The 6 Most Common Hot Tub Maintenance Issues
Know your stuff and keep technician costs down! Owning a hot tub opens up a world of benefits, but maintenance issues can all seem a little foreign to the uninitiated! Here we look at six of the most common maintenance issues that can arise for hot tub owners and offer advice on dealing with each one.
Issue #1: My hot tub won’t heat properly
You bought a hot tub thinking it would be….well, hot, but it is proving to be lukewarm at best. Don’t be disheartened! This is not normal and there will certainly be a way to rectify the problem. Hot tub heating issues can stem from a range of sources, including:
A hot tub’s water heater needs adequate flow to function properly. In order to save the heater from damage, internal pressure switches will turn off if the flow isn’t sufficient. Try:
Removing your hot tub’s cartridge and giving the filter a cleanChecking for clogged pipes, jets, broken valves, or a malfunctioning pump impeller.
Occasionally, heating issues can be as simple as a problematic thermostat. Check your thermostat’s cord for damage, and make sure it’s plugged into the panel correctly. If the topside control panel is displaying the wrong water temperature, your problem could be a faulty temp sensor.
Hot tub heater elements can burn out quickly if there isn’t enough cold water surrounding them. There are various issues that can affect the heater element, from scale build-up to a short in the element’s coating. If you’re not confident about troubleshooting a heater element issue by yourself, get a technician to come and take a look.
Issue 2: My hot tub’s jets aren’t working
Powerful, therapeutic water jets are one of the main joys of hot tub ownership, but sometimes you may notice that things are less than satisfactory in that department. If your jets stop working, or are a little lackluster in their efforts, take a look at the following suggestions – it may be an easier fix than you’re anticipating:
First things first – check that your jets aren’t simply turned onto a lower pressure setting. Most jets can be adjusted at the nozzle, or by turning the outer ring. Try rotating them to make sure they haven’t accidentally been turned down (you may find this easier if the pump is switched off).
There are a number of things that could be wrong with your pump if your jets aren’t running with sufficient force. Check that your pump isn’t airlocked, that both the pump and the jet pump are actually turning on, that there’s no air leak, and that the pump’s impeller isn’t blocked.
If your water level is running low, not only will it affect your water heater, but it will also make your jets less effective. Top up the tub and be sure to keep your cover clipped down so the water can’t evaporate.
A clogged hot tub filter will have a major impact on the power of your jets. But if your water heater is still functioning fine, it’s likely your filter is ok too. Blocked filters affect water heat, so if everything is A-Ok temperature-wise, it’s probably not your filter causing the problem.
The drains in the bottom of your tub are a major part of its water cycle, so if their covers get blocked by a piece of clothing or a napkin, the jets will suffer. Check there’s nothing down there before paying to have a technician to come and take a look.
Issue 3: My hot tub has water chemistry problems
New spa owners will be all too familiar with how scary it can be getting the water chemistry of a hot tub right! But as seasoned hot tubbers know, the fear is unnecessary and by following a regular maintenance schedule and taking the time to troubleshoot water chemistry issues properly, you’ll have clear blue water in no time!
Still, if something is going wrong with your testing and maintenance, discolored or smelly water can be a common issue.
Here’s what might be wrong if your water is:
Cloudy water is the most common water complaint of hot tub owners, but the good news is that it should be nice and easy to resolve. First, check your filter and give it a clean if necessary. Then, test your water’s pH and alkalinity, and add chemicals to raise or lower them to an appropriate level. Finally, test the calcium levels in your water. A calcium level of more than 400 ppm is too high and can lead to cloudy or milky water. If your calcium count is too high, drain the hot tub to half-full and refill with some softer water.
If your water is murky and brown, it could have too much iron or manganese. Test your tub’s alkalinity, and if it’s high, adjust accordingly. If the alkalinity is low, shock treat your spa.
Clear green water can indicate high copper or iron content. Ask your local retailer for chemicals to counter the high amount of metal in the water.
This color can also point to algae growth, which may mean you’re not sticking to your maintenance schedule or have not used enough sanitizer. Shock treat the spa and see if the color improves.
Cloudy green water can be caused by a high alkalinity level. If your alkalinity is off-balance, your pH levels are likely to be wrong too, as pH is related to the alkalinity of your water.
A low sanitizer level can also lead to cloudy green water. Shock treat your hot tub and check for improvements.
Issue 4: My hot tub has a clogged filter
One of the most common, but often overlooked hot tub maintenance issues is a clogged and sluggish filter. Balance your hot tub’s water all you like, but if you’re not keeping your filter clean, things are bound to go pear-shaped.
Body oils and other greasy nasties can clog up your filter and lead to all manner of issues, including slow jets and malfunctioning water heaters. If your filter is quite blocked, your topside control will likely show an error code such as ‘FLO’. If water can’t flow through the dirty filter, the hot tub will stop working.
Prevention is the best form of defense against filter issues, but if it’s past the point of saving, a replacement filter may be the way to go.
Issue 5: My hot tub’s pump is really noisy
A hot tub’s pump will tell you when it’s not happy, and often you’ll be able to figure out what’s wrong by the sound it makes.
If your pump is emitting a high-pitched, metallic, whiny noise, this indicates something is off with its bearings. You can try lubricating the bearings, but in the end you may need to swap out the circulation pump.
If your pump is making a deep, grumbling noise, it’s probably low on water. Check for anything blocking the tub’s circulation. Add some water, and make sure the valves next to your pump are open properly.
You can also check if something is blocking the pump or filter from running properly, or if there is an air lock causing the vibrations and noise.
It may also pay to check if the bolts and screws securing your pump have come loose thanks to the vibrations of the motor. Check for rattling parts and tighten them using a pair of pliers.
Issue 6: My hot tub’s GFCI breaker keeps tripping
Your hot tub’s Ground Fault Circuit Breaker (GFCI) is a safety feature that shuts off power when it senses an imbalance between outgoing and incoming current. A tripping hot tub breaker is a common maintenance issue and can be easy for an electrics-savvy person to fix – if you can diagnose why it’s happening.
The first step in troubleshooting your tripping GFCI breaker is to unplug your heater, blower, ozonator and pump, and then turn the breaker back on by itself. If it still trips, you’re probably dealing with a worn breaker. If it doesn’t trip, plug in the other items one at a time, testing the GFCI after each one. If it trips again, that element is probably causing the problem.
Things to take into consideration when investigating the cause of a tripping breaker:
There are lots of parts in your tub that have the potential to corrode, electrical components in particular. If you find some rust, get a qualified electrician to replace the part for you.
If the breaker box has water or moisture around it, you may simply need to find the source of the water to fix your tripping breaker problem. Water around the breaker box can occur due to splashing, leaks, or rain. Fixing the problem may be as simple as moving the breaker box away from the tub or building a cover to protect it.
If wires are loose or damaged, the breaker may trip to prevent electrical shocks or fire. If you know what you’re doing around electrical wiring, you can give the wires a very gentle tug to make sure they’re connected properly. But when in doubt, get a qualified electrician in, who will be able to rectify any wiring issues that are found.
Water heaters don’t last forever, and if yours is on its last legs, it may be this causing the GFCI to trip. To see if this is indeed the issue, you can loosen the nuts on your heater and remove the electrical connections. If, when you flip the breaker again it still trips, it’s not the heater. If it does? Bingo! You’ve isolated the problem.
These are just a few of the maintenance issues you may encounter as a hot tub owner, but don’t be alarmed by the list! While sometimes things go wrong with a tub, just like with a vehicle, problems are often easily diagnosed and fixed, leaving you free to bathe to your heart’s content!