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<>You may down-load this

for your personal use. Duplicating or publishing any part of this document for commercial use, without written permission, is strictly prohibited.

Quality Spas and Hot Tubs

Spa Care Tips

Installing Portable Hot Tubs Part I
published on the web by

Havenmade  Inc.

Broomfield, CO 80023
(303)-404-AAAH! (2224)
EMAIL spatips@spaspecialist.com
Copyright 1997-2008

You may down-load this for your personal use. Duplicating or publishing any
part of this document for commercial use, without written permission, is strictly prohibited.

I receive a lot of questions about how to install a spa; what is needed, and what may be done to prepare for the spa.

Because our spas are made in the best possible fashion, with modern acrylic, and painstaking fiber-glassing, The spas must be placed on a solid flat surface.

<> We recommend either a concrete slab, or a deck with concrete caissons.

On Concrete Pad

With a concrete pad it is preferred to place it on a well compacted and level ground. We recommend at least 4 inches thick, and be reinforced. Spas can weigh close to 5,000 pounds. The concrete should not have any relief cuts into the surface for stress cracking. The reason for this is so the slab will not separate under the spa, but will work like a huge flat table if the ground shifts. We do not want the spa the become distorted.

In some parts of the country, the ground is very stable, and you may be able to use other support systems. I prefer to recommend the best possible platforms, for any area of the country. Check with your local building department for their opinion on the ground. In Colorado, where our store is, the base has to be supported by concrete, because the ground is an unstable mixture of soft and hard materials.

Nearly all spa warranties have a disclaimer for improper installations that cause shell cracking, from distorted platforms.

It is a good idea to have a plan for how you want the spa to be oriented, so the best seats are aligned with something you like to look at. (I like looking up at the stars, and out towards the mountains).
If the spa is to be out in the open, we recommend that the platform be big enough for an extended area in front of the spa for the steps and a place to hang your robes. If you are concerned about the appearance of a large concrete slab, you can have the slab go just under the spa, and place stonework around the spa, and in the front for the entrance area. The steps we include with our spas are 23 inches out from the spa and 30 inches wide. If the spa has a "cut corner" design with the step in at the cut corner, the slab has to be big enough to accommodate the steps at the corner.

If you plan to have a gazebo, you may want the concrete to extend to the outer walls of the gazebo, or place concrete "footers" where the gazebo structural posts will go.

If you want hidden electrical conduit, you can have the electrician bring the conduit up through the concrete, into the bottom of the spa. With thermal pane spas, this is an easy thing to do, because there are many places inside the spa where the electrical conduit can be brought in. (Another reason to stay away from fully foamed spas)

If you are planning to have a cover removal device like our SuperLift2, plan an area behind the spa at least 15 inches of clear space for the cover to tilt off the spa. 18 inches is even better.

Plumbing Considerations

Portable spas do not need any connections to either water or drain.  They simply fill with a garden hose and drain with a garden hose.  You can also us a sump pump for quick draining.  Using Instant Ions or Eco One allows you to drain the spa directly on the ground and the water can be used to water plants.
If you are installing a potable spa in a room, it needs a water proof floor, a drain and the fixtures in the room must be water/ steam proof, like in a locker shower room.

Electrical Considerations.

I worked as an electrician ( as well as an electronics technician and engineer) for years, before getting into the spa business, so I understand the installation procedures from both the electrician's and the spa installers viewpoints. There are many electricians, who do not fully understand the operation of spas, and how a spa has a different need than say and electric clothes dryer.

One of the main concerns with a spa is the power requirements for water pumps. Because water pumps have a rather heavy current draw during the motor starting, it is recommended to use a larger wire, than is commonly used. I have seen many newly constructed custom houses with too small wire for the powerful two and three pump spas being offered today. We recommend using Number 6 copper wire for your spa. If you look inside the control box of most modern spas, they are built with lugs for number 6 copper wire. Even if the electrical requirements for the spa you get now is for a smaller wire, you may consider trading up to a more powerful spa in the future.

The other concern is the length of run. With water pumps the wire size gets larger with distance, more so than with any resistive load. I can recall installing a 240 volt irrigation pump with number 6 copper for a 100 foot run; even thought the breaker size was 20 Amps. The nature of the reactive rating on the pump motor called for a large wire to allow full energy to the motor. 

It is also a good idea to keep the electrical run from the GFCI to the spa as short as possilbe to eliminate ground faults that trip the GFCI from moisture in conduit.

Too small of a wire, can cause the motors to have a lower voltage at starting, and shorten the life of the motors. In spa wiring, if you use a sheathed cable (romex) the wire size must be increased one size. The heat retention of a closed cable cause more heat build up.  Click Here for Electrical Specs on Haven Spas



Ground Fault Safety considerations:

A Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter,GFCI, is an electrical safety device required by the National Electrical Code to be installed on all spas after January 1,1994. It basically senses an electrical current going straight to ground, often indicating electricity in the water. These GFCI's are set to a very low amount of electrical current. I don't believe I could feel 0.5 MA of electricity, but that is how sensitive they are. The concept is to stop even the slightest possibility of getting electricity touching your body. A good concept!!

We have found that two pole GFCI breakers, the standard types used inside load centers (main panels and sub panels) do not work very well on spas. There is a phenomenon called "false tripping", that drives spa repair people and spa electricians crazy.

I have (as an experiment) replaced an entire spa equipment package, in order to prove that the false tripping GFCI breaker was the problem. The electrician (who had not installed many spas) told me that the breaker was tripping because of a problem in the spa. The funny thing is we have many of the same equipped spas that do not have a false tripping problem on a GFCI disconnect. I have heard of things such as garage door openers that cause the spa's GFCI breaker to trip. (That must have been a time waster to locate!!)

Because of the reactive loads that spas present, and the fact that parts of the spa run on 115 volts, the GFCI breakers "think" that a normal spa condition is a ground fault and trip for no measurable reason. The breakers also go bad with time. It seems that spas are rough on these GFCI Breakers.

This is not a fun thing to deal with! In the winter it can lead to frozen spas!

I know that it took a long time to develop GFCI breakers and they barely work on spas. I personally do not think it is possible to make one, because no one has (Still in 2005) made one that works for a long time on a high performace spa. It seems that unless the spa has no 115 volt components, and the spa has less than two pumps, the odds of the GFCI breaker false tripping in time are 100%. I have seen capacitors applied to stop the back feed of electricity to the chassis of motors, so the GFCI doesn't "think" the magnetic lines of flux crossing the metal frame are not a ground fault.

There is an answer. It is called the GFCI disconnect. This device is not a "breaker". It does not trip because of an over-current. It is strictly a ground fault detector. It consists of a high current GFCI that drives a three pole contactor. If there is a ground fault, it turns off the contactor and disconnects all three lines. The two "hots" and the neutral. It is UL listed, and comes with its own outdoor box. If you can't find one, we distribute them.

The best way to install them is this way. Place a standard 50 or 60 amp two pole breaker in the house load center. Run conduit out to the GFCI, then conduit to the spa. The GFCI needs to be available to the spa, and not locked in another room. Ask the building department in your area about placement. The electricians like them, and I like them. They are easy to install, with lots of room for the number 6 wires to bend.

So far, I have not seen one "false trip". I have seen them trip and shut off power with reason; usually water in the ozonator.  (We finally had one in 2003!. that is one out of approximately 2400 we have sold.)

When ever I have the chance to talk with my customer's electrician, I talk them out of using a GFCI breaker and into using a GFCI disconnect. I simply say: "If the breaker trips, you will be the first person to go out and waste your time." If the GFCI disconnect trips, then I'll be the first to send someone out." The worst case so far was $577 paid to a spa repair service company to fix a spa under warranty that was not defective. If the spa is fine, there is no warranty.  The GFCI breaker was the problem, but the electrician insisted there was nothing wrong with the breaker.  So, eventually we got another electrician out to fix the problem by removing the faulty GFCI breaker and replacing it.  The customer also had to pay the electrician.  That is an expensive lesson that I do not want to put on my customers.

This GFCI has been temporarily discontinued.  The economy has taken its toll.

Click Here to Order Your GFCI Disconnect


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