Spa Heater –Repair and Maintenance Guide

vita-spa-universal-u100-u200-heaterIf you live in a northern climate, or use your hot tub year round, then you will want to make sure it comes equipped with a heater. Note that some models, especially the plug and plays, do not come with a dedicated heater. While many 120 volt spas may come equipped with a heater, you will only be able to run the spa pump or the heater at any given time – not both together.

On the other hand, most 240 volt hot tubs come with heaters. To control the heater, you simply set your preferred temperature using the spa control panel. Hot tub heaters work in conjunction with your plumbing system, control panel and spa pumps. To keep your hot tub heater running efficiently for longer, follow these tips:

Spa Heater Maintenance

There are several things you need to be aware of to protect your heater. The first is poor spa water chemistry. It is important to regularly (2-3x a week) test your hot tub water with a water test kit or test strips. Keep the pH in balance –between 7.2 -7.8 – and adjust your water chemistry as needed. When your pH drops below 7.2, the water becomes acidic and can cause corrosion or rust on your metallic heater elements.

spa-heaterIf you live in an area with hard water containing lime or calcium, your heater elements may develop scale. This white coating of plaque will build up over time, causing your heater to work harder and eventually cause your heater to burn out. It is always a good idea to get a pre-filter for your hot tub if you live in a hard water area.

Air can also cause issues for your hot tub heater. Low water flow, air bubbles or air inside the heater chamber can mean a shorter lifespan for your spa heater. You will want to ensure that you don’t have low water flow issues.   Check your control panel for messages and regularly clean your spa filter.


Spa Heater Specifications

Despite proper maintenance, there will come a time when your spa heater will need replacement (generally after 8 years). This may occur after it stops heating properly or does not heat at all. You can use an electric meter (available at any hardware store) to test for short circuits or resistance on the heater body or terminals where the wires connect or, better yet, get a repair tech to check out the problem.

There are both high flow heaters and low flow heaters built into hot tubs, depending on what brand and model you have. You will want to get the correct replacement heater since it is part of your entire plumbing system and the wrong replacement will cause further issues down the line. Check the label on your heater for the stats you need to order a spa heater replacement online. The important factors to duplicate are the size and electric specifications (voltage, wattage, amperage, etc.). The most popular hot tub heaters are the 4.0 Kw and the 5.5 Kw universal heaters. However, you also need to match the wattage (1.0/4.0/5.5 etc.) and the voltage (110,120, 220 or 240) so you are choosing the correct heater for your spa.

spa-heater-troubleshootingHot Tub Heater Troubleshooting

Before you replace your spa heater, make sure there isn’t a separate reason why your water is not heating sufficiently. Often, a dirty spa filter can cause water flow problems, so take out and rinse or replace the current filter if it is dirty. There could also be some issues with the plumbing, like clogs or partially closed valves.

If you have a low kW heater, it may have trouble heating the water sufficiently in very cold weather. Unfortunately, you cannot simply buy a bigger heater and install that instead. You have to replace the broken heater with the exact same one, since adding a stronger heater could cause a fire, burn out circuit boards or simply not work.  Invest in a thicker cover to help prevent heat loss so the spa will retain more heat when not in use.

Spa Heater Replacement

If your water is stone cold, then check that the circuit breaker or GFCI has not tripped.  See if there are any error codes on your control panel. Change settings by entering a higher temperature to see if the heater kicks in.   It could be that only the internal heater element is broken, which is cheaper to replace than the whole heater. However, you would have to know how to safely install it and understand it is more difficult to do properly. If your heater is old, it is better to replace the whole thing. A new heater will be more efficient and have newer sensors.  It is easy to replace as long as you order the correct replacement heater.

spa-heatersOpen up your spa cabinet to look at the brand of your spa pack (which is the control pack and heater together). Generally, all equipment will have a label so you can read the brand and the specifications. If you can’t find or read the label, you should still be able to see the information imprinted on the heater unit itself. You will want to take the physical measurements of the heater to make sure it is the same size.

When you are ordering your heater, check if you need any union o-rings, hi-limit or pressure switches. Always make sure that you shut off the power to the spa and close up valves before you try to remove the old heater.

If you are unsure which replacement spa heater to order, then simply send a photo of your heater label/heater along with the dimensions and model of your spa to: info@hottuboutpost.com. We will send you back a ling to order the correct heater for your spa make and model.  We have discounted prices on all the most popular models including Gecko, Balboa, HydroQuip, Hot Spot, etc. You can also find spa heaters by hot tub brand. We also carry spa packs, controls packs, O-rings, and other hot tub spare parts, so there is no reason to be left out in the cold!

Mineral Sticks for Easy Hot Tub Water Care

Mhot tub mineral stickineral sticks by Frog, Nature 2 and Leisure Time are cartridges that insert right into the filter compartment and allow for a reduction in chemical sanitizer. Although the mineral stick does not replace bromine or chlorine, quantities of the sanitizer can be reduced when using a mineral stick.

The mineral stick helps kill bacteria by dissolving trace amounts of mineral material into the water while being odorless.  It works by producing positive ions that destroy negative charged bacteria cells.

Most mineral sticks work together with a built-in ozonator to help reduce bromine or chlorine needed.  Just put the cartridge in the filter housing area, it does not need to be mounted.  Never mount a mineral stick inside the plumbing of a spa.  Some filters will allow for the stick to go inside the filter if the filter is longer than about 7″, but just putting in the housing or in the filter basket area is adequate.  Replace the stick every 3-4 months.

frog mineral stickKeep your water safe, free from harmful bacteria and sparkling clean with a mineral stick in addition to reduced amounts of chlorine or bromine. That means less chemical smell and less skin irritation.  Never mix bromine and chlorine.

The frog mineral stick is green, like a frog and fits right in the filter compartment of most spas.  Follow the directions by snapping off the end and inserting into filter cartridge area.  This works with spas up to 1,000 gallons.  One stick will last 3-4 months.

Hot Tub Spa Plumbing Repair Tips

plumbing parts onlineHot tub sprung a leak?

PVC parts and glue may be needed to fix the leak. Common hot tub PVC plastic parts include elbows, tees, reducers, hose or pipe and unions.

Manifolds direct the water from a larger hose or pipe to several smaller hoses that usually connect to jets.  Most hot tub manufacturers use a manifold plumbing system in order to assure even pressure at every jet. Basically the water manifold is a water splitter and the air manifold is an air splitter.

spa plumbing parts onlineA spa that is left empty in the freezing winter may have a cracked manifold or two.  Those can usually be found easily because water comes gushing out of them as soon as the hot tub is refilled after the season.  This is why it is important to properly winterize the spa or just leaving it full over the winter, even if the temperature is turned down. Leaving the hot tub filled also allows the freeze protect systems in the controls to work.

When glueing parts together, it is first important to dry-fit them to assure they will all fit in the right place. Then apply glue in a circular motion around and around both joints to be connected. This also builds up heat and allows the two parts to bond better.  Use a fast drying PVC glue ideal for hot tub use.

Some hot tub techs like using a primer first to assure a better bond. This is a good practise, but many times just gluing 2 brand new, dry joints is also adequate when using a good PVC glue. Never hurts to prime and it does pre-treat the connection for a sure fit.

Ohot tub spa partsnce the PVC glue has cured (usually best to leave it for 24 hours or so even if dry in 5-10 minutes as is the case with the fast drying WeldOn type of glue), then refill the spa and check the connection as well as for any other leaks.

As long as the spa is not of the fully foamed type, getting at and repairing leaks is a straightforward process most of the time.

Get your plumbing parts online at the Hot Tub Outpost.

QCA Spas Troubleshooting FAQ

plug and play spasHow do I know if I am getting power to my Plug and Play spa?

There is a test button and above it a reset button on the GFCI power cord. When the GFCI is fully functional, the red light on the GFCI cord will be on indicating power to the spa.

I am getting power, but spa not working.

If the system fuse blows (0.3 amps) then the topside control panel will not light up, so the fuse needs to be replaced.

My Aux button does not work.

All plug and play spas have an Aux button on the panel that is inoperative. It is a generic panel that includes an additional function not used on plug and play models. This is similar to blanks that are in automobiles that do not offer certain features or functions.

What should I do if my spa pump is humming?

If the pump does not pump any water, see if there is an error message on the panel.  If the control panel shows an error message DR or DY, that means the heater is dry, so you may need to manually prime the pump or heater tube.  This process involves slightly opening a union to allow water to start coming out, thereby eliminating any trapped air bubbles. This usually may occur on a brand new fill.  Pumps are self-priming, but sometimes an air pocket can cause priming issues and the resulting dry heater error. This is a safety mechanism to avoid the heater tube from becoming too hot.   Always call for assistance if there are any issues that are unclear.

Most of the issues may crop up on brand new installations or refills as procedures are not understood until becoming more familiar with the spa.  Generally, once the spa is full of water and the power has been hooked up safely and correctly, there is little to do but turn it on and enjoy!

plug and play hot tub spaProper water chemistry will go a long way to avoiding any mechanical problems or eroding seals and also provide for a safe and fun water environment for the whole family.

Contact the folks at Hot Tub Outpost with any questions or to order replacement parts, filters, chemicals, covers or accessories.

Convert a Plug and Play Hot Tub from 110v to 220v

120 volt plug and playNot all 110-120 volt spas can be converted to 220-240v operation, but a select few of QCA Spas plug and play models such as the Mystic, Riviera and Star Gazer.

When a plug and play spa operates at 120v, the heater (if the spa has one) is mostly a 1kw heater. By converting one of the convertible plug and play spas to 220-240v operation, you make the heater a 4kw heater without needing to actually replace the heater.

Will the spa use more power at 240v?  No, because the recovery time and initial heat up time is 1/2 the time.  The only thing you are converting is the heater. The pump still operates at 120v even when the spa operates at 240v.

So the benefit of operating the spa at 220-240v is that the heater works better.

On a plug and play spa, the heater is convertible to 240v by removing a white wire and switching a dipswitch on the circuit board.

Your electrician can do this conversion in a few minutes.  The steps are to power down the spa, unplug the spa.  Remove the power cord by unscrewing the connections on the terminal block on the circuit board.  Then remove the jumper wire from the “Red AC” section.  Move the number 10 dipswitch down and that converts it to 240v.

Your electrician will then bring in the neutral, 2 hot wires and a ground wire and you are good to go.

See the diagram in the video for how to wire up a GFCI at 240v.

plug and play hot tubWhen inside the power control box, do not move the red, factory preset dipswitches.  The only dipswitch that needs to be adjusted when converting from 120v to 240v is the last one in the row (dipswitch #10). Do not move any of the other dipswitches at any time without calling for assistance.

Not all 120 volt spas are convertible, so be sure you have a QCA Spas convertible 120 volt plug and play model before attempting to hook it up to 220-240 volts.  As of the time this article was written, the only types of spas that accommodate this upgrade are the Mystic, Riviera and StarGazer type spas.

Buying a Balboa Spa Pak for Your Hot Tub

Balboa spa packThe spa pack in your hot tub is basically the guts of its entire mechanical and electrical working systems. You can typically expect a spa pack to last about 8 to 10 years. Considering the fact that the average spa shell lasts at least 30 to 40 years, spa owners will most likely have to replace their spa paks at least once or twice – if not more – during the life of the hot tub.

You don’t necessarily have to buy the exact same spa pak that you had when you first bought your hot tub. In fact, there are other options available when it comes time for replacement, rather than get a highly marked up pack and service from your spa dealer.  The main manufacturer of spa packs in the world is Balboa. The majority of hot tub manufacturers don’t make their own spa paks, but buy them from a manufacturer that specializes in these products. You just need to order the one that fits based on the pumps and features in your hot tub.

Make Sure to Use the Latest Technology

Your best bet when it comes to replacing your spa pak is to take advantage of the latest, most innovative technology. Manufacturers of these components are constantly trying to improve the design of these paks in order to make their functionality as efficient and effective as possible. That’s why it’s wise to buy Balboa spa pak for your hot tub, as this brand is considered to be among the best in the world of hot tubs.

By the time your spa pak fails, you probably won’t be able to find the exact same model or brand at the time of replacement. It’s most likely been replaced by a newer design, which in essence puts the hot tub owner at an advantage.

Major Components of Spa Paks

Typically, you’ll see the following as part of a spa pack:

  • Controller
  • Heater
  • Pump
  • Blower

hot tub Balboa spa packTo buy a Balboa spa pack, look no further than The Hot Tub Outpost! They have  a large online selection of spa packs in all major brands including Balboa, Waterway and CTI, to name a few.

Save time and money buying all of your hot tub parts and accessories online with Hot Tub Outpost.  Their website also offers handy guides for water maintenance and getting the most out of your hot tub. You can find a full set of spa replacement parts including filters, covers, chemicals, steps and more.  Choose from a wider selectionand  never pay retail again!  Visit www.HotTubOutpost.com for all your hot tub needs.

What are the Best Hot Tub Features?

Hot tub spa featuresWhen it comes to hydrotherapy, QCA Spas offers a wave lounger so every spot on the body gets massaged as the moving massage goes row by row.

One consideration is how much hydrotherapy or how many jets are desired? Up to about 40 jets works with a single pump spa. Any more than that should have 2 pumps in the spa. Another pump is the air blower that is also found in the higher end spas.

Zoning is a system that moves water flow from one section of the spa to another. This helps a one pump spa provide more power to a particular side of the spa as needed.

The deluxe spas with air blowers also feature turbo charging where the water gets another boost from the forced air of the blower that can be routed through the water lines or through the dedicated air injectors for a more champagne like bubbling that spas are known for.

Many quality hot tub features are hidden such as quality, name brand components, pumps, controls and heaters. Other features are out in the open for all to see such as the waterfall feature or LED lighting.

A sound system can also be added to most any spa. There is the lower end sound system with speakers and the high end Vibrasound system that turns the spa shell into the speaker creating a uniform sound field no matter where you sit in the spa. The Vibrasound system also adds the subwoofer for true bass.

Hot tub featuresAlthough an aromatherapy canister can be added to most spas that are outfitted with a spa blower, the most popular form of aromatherapy comes in liquid or crystal form that can be added to any hot tub, even those without a dedicated aromatherapy system.

Another nice feature is the integrated chemical dispenser inside the filter. This avoids having to use a floater to hold the bromine or chlorine tablets.

Want a salt water spa? Almost any mid-range or higher end QCA Spas can be upgraded to a salt system by adding the bromine salt system. Just buy the Bromicharge sodium bromide and put a reserve in the spa water, then the chemicals to kill bacteria and sanitizer the water are manufactured automatically by the bromine salt system cell.

Unlike an ozonator that can be retrofitted later, the bromine salt system is best when factory installed at the time of ordering to avoid a costly service bill.

hot tub spaWhen using the spa outdoors, always use a hard cover instead of a flexible soft cover that may come standard with the lower end spas.  Get a free hard cover upgrade on those spas as well from Hot Tub Outpost. They believe in offering quality from the get-go to avoid any unpleasant surprises. After all, you want to get into your spa and enjoy it from day 1, and not receive an incomplete kit.

Have any questions about buying the right hot tub? Contact the folks over at Hot Tub Outpost for knowledgeable assistance.

HL700 QCA Spas Hot Tub

HL700 hot tub spaThe HL700 has a comfortable lounger, but it is not a standard lounger. This wrap-around lounger allows for use as a lounger and seating because it wraps around the corner. In most lounger spas, only 1 person can use the entire area of the spa taken up by the lounger, however in a wrap-around lounger as featured in the QCA Spas HL700 hot tub, you can also use the lounger for upright seating because it is a flat level surface that extends around the corner.

The HL700 lounger is also found in the QCA Spas Dream Waver 7 person hot tub with 53 jets.

Another HL700 style spa is the Day Dreamer with 40 jets.

HL700 hot tubThese 7 Person lounger spas have dimensions of 82″ L x 82″ W x 36″ D and a water capacity of 425 gallons.  When comparing dimensions among hot tubs, it is important to also compare water volumes as this is a good indicator of how much seating room is in the spa. The higher the gallons, the more space there is inside the spa for moving about.

The HL700 family of spas operates at 230 volts and features a wide variety of massage jets including a 14 Jet Turbo Massage spa jet and lower & mid-back adjustable/directional/mini massage jets.

There are also adjustable back jets configured to mini massage and directional style as well as large adjustable vortex and adjustable rotational jets.

Powered by a 4.2 MBHP horsepower Hi-Flow Pump, this quiet operating spa features a low cost circulation speed and a high performance second pump speed.

The spa shell is made of Lucite-Xtra ABS-backed acrylic with the Dura-Bond™ four layer strengthening process.

The spa cabinet is called Weather Guard™ Maintenance-Free Cabinet and features reversible panels for easy access and maintenance.

A hard cover that is lockable and weather resistant is included.

The HL700 includes a Heat Recovery System and exceeds California Energy Compliance Mandate for energy savings.

HL700 spaHigh quality brand name spa controls are made by the industry leader, Balboa. The built-in filter system keeps the water clean and the replaceable cartridge filter is also included.

The HL700 is unique in that it offers the wrap around lounger along with Zone Control™, a dedicated Air Flow Control System (not a blower), and is delivered ozone-ready.

Standard outfitting also includes the 12 Volt Standard Light. Add the factory installed ozonator or LED light bulb as an options.

The HL700 spa is ETL & CE listed and like all QCA Spas, this hot tub is made in the U.S.A.

Enjoy easy operation with the 4 button Balboa digital topside control panel. Select massage, temperature, and lighting and enjoy life in your luxurious and flexible wrap-around lounger!

Hot Tub Hydrotherapy Jets

hot tub spa hydromassageOne of the main reasons to own a hot tub is to enjoy the benefits of hydrotherapy and massage.  The basic idea back when the Jacuzzi brothers were introducing hot tubs, is that a pump move water to jets that provide a soothing massage.

A warm water massage is invigorating and helps get blood flowing.  Water stores and carries heat and energy. Relieve tired, aching and sore muscles with a massage provided by the spa jets.

There are various jet configurations in each seat type to help vary the pressure points and areas of the body to receive the beneficial massage treatment.

Even a single jet with water flowing through its orifice can provide some degree of stimulation and relaxation, but a cluster of jets is even better for treating larger areas of the body.  Foot jets can even reach the soles of feet while ankle and leg jets provide a soothing massage to calfs, thighs and legs.  A full body massage lounger such as the wave lounger found in GT500, Cozumel Ultra and Paradise Ultra spas provide scores of jets to benefit the entire body with a dynamic massage controlled by a separate panel.

Whether your spa has a full-blown digital whole body moving massage or clusters of ideally placed spa jets, the hydrotherapy benefit is much greater than the single jet type hot tubs often found in hotels where only 1 jet near the center of the back provides the massage.

This is one of the benefits of portable spas vs. inground spas, is that you will find many more jets in the portable spa varieties.  It is rare an in-ground hot tub will have more than about a dozen jets.  Some do offer an air system with air injectors, but the primary hydromassage comes from the water jets which moves water towards the body and not just air bubbles, although air bubbles can feel relaxing too.

A turbo charged air system is one in which there is duplicate plumbing so that air from the blower can be introduced into the water jets, creating a more powerful stream that provides an invigorating hydromassage.  This in contrast to the simple Venturi air that is provided by a topside air control that allows more air to flow along with the water from a particular jet or jet group.  Venturi is not forced air, but merely accompanying air that glides in as the water is flowing.  The blower-powered turbo systems actually move the air forward and create a more powerful water stream in turbo-charged systems such as QCA Spas hot tubs that come with turbo air blower systems.

The actual hydrotherapy or alternative medicine water treatments used by occupational and physical therapists is a similar concept to hydrotherapy found in hot tubs.  Moving hot water stimulates blood circulation and can actually treat symptoms of certain diseases.

The basis of hydrotherapy goes back to the ancient Greeks and Romans.  Public baths have been a mainstay of many societies around the world.  Natural hot springs often provide moving hot water through vents with hot water streams emerging from the Earth. Some of that water is too hot to actually sit in front of.

With a hot tub, we have the luxury to control the water temperature and also the strength of the water massage.

If your heater is no longer working, you can still try Cryotherapy (cold water immersion) until you get a new heater shipped out asap from Hot Tub Outpost.

Hot tub Hydrotherapy massage benefits from a hot tub are delivered through a variety of multi-jet placements. Some jets such as the 14 Nozzle Turbo Jet actually are 14 jets in 1 with 14 streams of water providing a wide area of coverage.

Selecting a hot tub is based on size and budget, but also on the variety of jet configurations the spa provides.  Once 30-40 jets are in a hot tub, it is best to operate the spa with 2 independent spa pumps, allowing for up to 80 or more jets to provide an even massage.

hot tub hydromassageA manifold plumbing system in a hot tub distributes the water pressure evenly to a wide assortment of spa jets.

Jets can be different colors and styles as well, with some looking like grey or white plastic types while others are adorned with the stainless steel look.  Some jets have single, stationary nozzles while other spa jets have rotating single or dual nozzles.  Some jets have large faces and some have small faces, but the size of the actual orifice or hole in the jet determines the water stream.

Some jet types of the same size are actually interchangeable/replaceable.  This means if you have, say, a 3 1/2″ rotating jet and would like a stationary one there, just swap out the jets with a similar size model that has the rotating or stationary feature you like.

To remove most spa jets, just turn them counterclockwise past the detente position and they unscrew completely, allowing the new jet insert of the same type to replace it quite easily.

Other jets such as fixed Euro jets cannot be replaced.

The benefit to having a larger spa with 2 jet pumps is that you typically get more jets and more clusters so as you move from seat to seat you can vary your hydrotherapy experience.

Look for neck jets or should jets in some models, and a wide variety of jet placements that are sure to please.

Enjoy your Hot Tub Hydromassage and get all your hot tub supplies at the Hot Tub Outpost USA.

Plug and Play Hot Tub

plug and play spaA plug and play type hot tub allows for 120 volt operation in North America.  These units most often come with an included power cord with integrated Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI).  No electrician is usually needed as these plug right into a 120 volt power outlet with the provided GFCI cord.

Plug and Play hot tub models include the Dream Star, Mystic, Star Gazer, and Riviera available factory direct at www.HotTubOutpost.com.

These plug and play models are also convertible.  That means that at a later date, they can be field-modified to operate at 230 volts instead of 120 volts thereby making the built-in heater a 4 kw heater instead of a 1 kw heater, all without needing to exchange any components.  The upgrade is a simple dipswitch setting and the moving of 1 wire which can be done in a couple of minutes.  Of course if you choose to operate the convertible plug and play spa at 230 volts, you will need an electrician to install the main breaker, proper gauge wire run, gfci disconnect box and wire to the control box of the spa. The electrician will also need to unmount the GFCI cord as that is only for 120 volt operation.

See our other articles on how to convert a plug and play spa from 120v to 230v and how to choose a plug and play spa.

Not all plug and play spas on the market are convertible, but the ones at Hot Tub Outpost are.

Models that have this feature include the Mystic, Star Gazer, and Riviera.

The Mystic is a 4 person spa, Riviera is a 3 person spa and the Star Gazer seats up to 5.

The benefit of 110-120v hot tub is low initial cost and low installation cost.  Even the power cord is included, so no expensive external wiring is usually necessary.

The benefit of a 230v hot tub is that pump(s) can be run on high speed with heat still running, whereas at 120v the heater shuts off automatically when the pump is put on high speed so there is enough current to run the heater.  The heater is also 1kw at 120v but is 4kw at 230v, so the 230v spa heats faster.  A good solid cover will keep the heat in no matter which voltage you operate the spa at.

plug and play hot tub spaThe Dream Star is a 2 person hot tub that operates at 110v only.  It fits anywhere and is only about 250 lbs. so it is easy to set up anywhere or move.

The flex covers that are standard with this series come with a free hard cover upgrade from www.HotTubOutpost.com.

Getting into a hot tub is easy with a plug and play spa from Hot Tub Outpost.