Monthly Archives: November 2012

You are browsing the site archives by month.

My Spa/Hot Tub Pump is making a noise.

What’s your definition of spa pump noise?

Let’s try this:

  1. The hot tub pump hums, doesn’t do anything. Then stops humming.  It repeats after a few minutes.
  2. My spa pump sounds like a fire alarm in high school!  (REALLY LOUD, vibrating slamming noise).
  3. When my hot tub/spa pump is running, it sounds like metal on metal.
  4. My hot tub pump screams like a banshee when it’s running.
  5. My spa pump makes no noise whatsoever.  But the jets work!

One by one, we’ll explain what to expect based on the above.

1.  Hums, does nothing, gets quiet, then repeats…  This is the most classic symptom for a faulty pump motor.  You could actually duplicate this problem simply by putting vice grips on the motor shaft and applying power.  It won’t go anywhere.  A few things that may be causing this:

  • Bad/Stuck bearings (especially important with bathtub spa pumps that rarely get used).
  • Bad Start/Run capacitor (yes I have had motors with only run capacitors go bad refuse to start).
  • Burned/Fried contacts on the centrifugal switch.
  • Improper voltage; (only a few motor manufacturers will have this issue, as most 230V motors will run fine with no load on 115V).

2. Hot tub/Spa Pump sounds like a school fire alarm!  This one is unmistakable.  It sounds like a Freightliner driver slamming on his brakes, and all his brake pads are gone.  Stopping a 80 ton tractor trailer rig with metal on metal.  It’s the loudest sound your hot tub will ever make for faulty equipment.  If the above doesn’t get it, then do you remember what the fire alarms sounded like when you were in K-12, and had to go outside and count everyone?  That’s the sound.  AAAAANNNNNNNKKKKKK!!!!

This is one nasty destructive beast too.  If your hot tub is making this sound, DO NOT turn on the power again unless someone qualified in servicing appliances like this is present.  It’s not the noise that does the damage, but the excess current traveling through the control pump relays, and the pump centrifugal switch contacts.  What causes this problem with your hot tub pump:

  • You mis-wired the two speed pump that you bought off of ebay (or other online retailer) when you installed it.  Common, Line (common), should always be WHITE.  Be sure what you have hooked up works with the diagram on the side of the motor.  The common line is the most important.  Mess this up and you could end up buying a new controller or having your board repaired due to fused relays.  You can always reverse the black and red wires without harm, but if you EVER get the white wire wrong, you are in very damaging territory.  If you find this, fix it, and it still works, consider yourself very lucky you dodged a bullet.
  • Your spa control has a stuck relay, and is sending high and low speed power simultaneously.  This one is a dog; No kidding.  What’s happened usually, is that a previous miswire (like above) or other high current situation has fused the low speed relay closed, and when you switch the pump to high speed mode, it’s getting both high and low speed voltage at the same time.  This requires a circuit board repair, and possibly a pump repair.  This could also be cause by a lightning strike, (a MASSIVE power surge),  or a pump motor designed for 2hp duty, being used with a 4hp wet end… (too much work, draw too much current, burn/fuse relays).
  • Lastly, and I ran into this condition yesterday.  The pump bearings are so bad, that the armature is making physical contact with the stator (field coils).  This one is rare as it requires at least 1/32″ or more vertical movement in the shaft to physically make contact with the stator.  It doesn’t sound like much, but in this domain, it’s a lot.  And it is really nasty when it sounds the alarm.

3.  Metal on Metal Sound –  Noisy Spa Pump Motor Bearings.  That is, the pump works and all that, but it’s really noisy.  You need to get this fixed asap.  This is the most common problem you will ever encounter and it is cause by the water being caustic or acidic enough to do damage to the pump seals, so much that that same water ends up going into the front bearings of the pump motor.  Crappy water and grease don’t mix well.  Eventually the bad water wins the game, and the resultant damage is that you’ve got ball bearings running around at 1725 or 3650 RPM, with NO GREASE!  This is just like a toothache.  If you don’t fix it, you will lose it.  Your motor will not only have to generate the work force necessary to move the water in your tub, but it also has to generate enough energy to get past the resistance of the now defective bearings with no grease, and after time are increasing the work load just to make the armature turn.  Given enough time, you’ll end up having to replace the entire pump motor (it will be non-repairable) because the windings are smoked because of the excessive load simply because of the bad bearings.

4.  My Hot Tub Pump Screams like a Banshee.  Due to #3 above, you are at the cusp of either fixing this thing now, or waiting for imminent destruction.  Fix it now. Or just buy a new one online.

5.  Spa Pump makes no noise, but the jets work.  Perhaps there’s a definition conflict.  There are two types of spa pumps.  Jet Pumps, and Circulation Pumps.  In many cases there is one two speed jet pump that does both heating/filtering /circulation (on low speed), then gives lots of water action on high speed.    There may be a second pump, (old school we call this a booster pump).

So you end up with one pump that’s two speed, and does all heating/filtering/jetting depending upon speed selected for one set of jets.  And you may have a second pump that controls another division of jets.

OR – you have what is called a dedicated circulation pump, and you’ve got one or two single speed jet pumps for your hot tub jet output.  Most dedicated circulation pump system designed have their own discharge port.  If you have this you may be getting flow or pressure errors, and no heat at all.

In any event, you’ll have the typical symptom that the water is cold.

If you’d like more information on troubleshooting your spa/hot tub problem, please give me a call.  We’re here to help.

 

What’s the best hot tub?

The answer to this question is one that doesn’t really have a definitive answer, and there is nobody out there that can answer it (genuinely) authoritatively with a simple “brand x” is the best.  Everyone is biased to what they own and know, therefore everybody’s experience will be different.

One thing about this industry, is that it really suffers during difficult economic times.  After all, the money spent in this business is fun money.  The more extra money you have in your budget, the more fun money you have to spend.  Some people have a lot more of this than others, but that doesn’t always mean that they’ll spend it.   Still – this is an important thing to understand.

As far as I know in this area, there are very few factory stores left, except for the couple of Recreational Factory Warehouse outlets in the Atlanta metro area… plus a Hot Springs, Sundance, and Dimension One outlet or two.    There are still a few other local franchise type dealers, (ie dealers that sign flooring agreements with manufacturers in order to get/maintain this business), but so many have come and gone in the past 20 years it’ll make your head spin.

What’s the best hot tub? 

Lets consider one aspect of this question.  National brands.  First there’s the name that started it all,  Jacuzzi.  After this, starting in the late 70’s and 80’s gave birth to popular brand names such as CalSpas, Hot Springs, Morgan, Regency, Sundance, Dimension One, Haughs and many others (Mr Spa – oh boy what a design-, Jericho! -thin acrylic shell no fiberglass- this list could go on forever) .

In those days demand was growing among the elite, and these manufacturers were bringing elite type pleasures to  everyday homeowners all over the USA.  At the same time, pool builders were getting into the act, finding a nice niche business to help fill their empty fall/winter seasons.

Local / Regional builders (mom & pops) also got into the act.  To go into the hot tub manufacturing business, you really need just a few things:

  • A little start up money
  • A place to build them
  • A source for decent hot tub shells (many would design their own molds and create their own shells).
  • A source for jets, plumbing parts, control systems, and pumps.
  • A local carpenter to build the frames and skirts.
  • Perhaps a spray foam jig to insulate and secure hoses and things.
  • A market that wants to buy your hot tub.

Nationwide, there were probably over a thousand of these types of operations that would try to fill the local niche back then and compete with the national brands; many succeeded – but over time, most did not.

Again, What’s the best hot tub?

Seriously, you may as well ask your next door neighbor what’s the best car to buy; (somebody please tell me when that question has a definitive answer! Lol!)  After being in this business for 17 years, I can answer this with an easy assessment:

  1. The best hot tub is one that you like to use.
  2. The best hot tub is one that you have had positive & pleasant experiences in.
  3. The best hot tub is one that you would go out and buy again, after using it for 10 years.
  4. The best hot tub is one that after the warranty expires, it’s easy to fix.
  5. The best hot tub is one that after the manufacturer goes out of business, you can still get parts for it in the after market.

This list is the most important imo when considering which hot tub or spa to buy.  As a service person, the last two are the most important to me, especially when considering which direction to go when I have to explain the options (and expense) when repairing your hot tub.

Let’s try this again  with the above in mind… What’s the best hot tub?

Now I’m here on your patio troubleshooting your hot tub problem.  Heater doesn’t work.  Pump is making noise, or the pump is dead.  Recurring air-lock.  Pressure Switch won’t activate, or flow error.  Topside display shows nothing, buttons stopped working.  Some unknown error code showing up on the topside control panel of your spa, or it turns to a Chinese looking display every new years eve.  The ground fault trips off every time you try to turn it on. You called me because you lost your paperwork and you don’t know the manufacturer’s phone number, or you bought this thing off the internet, and it turns out it was made in China and has Chinese made controls, Euro pumps, or – you have your paperwork and the number no longer works for warranty service, the manufacturer has changed to a new corporate identity and doesn’t cover your warranty expense, either that or you just don’t know what to do because nobody answer’s their phones.

Ok… Given the above,  you’re hoping that it’s going to be a quick and cheap fix right?  Well – now you will find out for sure, what’s the best hot tub.

You’ve used this tub for years, it’s worked fine and it meets the qualifications 1-3 in the assessment above, and now you’re praying for 4 and 5 to be yes!

If you’re the lucky owner of what many in forum-speak online call a sub-standard spa/hot tub brand, then congratulations.  You don’t own a dead BMW.  You own a spa that meets 4 & 5 above; which means cheap parts, easy access… and everything’s available everywhere.  But what if you own one of these so-called ‘premium brands’?  With (oh and patented features are good right?) custom manufactured controls, sole source jet replacements, circuit boards, air controls… ie you ain’t getting that part from the local supplier.  This is the  nightmare that many will face.

So… from my perspective, to answer the “What’s the best Spa/Hot Tub?” question, it’s the one that’ll keep you up and running with the least cost in repairs 5-10 years after you bought it, so that you’ll think kindly of the repair costs and be happy that you did business with me, instead of one that left you a massive debit in your checking account stinging because you also have a house payment due.

Yes I’m in this business to make a living, but I really love it when everything between you and I (logic of repair costs + emotions of your hot tub experiences) can meet in the middle and it all makes sense when it comes to fixing your hot tub.  Honestly, I really hate having to give you a bill that says you need a new control panel for $380.. plus installation, all because it’s ahem… special, ie sole source.

I have been asked so many times.. when I go out to repair a tub, what’s the best hot tub, and my answer is always a qualified one that encompasses the items 1-5 above.

Hope this helps.  Coming soon:  ‘The Least Expensive Hot Tubs/Spas to Repair’.