Your Pool and Spa Service Company
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This site is about Spa and Hot Tub, care, maintenance, and repair. in the Oklahoma City Area. A-Pro Services has qualified, knowledgeable, helpful repair and service technicians who are happy to serve you, and we appreciate your business. Our goal is to help spa and hot tub owners learn the basics of care, and to have an enjoyable, safe, and relaxing ownership experience. When you do need spa or hot tub repairs, we hope you will choose A-Pro!
This page, entitled Components,
is a recap and continuation from the SpaRepairOKC.com 's home page.
Self contained, or portable spas and hot tubs may require 115 or 230 volts*, or they may be convertible. When a spa is considered to be convertible, all components on the spa are able to operate on 115 volts. To prevent power consumption from being more than 20 amps, the heater is disabled when anything other than the low speed of the number one pump is running. When the spa is converted to 230 volts, only the heater and circuitry are converted. All other components remain on 115. Four wires are required to run convertible units - two "hots" one neutral, and one ground. To convert older units, the neutral side of the heater is connected to the second "hot". The controller is then reconfigured to allow the heater to run when other pumps are turned on. The spa then heats four times as fast, and can maintain heat while in use.
There are a number of simple things that can go wrong with a pump. Some early warning signs include leaks, particularly around the pump shaft. If this is caught early, it is a pretty easy repair for any qualified repairman. If a leak is let go to long, other parts will be damaged, leading to greater repair costs. Unusual noise, such as grinding or rumbling sounds, are indicators that the pump motor bearings may need to be replaced. This is a bigger problem, but is still repairable if caught early. The fact that a pump doesn't run does not necessarily mean that it has to be replaced. There may be a very simple, or even unrelated reason.
Spas and hot tubs may use any of four types of filters: Sand, Diatomaceous Earth, Cartridge, or Bag. Within filter types, there are sub-types. Cartridge filters are by far the most commonly used filters in self contained spas, and since sand filters and diatomaceous earth (D.E.) filters are used strictly on spas which are not self-contained, they are discussed on the In Ground Spas page linked above.
Cartridge Filters have long been the standard in spa and hot tub filtration. On older model spas, the filters were in the plumbing under the spa. Commonly, they are attached to the discharge side of the heater, suspended on the plumbing. They are difficult to clean, by today's standards, and there is some spillage in the control compartment in the process. Since these filters are on the pressure side of the system, there is nothing to keep sand and other fine debris from damaging the pump, or blocking the heater pressure switch (see heaters, below). To solve this, some manufacturers started putting this type of filter on the suction side. The result was potentially a worse problem - suction leaks when the filter o-rings were not sealed properly. Because of this, and to make cleaning the filter an easier and less messy task, top loading filters of the same design were mounted to the spa shell, and much easier to take out for cleaning. The owner simply unscrews a lock ring, removes the lid, and pull the filter out. Some of these filters are on the pressure side, while others are on the suction side. The same problems as above still hold true. Which brings us to the modern standard in spa filtration.
Most modern spas use suction side filters, but they are completely submerged in water, usually built into the skimmer. Since the filters are submerged in open water, they cannot draw in air. Because they are on the suction side, these filters protect the pump and heater from fine debris. For these reasons, this method of filtration has become the standard in modern spas. Some screw in, some simply pull out, some are held by retaining nuts, but the principle is the same: efficient, flooded suction side filtration.
Cartridge filters, sometimes called fibrous membrane filters, need to be taken out for cleaning periodically. The cleaning frequency depends on how heavily the spa is used, and by whom. If the bather does not shower before using the spa, then any deodorants, hair products, etc., will cause the filter to need cleaning more often. Generally, most spa filters should be cleaned about once per month, much less frequently with light use. It's a pretty easy job, just take it out, spray it off with a garden hose sprayer, and put it back. Before taking out the filter for cleaning, the spa should be turned off, so that the pump does not come on while cleaning the filter. When replacing the filter, it should be "burped" to allow any trapped air to escape.
Bag Filters are used in some spas, and work on the same principle as suction side cartridge filters. A basket in the skimmer holds the bag, which is a heavy cloth material, in place. When dirty, the bag is removed, and can be washed in a regular washing machine. Some people like bag type filters, because they are easy to clean, but since this is not a vent for my personal opinion, I'll let it go at that.
From time to time, filters need to be replaced, and some people chose to have one or more on hand so they can change filters, and clean their dirty ones at their leisure. Unicel is one company that makes high quality replacement cartridges for most filters. If you know the brand of spa, the filter model, or part number, or even the exact dimensions, you can cross reference it to a Unicel number. You can get unicel filters through most pool and spa stores, or through A-Pro services. Here is a link to our page where you can use or download the cross reference in PDF format: [ Unicel Cross Reference ]
Unicel is a manufacturer of quality aftermarket pool, spa, and hot tub filters.
There are many types of spa heaters, but, generally, they are of two types. Electric heaters are used on self contained spas, because they are smaller, do not require additional plumbing to be run to the spa, and do not need to be vented. Since gas heaters and free standing electric spa heaters are used on in-ground spas, and spas attached to swimming pools, they are discussed under the in ground spa link. Inline spa and hot tub heater, and heat recovery systems are more common on portable spas, so we will discuss the basics of them here.
There several different types of inline spa and hot tub heaters, but they all have the same principles of operation and the same purpose. Their job is to work with the spa control to keep the water at the desired temperature. Unlike a range top or oven, turning up the the thermostat up does not make the spa or hot tub get hot any faster, rather, it tells the spa what temperature to maintain. The actual rate of heating remains constant, until the desired temperature is reached. Therefore, at any given time, the spa is either heating, or it is not.
On mechanically controlled units, the thermostat tells the heater whether or not heat is called for. Either directly, or by using contactors or relays, the heat element is either activated or deactivated. In order for the heat element to be activated, at least two other things have to happen. A pressure switch or flow switch verifies that there is sufficient water flow to allow the heater to run, and a thermal high limit switch verifies that the spa water has not exceeded a safe temperature. If the pump fails to start, or if the water gets too hot, the heater is deactivated. As the term implies, mechanically controlled spas and hot tubs use mechanical switches to control these functions. The spa owner turns the temperature control knob to the desired temperature, and, as long as the spa pump is moving water, the heater is able to maintain the desired water temperature. Often there is a timer which tells the spa pump to come on only during certain times. If there is not enough time set on the timer, the heater will be unable to maintain the desired temperature. There is often a mode switch on the spa pack, so that, in addition to a minimum amount of filtration, the spa pump will also turn on any time there is a call for heat.
Electronically controlled spas use electronic sensors to measure the water temperature. These sensors are specialized resistors, and the resistance varies with the water temperature. The circuit board compares the amount of resistance in the temperature sensor to the amount of resistance specified by the controller. When setting the desired temperature, user actually is specifying the amount of resistance in the control circuit to achieve the desired temperature setting. While the readout is showing a temperature setting in degrees, the circuitry is interpreting that setting in Ohms, the measure of resistance. It has no idea what the temperature is.
On electronic spa control systems, one or more filter cycles can be set per day, to make sure that there is a minimum amount of filtration to keep the water clear. The spa owner can choose whether or not the heater is activated during this time, to save energy and still have the spa ready and waiting at the desired time. Exactly how these settings are made depends on the controller used, but , generally, if there is an "economy" mode, the low speed pump and heater only work when the timer tells it to. in "standard" mode, the low speed pump and heater run whenever there is a call for heat, in addition to when the timer is set to run. While this is a less "green" setting, it is better for the spa, because water temperature is a key factor in the corrosiveness of the water, and this setting does not allow as much fluctuation of the water temperature. As with most modern appliances, spas and hot tubs are well insulated and energy efficient, so the economy mode is less significant. If the spa is used regularly, it is probably best to leave it in the standard mode, and perhaps use the economy mode or turn down the temperature when the spa will not be used for a week or more.
Typical inline spa heater assembly
Hayward Stand Alone Heater
( In Progress ) There is a lot to discus about spa controllers, but we will explain them here, eventually!
Spa pack with thermostat and timer
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Your Pool and Spa Service Company
Serving Central Oklahoma
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Your Pool and Spa Service Company