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Daniel Lara's Posts

Hot Tub Wiring

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hot tub wiring

Installing a new hot tub? Wiring for a full-featured portable hot tub has to be done correctly, as we all know that water and electricity don’t mix. In most cases, a 50 or 60 amp breaker provides power to a secondary GFCI box, which powers the spa pack controller. When wiring a hot tub, it’s best to play it safe – hire an electrician and pull a permit so you can be sure it’s all up to code.

PERMITTING A HOT TUB

Do you need a permit for a hot tub? Probably. Most local building and zoning boards want to certify that hot tub wiring has been done safely, properly and “up to code.” The permit-inspection-approval process helps prevent unsafe spa wiring, which can result in electrocution and fire.

Wiring a hot tub requires an electrical permit.Having an inspector certify the work ensures that electricians don’t cut corners like using small wire size, cheap connectors, incorrect or absent conduit, or ignoring important safety regulations. It also ensures that your contractor is licensed in your state to perform hot tub wiring.

Wiring a hot tub is best left to licensed electricians that have experience working with Article 680.42, and with local electrical inspector interpretations of the code, which can vary. Avoid using anyone other than a licensed and established electrician. If they tell you that you don’t need a permit, run for the hills and find another contractor! Remember, it’s for your own protection and safety.

WIRING A HOT TUB

There are plug-n-play hot tubs that you can literally plug into a 15 amp wall outlet. However, if you want a tub with powerful equipment and features, these require hard-wiring to a 50 or 60 amp breaker on a dedicated circuit (nothing else powered by the breaker).

Square D 50-amp GFCI panel for outdoor installationThe first question is, do you have enough room (spare amperage) in your existing home breaker panel to add a rather large 50 amp circuit breaker? Add up the amps listed on the breaker handle and compare that number to the label at the top of the panel, which tells how many amps the panel supports in total (usually 100, 200 or 400 amps).

The second thing to consider is how far away from the home’s breaker panel you want to place the spa. You will need to run four wires in conduit from the new circuit breaker to the GFCI power connection in the spa pack. A secondary GFCI power cut-off outside of the spa (at least 5 feet from the spa) is connected to the breaker in the main home breaker panel. Many electricians like to use a square D 50-amp GFCI panel, shown right.

Once you get power into the spa from a dedicated circuit, the four wires (ground, neutral, hot 120V, hot 120V) will connect directly into your spa pack. Consult your owner’s manual for specific connections and settings, accessed inside the control box. Once connected, follow your particular spa instructions for filling and starting up your new spa pack.

BONDING A HOT TUB

bonding wires in a hot tubBonding for hot tubs is an important part of electrical safety. A bare copper wire is attached to bonding lugs on metal and electrical spa equipment. Bonding captures stray voltages or short circuits that any one load (pump, blower, heater) may be producing. The large gauge bare copper wire creates an easy pathway for fault currents to flow, to protect spa users from electric shock.

Equipotential bonding is another type of bonding that connects a body of water (pool or spa) to the rebar steel used in the pool deck. In 2014, the NEC amended Article 680.42 to permit spa and hot tub installations without equipotential bonding, but with these exceptions:

  • Must be listed as a “Self Contained Spa” on the certification label.
  • It cannot be listed as “For Indoor Use Only” on the certification label.
  • It must be installed according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • It must be installed 28″ above any surface within 30″ of the tub.

Spa & Hot Tub Error Codes – FL, FLO, FLOW, LF

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balboa LF low flow error codeEvery digital spa control is designed with some diagnostic functions to self-diagnose problems with pumping and heating your spa or hot tub. Topside controls also give lots of information about your spa status, which are not to be confused with spa error codes.

There are three groups of error codes: flow codes (relating to water flow), heater codes and sensor codes. So let’s start at the top. Today’s post is about water flow trouble codes on your spa panel. These are usually presented as FL, FLO or FLOW on your display, although it may appear as LF (Low Flow) or PS (Pressure Switch).

Low flow error codes are really a self-preservation exercise for your hot tub. When water isn’t flowing fast enough through the heater, this error code shuts things down to avoid a total meltdown. Well, not really a melt-down, but this shutdown prevents major damage to your hot tub equipment.

Flow problems are the number one source of trouble for hot tub owners. When the water isn’t flowing like it should, the heater stops working, equipment overheats and water quality quickly suffers. In short, flow is very important for the health of your hot tub.

Here’s what to do if your digital spa control throws a FL, FLO, FLOW or similar “low flow” error code at you. This flow chart was created for Cal Spas systems, but the troubleshooting process is much the same for all other spas and hot tubs.

spa error codes FLO

For low flow spa error codes, check the filter, check the pump and check the valves to find if something is obstructing the water flow. Blockages could be caused by a dirty filter, clogged impeller, closed valve or a piece of plastic film covering the spa drain. Low flow can also mean a low water level. Sometimes, it’s actually a just bad pressure switch or flow switch, or sometimes loose connections, damaged wires or wire connectors.

Proceed step by step, and you should be able to find the cause of the FL, FLO, FLOW or LF error code. If you need further assistance with spa trouble codes, feel free to give us a call at 800-770-0292.

The Dead Spa: No Power to Hot Tub

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spa-has-no-power

It’s happened to me plenty of times. I get myself all ready for a nice soak in the tub and lift the lid, only to find lukewarm water and no lights on the control panel. The hot tub won’t turn on!

It’s usually an easy fix when you have no power to the spa. The greater disappointment is not being able to use the spa at that moment.

If you’ve ever found a “dead spa” with no power, no indicator lights, nothing at all – this post is for you. Here, we outline the seven most common reasons that a hot tub has no power. Use these steps to troubleshoot power issues in your hot tub.

 

Tripped Breaker

Check the main circuit breaker that provides power to the spa. This may be located in the home main panel, or inside a smaller panel near the hot tub. To reset a circuit breaker, first push it towards OFF, and then flip it back to ON. If the breaker begins to repeatedly trip (known as nuisance tripping), it may need to be replaced, or there could be voltage irregularity. Consult your electrician for testing and/or replacement.

Tripped GFCI

This one gets me all the time. My spa, like most others, has an electrical outlet attached to the spa pack. This is one of those GFCI outlets with a test button and a reset button. If you find it tripped, just push the reset button back in. If the outlet continues to pop, either immediately or later, there is likely some stray voltage grounding out and causing the button to pop. Consult an electrician to find the source, if not readily apparent (burnt wires, water, insects or rodent damage, etc.).

Blown Fuse

Some spas and hot tubs have internal fuses, which are meant to blow when voltage spikes occur. These fuses protect your spa equipment, including pumps, blowers and heaters. A blown fuse could just be a blown fuse, or it could point to a blower or pump that is shorting out. It could also mean the transformer is allowing too much voltage to pass through. Check your owner’s manual for the location of any fuses, and always replace with the exact duplicate fuse. Do not change amperage.

Faulty Wiring

Incoming wires can be damaged from heat or rodents, or you could have loose connections or wires touching each other. This will often cause a breaker to trip or a fuse to blow, but not always. If it’s the wires carrying power into or out of the transformer, you can have a no power situation. Shut off all power before touching or replacing any damaged spa wiring.

Tripped High Limit Switch

In some spas, the heater’s high limit switch can cause a complete power shut down. But this is what it’s meant for! The purpose of a high limit switch is to protect spa equipment (and you!) from harm. If your spa pack has a high limit reset button, usually red, give it a push to see if power is restored. Thermal overloads (for motors, blowers) can also prevent equipment from coming on, but they don’t usually shut down all power and lights to the spa.

Bad Transformer

A transformer reduces voltage, transforming it to a specific lower voltage. For example, a spa may have 220 volts coming into the transformer and 40 volts coming out, but this number varies from spa to spa. A voltmeter can be used to test the transformer output and make sure it’s within 10% of the rated output voltage. The rated output is normally printed right on the transformer.

Bad Panel

If you still have no indicator lights on your control panel, look underneath for lights on the spa pack. For a control panel that is unresponsive with no LEDs or temperature reading, check the wiring harness from the spa pack to the circuit board for a loose connection or damaged wire. It could also be a bad circuit board (but hopefully not!).

Spa Error Codes – The Big List

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spa-and-hot-tub-error-codesThe best thing about digital spas and hot tubs – those with a spa side control panel – is that you are given error codes for most equipment problems. Spa error codes can be somewhat cryptic, but when you have the BIG LIST of CODES, you can immediately define the two or three digit source of trouble.

Problem is, there’s not much consistency among the error codes used by different spa pack manufacturers. Each company uses its own conventions for naming the various system faults.

Hence the need for a BIG LIST of CODES. The alphabetical list of hot tub error codes below covers all major manufacturers of spa controls, including ACC, Balboa, Brett Aqualine, CTI, Dream Maker, EasyPak, Gecko, Hurricane, Jacuzzi, Len Gordon, Maax, Pinnacle, Spa Builders Group, Spa Quip, Sundance and Vita Spas.

Is it an Error Code, or a System Status Code?

Not all spa codes are errors to inform you of trouble. In fact, many codes are used to provide information about system mode, status or equipment operation. Some system status codes are identified as well, with the phrase “system message, not an error.”

So here it is…

The Big List of Spa and Hot Tub Error Codes


CODE


ERROR CODE DESCRIPTION

* * *  Flow/pressure switch either open or closed
* * * High limit switch is faulty
– – – , – – – Water dangerously hot, electronic fault, system shut down
-1 High limit fault
-2 Temperature sensor fault
-3 Flow/pressure switch open
-4 Flow/pressure switch closed
-7 High limit fault
High limit or temperature sensor fault, water may be dangerously hot
Temperature sensor calibration after system restart, not an error
1 Stuck button on keypad
2 No controller data being received
3 Temperature sensor fault
4 Water sensor/pressure switch fault
5 Temperature sensor error, or water is dangerously hot
6 High limit manual reset on heater is tripped
7 Stuck heater relay
9 Water pressure fault; pump may be air locked, or water level low
131 High limit fault, water may be dangerously hot
A1/A2-ER Auxiliary system error; blower, lights, music
AOH Auxiliary system overheating; equipment is running hot or needs air
BJ2P High limit fault, water may be dangerously hot
BL-ER Blower error, faulty motor or closed valve
C4.4 High limit fault
C Celsius, to indicate panel is in Celsius mode
Cd, CLd Cold – freezing conditions detected
CE 01 Stuck touchpad button
CE 02 No controller data communication
CE 03 Temperature sensor fault
CE 04 Water sensor/pressure switch fault
CE 05 Temperature sensor, or water is dangerously hot
CE 06 High limit manual reset on heater is tripped
CE 07 Stuck heater relay
CE 08 Temperature sensor fault
CE 09 Water pressure fault; pump may be air locked, or water level low
CL Current time of day; system message, not an error
COL Cool – water is 20° below set point; system message, not an error
CoLd Cold – water is 40° or less; system should self-start pump/heater
Cool Cool – water is 20° below set point; system message, not an error
CP-ER Circulation pump error
dr, dy, dry Dry – low water volume detected in heater
E0 Short circuit temperature sensor
E1 Open circuit temperature sensor
E2 Short circuit high limit sensor
E3 Open circuit high limit sensor
E4 Short circuit/closed pressure/flow switch
Ecdu, Ecn, Econ Spa is in economy mode; system message, not an error
EO Short circuit temperature sensor
Er0, Er1 Temperature sensor fault
Er2, Er3 High limit fault
Er4 Short circuit/closed pressure/flow switch
err 1 Water pressure fault; pump may be air locked, or water level low
err 3 Stuck button on keypad
err 4 Water sensor/pressure switch fault
err 5 Temperature sensor error, or water is dangerously hot
err 6 High limit manual reset on heater is tripped
err 7 Stuck heater relay
err 8 Temperature sensor fault
Err Software program fault
Error 3 Stuck button on keypad
Error 4 Water sensor/pressure switch fault
Error 5 Temperature sensor error, or water is dangerously hot
Error 6 High limit manual reset on heater is tripped
Error 7 Stuck heater relay
Error 8 Temperature sensor fault
F2 4 hours daily filtration; system message, not an error
F4 8 hours daily filtration; system message, not an error
F6 12 hours daily filtration; system message, not an error
F Fahrenheit, used to indicate panel is in Fahrenheit mode
FB-ER Fiber optic error; accent lighting
FC Filter continuous mode; system message, not an error
FL1 Water pressure fault; dirty filter, air locked pump, low water level
FL2 Pressure switch fault; switch closed while pump is off
FL Water sensor/pressure switch fault; water flow problem
FLC Pressure switch fault; switch closed while pump is off
Fldu Spa is in filter mode; system message, not an error
FLO, Flo, FL1 Flow – inadequate water volume sensed by flow/pressure switch
FLO2 Flow – short circuit/closed circuit; pressure/flow switch
FLO (flashing) Flow – short circuit/open circuit; pressure/flow switch
Flon Spa is in filter mode; system message, not an error
FN-ER Fan error; cooling fan fault
FP, Fr, FrE Freeze – water is 40° or less; system should self-start pump/heater
H2O Water pressure fault; pump may be air locked, or water level low
HFL Sensors out of balance, reporting different results
HiLi, HLEr Water temperature above acceptable range
HL, HH, OHH High limit sensor reading 118° or above – check flow
Hold Panel buttons pressed to many times or too quickly
HOT Overheating, water over 112° F; cool down procedure begins
IC, ICE, ICE2 Freezing conditions detected; warm up procedure begins
ILOC Interlock failure; check magnetic contacts on spa equipment door
L1, L2 Panel lock; enter code to unlock control panel
LF Persistent low flow problems.
LO Freezing conditions detected; warm up procedure begins
LOC Panel lock; enter code to unlock control panel
O3-Er Ozone error; check for operation and output
OH High temperature condition, over 110ºF. Spa may be partially deactivated or low speed pump (and air blower if equipped) may activate to lower temp
OHH Overheat; one sensor has detected 118º, spa has shut down
OHS Overheat; one sensor has detected 110º, spa has shut down
OP Open circuit sensor
P1, P2 or P3-ER Pump 1, 2 or 3 error or failure
pd Power supply interrupted, unit running on battery backup
PnL Panel error; communication error between panel and circuit board
Pr Priming – pump is starting; system message, not an error
Prh High limit sensor failure
Prr Temperature sensors alarm
PS Water sensor/pressure switch fault
PSoC Pressure switch open on circulation
PSoH Pressure switch open on high speed
PSoL Pressure switch open on low speed
RH-HR Heater repair error
RH-NC No communication error – panel to board
RH-NF No flow in heater
RH-NH No heat, heater fault or failure
SA, SnA, SnH, Sb, Snb, Snt Sensor open circuit or faulty
SE Spa in economy mode; system message, not an error
SEoP Sensor open or disconnected; heater disabled but spa operational
SESH Sensor short, nonfunctional; heater disabled but spa operational
SH Short circuit on temperature sensor
Sn1 High limit fault, water may be dangerously hot
Sn2 Temperature sensor fault, heater deactivated
Sn3 Temperature sensor fault, heater deactivated
SN Temperature sensor fault, heater deactivated
Sn Sensors out of balance, reporting different results
Sna Sensor plugged into jack A is not working, spa is shut down
Snb Sensor plugged into jack B is not working, spa is shut down
SnH High limit circuit open or faulty
SnS Sensors out of balance, reporting different results
SnT Temperature sensor fault, circuit open or faulty
SP-F1,F2 or F3 Fuse 1, 2 or blown
SP-HR Hardware error
SP-IN Input voltage low
SP-OH Overheat – water temp over 112°
SP-OT Overtemp – air temp around equipment is too hot, lack of air flow
Std Spa in standard mode; system message, not an error

Do you have a spa or hot tub error code that is not on the list?  Make a call to our Hot Tub Works technical team, who can look up the code for you and decipher its meaning. We can help you learn if it is indeed an error code, or if it’s just a system status message. We can also help you find the right replacement parts, if needed.

800.770.0292 

Spa & Hot Tub Error Codes – OH, OHH, OHS

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balboa hot tub control OHH errorIn our series on spa and hot tub error codes, today we turn our attention to the HOT messages that your topside control may be trying to give you.

OH, OHH or OHS (overheat) all mean that a temperature sensor has detected unsafe water temperatures of 108° – 118° F, and your spa is in an emergency cool down mode. The heater is shut off, and the circulation pumps and blower are turned on to help dissipate heat.

Open the spa cover to allow excess heat and steam to escape. The spa obviously should not be used when OH or OHH is flashing on the topside control; as the water could be scalding hot for several more minutes. After the water cools, the high limit switch may be need to be reset on some spa packs; look for a red reset button. Press any topside button to reset a digital spa after the water has cooled to 100° F.

What Causes a Spa to Overheat?

Low water flow (LF, FLO), is the usual cause of an overheating (OH, OHH) spa or hot tub. When water doesn’t flow fast enough through the heater, the heater stays hotter, and the temperature of the water increases. Eventually, the temp sensors or high limit switches will detect the increased water temperature and shut everything down. Some causes of low water flow in a spa include:

  • A dirty spa filter cartridge.
  • Closed or partially closed valves or jets.
  • The pump has an air lock, or has lost prime.
  • Low water level in spa, and skimmer is sucking air.
  • The spa drain cover is obstructed or a pipe is blocked.

What Else Causes a Spa to Overheat?

If your water flow is perfectly fine, then you could have a problem with the thermostat or high limit switches used on older spa packs. These can sometimes fall out of calibration or become too sensitive. Digital spas have electronic sensor circuits, which are more durable than mechanical switches. However, temperature sensors, high limit sensors, relays and circuit boards will still eventually fail on modern spas.

In most cases, for newer spas anyway, the water flow problem can be quickly remedied and the spa will cool, reset and start again on its own. Some panels need a prompt from you to restart. For spas without digital controls, you may need to manually reset the high limit switch near the heater housing.

Spa Overheating Troubleshooting Flow Chart

Here’s a Cal Spa troubleshooting flow chart that has some other possible triggers of seeing OH, OHS, OHH or HH blinking on your spa panel. Open the spa cover and let the spa cool down for 10 minutes, then touch the control panel to reset the circuits, or push a red reset button on air systems.

cal spa OH OHH OHS HH error code troubleshooting chart

For OH, HH or HOT trouble codes, an overheating hot tub is not usually a heater problem. It is almost always a flow problem. When it’s not a flow problem, it’s usually a bad temp sensor, high limit switch or a stuck relay.

Here’s another Cal Spa troubleshooting flowchart for spa error codes OH, including testing the spa heater element for excessive resistance. This type of testing should only be done with the spa heater and all systems powered OFF, and only performed by someone who is qualified to test safely.

cal spas OH spa heater code troubleshooting flow chart

So, the next time your spa throws you a OH, OHH or some other “overheat” error code, you know what to do. Clean or replace the spa filter, open all the jets and turn the pump on high. If you still have problems, check over your temp sensor and high limit circuits for wire, plug or sensor problems.

Winter Hot Tub Accessories

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With winter upon us, many new spa owners (and even some seasoned pros) have lots of questions about hot tub winterization and whether or not to keep the spa open all winter. A lot of people also wonder if they can safely drain the spa during winter.

We’ve talked about winter hot tub tips before, including how to get the most out of your spa during the winter months. Today, we’ll show you some handy winter hot tub products and accessories that help protect your spa from harsh weather conditions and make your winter hot tub safer and more enjoyable to use.

Spa Covers

spa-cover-for-winterOf course you need a spa cover during winter! Without a tight fitting spa cover in good condition, your hot tub may have trouble staying hot. Spa tops that are waterlogged can lose half of their insulating properties, and a poorly fitting spa top or one that is not strapped down tightly will quickly lose heat. Replace cover clips that are broken or use high wind straps to pull the cover down tightly and prevent heat loss. If you see steam escaping around the edges or along the fold seam, just imagine it as dollar bills with wings.

Spa Caps

spa-cover-cap-for-winterIt’s a cover – for your cover! Spa covers take a beating over the winter from sun, snow and ice. A spa cover cap is almost like a fitted sheet for the top of your spa cover, effectively protecting your cover from moisture and UV rays. The CoverCap is available in 7’x7′ and 8’x8′ square sizes to fit most hot tub covers. As an added benefit, this cap can improve heat retention performance on covers that are losing heat, and and it helps extend the life of any spa cover. The CoverCap spa cover cap is made from strong woven PE. It features a silver reflective surface to melt snow faster and deter most birds, squirrels and other wildlife.

Spa Blankets

floating-foam-insulating-blanketFor spas and hot tubs in cold Northern climates, a floating spa blanket can increase heat retention by up to 50%. Without a spa blanket floating on the surface of the water, heat rises to fill the air space between the water and your spa cover. Floating spa blankets are available in three types: the durable radiant spa blanket with an aluminum underside, the floating foam blanket made of closed cell foam, and the economy spa bubble blanket made of extruded PE. All spa insulating blankets are sold in square sizes and can be trimmed with scissors to fit your spa.

Spa Enclosure

hot-tub-gazebo in winterYou may have a hot tub umbrella, but do you have a hot tub enclosure? Sometimes called pavilions, gazebos or cabanas, the Japanese were the first to popularize the use of onsens, or small huts built above a hot spring. Hot tub enclosures are available as inflatable domes, retractable domes, or wood structures with large window panels that can be opened. In addition to protecting your spa from sun, snow and wind, enclosures also can improve the efficiency of heating a hot tub in winter, and they can be the best way to add a little privacy to your hot tub.

Heated Floor Mats

heated-mats-for-spa-steps-during-winterUnless your spa is located just steps from the door, on a covered patio, winter hot tubbers often have to cross a frozen tundra to reach their bubbling spa. Ice and snow can be dangerous, and a slip and fall on your way to the hot tub can ruin the whole evening. For hot tubs in snowy winter areas, consider heating patio pavers with floor heat cables placed beneath, or use heated floor mats to keep the path to your hot tub free of ice and snow. You can find them in many sizes, and also find heated stair mats to use on your spa steps, for safe entry and exit.

Spa Handrail

spa-handrails-for-winterSpeaking of safely entering and exiting a spa, spa handrails are the perfect winter spa accessory. Spa steps may be icy from splashing water or rain/snow. However, a spa handrail helps you make that last big, awkward step into the spa without making a fool of yourself. When getting out of the hot tub, while your legs are like jelly and the blood is rushing to your head as you stand up, a spa handrail is ready and available at-your-service. We have several different safety handrails for spas. One type screws into the cabinet, another type is mounted to a large plate that slips under the spa, and the final type is mounted directly to the spa step.

A Good Hat

accessory hatThis is possibly the best winter hot tub accessory to have. A good hat will not only keep you from losing heat from the top of your head, but it will also help keep your hair dry. When your head is cold, you risk catching a head cold! Along with my trusty hat, I also swear by my spa slippers and robe – two more winter wardrobe essentials for hot tubbers.

 

 

Hot Tub Jets Not Working?

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hot tub jets not working

 

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

It’s almost always an easy fix, so don’t worry about major problems right away – it’s probably not the case. There is usually a very simple reason that the jets don’t have much “oomph” lately.

Here’s the step-by-step process that we use in our call center to guide spa and hot tub owners through issues when their spa jets aren’t working.

 

 

Is the Pump Working Right?

hot tub pumpThis is an important first question, but it’s really many questions combined into one. The first part being, “Is the pump air-locked?” This can occur if you just drained the hot tub. Some systems need to “burp” out air in the pipes in front of the pump, which is usually done by loosening the union nut or pump drain plug to allow the air to escape.

Some hot tubs have two pumps – a circulation pump for filtration and a jet booster pump. Many hot tubs just have a single, two-speed pump that accomplishes both functions. So another question would be, “Is the jet pump working?” or “Is the pump’s high speed working?”

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

 

Dirty Spa Filter?

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

 

Clogged Drain Cover?

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

 

Low Water Level in Spa?

hot tub water levelIf your spa skimmer is drawing in air, or “sucking air,” this will drastically affect water flow. It will also shut off the spa heater. Is the water level OK in the spa? You may need to add more water every so often to replenish the water lost to evaporation and drag-off. Keeping your spa cover straps clipped helps reduce evaporation by pulling the cover tight against the spa.

 

Air Leak in Front of Pump?

hot tub air leakIn the case of an air leak, it’s usually the pump union in front of the pump that is loose, or it could also be that the o-ring inside is out of position. Then again, it could also be a valve or any pipe connection in front of the pump (the pipe that brings water into the pump). If anything before the pump is loose or cracked, the pump will suck in air. The point that is leaking air when the pump is ON will also leak water when the pump is OFF. With the cabinet door open, shut off the pump and look for any spray or drips on the pipe that goes into the pump.

 

Clogged Pump Impeller?

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

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

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

 

Is the Jet Adjustable?

hot tub jetMany jets are adjustable at the nozzle or by rotating the outer ring Many can be turned almost off, which increases flow to the other jets nearby. You may find it easier to manipulate the jet adjustment while the pump is off, but it’s not necessary. Try turning the jet nozzle left or right, or turn the jet’s outer ring or “scalloped bezel.”

 

Is the Jet Clogged?

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

 

Are the Valves All Open?

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

Another type of valve is used on some spas to operate different sets or banks of spa jets. Usually a large knob or dial will allow a spa user to open and close jets while seated inside of the spa. Some hot tubs or inground spas may require a valve adjustment outside of the spa. For inground spas, there is often no valve or diverters to adjust individual spa jets, but you can often adjust the jets themselves or turn individual jets on and off.

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

Hot Tub Leaking from the Bottom

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spa-cutaway-hot-tub

A leaking spa or hot tub is cause for alarm. But don’t freak out! It’s almost never the spa shell, and in most cases, spa leaks can be found and fixed easily.

Take a deep breath! After your blood pressure drops, we can get up under there and find out what is leaking and where.

Here’s a list of the most common causes of hot tub leaks and how to fix a leaking spa.

water-drop-smSpa Pump Leaking

We covered this problem in detail in an earlier post: “Help! My Spa Pump is Leaking!” To summarize the article, when a spa pump is leaking, it’s either the shaft seal, unions or the wet end volute. Look closely with a flashlight to determine the exact source of the leak on a spa pump. This should help you determine the replacement parts needed to fix the leak.

water-drop-smSpa Light Leaking

The lens for the spa light can become loose or cracked, especially with high heat halogen spa lights. The light housing or niche is usually located on the same side as the spa pack so the bulb can be serviced easily. Shine your flashlight onto the area around the housing to determine if water is leaking from the spa light. The fix for a leaking spa light is usually a new spa light kit, or the locknut could just be loose.

water-drop-smSpa Filter Leaking

We also covered this topic in a detailed post called “Hot Tub Filter Leak Repair.” To summarize that article, the usual spa filter leak fix requires a new gasket or o-ring, or possibly a new filter housing if the body is cracked. It’s also possible that the locking filter ring could be loose and just needs to be tightened up! Like I said, most spa leaks are small and easily fixed. But if you’ve got worse problems than what we’ve already covered, read on.

water-drop-smSpa Plumbing Leaks

It happens, but leaks in the PVC pipe are actually pretty rare. Much more common are leaks on the backside of spa jets, caused by loose locknuts or deteriorated spa jet gaskets on the inside of the spa.

Spa leaks occur in other gasketed equipment – anything with o-rings and gaskets. This includes things like skimmers, lights, pumps, unions, chlorinators and ozonators.

Freeze damage can shatter PVC pipe, but most spa plumbing leaks actually occur at the glue joints, or where the pipe is glued into a coupling, spa jet, union or tee fitting. If the original PVC glue was thin in one area, over time water can seep out between the pipe and fitting walls.

Locating a Spa Plumbing Leak: If you don’t see the spa leaking anywhere inside of the equipment bay, then you have a real spa plumbing leak. It could be on one of the fittings, jets or somewhere on the pipe. But where? It takes some sleuthing to decide where to remove the cabinet panel.

Shut the pump off, and allow the spa to drain to its lowest level – pay attention to where it stabilizes and stops leaking. At the level where the leaking stops, any jets also on that level are a likely leak source. Sweep or use a leaf blower to dry off any standing water around the tub. Then add water to the spa for a few minutes and watch closely where the water begins to run out. A doctor’s stethoscope or a simple paper cup can be used to listen for leaking water.

Spa plumbing leaks will often leak more when the pipes are pressurized, or when the pump is running. Some hot tubs may stop leaking altogether when the pump is off. In this case, you’ll need to refill the spa, and run the pump while looking for the leak source.

Leak-Seal-by-LeisuretimeSmall leaks in hot tub fittings and spa jets can be fixed by adding the emulsion Leak Seal by Leisure Time. Leak Seal seeks out leaks, and clots together to form a permanent repair. It works great on small voids, seepers and weepers, but does have its limitations. It won’t fix large cracks or stop large spa leaks, but for small leaks, give it a try.

Removing Cabinet Panels: Once you have determined where the spa plumbing is leaking, carefully remove the cabinet panels. These are often glued or stapled onto the frame or studs around the spa shell. In some cases, you’ll find screws under the trim on top and bottom of the panels. If glued or stapled, find the seam or space where two panels join, and use a large flathead to pry one of them up. You won’t need your power saw, but you may need to remove the header or footer strip to make it easier to pull out the cabinet panel.

Digging Thru Spa Foam: Once the panel comes off, you may have full visibility of the plumbing, or you may have a wall of insulating foam. Just dig it right out, using a screwdriver or large kitchen spoon, and search for the wettest area of the foam. Keep digging towards the moisture until you expose the pipes, fittings or spa jet that is leaking. A wire brush on a drill can be used to clean up the little bits stuck onto the PVC, or you can use pipe cleaner to dissolve the foam bits.

spa-foam-removal-by-JD-Finley

Spa Plumbing Leak Repair: Once you find the leak, you’ll want to fix it. Leaking spa jets may need a new gasket (or just tightening). Leaking pipes and PVC fittings (90s, 45s, couplings) should be replaced if possible; just cut it out and replace the fitting with a new one. There are some PVC repair products such as Mr. Sticky’s that can be tried, but they are not always successful. Snap-on PVC repair cuffs or compression couplings can also be used in tight spots. As a drastic last resort, the line (or jet) can be abandoned by cutting out the leaking area and capping the pipe on both ends.

After the spa leak repair is complete and your spa is leaking no more, you can pick up a few cans of spray foam and replace most of what was taken out. This helps the spa retain heat and block cold winter temperatures. Replace the wall cabinet panel in the same fashion as before, using screws, a staple gun or a wood adhesive like Liquid Nails.

Top 5 Hot Tub Heater Problems

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hot tub not heatingHot tub won’t heat?! A hot tub without heat is, well, COLD! Not fun for anyone! Hot tubs are meant to be HOT. If you’ve ever been in a warm tub, you know it’s just not the same.

If you’re in charge of the hot tub at home, you immediately hear the complaints when the hot tub heater is not working properly. You need a quick solution to the problem of low heat or no heat in your spa or hot tub.

We’ll walk you through some solutions for hot tub heater problems, including photos and links to help you fix your hot tub heater!

1. LOW FLOW

Low flow in your spa or hot tub is most commonly associated with a dirty spa filter. If your spa heater won’t heat, remove and clean the filter(s) rule out a pressure or flow rate problem. Low water level, a clogged pump impeller, closed valves, clogged pipes or blocked spa drain covers can also cause flow issues. Some hot tub heaters have screens on the inlet side to trap any debris that gets past the filter. If this becomes clogged, you may notice reduced water flow coming into the spa or hot tub.

hot tub heater pressure switchesA spa heater relies on sufficient water flow to operate. A pressure switch, screwed into the heater chamber, senses when the water flow is too low to properly protect the heater. Pressure switches break the electrical circuit powering the heater element, and the heater shuts down when the water flow is insufficient. It will start heating again once proper water flow is established. Most pressure switches can be tested by using a jumper wire to connect the two wires together, bypassing the switch. Many spa pressure switches can be adjusted with a thumb wheel or small slotted screw to close the circuit at a particular pressure rating. For example, some are adjustable from 1 to 5 PSI. You can make small adjustments to the pressure switch by turning the wheel or screw, but the factory calibrated setting is safest for your spa heater.

hot tub heater flow switchesSome spa heaters use a flow switch instead, or sometimes in addition to a pressure switch. Flow switches sense water flow, not water pressure. When water flow is great enough, two paddles are pushed together to close the circuit. When flow is less than required, the flow switch remains open and the heater will not operate. Some flow switches can be tested by using a jumper wire to connect the two wires together, bypassing the switch. Harwil type mechanical flow switches can also be unscrewed from the tee housing and inspected for scale or corrosion. Flow switches are not adjustable, but sometimes do need adjustment – be sure that surfaces  are clean of scale, and the paddles are not bent. Harwil type flow switch paddles must also be perpendicular to the water flow for full operation.

2. THERMOSTAT

spa thermostats and temperature sensorsThe thermostat is the dial that you turn to crank up the heat. Most new spas use a temp sensor connected to a circuit board, and the topside control panel is just a remote control. Spas of 20 years ago mostly used potentiometers and solid state probes. For spas 30-40 years old, mechanical thermostats with a capillary bulb are common. If you have a thermostat “knob” instead of a lighted red arrow, you can test your thermostat to see if the unit is faulty internally or if the sensor bulb has become corroded.

For newer spas and hot tub heaters with a topside control panel, the thermostat is usually replaced by a temperature sensor. This plugs into the main circuit board on your spa controller, and the probe end slips into a thermowell. Inspect the cord and probe for damage, and be sure that it is plugged into the panel snugly. If your topside control panel is displaying incorrect water temperature, it’s likely a bad temp sensor. However, if it’s not displaying properly, does not respond to input or appears to be water damaged,  you could have problems with a topside control panel.

3. HIGH LIMIT SWITCH

hot tub high limit switchesThe high limit is another switch, similar to the pressure switch and thermostat discussed above, in that it is part of the safety circuit. Its purpose is to prevent a runaway spa heater – one that won’t shut off, and could overheat (OH), create scalding water or suffer a literal meltdown. High limit switches are calibrated with a preset maximum temperature at which the switch will open, breaking the electrical circuit that carries power to your spa heater element.

Some hot tubs use two high limits: one monitoring temperature inside the heater and one outside of the heater. High limit errors will normally display a HL code or OH code when they are the cause of the problem. On older spas, the red button will pop-out when the high limit has been reached. Nuisance spa high limit tripping can be related to low water flow (causing higher than normal heater temperature), incorrect voltage, a malfunctioning element, loose wire connections, damaged wires or a faulty high limit switch.

4. HOT TUB HEATER ELEMENT

hot tub heater elementsHot tub heater elements are similar to an electric hot water heater element, and as such, spa heater elements burn out very quickly if operated without cooling water surrounding it. Hot tub elements can also be tested to determine if there is a short in the coating surrounding the heating element. Use a test meter set on ohms (Ω) to measure spa heater element resistance. A good element should usually display 9-12 ohms. If it pegs to “infinity,” or keeps rising slowly, there is a short in the element and it should be replaced.

Spa heater elements can also develop a scale buildup, from hard water or sanitizing with salt systems. When a spa element develops scale on the outside of the element, it will reduce the element’s heat output, and could lead to element failure. Spa heater elements look like a stovetop heater coil, and as such, if the outer casing becomes cracked, a new element is needed. For hard water areas, using a sequestering agent to keep calcium scale in solution, and running alkalinity on the low side, 70-80 ppm, can reduce scale formation on heater elements.

hot tub heater diagramFor those of you with newer spas, you’ll often find that your spa heater element is housed in a sleek stainless steel chamber, with unions for easy removal. On these complete spa heaters, you can test the element, high limit and pressure switch for resistance, measured in ohms. When testing with a multimeter or ammeter, an “OPEN” is when the meter spikes to a high reading. A “SHORT” is when there is little to no activity on the meter. When there is no resistance, the current is leaving the circuit, known as a “short circuit.”

5. OTHER SPA HEATER PROBLEM CAUSES…

This last category causes profound headaches for many of our customers. These spa heater problems are causes that you normally don’t think about. The good news is that these can be fixed quickly. Check for these causes of spa heater troubles first. It’s often the quickest solution, and failure to rule these out first may leave you shaking your head.

  1. GFCI tripped. Look for the electrical outlet on your spa pack. The one with the red TEST button. If it’s popped out, push it back in firmly.
  2. Door interlock open. Many spas have a cabinet switch or spa pack cover switch to prevent operation unless doors are tightly closed.
  3. Spa cover needs replaced. Warped, broken and ill-fitting spa covers can allow heat to escape as quickly as the heater adds it to the water.
  4. Loose wires. Connections must be tight and not oxidized. Chewed wires (rodents), melted wires or crimped wires are also possible.
  5. Blown fuse. A power spike, surge or other incorrect voltage may have destroyed the fuse on a control board.

 

I have sincere hopes that this information has helped you heat your hot tub up again. If you’re still baffled, give our customer support hotline a call at 1(800) 770-0292.

 

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Clean Spa Filters – in the Dishwasher?

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how to clean hot tub filterCan you clean your spa filters in the dishwasher? I think the idea came about when cartridge manufacturers suggested that dishwasher detergent (not laundry detergent!) could be used as an alternative to TSP (trisodium phosphate) for soaking cartridges and removing greasy oil deposits before cleaning the filter.

I have yet to see a manufacturer of spa filters suggest cleaning spa filters in the dishwasher. There are some people online that say that they clean their spa filters in the dishwasher (without soap or rinse aid), and using a no-heat drying cycle. Sounds OK, but will it really get the cartridge clean?

My dishwasher hardly removes all of the tomato sauce it should, but it’s a decent model. So I thought I’d put this to a test. Can you clean spa filters in the dishwasher? And perhaps more importantly: Should you?

The Dishwasher-Spa Filter Cleaning Test

My spa filters had not been cleaned in a month, which is my usual schedule, so I removed my filter cartridge. It’s about 15″ tall, so I was able to place it standing up on the lower rack of the dishwasher – it just barely fit. I added a small amount of dishwasher detergent to the reservoir, then set it on the longest cycle (115 mins) with a no-heat drying cycle.

THE RESULT? There was still debris stuck down in the pleats, even though it definitely looked a lot cleaner from the outside. I’ve seen some suggest laying the spa filter on the top rack of the dishwasher, so I repeated the test in this manner, even rotating the cartridge twice during the cycle. However, there was still small debris and discoloration deep in the pleats.

How to Clean Spa Filters

THE OLD METHOD IS STILL THE BEST METHOD. Hose the filter cartridge clean with a handheld garden hose nozzle. It’s a wet and not particularly comfortable experience, but cleaning it pleat by pleat in an up and down motion does the best job.

Here’s a step by step guide for cleaning spa and hot tub filter cartridges:

  1. Turn off spa, open filter canister and remove cartridge.
  2. Spray carefully with a high pressure hose nozzle to remove debris from each pleat.
  3. Soak the cartridge for 8 hours in TSP solution (1 cup TSP per 5 gallons hot water). Rinse clean.
  4. Soak the cartridge 1 hour in an acid solution (1 cup acid per 1 gallon cool water). Rinse clean.
  5. Soak the cartridge again in the TSP solution for 10 minutes to neutralize remaining acids.
  6. To kill remaining microbes, allow filter to dry completely before reinstalling.unicel-filter-guy-using-protective-gear

Steps 3 and 4 are not always necessary. TSP (or dry dishwasher detergent) is great for removing oily deposits on spa filters. Muriatic acid (or dry acid) is used to remove mineral scale like calcium deposits. Be sure to wear proper protective gear when handling muriatic acid, and always add the acid to water (not water to acid).

Steps 3, 4 and 5 can be combined into one step when using our Spa Cartridge Filter Cleaner, which can remove both oils and minerals. We also have Leisure Time Filter Clean for an overnight soaking, or Leisure Time Cartridge Clean, which is a spray-on formula that works in minutes instead of hours.

A spray nozzle that works great for cleaning spa filters is the Filter Flosser. It can really get in there to clean between the pleats of your filter, even if the water pressure to your hose is not so great.

Final Tips

  1. DO NOT clean spa filters in the dishwasher! It’s not very effective and could damage the filter.
  2. DO NOT clean spa filters with a pressure washer, for obvious reasons.
  3. Dry dishwasher soap is OK, but laundry detergent is NOT OK.
  4. Remember to rinse the filter thoroughly after soaking to remove all chemical traces.
  5. DO NOT use DE powder as a spa filter aid. However, Puri-Fiber or Aqua-Perl may be used if desired.

Conclusion

unicel-guy-spraying-hose on spa filterIf you REALLY want to use your dishwasher to clean a hot tub filter, be my guest. But be warned: the dishwasher won’t get your filter very clean. It shouldn’t hurt the filter cartridge unless you use a heated dry cycle. You can use a small amount of dry dishwasher detergent as long as you remember to rinse the filter well once the dishwasher shuts off.

As for me – I’ll just keep doing it the old fashioned way. I take a seat next to an empty trash can, then hose the filter clean inside of the can. It’s more difficult to do it like this, but it keeps my shoes dry.