The stresses of the work-a-day world can do terrible things to your health. Sometimes you’ve just got to relax. Have you ever found yourself eyeing those big, colorful spas with their tasteful wood accents, thinking that maybe you’d like to be floating in that warm, bubbly water? An aqua-message–what a way to finish off a hectic day! You can do it, if you wish. The installation requirement for portable spas are minimal. All you need is the spa, a place to put it, and a power supply.
Portable spas are self-contained with all plumbing and equipment located inside side skirts. They are popular for patio, deck and gazebo installations. Unlike the more expensive built-in units, portable spas can move with you, should the need arise. They also come essentially ready to use.
Selecting a Site
Be sure when selecting a site that any structure on which the spa will be placed is adequate for the task. When considering the total weight of the spa, don’t forget to add the weight of the water and spa occupants. If you have questions about the structural requirements for the unit, or in your ability to reinforce the structure if necessary, consult a building engineer or contractor.
Electrical Installation Requirements
Spas use a heater to maintain the proper water temperature, as well as a pump for water circulation. They also include electronic control panels, mood lights and electronic disinfecting devises such as ozone generators. Therefore, any spa must have its own dedicated circuit of the amperage recommended by the manufacturer.
A few spas may come wired ready to plug into 110 volt current. Some provide the option of being wired for either 110 or 220 current. Others require a 220 installation. Be aware that although installation of a 220 volt system may be more expensive initially, the unit will maintain the water temperature more easily, resulting in energy savings over time. In any case, hardwiring to a 220 volt ground fault interrupter circuit should be performed only by a licensed electrician.
Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCI)
Some spas have ground fault circuit interrupters. This is important, and could save your life. If the spa you choose does not have a GFCI, it must be wired to a dedicated ground fault circuit interrupter circuit.
Electricity always wants to find a “ground,” and it will try to get to it in the shortest route possible. A ground fault is a “short”–a situation in which current travels through something you don’t want it too in order to find a “ground.” The something it travels through could be you! Being wet causes you to be able to conduct much more electricity, and this is the reason why wet locations should be GFCI protected. GFCI’s work by monitoring the current going to and coming from the circuit. Within a fraction of a second of detecting a current imbalance, a properly installed GFCI shuts that circuit down.
Some GFCI’s have test and reset buttons. Once the circuit has been broken, it will not work until the GFCI has been reset. (Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for testing.)
Preparing Your Spa for Operation
These are general guidelines. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the model spa you choose.
- After your spa has been put into position and wired, fill it with water.
- Turn the thermostat to the off position.
- Plug in the power cord or turn on the 220v power. (If the spa is 110v you can plug it in. If it is 220v, turn the breaker on.)
- Test the ground fault circuit interrupter.
- Turn on the pump to check for good water flow from the jets. The manufacturer will provide information about how to adjust the jets.
- Set the thermostat, turn on the spa, and allow the spa to run for 24 hours to preheat.
Spas are made to be durable even in an outdoor environment. Most spas are made of cast acrylic with fiberglass reinforcement and foam insulation. They should be cleaned by wiping with a sponge and alcohol.
Every spa should be equipped with a rigid, lockable protective cover which attaches securely. These are necessary for several reasons, the most important of which is safety. Such a cover can prevent a child or pet from falling into the spa and drowning. Spa covers are also insulated, keeping the heat in while keeping foreign material out. Always remove the cover completely before getting into the spa to eliminate the possibility of becoming trapped beneath it.
Periodically (every 1 to 3 months) the chemicals may be difficult to balance. When this happens, drain the spa and refill with fresh water.
- Turn off the thermostat and electric circuit to the spa.
- Siphon out the water with a length of garden hose
- After draining and cleaning per the manufacturer’s instructions, the unit will be ready to be filled and started as in preparing your spa for operation.
Winterizing your Spa
Some spas may see year-round service. In fact, some models now include freeze protection circuitry which activates the heater and/or a low speed pump at a certain temperature to prevent the water from freezing and damaging the unit. If you have no interest in using the spa in the winter, or if the weather is sufficiently harsh to prevent its use, the following steps should be taken.
- Turn power off.
- Drain the spa.
- Remove the filter and blow any water from the lines.
- Some manufacturers may recommend as an option that the pump and pack be removed and stored for the season.
- Secure the protective cover.