Miscellaneous questions on hot tub maintenance

The Cave family recently moved into a new house that includes a hot tub. The old owners had a few of sheets of maintenance instructions, but they neglected to leave them behind. I have done some web browsing and although there is a lot of info about buying a hot tub, I did not find much info on maintaining one. Most of the advice I saw suggested that new owners should call up a service, have them check out the equipment and teach you about the system. So I called someone and he is coming out next week. However, being impatient, I thought I would ask here and see if anyone wants to help out. Here is what I know so far as well as the questions I have. Thanks in advance…

I bought some test strips to test the water and the bromine level is very low. There is a bromine floater in the tub and it still has two and a half pellets. Am I supposed to add more pellets? Do I add bromine directly? Or do I do something else?

The tub has a few controls and I am not sure which is which. There are two external button switches which seem to connect to the heater system. Turning them on kicks out a lot of bubbles and such. Do these control the air injectors (as opposed to the water jets)? When I turn them on, the water seems to eventually warm up, but only slightly. Even after letting them run for many hours, the water temp only went up to 88 F (from exactly what I don’t remember; I would guess a little lower than room temp). The PVC pipe connecting the heater and tub certainly got warmer, but not hot. The heater thermostat is cranked and I think it was replaced recently.

There is also a pair of dials built in to the tub. Turning these on seemed to kick water out of the jets. Are these water jets or air injectors? Do these need to be on to raise the water temp?

Even with everything off, there is still something running. There is a little bit of water (or air) coming out of two of the jets. I read that some tubs have a circulating pump that runs 24/7, but the thing is, I don’t remember this running when we first moved in. How do I tell?

There is a cover on the tub and the bottom side has gotten a fair amount of mildew. Is this normal and it needs to be periodically cleaned? Or is it a side-effect of one the above questions (bromine too low, pump always running).

In case it matters, the tub is indoor and installed in the floor. There is a dehumidifier in the room, but I haven’t been running it. I assumed that I just need to run it after using (and closing) the tub.

Finally, I read that I am supposed to clean the filter every week, test the water 1-3 times a week, and shock the tub every 2-3 months. Does this sound about right? Is there anything else I need to do periodically?

I’ll do my best. I’m not an expert, but I have one still working fine after 9 years. (I knew I had become a Californian when I bought a spa. )

Assuming the bromine level is low (our’s always is) add more. It doesn’t hurt, and you don’t have to worry about them all melting. Our strips check for pH, alkalinity and bromine, but the bromine is the only thing that is usually low. I believe you can buy a bromine shock that you can use when you refill the tub, or if it is very low, but the tablets go into the floater.

Okay, the buttons are probably air injectors to do the massaging while you are in the spa. This feels good. Heating that much water takes a lot of time, so don’t expect it to heat up like a bathtub. It basically stays hot, and your cover keeps it reasonably warm.

Ours has two controls, that are basically menus, and an up and down button. These set the temperature, which should be over 100 - we keep ours at 102. If I remember what my book said, keeping the temperature too low may grow things, and doesn’t feel all that good. 88 is way too low. It also sets the filter cycles, which helps to clean things out. Ours are set for twice a day for about 45 minutes each. You can set when they come on, so they won’t come on when you’re in the spa.

Our other button turns on the little light inside.

These basically change the intensity of the water jet. They don’t have anything to do with the temperature.

Yes, it runs even when it is off. The water is constantly cycling through the filters to be cleaned and heated. This is a good thing. If it was really off, (in our case we pull a big hunking switch) then it doesn’t run. But if the spa has power, then it does run.

I’d clean it. Your spa store (which you will get to know well) probably has the right type of cleaner.

Ours is outside, so if we use it a lot it accumulates bits of leaves and things. We found a wet/dry vac (which we got cheap at an auction) is wonderful for cleaning it out after we drain the water. If you have it inside, you’re probably in better shape.

I’d run it to avoid mildew on the paint.

It depends on how much you use it. We don’t clean our filter nearly that much. You can check how dirty it looks. Testing the water is a good thing to do, but if you have everything in balance, you can cut back. Once a week is the minimum. If you use the tub a lot, I’d drain the water once every three months or so - twice a year at least.

This being said, we don’t have ours on all that much anymore, California electricity prices being what they are. Spas are great, but you might want to check out your electric bill to see if you can afford it. That’s about the only negative I’ve seen.

One thing I forgot. The only maintenance problem we have had is the pump going out, which has happened about three times. The repair guys said this is pretty common. They took it out, fairly simple, and fixed it and brought it back. Not as expensive as lots of other things that break.

Thanks a lot for the help Voyager!

I’d recommend contacting the manufacturer. They may have a website where you can download a user guide in .pdf format. That way you’ll have information specific to your tub, as opposed to generic data.

CaveMike, do you happen to know the make and model of the unit?
Is it a Kohler?

I ask bacause it sound a lot like the one we have.

I keep the Bromide float full and only open about a half inch.
I only shock the water if I know we’ll be using it or right after using it.
I stopped testing the PH and other levels a while back. I go by smell now, I can tell when the balance of chemicals and PH is close to normal. If it smells wierd then I test it and add the chems accordingly (directions on bottles).
I use a water conditioner chemical and a mineral removal treatment too.
There is a seperate timer for ours that controls the main circ pump that I have set to run for two hours a day.
I have the heater set to 102 degrees.
The heater only runs when the circ pump is running (two hours per day) and it keeps the water at a constant 90 degrees or so.
Only takes about 15 minutes to get that up to 100 if we want to use it.
I have two outer controls on the unit, one that controls the speed of the main pump (high and low speeds) and one that controls the air bubles (on or off).
One wall switch for the light and a humidistat that controls the exhaust fan in the room.

Oh, I only change the filter every year, even though it says to change it every six months. We don’t use it all that often, but it’s nice to have it ready at all times.
Same with the water, once per year.
I’d do this every six months if we used it once a week, but once a month seems to be about our average.