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Carolyn Mosby's Posts

Beginner’s Guide to Spa & Hot Tub Care

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hot tub care

Spa and hot tub care – take a deep breath! Don’t worry, it isn’t too hard. Remember, if things get out of control, you can always drain the spa and start over!

For the new spa owner, or for someone who is new to spa maintenance, we have a few easy tips to help you care for your spa. These simple hot tub maintenance and cleaning tasks will keep your water crystal clear, sanitary and ready to use. Keep reading to learn how to maintain proper water chemistry and keep your spa equipment in top shape.

 

Keep Up with Water Chemistry

If you’ve read the Secret to Hot Tub Chemistry post, you already know the secret of spa care and cleaner water. In short, you need to test the water. Use these results and make small adjustments to pH, alkalinity, calcium hardness and sanitizer levels regularly. This means testing the spa water 2-4 times per week and adjusting levels as needed to keep the water balanced within the proper ranges:

Water testing is an important part of hot tub care.

Keeping a log is a good idea to track your test results and make notes on adjustments. In many cases, you’ll start to notice patterns in water chemistry, especially with pH and sanitizer levels.

Tap water is pretty good spa water in most areas. But in some areas (you know where you are), you may run into water quality issues. Soft or hard water, high alkalinity, pH imbalance, and high levels of chloramines, metals or minerals can all negatively impact water balance in your hot tub. Use a test kit to sample your tap water directly from the source or after a drain and refill. This will help you gauge the suitability of your tap water for use in the spa. Using a spa pre-filter removes metals, odors and the finest silt from your spa fill water.

Clean the Spa Filter

Clean the spa filter during regular hot tub maintenance.The spa filter is usually under the skimmer basket and can be accessed from the side of the spa, or it can be a small tank assembly that is opened up underneath the spa. You’ll need to locate it first in order to clean or replace the filter during your spa care routine. If it’s underneath the spa, there should be a closable valve that helps prevent water from rushing out when you open the filter. Loosening a large nut or just turning the filter body counter clockwise is the usual method to access the filter cartridge. Some water spillage is inevitable when opening it up. But if done carefully, this will be very little.

If your spa filter has a pressure gauge attached to it, the cartridge needs cleaned when the pressure rises 8-10 PSI higher than the freshly cleaned pressure reading, or when flow is noticeably reduced. If there’s no gauge on your filter, just clean the filter on a regular schedule. I clean my own filter cartridge every 4-8 weeks, depending on how often I use the spa. If my hot tub is being used a few times per week, I’ll clean the filter about every 4 weeks, or once a month.

Replace your spa filter every 1-2 years, again depending on usage. The general rule of thumb is to change it every 10-15 cleanings, because that’s what really breaks down a cartridge. Every time it gets cleaned, the fibers loosen up and it loses a little bit of its dirt trapping ability. Keep track of your spa filter’s age and/or cleaning cycles, because at some point soon it’s gonna be “Hasta la vista, baby!”

Clean the Spa

Clean the hot tub regularly to keep it looking nice.Speaking of regular spa care, a full cleaning of all surfaces, the waterline and plumbing should happen whenever the spa is drained, which should happen every 3-4 months. Just be sure to NOT use any household cleaning products or soaps. If want to use cleaning chemicals on your spa surfaces, try something like our Spa Cleaner spray to keep out phosphates, nitrates and other contaminants that can negatively affect water quality.

For accumulated dirt and debris, vacuum seats and floors with a small vacuum made specifically for spas and hot tubs. Most are battery powered, but there are other styles available. The Pool Blaster spa vacuum is battery operated and easy to use. There’s also the Grit Getter, a small manual cleaner that’s perfect for picking up little grains of sand and debris that gather in the corners. The more powerful spa vacs can quickly remove even large leaves from your hot tub.

Floating debris can be removed with a simple skimmer net. If you happen to leave the cover off during a windstorm and the spa is full of leaves, a skimmer net can also be used to scoop up larger leaves under the water.

Air Out the Spa Cover

Open the hot tub cover a couple times each week to allow it to dry.One of the most important things you can do to increase the longevity of your spa cover is to remove it at least twice per week. Use a spa cover lifter to completely remove it. If you don’t have a spa cover lift, gently place it off the spa. Give your cover a few hours to breathe and get away from the constant heat and moisture. If you’re not using it at the time, this is a great opportunity to add chemicals or shock the spa if needed.

Another good spa maintenance practice is cleaning and conditioning your vinyl spa cover. Especially if your spa is outside, using a spa cover cleaner can quickly remove airborne oils, dirt, tree sap and pollen. After it’s clean, use a cover conditioner to replenish the vinyl plasticizers that keep your vinyl spa cover soft, strong and looking great.

Add Fill Water

Remember to top off or refill the hot tub during regular hot tub maintenance.This spa care tip is so often forgotten. However, if the skimmer starts to suck air instead of water, it can damage the pump. The water level should be in the middle of the skimmer intake or a little higher. You don’t want it too high, and you never want to overflow the spa, so keep a close eye on the water level while filling.

Keep a garden hose nearby. If your garden hose is too far away, set up a sub-spigot by running a hose from a splitter on your current spigot, to a spigot that is mounted on a stake. Then you always have a hose right next to the spa for filling or topping off the hot tub water level.

Summary

To handle 95% of spa care and maintenance tasks, just remember these five easy tips:

  • Test and adjust your spa water balance 2-4 times per week.
  • Clean the spa filter every 4-8 weeks, and replace every 1-2 years.
  • Keep the spa clean; drain and refill every 3-4 months.
  • Air out the spa cover twice per week.
  • Add water as needed to keep the spa full.

That’s all there is to it! Hot Tub Works makes spa and hot tub maintenance easy with a full range of sanitizers, balancers, clarifiers, parts, accessories and other supplies to keep your hot tub in top shape.

 

Shop For These Featured Products:

hot tub sanitizerhot tub cleaning supplieshot tub test strips

 

How to Buy a Hot Tub Cover

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how to buy a hot tub cover

When choosing the best cover for you and your tub, there are two key factors to keep in mind: climate and durability.

Climate is Most Important

Weather patterns impact hot tub cover performance.Where do you live? This is the first question you should ask yourself. Less insulating spa covers can’t keep up when it gets really cold. Your spa heater works harder to maintain warm temperatures, which can hit you hard in the wallet each month.

We offer hot tub covers with 1 lb. foam, 1.5 lb. foam and 2 lb. foam. This refers to the foam density, measured as the weight of 1 cubic foot of the closed cell foam. The denser the foam is, the higher the R-value of the spa cover. Hot tubs in the southern United States that have warm average temperatures could use a 1 lb. or 1.5 lb. foam, but areas that see snowfall and experience colder winter temperatures need the thicker insulation of a 1.5 lb. or 2 lb. foam core.

Naturally, the thickness of the foam core panels also plays a huge part in choosing the best spa cover for your climate. Our tapered foam cores are thicker in the center and thinner at the edge to help rain run off the cover. This also makes the covers easier to handle. We offer three different cover thicknesses, in tapers of 4″ to 2″, 5″ to 3″, or 6″ to 4″. Just like we discussed with foam density above, warmer southern regions could use a 4-2″ taper or even a 5-3″, but areas that see snowfall and colder winter temperatures need the added insulation of 5-3″ or 6-4″ taper.

If you live in the snowbelt, or if you just want to save as much heat energy as possible, choose a new spa cover with 1.5 lb. or 2 lb. foam, and select an option with a 5-3″ or 6-4″ taper. Both our Ultra and The Works hot tub covers are best for covering spas in cold weather conditions. Even if your winter only gets a little frosty and is usually mild, a thicker cover will pay you back every month with reduced spa heating bills.

Durability Makes a Difference

Cheap hot tub covers with poor construction won't last very long.This is more of a subjective factor – what level of durability do you want for your new spa cover? Do you always buy the best of everything, do you usually opt for the lowest price, or do you like to find a happy medium somewhere in between? With six different spa cover models to choose from, you can choose your desired level of durability, in a range of $289-$459, shipping included. We have inexpensive spa covers available, but we also have some of the best spa covers on the market. There’s a cover for every budget!

All of our spa covers are made with the same sturdy 20 gauge steel support channel. They’re covered in 30 oz. marine grade vinyl, available in 11 premium color options. Our foam panels are vacuum wrapped and heat sealed, closed in with a heavy duty vinyl zipper and scrim. Seams are double-stitched and x-tacked at all corners. Most of our spa covers come with full 5-year warranty, with the exception of our Standard model (3-year warranty) and our Economy model (1-year warranty).

In addition, we offer additional features such as a continuous heat seal along the hinge, aka our ‘steam stopper’, a double-wrapped foam core, heavy duty wind straps and an R-value of up to 30 for the most energy-conscious spa owner. In fact, these extras are included free of charge on our premier spa covers.

If you want the best, go with the Ultra (most popular) or The Works spa covers. If you want something good, but not necessarily the most expensive, take a look at our Deluxe or Energy Saver spa covers. If you have an indoor spa, live in warm climates or are a budget-conscious shopper, you might consider the Economy cover.

 


 

We hope we’ve answered some of your questions and made choosing the right spa cover an easier task. For best results, buy your new spa cover according to your climate and your durability expectations.

If you need assistance with choosing your next spa cover, feel free to give us a call at 800-770-0292. You can also send us an email with questions or concerns. We’re here to help!

 

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Spa and Hot Tub Water Color Problems

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hot tub water color problemsWe’ve all been there before, when you lift the spa cover to discover a color other than clear blue. Hot tub water can be all colors of the rainbow when conditions aren’t right. Yellow, brown, green, white and every shade in between.

Today, we’ll discuss how to identify and troubleshoot colored spa water so you can restore your clear, sparkling blue spa water. It doesn’t matter what type or size of hot tub you have, even if your tub is as big as a pool. You can still use these tips to fix colored hot tub water.

After you’ve spent several months (or years!) taking care of your spa, your trained eye can tell right away when something’s not right. It’s a bit less sparkly and translucent, and a bit more dull and dirty looking. Or perhaps the water has turned one of these strange spa water colors.

HOT TUB WATER IS GREEN

green-hot-tub-waterWhen your spa has a shade of green, you may immediately think of algae. If your sanitizer has been low or your filter cartridge is dirty, it very well could be algae. Touch the sides of the spa, and if it feels slimy, you can bet you have a small algae bloom on your hands. Algae can grow even under a spa cover, in the dark, hot water. To treat a hot tub for algae, check and balance the pH and alkalinity, and add a shock treatment. After filtering out dead algae, it’s always recommended to replace the spa cartridge with a new one.

Green hot tub water can also be caused by a mineral we know as copper. It can enter the water from copper pipes carrying fill water, or it can come from natural well water. It can also come from copper heat exchangers used in gas-fired spa heaters, or it can come from using copper pool algaecide in a spa (not recommended). This is the same copper that can turn a swimmer’s hair green. The water can be clear and bright green, without slime on the surfaces. Control  copper in your hot tub water with a product like Metal Gon or CuLator packets.

HOT TUB WATER IS YELLOW

yellow-hot-tub-waterYellow algae is a particularly resistant type of algae that can exist in a dark heated hot tub, even in the presence of normal bromine or chlorine levels. It seeks out small, out-of-the-way crevices, and when in full bloom, it will deposit itself in sheets across spa surfaces. Treatment for yellow algae is to use a very high level of chlorine spa shock. Balance the water first, and turn off the heater before shocking the spa. Allow the water to circulate for several hours, with the cover removed. If the level drops to zero within 24 hours, shock the spa again, until it holds the chlorine level. After this shock treatment, drain and scrub the spa, bleach wash the spa cover and replace the spa filter with a new cartridge.

Yellow hot tub water can also come from an excess of pollen in the springtime, especially if you have left the spa cover for some time. Iron oxides in well water can also impart a yellowish color to the water, especially if the spa turned yellow after shocking. If you are on a well water system, use a pre-filter to remove all minerals from your fill water. Finally, if your bromine level is extremely high, the water can take on a yellow-red color, especially in the presence of low pH. Don’t enter a spa if the bromine residual is over 5 ppm.

HOT TUB WATER IS BROWN

brown-hot-tub-waterBrown water is not the most appetizing hot tub water color. If your spa has suddenly turned brown, much like the color of tea, again you can usually find the problem to be high levels of minerals, namely iron oxide. This may occur within hours after shocking the spa or making big pH adjustments. The filter cartridge should remove some of it, but to clear it up faster, you can force it back into solution with a sequestering agent like Metal Gon.

Brown spa water also occurs from contaminated fill water. During dry, hot periods, some municipal water supplies begin scraping the bottom of the barrel, which adds a lot of particulate matter to the water supply. You can combat this by using a pre-filter on your hose when you fill the spa. This simple tool will remove even microscopic particles from your fill water.

HOT TUB WATER IS WHITE

white-hot-tub-waterMilky hot tub water, which is so cloudy that the water appears white, can come from many causes. High calcium or alkalinity, ineffective filtering or pumping, or air in the system causing micro-bubbles – all of these can make hot tub water appear white-ish. Contaminants from body lotions, cosmetics and hair products can also change the water color from clear blue to white. If your spa has cloudy water, here’s a troubleshooting blog post with 10 reasons why.

White hot tub water can also be infected with white mold, a type of bacteria that grows in small clumps and clusters. In spas that have not been maintained properly, this type of slime can be difficult to remove, but can be treated effectively with raising chlorine level to 30 ppm, running the spa for several hours and then draining. Replace the spa filter, and rinse all removable items like spa pillows, nets, baskets and thermometer in a strong bleach solution. Use a biofilm remover like Jet Clean to clean out the pipes.

HOT TUB WATER IS PINK

pink-hot-tub-waterPink algae is a close cousin of white water mold discussed above. Not actually an algae, it’s a form of bacteria, although it displays characteristics of an algae.  Pink spa water is not a very common color for spa water, and pink algae won’t actually color the spa water pink, except in very mature colonies. Treatment for pink algae is similar to white mold above. It’s not easy to eradicate, as it is able to tuck away cells that are difficult to reach – but it can be eradicated, by hitting it hard with shock (over 30 ppm), and using a purge product to clean the lines and crevices. Be sure to replace your spa filter, and soak all spa items in a strong bleach solution before refilling the spa.

Don’t let colored hot tub water get you down! There’s always a solution…

It’s Cold Outside! Winter Hot Tub Tips

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winter hot tubFor many spa or hot tub owners, winter is the perfect time to enjoy a hot soak in your outdoor tub. In warmer places like Southern California, the winter temperatures rarely dip below 50°, which hardly qualifies as cold for the rest of the country.

If you live in colder climates, where 50° would be considered a winter heat wave, you can still safely (and sanely) enjoy your hot tub. The air is crisper and the stars seem brighter during the winter months. Even if there’s snow on the ground, this is the perfect time of year to enjoy your hot tub with family and friends.

To help you enjoy the warmth of your hot tub all winter long, we’ve put together a list of handy tips to enjoy your hot tub in winter!


1. Wear a Hat

For women (or men) with long hair, wearing a hat helps to keep your hair dry. This helps to regulate your body temperature while using the hot tub and keeps you from catching a chill. Not only is a hat important for keeping your hair dry, but as much as 70% of your body heat can be lost through the top of your head. Break out your favorite ball cap, knitted beanie or fluffy double mackinaw to keep your noggin warm and dry.

2. Use Facial Moisturizer

Skin cream or hand lotion will protect your face from bitter winter winds, which can quickly dry the skin. A layer of moisturizer (or even suncreen) helps to keep the moisture locked in your skin. It also forms a barrier over your pores, which reduces the absorption of spa chemicals that may be released at the surface of the water.

3. Wear Sandals or Slippers

Most outdoor spas are at least 10 steps away from the door. And unless you have a red carpet runway from your doorway to the spa, you’ll need something to help you make that mad dash. Slippers or sandals will help keep your spa clean and keep your tootsies warm and dry as you make the trek. Surfaces around a spa can be slippery in freezing temperatures, so wearing something on your feet can also help to keep you from becoming another slip-and-fall statistic.

4. Warm Towels

One of the most popular spa accessories is a towel warmer, which is a favorite for many cold-weather spa owners. It’s a small box or electric towel rack that will keep 2-5 towels nice and toasty and ready for use. Don’t have a towel warmer? No problem! Just pop some towels in the dryer beforehand, and store them in a small insulated box or cooler just inside the door to the house. You can also use a deck storage cube, and place a few microwaveable heating pads inside along with your towels.

5. Cool Umbrellas

If you have a patio umbrella near the spa, have it ready to pop open in the event of rain or snow. If you wear a hat, you may not need to use an umbrella. But if not, it’s nice to have a large umbrella or small parasol to keep winter weather from raining on your parade. Hold on tight in high winds, and if a rare winter thunderstorm develops, it’s best to head indoors.

6. Hot Drinks

In warmer outside temperatures, nothing is as refreshing as a cool beverage to help regulate body temperature. During the winter, however, warm beverages are best. Mix up a batch of hot chocolate, and pour it into an insulated coffee carafe to keep it warm. Thermal mugs with lids are perfect for the cocoa, but be careful to not spill any in the tub!

7. Spa Covers

The colder the weather is outside, the faster your spa will lose heat. Spas without an effective cover will have trouble maintaining the heat during freezing temperatures, and they may not recover fast enough after losing ten degrees while the cover is off. If your cover is struggling to keep the heat in, it may be time to consider buying a new spa cover, and perhaps also investing in a floating spa blanket.


Don’t let the cold weather temperatures drive you indoors! Enjoy your spa or hot tub all year round. Just remember to limit your soaks to 20 minutes and sty properly hydrated.

 

Hot Tub Preppers: Be Ready for Holiday Visitors

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December is upon us, and cars and planes will soon be packed with people, visiting relatives for the holidays. Around my house, a popular ‘amenity’ for our guests has always been our 8-person spa, especially for those that don’t have their own hot tub at home.

Now is the time to step up spa maintenance, kick it up a notch to have over-filtered and over-sanitized water, and hot water for your guests. Now is also the time to review some spa safety standards, and be sure that your hot tub will be safe for all family visitors – adults, kids and pets.

 

1. Balance the Waterphoto of nature2 test strips

Unless your water needs changing that is; if your water has 2 or 3 months of age to it already, go ahead and do a complete drain, refill and re-balancing of the water. Otherwise, balance the pH and Alkalinity to 7.2-7.6 and 80-100 ppm, respectively. The next step may be to add calcium increaser, if your fill water is below 150 ppm. In my area it comes out very soft, around 80 ppm, so I add a few lbs of calcium when refilling. Soft water can cause staining, foaming and other problems.

2. Shock the Spa

For shocking the spa, you can use either chlorine spa shock like Spa 56, or you can use non-chlorine MPS shock, but in either case don’t be shy about it – hit it hard, which is usually about 1 – 1.5 oz., see label for correct dosage. Run the pump on high when shocking a spa, and leave the cover open for 30 minutes or so after shocking with chlorine. Shock the spa after each heavy usage while visitors are staying at your place.

photo of cartoon spa filter - copyright Hottubworks.com3. Change the Filter

A new filter cartridge and a new mineral stick from Frog or Nature2 will boost the water clarity and purity, to a point where it can take a sudden increase in users, without turning cloudy or dull, or foamy and greasy. I usually replace my filter cartridge every December anyway, and use a new Nature2 stick every 4 months, so it works with my schedule.

4. Increase Filter Run time

If you do expect to have more spa users than normal this month, it may be a good idea to adjust the timer settings or the programs to filter the spa an extra 20% – 50% longer each day, to compensate for the additional bather load. A little extra insurance to be sure that the filter system can handle the increased users.

5. Add Clarifierhottubworks spa clarifier shown

This one is my little secret weapon, what clarifier does is – it acts like a magnet to tiny particles, making invisible stuff clump together until it is large enough that the filter will trap it, which makes your water look great, even with the lights shining through the water. TIP: Do Not over-dose with clarifier, follow label instructions, and treat only once weekly, or it can have the opposite effect, and make your spa water cloudy!

6. Carpet Runner

My spa sits about 8 ft from the back sliding glass door, across a fairly clean, but gritty, concrete paver patio. I buy these runner carpets at my local ‘home’ store, for about $40, and they last nearly a year. I’m due for a new one, they’re about 2’x8′ and in dark colors that look good for quite awhile. You can put one inside the house too, for ‘drippers’ dashing into the house.

7. Towels and robes

I have an antique console leaning up against the back of the house and I stock the cubbies with lots of colorful towels, and hang a few robes and lots of hats (don’t forget the hats). I also have a small hand drawn (cute) sign that says “Please bathe before Use”, as a reminder to not use the spa as a bath tub. And plants, lots of plants (if you live in the south). Even plastic plants are very nice to have, surrounding the spa.

8. Spa Supervision

Don’t forget to set some ground rules, spa safety must come first. Many tragic accidents around spas and hot tubs actually happen at the homes of relatives, by people unfamiliar with the basic ground rules.

  • No single spa users, 2 or more people at all times
  • No unsupervised children under age 14
  • No pregnant women or persons with high blood pressure
  • 20 minutes maximum soaking time
  • 104° F maximum temperature

 

Finally, make sure the heater is running well, see Danny’s post last month about the most common spa heater problems and how to troubleshoot them. And be sure to close-up the spa yourself after use, unless you can train an ‘able-body’ to remove and replace the spa cover, safely and properly, so you don’t have to. 🙂

 

 

Carolyn Mosby
Hot Tub Works

 

 

6 Hot Tub Accessories I Can’t Live Without

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Hello again! Carolyn here to tell you about some of my favorite hot tub accessories. It could’ve been a ‘top ten’ list, but I wanted to keep it shorter and made of more unique spa products.

So then, without further ado, here’s the 6 hot tub accessory items I just couldn’t live without!

 

 

MY SPA PRE-FILTER

Water where I live is not very good hot tub water. It has really high minerals, making the water hard. Plus, it looks gray, and even smells bad sometimes. Whenever I fill my spa, or top of the water level, I just screw on the Pre-Filter to the end of the hose, to ‘pre-filter’ the water, so my filter doesn’t have to.

 

MY TAYLOR K2105 TEST KIT

The Taylor K-2105 test kit is the complete DPD test kit, for Low Range chlorine and bromine. Since I also use minerals and some ozone, I keep a very low bromine level in the spa, about 0.6 ppm. The low range test kit lets me test down to 0.1 ppm levels.

 

MY NATURE2 SPA STICK

Nature2 spa cartridge is a thin mineral stick that fits inside of your filter cartridge. As the water rushes over it, copper and silver ions are released into the water, which kills bacteria and other particles in the water. Each cartridge lasts for 4 months, so I buy the Nature2 Spa 3-pack to have a year-long supply on hand.

 

MY BALBOA CONTROLLER APP

I’ve become quite attached to my tablet around the home, for playing music, adjusting the home temperature and a few lights. But the newest Balboa App is just amazing. Using our wifi enabled Balboa Spa Controls, one can view temp, change modes – everything that I can do from the topside control.

 

MY FLOATING SPA COVER

I just brought it out again recently, as I don’t use the floating spa blanket during the summer, but for winter it really helps to hold in the heat. We have 3 types of spa floating covers, a low cost bubble blanket, a closed cell foam blanket (like mine!), or the aluminized Radiant foam blanket, to help trap the heat this winter.

 

MY SPA BOOSTER SEAT

I’m a short person, ok? I can’t enjoy the captain’s chairs in our hot tub without my spa booster seat. Unlike inflatable boosters that float, this one is filled with small pebbles or marbles, to stay in place in the seat. I wish it was a bit larger, but that’s my problem, I suppose. 🙂

 

What are some of your favorite spa or hot tub accessories? With fall already here, winter hot tub accessories will be needed, for those of you in colder climates. Would love to see some snow down here in southern California! On the other hand, I don’t think we would deal with it very well! Keep your snow!

 

Carolyn Mosby
Hot Tub Works

 

Spa & Hot Tub Covers FAQ

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Spa Covers at Hot Tub WorksSpa covers are kind of our thing, so it’s only natural that we talk about them a lot on our little hot tub blog. We hear hundreds of questions from our customers, spa owners just like you, regarding hot tub covers.

We get questions about how to measure for a hot tub cover, or how long do custom covers take to ship (3 weeks), or my favorite, which color hides bird poop best? We’ve hopefully omitted most of the lower value questions.

Having sold over 500,000 spa covers, we are somewhat of an authority on spa covers, and therefore qualified to write a simple FAQ on the topic. I hope you find this information useful, and if you have any other questions about our hot tub covers, please don’t hesitate to contact us!

What are Spa Covers Made From?

Jerry shown in the Vinyl area of the HTW warehouseSpa covers are made from a custom cut and sewn jacket made from 30 oz. Marine Grade Vinyl, with a sturdy 4-layer brass hinge, and extra heavy duty nylon zipper and scrim. EPS foam core panels are wrapped in 1 or 2 layers of 6-mil PE sheeting, vacuum wrapped tightly, with seams heat sealed. All of our covers also include a 20 ga. steel C-channel running the entire hinge, are ASTM approved, and include 4 sturdy handles and 4 straps with cover clips.

How are Hot Tub Covers Made?

Jerry, one of our owners, in the foam roomThe process starts with a careful spa cover measurement, or you can also order by spa make and model (please call if you are unsure!). Our spa cover technicians enter the measurements into the CAD program, which checks for errors and inconsistencies in measurements, and makes association with known makes/models of spas. After approval of the measures, they are fed into the vinyl cutting machine which laser cuts the shapes for the vinyl jacket. The jacket is sewn together by large sewing machines, using high quality and durable threads, double stitching edges, and cross-hatching corners. Meanwhile, in the foam department, the EPS foam panels fo the selected weight and density are cut to the exact shape, again by laser cutting, computer controlled machines. After cutting, the foam panels are inspected and then vacuum sealed into one or two (optional) 6-mil plastic sheets, with the edges trimmed and heat sealed. The panels are then married with the jacket, and the nearly completed spa cover goes through two quality control checks, before it is boxed and shipped to you.

How Much do Spa Covers Cost?

The average price of a spa cover is about $375. Our covers run from $289-$459, depending on the style and thickness of the cover you choose. It’s nice if you can wait to find spa covers on sale, or if you can make use of a nice coupon to shave 10% or more off of the cost of a new spa cover. Alas, it often happens that your spa cover’s demise occurs suddenly and buying a new spa cover becomes rather urgent. The nice thing about spa covers, and unlike a lot of other things in this world, spa cover prices have remained steady for the last 20 years, as new efficiencies make production cheaper, even as material costs have increased over the years.

How Long do Spa Covers Last?

You could take our warranty period as a clue, Comparing Spa Covers, you will see that our Economy has a 1 year warranty, and our Standard has a 3 year warranty, but if you spend a little more, the next 4 models all have five (5) year, bumper to bumper warranties. So, depending on what you buy, you can expect 3-5 years from most covers. In my experience however, it is not unusual for a spa cover to last longer, when well maintained and protected from mishap. Jack Stone often brags about his ten year old spa cover, around the office. So they can last a long time, but the average is probably closer to 5 years.

How to Clean a Spa Cover?

Does your spa cover smell like mildew? Or have birds taken up target practice with your spa cover, or overhanging trees deposited a mix of pollen and sap? Cleaning your spa cover every month or so, will keep it smelling nice and looking good.

Floating spa blanketsFor a smelly spa cover, remove it and stand it up on its side, and give it a spray with a mild (1:10) bleach solution, on the underside of the cover only. Allow to dry and wipe down. If you spot mildew inside the outer jacket, unzip the jacket and pull out the foam panels carefully, and allow them to air dry. Follow-up with another bleach treatment or other treatment for mold/mildew, and when dry, reinsert the panels (easier with two people). To keep your spa cover smelling nice, remove the cover off the spa 2-3x per week, to allow it to drain and breathe, and consider using a floating spa cover to reduce the moisture up against the bottom of your hot tub cover.

303-spa-cover-wipesTo clean the outside (top side) of a spa cover, which is usually covered with Marine Grade Vinyl, a mild soap or vinyl cleanser can be used. Avoid using any kitchen or bathroom cleaners, but you can use a mild dish soap, or our specially formulated Hot Tub Cover Cleaner, or 303 Spa Cover Wipes are super convenient. After cleaning your spa cover, condition and protect it with vinyl treatments like our Cover Conditioner, or 303 Protectant spray to lock out the elements and make stains easy to clean. The Spa Cover Care Kit, has everything you need to clean and condition your spa cover, to make it last years longer, and look good doing it too.

How to Protect a Hot Tub Cover?

High Wind Spa Cover 'Hurricane' Straps shownIn addition to cleaning and drying your spa cover regularly, as described above, there are other tips that can help you lengthen lifespan. Number one, is get used to latching your cover down every time you use it, and if you live in a high wind area, use Cover Straps to avoid wind damage, which can destroy a spa cover in under 3 seconds. Number Two – look up above the cover, are there any tree branches that could break and come crashing down? If you can’t or do not want to trim back the branches, a pergola or other protection could be built around the tub, to afford some protection from flying or falling debris. Thirdly, is to protect the spa cover from excess moisture and chemical damage by using a Floating Spa Blanket, which also reduces heat loss, which means your heater can run less. Spa blankets also protect the spa cover from high bromine and ozone levels. If you use an ozonator, dial back the bromine levels to <1 ppm, and maintain pH in the 7.3-7.6 range to avoid acidic water conditions.

Why do Spa Covers become Heavy?

Man shown struggling with heavy hot tub coverAlthough closed cell foam does not absorb water in ocean or lake environments, or even pools – for a hot tub covers scenario there can be a 50 degree difference between the hot tub water and surrounding air, and the only thing in between is those two foam panels. What really fails is the vapor barrier, a plastic bag that is tightly wrapped around the foam core to lock out moisture. Our panels are vacuum wrapped and heat sealed, in 6 mil PE plastic sheeting, and we offer a double wrap upgrade for extra protection against foam panels becoming waterlogged. But still, rough handling or accidents can puncture the vapor barrier, allowing moisture to come in contact with the foam. Other less well wrapped or thinner foam panels may be taped or stapled, and not heat sealed, which will fail over time, allowing the very aggressive hot steam to penetrate even the smallest gaps or laps. If the vapor barrier is not vacuum sealed, to suck out all of the air, it makes it much easier to snag and puncture the vapor barrier. Using a floating spa blanket, and air drying your spa cover twice per week, and inspecting and patching any damage to the vapor barrier, can all help prevent a waterlogged spa cover.

Do I need a Hot Tub Cover Lifter?

animation of spa cover lifterYes, Spa Lifters are needed, and for two reasons – 1). To save your back and prevent personal injury when removing or installing the spa cover, and 2) to protect the spa cover from all sorts of calamity, when it’s being removed, and while not-so safely stored off the spa. It’s happened a million times – you very carefully leaned the spa cover up against the wall or the tub just like always, but this time… the dog, the wind, the kids, the lawnmower, the drunk friend…

How to Latch & Lock a Spa Cover?

Replacement spa cover clip set Lock your spa covers securely, to keep out small children, curious animals and large dogs, and to keep the wind from lifting your spa top, and possibly launching it across the backyard. When you get a new cover, you’ll need to adjust and perhaps reinstall the cover clips and latch mechanism. To prevent cover damage, and unauthorized use, the straps should be taut, so that it is necessary to push down slightly on the spa cover, to be able to unlatch the cover clips. If they are too loose, they are easy for small hands to open, and it can allow wind to come up under the cover, cooling the spa and possibly damage the cover if it begins to ‘chatter’ in heavy winds. To reinstall the latch mechanism to a new location, all that is needed is a screwdriver, in most cases. You can fill previous screw holes with a wood putty, or just leave the screws in the hole.

 


 

And that’s it – short and sweet, just like me! If you have other spa cover questions that we didn’t answer, drop me a line with your questions or concerns!

 

Carolyn Mosby
Hot Tub Works

 

Hot Tub Leak Repair using Leak Sealer

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Leisure Time Leak Seal, item ZJWelcome back, students of spa! Today we tackle one of those topics that can keep spa owners up at night – a leaking hot tub.

The most common leak for spas and hot tubs is probably pump shaft seals, thermowells, spa unions and spa jets. Wooden hot tubs can seep and weep water from between the wood staves, especially during temperature swings as the wood expands and contracts.

If you have an obvious mechanical failure of seals, gaskets or plastics, the best solution is to buy the correct spa parts, and fix the leaking spa properly. However, in cases where there is no obvious puddle beneath an obvious drip – you may want to try a leak sealer.

I’ve used Leak Seal for a spa leak on my own spa, and I can tell you it works, but I can also tell you that it doesn’t work – let me explain. Leak Seal works great for dripping glue joints, seeping gaskets, weeping o-rings and oozing wooden hot tubs. Leak Seal will also seal up cracks in filter housings or pinhole leaks in flex pipe and spa hoses – but it’s no miracle worker! If you have a real ‘gusher’, don’t waste your money on Leak Seal, but replace the offending gasket, manifold or jet body.

Leak Seal is made from Sodium Silicate, sometimes called “Liquid Glass”, which behaves a bit like blood in it’s ability to clot together. Strong bonds stack the silicate together at the source of a leak. The process takes many hours of circulation to build up layers of the stuff, until the leak is sealed.

 

Leisure Time Leak Seal Instructions

  1. Fill Spa to normal water levels.
  2. Remove the spa cartridge filter(s).
  3. Open all valves and all spa jets.
  4. Shut off spa heater, blower and ozonator.
  5. Pour 1/2 bottle (16 oz) into spa skimmer or near drain.
  6. Run jets on high for 4 hours to circulate (slowly add water if needed)
  7. Switch pump to low speed for 20 hours.

After 24 hours (adding water if needed, to keep the tub full), inspect closely for any continued water loss. At this point you will notice one of three things. Either the leak has stopped completely, partially, or not at all. If the spa has stopped leaking, then alright! 🙂 If the leak has slowed, but not stopped completely, a second treatment (all 7 steps above) is recommended. If it didn’t work at all, you have a leak that is too large for Leak Sealer to fix. 🙁

As a final step, and whether or not it worked to fix your leaking spa, you should drain and clean the tub to remove the remaining silicate, which will clog up your filter and leave residue around the water line. Drain the tub completely, and wipe down all surfaces before refilling with fresh water.

After refilling, operate the spa on low speed only for a day, with the heater Off – especially if leaks were suspected to be in the plumbing or around spa jets. The leak sealant silicate patch will continue to harden, becoming fully cured in 48-72 hours, depending on water temperature.


As I mentioned at the outset – Leak Seal is not a miracle product, but it does work for small leaks and drips, and can form a permanent repair. If it doesn’t work in your case, please don’t get upset and write reviews entitled “complete waste of money”, or make comparisons to snake oil – it’s just that your spa leak requires a more ‘mechanical repair’.

And at $20 a bottle, Leak Seal is a bargain, especially if it seals the leak – which it does, over half of the time, by my estimates.

 

Carolyn Mosby
Hot Tub Works

 

110V vs. 220V Hot Tubs – Which is Best?

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110v-vs-220v-hot-tubs-istk
When shopping for a hot tub, you’re faced with dozens of decisions, and one of the largest purchase decisions is whether to buy a 110V hot tub or a 220V hot tub.

110V (115V or 120V) hot tubs are often called “Plug and Play”, because most can be plugged into a standard 15 amp electrical outlet. 220V (230V or 240V) tubs are hard-wired from the home main circuit breaker box, to a safety cut-off box located near the hot tub, and then directly into the spa control box.

110V hot tubs and 220V hot tubs both have their own pros and cons – what’s right for you?

110v-hot-tubs-advantages

  • LOWER COST: The lower cost of ‘Plug & Play’ hot tubs has created opportunity for spa builders and for people who want to pay less for a hot tub. They are cheaper because they are smaller, with a fewer spa jets, less powerful pumps and heaters, and overall fewer ‘bells and whistles’.
  • EASY INSTALLATION: Place on a suitable location that can support the weight of the tub when full, fill it full of water and plug it in. What can be easier than that? 110V hot tubs can be plugged into most outlets, however depending on the model, you may need to unplug other electrical loads on the circuit, or plug into a 20 amp outlet.
  • MORE PORTABLE: Because 110V hot tubs are smaller and less full-featured, they often weigh less than 220V hot tubs. This is especially true for inflatable and rotomolded hot tubs, however some plug and play models can weigh 500 lbs, when empty.

220v-hot-tubs-advantages

  • LARGER TUBS: If you want a larger tub that 5 or 6 people can enjoy at the same time, look at a 220V hot tub. A larger body of water,  with a larger filter is easier to keep clean than a smaller hot tub. Smaller tubs (under 300 gals), can sometimes overflow when 2 or 3 people climb in the tub.
  • LARGER HEATER: 220 volts can power larger electric elements, 4kW or 5.5kW. 110V heaters usually max out at just 1.0kW, which can take a long time to heat, or reheat the spa, and lose heat quickly when the cover is off. For poorly insulated spas, a 1kW heater may not be able to stay hot in very cold weather.
  • LARGER PUMPS: Although 110V spa pumps have plenty of ‘oomph, they have to split it between fewer jets, and many cannot operate the jet pump and the spa heater at the same time. 220V spas can have 4 or 5 horsepower pumps, and can power pumps, heater, lights, stereo and more, all at the same time.

Convertible 110V/220V Hot Tubs

You can buy 110V only and 220V only, or you can buy convertible voltage hot tubs, which will accept either voltage. When connected to 110V, convertible spas heater elements will switch to 1.0 Kw, and make other sacrifices to split up the available power accordingly, such as pumping at low speed only, while the heater is operating.

Cost to Wire a Hot Tub with 220V

The cost to wire a 220V hot tub will vary, but depends mainly on how close the hot tub is to the house main breaker box panel. Barriers, terrain changes or other complications could raise the price. Another budget killer is a home whose breaker box panel is completely filled, without room (available amperage) to add another 50 amp breaker. In most cases however, wiring a hot tub with 220V usually costs about $500, although the price can easily double with distance or other difficulties.

What’s Best? 110V or 220V hot tubs?

pros-and-cons-saltwater-hot-tubIf you have the budget available, 220V hot tubs are the best choice, in my opinion. However, if you want only a small hot tub for 1 or 2 people, and your climate is mild during the winter, and the cost to buy and wire a 220V hot tub is prohibitive – a 110V hot tub may be the best choice.

As stated above, Plug & Play hot tubs do have certain advantages, and they offer all the benefits of higher priced hot tubs, at a lower price point. Many manufacturers position their 110V spas as an ‘entry-level’ hot tub, with the hopes that their 220V models will fit the bill for an eventual upgrade. Sort of like an auto dealer that sells both Chevrolet and Cadillac.

Let your budget and your conscience by your guide. Although my own hot tub is 220V, and very full featured – Hot water is Hot water!

 

Carolyn Mosby
Hot Tub Works

 

 

Acrylic Spas vs. Rotomolded Spas

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ACRYLIC-VS-ROTO-HOT-TUBS
In the old frontier days, all hot tubs were made of wood, then came fiberglass, and then Acrylic became the spa shell of choice. Acrylic spas are injection molded or blow molded into the spa shell, which is backed with many layers and set into a wood or composite material cabinet.

In the late 90’s, a few small manufacturers like Strong, Freeflow and DreamMaker began to produce spas with a radical new concept – rotational molding. Building a spa out of a single polymer plastic shell, reduces the cost and time of spa construction tremendously.

At first, major spa manufacturers poo-pooed the idea that John Q. Public wants to soak in a gray or brown plastic tub, but as sales and demand for the much less expensive hot tubs increased, they began to take notice.

Nowadays, most major players like Watkins, Cal Spas, Baja and Coleman are offering “Entry Level” rotomolded hot tubs, but still feature Acrylic models to offer a “Trade-up” product in their line of acrylic hot tubs. Sort of like a car dealer that sells both Chevrolet and Cadillac models.

ROTOMOLDED SPAS

rotomolded-hot-tubPROS: First of all, rotomold spas are 30-50% less expensive than similar sizes of acrylic spas. They are many rotomold models that are ‘plug and play’, and don’t require an electrician, just fill with water and plug it in. Finally, rotomolded hot tubs are extremely durable, and most have a lifetime spa shell warranty.

CONS: The appearance of the spa internal surface is not as beautiful as the lustrous colors and shine of acrylic hot tubs. The plug and play models don’t withstand very cold temperatures, and don’t have many jets, and often can’t run the spa heater at the same time as the spa jet pump.

ACRYLIC SPAS

acrylic-hot-tubPROS: That deep lustrous shine is a definite plus, you just can’t get that with a rotomolded tub. Wood panel cabinets are another nice feature of acrylic tubs. Acrylic hot tubs are often more full featured with many standard options, dozens of fancy jets, and large pumps, filters and heaters.

CONS: First of all, acrylic spas can cost $8-12K, or more, nearly twice the cost of rotomolded tubs. They are much heavier, bulkier and harder to move around easily. Most acrylic models require a full 230V electrical service, which usually involves an electrician.


 

At Hot Tub Works, we sell both Acrylic and Rotomolded Spas, to appeal to every budget. So, it comes down to what you want, a Chevy or a Cadillac? Major spa manufacturers agree, there seems to be room in this frontier town for both Acrylic and Rotomolded spas and hot tubs.

 

Carolyn Mosby
Hot Tub Works