Hot tubs and pools are a big purchase. You want to protect your purchase and ensure that your hot tub or pool last for a long time. Most people, however, make basic mistakes that can drastically reduce the lifespan of their pool or hot tub.
Here are a few steps you can take to protect your investment and extend the life of your pool or hot tub.
Test Your Water
The first step is the most basic; make sure you test your water regularly. Maintaining proper water balance is by far the best way to ensure a long life for your hot tub or pool. To ensure your pool or hot tub enjoys a long life you should make sure you keep a chemical balance of:
- A level of 1-3ppm of chlorine (3-5ppm of bromine).
- A pH between 7.4 and 7.6.
- An alkalinity level of 90-110.
To better understand why you should keep this balance, consider two things:
1. Clear Water Doesn’t Always Mean Good Water
Most people look at a perfectly clear pool or hot tub and assume that everything must be perfect. This is not always the case however. In some cases, clear water is simply a symptom of poor water balance.
While clear water can be a sign that all is well it can also be a sign of:
- Too much chlorine.
- Acidic water.
Having a good level of chlorine keeps away algae and ensures that the water is safe to swim in. Too much chlorine, however, can cause a lot of wear and tear on the equipment (pump, heater, pool ladder etc.) of your pool or hot tub.
Acidic water is never a good thing. Just like acids in action movies, acidic pool water will eventually eat through everything. From rubber o-rings to metal pool ladders to hot tub jets, nothing is safe from the dissolving power of acidic water.
So if clear water can be both a good thing and a bad thing, how can you tell if you need to balance your water? The answer is regular water testing. Using a home test kit, or test strips, test your pool or hot tub water every 2-3 days. Keep and eye on the chlorine (or bromine) and pH levels to make sure that they never get too high or low.
You should also bring your water in to your local hot tub and pool store to be professionally tested at least once per month. Not only are the professional tests more accurate, they also are able to test for more things, like calcium hardness and stabilizer levels.
2. Cloudy Water Never Means Good Water
While cloudy water is usually a symptom of low chlorine or bromine levels, it can also indicate water balance issues.
Basic water (water with a high pH and alkalinity) can’t hold as much particulate as acidic water can. This causes minerals, like calcium, to fall out of suspension, making the water look cloudy.
Once out of suspension, these minerals begin to group together and stick to any surface they come in contact with, causing scale to form over time.
This scale can build up in plumbing, on hot tub jets and especially on heater coils and salt cells. Even thin layers of scale can dramatically reduce the efficiency of heaters and salt systems. This forces them to work harder to compensate, dramatically reducing their life.
Salt water pools are again especially vulnerable to this. There are two reasons for this:
- The added salt adds more particulate to the water, increasing the likelihood that minerals like calcium will fall out of suspension.
- The process of turning salt into usable chlorine naturally increases the pH of the water.
For this reason, salt water pool and hot tub owners should pay close attention to their pH levels and regularly add pH reducer to help prevent scaling. Salt cells should also be cleaned at the end of every season to remove any scale buildup that has accumulated.
What Causes Water Balance To Change Anyway?
Simply put, everything. Weather, chemicals, people, fill water and even dirt and other particles brought in by the wind can affect the balance of your pool or hot tub’s water.
Each one of these elements have their own pH and alkalinity, which affects the pH and alkalinity of the water. For example, chlorine and bromine pucks have a low pH and alkalinity which causes pool and hot tub water to turn acidic over time. Rain water is also very acidic. For this reason, pool owners should pay special attention to their alkalinity after big rain storms.
Most of these elements also affect how much chlorine is used up. Chlorine and bromine use increases rapidly as water temperature and use increases. A lack of use can therefore cause bromine levels to spike in hot tubs. Likewise, a few cold days can cause the chlorine level of a pool to increase.
Fix Loud Pumps
Over time, it is common for pool and hot tub pumps to start to get louder. This increased noise is usually from water getting into the motor.
Over time, the rubber seal that separates the “wet end” of the pump from the motor degrades, letting water into the motor. This water begins to rust the shaft of the pump. As the shaft spins this rust grinds against it’s housing, causing an increase in noise when the pump is on.
Along with creating a lot of noise, the rusty shaft also creates friction. This friction means that the pump has to work harder to move the water. If left untreated, the shaft will get more and more rusty, causing more noise and more friction, until the pump finally seizes completely.
To stop this from happening it is important to get your pool or hot tub pump serviced as soon as you notice it getting louder. Replacing the shaft seal and rebuilding the pump will generally cost around $200. With the cost of a new pump starting at $400 (and some over $1000) this is money very well spent.
Clean Your Filters
A dirty hot tub or pool filter doesn’t let water easily pass through it. This means that your pump has to work harder to do its job, leading to a shorter life.
Regular cleaning of your filters is the best way to ensure that your pump isn’t working harder than it needs to be. For hot tubs this means taking them out and rinsing them off every 1-2 weeks, depending on use. For pools this means backwashing your filter when the pressure on the pressure gauge rises by 10lbs.
Both pool and hot tub filters should also be cleaned in a chemical solution to get rid of any built up oils and lotions. Hot tub filters should be chemically cleaned every 3-4 months, pool filters should be cleaned once per year.
Protect Your Hot Tub Cover
The UV from the Sun can be very damaging to hot tub. Clean both sides of your hot tub cover regularly (around once per month) with a UV inhibiting cleaner. This helps prevent the outer skin from degrading prematurely and can get rid of any mildew buildup on the underside of the cover.
If you shut your hot tub down for part of the year, you should also consider tarping your hot tub. A tarp will not only protect the cover from the Sun, it will also help prevent water from getting into the hot tub.
Cover don’t perfectly seal on the hot tub and will allow some water in. If the hot tub is closed during winter, this water will freeze and can cause some major damage to the pipes and equipment of the hot tub.
With new hot tub covers costing $500 and the cost to repair a frozen hot tub in the $1000s, these simple steps can save you a ton of money in the long term.
When properly maintained, a hot tub or pool should last for at least 20 years. Without proper maintenance however, they can break down in a matter of a few years. Just like would should never drive your car without regular maintenance like oil changes, you should never run your hot tub your hot tub or pool without regular maintenance like water testing.
While nobody wants to spend more than they need to to maintain their hot tub or pool, the cost to repair or replace them far outweighs the cost of proper maintenance.
By following the tips we just outlined, you can look forward to years of enjoying your hot tub or pool.