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FAQ About Spas and Hot Tubs

August 17th, 2015 by

spa-hot-tub-careBefore I came to Hot Tub Works, I worked in a spa retail store for ten years, selling spas. So when it comes to questions about hot tubs and spas, we must have heard them all.

There’s a lot to consider when buying a spa or hot tub, so many features, styles and options. Nothing overly complicated, but for someone who has never owned a spa before, it seems very confusing.

Today’s FAQ or Frequently Asked Questions, answers questions about Buying a Spa or Hot Tub. Next time, I’ll cover questions about spa safety and ongoing spa maintenance.

Q: How often do you need to Change the Water?
A: That depends on how much you use the spa or hot tub, and how clean your bathers are (see above), but generally speaking, most residential spas are drained every 3-4 months. For spas and hot tubs that are mandated to conserve water, there are ways to extend your time between changes for up to a year if needed. 

Q: How does a Spa Filter work?
A: Spas and hot tubs are filtered by pleated polyester cartridges. A filter pump pulls the water through the material, which traps dirt and particles down to a very small size. As the dirt loads up in the cartridge, it will need cleaning with a garden hose, once or twice per month. After 12-15 cleanings, it’s time to replace the spa filter

Q: How does a Spa Heater work?
A:
Spas and hot tubs are heated by an electrical immersion element, much like the types used in electric home water heaters. When the control system gets a call for heat from the thermostat, it checks flow, pressure and temperature before sending power to the element, which heats up very fast to warm the water as it rushes past the element.

Q: What Chemicals are needed for a Spa?
A: 
Spas and hot tubs are most often sanitized continuously with bromine tablets in a floater, and shocked with a non-chlorine oxidizer after each use. Many spas also use an ozonator or mineral purifier to supplement the bromine. Also, you’ll need to check and periodically adjust pH, Alkalinity and Calcium Hardness levels.

Q: Do I really need a Spa Cover?
A:
 Yes, absolutely – it’s like having a house with no roof, or a refrigerator with no door – it just wouldn’t make sense not to have a quality spa cover. By the way, most standard spa covers that come with a new spa are usually junk – but it’s a good starter cover. Most folks buy a new spa covers every 3-5 years.

Q: Do I really need a Spa Cover lifter?
A:
Yes again – but many people try it for a while without a cover lifter, and end up a spa cover lifter soon. Without one, you risk damage to the spa cover while moving it, or when it’s off the spa. And if your cover becomes even slightly waterlogged, oof! it’s heavy. And fellows, it may be easy for you, but smaller people (like me!) really struggle without a cover lifter.

Q: What Replacement Items will I need to Buy?
A:
Spa cover every 3-5 years, filter cartridge every 1-2 years. Ozone cells wear out after 18 months, and mineral purifiers last 6 months typically. You’ll also have a stock of chemicals that will need regular replenishing. Spa pillows may deteriorate after several years under the cover.

Q: Will my Spa attract Rodents?
A: 
It’s not uncommon for mice to try to make a home beneath the warm spa cabinet. Using mint bags or moth balls will deter them, as will keeping it clear around the spa. Seal up any access points, but never block any vents (although you can staple a wire mesh over the vents).

Q: Is an Air Blower required equipment?
A:
It is not, many hot tubs don’t have one, as they are more of a soaking vessel. Adding forced air into the return line accentuates the force of the bubble, and having seat jets, well that just feels really good! The problem with the blower is that they are usually somewhat noisy, and makes the water really “bouncy”. They also tend to lower the water temperature because they draw in air that is much colder than the water.

Q: Where can I install a Hot Tub or Spa?
A: A spa or hot tub full of water can weigh over 3000 lbs! For this reason it must be placed on a 4 inch thick reinforced concrete slab, or an equally sturdy wood deck (on compacted earth) capable of holding 100 lbs per square foot. You should never install on a balcony or unsupported deck, or set on the bare earth. 

Q: How much will my Electrical Bill Increase with a Spa?
A: Generally about $10-$20 per month, depending on where you live. Some areas of the US pay much more than other parts of the country pay for electricity. In most cases, you may not even notice the bump of $15 per month.

Q: How much will I spend on Spa Chemicals?
A: If you buy our 6-month chemical packages, you’ll spend about $250 per year on chemicals, but you can go a la carte, and spend much less, by buying only what you absolutely need. But, it’s important not to skimp too much on chemicals, or you end up having to drain and clean to correct a poor water situation.

Q: How do I Drain and Clean a Hot Tub?
A: Most have a spigot underneath that you connect a garden hose to, or you could use a small submersible pump. While empty, it’s  a good time to clean the surfaces, especially around the water line. When refilling the tub, you may need to make adjustments to water chemistry, if your fill water is less than perfect.

Q: What are the larger Expenses for a Spa Owner?
A: In most cases, the spa is trouble free for at least 5 years. At that point, things begin to show your age. You will likely need a new spa cover by now, maybe a new cover lifter, too. Spa components and electronics are more stable nowadays than 20 years ago, and you can expect trouble free performance for 10 years or more.  In most cases, a major spa repair is not more than $500 in spa parts.

Q: Do I need a Spa Cover on an Empty or Unheated Spa?
A: Yes, unless the spa is covered and shaded from the damaging effects of the sun. Just a few hours of daily direct sunlight can damage spa interior surfaces. Spa covers also serve an important safety function by keeping out children and animals.

Q: How much space is needed around the Spa?
A: The spa cover and spa cover lifter need to have room to operate, and depending on which cover lifter is used, you will need from 6″ to 18″ of clearance on 3 sides of the spa. Also important is easy access to the equipment spa pack (pump, heater, filter, blower, valves…).

Q: Can I place the Spa or Hot Tub Indoors?
A: This is generally not recommended, due to the heat and humidity that a spa gives off during use, and even while covered. It also presents a flooding hazard, and there will certainly be lots of water around the spa. Moisture and humidity will damage your walls and your home over time, unless the room is designed to manage the moisture.

Q: Do you have to Shower before Using a Spa?
A: It is recommended to shower before using the spa, to reduce the oils and dirt (and even bits of fecal matter) that will enter the spa. My usual routine is to shower and remove make-up, put my hair up, and then saunter to the spa. But there are times when I don’t have time, and that’s OK once a week or so, just shake in some shock after use. Water management can become difficult if the spa is used as a bathtub, requiring extra chemicals and filtration to compensate.

Q: How Hot do Spas Get?
A: Spas are triple protected with high limits and temperature sensors to detect an overheating situation that could be dangerous to users or to the equipment. Most spas will not heat above 105°, but for safety’s sake a lower temperature of 102-104° should be used, and for children, the temp should always be under 100°.

Q: How fast do Spas Heat Up?
A: It depends on the size and voltage of heaters. 220V spas will heat twice as fast as 110V spas. Heater elements are sized in kilowatts, with larger spas using an 11 kw element, but smaller spas with a 5.5kw or 4kw element. 220V spas with an 11kw element can heat 6-8 degrees F per hour, but 110V heaters (plug and play models), only heat 2-3 degrees per hour.  Once it heats up, a well insulated spa can maintain a hot temperature quite economically.

Q: What is a Well Insulated Spa?
A: Full foam spas spray expanding foam throughout the space between the spa shell and the cabinet, except in the equipment bay area. This is the best form of insulation. Spas used in warm southern climates don’t need as much insulation as northern spas, but the more you have, the cheaper and faster it is to heat!

Q: Is it OK to use Well Water in a Spa?
A: Sure, well water is typically fine water. If your home has a water softener and in-home filters, it may be best to use your spa test strips to test the unfiltered water (typically from the hose) and the filtered or softened water from the sink. Well water may contain more heavy metals and minerals which could stain some spa surfaces, similar to what you may see in your bathtub or bath sinks. I always recommend using a pre-filter for well water or for city water that smells, looks or tastes funny!

Q: Do I need to have a Fence around my Spa?
A: Not directly around the spa, but in most towns and cities in the U.S., a portable spa or hot tub is treated with the same fencing regulations as an aboveground swimming pool. You probably do need some type of fencing to protect the community; check your local government website for details.

Q: What Tests do I need for the Spa Water?
A:
You’ll need to regularly check the spa pH level and the bromine level, just about every other day, or at least before you use the spa. Bromine level should be a constant (all the time!) level of 3-4 ppm and the pH should be adjusted if needed, to be between 7.2 and 7.6. Test strips easily give you results in 30 seconds.

Q: Can Children Use a Spa or Hot Tub?
A: Toddlers should not be allowed to use the spa. At age 4 or 5, supervised children can be allowed a short session in spa water that has cooled to below 100°. Because young children are more susceptible to bacteria, they should always keep their head above water.

Q: Can I do my own Spa Repairs?
A: Spa Maintenance is simple. Spa repairs (to pumps, heater or control circuits) is within reach of most handy homeowners. Most spas nowadays are self-diagnosing, with very little testing or troubleshooting required. Owner’s Manuals for modern spas and spa packs are quite detailed with step by step flow chart repair guides. And we have all the spa repair parts you could ever need, here at Hot Tub Works.

Thanks! I hope you learned something! I learned that I shouldn’t sit so long in one position – I need to go sit in my spa for awhile. Bye!

 

XOXO;

Gina Galvin
Hot Tub Works

 

 

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