There's nothing quite like slipping into a steamy spa to start the day or wash away tensions at day's end. A spa, just like any other cherished possession, requires periodic maintenance and upkeep to keep it at its best.
The most important thing to monitor when caring for your spa is water balance. But remember, spas are much different than swimming pools. Four people in a spa are equivalent to having 250 in an average-sized swimming pool. High temperatures and the ratio of people to water means more residual soaps, deodorants, perfumes, natural body oils and perspiration are released into spa water. This can create excessive organic contaminants, which can only be eliminated using products that are specially formulated for spas.
The biggest consideration is whether to use chlorine or bromine. Both are effective in daily sanitizing. However, chlorine breaks down faster at higher temperatures and can release a strong odor as it does. Bromine is typically the most popular way to sanitize spa water. No matter which one you choose, more is not better when using these chemicals. When you overload your spa, you're setting yourself up for equipment failure due to corrosion.
Proper chlorine levels are crucial. At the same time, proper pH, total alkalinity and calcium hardness levels must also be kept in check to insure that chlorine can do its job effectively. When not in balance, your water can become corrosive, and attack heating elements, pump seals and internal gas fired heaters.
Bromine has become so popular because it is less harsh to the skin and works better than chlorine in hot water. Unlike chlorine, bromine is effective even after disinfecting. It's also more pH stable and easier to maintain in the proper level by using tablets in a floating dispenser. However, the same rules apply - pH, total alkalinity and calcium hardness must be kept in check to prevent corrosion to spa equipment.
Total alkalinity is the spa water's ability to neutralize acid, and is an indicator of the water's ability to resist changes in pH. If readings are below 80 ppm, add Solus Spa pH Up until you're back in the acceptable range. If readings are above 120, add Solus Spa pH Down to get back in balance.
Instead of measuring in parts per million, pH is read on a 14-point scale, with 7.2-7.6 being ideal for bathers. pH indicates how acidic or alkaline your spa water is. A pH reading below seven would be acidic, while eight or above would be alkaline. If readings are below 7.2, add Solus Spa pH Up. Readings above 7.6 can be brought back into check using Solus Spa pH Down.
This is a measurement of the calcium and magnesium in your spa water. When levels are low, corrosion can occur and the water can get foamy. When levels are too high, scale can form and water becomes irritating to the skin and eyes. Low hardness can be corrected using Spa Calcium Hardness Plus.
This is everything that gets dissolved into spa water, including metals, chemicals and salts. If TDS is too high, the water can become salty or have a tint to it. To decrease TDS, just add fresh water. Be sure to retest your spa water and check the overall water balance afterward.
To maintain the perfectly balanced spa, you should shock after every use or at least once a week, whichever is more frequent. Unlike your pool, spas are shocked with a non-chlorine shock or oxidizer that eliminates odors and reduces irritating contaminants. Non-chlorine shocks are broken down in warm water as easily as liquid chlorine is in a swimming pool.
Draining your pool is always a last resort, but it's a periodic necessity when caring for your spa. Chemical by-products and other contaminants quickly build up in spa water after continued use, and make the water more difficult to balance.
How often you drain your spa depends upon the size of the spa and number of bathers. If your spa sees a lot of use, drain it once a month. If use is infrequent, drain it every 3 months. Once you've refilled your spa, shock the water, run the pump to circulate the water for four hours, then retest and rebalance the water chemistry.
It's easy and painless. But you should do it often-at least twice a week all year round. First, check your test kit reagents. A good rule of thumb is to write the purchase date on the bottle and replace them after one year. After testing, be sure to clean your test vials thoroughly since residual chemicals can falsify future tests.
To get started, circulate the water before testing, then take a sample at least 12 inches below the surface. Read your results immediately. Remember - never use your fingers in place of a test vial cap because oil from your skin can skew results.
Test strips are also effective, but you should take the same precautions. Never put your fingers inside the container to remove the strips, and be sure to keep the container tightly closed and dry in between testing.