Free Shipping on all Spa Covers and orders over $100 Weekly Fall Sale! - Up to 30% off Chemicals, Aromatherapy, & Filter Cartridges!
1-800-770-0292
Sunday - Saturday
7am - 7pm CST

Archive for the ‘Spa Parts’ Category

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

 

Save

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

 

 

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

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