A customer had self installed a new Hot Springs PDR (Power Down Reset) heater in his Hot Springs Grandee a year ago, and this happened:
The actual cause of the problem is that the heater power wires were not fully latched by the grey power block, and with the heater drawing in excess of 23 amps, created the effect of a bad connection. This bad connection generates heat, and gets worse with time.
Since the heater circuit board was relatively new, so it was repaired on site by soldering new wires to the board, bypassing the connection block.
With the repaired spa heater board reinstalled, the heater power wires were reconnected to it with large wire nuts.
It took me 15 years to realize that my own hot tub kept falling ill to the typical manufacturer or industry recommendations for treating hot tub water. I had all the same symptoms of my customers… jeez got the typical leaking pump seals, o-rings going bad… all of it.
As a repair guy I made it a point to follow the leaders in the chemical industry that support hot tubs and spas…. only to finally figure out that I’ve been doing it WRONG, for 15 years!
Walk into any hot tub or pool store and it’s like a chemistry class… It’s turned us stupid people into money pits.
The above photo is from a Hot Springs Spa manufactured in 1984. Look at that. So simple.
And by the way… can anyone tell me what the hell “Metal-Out” is used for? You mean, I can’t drink from my hose in the back yard any more? There’s metal in the water from my spigot that must be eliminated?
I had a customer that I visited a while back, and his equipment condition was literally perfect… a 15 year old Leisure Bay spa. The only thing wrong was his circ pump had quit and needed to be replaced. I asked him… what the hell are you doing to take care of your water? Your equipment is amazing!
I tried everything the pool store told me to do. Used the internet, and nothing ever worked. Balancing according to their methods never worked for the first 2 years. But I used to own a swimming pool in my previous house, and I had some Chlorine tablets in a bucket. So I just beat them with a hammer and broke them up in pieces, and threw them in to keep the water sanitized.
How did you monitor the chlorine level?
Well I thought you were gonna give me a hard time about this, but what I do is I literally smell the water. If I smell a bit of Chlorine, then I know I’m good.
Wow, that bit even changed my own nature of advising customers about chlorine and sanitizing hot tubs. The only other advice I gave him was to add 2/3 small box of baking soda to his tub after draining and refilling the tub, to keep his ph from dropping to acid.
Shortly there after, I had another customer with a similar problem, pump 1 was dead… but her equipment was literally in perfect condition, no corrosion, no mess… I was amazed at this. This almost 20 year old spa had never been worked on, and I asked her… HOW are you taking care of your water? She told me well… I tried what the spa store told me but after a while it didn’t work. I asked again… but how did you kill the bacteria and germs and stuff?
Heh… classic. She said: I just put in some bleach every couple of weeks… The water in this hot tub was fabulous, the equipment had ZERO evidence of corrosion. Just a failed pump from years of use. I told her simply to add baking soda to the water when she refills the tub.
Which brings me back to the original chemistry template that Hot Springs put out in 1984… Just do this one thing, and it will work.
Hot Springs had it right from the beginning. Keep it small, keep it simple, and you will love your tub again!
If you have a question about this simple solution for water chemistry then please give us a call any time.
In this instance we were faced with an early 90’s Hot Springs Prodigy with a dead circulation pump and control system. This was easily converted to an ACC Compack Jr… which is a 115V control system that provides all the options and power we were looking for to get the customer’s spa up and running again.
The above photo is after the old Laing circulation pump and Hot Springs heater was removed. Note the water is draining from the spa through the hoses. The original jet pump, (an Aqua-Flo 1 HP pump) was still operational.
When we changed out the circulation pump, we opted for the very reliable Grundfos circ pump, which has 1″ suction and discharge ports. Since the Hot Springs Tub uses 3/4″ plumbing everywhere, we used special adaptation to work with it. Once everything was leak free, we cut a new mounting hole for the topside control panel for the spa, installed it, and watched the spa work flawlessly.
The image above shows the new controller, and the cover for the old Hot Springs control system, which consisted of large round knobs and big buttons.
Once this was done, new deck work was completed to make the spa safe and a pleasure to be around.
If you’ve got a situation like this, just give us a call and we’ll do our best to advise you the best way to bring your Hot Springs Spa back to life again.
I’ve been trying to contain my brand criticism for years – it’s not an easy task. But after a call today from a father with limited funds that has a quadraplegic son from a dui accident today – I just had to get this one out. He owns a Hot Springs Sovereign and the heater has stopped working.
I’ve been rebuilding Hot Springs Heater Relay Boards for years now. They have one inherent flaw – they route too much heater current through the circuit board traces, which causes them to literally blow out – ie, the relay terminals get so hot and they gas up so much inside the relay cavity that they end up exploding the terminals through the circuit board. (This also happens on newer Balboa Instruments designs and Gecko too).
I still don’t get it. To this day it makes no sense to me. Circuit designers know darned well that a 5500 watt heater draws somewhere between 22-26 amps, (depending on voltage supply) and early designs of this board utilized relays that were of the 20 amp variety. Perhaps they would rate at 30 amp resistive, and even newer designs should be using 40 amp relays, (over-rating can only help), but the contact rating (nor the method connecting mains power to the board as they claim) has NEVER been the problem!
It’s the way the relays are connected to the circuit board, and how the power in and out get there and do their business that matters.
The way these circuit boards are manufactured is by wave soldering, in a single pass. The culprit relays are the types that are sealed from the manufacturer. So you only have one side of the circuit board that actually gets soldered, (the bottom). The top side of the circuit board (A FULL ONE HALF OF THE CURRENT CARRYING CAPACITY), never sees the wave soldering action. So the top half of the circuit board needed to carry half of the 23 amps of current, never really sees the light of day – therefore, on these circuit boards, they eventually overheat at the soldered connection point, and generate so much heat that the relay literally explodes it’s terminal out the backside resulting in a failed heater circuit. The photo below shows exactly this phenomenon:
It’s not easy to see, but it’s there. Click the image for a full size view. If you were to remove this relay yourself, you’d notice that the top side of the circuit board (under the relay itself), has virtually no solder on it, which limits the current carrying capacity of the circuit board.
This is why these boards fail, plain and simple. If the manufacturer were to actually spend a little more money and install these things using ‘Trace Saver’ techniques, these boards would last a heck of a lot longer.This is a typical repaired Hot Springs/Caldera heater circuit board using trace saver wiring to reduce excessive current draw through relay circuit board pins. We don’t buy new (defective) heater boards from the manufacturer to install in your spa only to have the same problem repeat itself a few years later…. we only install a genuine board re-manufactured by us to the specifications that the relay manufacturers have specified for like… years, and the manufacturers refuse to follow!
If you need a lot of current delivery through a relay on a circuit board, then split the path with duplicate circuits using the top terminals, then VENT the relay (which also requires human interaction), and finally watch as time passes… it works year after year. No more blown circuit boards. Just look at Balboa Instruments (prior to the VS-series) and Sundance (850+) circuit boards which use ‘Trace Saver’ designs since the early 90’s. These relays NEVER blow terminals through the board, and seem to last forever.
When it comes to high current delivery to a hot tub/spa heater, you definitely get what you pay for. If you find this circuit board replacement online for $115… it’s not worth the ebay ad it’s printed on.
This is the typical advertising content on these new boards which is selling you a bill of goods, and this is I think, reprinted from the OEM (and found on internet websites everywhere!):
It’s upgraded design provides a more efficient method of connecting the heater’s power cord to this board. The black wire from the heater’s power cord now connects into the H1 position on the large gray terminal block. The heater’s white wire (neutral) connects onto its own separate gray terminal block. This will reduce stress on the relays and increase their lifespan due to better transfer of voltage. The ground wire connection remains the same. This upgraded circuit board replaces the first and second generation boards in the IQ 2020 Control Box found in Caldera, Hot Spring and Tiger River spa models.
Somebody please tell these guys they’re still doing it wrong. The power connectors and heater connectors have NEVER been the problem! It’s the relay connections! Anyone with a minimal education in electronics technology will recognize this blather for what it is.
If you’re looking for more help or advice regarding your Hot Tub, please call us anytime. We’re here to help.