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What is killing the hot tub business! (Water Chemistry)

I entered this industry in 1996 – as a former electronics technician servicing hot tubs.  Seeing the world of Balboa Instruments and such in a Morgan Spas store got to me.  Unfortunately for me I had never learned how to plumb a garden hose in my entire life, so learning plumbing on hot tubs was my A.D.D. issue for about a year.  Having graduated the school of hard knocks of plumbing – one thing loomed in the back of my head for the next ten years… Water Chemistry. I HATE chemistry. My son takes in in college now and I hate it even more.

What’s worse, just go to any pool/spa store in any town and you will find the it LOADED with TONS of chemicals and all other sorts of things to spend yet another 18 bucks for something else with the back of the bottle in such micro-type it makes an industrial MSDS look EASY! Not only that, but the bottle might be light grey, and the print in medium grey, further rendering the product a useless purchase, especially if you need reading glasses and light to even read the insanity that is printed on these things.

After servicing hot tubs for more than 20 years, the one thing I can say is that the industry is destroying itself with bad chemistry, bad chemicals, and bad advice.

Let’s start this conversation with this photo, from a 1984 Watkins Hot Springs Spa placard, in the equipment compartment I found in my customer’s hot tub two years ago:

How to take care of your spa water

How to take care of your spa water

So basic right?  Why don’t we just eliminate EVERYTHING that the pool store sells for hot tubs, and sell two basic things! Sodium-Dichlor, and Baking Soda.

Now to allay fears of collusion with Hot Springs (lol) Here are photos of this really old Hot Springs Spa, but still working in perfect condition…

1983 Hot Springs Spa Watkins

1984 Hot Springs Spa – Watkins Manufacturing Corp.

Hot Springs Spa Equipment - 1984. Perfect!

An immaculate equipment compartment, following the rules stated by Hot Springs in 1984.

1984 Hot Springs Spa - Hot Tub. Still works perfectly in 2017!

1984 Hot Springs Spa – Hot Tub. Still works perfectly in 2017!

 

1984 Hot Springs Spa - Hot Tub. Still works perfectly in 2017! Inside View.

1984 Hot Springs Spa – Hot Tub. Still works perfectly in 2017! Inside View.

Now, at this point this is where I must chew off my right arm having slept with the ugliest person in the room last night – the hot tub industry. It is a joke. This insanity must stop.  The people at the top (you know who you are) that are pushing for dealers to sell anything and everything to consumers to bolster their bottom line is total bullshit.

I am the dude the real people deal with every single day. I actually used to listen to you higher ups in the industry – for years I did this, and never gave out advice on chemistry, until I got sick and damn tired of my own hot tub’s equipment going to hell because of BAD CHEMISTRY ADVICE!

So, I went back to ground zero, and let me tell you, I had to rewind my brain back to the late 90’s, when I was working with Dimension 1 spa owners, and how they were taking care of their own spa water.  Some were going overboard following multiple confusing instructions from pool/spa stores, and others were not. The ones in the ‘NOT column, had the best equipment condition I had ever seen!

Why was this?

Because they weren’t dumping massive amounts of chemicals into their hot tubs. Simple.

Less chems in your water is better than more. OK?

A hot tub is basically your personal fun bathtub!  But if you keep injecting all types of industrial crap into it it’s gonna be a nightmare and you will eventually end up calling me or another service to fix this or that because of it.

So what’s the answer? Rewind to 1984. Problem solved.

Another post to follow on water chemistry guidelines. This post will be updated with a link.

 

 

Older bath spa leaks, Common Problem!

This is like the fourth in our series of Sealants and Epoxies are your friend.

Below is a photo of a VERY common leak problem in bathtub spas, also known as ‘jetted bathtubs’.

The most common bathtub spa/jacuzzi leak ever

This tub uses the most common type of spa jet – a simple hollow ball with a nozzle.  Where these things most often leak, is from the flange edge that you can see in the photo above – that is visible.  At the junction of where that flange touches the tub, behind that is either silicone sealant, a gasket, or both.  Both is rare.  The customer that owned this bathtub had already removed everything around the tub for full access and diagnosis of the leaking problem he was having.

The solution is simple. Simply seal the area of the outside edge of the jets – all of them! Not just the 3 we had leaks on.  If the other 3 aren’t leaking now, they will be soon. It’s a quick and easy procedure and took less than 45 minutes to perform.

Enter our un-sung hero, Loctite Marine Epoxy – with a paint brush, and pvc pipe cleaner, which is nothing more than a mixture of acetone and MEK.  The small paint brush is used to ensure accuracy of application and limit excessive waste and over-application of the epoxy.

The magic toolkit - Epoxy and PVC Pipe Cleaner

Using the clear Oatey pipe cleaner around the edges of the jet flange and the tub, then drying it out with a paper towel – it ensures a great bond for the epoxy.  This is a really simple, quick and easy repair – I did 6 jets in less than 45 minutes.  Just take your time and use common sense. Typical home-owner repair cost? Less than 15 bucks!

Here’s how it looks!

Re-sealing Bathtub spa jet!

Note that the above photo shows the epoxy applied to the bathtub jet, with the jet insert removed.  In this style of installation, it’s usually pretty easy to unscrew the outside of the jet flange, and remove the flange and the jet nozzle which makes the repair easy.  Once finished, simply re-install the jet nozzle and the flange.  Any questions? Give us a call we’ll give you a hand with this.

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Leaking Bathtub Spa – Hard core problem!

This one was epic. Take a look!

Broken flange on jacuzzi bathtub jetOnce you see something like this – you think, OMG, the tub needs to be replaced – $6000!

Well yes and no. In this particular instance, ALL 6 of the bath spa jet flanges were broken completely off, which begs the next question:

Can the jet flange be removed? (Unscrewed?) The flange is the part that holds the jet body (back part) to the bath tub.  During assembly, silicone sealant is used to seal the body to the tub to prevent leakage.  The good thing about this particular tub is that the silicone sealant was actually holding well, which means a small chance of leaking in the future, as long as the front part of the flange is properly secured to the tub.

Here’s another:

Face flange broken on a jacuzzi bath jet.Like I said, seeing a flange completely disintegrated like this can lead to horrifying expense, but in this case – again – the jets could not be pushed out of their place. The silicone on the back side was continuing to hold them where they were installed.

So – in this case basically we need to provide a sealing surface on the front of the jet – and a mechanical aid to continue to keep the jet attached to the tub.  Enter our hero – White Marine Epoxy.

The solution is quite simple. Clean the cracked surface and the adjacent area of the tub surface with clear pvc pipe cleaner – then with a paint brush apply it around the cracked area and join with the surface of the bath tub.

The magic toolkit - Epoxy and PVC Pipe Cleaner

This is in no way a perfect fix, but if you cannot remove the flanges then it is the ONLY option possible.

Here is what the finished repair looks like:

Repaired Jacuzzi Jet with Marine White Epoxy

Of course this is not an elegant solution in appearance, but it is an elegant solution on the wallet!  It provides for both a water-tight seal for the jet flange and body, plus it reinforces the jet body to the bath tub, negating the need for a removal and complete re-plumb, or worse – a bath tub replacement.

If you do this yourself, the repair’s total cost is less than $15!  Call with questions any time.

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Leaking bathtub spas – Part Two

This is part two of the Sealants and Epoxies can be your friend series.

In this example of a leaking jetted bathtub, what I found was that the internal jet bodies were leaking.  Additionally, it was discovered that this had been repaired in years past, and the silicone that was used was peeling off.  Note these were not cracked jets, it’s just that the internal body parts were glued together and it had partly failed, leading to a very leaky tub.

It is important to note that whenever you use a silicone in a submerged situation like this and it is applied to the surface of a leak, that periodic re-sealing of the area may be required.  IE the more often the tub is used, the more frequent the replacement.  That said, if silicone is used in a joint/flanged situation, as long as it has been given enough time to cure, it should last for many years.

Jacuzzi bath jet that has old silicone causing a leak.

Looking closely at this Jacuzzi jet body it appears there has been some silicone applied at some time in the past and it is visible at the bottom near where the jet nozzle flange is screwed in.

 

 

 

Jacuzzi bath tub jet that is leaking

On another jet, I can see what appears to be some white silicone sealant in the back (between 9 and 11 o’clock in the back) of this Jacuzzi bath jet, and it’s apparent that pieces of that white silicone have come loose also; (not visible in photo).

 

 

The solution is really simple – unscrew the jet nozzle, clean it out, prime it (using pvc clear primer), and add new silicone sealant.

Jacuzzi bath nozzle and jet body assembly - nozzle is removed.This is not difficult for the average home-owner to do. It’s quite simple.  Using a screwdriver in the base of the ring that holds the nozzle, you have to ‘un-screw it. The nozzle assembly will come right out (but you may have to fight it a bit to get it to initially rotate).

The above is what a Jacuzzi bathtub spa nozzle assembly looks like. With the flashlight, you can also see where the previous silicone when it was installed – is flaking out, causing the leaks with this tub.Silicone flaking off a seal joint in a bath tub spa.

 

Here’s a close-up of the Jacuzzi bath tub jet. Note the failing silicone.

 

 

 

Silicone removed from leaking Jacuzzi jet

 

Another jet where the silicone came completely out of the threaded body, causing a leak.

 

 

 

This is how I set this up for re-sealing. Using the dauber for clear pvc pipe cleaner, swipe the internal part of the Jacuzzi jet body and then be sure it’s dry.  getting ready to use silicone to seal a jacuzzi jet.Then I put clear silicone caulk on a paper towel, and use a small paint brush to swipe it into the area where it needs to go to seal the bath-tub leak.

This is actually easier said than done,  because of the density of silicone, but the brush is infinitely better as an initial applicator, than the nozzle of a caulk gun – and definitely better than using your fingers.  The paint brush provides accuracy and cleanliness, which is an absolute requirement when you have to do more than 1 or 2 jets.  I always keep a few of these paint brushes with me because you have to throw them away when you’re finished.

Here is what the removed Jacuzzi bath nozzle assembly looks like completely disassembled.Jacuzzi bathtub jet nozzle removed from the body.

There were no final photos taken of this job but I will say that after the silicone was place where I wanted it to go, I did use my index finger to ‘smooge-it’ in a circular fashion to cover the leaking joints completely.  It works, and it’s cheap to do!

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Sealants and Epoxies are your friend

When it comes to repairing ‘broken’ or cracked things on your tub – because replacing them may not be a viable option, too expensive or too troublesome to do – there are a number of cases where a simple two part epoxy, or even ordinary silicone sealant can be a massive time and money saver.

Bathtub spas, and those that go by the manufactured name ‘Jacuzzi Whirlpool’, are frequently an example when having sealants and epoxies are a serious part of your tool-box.

Let’s take a look at this first example, it is a Jacuzzi Whirlpool bathtub that has a couple of cracked jet bodies.  Many people would think that it would be a requirement to cut out the broken jet, replace it and then replumb it.  But what if just getting access means taking the entire tub out?  Ouch! That can get expensive really quick!

Jacuzzi Whirlpool Bathtub

In this example, you can see I’ve got Plast-Aid, as well as Marine Epoxy (white) you can see on the above Jacuzzi Bath to the right.

20161009_162922With the bathtub spa jet internals removed (only takes a phillips head screwdriver), the cracks in the jet body are easy to locate.

Once found, I prep the area with a swipe of pvc pipe cleaner, ensure it’s dry, then apply an amount of Plast-Aid directly over the crack.  That will be cured in about 15 minutes. Then a follow up with a coating of white Marine Epoxy.

It can be a little tricky spotting what I call a ‘micro-crack’ – but if you can locate the leaking jet body first, then it will give you a target to focus on. Jacuzzi Whirlpool bath with a cracked jet body.In this jet body, that small slotted area to the right (behind the green cement), there is an arched crack that appears in the concave swivel ball (jet nozzle) seat, and stretches across that slot to towards the bottom.

Sometimes, because these things can be really TINY and difficult to see, using a camera on hi-resolution, then zooming in with the screen will help you locate cracks like this. To repair this crack, Clean the area with pvc pipe cleaner (Clear!).  Then I simply mix a two part epoxy (I prefer the Marine White) and use a small disposable paint brush to accurately paint the epoxy over the crack.  Overlap is important and will determine how strong your repair will be.


For the next example, Click Here!

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Spa & Hot Tub Leaks: The difficult ones.

Plumbing work in this business is usually not a big deal.  It’s simple and straight-forward and usually follows this sequence:

  1. Cut out offending PVC (broken/bad leaking stuff).
  2. Obtain new fittings from local supplier or Home Depot.
  3. Using PVC Primer (the clear not purple stuff), and heavy bodied PVC cement, prepare fittings and pipe/flex hose and install the replacement.
  4. If it’s cold out, warm up the joints and parts with a heat gun…. (NOT hot).
  5. Wait ample time for the PVC cement job to complete it’s cure cycle.
  6. Fill up spa and test under pressure.

Many times though, it’s not this simple, and you really need to try to figure out a much different way to solve the problem.  (Take that to mean the cure could be worse than the disease).

Case in point.  1990’s model Sundance spa.  Nice spa, really nice thru the deck installation and has been a family treasure for many years.  Using common sense and intuition, it was determined that the leak that was draining the spa down 2-3 inches per day was located in a specific corner area of the tub.  For the uninitiated, this model of Sundance spa is a full foam tub, which means that you’ll need to dig through a lot of foam to find the leaking pipe.  Squirrels had moved into this spa and dug out a ton of foam, so it was initially thought that the squirrels had dug through the foam, found a specific pipe and chewed a hole in it.

I don’t like having to trouble-shoot leaks in full-foam hot tubs.  They can really be resource hogs.  But the water soaked foam in the area I was digging was soft and easy to remove.  Yes it was really messy and not fun but digging with a crow-bar worked well.   Eventually the leak was found and it was in a really tough area, with tight parameters for ‘fit-ment’.   I mean, there’s just no way to cut out the bad stuff and just insert some new stuff and the leak is gone.

Here’s what it looked like, the spa was leaking at the blue glue area (top of the image) where the PVC  connector meets up with the tan colored flex-PVC:

2014-03-05 15.40.25

Going the conventional route, the standard answer to this situation is cut it all out, and replace the fittings and all that it connects to.  But in this situation you just can’t do that.  If you’ve ever worked with older flex PVC, you’ll know it doesn’t flex anymore, that’s 1.  2 is that everything else that it connects to are proprietary fittings/devices – like a Sundance diverter valve that controls which jets get the most water flow.  There’s nothing wrong with those things so they need to stay in place, and 3 – omg, the foam man the foam!  Everything is fixed in place by this stuff so you don’t have the liberty of moving stuff around to make it fit with new PVC.

So what do you do?  Cut it out and start a nightmare of a ride to nowhere or just try to fix the leak without all that insanity?

I like simple solutions.  In this case, we decided to use an old-fashioned approach with a bit of a twist.  They do make PVC repair couplings/fittings for this purpose, but they are hard to find, especially in the 2″ variety like this one was.  I took a 2 inch PVC coupler, and cut it in half.  Then I cut it in half again.  The end result was this:

2 Inch PVC fitting, cut in half.

The leak was a lot of water coming out of the edge of the 2 inch fitting, so the idea was to target THAT.  This fitting that was created out of a 2 inch PVC coupler from Home Depot was designed to butt-up next to the leaking PVC fitting in the spa, and it’s size, with good preparation and PVC cement, would stop the leak completely.  With this repair option you’ve got a PVC fitting edge butting up next to the edge of the existing PVC fitting that’s in place.  Hmmm what about that tiny gap between the edges of the fittings?  Well I decided to do the standard leak repair (on top of the repair) by using Plast-Aid.  So, I’ve got a new half-circle 2 inch PVC fitting up against the old 1990’s 2 inch fitting, with a lot of good prep work, (drill wire brush to clean, along with PVC Primer), It’s all sealed with medium or heavy bodied PVC Cement.  In this case I used “Weld-On” Brand Hot PVC Cement.

2014-03-10 16.11.21

It is not a pretty job.  But you can see the Plast-Aid over the top of the edge where the two PVC fittings meet.  It looks like blue and white mixed together.

The end result was a complete success!  A lot of money was saved using this method of fixing a hot tub leak.

And that’s just one of the more difficult jobs that we face daily.  Each job can be a challenge!  If you have a problem with your hot tub and don’t know what to do just give us a call anytime!

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Spa and Hot Tub -SLOW- Leaks

Let’s face it, most hot tub and spa leaks are quite obvious once you take the spa side panel off and take a look… (here we’re talking about most portable hot tubs that are outside, not in your bathroom). But slow leaks can be a real pain.  Anyway, standard leaks are really easy –

The usual culprits are going to be:

  1. Pump Seals deteriorated due to old age, or bad water chemistry.
  2. Pump and heater union gaskets getting old and deteriorated.
  3. Heater leaks.
  4. Everything else.

The top three are easy and quick to fix.  However, when faced with a really slow hot tub leak, let’s say one that drains down about an inch or two a day with no power applied, the problem can be quite perplexing.

There is one thing you need to have when trying to find a slow leak… patience.  Then add in persistence.

To help find a slow leak some of the best tools you have in your arsenal are going to be food dye, and your eyesight.Hot Tub / Spa Leak Detection

The above shows a leak test performed on a roto-molded spa with limited access to the back side.  No leaks were detected.

But the below photo exposes the slow spa leak culprit.  There are actually two jets in this photo.  The first is a Waterway mini-jet that is easily seen at the top.  The second is a cluster jet enveloped in blue food dye that’s about 7 inches below it.

Spa leak detection What happens is this… and you really have to look CLOSE and be PATIENT when you squeeze the dye into the water.  The dye will be drawn into the leaking orifice.  It’s akin to finding a virus or trojan on your computer.  Only this is analog, not digital.

Cracked Spa Jet

This spa was fixed quickly after 2 service calls, and we didn’t even have to cut a hole into the outside of the roto-molded plastic spa shell.  The failure was in the jet retainer ring.. It was cracked.

If you’ve got a leak problem that just won’t go away,  and you don’t know what to do then give us a call.

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Bath Spas & Jetted Bath Tub Repairs, Service.

We service all bathtub spas and ‘jetted tubs’ in the Metro Atlanta area.  Most often, we receive calls on these bathtubs when a house is being sold, or going up for sale soon.  More often than not, jetted bath tubs are seldom used for the original intent.

Jetted Bath Spa

Jetted Bath Tub Spa

Most common faults are:

1.  Switching (pump on/off) mechanisms, circuits or push-buttons are inoperative or broken.

2.  Pumps are locked up from lack of use.

3.  Leaks have occurred in the plumbing fittings at the bath pump or the jet fixtures.

Jetted Bath Spa Pipe Leak Repair

Jetted Bath Spa Pipe Leak Repair

 

Bath spas are their own unique animal, and quite rightly so.  Usually there is simply a small access hole to get to the pump, and it can be really tight to get into these spaces to affect proper repairs.  We do the best we can, as fast as we can to get your bath tub spa up and running again quickly to pass inspection and be used the way it was intended.

We have great relationships with a lot of real estate brokerages, agents, and regular customers all over the metro area, and are quite understanding of the expediency of getting your bath spa repaired quickly.

Leaking jet joint repair with pvc pipe and flex pvc in a bath spa / jetted bath tub.

Leaking jet joint repair with pvc pipe and flex pvc in a bath spa / jetted bath tub.

If you’re one of those people that’ve made a lot of phone calls looking for help and gotten no-where, we’re here for you!

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Phone above or you can use the contact form at the upper right of your screen and we’ll get back to you asap.  We have a pretty quick turn-around time, (especially when real-estate closings are imminent).

 

 

Grundfos Circ Pump on Hot Springs

Grundfos Pump Mounted in Hot Springs Spa

Grundfos Circ Pump Mounted in Hot Springs Spa

Grundfos Pump Mounted in Hot Springs Spa

 

Since the Laing circulation pump uses a 3/4″ fitting and the Grundfos circulation pump uses a 1″, a strengthening adapter is made from a 1″ long piece of 1/2″ pvc pipe.

This pvc pipe is inserted into the existing 3/4″ hose on the spa.  It provides a strong base so that a piece of 1″ ID flex hose can be fashioned around the old hose, and a pipe clamp used to seal it.  In the photo above you can see the piece of 1/2″ pvc sticking out of the old hose.  The new 1″ diameter hose fits over the Grundfos fitting on the right, and over the old hose on the left.  Existing clamps can still be used (shown in photo).  Typically a standard 1 1/2″ hose clamp fits over the the Grundfos nozzle.

It is easiest to perform this substitution without water draining out of the hose, (ie empty spa).

If you have trouble manipulating the old hose… heating it up works wonders.  In really tight situations, it may be necessary or a lot easier to install if you use a piece of 1″ hose a few feet long to get it to feed into the heater (ie looping it up and around etc).

One last thing: on rare occasion, it may be necessary to remove the cover from the front of the Grundfos pump to rotate it to a better position to get the discharge fitting in the optimum spot for installation.  This is usually not required, but if it is, it takes about 10 minutes to do it.  You’ll need an allen wrench to remove the screws.

Your mileage may vary.

SpaXpert