The term “Hot Tub” originally referred to the wooden, barrel-shaped tubs, which became popular in the late 1960s. Early hot tubs were fairly simple devices, which basically held hot water and had enough room for one or two bathers at a time. When the industry began building tubs of molded fiberglass or with thermoplastic shells, they were given the tag “spa” to differentiate them from their wooden cousins.

The wooden hot tub has evolved over time to include such amenities as seating, jets, filters, and most of the features associated with a spa. In fact, the phrase “hot tubbing” can be taken to mean soaking in either type of vessel.

What are my choices in selecting a hot tub or spa?

Decide if you want a take-anywhere lightweight type(typically referred to as plug and play) or the full size for the family and friends. Full-size spas are by far the most popular today due to the wide selection, ease of installation and low maintenance.

Spas may also be built into the ground, but in-ground spas usually are lacking in features. In areas of the country where freezing is a factor, these installations are not recommended.

The portable spa, which most often consists of a shell with a wooden or synthetic skirt/cabinet, usually sits atop a deck or on a concrete slab. These units are self contained and have the advantage of built-in pumps and electrical systems, so set-up is a snap.

Do your homework. Take the time to look at various brands. Most spas look the same but it’s what behind the cabinet that makes the biggest difference. Don’t get caught up in the fancy lights, stereos and tv’s. Spas/hot tubs are an investment in relaxation so you don’t want to be stressing about the unknown. Never be afraid to ask why or prove it when shopping for a hot tub. Reputable manufacturers will not be shy about disclosing specifications or showing you what is behind all the bling and fancy cabinets.

It doesn’t have to be. A primary cost is heating the water. A modern, well-insulated unit with a quality insulated cover will cost, on average, only about a dollar a day, even in cold climates.  The other major cost is water chemistry and maintenance supplies. You can cut these costs by 30-50% on average, just by shopping for supplies.

Spa Covers

When it comes to spa covers bigger is better . Start with the core. Polystyrene foam, tapered from 4″ to 2″ to allow for shedding of surface water, is a good choice. Since foam cores can absorb water, select a cover with a core that is heat-sealed in heavy plastic sheeting. Marine-grade vinyl with mildew and UV inhibitors is a must. Quality covers will also have two other features: a double reinforced folding center hinge, and steel reinforcement inside. Make sure the cover has adequate locking fasteners, and a zipper for the cover. Avoid cheap covers. They won’t last long, and will end up costing you more in the long run both in higher energy usage and in replacement costs.

There are literally tens of thousands of spa shapes, sizes and brands, both old and new, and many colour choices. Rather than pull a cover from an inventory of approximate fits, our covers are hand-made, one at a time, for outstanding quality and a fit that is just right, per your specifications and colour choice. It takes a little more time to make covers this way, but our customers tell us it’s more than worth it.

In many cases, yes. If your spa is exposed to snowfall, then the walk-on upgrade is a very good idea. It will provide extra stiffness, which will help prevent sagging (and the resultant heat-loss) caused by the weight of the snow. In all climates, the upgrade will give you increased R-value. The upgrade is inexpensive, and will return its cost in energy savings.

Use of a cover lift device will allow one person to lift the spa cover with ease, and without back strain. These devices come in a variety of models, from simple slides to more elaborate units, which allow for easy lifting and out-of-the-way storage of your spa cover. Todays cover lifts are lightweight and durable, usually made from aircraft grade aluminum with stainless fasteners. They are easy to install as well, usually requiring little more than a screwdriver to set-up. A cover lift will help prevent the premature wear and tear of your spa cover. View some of the available lifter options at

Although high-quality safety covers come with 4 tie down straps and locking hardware, that alone may not always be enough to stand up to high winds. Thousands of spa covers are lost to storms each year. Fortunately locking bars and hurricane straps are now available which offer an added level of protection for these conditions. Fully adjustable for spas up to 8 ft. wide, these heavy-duty hurricane straps offer an extra degree of security.

The main factors in spa cover deterioration are sunlight, dirt, and acid rain. Fortunately, there are now great products available to protect and clean vinyl covers, and greatly extend their life. Select a cover protectant that contains a UV blocker for fade resistance and use a good cleaner such as Cover and Cabinet Renew. Regular use of cover and cabinet renew will keep the vinyl supple, prevent cracking and fading, and seal out damaging moisture. Avoid products which contain silicone oil– these will actually cause premature failure of the vinyl, when exposed to sunlight. We recommend Cover and Cabinet Renew because it is the best product of its kind we have found, and is also Earth friendly. Don’t forget to clean and treat the inside surfaces of your cover as well– this is very important.

Ozonators are electric-powered devices for helping to sanitize spa water by introducing a form of oxygen called ozone into the water. When they first arrived on the spa scene, many people thought they were a cure-all for water disinfecting. Although this has proven to be an overstatement, ozonators do have their place, and will help reduce chemical amounts needed. Since ozone has no residual sanitizing ability, it only works while the spa is in operation. In order for the ozone to do its job, the spa should be run 6 or more hours per day. Ozonators must be used in conjunction with another sanitizer such as bromine or chlorine as well as a shock treatment. A major factor on the effectiveness of ozone is called contact time. When ozone is produced how long does it stay in contact with the water before it breaks the surface? How is it mixed into the water?

Yes, the use of an ozonator will cut down the amount of conventional sanitizer needed. The reduction will vary from 25% to 35%, depending on spa usage and amount of run time. These devices use electricity to run, but the amount is really quite minimal.

Bromine (in the form of tablets) is the sanitizer preferred by most hot tub spa owners because it is less irritating, less likely to cause “red eye” and does not have the strong odor of chlorine. The pool-type chlorine (found in chlorine tablets) is less suitable for hot tubs. Bromine disinfects as well as chlorine and has the advantage of evaporating more slowly in hot water.

Upon startup of your spa or hot tub, it is recommended to add a small amount of granular bromine/chlorine. This establishes an immediate sanitizer reserve. The proper level is then maintained by using tablets in a floating device. The dispensers are adjustable for proper dispersion of the sanitizer.

Absolutely. A salt water system is still chlorine based and does not eliminate the need to balance your water. A salt water system simply generates chlorine. It does this by passing the salt solution across a low voltage cell or electrode. The by product created is sanitizer. It is a purer form of chlorine that doesn’t contain all the glues and fillers that traditional pucks and granulars systems use. The result is cleaner, softer water. The majority of manufacturers do not make their own system and typically use an aftermarket generator. Check with your manufacturer.

Measure chlorine or bromine easily with test strips. Many spa owners check their water daily, others find that once a week is sufficient, especially if bather load is not excessive and a floating dispenser is used.

Shocking the spa water is the process by which suspended organic matter is oxidized or broken down. This is necessary because this organic matter is the material on which bacteria feed. Sanitizing alone does only half of the process of maintaining clean water. We recommend the addition of a non-chlorine oxygen-based shocking compound such as Refresh

Definitely. There are chlorine producing shocks, and non-chlorine shock treatments such as Refresh that release oxygen to breakdown foreign matter. The non-chlorine treatments are preferred by many because they have no harsh chlorine odor. There are so-called “buffered” shocks on the market. These are expensive, and nothing more than regular shock with a little sodium carbonate added.

Maintaining proper pH level is essential for proper operation of a hot tub spa, regardless of the sanitizing method used. If the pH falls too low, resulting in water that is too acidic, the sanitizer will dissipate rapidly, pipes and motor seals will corrode, and bathers will notice eye discomfort. If the pH rises too high, resulting in water that is too basic or alkaline, damaging scale may form, water may become cloudy, and eye discomfort may also result.

The National Spa & Pool Institute recommends a range of 7.2-7.8, with 7.4-7.6 being considered ideal.

The pH level can be raised by the addition of a product containing sodium carbonate such as Adjust Up. This will also raise the Total Alkalinity. Sodium bicarbonate such as Perfect Balance can also be used, but will have less of an effect on pH.

The pH level can be lowered by the addition of a product containing sodium bisulfate
Adjust Down. Although Muriatic Acid is an excellent pH reducer, it is not recommended because its fumes and skin burning properties.

Maintaining the proper range of total alkalinity will prevent wild fluctuations in pH, will reduce the tendency toward corrosion of pipes and fixtures, and will reduce the scale forming potential of the spa water.

You can measure total alkalinity with test strips.

The total alkalinity level can be raised by the addition of a product containing sodium bicarbonate Perfect Balance. This compound will normally bring up low pH into the acceptable range.

Cloudy water can be caused by pH that is too high, but the most common cause is excessive contaminants in the water. Make sure your filter is clean and in good condition. Add a water-clarifying agent such as Easy Clear.

A common cause is mold or mildew growth on the inside of the spa cover itself. These organisms grow here because they don’t come in contact with the sanitizer. Condensation forms on the inside ceiling of the cover, then rains back down into the spa water, contaminating it as well. The remedy is simple: clean the inside of your cover at least once a month. Cover and Cabinet Renew is perfect for this.

This is most commonly the result of the pH level being too high for too long, causing calcium to fall out of solution and build up.

How can I lower pH without making my TA too low?

For simple spa chemistry balance — think of a three legged stool. One leg of the stool is Total Alkalinity (TA), one is pH, and one is sanitizer. Each leg must be even, or the whole stool topples over. When balancing spa water, always start with Alkalinity, then pH, and then sanitizer.  In this unusual case, try this: Purposely raise your Total  Alkalinity 20-30 ppm too high, then lower the pH by adding  sodium bisulfate Adjust Down. By starting with a high TA, you’ll find that the two will likely balance out when you adjust the pH. Remember: if you cannot get your water to balance perfectly, it is better to be a little on the high pH and/or TA side, than too low (corrosion).

Lot’s of tubbers do the same, and it’s perfectly OK to enjoy your soak at a lower temperature. Keep your water in balance, and it should be fine. If you have kids, remember, a hot tub is not a small swimming pool. If they use it as a play pool, with frequent trips in and out (as most kids will do) you will have to change your water often.

Whether bromine or chlorine the easiest, fastest, and cheapest way to reduce an excessively high level is simply to drain a portion of the water, and replace it with fresh.  You may need to re-balance your TA & pH after adding water. If draining is not an option a small amount of a product called Spa X-It will reduce sanitizer levels quickly and safely.

The Zorbie oil scum absorber will wick-up many times its weight in body oils and lotion residues from your hot tub spa.

ORP stands for Oxidation Reduction Potential. This is the measure of available room in the water to for sanitizer to be produced into.

Depending on usage and type of sanitizing system, a spa or hot tub with well-maintained water, which is treated with non-chlorine shock, should be drained and refilled every two to four months. This is necessary because of the amount of total dissolved solids becomes excessive, making it difficult to maintain sanitizer effectiveness and water balance.

It is very important that you use a cleaner designed for spas and hot tubs. While household cleaners are great for cleaning jobs around the home, they can cause foaming and alter the pH of your water. Quality spa surface cleaners are safe for all materials, contain no abrasives, are non-toxic and will not cause water foaming. A spa plumbing line cleaner is recommended prior to draining the spa at least once per year. A cleaner such as Fresh Start or Aquafineese Spa Puck will remove any biofilm that builds up in the spas plumbing lines over time.

Depending upon bather load, it is generally a good practice to rinse your filter cartridge every other week with fresh water from a garden hose to dislodge hair and other foreign matter. Every 1 to 2 months, and with each water change, your filter cartridge should be soaked in a filter-cleaning compound designed to dissolve oils that build up in the filter membrane. We recommend the rotation method: have two filters on hand, one in the spa and a clean, dry spare. Remove the dirty filter and rinse thoroughly, being careful to spray between the pleats. Soak the filter in a 5-gallon bucket of cleaning solution, overnight or according to the instructions on the package. You can now install your clean spare while the dirty one is soaking. After soaking, rinse again and set aside to dry completely. With this method, your filters will last much longer, and you will never have to wait to use your spa.

Filters manufacturers suggest the filter be replaced every 3-4 months. With constant cleaning, maintenance and rotation these filters should last 6 months. After that, they become less efficient in trapping foreign matter because of deterioration of the media. An easy alternative are disposable filters or micron filters. These filters require no maintenance and can be replaced every 3-4 months. Simply remove from the spa and straight into the recycling. These filters remove particles down to 1 micron in size keeping the water cleaner without the use of additional chemicals. No cleaning, no rinsing, no rotating and less chemicals make these filters a popular choice for customers.

No. Automotive waxes are designed for car finishes, and will not generally hold up in hot water conditions. Use a product designed specifically for acrylic or thermoplastic spas such as Reflection

This is partly a matter of personal preference. Some people prefer the natural graying of unfinished wood. Wood that is treated with a good water repellant sealer will generally last longer, be more resistant to cracking, and retain much of the original coloration. A cleaning with a product such as Cover and Cabinet Renew 2-4 times per year will also help to protect the wood cabinet from harmful UV.

The lifespan of your salt sell electrode will be entirely based on usage of the spa, though the average lifespan we see is around 6 months to 1 year.

The changing of the salt cell electrode is as quick and easy as changing a lightbulb. First you will grab the base of the housing of the cell and thread it counter clockwise.
From there you will bring the unit above the water, from there you can see on the electrode itself there is a small screw on one of the sides. Unthread the screw fully, then you will be able to unthread the electrode itself (ensure this is only done when the whole unit is above water). Finally you will thread in the new electrode and follow the same sets in reverse.

Each location has its pros and cons. In either scenario, you need to ensure that there is at least 2 feet of access on all 4 sides of the spa in the case of service needing to be done. Outside installations may compromise some of your privacy, but you can add screens, shrubbery, or fencing to minimize peering eyes. Don’t let the outside weather can be a deterring factor, many people absolutely love the experience of lounging in bubbling hot water while a light rain or snowflakes are falling! It can be exhilarating. Gazebos can be built to shelter from the effects of weather and to enhance the privacy. It should be noted for those of you who have not experienced it, hot water raises your body’s core temperature, so you will normally not feel cold even when exiting a hot tub outdoors in the dead of winter. Inside installations will add humidity to the air in your home. It is imperative that proper ventilation be maintained to control this moisture and to prevent mildew and other damage. If you decide on an inside installation, be sure to take into account the draining and filling of the unit. There are two other important questions: will it fit through your doorway, and is your flooring strength adequate? Keep in mind that a typical 3-person spa weighs about 2500 pounds filled with water.

Lowering the temperature after each use may seem like a good idea but infact it is costing you more money. Each time you drop the temperature you are going to have to pay to heat it up again. A well-insulated spa and a cover in good condition will be more effective in maintaining higher temperatures.

No. Above-ground portable spas are normally filled with a garden hose. Hard plumbing may be optional, but very rarely used since it is unnecessary.

We recommend using the 220v option whenever practical, especially on full-sized spas. A 220v system offers the advantage of faster heating and faster heat recovery which reduces your “tubbing down-time” factor. There is also more amperage available to operate multiple motors, jets, lights, etc. A properly hard-wired 220v system has no cords to trip over or become unplugged. Contrary to popular misconception, there is no significant cost difference in heating with 110v system versus a 220v system. For a truly “portable” installation, 110v is generally more practical. Consult a qualified electrician for your wiring needs.

Spa manufacturers use two different ratings for their pumps: “Continuous Operating HP” and “Brake HP”. Continuous Operating is the amount of HP the motor is capable of producing while the spa is in operation. This is the meaningful rating. Brake HP is the momentary HP the motor produces at startup, before dropping to Continuous HP. Brake HP is marketing hype.

These spas a designed to plug right in to a standard wall outlet. In outdoor locations, your electrical code may require a GFCI protected circuit. Check with your local Building Department.

Leaks can be hard to find in full foam spas, but the easiest place to start is inspecting the pump seals. Look for water under your pump. Also check around your heater, pressure switch and all visible plumbing, unions, and connections. You can allow the spa to sit until the water level stabilizes. This will give you an approximate idea of the level the leak is at. Yet another method is to fill the spa to correct level, then run it for a full day, marking the reduced water level with a crayon. Then refill, and allow it to sit for a full day with nothing running. If the water drops the same amount in both tests, this tells you that you likely have a plumbing leak. If it dropped more when pumps were running, it is more likely a seal or connection leak. Use of a quality leak sealer such as Fix A Leak may save you on costly repairs. Removing all the insulation to find a leak is time consuming and costly. Although not always a permanent fix, Fix A Leak can be effective on minor leaks, with the exception being bad pump seals, which will need to be replaced.

A common cause is a jammed or broken impeller, or the bearings may have seized. If the motor shaft can be rotated by hand, then the problem may be a dirty pump switch, defective starter capacitor, burnt motor windings or other electrical problem with the motor.

First, check to see if there is an error displayed on the topside control. If there is refer to your owner’s manual for instructions. Also, check the filter.  A severely clogged filter can greatly restrict water flow, and with little or no flow, there will be no heat either. Try running the spa with filter out. If water now circulates properly, replace your filter(s). Another frequent cause is an air lock in the pump, especially if you just drained and refilled your hot tub. To clear an air lock, first locate and close the valve on the intake side of your pump. Then, on the outflow side of the pump, loosen the pipe union just enough turns to allow the trapped air to escape and fill with water. Retighten union, open intake valve, and run spa to verify correction of the problem. If the water level is to low on the skimmer then the pumps are being starved of water and the heater will not turn on. Try topping the level up.  If an air lock, clogged filter or water level proves not to be the culprit, the cause could be blocked plumbing, or a damaged or obstructed impeller blade.

Several conditions could cause water to overheating, including: a stuck thermostat, a stuck relay or contactor in your spa pack, or even leaving your pump on high speed for an extended period of time. Another possibility is a defective high-limit switch, likely in conjunction with one of the above. Always check the temperature of your water prior to “jumping in”.

A properly functioning Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) activates when it senses even a very small voltage leak or short to ground. They are designed to react very quickly. The cause can be many things. To isolate the culprit, shut-off the power source, then disconnect the system’s major components including: blower, ozonator, pumps, heater, etc. Power on. If it now trips, your problem is isolated to the wiring or circuit board. If the GFCI does not trip, plug these things back in one at a time until the GFCI trips again. (Make sure power is off whenever connecting or disconnecting components). When it trips, you’ve located the culprit. If it is not one of these, check for bad wire connections, missing or burnt insulation or chafes, and loose screws or corrosion on terminals. If that is not the problem, sometimes a heater element that is going bad will cause the GFCI to trip. Another cause may be a defective GFCI unit itself. They do not last forever, and especially in damp locations, they can fail and cause erroneous tripping. Other electrical devices in your home, especially those with motors, can send a pulse through the circuit that can actually trigger a GFCI to trip. These include washing machines, garage door openers, air conditioners, furnaces, and house fans. Monitor your spa’s GFCI to see if it trips when one of these devices is switched on. Make sure that the supply circuit to the spa is adequate.

CAUTION: Electrical repairs can be dangerous. We recommend that electrical service be referred to a qualified technician. Regardless of who performs the work, make certain that all electrical power to the hot tub or spa is disconnected prior to making any inspections or repairs. This information is provided for educational purposes only. If you hire a qualified technician, this will give you a better understanding of the diagnostic process involved.

The most common cause by far for reduced action in a spa is clogged or worn-out filter cartridges.  If you try running your spa with the filter out, and this improves performance considerably, then you may have found the culprit.   A broken impeller blade in your pump, or foreign matter obstructing the impeller can cause this. Bad motor bearings will (often indicated by a progressively loud motor or a grinding noise) could cause your pump to operate at a reduced speed, and pump less water. If air jets are weak, check for obstructions, inspect the blower if so equipped, and check gasket seals around the jet fittings.

If the amount of water coming out of your jets is normal, but they no longer spin, there are several possible problems:  they may be stuck from scale deposits.  In this case, remove the affected jets and soak them in vinegar for 24 hours to dissolve the calcium. Another cause is lint or hair stuck in the jet bearings.

When we lose power to our beloved spa during the frigid temperatures we begin to worry about it freezing. The worst possible thing you can do is drain your spa. It will take longer to freeze the entire body of water then the residual water in the lines. Depending on the temperature prior to losing power you should have a minimum 72 hours before you have to worry about freezing. In a lot of cases you may be able to put a small ceramic heater inside the spas cabinet and this will keep everything nice and toasty. Keep the cover closed and call your dealer.