Tags: Drain Hot Tub, Total Dissolved Solids (TDS)
“When is it time to drain the hot tub?” I think this question hit the millionth-time mark in my pool-dude world.
First, while spa companies recommend quarterly drains, there’s some misinformation in that answer.
Barring no real problems with green water or some other nasty water issue, the only parameter to drain a hot tub is Total Dissolved Solids (TDS). End of story.
TDS measures all the solids that are in the tap water, not including what happens to hot tub water every time you use your spa. In other words, when you are in the hot tub at 104 degrees, that steam is distilled water–lacking any minerals–leaving the minerals behind in the water.
Think of your hot tub like a giant tea pot. When you use the hot tub and distill the water the TDS raises incrementally. When TDS reaches 1500 ppm that’s when it’s time to drain the hot tub.
Why? High TDS lessens the effect of your chemicals. That means disinfectants are less effective, as are all the other chemicals used. And when minerals fall out of solution your spa’s innards will look like the inside of your teapot. It’s okay for the teapot, but not for motors, pumps, heaters and plumbing. Think expensive repair bills.
When to drain your spa is not a time issue–not drain every 3 months, or whatever. It’s how many times you use your hot tub combined with the natural TDS of your tap water. And to complicate this issue is tap water TDS measurements can change weekly. From the same water spigot I’ve measured TDS at 500 ppm and then 900 ppm several weeks later.
High TDS symptoms: You can’t keep your chemicals in solution, no matter how much you add, your spa has no water quality, bad smells, etc.
You can purchase a TDS meter usually for under $25. I sell them for less. Yeah, that’s a blatant bit of self-promotion, but, hey, I’m just another pool dude trying to make a living ;-)!!! E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Tags: Calcium Hardness, Calcium Hardness Tests for Spas, Dirty spa filters, Foamy hot tub water, Foamy Spa, TDS, Total Dissolved Solids, Total Dissolved Solids (TDS)
Yikes! You turn your spa jets on, and suddenly your spa becomes a giant foam machine–or a latte gone wild. First, you scream at the kids asking who dumped soap into the spa. But you don’t have any kids and your spa doesn’t smell soapy.
1) Now ask yourself, how long ago did I drain my spa? Why? High Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) will cause foam. If your TDS reading (which you can have tested at your local spa shop) is over 1500 ppm, it’s time to dump the water, clean your spa, and start anew again.
2) Have you cleaned or replaced your spa’s filter in recent memory? If you draw a blank on this question, go directly to your spa’s filter, check it out and if it is anything but lilly white, it’s time to clean it. You can hose it off, but I recommend purchasing a filter cleaning solution from your local spa dealer, like Leisure Time Filter Clean.
Also if your filter has been servicing your spa for over 18 months, it may be time to replace it.
3) Calcium hardness is another cause of foam in your spa. If the calcium hardness is less than 200 ppm, bring it up with a calcium increase product, like Leisure Time’s Calcium Increase.
4) Have you diligently shocked your spa’s water? If not, the foam can easily be reduced with a good shock treatment using a non-chlorine shock, which you can find at your spa dealer. Shock your water, at the very least, once a week.
5) If you are missing a container of dish soap–well, it’s time to deal with the gremilins gone wild.
Tags: Blue Spa Water, Brown Spa Water, Calcium Hardness, Calcium Hardness Tests for Spas, Green Spa Water, Green Water, Total Alkalinity, Total Dissolved Solids (TDS), Yellow Spa Water
All the pretty colors. Great when in a rainbow. Bad when in your spa. Spa water should be crystal clear. So when your spa water is yellow, what does that mean?
Here’s a quick synopsis of what these colors mean:
Dude, you got algae in the water.
Treatment: Shock your water with chlorine.
See-Through Green or Emerald Green
Acidic Water. The metals in your heating elements are being stripped. The average cost for a replacement heating element–$200-$250 big green dollars (includes labor).
Treatment: Try a product like Metal Gon by Leisure Time–then balance your chemistry.
Total Alalinity 80-120, pH 7.2-7.6, . If this fails, drain and start all over.
Indicates low total alkalinity and low pH. It’s also the precursor to damaging the spa’s heating element.
Treatment: Balance your total alkalinity and pH. Also check your calcium hardness — should be over 250 ppm.
Treat with calcium increaser.
Blue rarely happens in above ground spas. But in-ground gunite spas– with gas-fired heaters–can experience bluish/turquoise water, as well as the same color stains on the plaster.
Treatment: Get the total alkalinity pH, and calcium hardness balanced. Also check total dissolved solids (TDS) –not over 1500 ppm– because that can also begin striping your heater.
Rare, but happens. Usually indicates iron in the water.
Treatment: Metal Gon should cure it. If it continues, drain, refill and add a bottle of Metal Gon when you refill.
Tags: Cloudy Spa Water, Dirty spa filters, Spa Chemical Directions, Spa Chemistry, Spa pH, Spa Sanitizer Reading, Total Dissolved Solids (TDS)
Stan from Philadelphia asks: No matter what I do, my spa water is cloudy most of the time, even after I have added bromine to it. I’m getting depressed with my spa. What am I missing?
Cloudy water means turbid water—opaque or murky. You spa’s water should be clear and glistening.
So I’m assuming that your bromine reading is 2 to 3 ppms. If it’s below that, double the shock and bring the bromine reading up to 2-3 ppms. Inadequate disinfection is a common cloudy water cause.
However, I’d bet that you haven’t taken a peek at your cartridge filter for a while. I’m not psychic, but after near 40-years of hearing “My water’s cloudy no matter what! You need to fix my water now,” I’m betting on your filter’s health.
What does that mean? The filter strains your spa’s water. It traps organic wastes like your hair, skin, and other yucky body stuff. If it isn’t regularly cleaned the filter becomes your water’s most likely pollutant.
If your filter harbors a grey or brown tinge, soak that disgusting thing in a cartridge filter cleaner (a product you can find at your pool and spa store designed specifically to deep clean polyester filters) to remove the debris that is entrapped in the filter’s fibers.
Good filter maintenance requires at least a monthly soak in a cartridge filter cleaner. Rinsing your filter with a hose is okay, but not sufficient.
Your filter could also be worn out. Most filters last about two years with regular caretaking. So, if your filter’s fibers are the first thing you notice, it’s time for a new filter.
Now, if your filter maintenance rates an A+, then you need to check your TDS (total dissolved solids). 1500-ppms means drain the tub. High TDS will not allow your bromine to properly disinfect. Most hot tubs require frequent draining. It depends on the size of the tub and how often it is used.
If you have crossed off the funky filter and high TDS, then be sure to check the standards: total alkalinity and pH. See TOTAL DISSOLVED SOLIDS AND YOUR UNRULY TEENAGE MOMENTS: TOTAL ALKALINITY & pH posted below.
Also be mindful of regular shocking.
If your spa is new to your household, you are probably using it more than you will next year. This means that your water is under more stress and requires above average attention.
Tags: Spa Chemistry, Spa pH, Spa Repair, Total Alkalinity, Warranty
Dear Pool and Spa Master, Maybe you can advise me what to do with a warranty issue. I purchased a very nice and expensive hot tub last year. It has a 5-year warranty. I say “warranty” with much consternation. Neither the dealer nor the manufacturer will HONOR MY WARRANTY and I’m pissed. There was a leak where the pump and electric motor meet. A technician repaired the leak and said they sent the “bad” ring to the manufacturer. I got a bill for a $12 part and a $75 labor. When I protested the charge, the dealer presented a copy of a letter from the manufacturer that said the leak was my fault because of improper chemistry. How could this be? Ellen F. in New York.
Ellen, I’ve represented the same spa manufacturer that you referred to here, and I have sold truckload after truckload of their spas, as well as other brands. This leak at your pump and motor is common and it is nine-times out of ten because of incorrect water chemistry balance. To clarify, the warranty comes from the individual manufactures of the spa’s parts. For instance, your spa’s motor was built by “Acme Motors,” and the pump was built by “XYZ Pump Works,” then purchased by your spa’s manufacturer and assembled at their factory. That said, when a leak occurs at the mechanical pump seal (“bad ring”), it is usually caused by either too high or too low total alkalinity and/or pH–that means your water is either too alkaline or too acidic. When your water is too alkaline, the minerals in the water grind the pump seal down. Conversely, when your water is too acidic, the acidic water destroys the pump seal. Now, if that pump seal leaked from day one of your spa’s installation, that is a warranty issue. But when it occurs 18 months later, it reeks of consumer water mismanagement. (Regarding the labor charge, review your warranty because after a year, labor is not usually included as part of your warranty.)
Oft times the dealer will work with you because this kind of repair is easy with an inexpensive part replacement. But I’d bet that your dealer is strapped right now, and if you came in fuming and finger pointing, he/she might have decided not to cut you any slack. All of us are a tad more stressed than before: You with the unexpected charge and your dealer counting dimes to keep the business afloat. A smile and pleasant approach will get most consumers much further along with these kind of issues. What would Pool And Spa Master do as the consumer? I’d ask the dealer for a full explanation of how I could better manage my water, and maybe note that you do have friends and family that love your spa, and just maybe, that dealer will toss in something to take away the sting of an unexpected charge.
Tags: Calcium Chloride, Calcium Hardness, Calcium Hardness test for pools, Calcium Hardness Tests for Spas, Foamy hot tub water, Green Water, Swimming Pool
A proper test kit should contain a calcium hardness test mechanism. Calcium hardness tests were once just for swimming pools–but we’ve discovered that it is also important for your backyard hot tub. The reason to test for calcium hardness in pool water is because a low calcium hardness reading is destructive to the pool’s plaster. (Priced plaster replacement lately? Think second mortgage to pay for the replacement.)
All tap water has variable calcium hardness readings. In that same seam, low calcium hardness in a hot tub is not only corrosive, but also interferes with disinfection, and low calcium hardness can also cause your water to become foamy.
Spa and pool owners often think that they have a lot of minerals in their water and equate that to calcium hardness. WRONG. Calcium hardness is a different measurement apart from total hardness (and that also has little to do with TDS) .
So, the reason I wanted a calcium hardness reading on this sludgy spa was: 1) to determine the effectiveness of the disinfectant and; 2) to determine if this was adding to the ‘green sludge’ disaster–in that it could cause the water to foam.
Maintaining your spa’s water can be like maintaining your own skeletal health, but this low-calcium hardness business can destroy your spa or pool’s skeletal well-being. If your calcium hardness reading is below 250 ppms, then prepare for funky water, and a visit from your spa’s doctor for an expensive repair to the heater, pump seals and possibly more.
Raise calcium hardness with calcium chloride. You can pick this up at your local pool and spa store.
Tags: Green Water, Spa Chemical Directions, Spa Chemistry, Spa pH, Spa Sanitizer Reading, Spa Water Stinks, Total Alkalinity, Total Dissolved Solids (TDS)
In the spirit of keeping our economy going, we’re going to blog a near-live time problem. Here’s today’s email from a Midwestern spa tech. Her job is on the line. Can the Pool and Spa Master help her keep her job? We’ll see.
“I stumbled on your website trying to find a solution to an icky mess of a problem I’m having with a spa at my current job. I say current because I am afraid if I don’t figure this out it may not continue to be my place of employment! I work at a shop that sells spas and what not, chemicals, blah, blah… SO I believe I may have caused the pH to go wacky or something on a couple of different occasions. I used to think there was no way I could have caused these problems. I had been listening carefully to what I had been taught about chemicals, following directions on the bottles and so forth. But there have been a couple of occasions where it seems that by my trying to adjust the balance, the chemistry has gone nuts. The water stinks like halitosis, has a green sludgy look and gets a bit foamy as well.
This has occurred after adjusting the pH, waiting a bit and adding sanitizer. It seems at first like it will be okay and then it just…turns. Like it’s rotting or something. After about a day, I added some shock. Didn’t help. In fact, it just caused the sanitizer level to read off the charts, the water to get greener and stink worse! Man, I don’t want to lose my job. No one else seems to know what exactly I could have done to cause this problem and how to fix it. Can we fix it without having to dump it out? This would be the 4th time we’ve had to empty and refill a tub! (in 4 months) Awful, I know. Please help me! I need a paycheck!”
Clearly, the Pool and Spa Master needs more information, so here’s my reply to our frazzled spa tech:
“A few questions first,
1) What is the TDS (Total Dissolved Solids)?
2) What is the Total Alkalinity reading?
3) What is the Calcium Hardness reading?
4) What is the chemistry of the fill water and the makeup water (from the spigot)?
5) What is the source of that water?
6) What kind of disinfectant are you using in the spa?
Our spa tech got back to me, and noted that the tub was drained when she got back to work.
However, let’s discuss the reasons why I asked some of the questions.
TOTAL DISSOLVED SOLIDS AND YOUR UNRULY TEENAGE MOMENTS: TOTAL ALKALINITY & pH
If you’re a pool or spa dude, there’s nothing sexier than asking, “What’s your spa’s TDS?” It’ll rope ‘em in every time. I mean, talk about an ice-breaker! (How do you think I met my wife?)
BTW, TDS is leftover minerals from your spa’s evaporation process. Remember distilling water in high school chemistry? Your local water will have a natural TDS to begin with. As your use your spa, not only are hard bits and pieces left behind, but the tub is distilling as well—AKA TDS.
Now take an 8-ounce water sample to your local pool and spa shop, and ask them to test it for you.
High Total Dissolved Solids (TDS)—which is any reading over 1500 ppm–will interfere with your sanitizer’s ability to perform as designed. If your spa’s water reads over 1500 ppm, dump the chump. Trust me; it’s your only alternative.
“But the guy at the spa shop said my water was only 800 ppm, and my spa’s water still looks and smells like a rank pond.”
So, cross off TDS as a contributor, and move on to my next question “What is your total alkalinity reading?”
Why? If your total alkalinity is unbalanced (not within 80-120 ppm) it’s likely that your pH is off the scale and not under control. This scenario, again, affects your sanitizer’s ability to perform. Sanitizers work best in a perfect world.
A pH fluctuation by 2/10 of a ppm can make your disinfectant 70-80% less effective.
Remember those unruly teenager moments? Just think of your spa’s unruly total alkalinity and pH as a teenager that needs measured control. Always, always, always balance your total alkalinity FIRST (between 80-120 ppm). Once your total alkalinity is perfect you will then balance the pH (between 7.2 to 7.6 ppm).
Yes, like teenage moments, you may have to use a LITTLE bit of sodium bicarbonate, sodium carbonate and sodium bisulfate to get your total alkalinity and pH balanced, but it is the first step to preventing all the calamities that our friend with her job-at-risk experienced.
…To be continued.
Tags: Chlorine-Alternatives for Spas, Heavy Spa Cover, Ozone, Smelly Hot Tub Cover
Roger from Los Angeles asks, “I read your piece about chlorine-free pools. What about my hot tub? Can I have a chlorine-free hot tub and not get the heebie-jeebies?”
Answer: Roger, if you don’t breathe LA’s air (just kidding), and if you don’t use tea tree oil, crystals, prayer or no disinfectant at all, yes you can use chlorine-free alternatives.
That said, my first question is, are you ready to perform more maintenance on your hot tub’s water than you do using either chlorine or bromine (bromine is chlorine’s kissing cousin)? If you are not interested in micro-managing your spa’s chemistry, then stick with the forty-year-old technology.
Some of your chlorine/bromine-free options are: Ozone, UV, biguinide, or minerals. Regardless of your alternative choice, you absolutely must maintain a perfect chemistry balance, a clean filter, and drain the spa when necessary. Check your local pool and spa store, see what they stock, then email me with your choices and I’ll go into more detail.
Sally in Portland says, “My hot tub cover stinks. What can I do about it?”
Answer: Sally, is mold growing on the north side of your spa as well? I mean, you are in Oregon and it can get a tad moldy there. Fortunately, that has nothing to do with a smelly hot tub cover. Give your cover the following test:
1) Is it heavy when you lift it? If so, your cover is waterlogged and you need to replace it. Once it is waterlogged it no longer can offer the same insulation it did when it was new.
2) Is your cover slimy on the underside? This is a simple fix. Wipe it down with a ¼ cup of bleach mixed with 2 gallons of water. Be sure to remove the cover from your spa while cleaning the slimy beast.
3) Still got gag? It could be that the foam core’s plastic envelope and the covering inside the cover have mildew or mold. You can probably fix this by, folding the cover in half, unzip the cover at the fold, remove the foam core in its envelope, turn the cover inside out, and spray both the envelope and the inside-out cover with the same bleach mix as above. Let it sit for 20 minutes, and then thoroughly rinse the cover off. Let it dry, reassemble, and gag-maker should be bleached away.
4) If these ideas fail, I can get some clothespins for your nose—real cheap too.
….Okay kids, go ahead shoot me those questions…and yes, Bill, I will answer your question about the safety of luv in da tub!