Hot tubs and spas contain a lot of electrical parts – so many in fact, that I’m wondering if I have time today to write this blog post!
Hot Tub Works has a full supply of electrical parts for your spa and hot tub – here’s a quick summary of each electric part category, what they control, and how to know if you may need a replacement electric part for your spa or hot tub.
Printed Circuit Boards, sometimes called a PCB, for short, is the brain of your spa. It’s job is to mechanically control all of the functions of your spa, through relays, capacitors and resistors, connected by tiny copper strips, carrying tiny amounts of electricity. To some, a PCB looks like a small industrial city, with roads and buildings.
Most PCB problems will throw an error code to indicate a faulty board, and most modern boards cannot be repaired, without advanced micro-electronic skills. In the absence of error codes, many times a PCB will display burned or scorched areas, or bulged or cracked “buildings”. Insect infestation or voltage irregularities can fry your circuit board. We have over 50 circuit boards on our website, but if you don’t see yours, give us a call!
A contactor is essentially a relay, used for higher voltage applications, like your heater element. Contactors are available in low voltage, usually 24 volts, 110V or 220V, single pole, double pole or sequencing. They operate like a switch, with power coming in one side and out the other. Testing a contactor with a voltage meter (and extreme care), one should have identical voltage on both sides of the contactor. If the voltage tests out OK, but the contactor is not engaging, or closing, one could assume that the contactor, or internal coil has failed.
Insect infestation or dirt on the poles could cause the contactor to not close completely, and sometimes will make a buzzing noise, known as “chattering”. We list over 20 different contactors on our website, to match the specs printed on the contactor label. Give us a call if you have trouble identifying the correct contactor for your spa or hot tub.
Cords and connectors carry the power from your spa controller to the various equipment of your spa – heater, blower, pumps. There are many types of cords used on spas and hot tubs, with different connector ends – J&J, Amp, Spade, NEMA, in both female (receptacles) and male (plugs). Cords can become damaged by incorrect voltage, physical wear, or from chewing rodents. Connectors can become rusted from the elements or bent and broken from too much handling.
Identifying the correct cord is done by the connection type at both ends, and the length of the cord. Although relatively inexpensive to replace the entire wire harness, we also have certain end pins and connectors, for field repair of damaged cord connectors. With over 70 types of cords listed on our website, it can get confusing, so give a call or send an email (with photos!) if you need help selecting the correct cord for your spa or hot tub.
The purpose of each of these is to interrupt power to the spa equipment, for the purpose of safe testing or repair. They also function to protect expensive spa components by blowing or tripping when incoming voltage is too high. Fuses are available as small as 1 amp, up to 30 amps. GFI’s, or Ground Fault Interrupters, are essentially an electrical outlet, designed to trip the red ‘test’ button when incoming voltage is outside of the preset limits. Breakers, or circuit breakers, are used to ‘break the circuit’, or cut power to the spa for draining, repair or testing.
Although fuses, breakers and GFI’s can go bad on their own, blowing a fuse, or tripping a breaker is usually a sign of a voltage problem. If you are ordering a new replacement fuse, buying more than one may be wise – if it blows again, a voltage issue is at hand, and it should be tracked down before replacing the fuse again.
High Limits, usually spelled Hi Limit, function to shut off a runaway spa heater. When the upper limit of heat in the spa is sensed, the hi-limit will prevent power from reaching the heater element, saving the element itself, and you – from overheating. Most hi limits have a capillary bulb type sensor, connected to the control by a bare copper wire. Newer spa hi limits, like the Hydro-Quip hi limit (shown), sense overheating through a membrane on the back of the control.
Older hi limit switches used in spas will have a manual reset button, once temperature has cooled below 100 degrees. Newer hi limits may have an auto reset feature. Continued nuisance tripping of the hi limit can indicate incorrect voltage to the heater element, a faulty hi limit switch, or – it could be that your spa filter cartridge is excessively dirty, slowing down the water flow enough to increase the temperature inside the sensing well.
Relays are a type of switch with an activating mechanism, used in almost all spa and hot tub equipment – pumps, blowers, lights and heaters. Many common relays are now available in a clear view cube style, so you can see the relay activate (or not activate) – this can be immensely helpful in troubleshooting spa relays. A relay can be of many types – contactors and air switches are a type of relay, and among relays there are many styles or types.
Testing relays can be difficult if it’s attached to a circuit board, but if there are exposed terminals, you can test voltage coming in and out of the relay. If the voltage is correct and identical on both sides of the relay, the internal coil is likely receiving and transferring the power correctly. However, the relay can be faulty if this voltage is not engaging the internal switch. We have nearly 40 different types of spa relays at HotTubWorks, to fit any spa pack.
Rocker switches or toggle switches may be used on older spas to activate certain functions. Air switches, those which are powered electrically, are more commonly used as a spa side control, to turn on and off jets, blower, heater, etc.. Air Buttons, connected to a small air hose, are not electrical spa parts, but could also be a cause of spa component problems. Switches for your spa can develop dirty contacts, inside the switch, or corroded terminals outside of the switch.
Testing a spa switch with a jumper wire, placed on both in and out wires of the switch can be used to determine if the switch is the root cause of your spa problem. Relatively inexpensive to replace, we have dozens of hot tub switches available. As always, if you need help determining the correct switch to use for your spa, please contact us!
Mechanical thermostats work to control your spa temperature within +/- 1 degree. They work by sensing the water temperature from a freon-filled capillary bulb, or thermo bulb, housed in a dry or wet well. When the temperature knob is turned up, you should hear an audible click when the current temperature setting is reached on the dial.
Causes of thermostat problems include corroded bulbs or wells, ambient air reaching the bulb, or the thermostat could be mis-calibrated. Older thermostats will allow adjustments by turning a small hex screw located on the side of the thermostat, but be careful not to adjust it so much that the spa temperature exceeds 105 degrees. We have 15 different spa thermostats on hottubworks.com, with capillary wire lengths from 6″ to 60″, and with capillary bulb lengths from 2.25″ to 4.75″.
At Hot Tub Works, Spa and Hot Tub Parts is our Passion. Our staff is knowledgeable about spa parts, and many of our call center staff are former spa techs, so you can get the help you need with a simple phone call or email.