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Archive for the ‘Spa Parts’ Category

Spa Parts Terminology

February 20th, 2018 by

hot tub cutaway showing internal hot tub spa parts

Glossary of Spa and Hot Tub Parts Terms! At Hot Tub Works, we are surrounded by spa and hot tub parts. My desk is home to various pool parts, brought in from the warehouse, or dropped off by sales reps. We have several display boards on the walls with dozens of types of spa jets, air parts, and my favorite board of heater parts. In the break rooms and training rooms you’d find more displays of hot tub parts and equipment, all carefully mounted and labeled.

We talk to customers all day long about their spas and hot tubs, so long ago Hot Tub Works founders committed to creating deep product knowledge. In so many ways, we train on the language of spas and hot tubs, and the terms to describe the hundreds of individual parts used to build them.

Today’s post is the terminology of spa and hot tub parts, to help you better identify and discuss, all of the various components on your spa and hot tub equipment. Want to add a term to our spa parts glossary? Leave me a comment below with your whatcha-ma-callit!


Air Buttons:

Air Buttons are used spa-side on an air-control systems or pneumatic controls, to activate equipment such as pumps, lights, blower. Pushing the Air Button will send a pulse of pressurized air through an air hose, to activate an Air Switch.


Air Injectors:

Air Injectors are found on the floor or seats of spas and hot tubs to distribute air from a air blower motor. Air Injectors have a PVC connection on the inlet side and a diffuser cap with many holes on the outlet side.


Air Manifolds:

Air Manifolds are some of the wildest looking spa parts we sell! A Manifold is used to split the flow of air from one large pipe into many smaller hose barbs. Air Manifolds are typically 2″ or 1.5″ inlet and 3/8″ hose barb outlet.


Air Switch:

Air Switches are used with air buttons, to activate spa and hot tub equipment, when using an air-control system, aka older style pneumatic controls. Air Switches can be a simple on/off switch for a blower or light, or more complex switch that will sequentially control many functions.


Brominator:

A bromine feeder or dispenser for constantly and consistently adding small amounts of bromine sanitizer to a spa or hot tub. There are bromine floaters, or a free-standing Brominator can be plumbed inline on the spa return line or off-line where space is an issue.


Capacitor:

Start Capacitors are s small battery that helps spa pump motors get up to speed quickly (3450 RPM), Run Capacitors alternate current to one or more windings of a single phase AC induction motor to help create a rotating magnetic field to reduce motor workload. 


Check Valve:

A Check Valve is a one-way flow valve, and is used for both air, water and ozone systems in spas and hot tubs. Spa blowers always have a check valve on the plumbing to allow air out, but not allow water in. Ozone check valves keep water out of the ozone hose and ozonator.


Chip Number:

On a PCB or printed circuit board, there is a Chip Number printed on the main chip, often referencing a Revision Number. When replacing a spa circuit board on a spa control, be sure to match chip number and revision, and superseded versions.


Contactor:

A Contactor is a large relay or an electric switch rated for high amperage. Contactors are used on larger electric heaters such as C-SPA or Coates heaters. Fairly sturdy items, but subject to damage under excessive loads or chattering.


Control:

Your Spa Control is the brain of the hot tub. Spa Controls are digital and fully electronically controlled. Older spa controls are pneumatic systems with Air Controls. New Spa Controls are typically sold with a new heater and new topside control panel.


Diffuser:

A Pump Diffuser is used to evenly diffuse water flow, inside of a pump, a filter or returning to the spa. Ozone diffusers are also used to provide for even ozone disbursement.


Diverter:

A Diverter is used inside of a valve, to divert water flow into or from one or more pipes. Large spas often have spa side knobs that can be turned to activate different banks of spa jets. The knob, connected to a shaft, is turning a diverter inside of the valve.


Element:

Hot tub Heater Elements are similar to those found in electric hot water heaters, or the coiled burners found on electric cook tops. Spa heater elements can be replaced when they develop problems, but those with the Balboa style tube heater just replace the entire heater assembly.


Escutcheon:

An Escutcheon Plate is a trim ring used around spa jets, aka spa jet wall fitting or spa jet escutcheons. Spa side buttons often have a shiny retainer ring escutcheon used as trim, and Escutcheon plates are also found around spa grab rails used on inground spas.


Filter:

Spa Filter can refer to both the entire filter assembly, or can be used to refer to the internal spa filter cartridge. Spa Filters are rated for 12-24 months for most residential use. Keep an extra spa filter on hand, so you can dry them completely after cleaning; kills more bacteria.


Flow Switch:

Electric spa heaters can basically melt-down if the water flow isn’t proper, a Flow Switch is a electro-mechanical device that plumbs in front of, or sometimes after, the spa heater to monitor flow rate. Harwil type paddle switches are common, but there are many others.


Heat Manifold:

A Spa Heater Manifold is a plastic or steel box or tube used to house an electric spa element. They have connections for incoming and outgoing water, sensors and the element terminals.


High Limit Switch:

Another spa heater part, High Limit Switches are used to sense the highest limit of temperature. Typically two high limits are used, to measure incoming and outgoing water temperature. OH and HL error codes are produced when they sense an overheating situation.


Impeller:

The Spa Pump Impeller is similar but opposite in design to a boat propeller. Impellers are designed to draw water in and push it out forcefully. Most spa pump impellers are closed vanes, and they can become clogged with seeds or debris of a certain size.


Inlet:

Water coming into a spa or hot tub, such as through a spa jet or foot jet, is known as an inlet. There are hundreds of styles of spa inlets, by Balboa, G&G, HydroAir, Jacuzzi and Waterway.


Jet:

Spa Jet Parts is quite a large term encompassing many other parts. The Spa Jet Body is the main housing of a spa jet, which holds the Jet Internal and Nozzle, held in place by a Jet Retainer or Wall Fitting.


Lock Nut:

Lock Nuts are used around spas and hot tubs in many places, to secure a filter cover or wall fitting tightly to the spa shell. Also used on spa unions, and behind each jet, Lock Nuts, aka Lock Rings are ubiquitous parts on spa and hot tub equipment. See also: Split-Nut Union.


Motor:

Hot Tub Motors are used on spa jet pumps and spa circulation pumps, to turn the Impeller, which drives the filtering and sanitation equipment. Forced air spa blowers also have motors, and ozonators likewise have tiny air pump motors and time clocks have a small timer motor.


Nozzle:

Some Spa Jets have a Nozzle, or an orifice tip that is screwed into the spa jet. Mostly found on inground spas, Nozzles of different sizes can be replaced. For portable spas and hot tubs, common spa jet nozzles are part of the one-piece Jet Internal.


Outlet:

Water leaving a spa or hot tub. Spa Suction Outlets include the spa skimmer and spa main drain, aka spa suction outlet. Outlets are where the water goes Out of the tub, and Inlets are where the water comes In to a hot tub.


PCB:

Printed Circuit Boards, or Spa Circuit Boards, often abbreviated PCB’s are used in every spa controller and topside control. Modern spa controls depend heavily on PCB’s, which have improved in quality and design tremendously in the last 20 years.


Pressure Switch:

A Pressure Switch for spas is used as an approximation of water flow, or used in place of a flow switch. Pressure switches are factory set to open when they sense a minimum level of pressure within the heater, as an indicator of sufficient water flow for safe heater operation.


Pump:

The spa or hot tub pump is the heart of your circulation system, crucial for filtration, sanitation and heating. Some spas will have one 2-speed pump, and others will have 2 pumps, one for ‘Jet Action’ and one for near constant circulation.


Relay:

A Spa Relay is an electronic switch, usually mounted to a printed circuit board. They are often small black cubes about an inch tall, and are used to control switching to your spa equipment, or turning on/off your pump(s), heater, blower, light, ozonator.


Shut-off Valve:

Also called an Isolation Valve, Spa Shut-Off Valves allow you to shut off the water to perform certain maintenance items like cleaning the pump basket or spa filter, adding chemicals, or making repairs to the spa pack or other equipment.


Skimmer:

Surface Skimmer is the full name, a spa skimmer is used to draw water from the surface to remove floating debris and dust. Works in tandem with the spa drain, to keep spa water clean and clear. Skimmers have a skimmer Weir and basket to empty.


Split-Nut Union:

A Split Nut Union is a Lock Nut with two small screws on either side. Most often used to replace a broken Lock Nut, because there is no way to slip a new one over the pipe. Split Nut Unions come apart to quickly replace pump unions and heater unions.


Tailpiece:

A Tailpiece is half of a spa union, specifically half of a Pump Union or Heater Union. It’s the part that slips through the Lock Ring and connects to the incoming or outgoing pipe. Can be ordered separately or as a pump union or heater union part.


Temp Sensor:

Temperature Sensor is the full name, used to monitor temperature of the water, both for display on the topside control, or for use to prevent overheating. New Style M7 Balboa heaters have done away with pressure switches and instead now use two temp sensors.


Terminals:

There are terminals all over your spa control and equipment. Any place that a wire makes a connection, there is a terminal. Spa wires use many types of plugs but they all connect to some sort of terminal. Keep your terminals clean and dry.


Thermostat:

Older spa control systems use mechanical thermostats, but most spas on the road nowadays have electronic thermostats used with a temperature sensor, placed into a thermowell, to sense the current water temperature, and allow user adjustment.


Thermowell:

Thermowells are the holders or ‘well’ of a temp sensor. Dry thermowells are a metal or plastic tube in the shape of a test tube, with the temp sensor placed inside. Wet thermowells are simple rubber seals that allow placement of a heavy duty coated temp sensor in direct contact with the spa water, inside of a pipe.


Timer:

Spa and hot tub timers control the operation time for pumps to run each day. Modern spas allow you to choose from modes, but older control systems use mechanical timeclocks to set program times. For most spas, 12-18 hrs daily on low speed, and 1-2 hours on high speed is sufficient.


Transformer:

Spa Transformers reduce voltage from a higher voltage to a lower voltage. Spa controls all have a transformer to operate the spa systems with just 24V-32V usually. Transformers for spas can be tested with a multi-meter, voltage-in and voltage-out.


Topside Control:

The main spa control panel mounted on the ‘Top Side’, for user control of program modes. Also known as a spa side control, or display panel, it functions as a remote control panel to your spa controller. New Topside Panels must match the Spa Control model exactly.


Union:

Unions are used to facilitate easier removal of spa equipment from tight spaces beneath spas. Pump Unions and Heater Unions can often be removed with big hands, or a strap wrench or large Channel pliers may be needed for sticky unions. Union parts include the Tail Piece, Lock Nut, O-ring and Male End.


Vacuum Switch

A Vacuum Switch is the opposite of a Pressure Switch, but it operates in the same manner, as a proxy for water flow. Vacuum Switches are placed in front of the suction side of the pump, factory set to open when they sense a minimum level of vacuum pressure.


Venturi

The Venturi Effect was first documented by Giovanni Battista Venturi way back in 1797, and the principles in use today are still the same. Fluid pressure reduces when water is forced through a small opening. Mazzei ozone injectors use the venturi principle, as well as passive Air Controls.


Volute:

Pump Volutes are also called the pump strainer housing or more specifically the pump impeller housing. The shape and design of the pump volute determines the flow characteristics. Volutes are fairly sturdy but may crack under extreme pressure or freezing water.


Wall Fitting

Spa Wall Fittings is the beauty ring or trim ring around a spa jet, typically round and open in the center with threads on the inside and/or outside. Wall Fittings are often available in designer finishes and colors.


Weir:

Inside of every spa skimmer is a tiny flapper door thingy, called a skimmer weir or floating weir. Packed with foam, the spa weir has two purposes, to accelerate water flow into the skimmer, and to stand vertical when the pump shuts off, to trap debris inside the skimmer well.


HOT-TUB-PARTS

Do you have any other spa parts terminology you wonder about? Or other ways to call your hot tub parts? There are regional differences around the country in spa parts lingo and trade terms used. What do you call that thing-a-majig?

 

Happy Hot Tubbin’

 

Daniel Lara
Hot Tub Works

 

10 Ways to Destroy your Hot Tub

October 24th, 2017 by

Taking care of a hot tub nowadays is not too difficult, but if you’re not careful, small slips can cause big problems. Most of these won’t DESTROY your hot tub, that’s just my attention grabbing headline, but any of these will cause minor to major problems, which are best avoided.

We take phone calls (and emails) all day from customers who have found themselves in a bit of hot water (or cold water), due to some small oversight on their part. Learn from their mistakes, and from mine too!

drain the spa and leave it empty

If you want to destroy the hot tub, this can be the number one way. One or two days won’t cause much problem, but beyond that, the water and moisture remaining in the pipes and equipment will begin to ‘funkify’, and grow into a bacteria biofilm, which can be hard to eradicate completely, once large colonies are established. Secondly, without water in the tub, seals and gaskets can more easily become dry and begin to leak, and dried out cartridges require new spa filters.

use your hot tub as a bath tub

This won’t destroy your hot tub, but jumping in the hot tub after a workout, or a day of digging in the garden causes poor water conditions, overwhelmed filter cartridges, and could be unhealthy, as it pummels the pH and sanitizer. Not like you have to shower every time before using the spa, but if you are in a practice of bathing in your spa, or inviting the team over for a soak after your winning game, your spa water and spa filters can be compromised.

add bubble bath

Well, this is an obvious one, and really just to put a funny image in your mind. Imagine adding just a few ounces of soap to your spa and turning on the jets. It would be like that Brady Bunch episode when Bobby added a whole box of detergent to the washing machine. In fact, wearing bathing suits that have been washed with soap, is a no-no in your spa. Even with a dual rinse cycle, enough soap remains to give you a hot tub foam problem.

use pool chemicals

spa chemicalsSpa chemicals are specially formulated to work in hot water, and with hot tub surfaces. More importantly, spa chemicals are labeled for use in a spa or hot tub, with dosage and application information for very small bodies of water. For spa shock treatments, do not use pool shock, as the granules do not dissolve quickly enough, and more importantly, a 1 lb. bag of shock cannot be resealed safely, being designed for one-time use.

use a pressure washer

Even a small pressure washer is too much pressure for cleaning cartridges, forcing dirt, oil and scale deeper into the fabric, and will separate the fibers at the same time, bunching up fibers and essentially ruining or severely damaging your spa filter. What about cleaning your spa filter in the dishwasher? Also not a good idea, which could ruin not only the cartridge, but the dishwasher too! Use a regular garden hose with spray nozzle, and be sure to use a spa filter cleaner 1-2x per year, to gently loosen dirt, oil and scale.

shut off power to the spa

Keep the spa running, and check on it often, to be sure it is still running. If you leave town for a few weeks, or otherwise unable to use the spa for extended periods, you must keep it running, with at least a few hours of high speed circulation daily, and low-speed circulation for most other times. Spa pumps don’t need to run 24/7 to keep a covered spa clean, but you do need Daily circulation, filtering and sanitation, or larger spa water problems are sure to arise.

overfill your hot tub

Orbit Hose Spigot Timer at DripDepot.comIt’s happened to most spa owners, you’re adding water to fill the spa or top off the hot tub, when the phone or doorbell rings. Overflowing spas usually don’t cause problems, but depending on your spa make and model, some components can become water damaged if a spa overflows. After overflowing my own spa twice, I bought a plastic timer that screws onto my hose spigot. It can be set for up to 2 hours, before it shuts off the water flow. Also, don’t under-fill the spa, or air can be sucked into the pump – keep it full.

overtreat with chemicals

Spas and hot tubs are small bodies of water, and most chemical adjustments require just a few ounces of liquid or powder. Overdosing your spa with hot tub shock, or over-adjusting the pH or Alkalinity can create a see-saw effect that costs money and time. Make small adjustments, read the label and add doses appropriate for your spa size, in gallons. You can also use Spacalculator.com to compute exact amounts of spa chemicals to add, for a desired result.

run the spa without the filter

There are situations when you want to briefly test the system without the spa filter cartridge in place, to see if the heater will come on with the filter removed, for example. But running the pump for long periods of time without the filter could lead to clogged pump impellers, and rapid water quality problems. However, if your spa filter is cracked or broken, or if your dog carried off and buried your filter – it’s better to leave the pump running on low speed, than to shut down the spa completely.

leave your spa uncovered

Besides getting dirty, wasting water and chemicals, and causing your spa heater to work overtime, leaving a spa uncovered and unattended is unsafe for children, animals and some adults. On the other hand, covering it too tightly, with plastic wrap or tarps tightly sealed can also cause a problem for electronics and cabinet trim, when moisture is under pressure. Be sure to keep your spa cover on the spa when un-used, clipped snugly in place.

 

– Jack

 

Troubleshooting Spa Topside Control Panels

August 30th, 2017 by

The Spa Topside control panel is used on hot tubs, portable spas, jetted tubs – just about every spa uses a display panel to allow the user to easily control the functions of a typical spa – pumps, heater, lights, blower.

And that’s all the topside control is – a control panel, think of it as a remote control for your hot tub, wired into your spa controller, which is really the brains of the spa system. The spaside control panel, it’s just a convenient way to turn things on and off, and view equipment status lights and water temperature.

Topside controls typically consist of a small LED or LCD screen, touchpad membranes and LED indicator lights, topped with a pretty decal or overlay, as they are called. Topside controls can be digital, analog, or a combination, and are made for both air control systems and digital control systems for spas.

Topside controls will only work with a particular spa system control board(s). Another TV reference would be appropriate; you have to use the TV remote that is made for your make and model of television. It’s the same with spa topside controls, they only work with the spa control make and model for which they were designed. And even more specifically, many topside controls only work with circuit boards that have a particular chip version, which is printed on the spa control circuit board main chip label.

Topside control panels are also not easily test-able. The best way to see if a topside control is bad, is to plug in another one and see if it works. Since spaside panels are not returnable, this entails some risk on the spa owner. But there are some ways to reduce the risk… read on.

No Display on Topside Control Panel

  • Reset Spa Controller, power down and restart
  • Check for condensation under display glass
  • Check cable for crimps or any visible damage
  • Clean plug-in cable connections on both ends
  • Check power at Transformer on control circuit board
  • Check power at fuse on spa control circuit board
  • Check that topside control number works with spa control chip version
  • Inspect circuit board for damage and correct power output
  • Replace topside control

Spa Control Panel Displays Incorrectly

  • Error messages or error codes may indicate the problem
  • Flickering display may indicate low voltage from transformer
  • Partial display may indicate dirty contacts or moisture
  • Blinking lights or flashing — indicates a system reset is needed
  • Check that topside control number works with spa control chip version
  • Inspect circuit board for damage and correct power output
  • Replace topside control

Spaside Control Panel Buttons Not Working Correctly

  • Check for moisture under glass or on contacts
  • Check cable for any rodent damage, crimping or melting
  • Clean plug-in cable connections at both ends
  • Membrane or touch pad buttons may be faulty
  • Inspect circuit board for damage and correct power output
  • Replace topside control

Bottom line is – it could be a bad spaside control panel, or it could be a bad spa control board, or a bad cable that runs between the control panel and the control board. Or it could be fuse on the circuit board or the transformer, not sending the correct power to the topside panel. If you recently replaced the topside control panel and are having issues, check that your topside control panel is compatible with your circuit board and chip revision number.

If you need help identifying the correct topside control panel to use with your spa controller, first check the backside of the topside control for a part number. If that is missing, open up the controller and write down all the numbers on the circuit board, including the main chip number, and give us a call, we can help you get the right topside, or advise further on your topside control troubleshooting process.

 

Happy Hot Tubbin’

Daniel Lara
Hot Tub Works

 

 

 

 

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

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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