Electric Heater Troubleshooting for Your Hot Tub
The following exercise involves observations we’d like you to check before you call! We want you to have identified the type heater you have and that you’ve read the following:
Does "anything" work?
IE, can you activate your pump blower light etc? If it seems like nothing works, check the obvious: All Breakers, GFCI’s and Reset buttons on your hot tub equipment pack, or spa pack. If you find a tripped breaker, or GFCI breaker, Reset and try operation again, proceeding with caution. Breakers and GFCIs trip for a reason generally. Many times it is the heater element that will cause this tripping. If the spa trips the second that heat demand is present it probably is your heater element causing this. NEVER BYPASS GFCI"S or "try it without" GFCI protection. This tells you nothing and is dangerous! If you find a High Limit Reset is tripped ( This is the "red button" found on many spa packs. If you have an older hot tub, the button may be on the heater itself. and possibly covered by a rubber nipple) Go ahead and attempt a reset. When this button is tripped resetting it will involve a definite "click’ If it wont click in it is just NOT TRIPPED. *note: if you have a digital spa pack you will probably not have a manual High Temp limit switch. It will be done with sensors. High Temp limit switches are in place for two reasons. One to protect the bather from water that could be too hot. But the other reason is to protect the heater itself from overheating. Most high limit switches are located with their sensor near the element itself. If the element is not getting the proper amount of water flow ( pump problems, water level too low in hot tub etc) It will trip even though the spa itself is not hot at all. Water flow is essential for cooling the element so that it doesn’t burn up. The high limit may not always protect the heater element because even though it immediately shuts off power to the heater element, the element can overheat quicker than the high limit can react. * note: Never try to operate a heater if the hot tub is not at its proper fill level! The pump will loose prime and the heater element can literally burn up in seconds! Turn off immediately if it sounds like there is water boiling in the heater area. If your high limit resets, and the hot tub starts normally, check your pump operation closely. Chances are it was flow problem that cause this issue. Make sure your pump is operating normally with no leaks or unusual noise. Also be positive that any shut off valves are in the open position. The level of water in your hot tub is critical to your pump operating properly.
Is your Pump Pumping and Water Flowing?
In the section above emphasis was placed on proper pump operation. After checking resets and power, your next target is the pump. You want to be sure that not only is the pump running, it is pumping. To check this you want to open your cover and verify that flow is present. If your pump is running but not pumping be sure to check any valves that may be closed after servicing. Only open or close valves with the power OFF! Then try pump operation again. Other things can keep pumps from pumping as well the most common and easy to fix is an air lock. Air locks happen sometimes when the hot tub is drained. All the water leaves the pump during process and when the fill begins a big bubble gets trapped there. You can try and open the air control or the air relief valve on the filter but sometimes that’s not enough and you have to get wet…lol. With the power to the hot tub OFF try opening the union on the front suction of the pump. This is the best place to release an air lock. Don’t unscrew the union completely, just crack it enough to break the seal of the oring. If there is an air lock, you will hear the air hissing out. Once the air lock is cleared, water will begin leaking out. Let it leak for a second to be sure all of air has been dispelled. Tighten up the union and try the pump again. If your pump operation is normal and there is still no heat…
Have You Waited Long Enough?
We get quite a few calls that fall into this category. Initial fill of a hot tub will take awhile to reach temperature. Hot tubs operating at 120 volts heat approximately 1 to 2 degrees an HOUR! You will not feel a difference in the temp of the water entering the hot tub. Your best bet is to walk away for a good 6 hours at least to check for increases in temperature. Once the hot tub attains temperature, it will maintain it. 240 Volt hot tubs heat about 4 to 6 degrees an hour. Ambient temperature will effect the heating times of any hot tub. You need a good insulated cover for your tub as well. 80 percent of a hot tubs heat is lost thru the surface area. A good cover is a must! They dont have to be expensive either. Check out "The Soft Cover." They cost under 200 dollars and can ship UPS! They use an air bladder to insulate with impressive R values.
You’re pumping, you got enough water, no high limit problems,you’ve waited a friggin week and its still not heating?
Well it might be time to roll up the sleeves and do some electrical tests. Your going to need some tools and good logical head. You are going to learn some more heater logic and learn about common issues that relate to heating that occur "inside the box." You absolutely will need an electrical meter and know how to use it. If you are in anyway not comfortable with power on tests, do not attempt them. Call a qualified person in your area. The next section will explain more about heater trouble shooting which often gets into control troubleshooting. You might want to identify the spa heater you have. The majority of the modern heaters are of the Flow Through design. If your heater looks different Click on identify your hot tub heater. If you are ready to move on, click on Spa Heater Circuits. We are in the process of revising all of our pages, to our new look and WordPress format.