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Thread: Low pH / High TA: Borax..?

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    Daf-Tekno's Avatar
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    Low pH / High TA: Borax..?

    Dear TFP,

    I'm experiencing low pH (6.2-ish) and high TA (140-ish).
    Every time I raise the pH with 'pH+', the TA also goes up!

    And I only know how to lower TA by using 'pH-', so I'm going around in circles at the moment!

    I've read that some people use Borax on its own to raise pH without raising TA.
    But other posts seem to say that you need to use it in conjunction with muriatic acid, as Borax will raise pH AND TA, but then the acid reduces the TA to give you the end result of higher pH without increasing the TA.

    The ratio of one to the other to achieve this effect isn't given, so I'm not sure how to do this.

    It sounds like, if I start adding Borax, I need to keep an eye on borate levels to ensure they don't get too high.
    However, I live in Canada, and it appears that the $9 LaMotte (or similar brand) borate test strips are simply not available here anywhere.
    I cannot find any borate test system available to buy in Canada, even though Home Depot, Lowes and Wallmart all sell them in the States...?!

    (Getting a US store to ship 1 $9 bottle would cost $25 postage and $75 customs brokerage!?!)

    Why on earth is this?!? Why is there an apparent boycott on borate test strips in Canada?

    The Borax angle starts to hint at the 'BBB' sanitisation system, where I assume I'd no longer add chlorine whenever levels are too low, but bleach instead (?), and would no longer add a bunch of chemicals on a weekly basis.
    This approach sounds intriguing, as it also says it can be far more cost effective giving the same or better results, but how can I consider operating a system where I cannot keep an eye on the fundamental content level of one of the main constituents?

    Or is there another way to keep watch on such a BBB system without a borate test kit?

    Any ideas on this would be much appreciated.
    Thank you.
    Regards,
    Dave

    Jacuzzi J480 (2007) 1700 litres, ozonator, Delta UV lamp

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    aussieta's Avatar
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    Re: Low pH / High TA: Borax..?

    to raise ph you need to aerate your water
    adding some type of sprinkler to your pump return line will aerate the water and increase your ph
    when your ph reaches above 7.8 add acid which will reduce your TA and PH
    repeat as required until your TA is at a nice level
    you are chasing your tail at the moment
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    Mod Squad JohnT's Avatar
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    Re: Low pH / High TA: Borax..?

    Welcome to TFP!

    You raise your pH by aerating the water. Returns pointed at the surface, or a fountain or water feature running. At 140ppm, TA isn't a worry unless you can't keep your pH down.

    Borates are a minor part of our pool care philosophy. Not really anything to mess with until you have everything under control and want to fine tune your water. I never bother with it.

    Bleach is chlorine. It's just in a form that doesn't add other problematic things like CYA or calcium.
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    Re: Low pH / High TA: Borax..?

    See Using Chlorine in a Spa. The pH rises a lot in a spa because of the hot water and aeration that accelerate the outgassing of carbon dioxide. Pools and spas are over-carbonated and Total Alkalinity (TA) is a measure of such over-carbonation. You don't want your TA much above 50 ppm and if you keep the TA that low then you should use 50 ppm Borates for additional pH buffering without contributing to pH rise. While Borates are optional in a swimming pool, their use in a spa is pretty much required if you keep the TA very low because you should have some form of supplemental pH buffering (and a phosphate buffer often creates a precipitated calcium phosphate mess).

    Are you able to get boric acid in Canada? I saw it sold by Gesswein, but it's 4 Canadian dollars per pound compared to $2-3 from Duda Diesel in the U.S. and the granular form sold in the U.S. is preferable to the powdered form that tends to stay on the surface of the water and not dissolve as readily as a result. If you can find 20 Mule Team Borax or another borax product, then you need to add acid with that since borax raises the pH and should split the dose into quarters adding acid and then borax, then acid again then borax again, etc.
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    Re: Low pH / High TA: Borax..?

    Thanks for the replies!

    I have air injection valves for my main pumps.

    Could I effectively aerate my water by running them with these air valves open?
    It certainly creates a lots of air bubbles in the water, that's for sure!

    I tried it this evening as a test, and after 20 mins my pH was up from 6.8 to 7.4 (good!) but my TA was also up from 120 to 130 (not so good!).
    (I've been told that 80 - 120 is the TA range to be in, but one of my SpaGuard chemical bottles says that 125 - 150 is a preferable range, as too low and you get pH bounce).

    I also have a waterfall that I keep on a minimal setting. Maybe this should be set to maximum to assist in keeping the pH up..?

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    Aerating water: Air injection & waterfall..?

    I've been told that to get my low pH (c.6.4) up, I need to aerate my water.

    My Jacuzzi has air injection valves for all 4 seat jets.
    It also has a waterfall.

    When the air injection valves are on, there is an awful lot of air bubbles in the water!

    Is this 'aerating' my water?

    I usually have my waterfall set to a minimal level.
    Maybe if I leave it running on its maximum, this too will help in keeping my pH up..?

    I tried running my jets with the air injectors on for 20 mins, and my pH went up from 6.8 to 7.4!
    But my TA also went up from 120 to 130.

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    Re: Aerating water: Air injection & waterfall..?

    Yes that is aeration but the TA should not go up so that is likely a measurement error or you added some high TA fill water or added something else which increased TA. TA can only go up when something is added to the water.
    Mark
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    Re: Low pH / High TA: Borax..?

    Yes, that kind of aeration would significantly accelerate the lowering TA process. Your TA didn't actually rise from the aeration -- that difference was likely just test variation error.

    You have a waterfall with your spa? If so, then yes, that would aerate even more. As for "pH bounce" this is why you will be using 50 ppm Borates as an additional pH buffer. Basically you've got three pH buffers in your water: carbonates, cyanurates, and borates. However, the carbonates outgas carbon dioxide which has the pH rise so the carbonates portion of TA is actually a SOURCE of rising pH. The cynaurates and borates are not sources of rising pH so just buffer the water to make the pH more stable. So all we are doing is shifting to use more of the non-carbonates for pH buffering.

    Finally, after you have lowered your TA and added borates, you'll target a higher pH and not worry if the pH gets to 7.8 and will not lower it below 7.5. This table shows how over-carbonated water is compared to equilibrium with air so you can see that lowering the TA and having a higher pH target makes the water less over-carbonated.
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    Re: Aerating water: Air injection & waterfall..?

    Hi Mas985,

    Once pH has been raised using aeration, will it stay up. or will it diminish back down again if left alone?
    Do I need to leave my waterfall on maximum in order to keep the pH raised (up to c.7.4)?

    No, nothing else added.

    However, I am using an AquaChek digital test strip reader, so maybe it's an inherent inaccuracy in the meter..?

    You guys recommend using drop tests.

    I find using colour test strips impossible to discern any colour variance, and similar issues with the drop test kit supplied by Jacuzzi when we bought the tub in 2011. I simply can't see how the water sample colour relates to the reference chart.

    I've read that you guys here recommend a few different drop test kits, but when I try to search for them, they are all from US stores who don't ship to Canada!

    Almost all the chemicals and equipment you guys are using are not available to me here in Canada, it would seem!
    Jacuzzi J480 (2008) 1700 litres, Balboa ozonator, Delta EZ-18-120 UV lamp via custom 6-way 2-tier timer solenoid array, 2 x Waterway 4HP main pumps,
    1 x Aqua-Flow 1/15 HP circ pump, ChlorMaker IL SWG, SmartSeal + Roxul skirting insulation, 8' x 8' ThermoFloat Spa blanket, 100" x 100" Gator coverall

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    Calgary Hard Water: How to address?

    Hi Guys,

    Here in Calgary we have very, very hard water!

    If I fill my tub directly from the un-softened tap, my tub water will be extremely hard.
    If I then follow your advise, and stop using all the weekly chemicals Jacuzzi told me to use and us the 'BBB' / 'TFPC' system instead, then what will stop the hard water from damaging my tub's internal components with calcium build-up?

    I think that's what the 'Secure' liquid does that I add each week.

    The Jacuzzi manual says, if I have very hard tap water, I should half fill the tub with softened water, then top it up with direct (hard) tap water.

    I have done this on past refills, adding 'Cal' (calcium) to get the slightly low hardness back up to normal.
    (But as I am using test strips at the mo', what I thought was normal ended up being c.325 checking with Jacuzzi's computer analysis system!).

    Any suggestions?
    Jacuzzi J480 (2008) 1700 litres, Balboa ozonator, Delta EZ-18-120 UV lamp via custom 6-way 2-tier timer solenoid array, 2 x Waterway 4HP main pumps,
    1 x Aqua-Flow 1/15 HP circ pump, ChlorMaker IL SWG, SmartSeal + Roxul skirting insulation, 8' x 8' ThermoFloat Spa blanket, 100" x 100" Gator coverall

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    Re: Aerating water: Air injection & waterfall..?

    Once the PH is up, it should stay up unless anything acidic is added to the water.
    Mark
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    Re: Aerating water: Air injection & waterfall..?

    Quote Originally Posted by Daf-Tekno View Post
    Hi Mas985,

    Once pH has been raised using aeration, will it stay up. or will it diminish back down again if left alone?
    Do I need to leave my waterfall on maximum in order to keep the pH raised (up to c.7.4)?

    No, nothing else added.

    However, I am using an AquaChek digital test strip reader, so maybe it's an inherent inaccuracy in the meter..?

    You guys recommend using drop tests.

    I find using colour test strips impossible to discern any colour variance, and similar issues with the drop test kit supplied by Jacuzzi when we bought the tub in 2011. I simply can't see how the water sample colour relates to the reference chart.

    I've read that you guys here recommend a few different drop test kits, but when I try to search for them, they are all from US stores who don't ship to Canada!

    Almost all the chemicals and equipment you guys are using are not available to me here in Canada, it would seem!
    You should be able to get a Taylor K-2006 in Canada. Try searching Amazon to see what suppliers will ship it to Canada. Check with Apollo-Pisciane (sp?) in Montreal.

    As for color determination, the only test that uses a color comparator is the pH (phenol red) test. All other tests use a color end-point titration to determine concentration (which is why they can be very accurate). For example, the FC/CC test uses the DPD-FAS titration method. The sample shows a pink color when the DPD powder is added which indicates the presence of chlorine. You then add the titrating reagent drop-by-drop until the sample becomes clear. The number of drops added is then multiplied by a concentration factor (typically 0.2ppm/drop) and you get your answer. As long as you can distinguish between pink and clear, you can do the test.

    The same system is used for TA (green-to-red transition) and CH (blue-to-red transition). CYA is measured using a turbidometric test where you mix water sample and reagent and then add it to a viewing tube until you see a black dot disappear. As long as you can see the difference between the dots presences and absence, you can do the test.

    Colorimetry methods (distinguishing shades of the same color) are MUCH MORE inaccurate than titration end-point tests. And electronic gadgets (like the strip readers or the LaMotte ColorQ) only confound the problem further by giving spurious results due to inaccurate calibration or device failure.

    You'd be much better off with a Taylor Kit.

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    Daf-Tekno's Avatar
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    Re: Low pH / High TA: Borax..?

    How do I add borates?
    How do I add carbonates?
    I assume adding stabilised chlorine will add cyanurates..?

    How do I keep an eye on borate levels?
    I can't buy a borate test kit here in Canada.

    In fact, none of the suggested drop test kits don't seem available to me here in Canada..!
    Jacuzzi J480 (2008) 1700 litres, Balboa ozonator, Delta EZ-18-120 UV lamp via custom 6-way 2-tier timer solenoid array, 2 x Waterway 4HP main pumps,
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    Re: Calgary Hard Water: How to address?

    Quote Originally Posted by Daf-Tekno View Post
    Hi Guys,

    Here in Calgary we have very, very hard water!

    If I fill my tub directly from the un-softened tap, my tub water will be extremely hard.
    If I then follow your advise, and stop using all the weekly chemicals Jacuzzi told me to use and us the 'BBB' / 'TFPC' system instead, then what will stop the hard water from damaging my tub's internal components with calcium build-up?

    I think that's what the 'Secure' liquid does that I add each week.

    The Jacuzzi manual says, if I have very hard tap water, I should half fill the tub with softened water, then top it up with direct (hard) tap water.

    I have done this on past refills, adding 'Cal' (calcium) to get the slightly low hardness back up to normal.
    (But as I am using test strips at the mo', what I thought was normal ended up being c.325 checking with Jacuzzi's computer analysis system!).

    Any suggestions?


    How about posting up some actual test results? ... what is "hard" to you may be nothing to some of our members.
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    Re: Low pH / High TA: Borax..?

    You used to have to buy the K-2006 test kit from Apollo, but I just learned a few minutes ago that Apollo shut down yesterday. They had the monopoly on Taylor distribution in Canada, so honestly I am not sure what to suggest right now.

    Some members have successfully order the kits off Ebay. With Apollo shut down, Dave may even be able to start shipping the TF-100 up to the North ... a lot of unknowns right now.
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    Re: Low pH / High TA: Borax..?

    For borate drop test, try looking up Piscines-Apollo Pools in Montreal. They sell a borate drop test in Canada that is not available in the US....you've got one over on us because the borate test strips are very coarse reading

    Just saw Jason's post...ignore please

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    Re: Aerating water: Air injection & waterfall..?

    Hi SunnyOptomist,

    Thanks.

    I am trying to source a K-2006 or TF-100 kit.
    The Amazon supplier of the K-2006 my search gave me doesn't ship to Canada.

    I'm trying to contact Taylor directly to ask how to buy their kit.

    Everything you guys suggest is at least slightly, if not substantially, more difficult to attempt up here in Metric-land!
    Jacuzzi J480 (2008) 1700 litres, Balboa ozonator, Delta EZ-18-120 UV lamp via custom 6-way 2-tier timer solenoid array, 2 x Waterway 4HP main pumps,
    1 x Aqua-Flow 1/15 HP circ pump, ChlorMaker IL SWG, SmartSeal + Roxul skirting insulation, 8' x 8' ThermoFloat Spa blanket, 100" x 100" Gator coverall

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    Re: Calgary Hard Water: How to address?

    I just merged 3 of your threads together as they are all related to your Spa chemistry. Having them all together should reduce confusion and duplicate responses.
    Jason, TFP Moderator
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    Low pH / High TA: Borax..?

    Quote Originally Posted by Daf-Tekno View Post
    Hi SunnyOptomist,

    Thanks.

    I am trying to source a K-2006 or TF-100 kit.
    The Amazon supplier of the K-2006 my search gave me doesn't ship to Canada.

    I'm trying to contact Taylor directly to ask how to buy their kit.

    Everything you guys suggest is at least slightly, if not substantially, more difficult to attempt up here in Metric-land!
    Honestly, pools in Canada?!?!? Do you get a dual-use as an ice-hockey ring in the winter

    PM'd with a Canuck in this issue. Very difficult to get things between our countries. When I worked in industry, it was always a nightmare dealing with our divisions in Canada to get them units to test or work on because of all the paperwork that had to be filed for cross-border shipping. Had to essentially swear that stuff we shipped INTERNALLY WITHIN OUR OWN COMPANY (!!!) was not taking any possible work away from Canada. Crazy import-export regulations if you ask me.



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    Re: Low pH / High TA: Borax..?

    I've found with my spa, the pH rises much less rapidly with a TA of 50-70 due to the rapid aeration abilities of spas. Letting your pH rise naturally with aeration, then adding acid will lower TA over time and the pH rises will slow. Using muriatic acid to lower pH when it gets too high has the least chemistry side effects.
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