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The Basics of Spa Packs
The language of spa packs
Air blower: A mechanical device that forces air through the floor or seat of a spa (or the bubbler ring of a wooden hot tub) to increase water turbulence and hydrotherapy action. Typically powered by brush-type electric motors.
Air channel: A perforated, hollow duct in the spa rail, floor or seat through which air is pumped by the blower, thereby enhancing jet and hydrotherapy action.
Air control: A plumbing fitting for spas and wooden hot tubs that regulates air flow, thus increasing or decreasing jet or hydrotherapy action.
Air-induction system: A system whereby a volume of air (only) is induced into a hollow duct built into a spa wall, floor, bench or other location. Activated by a separate air-power unit (see Air blower).
Air switch: A pneumatic, mechanical device consisting of an air transmitter (or air button), a length of tubing and the air switch itself,
Anti-surge valve: A valve installed downstream of the blower to prevent water from backing up into the unit.
Back pressure: The force against which the air blower works to move air through the air channel.
Cartridge filter: A filtering system that uses a replaceable porous element. The majority of spa packs use cartridge filters because of their compact size,
Dedicated circuit: An AC power circuit to which no other appliance is connected. Because most spa packs draw 16 amps and most circuits are 20 amps, spa packs should be hooked to a dedicated circuit.
Door-interlock magnet: Most portable spas include a magnetic interlock that prevents power from reaching the system if the access door to the spa pack is opened.
Electric heater: Most spa packs have electric heating systems in which heating elements arc directly immersed in the water stream to heat the water. Performance is measured in kilowatts, a unit of electrical measure equal to 1,000 watts
Electronic spa controls: Components include solid-state circuitry, back-lit digital LCDs, weather-resistant switches and programmable computer memories.
External bond: A wiring system that connects all spa-pack components to a common electrical point that is generally, though not always, connected to a common ground.
Firemans switch: A mechanism that works with the time clock to protect the heater element by turning the heater off before the time clock turns the pump off.
Ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI): A device that protects bathers and others around spas against electrocution by de-energizing an electrical circuit within .025 seconds, or 1/40th of a second, when any electrical current through a bather exceeds 5/1,000th of an ampere.
High-limit switch: A safety device used to shut off a spa heater when water exceeds a preset limit. In spas, this limit is 104 degrees Fahrenheit (plus or minus 5 degrees) per UL standards.
Hydrotherapy jet: A fitting that blends air and water to create a high-velocity, turbulent stream of air-enriched water.
Mother board: The solid-state circuit board intergal to electronic spas.
Ozonator: A device using electricity and oxygen to generate ozone, If used as a primary sanitizer of spa water, either a chlorine or bromine sanitizer residual is also required.
Pressure switch: A safety device that automatically senses a change in system water pressure and opens or closes electrical switching elements when a predetermined, calibrated pressure is reached.
Pumps: In a booster-pump system, a pump completely independent of the filtration/heating system is used to activate one or more hydrotherapy jets. A two-speed pump is a centrifigal pump with a motor that operates at two distinct rates of revolutions per minute.
Sequential switch: A mechanical switching device using a cam-driven solenoid arrangement to sequentially trip relays, thereby controlling two or more spa-pack functions.
Thermostat bulb: The sensing element of most nonelectric thermostats. It is held in place by a sleeve fitting called a "thermowell."
Three-wire service: In 1969, the National Electric Code was changed to require all electrical outlets in homes to include a ground wire as well as hot and neutral wires. All spas require three-wire electrical service. Installing a portable spa in a home that predates the change in the code may require the instal-lation of a ground wire.
Timer: A mechanical or electronic device that automatically controls the time that pumps, filters, heaters, blowvers and other spa devices operate.
Touch pad control panel: A panel that can regulate water temperature, jet pressure, system diagnostics, sanitation and more; many incorporate a clock function.
Underskirt: The external covering of the lower spa structure within which the spa pack typically is located.
Venturi: A device used for mixing water and air to create a stimulating, bubbling effect. The venturi effect involves the uptake of air into liquid in a closed-pipe system when the liquid passes beneath an air opening in a constricted pipe.
Voltmeter: An instrument for measuring voltage.
The Spa Pack Blues
This guide provides some simple troubleshooting steps for spa packs that malfunction. Often, youll be able to fix the problem; Other times, youll find a more complicated problem that requires help from a specialist or manufacturer. But in all cases, follow manufacturer recommendations on what you should and should not do to the letter; to do otherwise puts you at risk.
SINGING THE DEAD-SPA
The main circuit
breaker is off.
circuit interrupter Is tripped.
The time clock is not
The magnetic interlock
Is not working.
The outlet is faulty.
TOO POOPED TO PUMP
The filter is dirty.
The filter Is
The water level is too
Valves are closed.
Suction lines are
THE HEATER WONT
The thermostat is set
The high-limit switch
The pack is in a
The pressure switch is
The circuit breaker is
BUBBLES ON THE DOUBLE
The blower is
The blower tubing Is
The air channels
holes are plugged.
Excessive back pressure. Adjust the size or number of air holes; check the blowers specs to make sure its plumbed properly; and/or look for obstructions in the systems tubing.
Jazzing up spa packs:
More and more spa packs boast electronic controls these days and for computer-loving spa owners, thats a dream come true. What you're paying for is spa controls sporting solid-state circuitry, digital LCDs, weather-resistant switches and programmable computer memories. Some controls have diagnostic capabilities that enable them to scan the components of a panel for problems and give you a readout. Still others allow a homeowner to access his or her spa controls from a-far via phone or PC. Such is the brave new world of automation.
"Spa packs are still using a lot of air switches because theyre easily understood and theyre reliable. They do better than other controls in hot and wet conditions over time,"Air switches and electronic spa controls are here to stay for the foreseeable future. Now lets delve into the world of spa blowers: everything from Fundamental information on blower types and functions to tips on sizing, replacement and basic troubleshooting. forever blowing bubbles
Forever blowing bubbles
Now let's delve into the world of spa blowers:everything from fundamental information on blower types and functions to tips on sizing,replacement and basic troubleshooting
Water pumps normally operate at 3,450 revolutions per minute. Air blowers, on the other hand, typically rotate at ·l8,O00 to 20,000 rpm. This high speed has two side effects: noise and lots of heat generated within the air blower.Several manufacturers have successfully reduced the noise to a tolerable level using sound-absorbing materials around the blowersand by adding mufflers to the intake and/or exhaust ports. Also, air blowers have been designed for burial in the ground as a noise-reduction measure, Nowadays, blowers are available in two and three-speed models, allowing bathers to select the intensity of the bubbling action, with subsequent reductions in noise levels.The heat generated within the air blower is a matter of concern. Air flowing through the blower must carry all of the heat away from the motor immediately. Failure to do so leads to the No. 1 cause of blower failure. More on this later.
Finally, some blowers today feature small electric heaters that preheat the air sent into the spa, That minimizes the temperature differential between the water circulating in the spa and the (often) much cooler air being drawn into the system thus increasing bather comfort and easing the heating burden on the spas primary heater,
SIZING THINGS UP
When you get right down to it, blower sizing isnt all that complicated. Units come in three basic sizes: 1, 1.5 and 2 horsepower. Beyond that, theres a defined set of factors to consider to find the best-sized blower for a given application: The total length of the pipe run: The longer the run, the more power the blower needs. For portable spas and spa packs, its usually not difficult to determine. For component systems, or those in which a spa pack was installed a distance away from the vessel, you need to accurately determine the amount of pipe between the blower and the spas air piping. The number of 90-degree turns: Keep in mind that turns add to the work a blower must do to force air into the spa. Water depth: Water pressure bearing down into the air channel or air injectors must be countered by the force of the air pushed through the piping. The deeper the water, the greater the burden on the blower. The number and size of air holes or air injectors:As mentioned above, too few or too small air holes or air injectors can result in an overworked and over-heated unit. Manufacturers have found various ways of incorporating these factors into their sizing schemes. Many offer helpful tables to aid in proper sizing.
GIVING JETS A BOOST
Proper sizing helps you avoid most blower problems, but other factors can have significant impact. Many problems are traceable to improper installation and can be isolated quickly with just a few simple checks. Some common symptoms, causes and remedies:
Overheating: When this happens, the blower motors thermal-protection device usually shuts the unit off. If it fails to do so, however, you may find premature brush wear on the motor or, in extreme cases, melted blower housings. Extreme heat also can lead to bearing failure in the motor.Overheating indicates a blower working too hard or a restricted air flow. A key sign: inadequate bubbling action. Often caused by back pressure brought on by undersized plumbing, it can usually be fixed with 1-1/2-inch plumbing. For long plumbing runs, however, 2-inch plumbing may be requlred; check the manufacturers specs.
Water damage: You often see this with units installed below the water level. Solution: Install a double loop or a Hartford loop in the plumbing between blower and spa. Faulty check valves (or check valves installed backward) also may be the culprits.When an owner complains of a GFCI tripping, first check the air blower. Water finding a path to the innards of a blower almost always trips a GFCI.
Intermittent operation: Random overheating, poor bubbling action, arcing, sparking, smoking and excessive noise all can result from improper electrical installation of the blower. One of your first checks here should be with a volt-meter to determine that the line voltage matches the voltage listed on the blower. In some cases, youll find an overloaded circuit with too many appliances drawing down its voltage. in other cases, youll discover a 240-volt blower limping along on a 120-volt supply line or a 120-volt unit running dangerously on a 240-volt line.
Generally poor performance: Check the blowers amp draw, using an ampmeter. Determine the amp draw under normal operating conditions, then disconnect the air piping and take another reading to determine its "free flow" amp draw. The free-flow reading will always be higher. Simply compare these two readings. For most air blowers, if the difference is greater than 1-1/2 amps, you have either a blower thats undersized for the application or an air piping system thats too small or partially plugged. A final word of advice: If in doubt, call the manufacturer. They know all about basic blower performance sizing, replacement and troubleshooting.
THE EYES HAVE IT
AN INSIDE JOB
THE PYRAMID APPROACH
"The spa should definitely have a dedicated line, "If something else is on the line at the same time, like the air conditioning, it will cause a voltage drop."To test for the lack of a dedicated line, switch off the spas breaker and see which other appliances turn off as well, Of course, if the air conditioning unit shares the line, you may not notice unless its summer,So, how do you check for a dedicated line? "Thats not always easy, "The wiring to the other appliance is frequently inside the walls of the house and not readily visible. Examine the wires connecting the circuit breakers to the spa equipment. That could reveal a problem. Some thorough snooping is in order, Note: You probably will have discovered any other causes of voltage drop, such as burned wires or a defective breaker panel during your visual inspection.
NOW YOU KNOW
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