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Archive for the ‘Spa Pumps’ Category

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

 

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

 

Replacing a Hot Tub Circulation Pump

November 29th, 2016 by

hot-tub-circulation-pumps
Spa circulation pumps are low flow, single speed pumps that run 24 hrs to keep your water filtered and heated. They run all the time, but are low energy use, drawing between 0.5 and 1.5 amps.

Running all the time does accelerate wear and tear, and makes the average circ pump lifespan about 7-9 years. If you need to replace a hot tub circ pump, here are the steps taken to do it yourself.

Do I need a new circulation pump?

Before you run off and buy a new replacement circ pump, you want to check a few things first, namely power and water flow. See our earlier post on circulation pump troubleshooting to see if you’ve checked all of the simple stuff first.

Which Circulation Pump do I need?

There are two main types of hot tub circulation pumps, high flow circ pumps and low flow circ pumps.

iron-might-circ-pump High Flow Circ Pumps look more like jet therapy pumps, and are often confused with such because of their size and appearance. They use a 48 frame motor, with a connected steel foot, and have 1.5″ union connections. They can be 115V or 230V, but only use up to 1.5 amps. The most common high flow circ pumps are the AquaFlo Circmaster and Waterway Iron Might, shown here.

 

tiny-might-circ-pumpLow Flow Circ Pumps look more like large aquarium pumps, and operate in the 6 to 15 gpm range, to work with low flow spa heaters. They have hose barb connections to fit to  3/4″ or 1″ flexible hose, with clamps. They can be 115V or 230V, and less than 1 amp. The most common low flow circ pumps are made by Laing, Grundfos and Waterway.

 

The circulation pump that you need, is the exact replacement, in voltage, amperage and hose or pipe connection type and location. High flow pumps can be center discharge or side discharge, and low flow pumps can have 3/4″ or 1″ connections, and may have a left or right side discharge. If you need help finding your replacement, just give us a call or send an email.

Hot Tub Circulation Pump Replacement

1aShut off the Power: Hit the main breaker or cut-off switch to kill all power coming into the spa pack. Wires will be exposed and water will spill, so don’t take any chances and play it safe. If water splashes on any circuitry or wire connections during the process, take the time to dry it up before energizing the spa.

2aShut off the Water: Most circ pumps don’t have isolation valves on either side; slice valves that can be closed to shut off water, although common on jet pumps and on high flow circ pump systems. You can drain the spa to make the repair, if you need to drain anyway, but it’s not necessary. The hoses can be plugged using wine corks or stoppers, or pinched using large needle nose locking pliers (Vice-Grip type). Or you can do a quick swap, described below, and spill a few gallons.

3aWiring the Circ Pump: Circ pumps don’t usually come with a new power cord, so you’ll use the existing one. If you have a plug-in type of connector at the end of the cord, disconnect it from the spa pack. If the power cord runs directly into the control box and connects to terminals, leave those connections intact, and remove the wires only from the back of the existing motor – or you can just cut the wire where it enters the old motor, strip back the casing and the ends to put into the new motor.

Insert the wires into the new circ pump, tighten the cord collar or strain relief where the cord enters the motor, and insert the stripped wire ends into the spring loaded tabs. The black wire will plug into L (Line), white wire will connect to N (Neutral), and the green wire goes to G (Ground). Disconnect the bare copper wire that is connected to the outside of the old motor, this is the bonding wire, that you’ll connect to the new pump once it’s in position.

4aPlumbing the Circ Pump: For very old and crusty connections, a heat gun or hair dryer can be used to soften the vinyl hose or tubing, which makes it easier to remove from the pump without a lot of pulling and jerking. The circ pump is also likely screwed into the base of the equipment bay, remove the screws in the pump base, and set aside to use later on the new pump.

Since there commonly are no cut-off valves on either side of a low flow circ pump, if your spa is full of water you will spill some water while installing a new circ pump. As mentioned above, if the spa is full of water, you can crimp the hose with locking needle nose pliers, or plug the hoses with corks until you are ready to switch, or if you have snipped off the power cord and reinstalled into the new pump already, you can make a quick swap, and spill just a few gallons.

Loosen the hose clamp and slide it down the hose. I usually pop off the top (discharge connection) first and cork it, then separate the incoming hose from the front center and very quickly swap pumps and insert the incoming hose over the front center hose barb. Then the top discharge hose can be unplugged and connected, also quickly, with minimal water loss.

If you have a high flow circ pump or a Waterway Tiny Might pump, you will loosen the unions and quickly make a swap with your new pump, being sure that the union o-rings stay in place while tightening up the union nuts.

5aFinishing Up: Now that you have reconnected the hoses on your pre-wired pump, the only things left to do is reconnect the bare copper bonding wire to the lug on the new circulation pump, and replace the screws to secure the pump, to reduce vibration. That, and testing your new circulation pump, followed by a hearty self-congratulation for diagnosing and fixing your hot tub problem!

 

– Jack

 

 

 

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 Circulation Pump Troubleshooting

October 31st, 2016 by

HOT-TUB-CIRCULATION-PUMPS
Circulation pumps used in spas and hot tubs, also called Circ Pumps or Hush Pumps, are low-flow pumps that constantly circulate the water (24/7) very slowly, to continuously filter, heat and chemically treat the water. Common spa/hot tub circulation pumps are made by Aqua-Flo, Grundfos, Laing and Waterway.

spa-circ-pump-motor-labelNot all spas have a circulation pump however. Many spas use a 2-speed therapy pump, with low speed used for constant circulation, and high speed used for turning the jets on high. The way to tell if a spa pump is a Circ Pump, and not a Therapy Pump, is by the Amps listed on the motor label. Anything under 1.5 Amps would be a Circ pump. Therapy or Jet pumps have much higher Amp usage, and you would see at least 6 Amps listed on the motor label.

Circulation pumps tend to last 5-10 years, although your mileage may vary. I’ve seen them last only a few years, and I’ve seen them last 20 years, and I wish I knew the secret to a long life, but it seems random. One thing for sure however, is that at some point in the life of a spa or hot tub, a circulation pump will develop problems.

Here’s how to troubleshoot a circulation pump on a spa or hot tub, to determine if the circ pump needs repair or replacement.

CIRCULATION PUMP IS DEAD

If there is no action at all from the circulation pump, your topside control panel should be giving you an error code, perhaps a FLO or OH. Check that power is on, and the breaker or GFCI test button are not tripped. Check that all valves are in the open position. For slice valves, the handle should be Up, and for ball valves, the handle should be parallel to the pipe. Follow the circ pump plumbing, and look for any possible kinks in the hose. Pull out the cartridge filter, to see if flow improves and the circulation pump is doing better.

CIRCULATION PUMP IS MAKING NOISES

One of the best things about a hot tub circulation pump is quiet operation; they make almost no noise. Gurgling, humming or grinding noises on a spa circulation pump are good indicators of a problem. It could be Air, Scale or a Clogged Impeller. Maybe a dirty spa filter. Or, it could be the bearings in the motor going bad.

AIR IN THE LINES: If you have just drained the spa, you may have an air lock on the circ pump. Some circ pumps have an air bleeder knob, or you can loosen the union nut to release the air. Open the lock nut slightly until you hear air hissing, then tighten up again as water begins to leak. You can also pull out the spa filter and insert a garden hose into the hole, sealing around the hose with a clean cloth or sponge, to force air out of the lines.

SCALE DEPOSITS: Calcium or lime deposits can built up and create noise that makes a ‘hush pump’, not so quiet. The impeller housing or the wet end cover plate of a circ pump can be removed to inspect the impeller. Be sure to cut off power first, and close valves on each side of the pump. If there are no valves, you can use a hard clamp on soft hoses, or plug a 3/4″ line with wine corks. Inspect the hoses (pipes) and the impeller surfaces for any deposits. They can be removed with a stiff brush, or a chemical like CLR.

CLOGGED IMPELLER: Circulation pumps usually pull water from the skimmer/cartridge filter, and it’s not uncommon that bits of debris, or even parts of the filter itself get sucked into the pump, clogging the impeller. Open up the circulation pump as described above to check this possibility. Other possible clogs include downstream obstructions, in an ozone injection manifold, or specifically the Mazzei injector, or if a return fitting or drain cover is used, where the water returns to the spa, it could be clogged on the inside.

BAD BEARINGS: Inside of a normally quiet circulation motor are two bearings that ensure smooth rotation of the rotor within the stator. When these bearings age, they begin to shriek and squeal, or grind loudly. A test to confirm is to disconnect the plumbing and turn it on very briefly, to see if it still makes funny noises. At this point, you either need to replace the bearings, replace the motor, or replace the entire circ pump.

CIRCULATION PUMP IS BARELY PUMPINGpump-system-spa-hot-tub

Spa circulation pumps don’t wear out and pump less water over time, they either work or they don’t. If you feel low volume of water coming out of your heater return, the first thing to do is to remove the spa filter and see if the flow improves. If after cleaning the spa filter, the problem reoccurs, replace the spa filter.

Secondary causes of extra low flow on a low flow hot tub circulation pump include the items mentioned above; either there is air in the line, or something is blocking flow before the pump on the suction side, or after the pump on the pressure side.

 


 

If you decide to replace your hot tub circulation pump, the job of actually replacing a circ pump seems to be less trouble for most people than ordering the correct replacement circ pump for your particular hot tub. In my next post, I’ll cover Replacing a Hot Tub Circulation Pump, or how to select the correct make and model of circ pump, and install it yourself.

 

Happy Hot Tubbin’

Daniel Lara
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 Noises

July 11th, 2016 by

loud-hot-tub-vibration-noiseSpas and Hot Tubs are not too dissimilar to automobiles, and I’ve made that reference before. And just like cars, a hot tub making funny noises is enough to make you sit up and take notice.

Today’s post is all about noisy hot tubs and spas, or sounds that spas make – what might be it, where to look, and how to reduce or correct hot tub noise.

Vibration Noise on Spas

Vibration noise coming from a hot tub is all too common, and the source of much friction between neighbors. Hot tub noise nuisance or noise from a neighbor’s hot tub can lead to noise complaints. But there are ways to reduce hot tub noise and save your neighborly relations.

There are two causes of spa vibration noise, 1. Hot Tubs sitting on small wooden decks, and 2. Hot Tub equipment vibration, underneath the spa.

In the first case, outdoor wood decks act like a drum and resonate a low frequency that sounds like a constant drone, even with pumps on low speed. The sound can be amplified as it conducts through nearby fences or reflects off exterior walls. To correct this situation, the wood deck can be cut-out to fit the spa, with a 4″ thick reinforced concrete slab poured for the spa to rest on. Another option would be to place thick rubber mats, or patio squares underneath the entire spa, on top of the wood deck. These can also be used on concrete patios that are connected to the house to reduce hot tub vibration noise. In addition to these two sound solutions, tall planters or short fences can be used adjacent to the hot tub/spa, to reflect sound away from the house(s) toward a more open area.

In the second case, vibration can come from the equipment located under the spa cabinet. Circulation pumps and jet pumps are the usual suspects, check that the base bolts are tight on each pump, or install them if they are missing. Alternatively, you can place a thick rubber mat underneath to dampen pump vibration noises. The Spa Pack or blower could also be the culprit. Placing your hand on pumps, valves, spa pack – you should be able to feel what you hear, and can tighten the equipment to the base, or use dense dampening rubber squares beneath. You can also use sound dampers or insulating material on the inside of the cabinet wall panels to contain spa equipment noise.

There is a third case, and that’s hot tubs that are up on a concrete slab, located against the house, or under a bedroom window. Even on low speed operation, they can be annoying to light sleepers. In this situation, you could adjust the timer to run only during day time hours, or add a dampening sub-floor to absorb some of the sound. A small enclosure around the hot tub, either a pavilion or large wooden wall planters, can be used to contain and deflect the sound away from the house.

Clicking

A spa or hot tub that makes a clicking sound may be working just fine, but if the pump won’t turn on high speed, and all you hear is clicking, or the heater is not heating and you hear a clicking noise, they may be coming from spa relays or contactors. If you try to locate the offending part – do so carefully, with the power turned off, as a shock hazard may exist.

Squealing

A spa or hot tub that makes a squealing noise will usually have a pump that is nearing the end of a lifespan. The motor bearings specifically, eventually wear out after a number of years, and will begin to shriek like a banshee! The sound becomes progressively louder over time, and not fixing it will lead to motor failure. To verify that the sound is bad bearings, close all valves and remove the motor from the wet end. Turn on power for a few seconds and if it still makes the noise, you need a motor rebuild from a local motor shop, or replace your motor with a new motor, or buy a whole new pump.

Softer squeals may be heard on spas coming from open air intake jets or some spa ozonators make a low squeal when they are operating.

Humming

A pump motor that is not starting may make a humming sound, from the motor capacitor. Sometimes the humming noise precedes the popping of the circuit breaker. Another usual source for a spa humming noise is vibration – either of the sub-floor beneath the spa, or the equipment housed beneath the spa. As suggested above, check that all equipment is tightly secured, or strapped if needed. Rubber patio squares can also be used to

Buzzing

Now a buzzing sound… that may also be the same as a squealing or humming sound, and can even be a variation on the clicking sound. In other words, it could be the pump or blower motor that is having trouble starting, a heater contactor or relay. Some ozonators have a faint squeal to them. To find out what’s making all that noise, first check your control panel for any error codes, and barring that, stick your head under there with a flashlight, and listen…

 

stop-look-listen-againAnd that’s really the secret to troubleshooting a noisy Jacuzzi or hot tub, look and listen – and you will likely find the cause of any spa or hot tub noises or odd sounds.

 

– Jack

 

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How to Rotate a Spa Pump Wet End

April 11th, 2016 by

rotating-a-spa-pump-wet-end

If you’ve ever noticed, some spa and hot tub pumps can be connected to pipes in different directions. While some are fixed at a vertical 12 o’clock orientation, other spa pumps make their return pipe connection horizontally, at 3 or 9 o’clock.

If you replace your spa pump with new, or even if you just replace your wet end, knowing how to reposition the volute will make for a fast and easy repair.

Here we have Drake, our resident spa and hot tub pump guru, rotating a spa pump wet end from top to side, in just 46 seconds.

Transcript from the video is appended to these pictures below, or watch the wet end rotation video 🙂 for yourself!

 

This is the 56 frame ultramax pump and the wet end rotation procedure…

rotating-a-spa-pump-wet-end-step-0

I want you to loosen all four (4) motor bolts at the back of the pump…

rotating-a-spa-pump-wet-end-step-1
What you want to do is take your thumb and forefinger, depress the spring and rotate either to the 3 or 9 o’clock position…

rotating-a-spa-pump-wet-end-step-2
… and reinsert the motor bolts back into the wet end…

rotating-a-spa-pump-wet-end-step-3
And then you want to tighten harmonically, as to make even pressure from the wet end to the motor. Use a cross bolt pattern and tighten each bolt snug…

rotating-a-spa-pump-wet-end-step-4
Then check the wet end and make sure that the impeller is free to spin…

rotating-a-spa-pump-wet-end-step-5

Now you can plug the motor cable back into the outlet, and thread on the union nut connectors. To replace the power cord, just unplug and remove/replace the wires in the same order as the new pump.

Bleed out any trapped air in the system by loosening the union nut slightly when the tub is full or the valves are reopened.

Rotating the spa wet end is usually done when you buy a new spa pump, and the discharge port comes in a vertical orientation (top), but your pipe connection is horizontal (side).

Piece of Cake!

 

– Jack

 

 

 

Hot Tub Jets Not Working?

February 15th, 2016 by

rotating-spa-jets

It’s a common spa question that we get asked all the time. One day you’ll get in the spa and notice the hot tub jets don’t feel as strong as usual.

It’s almost always an easy fix, so don’t worry that you have major problems, you probably don’t. There should be a simple reason that the jets don’t have much ‘oomph’ lately.

Here’s the step by step process that we use in our call center to guide a spa or hot tub owner through a Hot Tub Jets Not Working issue.

 

 

is the pump working right?

spa-and-hot-tub-pumpThis is the important first question, but it’s really many questions. Like, is the pump “Air-Locked”? Which can occur if you just drained the hot tub. Some systems need to “burp” out the air in the pipes in front of the pump, usually by loosening the union nut or pump drain plug, to allow air to escape.

Some hot tubs have two pumps, a circulation pump for filtration, and another jet booster pump. Or, many hot tubs have a single, two-speed pump that accomplishes both functions. So another question is, is the Jet pump working, or is the pump’s High Speed working?

If the jets seem to have less than the normal volume of water coming through, be sure that the pump is turning on like normal. Digital spas typically have to push the display to enter the Jet Mode. Older spa controls use an air button to activate the jet pump. The air switch button and the air hose can fail or lose effectiveness over time.

 

Dirty Spa Filter?

filter-cartridge-for-spasA dirty spa filter can slow water flow down noticeably, but not completely. Your spa heater won’t work if your water flow rate is very low, so if your heater is working, chances are your filter is pretty clean. A dirty spa filter can allow small bits of debris to pass through. Replace your spa filters every 12-18 months for best results.

 

Clogged Drain Cover?

spa-drain-cover-twoThe drain covers that are located in the foot well area of a spa or hot tub have very powerful suction, and if something like a napkin, plastic wrap, cup or t-shirt comes close it will block the water flow. Check that your drain covers are not covered with something blocking the water flow.

 

Low Water Level in Spa?

spa-skimmer-levelIf your spa skimmer is drawing in air, or sucking air – this will drastically affect water flow, and also shut off the spa heater. Is the Water Level OK in the spa? You will need to add some replacement water every so often, to replace water lost to evaporation and drag-off. Keeping your spa cover straps clipped helps reduce evaporation further by pulling the cover tight against the spa.

 

Air Leak in Front of Pump?

spa-pump-union-and-drain-plugUsually it’s the pump union in front of the pump that is loose, or the o-ring inside is out of position. But it could be a valve or any connection on the pipe that is in front of the pump, or the pipe that brings water into the pump. If anything is loose or cracked in front of the pump, the pump will suck in air. The point which is leaking air when the pump is On, will also leak water when the pump if Off. With the cabinet door open, shut off the pump and look for any spray or drips on the pipe coming into the pump.

 

Clogged Pump Impeller?

spa-pump-impellerFor most hot tubs with a good spa cover, the tub stays pretty clean. But if your spa was left uncovered and took on leafy or seedy debris, it could clog the pump impeller. The impeller is a closed vane type and for many portable spas, there is no pump strainer basket to catch debris.

To check your impeller, shut off power and close valves on both sides of the pump. Remove pump unions (a gallon or two of water will spill), and turn pump to look inside of the pump impeller housing. If it is clogged, you will usually see some debris in the center eye of the impeller.

To proceed further for cleaning, remove the screws or bolts holding the impeller housing cover in place to expose the impeller. Use flexible wire or plastic to ream out the impeller vanes, to remove the clogging material. Re-secure the impeller housing cover, tighten the pump unions and open the valves.

 

Is the Jet Adjustable?

spa-jetMany jets are adjustable at the nozzle or by rotating the outer ring, and many can be turned almost off, which increases the flow to the other jets nearby. You may find it easier to manipulate the jet adjustment while the pump is off, but should not be necessary. Try turning the jet nozzle left or right, or turn the jet outer ring or ‘scalloped bezel’.

 

Is the Jet Clogged?

Spa Jet InternalSpa Jets can also become clogged, but it doesn’t happen very often. When it does, it’s usually a broken part of a part that has lodged itself in such a way that it blocks part of the water flow. In some cases, spa jets can become clogged from clumps of calcium, or debris that has pushed through the filter. For many spa jets, the internal jet assembly can be removed (unthreaded) from the jet body, for inspection. Inground spas can use a wire or thin rod to ream out the small orifices, when the jet is not easily removable.

 

Are the valves all open?

open-spa-valvesFor most spa and hot tub systems, there are two diverter valves, on either side of the pump. These can be closed for equipment service, without draining the entire spa. Sometimes, these valves will vibrate into a closed position, especially slice valves used on many spas. Check that the valves inside the cabinet are open.

Another type of valve is used on some spas to operate different banks of jets, or sets of spa jets. Usually a large knob or dial will allow a spa user to open and close jets while seated inside of the spa. Some hot tubs or inground spas may require a valve adjustment outside of the spa.

On inground spas, there is often no valve or diverters to adjust individual spa jets, but you can often adjust the jets themselves or turn individual jets on and off.

Air valves will add volume to the water, and are often surface knobs that can be turned to open or close the air intake line. Open them to see if volume increases sufficiently. Air lines should be closed after use, so you don’t bring a continuous stream of cool water into the spa, which will make your heater work harder.

 

 

Happy Hot Tubbin’

Daniel Lara
Hot Tub Works

 

 

 

Hot Tub Pump Motor Replacement

July 13th, 2015 by

spa-motor-and-wet-endReplacing a spa or hot tub motor saves about 40% over the cost of replacing the entire pump, and there’s no plumbing required!

Hot tub motors are as easy to replace as the entire pump, and can be done in under an hour. Another benefit to re-using the existing wet end is that you can reduce waste around the home. Why throw out something that’s perfectly good?

The Wet End to which I refer, if you don’t know, is the plastic front half of your hot tub pump, the end that gets wet. The “Dry End” then, although we don’t call it that, is the metal cased electric motor, the back half of your spa pump.

Replacing the motor involves separating the motor from the wet end and removing the wires or plug, and then reversing the process to connect a new spa motor! Let’s get started!

1. Disconnect the Pump: Unplug the spa pump cord from the outlet, or disconnect the amp or pin connector on the spa pack. Next close the valves on both sides of the pump. If you don’t have valves, you will need to drain the spa before pulling the pump. Afterwards, loosen the spa pump unions, turning counter-clockwise by hand. If more force is required, use large Channel Lock type pliers or a Strap Wrench to disconnect both unions on the pump. If your pump happens to be bolted down to the base or floor, I’m sorry – bust out your socket set or wrench set to remove the nuts, otherwise lift the pump carefully out of it’s location to a well-lit work bench or counter.

2. Remove the Through Bolts: On the back of the motor are 4 carriage bolts, at 10, 2, 4 and 8 o’clock. Spray a little WD-40 on both ends of the bolt, on the head, and where the bolt screws into the plastic wet end, on the other end of the motor. Loosen these with a small nut driver , or straight pliers, and slide the long bolts out. In some cases where the bolts are severely corroded, they may snap on the threaded end. If so, proceed to the next step, and once the wet end is separated, soak the bolts ends again with penetrating oil and try to twist the broken bolt end out of the plastic wet end.

3. Remove the Impeller: This is the part that baffles and confuses many DIY spa owners, but it’s not really so hard to accomplish. The trick is to hold the motor impeller stationary while unthreading it from the end of the shaft.

separate-pump-from-;wet-endUsing two large screwdrivers, insert a large Phillips head screwdriver down into the top water port of the pump (where the water comes out). and into one of the vanes of the impeller. Use a flashlight if necessary, to insert the screwdriver about an inch into the side slots of the impeller to lock it into place. Now open up the back cap of the motor and turn the shaft counter-clockwise with a large slotted screwdriver, or alternatively, grab the shaft with pliers just behind the impeller, and turn the shaft counter-clockwise, to spin the shaft off of the impeller, in 4-5 turns.

4. Replace the Motor: Step 4 is just the reverse of step three. Once you separate the wet end from the motor, you can slide the old motor out of the way, and slide the new motor in place.  Push the wet end gently onto the new motor shaft, and tighten the shaft at the back of the new motor with a large flathead screwdriver. Turn the shaft until you feel it tighten onto the impeller fully. When it starts up it will spin itself tighter. In most cases a new shaft seal is not needed, but if your old seal was leaking, take a look at another post I wrote on how to replace a spa pump shaft seal.

5. Replace the Spa Motor Cord: The motor power cord from your old motor can be removed and reused on your new motor, barring any defects or wear and tear that would suggest replacement.

wiring-a-spa-pump-motorTwo speed motors have 4-wires, and single speed motors have 3-wires. Typical wire harness colors have black and red as Hots, White as Common and the green wire is for Ground. In most cases, you will hook up the wires exactly the same onto the new motor. Labeling the wires, or making a small sketch before removal can be helpful to remember the wire connections. Use a pair of needle nose pliers to remove spade connectors, or a small flat head screwdriver can be used as a lever to push connectors off of the terminals.

~ And that’s all there is to it! If you are looking at a failed spa pump, or one that is giving you trouble and may give up the ghost soon, consider replacing only the motor – rarely do any other parts need to be replaced.

new-spa-pump-motorsSave 40% over buying the entire pump, and replace just the motor! Prices for Hot Tub Pump Motors start at $129.

For help selecting the correct spa pump motor, put on your glasses and grab a flashlight – crawl up under there and write down HP, FR, SF, and Voltage information, and any brand names printed on the pump. Then give us a call or shoot us an email, and we’ll give you the options for your spa pump motor replacement.

 

Happy Hot Tubbin’

Daniel Lara
Hot Tub Works