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How to Properly Open a Hot Tub Spa

First of all, please realize that most damage that occurs to hot tub spas is caused by improper winterization. When it comes time to open up your spa in the Spring, this is when these problems will become evident.  While it is strongly recommended to have a pool or spa professional close your spa, many homeowners do successfully tackle the job of spa opening themselves.  It is much less risky !


Drain & Clean A Spa
For a video about Spa Opening, Draining, Cleaning & Refilling, go to How to Open, Drain & Clean a Hot Tub Spa for detailed how-to instructions.

The instructions below assume that your spa has been closed either professionally, or by you - following the proper winterization procedure.

Hot Tub Spa Opening Instructions

  1. Remove the winter spa cover (or tarp) that is covering your hard thermal spa cover.

    1. Remove the air pillow (if any) and deflate it.  For inground spas, remove and drain any water tubes as well.   Clean and fold and store away.  If you do not store your winter cover indoors, and you keep it outside or in a shed, then you do not have to worry about getting the cover particularly spotlessly clean. If you do keep it in the garage or basement, you may want to clean it to a greater extent. 

     

  2. Remove the hard thermal cover.

    1. Take a look inside the spa.  Does everything seem OK ?  Some water or dirt can be expected.  Hopefully, it is not half full of water.  If it is, then put your submersible spa draining pump into the tub and pump out all the remaining water.   Inspect the shell for cracks or splits.  If there was water in the tub over the winter - and it froze - there is a chance that it could have caused serious damage to the spa shell.  If you do notice any cracks or splits in the spa shell, we suggest contacting a local spa professional to check it out for you before you go any further.   Remove any rubber plugs that may have been installed in the jets at closing time as well.  If your spa shell appears OK, then move on to the next step.

     

  3. Clean the spa shell & filter.

    1. It is recommended to use an acrylic cleaner to clean your spa shell - such as NOVUS, SPRAY AWAY, or CLEAN AND BRITE - do not use soap based cleaners like GLASS PLUS, FANTASTIC, SCRUBBING BUBBLES, etc.   These cleaners contain harsh abrasives that might scratch the acrylic spa shell as well the fact that they will leave a soap residue on the spa walls.  When you refill the spa, you stand a chance of getting bubbly, soapy water !  Spray cleaner on the spa shell walls, seats and floor and then sponge-clean the entire surface.  Dirty water will accumulate in the footwell of the spa.  This is OK.  Keep your hose and your submersible pump handy.  When the dirty water fills up the footwell, simply drop your submersible pump in, and plug it in, and pump out that water.  Continue until the spa is very clean. 

    2. Clean your spa filter cartridge as well.   Use the special SPA FILTER CLEANER to do this.  Do not use a soap based cleaner on the filter.  For more tips on hot tub spa filters click here.

     

  4. Wax spa shell.

    1. It is recommended to use an acrylic wax such as SPA BRITE, NOVUS, HI LITE, etc - do not use any type of CAR WAX or FURNITURE WAX.  Using the wrong wax could cause troubles with your spa shell finish as well as cause problems with your water chemistry.  Applying spa shell wax with a soft cotton T-shirt works best.  Buff to a nice shine.

     

  5. Clean your hard thermal spa cover.

    1. Covers get a lot of abuse and most people do not care for them adequately.   Then they wonder why their cover only last for 2-3 years !  A properly cared for spa cover should last 5-7 years - even in outdoor conditions.

    2. Clean cover vinyl with any of the spa cleaners listed above.  If you do not have any of those cleaners, you can use almost any type of cleaner for spa covers.  Make sure you clean the underneath side of the cover as well. Once cover is clean of most of the dirt and grime, then you need to protect it by applying a cover protectant such as NOVUS, KOVER KARE or FORMULA 303 PROTECTANT.   When properly applied, these products will significantly increase the life of your spa cover jacket.  It is not recommended to use ARMOR ALL as that product will prematurely dry out and age spa cover vinyl jackets.

    3. If your spa cover seems very heavy, the foams may have absorbed some water.  If your cover has a zipper around the outside of the cover jacket, unzip it and remove the foams.  Let them air out for a day or so.   This will allow them to dry out.  If your cover vinyl jacket or foam cores smell musty or like mildew, a quick spray with LYSOL brand disinfectant will stop the odor.  Please note that the construction of many spa covers do not allow you to remove the foams, so you may not be able to do this with all covers !  Some cover foams are covered with plastic as well.  If the plastic is heat-sealed around the foam core, then don't unwrap it !  You will break the seal.  However, if the foams are waterlogged, even under the plastic, then you really can't hurt matters by unwrapping them and letting them air out.  After airing out, you may want to re-wrap the foams in the plastic.  If you choose to do this, make sure that the seam-side is pointed UP, away from the water surface.  Use DUCT TAPE to tape the plastic shut.   Re-insert the foams into the vinyl jacket and zip it up.

     

  6. Check out Spa Pack.

    1. Now it is time to turn your attention towards the Spa Pack Equipment.  If the spa was closed properly or professionally, there should be a number of fittings in your spa pack that have been left unscrewed or open.  You want to make sure these are all re-connected and tightened before you attempt to fill the spa with water.  Also make sure any DRAIN PLUGS that were removed are properly re-inserted.  Visually inspect the spa pump, filter container, valves and any plumbing pipes you can easily see in and around the equipment area.  Does everything look OK ?  Do you see any obvious cracks or splits ?  The most common problems encountered at opening time are cracks in the wet end of the spa pump or filter container.  These cracks are caused by water freezing inside the components and then expanding and then cracking.  Sometimes these are evident before you fill the spa with water, sometimes they will not show up until the system is full and pressurized.  If you see any obvious cracks or other problems with the equipment, then we suggest contacting a local spa professional to check it out for you.

    2. If all looks OK, then simply tighten all quick disconnect fittings that may have been unscrewed.  Check the front and top of the pump - in and out of the filter - in and out of the heater - and check to see that the air blower is still connected to its pipe as well.  Make sure any drain valves are closed.  Make sure that any SLICE VALVES are in the OPEN, or UP position to ensure adequate water flow to the system.

    3. If you have an external gas heater, make sure the gas is properly connected and that any drain plugs or petcocks are properly seated and installed correctly.  IF YOU SMELL GAS WHEN YOU TURN ON THE GAS FOR THE HEATER, IMMEDIATELY TURN THE GAS OFF AND CONTACT YOUR GAS COMPANY OR A LOCAL SPA PROFESSIONAL.   IF THERE IS ANYTHING ABOUT THE GAS HEATER THAT YOU DO NOT UNDERSTAND - STOP - AND CALL YOUR GAS COMPANY OR A LOCAL SPA PROFESSIONAL.  DO NOT PLAY AROUND WITH GAS !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

     

  7. Fill the spa.

    1. Take a deep breath and start to fill the spa.  Put a hose inside the tub and turn your water on.  This is the time when you should be the most attentive to this whole process (especially if your spa or any of the equipment are indoors and are in any area where a small flood could cause a problem !).  As the tub starts to fill up - and the water gets up to various levels in the spa, the jet piping will slowly start to fill with water and the water will start to reach each piece of equipment in your equipment pack.   THIS IS WHERE YOU WILL MOST PROBABLY SEE A FEW SMALL LEAKS !!!

    2. Keep an eye on everything as tub is filling.   If you see any leak (or flood) anywhere, turn off the water until you have located and repaired the leak.  The most common leak areas are around the pump and at all quick disconnect fittings by the spa pack.  These drips or leaks can usually be fixed by tightening the fittings better.  Sometimes you may need a new gasket or o-ring to stop the leak.  In any event, make sure all leaks and drips are FIXED before you continue to fill the tub.

     

  8. Power up spa.

    1. Assuming that the filling procedure went well, you are now ready to power the tub up, and hopefully it will work !  Make sure the spa pack area is dry and that you are not standing in any puddles of water when you first power up the tub.  Make sure the spa heater thermostat is turned ALL THE WAY DOWN, or to the OFF position before you turn on the tub. Go turn on the circuit breaker that controls the electric power to the tub.  Go back to the spa pack and check the GFCI to make sure it TESTS and RESETS. Not all spa packs have a built in GFCI, but most of them do - and this is a very important safety device !!!  You want to make sure that the GFCI and/or the main house CIRCUIT BREAKER that controls the electric to the spa are functioning properly. If the GFCI and/or BREAKER works, proceed to the next step.

     

  9. Start pushing buttons !

    1. See if the spa pump goes from high to low speed.  Does the air blower come on and off ?  The light ?  The booster pump (if you have one) ? If all things seem to be working well, then turn the heater on and turn up the thermostat.  DO NOT TURN THE HEATER ON UNTIL YOU ARE 100% SURE YOU HAVE WATER FLOW THRU YOUR PIPES !!!!!  YOU COULD BURN OUT YOUR HEATER IF YOU TURN IT ON BEFORE YOU HAVE ADEQUATE WATER FLOW.

    2. If you are getting good flow through the jets, then turn on the heater and heat the tub to the temperature you desire.  If you are not getting good flow thru your jets, or the pump does not seem to be running well - or not priming - you could have a number of different problems.  For the solutions to various service problems, see the INFO/TIPS section under SPA PACK TROUBLESHOOTING for more details.

    3. The one VERY COMMON problem that many people have at their spa opening is that the pipes become air bound and you get what's called an "air lock" in your system that causes the jets to appear not to work well (or at all).

    4. Your symptoms will be that the pump goes on and off OK, but no water (or very little water) is coming out of the jets.  What is happening ? Why, oh why is this happening ?  Make it work, please make it work!

    5. This is how an air lock can happen...If you are filling the tub up fairly rapidly, air can get trapped in the pipes that go to the suction fittings and the jets.  The water level raises up past the openings in the spa.  The air becomes trapped (locked) in the pipes.  Then when you go to start up the spa pump, it tries to suck in water, but only air is in the pipes.  The pump cannot PRIME itself at that point.  So it just runs, but does not pump any water.

    6. The way to fix this is to loosen the quick disconnect fitting in front of the pump.  This will allow some air to get in and will break the "air lock" seal that has developed.  You should hear a hissssss noise and then see some water start to come out of the pump fitting.  Once you see the water start to come out, simply re-tighten the fitting.  Turn the pump on.   It will surge for a few seconds, but then it should pick up the prime and start to pump properly.  If it does not, you should repeat this procedure again.  If it still does not work, you could have some other problems.  At that point we would suggest contacting a local spa professional to check it out for you.

     

  10. Adjust water chemistry.

    1. Once the tub is filled, running, and heating - then you will have to set up the water chemistry. See our E-Z SPA CHEMICAL INSTRUCTIONS for more details.

     

  11. Enjoy !

    1. Once the tub is chemically adjusted and hot, jump right in !  See Tips for using your Hot Tub for more details.

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