With proper maintenance and care, most hot tubs last a number of years without ever requiring significant repair. However, it is not uncommon for backyard hot tubs to experience issues.
In the event that your spa experiences issues or does not function to its full capacity, there are some steps you can take before calling in a hot tub service technician. We have compiled a list of hot tub troubleshooting tips to assist you in maintaining your hot tub.
It’s important to note that these hot tub troubleshooting tips are to be taken with extra care. It is always our recommendation that you call a service technician, however, there are times where they are unavailable. In this case, you may try these recommendations to assist in addressing the problem. If you are ever unsure or concerned with the steps you are taking, cease all attempts at fixing the spa yourself and wait for a hot tub technician.
Poor Filter Maintenance
If you’re experiencing water flow issues, poor water heating, or water that looks or feels unclean, check the filters in your spa. Being proactive about filter maintenance and cleaning is the most effective way to make sure that a small amount of debris doesn’t become an issue stopping you from using your hot tub.
How frequently you should clean your spa filters varies, depending on how often you are using your hot tub. The more frequently someone is in the hot tub (bringing dirt, sunscreen, or cosmetic products with them), the more often you should be cleaning it. An easy rule of thumb is to remove and spray down the filters every 2 weeks with a garden hose. This will push away any larger debris, preventing a blockage.
To do a deep clean of the filters, which should be done every month, you will need to remove them and spray them down with a high-pressure garden hose attachment. This should be a more aggressive spray than you do on a bi-weekly basis.
Once they have been sprayed down, making sure to get between each pleat of the filter, the filters should soak for 12 hours in a large bucket of warm water and filter cleaner. Soaking the filter gets them fully clean, breaking down and removing any build up that may have occurred. When the 12 hours is over, spray the filter down with a hose once more before returning it back to the tub.
Ensuring that these tasks get completed regularly will help maintain the overall health of your spa, preventing issues before they happen.
When the water chemistry in your backyard hot tub is off, it can result in serious issues for your hot tub. The importance of regularly checking your water chemistry and ensuring that it stays balanced is often overlooked until it is found to be the culprit of a hot tub in disrepair – which is much more common than most hot tub owners think.
Hot tub water that is not balanced is too harsh on your hot tub – it can lead to mineral buildup, cloudy water, algae, cloudy water, or even scale along the sides and bottom of your portable hot tub. These kinds of issues may require more than just draining, re-adjusting, or cleaning. If left untreated, they can result in the breakdown of pump gaskets, o-rings, or heaters from the mineral build up.
It’s important to be preventative about the water chemistry in your hot tub through regular water testing. On a monthly basis, you should take a sample of your hot tub spa water to your local hot tub dealer. Simply dip a clean container, approximately 16oz., into the water. This container should exclusively be used for the water, to be sure nothing contaminates the water and you get an accurate test.
Between taking your water sample to a local hot tub dealer for testing, you should also do at home water testing using test strips or a liquid test kit. Depending on how frequently you use your hot tub you may need to test more or less often, but in general testing once per week is recommended. These tests will not give you a detailed reading, so it’s important to not use this in lieu of professional testing.
One of the main causes of a lack of power or issues with the hot tub is an issue with your GFCI breaker. It is very important to note that if you do not have a good knowledge of electricity, wait for a hot tub technician to assist you. Water and electricity are a very dangerous combination, and ensuring your safety is of utmost importance. Unless you are confident and have a background working with electricity and understand safety procedures, wait until there is a technician available.
If you do check the GFCI box, things to look for include:
- Moisture in the control box
- Corrosion on all contacts
- Overheated wire connections
- Loose spade connections, or poor crimp connections
- Improperly secure GFCI breaker mounting tags
- Corrosion or imperfections on heater elements
If you find that your backyard hot tub has begun to take longer than usual to heat up, or is unable to consistently hold a temperature, your first troubleshooting step should be to turn off the circuit breaker. Once the circuit breaker is off, clear the tub of any and all debris that may be in the tub, and remove the filters to clean the debris off of them. You can do this by hosing the filters down with a high pressure hose attachment.
Once the filters have been cleaned and all of the debris is removed from the tub, wait approximately 15 minutes before turning the power back on at the circuit breaker. After the power has been turned back on, run your hot tub for a half an hour before allowing anyone to enter the tub. If you follow these steps and the hot tub heats up at the regular speed it usually does, you know that dirt within the filters was the culprit. To prevent this from happening again, ensure you are regularly cleaning your filters. If this doesn’t solve the issue, consult a technician.
FLO, DR, or DRY Errors
These types of errors most commonly are the result of debris or blockages. These issues can typically be fixed by cleaning filters or topping off the water level in the tub. If those don’t work, there are other steps you can take to troubleshoot the problem.
FLO errors indicate an issue with water flow. This could be a result of a few things. Most commonly it is the result of dirty filters, low water level, bad sensors, or clogged circulation pumps. On the heater of your spa, there are sensors which read water pressure (this is also sometimes a pressure switch, depending on the make and model of your spa), which determine the error.
Your first step should be to ensure that your spa is at the correct water level, and top it up if it needs more. Once this is done, reset the GFCI breaker and wait to see if the error is still displaying. If it is, your next step is to check the filter.
Remove the filter cartridges, and check to see if this clears the error. If it does, the problem is faulty or dirty filters. Do a deep clean of the filters and place them back in the spa – if the error returns, contact your local hot tub dealer about purchasing new hot tub filters.
If you replace the filters and the error still hasn’t cleared, it is likely the circulation pumps. Check the pump for any debris that could be clogging it, and ensure that power is going into it. If there is no clear issue with the pump that you can immediately see, contact a service technician.
DR or DRY Errors
DR or DRY errors are similar to FLO errors. DR or DRY errors appear when there is little to no water travelling through the spa’s heater, and can usually be resolved by ensuring that the water is at the right level.
The first step to fixing this error is to turn off the GFCI breaker and manually disconnect the power to the pump. This is a safety precaution, do not attempt any further maintenance until all power is diverted from the pump.
Once the power has been completely shut off, move to the next step. If you have topped off the water level and that did not fix the problem, check the jets. If too many jets are closed or blocked by debris, this could be the cause of the problem. If the jets appear fine, look for any debris or blocks in the suction fitting and skimmer. You should also check to be sure that the gate valves on the pumps have not fallen closed preventing water flow.
Another common reason for the errors, like FLO errors, can be dirty filters. Remove and thoroughly clean them. Once you have checked all of the above, restart the pump and heater to see if the error has cleared. If it is still displaying the error, it may be the result of a plumbing leak or a faulty pump. Contact a hot tub technician to fix the issue.
No Working Jets
If your hot tub jets aren’t working correctly, don’t panic. Often this is a relatively easy issue to resolve. The first step is to be sure you don’t have your jets closed or turned off, which is done by twisting them too far. Before you start checking elsewhere, turn on and open fully all of the jets. While you’re doing this, give them a thorough inspection and cleaning, looking for blockage in the nozzles. Clear any debris out and run the system again. If you’re still experiencing issues, there are other steps you can take.
If your jets are experiencing low pressure, it could be the result of air in the jet systems. To resolve this, locate the discharge pipe union on the pump. Loosen the coupling on the pipe slowly, without removing it, which will slowly bleed the air out of the pipe causing a hissing sound. When the hissing has stopped and the air has been let out of the system, you’ll see the appropriate flow of water coming from the hot tub jets.
Bad Water Flow
It may be that the water coming from your hot tub jets is flowing in short bursts, rather than a steady and high-pressure stream of water. This can be the result of a few things, many of which are easy to resolve.
The first thing to check is the water level. If it is too low, air may have gotten into the system and is affecting the water flow in the jets. If this is the case, release the air from the discharge pump union, and fill the water back up to the manufacturer recommended level.
If the water level is not an issue, check the hot tub filter. If there is significant build up on the filter, the water won’t be able to flow through it smoothly, which could be the cause of the poor flow. If possible, clean the filter. If the build up is too bad to clean it properly, replace it with a new filter.
If you have checked the water level and filter and still are experiencing poor water flow, ensure that your air controls or diverter valves are working correctly. If your hot tub doesn’t have these, take a look at the wet end of the pump and look for any blockage or debris. This may involve having to take the pump apart, which if you are not comfortable with, consult a technician to do this for you.
Even with the most regimented water testing schedule, issues with the quality and balance of water can happen to anyone. Hot tub water issues are not an uncommon issue, and experiencing cloudy water in your hot tub is something most hot tub owners will deal with at some point.
Fixing cloudy water is relatively simple. Usually, the root cause of this issue is a dirty filter, improper sanitizing, suspended particles or organic matter, too many oils, or water that needs to be changed. In order to fix cloudy water, you can take the following steps:
- Ensure the pH, alkalinity, and water hardness levels are all properly balanced
- Clean and/or replace the filter cartridges in the hot tub
- Ensure that sanitizer levels are accurate
- If none of the above work, drain, clean, and refill the hot tub
Foaming water is also a common issue that hot tub owners face. Water that foams can be a result of high contaminates in the water, such as soap or makeup residues that have gotten into the plumbing system. It can also be a result of low calcium water hardness, or out of balance water.
The first step to ridding your hot tub of foam is to add in a defoaming agent. You will also need to test the water to determine if the calcium levels are too low. If this is the case, increase the calcium, which will work to boost the natural hardness of the water.
As you test the calcium levels, test and adjust the pH levels in the water, to ensure that all levels in the water are properly balanced. Lastly, clean and replace the filter cartridge. After these steps, the hot tub water should be foam-free, and ready to enjoy.
Water that is discoloured or foul-smelling can be the result of a few things. The most common reason for water discolouration is water that is not properly balanced. The best preventative measure you can take is regular testing, both at home and by professionals at your local hot tub and spa dealer. If you go to take a dip in your hot tub and you find discoloured water, there are some things you can do to fix it.
Algae is most often a result of low sanitizer levels, excessive contamination in the water (usually from beauty products or sunscreen on the skin), or a growth of mold/mildew that has built up on the underside of the hot tub.
These issues are all generally easy to fix issues. Simply test the sanitizer levels in the spa using an at home kit, and if necessary add more chlorine/bromine to the water. The next step is to thoroughly clean your spa cover. Be careful not to be too abrasive when cleaning the cover – any scratches or rips in the fabric could result in excessive water getting into the cover or bacteria growth.
If adjusting the sanitizer levels and cleaning your hot tub cover does not solve the problem, drain and refill your hot tub with fresh water. If you see a growth of algae after this has been done, take a sample of your water to a local hot tub dealer for professional testing.
Brown, Blue, Green, or Black Water
Water discolouration that causes brown, blue, green or even black water can be startling to see. Typically this is a result of a few possible issues:
- Excessive mineral content
- Metal equipment within the hot tub eroding
- A low pH level
- A low hardness level
- Copper, iron, or manganese in the water has been oxidized by chlorine, ozone, or monopersulfate
The first step to fixing this issue is to test and adjust the pH level using an at-home test kit. Make any adjustments using hot tub chemicals as needed. After you have adjusted the water chemistry, run the filter continuously. This should remove any material in the water that has caused the issue.
If there is any settled material in the bottom of the spa, vacuum it up and run the filter again. If none of these work to fix your spa, use a sequestering agent in the water. It is ideal to add a sequestering agent on a weekly basis to eliminate staining and scale formation.
If you have followed all steps and none of them have helped to fix the water discolouration, bring a sample of your water to a local hot tub dealer to have it professionally tested. They will also be able to advise on what to use to fix the problem.
Most of the time when there is an issue with a hot tub, the problem comes down to faulty or blocked filters. Filters should be changed regularly and cleaned at least once every 4 weeks. It is also recommended to have a spare set of filters on hand, so if you do run into issues, you can switch out the filters and have uninterrupted use of your hot tub. There are some easy ways to tell that your filters need to be changed or cleaned:
- A brown, grey, green or yellow spa filter, even after it has been cleaned
- Debris and clogging at the core of the filter
- The pleated filtering element is flat, loose, or coming apart
- Any cracks, tears, or holes in the top, bottom, or filtering element
If you are ever unsure or uncomfortable performing maintenance on your hot tub, it is always best to call a hot tub technician. Water and electricity are very dangerous, and all hot tub troubleshooting and maintenance steps should be taken with extreme caution.
If none of the steps you have tried work, do not attempt to do any further troubleshooting or fixing on your own. Call an expert. Attempting to do any further maintenance on your own can result in damage to your hot tub, and serious personal injury.
If you have questions about your spa, or your spa requires a hot tub technician, fill out the form below to contact Niagara Hot Tubs. A member of our team will contact you as soon as possible.