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Archive for the ‘Troubleshooting & Repairs’ Category

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!).

Troubleshooting Hot Tub Temperature Fluctuations

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troubleshooting hot tub heater problemsOnce you’ve entered the desired temperature on your hot tub’s control panel, you expect the heater to keep the water heated consistently. You don’t want it to get too hot, then cold, then get too hot again! Temperature fluctuations of more than a couple degrees are not normal, and often indicate a problem with water flow or a faulty switch.

For example, let’s say that you set the heating level to 103º, and the temperature falls below 100º before the heater kicks on. Once it does, the heater keeps going until the water reaches 105º or trips the high limit switch. Likewise, if you set the thermostat and find that your hot tub water is consistently hotter or cooler than expected, you may need to start troubleshooting common hot tub heater problems.

Verify the Water Temperature

First things first – make sure that your control panel is showing the correct water temperature. Stick a thermometer in the water to see if there’s a discrepancy in the temperature reading, which could indicate a faulty temperature sensor or thermostat. On most hot tubs, this sensor is located just inside of the filter housing. The temperature probe should be pushed down securely into the thermowell, and the capillary should not have any kinks. A faulty thermostat is one of the most common reasons for hot tub temperatures to bounce around.

Check Water Flow

Once that’s done, check that the filter is clean and not impeding water flow. Water levels in the hot tub should be high enough, and the pump impeller and lines should be free of obstructions and/or air to prevent flow problems. Make sure that the spa pump is working properly and there is adequate pressure coming out of the jets.

Test Switches, Sensors and Heating Element

Next, check your other switches and sensors. The high-limit switch can be found on the heater itself. The high-limit switch is a safety feature that prompts a heater to turn off when a certain maximum temperature is reached, and improper adjustment or failure can cause excessive temperature fluctuations, or the heater may not work at all. Likewise, a pressure switch or flow switch that is too sensitive or going bad can also cause a spa heater to malfunction. The thermostat, which we discussed in the first section, also impacts your hot tub’s heating ability. Adjust as necessary in small increments, secure any loose connections, or replace the part if it’s no longer working. If the switches seem fine, check to make sure that the heater is still working and that the voltage reading across the leads of the heating element is correct.

Examine Other Factors

Other things to consider include the outside temperature, the insulating ability of your hot tub and hot tub cover, and whether the daily fluctuations in ambient outside temperatures are negatively impacting the water temperature inside your tub. If your hot tub frequently gets too hot in summer or consistently loses heat on cool evenings or during the winter months, insulation ability and/or the circulation schedule may be to blame. The inside of a spa cabinet can get warm very quickly, making it easy for water temps to fluctuate or overheat. Friction of the water circulating through the pump and plumbing lines also raises the temperature somewhat. An excessively warm spa cabinet may just need more ventilation, whereas a spa cabinet that’s too cool may need more insulation to help keep the heat from escaping. Use caution when adding insulation to the cabinet; placing it too close to equipment like the heater or spa pump can become a fire hazard. Hot tub covers should have the correct foam density for your climate and be well fitted to the hot tub. If your cover is sagging, heavy or starting to wear out, it may be time to buy a new hot tub cover.


Once you’ve found the source of your hot tub temperature troubles, you can work on fixing the problem at hand. Has troubleshooting indicated a faulty part? Check out the Top 5 Hot Tub Heater Problems for more info on diagnosing and repairing hot tub heater parts.

Hot Tub Not Heating Enough? 10 Reasons Why

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hot tub heatIf the water temperature is warm, but not quite as hot as you like – you’ve come to the right place! Some hot tubs can heat up to 105°, although the recommended maximum temperature for healthy adults is 104°.

Let’s assume that there are no error codes on the display panel. Everything seems normal, but the water is not as hot as it normally is. At this point there are a few troubleshooting steps you can take to identify and fix the problem(s) in your hot tub.

1. Thermometer is Incorrect

First off, thermometers are not usually “precision instruments” and can give an inaccurate reading. While they generally provide a close range for reference, they may not be perfectly calibrated. Even digital display readings on your spa’s control panel can be off by a few degrees (see #5 below).

2. Hot Tub Cover is Inefficient

bowed-spa-coverAn economy spa cover is not going to provide the same heat trapping efficiency of thicker and denser spa covers. The R-value of the best spa covers can be 3x the R-value of a basic spa cover.

Secondly, as spa covers age, they can start to take on water and sag in the middle. other covers begin to rip on the edges or along the fold. If you see any steam leaking out of the sides of your spa cover, this can be enough heat loss to reduce overall spa temperature.

Finally, you have to keep the hot tub cover on the tub while heating, or the spa will never heat up. For extra heat trapping, use a floating spa blanket.

3. Thermostat is Mis-Calibrated

mechanical-spa-thermostat-adjustmentOn older gas-fired spa heaters and old hot tubs with mechanical thermostats (without any digital panel display), the spa thermostat can be adjusted. These thermostats have a copper wire and capillary bulb used to sense the water temperature. On the end of the switch is a 1/8″ hex head adjustment screw. Turn it 1/4 turn clockwise, and give it a few hours to see how high the temperature rises.

Test water temperature before using and be careful not to raise the temperature above 104° – which is possible to do on some hot tubs. Adjusting the set point too high can be dangerous or unhealthy for spa users. It’s also possible that the thermostat is defective, they don’t normally just go out of adjustment by themselves.

4. Outside Temperature Too Low

cold weatherSome spas are just not able to overcome low outside temperatures. Especially for 110V plug-in portable spas, or spas built without a lot of insulation, a small 1-3 kw spa heater can not heat up fast enough to overcome heat loss.

Also true for spas and hot tubs that have small heater elements, under 4 Kw, or 4,000 watt. The fact is – less expensive spas will have more trouble keeping up with low outside temperatures.

Using a top quality spa cover, floating spa blanket and improving insulation underneath the spa, even wrapping the outside of a wood hot tub, can all help to compensate and correct for low air temperatures. Spa heaters can also be up-sized.

5. Bad Temperature Sensors

balboa-temp-sensorModern spas use electronic temperature sensors and high-limit switches to constantly check water temperature, inside and outside of the spa heater. These are connected by wires to a plug-in on the main control panel.

On digital spa packs, you will usually see an error code (Sn, Sn1, HL, Hot, OH), when a temp sensor is causing the heater to shut off, but if they are off a few degrees, a temperature sensor or thermostat can shut off the heater, thinking the spa is hotter than it is.

6. Using the Air Blower

Using a forced air blower or opening the air intake knobs will always cool the water, because the air temperature is much colder than the water temperature. If this is causing problems during cooler weather, you may want to turn the blower off.

7. Spa Heater Not Running Long Enough

Spas and hot tubs heat slowly – some as little as 1 degree per hour, although most can do 2-4 degrees per hour. If the timer is not set to run long enough each day, it can have trouble keeping up, especially with low outside temperatures.

To bring your hot tub up to speed, run the circulation pump and heater continuously. It can take up to 24 hours, depending on starting water temperature, outside air temperature, spa cover efficiency and, most importantly, the size of your spa heater.

8. Spa Filter is Dirty

Earlier in the article, we agreed to assume that there are no error codes. However, a dirty spa filter will usually produce an error code (FL, Flo, FL1) if the pressure switch is sensing low flow and keeping the heater off.

You can remove the spa filter (spa cartridge) to see if flow improves because of a dirty spa filter. You may need to hit the heater element Reset button in this case. Clean spa and hot tub filters every 3-4 months and replace every 12-24 months to keep the hot tub water flowing and filtering well.

9. Spa Was Just Drained and Refilled

For spas that have been drained and refilled, you may want to run the heater continuously for a day or two until the water gets hot again. Once heated, reset the time clock to run for 4-8 hours daily, or as much as it needs to maintain most of the heat.

Also, be sure that the spa circulation pump is fully primed, and not air locked or drawing in air. Both of these conditions will cause a heater to overheat and shut off. You may need to hit the heater element reset button in this case.

10. Spa Water Level is Low

spa-water-level-over-skimmerIf your spa skimmer begins to draw in a steady stream of air in a vortex inside the skimmer, or gulps down air because of a stuck skimmer door or thermometer, this will cause the heater to overheat and shut down. You may need to hit the heater element reset button if this happens.

Add water regularly to your spa to keep the level from dropping too low and drawing air into the suction intakes.

How to Troubleshoot Common Hot Tub Problems

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hot tub troubleshootingUnfortunately, hot tubs don’t always work the way we want them to. Heaters may not heat, water flow will be low or nonexistent, leaks can pop up and water chemistry can go awry. The good news is that most hot tub problems can be remedied with a little bit of troubleshooting and a quick fix or two.

Heater Not Working

Problem: What’s a hot tub without hot water? That’s an easy one – it’s not much fun at all! If your hot tub heater doesn’t seem to be working properly, it’s often the symptom of another underlying issue.

Solution: The first thing to check is your water flow. Is there enough water going through the lines to close the flow or pressure switch and prompt the heater to start heating? If not, continue reading in the next section to resolve the flow problem. If there is adequate water flow, it may be one of the electrical components of the heater – flow or pressure switches, thermostats, high limit switches, heater elements, loose wiring, blown fuses or a tripped breaker. For more information on getting your heater up and running again, check out this article about the Top 5 Hot Tub Heater Problems.

Low Water Flow

Problem: You turn on the jets, and the water pressure flowing through the lines just isn’t as high as it should be. You may even be seeing flow-related error codes popping up on your spa’s control panel. Low water flow is actually one of the most common problems hot tub owners have to deal with. With flow troubles, there could be several different things going on.

Solution: First things first – make sure the filter and drain cover are both clean. A dirty, clogged filter or drain cover won’t allow water to pass through very easily. Also check to see if water levels are where they should be, since low levels can negatively impact flow rates. Open up all of the jets to determine if it’s just a few malfunctioning jets (which will need to be repaired or replaced) or if it’s all of the jets (which might indicate a faulty gate valve). Other potential causes include blockages in the pump impeller, blockages in ozonator valves (if you have one) or air lock, which is next on our list. If your hot tub jets aren’t feeling as strong as usual, you’ll want to read up on this informative blog post: Hot Tub Jets Not Working?

Air Lock

Problem: Air lock happens when air gets trapped in the plumbing and has no way to get out, so the pump is unable to work properly. This often happens after a hot tub has been drained, cleaned and refilled.  If you turn on the hot tub and hear the motor running, but nothing is coming out of the jets, chances are pretty good that you’re dealing with an air lock problem.

Solution: To get those jets flowing again, you’ll need to “burp” the air out of the lines. There are a couple of ways to do this. The first method involves opening the jets and turning the jets on and off a few times, increasing the duration each time. If no air or water is coming out of the jets after three on/off cycles, you’ll need to release the air directly from the pump. More detailed instructions can be found in one of our recent blog posts, How to Fix Hot Tub Air Lock.

Leaks

Problem: You may have stumbled upon a leak as the result of troubleshooting other hot tub problems, such as low water flow or air lock. Or, in some cases, you may not even notice a problem until you see water leaking from the bottom of your hot tub. Rest assured, this is usually an easy problem to resolve.

Solution: The first step is to locate the source of the leak. Check any connections that utilize a gasket or o-ring to form a seal, including spa jets, lights, pumps, unions, filter housings, chlorinators and ozonators. Leaks can also happen where PVC pieces are glued together. If you can’t locate the leak by quickly looking in the equipment bay, you may need to do a bit more digging. Once the leak is found, you’ll know what kind of repair is needed. Hot Tub Works has many helpful articles on hot tub leak repair and how to do it properly.

Error Messages

Problem: The nice thing about error messages popping up on the control panel is that you have a clear direction for focusing your troubleshooting and repair efforts. The bad thing is that there are a LOT of them, and some codes can indicate a variety of different issues!

Solution: The owner’s manual for your hot tub will usually have its own troubleshooting guide paired with a list of error codes for your specific model. But if you’ve misplaced this guide, error code meanings aren’t too hard to track down. They generally pertain to three categories: water flow, heating and sensor errors. Lucky for you, we’ve gathered “The Big List” of Hot Tub Error Codes to help you out on your troubleshooting journey.

Noisy Pump

Problem: No one likes noisy neighbors, just like spa owners don’t appreciate noisy pumps! It’s not relaxing at all, and those noises are a red flag that something’s going wrong with your pump. If your hot tub pump is banging, rattling, squeaking or  squelching, it’s time to open up the spa cabinet and take a look.

Solution: It’s fairly common for bearings to wear out on pump motors, especially if the motor is older than five years old. A screeching, high-pitched whine coming from the motor is usually a sign that the bearings are failing. If so, either the bearings, the motor or the entire spa pump will need to be replaced as soon as possible. On the other hand, if you’re hearing a low-pitched grumbling noise, your pump may not be getting enough water. Make sure the intake valves are open and your lines are free of clogs and debris. Rattling noises are often caused by vibration of the pump while it’s running, which can be fixed with a rubber pad to reduce the rattle. If the pump hums for a little bit before popping the circuit breaker, you’re likely dealing with a faulty capacitor. For more help with troubleshooting various pump issues, check out this article about Hot Tub Pump Problems.

GFCI Tripping

Problem: If no power is reaching your hot tub, the first thing you usually check is whether or not the GFCI or circuit breaker has been tripped. When you reset the button or switch and it keeps tripping, there is something else awry with your hot tub or the electrical wiring.

Solution: It’s best to start at the source, making sure that the breaker is not worn out. Moisture and corrosion on electrical components can also cause a circuit switch to trip, so thoroughly check the GFCI box and the inside of the spa cabinet for signs of a problem. Wiring can also come loose or become damaged, causing incomplete circuits or a short in the system. If all of this checks out and no problems are noticed, it’s time to look at the different electrical components of your spa. The heater is the first place most people look, since it’s the most common culprit when a breaker continually trips. If the heating element is tested and appears fine, you’ll need to narrow down the faulty component through process of elimination. Disconnect everything, then reconnect them one at a time – lights, pump, sound system, ozonator, air blower, etc. until you determine which one is causing the problem. There are many reasons power may not be reaching your hot tub. Some of those problems are best left to an electrician to handle. When in doubt, don’t hesitate to seek out a professional’s opinion!

Cloudy Water

Problem: This is a common hot tub problem, and it’s a good indicator that something is “off” in your water balance or hot tub equipment. Not only does cloudy water look bad, but it’s usually not good for you OR your hot tub, either.

Solution: Calcium levels, total alkalinity, pH and sanitizer can all play a part in water cloudiness. Excess organic materials, biofilm buildup, dirty filters and plumbing malfunctions can also be a source of cloudy water woes. It’s sometimes difficult to figure out why the water gets cloudy, so Hot Tub Works put together a handy detailed guide: 10 Reasons Why Your Spa Water is Cloudy.

Smelly Water

Problem: Just like cloudy water, smelly water often stems from poor water chemistry or hot tub maintenance practices. Foul smells coming from the hot tub indicate that bacteria is taking over, and it’s time to act fast!

Solution: Make sure pH and total alkalinity are balanced, and keep the sanitizer levels consistently within the recommended range. Shocking a spa will quickly kill off any bacteria lurking in the water. If this doesn’t help, it may be time to deep clean your spa. Purge biofilm from the lines with a cleaning product like Jet Clean, drain the tub, clean all surfaces, clean or replace the hot tub filter, and refill with properly balanced and sanitized water. If your hot tub still reeks when you’re done cleaning, check the cover. Mildew loves to grow on the underside of hot tub covers, which can make the whole tub smell musty. Keep your hot tub and cover clean, and maintain proper water balance so you’ll never have to hear, “Your Hot Tub Water Smells Bad!”


These problems (and more!) happen to every hot tub owner at some point or another, so it’s nothing to be worried or embarrassed about. Hot Tub Works has you covered! With countless informational “How To” articles, hot tub parts and chemicals, we have everything you need to get your hot tub back on track.

How to Fix Hot Tub Air Lock

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hot tub air lockIt’s a common scenario. You’ve just spent HOURS draining, cleaning and re-filling your hot tub, and you’re ready to take a soak. You turn on the jets, and although you can hear the spa pump motor running, no water is coming out of the jets. You may even notice an error code popping up on the display. It’s a dead giveaway – you have an air locked hot tub.

What is Hot Tub Air Lock?

Hot tub air lock happens when air gets trapped inside the plumbing, and the circulation pump is unable to prime. This keeps water from flowing through the water lines, preventing the pump(s), heater and jets from working normally.

Anytime a hot tub is drained for regular cleaning and maintenance, it’s easy for air to get trapped in the lines. But not to worry! Whenever hot tub air lock symptoms are noticed, it’s usually pretty easy to fix.

How to Fix Hot Tub Air Lock

There are a couple of easy methods you can use to eliminate air lock in your spa or hot tub. Before you get started, make sure the heater is either turned off or the temperature setting has been turned all the way down. If the heater kicks on while you’re purging the air, it can get damaged from overheating.

It’s worth noting that some newer hot tubs and pumps have a designated bleeder valve, which allows for quick and easy air lock elimination. Check the owner’s manual to see if your hot tub is equipped with a bleeder valve before trying any other methods.

hot tub jets

The first method involves “burping” the air out of the plumbing through the jets. First, make sure all jets are completely open by turning the faceplates counter-clockwise. Next, turn the jets on high for about 10-15 seconds, then turn them off again. Continue turning the jets on and off again, increasing the time by about 10 seconds each time until you see air bubbling out of the jets. When this happens, leave the jets on until the bubbles are gone or the jets are functioning normally. If you don’t see any air bubbles after three on/off cycles, you’ll need to try another method. Otherwise, you can damage your spa pump from allowing it to run dry.

fixing hot tub air lockAnother method is to remove air from the pump directly. This is actually much simpler than it sounds, and it only requires a screwdriver (to remove cabinet panels) and a set of channel lock pliers (to release the air). First, locate your spa pump, using the owner’s manual if necessary. If there is more than one pump, determine which one(s) is air locked. Remove the appropriate panel from the spa cabinet so you can access the pump, and very slowly loosen the large union nut between the spa plumbing and the motor to release the air. Once the air has finished leaking out, water will start to sputter out, and it will soon become a steady flow of water. When this happens, re-tighten the union. Turn the jets back on to see if the problem was solved. If not, you may need to call in professional help or try troubleshooting other hot tub jet problems.

Preventing Hot Tub Air Lock

One of the easiest ways to prevent hot tub air lock is to purge air from the lines as you are re-filling the hot tub. Instead of dropping the hose directly into the tub, stick the end of the hose into the filter well, and leave all jets completely open. This will fill the spa plumbing first, eliminating air from the lines as the spa is filled. But even this method has its flaws, and you may still run into air lock problems from time to time.

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.

 

Shop For These Featured Products:

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Spa & Hot Tub Ozone Problems

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spa ozone bubblesOzone is one of the world’s most powerful sanitizers – over 200 times more powerful than chlorine. But one day your spa ozonator will quietly quit working.

Spa ozone is produced in a small ozonator underneath the spa cabinet, and it is delivered to the water by a small hose that carries the O3 gas to an injector fitting, where it is sucked into the spa plumbing.

But, over time, ozonator output decreases, and after a few years, it’s time for a renovation or replacement of the ozone generator.

 

Is My Spa Ozonator Working?

When released into the water, ozone immediately begins to kill contaminants in your spa – when it’s working. But, how do you know if the ozone is working, or if it’s time for a new spa ozonator?

  1. Fine bubbles in the tub, from the ozone line, a steady stream of fine ‘champagne bubbles’ entering the spa.
  2. Spa ozonators have a power indicator light, which may mean that ozone is being produced.
  3. When you lift the spa cover, you may be able to briefly smell ozone that has gassed-off.
  4. If you remove the ozone hose from the check valve, you should be able to smell the ozone.
  5. Water quality deteriorates when ozone is no longer being produced, requiring more chemicals.
  6. Is your unit past its prime? Ozonators all lose effectiveness and fail after a few years.
    1. UV ozone bulbs last about 2-3 years, less if cycled on/off frequently
    2. Del MCD-50 CD chips last 3-5 years, Del CDS Spa Eclipse models last 2-3 years

Clogged Ozone Injector

ozone-injector Mazzei Ozone Injectors are the point of entry for the ozone gas, a venturi tee manifold, shown here. The injector draws in the ozone, mixing it with the water, where sanitation begins immediately. Injectors have an internal check valve for one-way flow only – ozone can enter the injector, but water cannot exit. If water comes out of the injector cap, or enters the ozone hose – this indicates a clogged or damaged injector check valve.

If an injector becomes clogged with debris, gunk or scale, it will block the small amount of ozone gas pressure. To clean an ozone injector, remove the hose, and ream out the injector with a piece of wire or a very small screwdriver. Vinegar can also be used to help dissolve scale deposits. A new ozone injector will eventually be needed, if the injector is leaking water into the hose.

Broken Ozone Check Valve

A second, inline check valve is used on many spa ozone systems, to prevent water from backing up through the hose, and getting into your ozone unit. This is installed between the ozonator and the injector manifold. Check valves are one-way flow devices, designed to only allow gas (or water) to flow away from the unit.

ozone-check-valveOver time, ozone check valves can become stuck, or blocked by gunk or scale, much like the injector problem discussed above. Del ozone recommends replacing their in-line ozone check valves (shown here) every year. Cleaning a check valve with vinegar can remove deposits, but be sure that the one-way valve is still doing it’s job. You should be able to easily blow air through it, but only in one direction.

Damaged Ozone Tubing

ozone-hoseThe tubing, or hose that carries the ozone from the ozonator to the injection manifold will deteriorate over time. Clear ozone/air hose often becomes yellowed and brittle from the ozone, and will eventually split, requiring replacement.

Inspect your ozone hose often, from end to end for degradation, discoloration or cracking. Del recommends that ozone tubing be replaced every year, to prevent unexpected failure. Also inspect the barbed connections on the end of the hoses. Too much pressure can cause these to crack, and leak ozone.

Expired Spa Ozonator

DEL Ozone MCD-50, it's what I use on my spaFinally, the ozone generator itself may have expired. There are two types of spa ozonators, UV and CD. Most spa ozonators have an indicator light, but they don’t usually have a failure light, so take note of manufacturer replacement recommendations.

Spa ozonators using UV, or ultraviolet light to produce ozone, will need a new UV bulb after a certain number of operational hours, usually 8000-10000 hours. Most UV ozone bulbs will still turn on, or light-up, but no longer produce the wavelengths needed to create ozone, so remember to replace the UV bulb on schedule.

CD, or corona discharge ozonators, will require a new chip or electrode every 3-5 years, to maintain ozone output. Del sells renewal kits for their larger CD ozonators, and it’s quite a simple repair. Newer spa ozonators by Del, such as the MCD-50 and the Spa Eclipse are now so affordable and long lasting, the entire unit is replaced, including hose and check valve (included).

Spa Ozonator Maintenance

Maintaining a spa ozonator is not difficult, once you know what to look for. The most important thing is to replace the ozonator or ozone parts (hose, check valve, bulb, chip) on a schedule, to prevent damage to the ozonator, and poor spa water conditions.

Hot Tub Works carries a full line of spa ozonators, and ozonator parts to keep your spa ozone equipment running smoothly; and doing its job.

Your spa ozonator probably won’t make it known that there is a problem – you have to go looking for it. Remember, eventually (2-3 years), your spa ozonator will quietly quit working one day. Maintain your spa ozonator to keep your spa sanitary.

Troubleshooting Spa Topside Control Panels

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The Spa Topside control panel is used on hot tubs, portable spas, jetted tubs – just about every spa uses a display panel to allow the user to easily control the functions of a typical spa – pumps, heater, lights, blower.

And that’s all the topside control is – a control panel, think of it as a remote control for your hot tub, wired into your spa controller, which is really the brains of the spa system. The spaside control panel, it’s just a convenient way to turn things on and off, and view equipment status lights and water temperature.

Topside controls typically consist of a small LED or LCD screen, touchpad membranes and LED indicator lights, topped with a pretty decal or overlay, as they are called. Topside controls can be digital, analog, or a combination, and are made for both air control systems and digital control systems for spas.

Topside controls will only work with a particular spa system control board(s). Another TV reference would be appropriate; you have to use the TV remote that is made for your make and model of television. It’s the same with spa topside controls, they only work with the spa control make and model for which they were designed. And even more specifically, many topside controls only work with circuit boards that have a particular chip version, which is printed on the spa control circuit board main chip label.

Topside control panels are also not easily test-able. The best way to see if a topside control is bad, is to plug in another one and see if it works. Since spaside panels are not returnable, this entails some risk on the spa owner. But there are some ways to reduce the risk… read on.

No Display on Topside Control Panel

  • Reset Spa Controller, power down and restart
  • Check for condensation under display glass
  • Check cable for crimps or any visible damage
  • Clean plug-in cable connections on both ends
  • Check power at Transformer on control circuit board
  • Check power at fuse on spa control circuit board
  • Check that topside control number works with spa control chip version
  • Inspect circuit board for damage and correct power output
  • Replace topside control

Spa Control Panel Displays Incorrectly

  • Error messages or error codes may indicate the problem
  • Flickering display may indicate low voltage from transformer
  • Partial display may indicate dirty contacts or moisture
  • Blinking lights or flashing — indicates a system reset is needed
  • Check that topside control number works with spa control chip version
  • Inspect circuit board for damage and correct power output
  • Replace topside control

Spaside Control Panel Buttons Not Working Correctly

  • Check for moisture under glass or on contacts
  • Check cable for any rodent damage, crimping or melting
  • Clean plug-in cable connections at both ends
  • Membrane or touch pad buttons may be faulty
  • Inspect circuit board for damage and correct power output
  • Replace topside control

Bottom line is – it could be a bad spaside control panel, or it could be a bad spa control board, or a bad cable that runs between the control panel and the control board. Or it could be fuse on the circuit board or the transformer, not sending the correct power to the topside panel. If you recently replaced the topside control panel and are having issues, check that your topside control panel is compatible with your circuit board and chip revision number.

If you need help identifying the correct topside control panel to use with your spa controller, first check the backside of the topside control for a part number. If that is missing, open up the controller and write down all the numbers on the circuit board, including the main chip number, and give us a call, we can help you get the right topside, or advise further on your topside control troubleshooting process.

 

Happy Hot Tubbin’

Daniel Lara
Hot Tub Works