TRUCKEE DONNER MAINTENANCE
Parts & Shipping - 10855 Palisades Dr.
Truckee, CA 96161
Mailing - P.O. Box 1758
Truckee, CA 96160
530 587-4840

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Spa Service & Repairs

Some Spa Owner's Guidelines

We are a licensed, bonded, and insured general contractor and can offer a complete range of plumbing and electrical repairs.  We specialize in:

  • Spa installation and repair,
  • Home maintenance and winterization, and
  • Home security checks,

The tips below will offer you the insights we’ve gained over 25 years of spa service -- from some important pre-purchase considerations to the short- and long-term maintenance needed to get the most from your spa or hot tub.

Pre-Purchase Considerations

Before you install a spa, think MURPHY’S LAW.

  • Many spas are made where you cannot easily remove the sides for inspection purposes. This is something to consider when purchasing your spa.
  • A spa that sits on a deck is easier to fix than a spa that sits in a deck.
  • Spa manufacturers are only responsible for fixing a problem under warranty for as long as the warranty applies provided, there is accessibility. 
  • It gets expensive for the spa owner when a spa has to be drained, electrically disconnected, and lifted or moved away from a wall or railing, or lifted out of a deck, or has to be flipped up on its side to access a leak for repairs.

SIMPLE IS GOOD: I recommend simple installation of spas in the Sierra. Fancy is not necessarily better. It’s usually the spa that’s all tiled in and has built in steps and access hatches in decks that are frozen, that are the ones that leak.

  • Spa Sizing - Before making what will be an important long-term decision, consider how many people be using you spa and how often – this affects the sizing and seating, gallonage, etc.    
  • Location, Location, Location - Because of the mountain location, placing of larger spas may require a crane – which in-turn may require considering the power line clearances, driveway accessibility and incline and trees on the property. The size and nature of the crane and the size of the spa directly affect the installation expenses.  Placement of spa is important. Huge amounts of ice and snow can build up and then shed off of roofs and overhangs possibly damaging the spa and injuring someone. Be aware of your liabilities.  Trees above spas can also be a source of ice and snow build up. Branches and limbs can break off and fall on spas.  If a spa is placed beneath an upper deck, you might have to deal with dripping snow and ice from the deck above unless you install a diverter.
  • Climate - Many spas are made for less severe climate zones. Less expensive spas can be poorly insulated. (See article about Reflectix™ insulation ). Check your spa for adequate insulation for the Sierra to keep your electric bills down. Whenever adding insulation, be sure not to smother the electrical motors as they need air to circulate thru them.
  • Power & Water - Also consider the physical placement of the spa and support infrastructure, like plumbing, electrical, lighting, snow-removal, etc.   An accessible water source near the spa and away from snow drifts is important so anyone can easily add water or rinse a filter. Many customers turn off their house water whenever cabins are vacant. This makes servicing a spa more difficult, adding extra time for turning water back on and re-winterizing when finished.
  • Foundation & Slab - Spas need a sturdy flat surface to set upon. Gravel, pavers and stones will freeze and heave when ground freezes. This will put uneven stresses on the spa shell causing cracks that will void mfg. warranties.   Spas should be level so a high up jet will not get above the water line causing the jet to spray water out of spa, should the water get a little low.
  • Warranties and Extended Warranties & Service Plans - Be sure to carefully inspect the terms of your spa's terms and limitations.

Spa Start Up, Maintenance, & Service Tips

Items a spa owner should have for servicing his spa

  1. A user-friendly long handled plastic snow shovel is a good investment for removing snow off your spa and decks in the Sierra. Make sure deck screws and nails are in tight so you avoid nicking the shovel edge that can snag and tear your vinyl spa cover.
  2. A spa net with a 4 ft. handle, and a small fish net for capturing debris that is in the filter-well area.
  3. An extra set of spa filters, so you can swap the filters while cleaning the dirty set.
  4. A container to hold your spa chemicals and spare filters with child safety latches on lid. Note: some spa chemicals and test kits will freeze solid when left outdoors.
  5. Teri-cloth rags for cleaning the spa and the cover.
  6. A good grade hose with nozzle for filling the spa and rinsing the filters. Hose should roll up easily without kinking. Note: Unhook hoses from hose bibs and faucets during winter months so spigots will not be damaged from freezing.
  7. A good test kit or test strips for checking pH, etc. Note:  Test strip bottles have born-on dates and will go bad quickly making your tests inaccurate.
  8. A complete set of spa chemicals for your spa (i.e. raise pH, lower pH, clarifier, stain-n-scale, water hardness, foam control, sanitizers, spa shocks, spa shell cleaning supplies, spa cover cleaning and conditioning supplies, chemicals for cleaning the filters, etc.) * CHEMICALS ARE AVAILABLE FOR YOUR NEEDS.
  9. Plastic laminated directions. Your spa owners manual and programming guide along with information about the spa. i.e., Model number, serial number, warranty information, who to contact, etc. This is especially important if guests or renters are using the spa that may be unfamiliar with it. Directions can be in a 3 ring binder for everyone to look at.
  10. Posted rules for using the spa. This reduces liabilities and helps keep your maintenance costs down. Laminated spa care and use sheets are available.

Water and Chemical Considerations

Water in the Sierra is for the most part, some of the best water in the world. However some water comes from private wells and this water can contain minerals, or be high or low in pH. Ignorance is bliss, but the spa can suffer if it is not properly balanced. If you are unsure or concerned about the water you will be putting in the spa, you can usually take a sample of it to a local spa dealer for in-house testing. OR… I would be happy to give you a quick course in water chemistry.  I’ll help you make notes on the jars or whatever it takes to get you familiar with the chemicals you will be using so you will be completely comfortable with them. We want your spa experience to be fun, and not a big hassle.

 

Some Start Up Tips …

  • When the water is brand new in the spa, check the pH. The pH should be between 7.6 and 8.2 when you are finished. Do not put any sanitizer in just yet.
  • If you are using a bromine floater, only put two tablets in the floater at a time, as you don’t want to dissolve large quantities of bromine if the floater is full of bromine. Approx. one tablet a week should be dissolved in a normal size spa.
  • Do not use a Non-Chlorine Spa Shock the first time, when refilling the tub with new water.
  • Squirt some water clarifier into the new water to re-glaze the new clean spa filter so that it will trap tiny particulates better. See the dosage on the bottle for the gallonage of your spa. Note: Some bottles of clarifier are more concentrated than others.
  • OPTIONAL -- Add 2 ounces of Scumdigester or any other enzyme based oil-eating product to the new spa water.
  • Test the Total Alkalinity of the water. It should be between 100 and 140. You can raise it if needed by putting in small amounts of Alkalinity increaser. Lowering it is a little tricky. Call us and well talk about that. Normally, if the Total Alkalinity is higher than 140, it means you probably have “chemical soup”, however, this is usually with old spa water.
  • If you are using a product called Perfect pH, refer to the dosage and directions for that product.
  • Now you can put a little chlorine sanitizer in the water. One part per million is all you need to disinfect the spa. Rule of thumb...Your thumb is about the dose for a spa that is 450 gallons in size.
  • Now turn on the breakers and refer to the owner’s manual in case your spa needs to “Boot Up” first. Now you can hit the low speed and establish the jets. The water needs to be squirting out of the jets. If you cannot get the jets to pump water out, you may have to bleed the pumps of air so they will stop cavitating. Again, you need to be familiar with your spa.
  • 240v. spas will reheat approx. 6 to 8 degrees per hour, and 120v. Spas usually reheat approx.1 to 3 degrees per hour.

Daily Maintenance

  • Have all leaks repaired as soon as possible to prevent mold, bacteria, or dry-rot to keep from attracting carpenter ants and keep them from nesting in your spa foam insulation.
  • Your spa may have a circuit board that may have one or more fuses on it. You should keep spare fuses on hand to replace if they should blow. (Turn OFF the spa breaker first before you change one!). Call us for a service visit to see why the fuse blew in the first place.
  • Power surges and brown outs are a frequent occurrence in the Sierra. They will ruin a spa circuit board. Another reason to have it checked on a routine schedule.  
  • Add 1 tsp. of Chlorine granules to spa after use & run filtration cycle for approx. 1/2 hr. This will disinfect the spa water.
  • Additional filtration may be necessary if spa gets heavy use.
  • Check pH of water & raise or lower pH using small amounts (i.e. 1 tblsp.) as necessary. If spa water contains a lot of chlorine or bromine, do not attempt to adjust pH.
  • Keep water level 1/2 way up skimmer opening. Do not overfill the spa with people. Low water will make spa jets surge & heater can be damaged.
  • Clarifier helps to keep water clear. Use small amounts (i.e. 1 tblsp.) as needed.
  • Bromine feeder should not have more than 2 tablets in it & only opened so you see 1 tablet thru the openings. TAKE OUT FEEDER WHEN USING SPA.
  • Water heats up slowly; 1-3 degrees per hr. for 110V models...6-8 degrees per hr. for 220V. This is with the cover on. Gas fired spas heat faster. Allow ample time for spa to heat properly. Water should never be hotter than 104 degrees.
  • Before you turn up the heat, make sure jets run & make sure pump is working. This is especially important if you have just emptied & refilled spa. You do not want to "dry fire" the heating element.
  • A spa is nothing more than a large bathtub with a pump, filter & heater. You will enjoy the spa's clarity & healthfulness longer if pre-showering before entering the spa.
  • Be careful removing & replacing spa cover. It is not made of steel & can get cut & punctured easily. Shoveling lids is tricky. Don't gouge cover while removing snow or ice. Two people should lift on or off the cover.
  • Leave spa in better condition than you found it & you'll find it in great shape the next time you use it.
  • Refer to manufacturer's operating instructions to operate your spa efficiently & safely. Use spa at your own risk... Children should be supervised at all times by an adult. 
  • Filter cycles should be twice daily. Two hours in the morning and 2 hours in the evening.
  • Bromine Floater (when used) should remain in the spa at all times, except when you are using it. Keep it away from children. Excessive amounts of bromine can cause skin irritation.
  • OPTIONAL -- Scumballs and Scumbug products should remain in spa at all times except when you are using the spa.
  • When you are done using the spa, put the sanitizer in. Then hit the jet button to mix it up. If you can, leave the cover open for a bit so the chlorine gasses off harmlessly.
  • Instruct your guests to keep the cover on whenever the spa is not being used. This will keep it cleaner and will keep your electrical bill down.

Weekly / Monthly Maintenance

  • Filter should be pulled & rinsed off once a week & soaked once a month. Spare filters enable you to clean dirty filters at your leisure. Never pull out a filter if spa is on or if electricity is on to spa. Turn OFF breaker or GFI so spa cannot run while filter is removed for cleaning. Pump could get debris in it.
  • Freshening the water is good & dumping spa water once every 2 months is recommended (more frequently if used heavily).
  • The filters should be taken out and rinsed off with a hose at least once a week, especially if it’s outside. Leaves, insects and other debris (sometimes small animals) can get stuck in there. 
  • Test water for Bromine, pH and Alkalinity.
  • Add 2 new Bromine tablets to the floater if necessary. Note: Some spa manufacturers do not recommend Bromine for their spas, so consult your spa mfg.
  • Test and adjust the Alkalinity to be between 100-140, and test and adjust the pH to be between 7.6 – 8.2. (Do not manually adjust the pH or Alkalinity if you are using Perfect pH product).
  • Rinse off the cartridge filter with fresh water. Make sure the spa electricity is off before you pull out a filter because you don’t want to suck anything into the pumps (should there be foreign objects in the filter well).
  • OPTIONAL ... Squeeze out Scumballs or Scumbugs and rinse them out with fresh water
  • Add a little water clarifier. Refer to bottle dosage.
  • OPTIONAL... add Scumdigester or any other enzyme based oil-eating product to the water.
  • Clean the spa sides at the water line with an acrylic cleaner or use a little orange cleaner with a damp rag.
  • Remove debris with a spa net and remove sand with a Spa Wand.
  • Finally, it is time to put a sanitizer in. Spa Shock, Spa Chlor, or Non Chlorine Spa Shock to kill bacteria and algae. Refer to bottle dosage.
  • Remember -- Fresh water dilution helps control your “chemical soup”. Take some out and put some in when in doubt. Fresh water is the BEST thing you can do for your spa.

Seasonal Preparations / Cold Weather Issues

  • Extreme temperature changes, sun, snow, moisture can ruin your spa skirting – causing the trim and paneling to dry out, warp and crack.
  • Wasps, hornets, carpenter ants, mice, and squirrels, and yes, even raccoons will try to live in the equipment area. Make sure doors fit tightly and any small electrical access holes and vent openings are properly blocked off.
  • Look in on your spa motors, control box, air blower, ozonator and related plumbing at least twice a year. This will tell you if you have problems that need to be addressed. (Insects, rodents, water leaks, etc.).
  • Many customers turn off their house water whenever cabins are vacant. This makes servicing a spa more difficult, adding extra time for turning water back on and re-winterizing when finished.
  • Get your hot tub serviced once a year and it’s usually in the spring after a hard winter. Have the contractor lube everything up and ensure that the jets, blower, and motors are running properly. This also ensures by default that the system is running efficiently.
  • For hot tub maintenance, the things to remember are: keep your water balanced properly, keep the tub free of debris, drain at regular intervals and get it serviced at least once a year.

 

All parts, chemicals, test kits, test kit refills, filters, steps, hand rails, spa covers, lid lifters, ozonators, spa nets, are available from us by just a phone call.

530-587-4840

 

Spa Chemical Guidelines

  • Always ensure your chemical level is within the guidelines. With chlorine and bromine if the pH level is too high it will eat your swimsuit, make your eyes sore, dry out your skin (and it smells).
  • Here are some water problems and their solutions (always, always, always follow chemical manufacturer’s instructions and always keep out of reach of children):
  • Algae (floating green, mustard, black) can be visible as a scum line on the inside water line. Action: add algaecide to kill or prevent growth.
  • Cloudy Water. Action: add clarifier and shock.
  • Staining. Polident (yes, I said Polident) works on a dry tub to get stains out. To prevent staining ensure your water is balanced. Copper, iron, manganese in chemicals can cause issues. Ask the hot tub manufacturer what he suggests to ensure it doesn’t affect your warranty.
  • Scaling. The white, gray and sometimes brown crust that lives on the waterline of the tub, much like a glass of tap water that has sat for a few days. Vinegar is a good idea except it will change the pH of the hot tub. So, the best thing to do is drain the hot tub half a foot and use a sponge, scrub away and catch the run off with a towel.
  • White Foam - Hot tub water foam is caused when the Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) level in the water build up and are brought to the water surface by either the use of the air bubbler (blower) or the air being injected through your jets. The dissolved solids in the water sort of "stick" to the air bubbles coming up through the water and are brought to the surface. You see this as "foam". The foam is actually the dissolved solids clinging to the air bubbles as they escape upwards into the air. The foam is the "stuff" that was previously dissolved in the spa water.  TDS levels can build up in the water from many things. When you get in a hot tub, a lot of unpleasant stuff comes off of you. Perspiration, dead skin cells, underarm deodorant, soap residue and dirt from bathing suits, skin lotions and creams, hair spray, etc. Some of this microscopic stuff is caught by your filter, but a lot of it simply dissolves in the water. Also, every time you add any type of chemical to the water, you are introducing additional solids into the same body of water.  Depending on how much of these items are put into the water, and how fast (days, weeks, or months), this will determine the point at which your water becomes saturated. Once that starts to happen, the first thing you will see is the foam. Soon thereafter, the water will permanently cloud – as it reaches its true saturation point of TDS’s.  Once that happens, no amount of filtering or additional chemicals will clear the water and you will have to change it. Water Defoamer will help combat foam for a while, but your best bet is to be as clean as possible before going into the tub. That way you should be able to get about 8 weeks between water changes.
  • You should also change the water regularly in outdoor hot tubs for proper maintenance. There are issues in the winter with the pump overheating and then freezing over while you are draining, so ask the manufacturer the best way to do it. I recommend draining the hot tub at least once a month with regular use and balanced water.

Hot Tub (Normal Use) Servicing Tips:

  • Drain spa water every 2 months - even if you are not using it. This will eliminate your “chemical soup”. Whenever emptying a spa, make sure that the spa is shut off by the breaker.
  • Clean spa shell with an acrylic spa cleaner or orange cleaner. Do not use soap based cleaners.
  • Wax spa shell with acrylic spa wax. Car wax is not recommended.
  • Soak the filter overnight in a filter cleaner solution and rinse thoroughly with water. If it will not come clean, replace it. Do not scrub on the filters.
  • (OPTIONAL ) Squeeze out any surface oil removers such as Scumballs or Scumbugs and rinse them off with fresh water. Replace them if they are damaged or will not float on the surface.
  • Add fresh water to the recommended level. Note: Do not turn the spa back on until the spa is completely refilled. Check your owner’s manual to see if they recommend that you refill the spa by putting the hose in the filter standpipes, as this will blow out the trapped air in the pipes.

 

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