, so you can view the wire inside. If the wire looks ruptured or the glass is discolored or looks like it heated up, replace the fuse with the same type and amperage. You can check a spa light fuse with a multi-meter. Set it to Ohms or resistance and place your probes on each end of the fuse. A good fuse will show ‘0’ resistance, and anything higher than ‘1’ means a bad fuse. The fuse is usually located inside the spa pack, possibly next to other fuses. Check your spa pack owner’s manual for exact location, it may not be labeled. Make sure power is OFF before opening up your spa pack, and use care when poking around in there.

Spa Light Relay is Stuck

Some spa light systems use relays to control or direct the power to the light. If you push the light button and can hear a small noise, then you do have relays. Many times these are attached to the circuit board, and often look like small ice cubes. Hearing the relay click does not mean that it’s good or bad, but they can get stuck, become corroded or otherwise fail. Again remember the Mantra – the problem lies where the power dies. You can test with a multi-meter, the power coming into spa relays, but it’s often easier to remove the light lamp and check for power at the light, during or just after turning the light on. Most spa light relays are located just before the pool light lamp, or last in line before power reaches the bulb.

Spa Light Transformer Problems

spa-light-transformerMost spa lights are 12V, although some are 24V, and to provide the light bulb with the right voltage, many spas use a small transformer to reduce the incoming voltage to the correct low voltage amount. A transformer is a small magnet, wrapped in a primary and secondary coil, to create an electromagnet. Transformers are fairly easy to recognize and are about 1.5″ square, with wire leads attached. You can measure the power coming into the transformer, and measure power coming out of the transformer, with a multi-meter. The voltage coming out should match what the label states (12V or 24V), and if it’s more than 10% higher or lower, you may need a new spa transformer. Be sure that the wires are not shorted or corroded, and are making good contact.

Spa Light Bulb Failure

Spa light bulbs don’t last forever, and this may be the first thing to check. Even LED spa light bulbs will fail, despite some claims that they last nearly forever, they usually burn out within ten years. What usually happens is a failure of 1 or 2 of the LED’s which shorts out the entire bulb. If you’re handy with a soldering gun, you may be able to bypass the burnt out diodes, but most people just replace the entire bulb, most are fairly inexpensive, but there are a few specialty spa led light bulbs that can cost hundreds of dollars. Spa lights may not always be visibly bad, or you may not be able to tell a bad led by looking at it. You can check a spa light bulb with a multi-meter. Set it to Ohms or resistance and place your probes on the light contacts. A good bulb will show ‘0’ resistance, and anything higher than ‘1’ is shorted out, or a bad bulb.

Spa Light Lamp Corrosion

spa-light-assemblyBeing that spa lights are typically underwater, corrosion from moisture can affect the contacts made between the lamp and the bulb. Often times, it can be cleaned up with a toothbrush or rag to quickly fix the problem. Other times the spa light lamp will fail if corrosion damages the contacts or the light shell too much. For most spa lights however, the lamp well stays rather dry, and corrosion won’t be noticed. Just give the spa lamp a good inspection, to be sure the contacts for the wire and the bulb are solid and intact. Replacing the entire hot tub light kit with new wires and connectors if often the fix.

Spa Light Wire Shorted

The spa light lamp has a wire connected to it, which can short out by being nicked, or chewed on by rodents or insects, or from being crimped for too long in one position. It’s a very thin wire, and it doesn’t take much to stop the flow of power to the light bulb. Even when these thin wires look good, they could be worth a second look. In some cases, you can find the short, and by wiggling it you will notice the light coming on/off in the spa. Don’t splice with butt end connectors, replace the spa light kit, very cheap and a better long term solution. The light wire connectors and connection can also be the problem, to inspect them, disconnect the wire connectors and clean with a toothbrush and look for any signs of damage.

Spa Control Board Issue

spa-circuit-boardFinally, the main PCB or printed circuit board could be preventing the light from coming on. As mentioned earlier, it could be the light relay on the board, or the fuse – or it could be any other partial board failure (capacitor, resistor) preventing the light from coming on, even though the control panel may tell you it’s on. In my experience, a problem on the circuit board is the cause of light failure only in a small percentage of cases. If you have gone through all the other spa light troubleshooting steps above, with no success, it could mean that the main spa circuit board is where the power dies, and hence where the problem lies.

 

spa-and-hot-tub-light-troubleshooting>>>> ONCE UPON A TIME… spas and hot tubs were easier to work on, like the mechanical automobiles of an earlier generation. The latest models of spas brag about their “29 points of light” and this alone makes troubleshooting hot tub lights more difficult, in addition to the controlled electrical aspects. You need not be an electrical wizard to find a spa light problem however, just remember to take it step by step and rule out all possible issues – and if we can help you out in any way, let us know!

 

– Jack

 

 

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What’s the Best Number of Spa Jets?

May 30th, 2016 by

spa-jets-3up

When we bought our first hot tub, I think it had 12 spa jets – and at the time that was a lot! Fast forward 30 years, and you can find spas with over 100 Jets! Is that too many?

It’s not just the number of spa jets that makes a spa awesome, it’s more than that. The type of spa jets, their location, and how adjustable they are – and how powerful the jet pump is, all play a role.

Type of Spa Jets

spa-with-many-spa-jetsSome spa jets are non-adjustable, where other jets can be pointed or positioned in many directions with a swivel eyeball. Larger spa jets have multiple nozzles and may also rotate or swirl, and be mixed with air to add more oomph to the water flow. The nicer spa jets are fully adjustable, and can be closed easily by turning the outside bezel or ring, finished in soft rubber, chrome or stainless steel.

 

Location of Spa Jets

bank-of-spa-jetsWhere the spa jets are located may be important for your particular aches and pains. Powerful floor jets are nice for a good foot massage, and calf jets, neck jets are also nice to have. But, do you really need so many spa jets? Think about the areas of your body where you would like to target, and let your pain be your guide, I suppose. Air Jets are usually small holes for air only (no water), and shouldn’t be called spa jets, technically.

 

Spa Jet Adjustments

4-spa-jets-blastingIf you run water through too many jets as one time, the amount of water coming out of each jet is reduced. And since you probably don’t fill every seat in your spa, you want to be able to turn off spa jets that are not being used, which increases water flow to the jets that are open. Some spas will allow you to control different spa jet banks, or ‘sets of jets’, by turning a large knob, or should at least allow you to close off individual spa jets that are not needed.

 

Jet Pump Power

spa-with-too-many-spa-jetsSpa jets don’t increase the water flow, the amount of flow is entirely dependent on the spa jet pump. A 4hp spa pump will produce a lot more flow than a 2hp spa pump, in most cases. But any size pump has to split all the water flow among all of the jets. For a theoretical example, say your spa jet pump is pumping 100 gallons per minute, and let’s say that you have 100 jets – that’s only 1 gallon every minute from each jet, if they were all open at the same time. So, a hot tub with twice as many jets may need a pump that’s twice as large, if you plan to fill all the seats in the spa.

 

So when shopping for a new spa, remember it’s not just the number of jets that matter. Consider the types of spa jets used, their location, how adjustable the spa jets are, and the size of the spa jet pump – they all play a role!

 

Carolyn Mosby
Hot Tub Works

 

 

How to Read a Hot Tub Owner’s Manual

February 22nd, 2016 by

old-hot-tub-owners-manual

Unlike old spa owner’s manuals, the modern spa owner’s manual is a real piece of work. Some of the better ones are over 50 pages, with excellent color graphics, tables and step by step photo illustrations.

Early hot tub manuals from the 70’s and 80’s were laughably lackluster, and probably that’s why you can’t find them online. In the days before desktop publishing, you know.

A hot tub owner’s manual is a great resource for the spa or tub owner. But in talking to spa owners over the years, most of them don’t know where they put their Owner’s Manual, or had not thought to look at it for answers.

 

 INSTALLATION

Always the first section, after the obligatory precautionary statements, are an abundance of tips about how to choose a proper location for the spa, and other considerations like overhead protection, drainage around the spa, access for service, and location of power and water. Some useful gems about spa installation that you can find in your owner’s manual include:

  • A 4-6 inch poured concrete slab of concrete with rebar or mesh on compacted and level soil
  • For easier draining of the spa, and for flood protection, locate your spa in an elevated area.
  • Electrical Requirements: 230V, 50-60 A, 4-wire, GFI protected and grounded dedicated circuit with external cut-off box.
  • Bonding Requirements: Bonding wire bare #8 copper wire to spa, and grid or nearby metal fixtures, per local code.
  • Set-Up: Some general tightening or parts installation before fill-up and start-up.

OPERATION

Operation of the Spa, knowing how it all works. This section has grown large now that spas are so full-featured, with lots of equipment and so many jets.  Fortunately, owner’s manuals are becoming very visual, with large clear photos, flow charts and even infographics!

  • Understanding the User Interface: aka the Topside Control. How to program the filter and heater and run different operational modes.
  • Diagnostics: Status Codes and Error Codes. Nicer models also have low/high Chemical Alerts and Service Reminders.
  • How to control different banks of spa jets, or water falls and air blowers or air intake valves.
  • How to work everything else: Spa lighting, sound system, ozonator, sanitizer system.

MAINTENANCE

By this point in the manual most people naturally start to glaze over. I recommend coming back to it in a day or two with fresh eyes ~ because your spa maintenance is what you really need to learn fast – because it begins now! Maintenance items can include maintaining the surfaces, equipment, spa cover and also the water.

TROUBLESHOOTING

In general, most troubleshooting sections for spas and hot tubs are a bit thin, but complete enough for the average spa owner to check all the basic stuff, without getting in over their head. Most spa manufacturers would prefer that spas are serviced by trained mechanics, but will help you over the phone or by email if you try all of their suggestions (twice!) before calling.

  • Equipment Problem/Cause/Remedy tables
  • Flow Charts with Yes/No paths
  • Low water / No water flow from Spa Jets
  • Spa does not heat properly
  • Spa water is not clean

 

solana-owners-manual-coverSo you see – spa and hot tub owners manuals can be an invaluable resource to the spa owner. If you are looking for your old owner’s manual, and your spa is older than the 90’s – it is probably hard to find.

We have a huge list of links to spa owners manuals available, on a blog post we did last year, and updated – just now!

 

Happy Hot Tubbin’

Daniel Lara
Hot Tub Works

 

Spa & Hot Tub Plumbing Repair Tips

September 10th, 2015 by

spa-plumbing-loopsSpa and hot tub plumbing is made up of PVC pipe and fittings. It’s a Closed Loop, similar to an electric circuit, if that makes it easier to understand. The same drop of water can make this trip several times per day.

A Spa Plumbing Loop starts at the skimmer and main drain, where the water leaves the spa, pulled under vacuum (suction) by the pump impeller. Once the water passes the impeller, the water is now pushed under pressure by the pump, through the filter and heater, and purifier equipment.

After the water has been treated and heated, it’s pushed onward into the return manifold, the pipes on the top of the spa (water runs through the lower, larger pipe, and air is pushed or pulled through the upper, smaller pipe), where it returns to the spa, via the spa jets. The same drop of water can make this trip several times per day.

But sometimes water can escape The Loop, finding it’s way into cracks and crevices no larger than 1 mm, and dripping on the ground, beneath your spa. Spa leak repair more commonly involves the equipment (pump/filter/heater/purifier), but a bad glue joint, leaky union, or cracked pipe could have also brought you to this page.

SPA AND HOT TUB PLUMBING REPAIRS

You can make your own spa or hot tub PVC repairs to the plumbing, with just simple tools and basic materials from any hardware store. Before you jump in the car, there are a few more things to learn about spa plumbing repairs.

You see, I’ve already made the mistakes for you – in my years of plying the spa trade, I’ve made hundreds of plumbing repairs, and dozens of complete re-plumbing jobs for old spa shells. Most of those jobs I’m proud of; a few had to be re-done. 🙁

HOT TUB PVC PLUMBING SAWS

hacksaw-2If you walk into any hardware store and ask for a PVC saw, you’re gonna walk out with a basic hacksaw. Or you can pay more for PVC saws that resemble small wood saws. Both will cut through a 1.5″ PVC pipe in 15 strokes. However – many times there is not enough room to position a 15-18″ long saw to make a complete (and straight) cut on the pipe.

That’s why I almost never use hacksaws or PVC saws when I do hot tub plumbing repairs. They just don’t fit very well under the cabinet, with pipes so close to the shell of the spa. And forget about using them on an inground spa pipe repair, they are even more cumbersome when you’re upside down in a hole.

cordless-jig-sawWhat do I use to cut PVC pipes? Usually I use my extra small Reciprocating Saw, or if I don’t have that, my cordless Jig Saw. Both allow me to slip the blade behind the pipe, or at weird angles – and, they cut fast and straight (with a sharp blade). However – there are times when even my power saws don’t fit, and I have to pull out some micro saws.

cable-sawAlso useful is a Cable Saw, a length of picture hanging wire with two handles that cuts right through PVC. A cable saw can be wrapped over an extremely tight pipe and cut through in 25 strokes. In a pinch, you can wrap a short handle onto the end of a hacksaw blade with duct tape,  or you could even use a drywall saw – but these saws may take upwards of 100 strokes.

HOT TUB PVC PIPE AND FITTINGS

pvc-pipes-flex-and-rigidPIPES: There are two types of Schedule 40 PVC pipes used in spas and hot tubs – Flex and Rigid. Flex PVC pipes are used for the return manifold, so that the pipes can bend around the spa to all of the spa jets. Rigid PVC pipe is used on the suction manifold, or the pipes from the skimmer and drain to the pump. Be sure to buy Schedule 40 PVC pipe (not thinner walled Schedule 20, used for drainage).

Avoid using Flexible PVC on the suction side, because the ribbed pipe has much more friction loss than smooth, Rigid PVC, and because it can collapse under extreme suction vacuum.  So, use Flex pipe up top, and Rigid pipe down below, got it? We have Flex pipe spa plumbing kits in 1.5 and 2 inch.

Most spas and hot tubs are plumbed with 1.5 inch PVC, although larger spas may use 2 inch PVC. The Outside Diameter of 1.5 inch PVC (if you were to measure across it), is actually closer to 2 inches, or 1-7/8 inches, (with an Inside Diameter of 1.5″). 2 inch pipe has an OD of 2-3/8″ (and an ID of 2″). The Air Line (the smaller pipe above the return pipe), is usually 1″ Flex PVC, or sometimes 3/4″ Flex PVC.

FITTINGS: PVC fittings like couplings, Tee’s, 90’s, 45’s, unions, MTA’s and FTA’s (male and female threaded adapters), are common at most Home stores or a good local hardware store. You can also find good prices online for plumbing fittings.

dont-use-drain-fittingsBe sure to use Pressure Fittings, which will have a deeper socket than Drain Fittings. Bathroom drain fittings often have a glue-able surface of about 9/16″, but Pressure Fittings allow you to glue the pipe up to 1-1/4″ deep. Drain fittings are Never suitable for spa or hot tub plumbing. And like with PVC pipe, be sure to buy schedule 40 PVC fittings, not the thin-walled schedule 20 PVC.

Grey Fittings are often made of CPVC or if much thicker, Schedule 80 PVC, both of which are more heat tolerant, or heat resistant. These can be useful when making connections in and out of a spa heater, but are not required.

Spa Jet Fittings or Spa Manifolds are specialized fittings that you won’t find at your local Home or Hardware store, but we have all you need!

GLUES AND SEALANTS FOR HOT TUBS

There’s one more chapter in this spa plumbing story. Making the PVC pipe and fitting connections.

red-hot-blue-glueFor Smooth PVC pipe and fittings, PVC glue is used to bond smooth pipe to smooth fitting, but is not used on threaded fittings. Use only Fresh medium or heavy body PVC cement. Old glue that’s been in your cabinet for a few years is not going to save you time or money!

Another important distinction exists about PVC Cleaner and Primer. Use Cleaner for Flex Pipe, to remove the slick surface but not overly soften the surface. Primer also functions as a cleaner, but it rapidly softens (decomposes) the pipe, generating heat for a stronger bond. Flex pipe is too soft already, and Primer softens it too much. So remember, Cleaner for Flex pipe, Primer for Rigid pipe (and fittings), just before you apply the glue.  Got it?

red-rtv-siliconeFor a Threaded PVC fittings, you need thread sealants. smear a layer of Silicone over the male threads, then wrap several times (clockwise!) with Teflon Tape. Hand tighten the fitting in as far as you can, and then give another full turn with Channel type pliers, or a strap wrench.

 

Happy Hot Tubbin’!

Daniel Lara
Hot Tub Works

 

Installing a New Hot Tub Control Panel

May 21st, 2015 by

retro-spa-topside-control-panel

The topside control panel is the name for the display and controls, on the top-side of the spa, or where you can see them when you’re in the spa.

I’m old enough to remember having to get out of the spa to turn up the heater or turn on the air blower, or those sticky hexagonal air buttons. Or when a panel like the Omega VII appeared in the early 80’s, so state of the art!

If you have an older spa, I mean a real old hot tub, the spa controls, aka topside control panel is analog, not digital. The way to tell is – if you have a digital temperature display, you will have a digital control panel.

Even if you have a digital topside spa panel, you may one day finding yourself needing a new hot tub control. Trees, weather, insects – can cause failure to the PCB (printed circuit board) or the display, requiring a replacement hot tub control panel, of the same type or different.

Replacing the Same Topside control panel

If you are able to locate the same topside panel that you now have on your control panel, replacement is an easy affair. Before installing however, inspect that the shape and size is the same and that the wire connectors are the same.

Look for any visible screws, bracket or lock nut, usually on the backside of the panel. If none are found, the panel may be glued in place with a bead of silicone. Use a flat screwdriver to pry up gently on the edges of the panel. If you feel strong resistance, check again for something securing the panel face or wires to the spa wall.

Once the topside panel is loose from the spa wall, you can just follow the wires and disconnect it from the spa pack control unit. Pay attention to where it connects and in which direction the plug is oriented. Replace a new topside control panel in reverse order, using a bead of silicone if necessary to hold it in place, and also to keep out moisture.

Replacing a Different Topside control panel

Before you order a new spa pack or a different topside panel, check under the panel area for room to run the cord that connects to the new control box. A standard topside control is 7-1/4″ wide by 3-1/4″ tall, but if you need a smaller one, you can use a 5-1/2″ x 2-1/2″

In many cases, especially on older spas with air controls (aka pneumatic systems), you will need to cut the spa shell to accommodate a panel of different size, to enlarge the hole where the panel sits and the wires come through.

cut-the-spa-shell

Cut my Spa? Are you Crazy? I know, it sounds like surgery, but is really a minimally invasive procedure that can be done in a half hour. The key is to use a small power tool like a Dremel, Spiral Saw or a Jig Saw.

Leave the reciprocating saw and circular saw in the garage, you won’t need them for this job, this requires precision cutting. You could also cut the material by hand, with a drill to cut corners and a drywall saw to cut straight lines in between. Either way, wear a mask while drilling so you don’t inhale the dust.

 

cut-opening-for-new-spa-panelFirst mark the area to be drilled. Most topside control panels will come with a template or schematic of the layout, showing exactly how big the hole needs to be. It’s important to cut to the exact size and shape, to prevent water intrusion.

Try to cut it a little on the small side, and use a rough file or rasp if the hole needs to be a bit wider. You can see my hole isn’t perfectly square, a little over-cut on top right. Sand down the edges to help make a good seal.

 

newly-installed-topside-spa-panelNow place a bead of silicone or other gasket material around the backside of the new topside panel. You only need a thin bead, not a toothpaste sized bead, which will squeeze out. Drop the wire through the hole and press the new spa panel in place, pushing it firmly to flatten out the sealant. If any does leak out the side, wipe it up quickly with a damp cloth. Now plug in the topside panel cable to the spa controller slot, which is usually labeled.

 

How long do topside control panels last?

Not long enough unfortunately. Heat and humidity can take a toll on electronic circuits. That said, most topside spa panels will last 10 years. If you have had repeated and mysterious failures to the pcb every few years, it may be a good time to replace the entire spa pack. New spa packs are less prone to circuitry problems.

If your spa pack and control is over 20 years old – it’s a good time to upgrade!

 

 

 

Spa & Hot Tub Maintenance

February 20th, 2015 by

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

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

 

Care = Prevention

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

 

Spa & Hot Tub Chemical Maintenance

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

 

Spa & Hot Tub Equipment Maintenance

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

 

Saving Money & Energy

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

 

Spa Safety

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

dont-forget-2

 

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

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

 

Carolyn Mosby
Hot Tub Works

 

 

Spa Error Codes – Sn, SnS, Sn1, Sn2…

February 5th, 2015 by

balboa-error-code-Sn-Sn1-Sn2-Sn3-SnS---Continuing in my little series on spa and hot tub error codes or trouble codes, today we take a look at Sensor Errors.

These will present themselves in many forms on the display, such as Sn, Sn1, Sn2, and they refer to temperature sensors located on the heater manifold. The controller display is telling you that either the high limit or the temp sensor are open or shorted. There also could be a voltage problem, excessive voltage creates heat. Or, it could be a problem with the thermostat allowing the heater element overheat.

Like our previous discussions on spa error codes, FLO and OH, the sensor codes Sn, Sn1, Sn2… are very much water flow dependent. If water is not flowing through the heater chamber fast enough, it gets too hot, and the safety high temp sensors go into action – just doing their job.

Spa Error Codes: Sn, Sn1, HL, E2, E3, Prh

For these trouble codes, the high limit sensor is open or shorted. It could be a loose plug connection or bad wire, or it could be a problem related to water flow. Clean or replace your spa filter cartridge as a first step. Make sure that all jets are open, and nothing is blocking the spa drain cover flow. Underneath the spa, check that all valves are open (handles up). If the flow rate still seems less than normal with all jets and valves open, you may consider inspecting for broken valves (closed when they appear to be open), clogged impeller inside the pump wet end, or something stuck in the skimmer pipe. Of course, be sure that you don’t have a pump air lock, and that the spa water level is filled high enough.

Spa Error Codes: Sn, Sn2, Sn3, EO, E1, Prr

With these spa sensor codes, the Temperature Sensor is open or shorted. The temp sensor and the high limit are usually located on the heater housing, with 1-2 small wires coming off and connecting to your controller. With the system powered off, you normally unscrew the sensors from the heater manifold, and unplug the wire from the panel. Inspect the wires for any heat or rodent damage, and the sensor face for corrosion or scaling. However, the usual cause for spa temp sensor error codes is that the water flow is insufficient, and when water moves too slowly through the heater, it doesn’t remove the heat fast enough, which triggers all sorts of error codes for flow rate and overheating. HOT, OL, HL, FLO, Sn…

SPA TEMPERATURE SENSOR ERROR CODE FLOW CHART

Here’s a Cal Spa troubleshooting chart for when your spa topside display shows a sensor error code Sn, Sn1, Sn2, Sn3… As you can see, it could be a nuisance tripping, or the wires could be absorbing excess heat, need calibration, or simply be faulty.

cal-spas-Sn-error-code-flow-chart

In addition to the Sn, Sn1, Sn2 type of error codes, other codes for Smart Sensor spas, such as SA, Sb, SnA, SnB error codes are used on many spas and hot tubs. These are similar to the Sn1 and Sn2 codes, signaled from the high limit or water temperature sensors.

cal-spa-smart-sensor-troubleshooting-flowchart

In summation; when you have spa trouble codes of Sn, SnA, Sn1, Sn2. Sn3, HL, EO, E2, E3, Prh, Prr – these all refer to the heat sensors that are usually attached to your heater manifold. Inspect the wire and plugs, check the spa water level and make sure water is flowing free and fast. If you confirm all those things, and it still throws an Sn error at you, test the sensor as described above; it may be faulty.

 

Happy Hot Tubbin’

Daniel Lara
Hot Tub Works

 

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

January 6th, 2015 by

balboa-control-OH-errorIn our series on spa and hot tub error codes, we turn our attention today to the HOT messages that your topside control may be trying to give you.

OH, or OHH, or OHS (Overheat) all mean that a temperature sensor has detected unsafe water temperatures of 108° – 118° F, and your spa is in an emergency cool down mode, shutting off the heater, and turning on circulation pumps and blower to help dissipate heat.

Open the spa cover to allow excess heat and steam to escape. The spa obviously should not be used when OH or OHH is flashing on the topside control; as the water could be scalding hot for several more minutes. After the water cools, a high limit switch may be need to be reset on some spa packs; look for a red reset button. Press any topside button to reset a digital spa after the water has cooled to 100° F.

What causes a Spa to Overheat?

Low Water Flow (LF, FLO), is the usual cause of an overheating (OH, OHH) spa or hot tub. When water doesn’t flow fast enough through the heater, it removes less heat, and the temperature of the water increases. Eventually, the temp sensors or high limit switches will detect the increased water temperature, and shut everything down. The causes of low water flow in a spa include:

  • Dirty spa filter cartridge
  • Closed or partially closed valves or jets
  • Pump has an air lock, or has lost prime
  • Low water level in spa, skimmer sucking air
  • Spa drain cover is obstructed or pipe is blocked

What else causes a Spa to Overheat?

If your water flow is perfectly fine, then you could have a problem with the thermostat or high limit switches used on older spa packs, which could fall out of calibration, or become too sensitive. Digital spas have electronic sensor circuits, which are more durable than mechanical switches, however temperature sensors, hi limit sensors, relays and circuit boards also eventually fail on modern spas.

In most cases, for newer spas anyway, the water flow problem can be quickly remedied and the spa will cool, reset and start again on it’s own. Some panels need a prompt from you to restart. For spas without digital controls, you may need to manually reset the high limit switch near the heater housing.

Spa Overheating Troubleshooting Flow Chart

Here’s a Cal Spa troubleshooting flow chart that has some other possible triggers of seeing OH, OHS, OHH or HH blinking on your spa panel. Open the spa cover and let the spa cool down for 10 minutes, then touch the control panel to reset the circuits, or push a red reset button on air systems.

cal-spa-OH-OHH-OHS-HH-error-code-trouble-chart

OH, HH or HOT trouble codes, or a hot tub overheating is not usually a spa heater problem – it is almost always a flow problem, and when it’s not a flow problem, it’s a bad temp sensor, high limit or a stuck relay.

Here’s another Cal Spa troubleshooting flowchart for spa error codes OH, including testing the spa heater element for excessive resistance, done with the spa heater and all systems powered Off, and only by someone qualified to test safely.

cal-spas-OH-spa-heater-code-trouble-flowchart

So, the next time your spa throws you a OH, OHH or some other Overheat error code, you know what to do. Clean or replace the spa filter, open all the jets and turn the pump on high. If you still have problems, check over your temp sensor and hi limit circuits for wire or plug or sensor problems.

 

Happy Hot Tubbin’

Daniel Lara
Hot Tub Works

 

Spa & Hot Tub Error Codes – FL, FLO, FLOW, LF

December 12th, 2014 by

balboa-LF-low-flow-error-codeEvery digital spa control is designed with some diagnostics, to self-diagnose problems with pumping and heating your spa or hot tub. Topside controls also give lots of information about your spa status, which are not to be confused with spa error codes.

There are 3 groups of error codes; Flow codes, relating to water flow, Heater codes, and Sensor codes. Let’s start at the top, today’s post is about water flow trouble codes on your spa panel. These are usually presented as FL, FLO or FLOW on your display, although it may be LF, for Low Flow, or PS for Pressure Switch.

LF, or Low Flow error codes on a spa or hot tub is really a self-preservation exercise for your hot tub. When water isn’t flowing fast enough through the heater, the FLO error code shuts things down, to avoid a total meltdown (well, not really a melt-down, but you know).

Flow problems are the number one source of trouble for the spa or hot tub owner. When the water isn’t flowing like it should, the heater stops working, equipment overheats and water quality quickly suffers.

So – FLOW. very important. Here’s what to do if your spa throws a FL, FLO or FLOW error code at you.spa-error-codes-FLO

For Low Flow spa error codes, check the filter, check the pump and check the valves to find something that is obstructing the water flow. Could be a dirty filter, a clogged impeller, closed valve, or a piece of plastic film covering the spa drain. Could also be low water level. Sometimes, it’s actually a bad pressure switch or flow switch, or loose connections or damaged wires or wire connectors.

Proceed step by step, and you should be able to find the cause of the FL, FLO or FLOW error code. If you need assistance with spa trouble codes, you can call us anytime at 800-770-0292 

 

Happy Hot Tubbin’

Daniel Lara
Hot Tub Works