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Hot Tub Pros & Cons: In Ground vs. Above Ground

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hot tub pros and cons

Looking to buy (or build) a new spa or hot tub? There are two basic types to choose from – in ground hot tubs and above ground hot tubs. Each type has its own set of advantages and disadvantages, and there are many styles to choose from within each category. To help decide which one will work best for you, we’ve put together a handy list of hot tub pros and cons.

In Ground Hot Tub

If you’re considering an in ground spa or hot tub, chances are that you’re either looking to purchase a house with one already installed, or you’re thinking of installing one in your own backyard. These hot tubs can be attached to a pool as a pool-spa combo, or they can be completely independent of a pool. If you live in the snowbelt but would like to use your hot tub over the winter, avoid pool-spa combos that share the same pump and filter system or allow spa water to overflow into the pool.

Pros

  • in ground hot tubAesthetically pleasing addition to backyard. Perfectly complements any pool.
  • Permanent fixture – durable and built to last.
  • Can add value to home.
  • Easy maintenance if pool and spa share the same pump, filter and sanitizer system.
  • Hot tub doesn’t have to be drained if sharing water with the pool.
  • Customizable design options – shape, seating, lighting, jet placement, water features, spillover into pool, building materials used, etc.
  • Easy to get into and out of spa.

Cons

  • in ground hot tubFewer hydrotherapy jets.
  • Concrete spas are more abrasive on skin and swimsuits.
  • Most have basic bench-type seating around the spa, which isn’t as comfortable or accommodating.
  • Must be heated each time it’s used, which consumes a lot of energy.
  • Expensive to install.
  • Excavation and construction process takes time – 2 weeks to 3 months (or longer).
  • If using a cover, it’s more difficult to remove without a cover lift.

Above Ground Hot Tub

Also known as a portable spa, above ground hot tubs are a common choice for people purchasing a spa for their home. A portable spa doesn’t require any special permits, construction or extra equipment – just set it on a flat surface, fill it up, plug it in, and it’s ready to use! With a little creativity and planning, you can help it blend into your backyard setting and boost its visual appeal.

Pros

  • above ground hot tubComfortable ergonomic seats at varying levels to accommodate people of all heights.
  • Smooth acrylic finish is gentle on skin and easy to clean.
  • Many hydrotherapy jets with varying settings for a full body massage.
  • Lower purchase price, and costs less to operate and maintain.
  • Simple installation.
  • Building into a deck or other elevated landscaping can provide the illusion of an in ground spa.
  • Well-fitting spa cover conserves heat, keeps water cleaner and can be easily removed with a cover lift.
  • Always heated and ready to use; no waiting period for the water to warm up.
  • Most spas come with pre-installed extras – color-changing LED lights, water features, built-in stereos, etc.
  • Placement near home provides convenient winter access.
  • Can be moved to another location at any time.

above ground hot tub

Cons

  • Does not blend into landscape as easily.
  • Must be drained every 3-4 months to maintain water quality.
  • Not customizable. Fewer options for size, shape and interior materials.
  • Must use steps to get into and out of the spa.
  • Requires extra care to make sure the cabinet and cover stay looking new.
  • Must use specifically labeled spa chemicals. Pool chemicals are stronger and will damage your tub.
  • Filter cartridges need regular cleaning, which equals twice the work if you also have a pool.

Which is Better?

There really is no clear winner here. Both styles have their own merits, so it all comes down to personal preference. If you want to add extra dimension to your backyard, enjoy hosting social events at your home, or you just want a relaxing soak every once in a while, an in ground hot tub will likely suit you best. On the other hand, if you place more value on comfortable seating, powerful hydrotherapy, relatively simple upkeep, and you plan on using it frequently, you might opt for an above ground spa instead.

How to Keep a Hot Tub Clean While on Vacation

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how to maintain a hot tub while on vacation

If you’ve owned a hot tub for any length of time, you know that it requires daily maintenance to keep the water clean and sanitary. But what do you do when you aren’t home to clean the spa for a few days or weeks? How do you keep the hot tub clean while you’re on vacation? Not to worry – we’ve got all your answers right here!

 

First Things First…

No matter how long you’ll be away from home, what the outdoor weather is like, or what time of sanitizer you use for your hot tub, some procedures will stay the same across the board for vacation-proofing your hot tub:

  • Test and balance the water.
    • Test the alkalinity and calcium hardness of your spa water, and balance it accordingly.
  • Clean or replace the filter cartridge.
    • change or clean the hot tub filterThis is one of the most important things to do before you go on vacation. Clean or replace the filter cartridge before you leave.
    • If you leave for a week or two with a dirty filter, you’re going to have dirty water to contend with when you get home.
  • Sanitize the water.
    • Make sure there’s enough sanitizer to get your spa through vacation, and lower the output levels as needed.
    • Since there will be no people in the hot tub while you’re gone, the sanitizer won’t be used up as quickly.
    • Before you leave, treat the water with spa shock, and run the pump for about 30 minutes to ensure the water has been well circulated.
  • Secure the spa.
    • No matter how long you’ll be away, make sure to keep your hot tub cover or entrance(s) locked down.
    • If an uninvited guest goes for a dip in your spa and something bad happens, you may be held liable. Keeping the cover firmly closed will also keep dirt out and heat in.

Now that the basics are out of the way, let’s look out how this maintenance plan will change depending on a number of different factors.

 

Planning According to Duration

Short Vacation

If you’re only leaving town for a couple of days, there’s no need to do much else besides the basic instructions listed above. Enjoy your trip, knowing that when you return home the hot tub will be in the same pristine condition you left it in!

hot tub vacation

Long Vacation

Here, it mostly depends on how long you will be gone. A week? Two weeks? A month or more? For 1-2 week vacations, preparation work is extremely important. If you have a friend or neighbor who can drop in a couple times to monitor water quality and add more sanitizer, this will make it easier to keep the water clean and clear while you’re gone. As incentive for adding sanitizer for you, allow them to use the hot tub while you’re gone! To save on heating expenses, you can also decrease the temperature by 10 degrees.

On the other hand, if you’re going to be gone for quite a while, or if it’s been a few months since the spa was last drained and refilled, you may be ahead to just clean and drain your spa before you leave. Be sure to use a product like Jet Clean, which will clear the lines of biofilm and other hidden gunk. Drain the tub, and turn on a blower or low pressure air compressor to completely clear the water out of the lines. This will prevent freezing damage or yucky bio-growth taking over the plumbing. Once the tub is fully drained, thoroughly clean and dry the tub with a soft towel or sponge. Leave all drain plugs off to release any remaining water in the system, and put the spa cover back on to keep the tub clean and out of direct sunlight. It will be ready for a fresh refill when you return!

*Please note that wooden hot tubs cannot be drained for extended periods.

 

Planning According to Weather

Warm Weather

warm weatherIf weather conditions are pretty warm in your area, the main thing you’ll need to worry about while you’re gone is algae growth. Keeping sanitizer levels up is your best defense against an algae outbreak, and shocking the spa before you go will certainly help. If needed, use a spa algaecide to treat and prevent algae. It’s OK to turn off the pump and heater while you’re out of town if there’s no risk of the water freezing.

Cold Weather

cold weatherIf temperatures are consistently below freezing, you’ll need to ensure the hot tub and plumbing will stay thawed while you’re away. As long as the spa is properly heated, it’s alright to drop the water temperature by 10 degrees to save on heating costs. Leave the pump and heater on to keep the water warm and circulating. If you have freeze protection for your hot tub, it will automatically turn on the circulation pump when temperatures approach freezing.

 

Planning According to Sanitizer Type

Bromine or Chlorine Sanitizer

Bromine is the most popular sanitization chemical for hot tubs and spas, and it’s actually pretty easy to manage while you’re out of town. Just load up a bromine floater with 1” bromine tablets, and turn the output setting down to the lowest setting to keep the chemical flow to a minimum.spa bromine and chlorine

For chlorine, just remember to NEVER put 1” tri-chlor (stabilized pool chlorine) tabs into a spa floater. Tri-chlor tablets are intended for use in pools only, but di-chlor granular chlorine can be safely added to spas. If you rely solely on chlorine granules for sanitizing the water, you may need to have a friend or neighbor help out until you get back home. On the other hand, if you have a chlorine hot tub, it’s likely that you also supplement the chlorine with a mineral sanitizer or an ozone system. If that’s the case, keep reading to learn more!

salt chlorine generator for spas and hot tubs

Salt Chlorine Generator

If you have a salt water hot tub, you won’t have to worry too much while on vacation! Just make sure salt levels are sufficient for chlorine generation, and shock the water before you go. The chlorine will not be used up as quickly while the spa is closed, so the generator will not be working as hard to maintain free chlorine levels.

Mineral Sanitizer

mineral floaterMineral sanitizers are valuable in that they can supplement most other sanitizer systems – bromine, chlorine and ozone, included. Some mineral sanitizers are packaged as floaters and paired with bromine or chlorine, while others can be dropped directly into your spa filter. Aside from the standard pre-vacation spa maintenance, you’ll just need to make sure that your mineral cartridges are good to go. Most mineral cartridges last about 4 months, so if needed, just replace them before you leave.

Ozonator

spa ozone generator

Just like a salt chlorinator, an ozone generator won’t require much extra effort before you close up the hot tub. Just ensure everything is working properly and the water is properly balanced and sanitized before you go. You won’t have to worry about overdosing the tub on ozone, so you don’t even need to adjust the timer if you don’t want to.

 

With a little extra planning and preparation, your hot tub will be ready to use in no time once you return. Don’t let routine hot tub maintenance keep you from enjoying the vacation you deserve!

 

Hot Tubs with a View

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Every once in a while, we like to step away from the nitty gritty of spa and hot tub maintenance to feature topics around hot tub lifestyle, design and decor. A showcase for hot tub owners who have created a true spa oasis with innovative decking, landscape or location.

And speaking of location, some settings are just a natural fit for a hot tub. Continue reading for a collection of 11 beautiful hot tubs with spectacular views, some of which are available for short-term rental! If your hot tub has a great view, leave a comment with a pic – maybe I will add it to the list!

Estes Park Colorado Hot Tub Home VRBO Rental - Photo by Linda, Owner

Estes Park, Colorado, VRBO Rental – Photo by Linda, Owner

 

Hot Tub on Smith Mountain Lake, Va, Home Away Rental, Photo by Owner

Smith Mountain Lake, Virginia, Home Away Rental – Photo by Owner

 

Buffalo River Arkansas Rental with Hot Tub, Photo by Buffalo Outdoor Center

Buffalo River, Arkansas, Rental with Hot Tub – Photo by Buffalo Outdoor Center

 

Hot Tub at Fossil Bay Resort, Shirley, BC, Photo by Fossil Bay - click to visit Fossil Bay site

Fossil Bay Resort in Shirley, British Columbia – Photo by Fossil Bay

 

Hot Tub overlooking a California Bay, Zillow Photo by Brad Anderson

Overlooking a California Bay – Zillow Photo by Brad Anderson

 

Scottsdale, Arizona Hot Tubs- Zillow Photo by Imagine Backyard Living

Scottsdale, Arizona – Zillow Photo by Imagine Backyard Living

 

Hot Tub with a View of Lake Tahoe, on VRBO, Photo by Owner

Lake Tahoe, California, VRBO Rental – Photo by Owner

 

Hot Tub on a Yacht, Photo by Miami Boat Charters

Yacht with a Hot Tub – Photo by Miami Boat Charters

 

Hot Tub In Seattle with a View on Realtor.com, Photo by Owner

Seattle, Washington, listing on Realtor.com – Photo by Owner

 

Acorn Cabin Rentals #701 Hot Tub in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, Photo by Acorn

Gatlinburg, Tennessee, Acorn Cabin Rentals #701 – Photo by Acorn Cabins

 

Penthouse Hot Tub view overlooking Sydney, Australia

Sydney, Australia, Penthouse View – Photo by Poynters.co.nz

 


 

I would Love to soak in any one of these hot tubs with a view! My home hot tub view is not quite as grand, like most people I look across the backyard, noticing all the plants and things that need my attention.

Oh well, I can always close my eyes, and can imagine that I’m on vacation, somewhere fabulous! That’s the greatest thing about hot tubs – it doesn’t really matter where it is, I can always find my happy place!

 

XOXO;

 

Gina Galvin
Hot Tub Works

 

 

 

Romantic Hot Tub Ideas

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HOT TUB ROMANCE IMAGE FROM ISTKLove is in the air! Valentine’s Day is less than a week away! If you are like me, you too are so over the typical Valentine’s Dinner and a movie. The restaurants are so crowded, and they move you in and out like cattle. It can also feel forced, rushing out on a work night and trying to make everything so romantic.

So let’s try something different this year – cancel the reservation and put away the slinky dress and high heels. Make a date for just the two of you, in your hot tub!

Guys or Gals – anyone can plan this, it’s easy to pull off, with just a little bit of planning. If you are having trouble imagining a romantic hot tub night, stay with me –

 

The romance begins with a courtly gesture, a memorable spa-posal that creates anticipation and builds desire. The ASK is more than just a simple proposition, it is all about the presentation and packaging, and Asking your special person to “Go In”, on a special date with you.

HOT TUB ROMANCE IMAGE FROM ISTK

  • Hand-written, hand-delivered invitation on fancy stationery is hard to resist, an overture that will melt his/her heart.
  • Post-It! Write your proposition in fancy script over many heart-shaped post-it notes, placed on the bathroom mirror.
  • Send flowers in advance, from a local florist so that you can hand-write a loving enticement to your intended.
  • Gift wrap a Robe and Slippers, or a new Bathing Suit, or other nice gift, and include ‘the Ask’ inside the box.
  • Print two tickets to a “Hot Show” on a ticket printing website, or make your own using your favorite image editor.
  • Spell it out with Sweets. Write your proposal on a cake, or use Valentine’s heart candies for a clever and tasty message.

Like any good invitation, be sure to include a specific date, time and location. You can make it very formal, as in “You are cordially invited…” or “Your presence is requested…”, or style your invite to be very intimate and romantic, as in “The first time I saw you, I fell in love…” or even seductive and suggestive.

To kick it over the top, give your evening a name that you can tie to a theme. An “Evening under the Stars”, or “Hot Tub Heaven”, or even “Wet, Wild and Wonderful”! To create more excitement and enticement, ‘brand’ the evening as though it were a day at a resort spa, or an exclusive tropical hideaway.

 

The Gift comes Before the big event, so it is really a Pre-Gift, given days before or at the start of the evening. Choose a sweet and thoughtful gift, but related to your theme or to the evening. As mentioned above, the Gift can be combined with the Ask, in many clever ways.

  • DANDY CAT READY FOR HIS DATE Fluffy Robes – soft, matching robes and slippers. Bonus if you buy two sets so you match each other.
  • Blooming Flowers – his or her favorite, are still one of the most romantic and sensual gifts you can give.
  • Chocolate Dipped Fruits and Berries, or go for the traditional heart shaped box of chocolates.
  • Romantic Apparel – For her, a new spring hat or summer dress. For him, manly jacket, cap or pair of boots.
  • Sexy Apparel – For her, classic lingerie, a type she likes. For him, nice fitting underwear, a type you like!
  • Jewelry – Take pictures of her favorite pieces, and visit a local shopping mall to find something similar.

The Pre-Gift is an important part of the allure of the evening. It need not be extravagant, and need not be ‘store-bought’. And remember, the presentation of the gift is key, not so much what’s in the box, but how you wrap it, and how you present the present. Be sweet!

 

HOT TUB MOOD BANNER

Setting the mood for the evening is also key. The hot tub is a natural mood setter, and you can add little touches to make it more romantic. Add a few decorative elements, or some little touches to really make your spa area more inviting. Here’s some ideas on how to set a romantic mood with the hot tub.

COUPLE IN A HOT TUB WITH ROSE PETALS AND CANDLES

  • Soft Music and Soft Lighting. Set up some Bluetooth speakers and play a soft romantic playlist. Use candles to light the path, or around the tub.
  • Romance - one of many sensuous spa crystalsRose Petals! Make a path of rose petals leading to the spa. Set aside a bowl of petals to add to the water just before helping her into the tub.
  • Tropical Plants! Add a few large green tropicals around the spa, or flowering plants to soften the view and add some natural flora.
  • Aromatherapy! Our spa scents and spa crystals add sensual aromas to heighten the 5 senses and increase desire. Really works!
  • Bottle of Champagne, chilling in a bucket, with two (plastic) champagne flutes. Classically romantic.
  • Hang Curtains! Or bed sheets even. If your spa is out in the open, hang privacy screening around spa.

Having a few conversations starters ready to go can help keep things light and fun. Playing “Remember when…?” or dreaming together about exotic travel plans are two good starters. Or, trading off with each other for 2 minute mini-massages is another great way to start a conversation!

 

FOOD IN A HOT TUB?

For snacks while in the hot tub, I always recommend fruits and veggies, especially colorful berries and fruit wedges. Avoid any greasy foods or dips. Just some brightly colored fruits, enjoyed au naturel. Here’s a few other romantic ideas for dining on over-crowded Valentine’s Day, or any time!chocolate covered strawberry

  • Al Fresco Candlelight Dining for two on your patio.
  • Private Dining by candlelight in your own home – with your kids as servers perhaps.
  • Private Sunset Picnic at the beach, lake or favorite scenic overview.
  • Appetizer Smorgasbord – fill a large platter with your favorite restaurant style appetizers.
  • Breakfast for Dinner – after your romantic hot tub adventure, jump in the car for IHOP or a local Diner.
  • Dinner with Friends – before things heat up, plan an intimate Valentines’ dinner party with good friends.

 

Heat things up this Valentine’s Day, or any day – your hot tub is an intimate and personal way to spend quality time with your significant other. Even if it has lost a bit of the original allure, you can bring back the magic with these Romantic Hot Tub Ideas!

 

XOXO;

 

Gina Galvin

16 Funny TV Ads Featuring Hot Tubs

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Hot Tubs are a favorite theme for advertisers, because of their appeal to the emotions. In this collection of 16 product ads featuring hot tubs, spas are portrayed as sexy, relaxing, awkward – or all of the above. Take a look, and share this post if you chuckled, even just a little bit.

 

 

Too Funny ~ Hot Tubs as popular culture! Hat Tip to Bullfrog Spas blog who first posted their Funniest Hot Tub Commercials on TV, and inspired this updated version.

 

Carolyn Mosby
Hot Tub Works

15 Hot Tub Deck Surround Ideas

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cool-hot-tub-surrounds
Spas and hot tubs by themselves are wonderful, but when they are just plopped onto the back patio, they can look kinda plain.

For designers, the spa or hot tub is a focal point, and hot tub surrounds are used to dress it up and provide conveniences and privacy.

Today we look at some elegant ways to add a hot tub surround, or custom hot tub decks to ‘frame and set’ your spa or hot tub.

1. Marquis Spas accessory package paired with some big pots makes this spa blend well with the surrounding open patio.

Marquis Spa Hot Tub Surround Kit

2. Attractively designed wood spa surround wrapped in sturdy foliage that adds color and comfort all year long.

Hot Spring Spa with wood deck surround

3. Stone hot tub surround with a cinder block foundation, wrapped in faux stacked stone and topped with flagstone.

hot-tub-surrounds-3

4. Hot tub surround is capped with a cabana and wrapped with a wet bar and wood step and box planter.

Caldera hot tub surround

5. Jacuzzi wrapped in rocks is set 2 ft lower and hidden with large boulders and colorful plants.

Baja Spa with rock surround

6. This lighted Pergola roof with lattice privacy wall is extended to include a side table, or with large pillow, a lounge.

Jacuzzi spa with wood pergola and lattice

7. Wrap the spa in stained planks and add a stack of steps with down lighting. Add a custom fence and bamboo planters.

wood cabinet and steps plans for spa shell

8. When your neighbors are this close, a proper privacy fence can help you enjoy your spa more.

wood hot-tub-surround and deck with seating and privacy wall

9. And for privacy at home, use large hedges, vine trellises, ornamental grass or bamboo around the hot tub.

hot tub surrounded by tall hedge, grasses, bamboo

10. Two more examples of a 4-post structure to mount lattice walls and side tables around a hot tub.

Hot tub with Pergola and Cabana

11. Close slat fence is capped with a vine trellis. Separate seating area, just off the Master bedroom. Sweet!

hot tub deck wood surround, off master bedroom

12. Inground tile spa kit by Signature with a beautiful hot tub surround and seating area. Tiki torch!

Inground tile hot tub wrapped in wood

13. If you have a real hot tub, wooden barrel type, wrap around wood stairs are popular.

classic wood hot tub step and wrap around

14. Japanese inspired spa gazebo surrounds the spa with sliding window panels and roll screens for a quiet retreat.

Hot tub gazebo, classic Japanese Hot House style

15. Hand Carved Concrete by Artiststone, created this impressive hot tub surround to blend with the natural surroundings.

hand carved concrete spa steps, faux stone

 

I hope these ideas on how to surround your hot tub was what you were looking for! If you’ve grown tired of your current hot tub surroundings, dress it up with wood and stone, and wrap it in plants to soften the surround.

 

XOXO;

 

Gina Galvin
Hot Tub Works

 

Olympic Divers Love Hot Tubs

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nbc-video-olympic-divers-using-hot-tub Photo by NBC Universal
If you’ve been following the Rio Olympics this past week, you may have noticed that Olympic divers take to a hot tub after their dives, awaiting their scores and looking, oh so relaxed.

What is this Olympic athlete pampering? I don’t know of other sport besides diving where the participants can relax in bubbling bliss after their events. Why do Olympic divers get in a hot tub after their dives?

Twitter has caught fire with the question, and trending on Google last week was the query “Why do Olympic divers get in the hot tub?”. The people want to know!

tweets-about-why-do-olympic-divers-get-in-the-hot-tub

The reason why divers jump into a hot tub after a dive is simply to keep the muscles warm and limber, in preparation for their next dive. Indoor pool stadiums filled with spectators can become too warm, so officials lower the water temperature and the air temperature.

So while the pool water is fairly cool (79°F or 26°C), the ambient air temperature near the pool surface is near 72°, and this gives wet divers a chill after their dives.

Unlike swimmers, who may only swim 1 event per day, divers compete in rounds of several dives. Competitive divers typically take a warm shower, followed by a hot tub soak and a toweling off with a tiny towel. (what’s up with that tiny towel?)

But not all Olympic divers jump in the hot tub, some opt for a short warm shower, and a long insulated coat between dives. Maybe some divers were purposely avoiding the hot tub in Rio, given the color and clarity of the spa water [below].

Video screen shot, credit NBC Universal

Maybe you thought they were rinsing off from their dives in the green water at the Rio Olympic diving pool? After struggles with returning the water to blue after green algae infested the diving pool, Rio 2016 spokesman Mario Andrada said, “We first learned that chemistry is not an exact science”. What?

nbc-green-diving-poolRio 2016 officials have resorted to draining the 3.7 million gallon diving pool, which they blame on the introduction of 160 gallons of Hydrogen Peroxide into the water by a technician.

There is another recent diving pool complaint in the news, are you ready for this? That the entire indoor diving pool facility ‘smells of far..’ [rotten eggs]. That could be a water problem or chemical reaction, off-gassing some sort of sulfide.  The training pool, located right next to the diving pool, is blue and clear.

 


Anyway, the reason why divers take a shower and get in a hot tub after their dives – is to prevent muscle cramping, and maintain the body core temperature, so they can perform at their best! Most have hot tubs at their home training facilities, and it becomes part of their routine!

Enjoy the rest of the Rio 2016 Olympics!

 

Carolyn Mosby
Hot Tub Works

 

 

Replacing a Spa Pack

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balboa-vs-spa-pack-newToday we cover, in detail – how to replace your spa or hot tub “Spa Pack”, the combination Controller, Heater and Pump system that connects to the Top Side panel and controls all of the functions for filtering, heating, lighting and purifying your spa; automatically.

The controller and heater of a Spa Pack (without the pump) can be installed separately; but if you want a complete upgrade, install the Balboa VS Spa Pack with 1 or 2 pumps, which will include the new digital Topside Panel, LED spa light and all new wiring. Blower is optional.

 

REMOVING THE OLD SPA PACK

1. DRAIN THE SPA

Unless you have valving on either side of your existing spa pack, you’ll need to have the water removed to replace your spa pack.

2. SHUT OFF ALL POWER

Disconnect completely at the circuit breaker in the panel or breaker box, and also at any secondary cut-off boxes that may be located nearby the spa or hot tub. Lock the boxes or place tape over the breaker to keep anyone from turning it on again, while you are working. Use a voltmeter to be sure that power is completely Off.

3. UN-PLUG THE PACK

Start by disconnecting the incoming electrical wiring (checking first with a voltmeter to be sure power is Off). Remove the front panel and simply unscrew the nuts or disconnect the wiring from the main terminal block, inside your existing spa pak control.

Next you can remove the accessory items that are plugged into the spa pack. Pump(s), blower, lights, panel, ozone, stereo, sensors. Fold over a piece of masking tape on each wire and write the port code, or write a color – code legend on paper, so you remember which wire goes where.

Look for a bare copper bonding wire that connects to the bar outside the control box. Remove or clip off with wire cutters.

4. UN-PLUMB THE PACK

Disconnect the plumbing unions that connect in and out of the heater, and the spa pack should slide out, mounted on a small skid made of plastic or plywood. Disconnect the unions on the pool pump or blower if necessary.

Inspect the floor beneath the old spa pack for rots and damage which is not uncommon, if the floor is not bare concrete, but a frame.Sweep up around the area, removing any dust or leaves, or excessive water loss.

 

INSTALLING THE NEW SPA PACK

1. ASSEMBLE THE PAK

balboa-spa-pack-partsThere’s some minor assembly required to connect the controller to the pump, via the double-90 fitting arrangement. The heater connection is made with the white gasket and the pump union is sealed up with the black gasket. Be sure that the o-ring and gasket is sitting in place properly and don’t overtighten the union nut on the pump or the split nut union on the heater.

2. PLUMB THE PACK

Connecting the plumbing in and out should be pretty fast, just position the new spa pack in place so that the plumbing lines up, the connection into the heater and the connection out of the pump.

plumbing-a-balboa-vs-spa-packFor the suction line, bringing water into the heater and then the pump, tighten the union together, using the old union, or cutting the pipe and gluing into the new split nut union.

For the return line, coming out of the top of the pump, this is a standard 2″ threaded pvc fitting or union, often a 90° fitting is used. Put Teflon tape or RTV silicone (or both) on the threads before hand tightening, very snug, and lined up with the pipe.

Use the same fitting from the old pump, if possible. If you cannot loosen the fitting in the old pump by hand, use very large channel lock type pliers to remove, or use a strap wrench. Or you can gently tap the ridges counter clockwise, with a small screwdriver and hammer.

Once your plumbing is connected, check that the skid is level using a small carpenter’s level. Shim the pack if necessary, with steel or plastic, and secure it the floor by running a  screw through the corners of the mounting base, into a wood frame or directly into the concrete.

3. WIRING THE PACK

All wiring is done with the power still Off. Double check with a voltmeter to be certain that power has not been mistakenly turned back on again while your plumbed the new spa pack in place.

Open the front cover of the Spa Control by loosening the top two cover screws, the bottom of the panel is hinged, swing the door down and open from the top.  On the inside of the panel door or cover you will see the wiring diagram for the receptacles, switches and components. Main power wires enter through the upper left side access hole, below which is the grounding and bonding bar on the left side, outside the cabinet.

balboa-vs-control-panel-wiring

New power cords are included for the various components, it’s best to replace the cords rather than use the old ones, even if they look intact. Plug in the cord to all the electrical loads like secondary pumps, blower, ozonator, lights, topside panel and the other end into the labeled slot on the motherboard. For single pump spas, or twin spas without a blower, the VS501 circuit board below is used.

balboa-vs-spa-pack-wiring-diagram

Wire the panel by bringing the wires inside on the upper left and connecting the power and the ground wires. Pumps, blowers and ozonators should also be bonded in accordance with your local codes. This is essentially connecting any metal component within 5 ft of the spa to the bonding grid or buss bar. Make sure that ground connections are solid. Torque to 27-30 lbs, which is pretty tight!

TEST DRIVING YOUR NEW SPA PACK

balboa-VS-spa-pak-installation-smFill the spa to normal level and check underneath the new spa pak for any leakage around the new plumbing connections. Turn on power to the spa pak and follow the quick start guide included with your  spa controller.

That’s it; 1001 words about how to replace your spa pack. We’ve just got a truckload of new Balboa spa packs and spa controllers in, and can have a new one shipped to you this week for the swap!

If you have any questions about replacing your old worn out spa controller pump and heater with a brand spanking new spa pack, you can order online, or give us a call to ask any questions about ordering or installing.

 

Happy Hot Tubbin’

Daniel Lara
Hot Tub Works

 

 

 

Salt Water Spas and Hot Tubs – FAQ

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Image Credit: MISES.orgYou’ve heard about salt water spas or salt water hot tubs – as an accessory with a new spa purchase, or an easy add-on to an existing spa or hot tub.

To be honest, I’m not the biggest fan of salt water systems, let me say that right up front. But they do have certain advantages over other methods of keeping your water disinfected, and could be the best choice in some situations.

Here’s answers to the most Frequently Asked Questions about salt water hot tubs.

 

HOW DO SALT WATER SPAS WORK?

Well, I’m no chemist, but when you add water (H2O) and salt (NaOCl) together, you have all the ingredients needed to make chlorine. But first, you have to separate the molecules, breaking apart the Hydrogen, Oxygen, Sodium and Chloride. This is done through electrolysis, passing the water over two electrified platinum or titanium plates, (the salt cell) one positively charged (the anode) and one negatively charged (the cathode).

The small electric current causes the water and salt molecules to break apart (disassociate), and recombine into HOCl and NaOH, or Hypochlorous Acid and Sodium Hydroxide. Hypochlorous acid is pure chlorine and it instantly begins to sanitize the water. After some hard work killing off any germs in the water, the chlorine converts back to chloride and recombines with sodium, to form salt once again, in a continuous process.

Or, more simply – you add salt to the spa, about 2 lbs per 100 gallons, and hook up the salt chlorine generator device, and pass the water through it. As the salty water passes through the tiny electrolysis machine (electrified metal plates), it comes out the other side with a small amount of chlorine.

WHEN DO SALT WATER SPAS NOT WORK?

They usually do – but there are some times when the technology can fail. Like if you stop heating your spa and the water temp cools way down, below 60°, the salt cell will stop producing chlorine. Also, if the power goes out, or when the spa is turned off, the electrically powered salt cell also turns off, unlike a bromine or mineral floating dispenser.

If the salt cell becomes clogged or coated with minerals (which are naturally attracted to the charged plates), chlorine output can be severely reduced. Salt water systems also need the proper salt level in the water to operate, if too high or too low it affects output and cell life. And good water balance is important, if your pH and Alkalinity is or calcium Hardness is off, chlorine output and cell life are compromised.

If you are in a “hard water area”, where water comes out of the tap very hard (over 400 ppm), you may have a problem with mineral clogging of the salt cell, and a shorter salt cell life. Most manufacturers recommend a low calcium hardness level. If your calcium hardness level is over 150 ppm, look for a self-cleaning salt system.

And finally, your salt cell will eventually lose its mojo, and stop producing chlorine (or bromine) altogether, which can be 1-5 years, depending on the model.

ADVANTAGES TO SPA SALT SYSTEMS?

  1. Softer, silkier water – because of the salt added. And if you use Dead Sea salts, you also get potassium and magnesium, and sodium.
  2. No binders and fillers – bromine and chlorine tablets or granules contain additives that just junk-up the spa water.
  3. Fewer chemicals to store and handle. You may still need some tablets and/or MPS on hand, but will only need them rarely.

DIS-ADVANTAGES TO SPA SALT SYSTEMS?

  1. Salt is corrosive. Even at low levels of 2500 ppm, damage could occur to shiny chrome finishes, or soft rubber parts.
  2. Galvanic corrosion can make it easier for spa staining to occur, if your water has high levels of copper, iron or manganese.
  3. Draining a salt water hot tub can damage a lawn or landscaping, from high salt levels.

COST OF MAINTAINING A SALT HOT TUB?

In the long run, the cost of s salt water hot tub system is going to be about the same as using chlorine granules or bromine tablets. Salt is cheap (but Dead Sea salts are considerably more), but you’ll need to replace it every time you drain the spa. And the salt cell (plumbed inline, or draped over the spa side) will need to replaced in 1-5 years, depending on the model. Do the math before you buy, and you may find that traditional methods will be cheaper – in the long run.

TYPES OF SPA SALT SYSTEMS?

They all operate the same way, with a Salt Cell and a power source or Control Panel. The traditional cell is installed into the plumbing, where you cut out a foot or so of piping (after the heater, and any other purifier equipment), and plumb the salt cell in place. There is another type with a cell and cable; drop it over the side of the spa, and it just rests a foot or so below water, like the Saltron Mini. Most spa salt systems have a control box, wall mounted or spa mounted, for status and diagnostics, and allow control of chlorine output, with simple Up (^) and Down (v) buttons.

BROMINE OR CHLORINE SALT SYSTEMS?

A salt water hot tub can be bromine if you use sodium bromide or chlorine if you use sodium chloride. So you don’t have to switch from bromine, just because you start using a salt chlorinator. It depends on which types of salt you use – sodium bromide salts will convert to bromine and sodium chloride salts (regular salt) will convert into chlorine. The cost of using the Bromides will be higher however, but bromine does have benefits over chlorine in a hot water environment.

super salty~ I hope you enjoyed this little lesson on salt water spas and hot tubs. Salt water hot tubs are quite enjoyable, and have great benefits, as long as you maintain good water balance, proper salt levels, and don’t overwork the cell. Use MPS shock (non-chlorine shock) after each use, to reduce the amount of chlorine needed, which will extend your salt cell life.

Corrosion issues can be solved by using a zinc anode somewhere in the spa, which will protect shiny finishes. Staining and scaling issues can be solved by using a Stain & Scale control.

Give us a call, or leave a comment below if we can help out in any way!

 

XOXO;

Gina Galvin
Hot Tub Works

 

 

 

Hot Tub Water Conservation

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do-not-wash-saving-water-for-my-hot-tub

Are hot tubs and spas water wasters? The mayor of San Jose thinks so – in May, the San Jose city council voted to prohibit filling pools and hot tubs. And in Santa Clara, California, hot tub owners are allowed to replace hot tub water, but only after agreeing to take fewer showers.

Santa Clara also has required “Water School” for the edification of water restriction violators. What’s this world coming to? It is the new reality of life in California and other water poor states. Until the drought subsides, or new water harvesting technologies are installed, we will have to comply.

So then, for the hot tub owner who wants to keep their hot tub bubblin’, here are some ways to conserve hot tub water.

How to Extend the Life of Hot Tub Water

It’s a commonly accepted practice to drain and refill a spa after 3-4 months of use. This is due to a build-up of dissolved solids and and oily substances that can begin to “choke” the water over time, which can make water balance and complete sanitation more difficult. However, there are ways to extend the life of your spa or hot tub water…

Beginner Tips:

  • Check and balance the water 2-3 times per week, to keep levels optimum.
  • Replace your Spa Filter every 6-12 months, to keep filtration optimum.
  • Use a Spa Ozonator or Mineral Purifier, as a supplement to bromine.
  • Use Spa Enzymes to dissolve oils and organics.
  • Use Spa Clarifier to improve filter effectiveness.

Pro Tips:

  • Install a secondary in-line spa filter, to improve filtration.
  • Use a Pre-Filter to clean hot tub fill water (excuse my French!).
  • Use a floating foam blanket and a good spa cover to reduce evaporation.
  • Use a Rain Barrel to capture hot tub water (I know, what Rain?).
  • Limit hot tub use, if needed, to reduce solids build-up.

Eventually, you will need to change the water, but if a spa is maintained very well and not overloaded to capacity with users, it is possible to extend the time between water changes for a year, or even longer in some cases.

To protect your hot tub health however, you must always maintain the water balance and sanitation, and over-filter the water by running the filter pump for a sufficient amount of time each day. Periodic shock treatment is also necessary, in addition to keeping a constant bromine residual in the water.

A solid spa cover in good condition is important, to prevent water loss from evaporation. Drag off and splash out can also be controlled, and be sure to fix leaks in the plumbing or around the spa equipment.

The Future of Hot Tub Water

water_faucet_drop_400_wht_11410Some water watchers warn that we are only at the forefront of the current crisis in America and that rationing and cut-backs are sure to continue and escalate in many areas. If your town is under a water use restriction, you probably know about it.

To find out if there are any spa or hot tub restrictions (and not just swimming pool water restrictions), you can do an online search for “City/Town/County water use restrictions”, or visit your local government website and search therein.

 

– Jack