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Warning! Risk of Electrocution! It is assumed that you have an understanding of electrical circuits. There is an extreme risk of electrocution if you are not careful when working with any electricity. If you are not comfortable in the least way with doing any repairs yourself or don't have any background working with electricity we recommend you get a professional to do the work. If nothing else, this guide will help you understand what is going on, and how things work.
Q. What is a Thermostat?
A. The thermostat in this case is a switch that senses the temperature of the water. When that temperature drops below the preset temperature then a switch closes and in turn, allows the heater to come on.
Q. What is a pressure switch?
A. This is simply a switch that prevents a heater from coming on if the water pressure drop below the preset limit (on portable spas 2.5psi but varies depending on where it is located in relation to the water level). This helps prevent the heater from over heating or coming on if there is poor or no water circulation. All pressure switches are connected to the plumbing in some fashion, e.g. gas heaters have a 1/4" copper tube that has the pressure switch connected on the end of it. Spas often have a vinyl tube that is connected to the plumbing somewhere on one end and the pressure switch on the other, or the pressure switch is threaded directly into the plumbing usually near the heater. It is not recommended that you adjust this switch unless you know exactly what you are doing and test that it does turn off the heater when water flow and pressure are decreased to a point just before water starts to boil in the heater chamber. WARNING -closed pressure side valves can create a false water pressure without actual water flow. This could cause heater to overheat and possibly even explode.
Q. What is a High Limit Reset Switch?
A. In a electric spa pack, this device acts as a back up thermostat. When the water or the location of the high limit probe (sensor) reaches a preset temperature (usually between 115-120 degrees Fahrenheit), the switch trips and shuts power off the power to the heater and sometimes to the pump as well. This helps prevent any overheating from occurring if the thermostat was to fail or the pressure switch failed or was set incorrectly. NOTE; The button doesn't do anything until it is tripped, at which time it pops out about 1/8 of an inch and when reset (depending on the type) makes the slightest little ping noise and doesn't reset again until it trips again or unless the sensor is still reading an overheat situation. Pumps left on high speed can often cause overheating, on many packs unfortunately high limit aren't wired to shut the pump off with the heating system when tripped. This means the spa can overheat to near boiling with no safety shut off, beware. . To test that is works, take some HOT water (Not boiling) from a tap in a large glass and place the probe sensor in the water. It should tip after a few-several seconds.
Q. What is a contactor/relay?
A. This is a component in many spa packs that contain electrical heaters. And it usually acts as a switch for the heater. Because heaters draw so much power usually about 14 amps for 1500 watt heaters and about 23 amps for 5500-6000 watt heaters, rather than running 15+ amps through the thermostat, pressure switch and high limit reset switch (all common heater circuit protection and control devices), etc... manufactures design the systems so that about 0.5 amps go through these components controlling the power to the coil on the contactor which when it receives power pulls the contactor reeds down, closing the circuit allowing power to get to the heater. Some spa packs may contain more than one contactor, in this case one acts as a protection contactor (coil controlled by the high limit reset and or the pressure switch) while the other contractor is controlled by the thermostat. There are many different wiring configurations to heating systems depending on manufactures and local electrical codes.
Q. Does a heater heat faster if I turn the thermostat to maximum?
A. No, . Heater are either on or off they do not come on half way when set halfway.
Q. My heater should be working but is not heating. (Electrical heater only).
A. Turn off all power and test the continuity of the heater itself (see if it conducts electricity through it), if it doesn't then the heater needs to be replaced if it does, then it's not the heater and you will need to do a voltage test at the heater leads. Be careful when ever working around electricity especially 220V. If you don't get a proper voltage reading of approximately 110V or 220V depending on your system, then follow the wires back testing each component until you get a reading. Try and isolate that component to confirm there is something wrong with it, or if it is just doing it's job (i.e....overheat reset switch, pressure switch not getting sufficient water flow to allow it to allow heater power, fuse powering contactor/relay switch for the heater etc...). Once you have confirmed a defective component the it need to be repaired or replaced obviously.
Q. Why does the heater turn off if my filters are dirty?
A. If your filter is on the intake (suction) side of the pump, dirty filter restrict the water flow getting to the pump preventing the pressure switch from allowing power to the heater. This keeps the heater from over heating. However if your filter is on the return side (pressure side) of the pump this has a reverse effect on the pressure switch you may have reduced flow but the pressure switch senses plenty of water pressure and keeps the heater on resulting in a possible overheat hazard. Keep your filter clean. You should not let them go so long that after cleaning you notice a reasonable difference in the performance of the jets.
Q. My G.F.C.I. Breaker keeps randomly, after running for a period of time, tripping off.
A. So long as the breaker trips off randomly with no apparent reason and always resets immediately after tripping then you will find that it is the breaker itself that is the problem. In almost all cases +95% (if there is an actual ground fault that is causing the breaker to trip, it doesn't go away, especially immediately after the G.F.C.I tripped). It is not uncommon that G.F.C.I become oversensitive with age and in some cases when there brand new. Unfortunately in most cases the only thing you can do is replace the breaker. A lot of people have a hard time with this one and are reluctant to believe its the breaker but spend your money on tests and replace parts but you will almost always (+95% of the time) find eventually that it's the breaker. If tests are done make sure a Die Electric test is done, ( a special high voltage tester to look for electrical leaks).
Q. My G.F.C.I. tripped off and every time I reset it and turn on the pump it trips again.
A. A lot of the time it is the electrical heater that is the culprit, here's how you find out; First turn the power off at the breaker. Disconnect the wires at the heater itself leaving any grounding bonding lugs in place. Reset the breaker and if everything works fine then it is your heater. If the breaker trips off again with both wires to the heater disconnected then you need to do some detective work. Start by disconnecting one load at a time and reset the breaker, "Note: Leave the pump to the very last as many loads are designed not to come on without proper water circulation!" Once you find what is causing the breaker to trip then reconnect everything but that one item. If everything still works then you COULD have your problem nailed. Keep in mind that this particular device that is disconnected may be preventing something down the line from getting power which could be the actual problem.
Most common causes to look at first: Almost always water or moisture related
Heater, Water backing up into Ozonator, Pressure switch leaking, Spa light transformer boxes full of water, Uv Sterilizers, Pumps due to condensation internally common in cold moist weather and motor was off prior for a period of time, Mechanical pump seals leaking water into motors, Condensation on heater lead insulators, common after quick water changes in any weather. or the G.F.C.I. Breaker- disconnect all loads (wires) from breaker. If it still trips replace G.F.C.I.
Q. I can't get the temperature to rise above about 100 degrees
A. If the thermostat is set to maximum and it is heating the water and cycling on and off accurately maintaining 100 then it may be as simple calibrating the t-stat up. There is usually a small allen screw on the back of most t-stats which will allow you to set the maximum temperature the t-stat will go to. This should only be done by someone with experience with safely calibrating a t-stat up, if not done correctly it could cause all kinds of problem. Overheating, loss of sensitivity control, wide temp variations from preset level are examples of miscalibration , . If calibrating proves unsuccessful then replace t-stat with similar.
Q. Can't get the heat up to using temperature on an old cedar hot tub in the winter. It has a wooden lid and NO insulation anywhere. Since I wrote yesterday the temp has not changed and is hovering around 20 - 22 degrees Celsius. We live in West Vancouver fairly high up, so air temp recently has been cold.
A. I would strongly recommend a gas heater then, About 60,000 Btu min. The cost to heat your tub will be very expensive with electric heat going full tilt trying to maintain any temperature with no insulation. At least get an insulated hard cover for the tub. A good cover alone will save you $500 a year in heating costs....Honest.! You may also want to look into having a portable foam insulation company come in and insulate the pipes around the spa if accessible and doesn't affect the aesthetics of the hot tub too much.
Q. What is the best way to install ozone?
A. In regard to the ozone the best way is a mazzi injector manifold on the return line of the filter pump. However if the pump is two speed then this will be a challenge as the ozone injection setup varies depending on GPM of water and is difficult to make work at two different GPM ratings for high and low speed. If you are working with a two speed pump the next best method is a special isolated jet in the foot well of the hot tub as low as possible so that the ozone is less likely to reach the surface of the water as quickly.
Q. How often should I drain and refill a spa? Its about 500 gals and is used about 4 times per week by a family of three?
A. About every 2 months, there is a formula below.
# of days = 1/3 volume in U.S. gallons / max # of daily bathers.
Q. I was curious if I could change the old jet for the new rotating ones. Thanks for the help......
A. Depend on the type you have in there already some are interchangeable easily but most older jets you need to replace both the front nozzle as well as the back body that the plumbing connects to accommodate the swirl jet. Your best bet is to see if there is a dealer that will come out and take a look, Take notes and if you have question about what he says that doesn't seem right drop me a line.
Q. Should I get 110v or 220v system?
A. Most 110v systems use a 1.5kw heater which draws 14 amps and takes an average spa 2 days to heat up from cold water. On 220v systems a 4 , 5.5 or 6Kw heater is used which draws between 20-24 amps (a little more) but heat the water in 10-12 hours. Also on 110v systems the heater turns off when you put the pump on high speed as to not overload a 15 or 20 amp service and you can only put a maximum 1 hp pump on 110v which limits future upgrades. Get 220v if you can afford the additional wiring cost and you will be much happier in the future.
Q. Is it cheaper to keep it at temperature or to let it cool down after 11PM and start it heating sufficiently soon in the afternoon to be "at temperature" for the evening hours?
A. Not really what you spend maintaining the temperature you spend recovering the temperature after it has cooled some. I like the analogy it is like driving in the city and on the freeway the more you stop and start the more it could cost. (with the exception that you can't develop momentum with heat like you do in a car) If you keep it at temperature and you decided to go in at a time not on your schedule you can. As I tell everyone who want to save money, if you are going to keep the tub long term invest in 220V your costs are 1/2 of what you pay now with much faster heat recovery.
Q. I have a wooden hot tub that leaks what can I do?
Last year I purchased a house and to my delight it had a redwood hot tub built into the deck which runs the length of the house (the deck...not the hot tub). For a couple of months all was well, and then it started to leak. I contacted the previous owner, who told me that they had never had a problem with leaking (hmmm!). I contacted the company who had serviced the tub for the previous owners and he has been out on three occasions to caulk the bottom perimeter of the inside of the tub. On the last visit he left me with a bottle of goop with enzymes in it to put into the tub (apparently somewhat like a car radiator sealer) which you leave in for 48 hours, drain and refill to use. That was good for about 14 days. I sort of gave up on it, and then discovered one day when curiosity got the better of me and I lifted the cover that the water was still half way up the tub. This leads me to believe that the water is NOT leaking from the bottom!!. However, in case you are wondering, the water was well below the level of the jets, so that leads me to believe that the leak is not around the jets (there has never been any apparent leaking from those areas), it has always been around the bottom. Of course I realize that water will only drip from the bottom unless there is one hell of a leak and it spews out:) Unfortunately, I have no idea of the name of the manufacturer or installer, so I have to seek out help elsewhere. Local companies seem to deal only in the new fiberglass tubs, and I am most hesitant to call the guy that has serviced it over the past year because #1 he has let me down frequently and #2 I think he is clutching at straws in trying to find a solution to the problem. I would be eternally grateful if you could come up with any suggestion as to how I might fix my problem. I would hate to either fill in the tub with dirt and plant flowers in it or have to tear up the deck and install a new one. Incidentally the house is 13 years old, so I have to believe that is the age of the tub. Looking forward to some positive direction, but any comments or leads will be appreciated.
A. This one can be tricky. First, I assume you have been told that
wooden hot tubs should never be drained for prolonged periods of time because
the wood shrinks and causes leaks. Second, it is most likely leaking from the
bottom between the boards with random rates of water loss. Have you tried
tightening the banding that goes around the tub (if accessible)? These boards
deteriorate with age and the space in between them gets larger. It is tough to
repair, silicone caulking won't stick, vinyl liner is expensive and a lot of
work, wood filler won't work, paint won't work, epoxy will not stay in place for
Q. I have a 2 speed pump, solar panels and ozone. Would running the pump on low speed whenever it's not pumping through the solar panels gain me anything (ozone) other than a higher electric bill (i.e.. the pump would be on 24 hrs day)?
A. Absolutely. keep the pump on as much as possible and make sure the ozone is installed down line from the solar panels, as ozone will deteriorate rubber quickly. Ozone doesn't last long in water and If you want the best from your ozone keep it injecting, I would.
Q. The coating on the my fiberglass spa (which one plastic person thought was acrylic) has been bubbling and even cracking open in a few places. I have been repairing the bigger bubbles (which have red colored water inside of them) and cracks by cleaning them out and then use fiberglass followed by a gel coat surface. The gel coat (with brown pigment added) seems to hold up except it turns white after a few days under water. (The spa is dark brown.) Do you have any recommendation for something other than gel coat? Epoxy? Thanks a lot for putting all the information you have on your www site. As a chemist who enjoys his spa almost every day I really appreciate your effort!
A. Unfortunately there is nothing guaranteed to last that won't chip, fade or peel due to the heat and chemicals. You may try a high quality acrylic marine grade paint but again it will probably peal in six months.... Sorry. The red coming out is from the cobalt in the fiberglass.
Q. My high temperature breaker (high limit reset) keeps popping out. The water temp is very hot and I assume that something is wrong with the thermostat. Do you think that is the right assumption or is there something else I should consider before I go see the spa company? I have never had any problems at all with this spa. It is a little over a year old.
A. Well it sounds like your high limit reset is working because it is tripping out. You may be correct in assuming the t-stat is the culprit. Also note; prolonged periods of running the pump on high speed can also cause this symptom (over night). Do you have a heat indicator light on your spa pack? If so does it go out when you turn your t-stat down slightly and turn back on as the water cools off over a period of time? If yes then may not be the t-stat if no then most likely is the t-stat.
Q. What is an average temperature for a hot tub in the winter weather??
A. 102-104F or 39-40C should be perfect.
Q. I have recently purchased a used but never assembled Mahogany Hot Tub. I have no instructions with it. I would like to know if the wood needs to be sealed and if so, with what?
A. Absolutely not! The wood needs to absorb the water and swell slowly to seal all the cracks and potential slow leaks the tub may have after it is filled with water. You may treat the outside of the tub but few people do.
Q. Can I convert this spa to a solar powered type? The spa is located on the south side of the house which is mainly exposed to the sun. We are located in Morgan Hill Calif.
A. Solar would not be practical and would take a long time to pay for itself on a spa. The other factor involved with solar is most solar systems won't get the water much above 80 or 90 and at night when you use the tub it will cool down allot while using it. Also note: Gas boilers also take about 20 years to pay for them selves in savings when everything is factored together on a reasonable insulated hot tub/spa, however the heat recovery can't be beat. Heating and operations shouldn't cost much more than $30 / month on most insulated hot tubs.
Q I went through 2 skimmer baskets this past season in the pool. Apparently the combination of leaves and powerful suction from the pump did them in. I clean the pool every week but if the wind gets blowing or we have a bad rain storm, the basket can fill up very quickly. I do not have an automatic pool cleaner but have seen some other devices that may help. What do you think?
A. Try an old nylon stocking in your skimmer wrapped around the basket. You should also have an alternate source of draw for the pump so that if the skimmer becomes plugged the water source feeding the pump should be able to come from somewhere else like the bottom drain in the pool or an equalizer fitting on the side of the pool near the skimmer. There are also floating skimmer available that help reduce the build-up in your main skimmer and also reduce dead spots on the pool surface. They usually hook up to a return jet, for operating the skimming action.
Q. We have a tough winter in the UK at the moment and my 1500 gallon pool is frozen over. Do you have any recommendations.
A. If the weather is bad now, it may be too late to winterize the pool safely and properly. You may want to pray that no damage is done by the frozen water. How did you winterize the pool? or did you keep it running in the winter. Also you may try to go carefully go around and break the ice around the edges and do what you can to protect everything from freezing water. Did you read my winterization procedure in my FAQ pools?
Q. $150 SPA COVERS are expensive when you consider they last only about a year.
A. You get what you pay for! If the cover only lasts a year then I would recommend you don't purchase it. A good poly wrapped insert shouldn't become water logged for about 3-6 years then it (they) should be replaced before it gets so heavy than it starts to rip the vinyl. If the foam inserts are not wrapped in poly plastic then they will water log in 1 year. (What a waste of money). Also Take note that a cover will save you about $500 per year on heating costs alone, compared to not having a cover on an average spa, varies based on local weather conditions and size of spa. (also depends on method of heat, like gas is less). In BC here we have mild winters and BC Hydro says to heat an average electric hot tub for 1 year is approx. $900 with a spa cover it drops to Approx $250. for the whole year that works out to a little over $20/month compared to $75/month without a cover... You be the judge if a good cover is worth the money....
Q. I have a small 300-400 gallon spa that is probably 8-10 years old. I currently have a spa-side control made by Carolina Controls. I have not been real happy with it, but a spa repair company told me that they are one of the only manufacturers with spa side controls. The relays in the control arc and burn and eventually melt together.
A. Are you sure it's not Catalina Technology's Controls? Are the controls are malfunctioning within the warranty period, or is there one, and how long? Perhaps if the same problem occurs each time perhaps this could be a symptom of another problem that you are not already aware if. What does this contactor (relay) control, and is that item drawing current within the contactors normal operating range? Is it a heater?
Q. My tub has a build-up of a calcium-looking (sodium? - white chalky) substance on and around the plastic piping to the ozonator, pump, etc. and the tubing contains a thick-looking yellow substance inside the piping?! Right now the tub is shut-down for repairs - as of today.
A. Have you ever boiled a pot of water dry and been left
with white crusties in the bottom of the pot?
Q. Is there any chance that regular use of a hot tub could have a detrimental effect on sex drive?
A. That I know of, not long term, No. However, the heat has been known to affect the ability of a man to get an erection for a short period of time after use of the tub. While in the tub the senses of nerves are heighten by the heat but after a period of time become de-sensitized so to speak for up to a few hours depending on the person after getting out of the tub. Hot water has this effect period of time. Please note I am not a physician and for an accurate response to your question you should consult a physician.
Q I don't know if I agree with you beliefs in keeping the pumps going and the spa at operating temperature continuously or not though. Seems like a lot of unnecessary wear on the pumps. How is a spa any different than heating your home, The utility companies strongly recommend set back thermostats for your home as an energy saving device. Why not do the same for you spa?
A. That is allowed. You can do what you are comfortable with. These are my personal opinions. Every time the motor runs the bearing warm up, when it is off they cool. the constant heating then cooling of the pump, is what is hard of them. Also there are switching devises that are turned on and off each time as well that is also wear that normally may not occur if the equipment is left on. The amount of saving is very marginal, most of the savings is in the operation of the pump itself not the heating. The heat lost when you turn the heater off must be recovered rather than maintained. Have you ever noticed that the warmer the water is the faster the heat recovery (e.g.. if it takes 1 hour to raise the temp 10 degrees from 60 degrees you will probably find it 1/2 hour to raise it another 10 degrees from 95. or 2 hour to raise 10 degrees from 40 degrees. (those were approximations) If you allow the water to cool the heater has to work that much harder to recover the lost heat but to maintain a temperature the heater may come on for 5 min every hour or so. If you don't have very good insulation or don't use the spa for several days then it may be worth allowing it to cool down. But on a day to day use the saving are so small that what you save is equal to less than the cost of 5 min of use with the jets on. Also Heating water electrically is 95% efficient all the power used is used to heat the water. Whereas in a house 50% of the heat used to heat the forced air, goes up the exhaust stack which is very wasteful. Also note that the heat off the motor help heat the air space under many spas which in turn reduces the heat lost from the spa water if the air spas is large enough. This help offset the cost of operating the motor. Finally chemicals like chlorine or bromine require the normal circulation of the water to help it combine chemically with contaminants to destroy them. When the spa is off the water mixing doesn't occur, the efficiency of the chemicals drop. Also the filter is not working helping to remove a lot of stuff that also tie up the chemicals.
Q. Several months ago per having a problem with getting sick after using my spa. I have disconnected the ozonator (it is set up to run 24 hours a day). Since then I have been able to use the spa with little or not ill effects. I was just wondering if you had heard of any others having problems (respiratory) that had spas equipped with ozonators. I have noticed locally (Pennsylvania, USA) that the dealers are no longer advertising ozonators for chemical treatment. Have you heard anything along these lines? Either way, you asked that I get back to you after disconnecting the ozonator and all seems OK without it. Thanks for the help.
A. Yes I have, Ozone is a known carcinogen and was decertified by CSA up here in Canada for a while because of lack of control on the industry in regards to safe installation and operation. It is a known fact that ozone can become unsafe for inhalation at higher levels or concentrations.
Q. Blisters on the seats of the hot tub, as well as the bottom. Is there anything they can do to fix this? If so, please let me know.
A. Blisters are common in older fiberglass/acrylic hot
tubs there are a lot of options but nothing long lasting that I know of
unfortunately. There is also no way of stopping additional blisters from
Q. Every few days, my hot tub gets a brown film or sludge around the sides. What is this?
A. It sounds like body oils that float to the surface and cling to the walls at the water level. This is normal and safe. (like the scum you get in the bath tub). Clean it off periodically with a damp cotton cloth.
Q. My wife and I have been looking at local showrooms for our first home spa and keep getting conflicting opinions on the "grundfos" or 24 hour circulation pump. We live in a relatively cold climate 4-5 months out of the year and of course want to purchase an energy efficient tub. Some dealers praise and some warn against the 24 hour circulation pump. What's the skinny on this piece of equipment? What's your opinion?
A. Personally I don't like them at all, they don't pump enough water to "turn over" the spa water frequently enough to keep maintenance simple. This is also the reason most small circ pump systems are sold with ozonators...The dealers know that the chemistry is almost impossible to maintain without an ozone generator to help in maintenance. Use a two speed pump it is only going to cost you 2 amps more or $5 a month in additional electrical. Heating cost do not factor in at all in regard to efficiency of the pump. Good analogy- Do you want the performance of a muscle car with passing power if you need it? Or a generic efficient compact car that get you from A to B but that's it?.
Q. I am a bit concerned about the pool pump. On an intermittent basis it is making a rather high pitched noise.
A. Sounds like it would most likely be the bearings in the motor. They shouldn't be to expensive to repair but special tools are often required, so I recommend you get a professional in for that.
Q. My husband and I recently purchased a new home. The deep basement is not currently finished and we had hoped to do so within the next year. It is our desire to make the room into a recreation/spa room. The room is not very big, however, a small hot tub would fit nicely. What recommendations would you make concerning the construction of the room?
A. You will want to put in a ventilation /exhaust fan that is controlled by a humidistat set to come on as soon as the humidity goes above a pre set percentage. You will also want to put floor drains in for excess water or from accidental over filling of the spa. While you are putting that in provide yourself with a sewage drain just for the hot tub near the pump and equipment location. When you have to drain the tub, you don't want to have to run a hose through the house or to the outside. You should also provide yourself with a cold water supply near the tub for ease of filling. Electrical is dependent on the spa equipment you put in. Vapor barrier the basement walls and electrical receptacles to code on external walls and also use moisture proof drywall near the spa (same drywall they use in bathrooms- it green colored up here in Canada). If you are tiling, use skid proof tiles or water resistant/mildew resistant carpet.
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