Jumping back in: Bullfrog A5L with SmartChlor

BravoRomeo

LifeTime Supporter
Jun 15, 2012
74
San Juan Islands, WA
Our new tub arrived, a Bullfrog A5L. Previous tub was a used 2001 Hot Springs Jetsetter, with which I learned TFP chlorine technique and eventually added a Controlomatic inline SWG. It's been a couple years of warm water deprivation, so glad to have a new tub! The upgrade in technology and fit/finish is impressive.

The new tub came with:
  • Frog @ease "SmartChlor" (three month supply)
  • EOS Enhanced High-Output Ozone system w/mixing tank and O3 scrubber
  • "Well Spring" circulator pump
  • Leisure Concepts Vanish XL cover lifter (nice!)
I wasn't particularly interested in the Frog or Ozone, but alas, they came with a rather nice tub attached. So, in the interest of "science" and trying for myself, I'll give both a whirl with full testing of my TF-100 kit.

For the equipment geeks, this tub is packing the Gecko Y-series controller and AquaFlo pumps.

So as to start of with a clean slate, we did an Ahh-some purge on the tub. Filled, the water looked slightly cloudy and somewhat green tinted. Hmm. So then chlorinated, added a pre-dissolved Ahh-some dosage, and cranked the jets. Wow - for a tub that was out of the factory fresh just a few weeks ago, there as a surprising amount of orange/pink slime. We used a wet-dry vac and a damp microfiber to get most of it prior to draining and vacuuming the plumbing out.

The pumps were disappointingly noisy; so much so it just didn't seem right. Granted, my previous tub had a Watkins "Silent-Flo" 24 hour circulator pump, but this AquaFlo Circ-Master was anything but quiet... think: building transformer hum. Granted, our purpose-built deck was probably amplifying the vibration, but this was borderline unacceptable for outside a master bedroom.

Well, it turns out the delivery crew neglected to remove the clearly placarded shipping bolts from the pumps: "Shipping Bolt - May be Removed to Reduce Noise and Vibration". Once we discovered that, five minutes later the shipping bolts were out and the pumps were free to dance on their rubber mounts. Result: marital bliss. Much quieter!

I'll update this thread with my test results of the Frog SmartChlor system after a few days. If the system works as advertised, it is then debatable whether the cost is worth the convenience. If it doesn't work, then there's no debate - I'll switch to dichlor/bleach and eventually a SWG as I did on my previous tub.
 

JoyfulNoise

TFP Expert
Platinum Supporter
May 23, 2015
17,378
Tucson, AZ
Nice job troubleshooting the noisy pump....geez, you’d think these “experts” would know how to install and setup their own products ?‍♂

Yeah, new or used, any installed hot tub needs to be purged right off the bat. When they assemble them and run all the plumbing around, they use so much grease and lube on everything that it just gets everywhere. Then they pressure test the plumbing with who-knows-what kind of water source and then just drain it and leave it. Stagnant wet plumbing then sits around for weeks before delivery :sick:

I’m following the thread now as I’m interested in the experiment. Keep us posted. Can you control the ozone at all? Would be interesting to see if there are any measurable differences with/without it running.
 

BravoRomeo

LifeTime Supporter
Jun 15, 2012
74
San Juan Islands, WA
I’m following the thread now as I’m interested in the experiment. Keep us posted. Can you control the ozone at all? Would be interesting to see if there are any measurable differences with/without it running.
Thanks. Will update this thread with some interesting test results, perhaps tomorrow.

Agree it would be interesting to compare with and without ozone once a baseline is established. I’m sure I can simply unplug the ozone from the main board when the time comes to compare.

And with that, I’m off to bed. Long day working on the deck railings followed by a soak to relieve those muscles.
 

BravoRomeo

LifeTime Supporter
Jun 15, 2012
74
San Juan Islands, WA
So, nearly two weeks in, here are my observations thus far using the Frog @ease SmartChlor system:

Test results (this morning):
FC 0.5
CC 8.0
CYA not detectable
pH 7.6
TA 40
CH 150
TEMP 100F

Typical bather load is 0.7 person-hours per day, soap & water shower prior to entry, and dedicated swimwear that is not otherwise laundered unless necessary.

The only CYA source would be the initial "Jump Start" pack, which is 33% dichlor, 35% citric acid (per MSDS). 14g from the packet dosed on initial fill.

Using FAS/DPD Chlorine test, I consistently find 0.5 ppm FC, and typically ~8 ppm CC. The high CC would normally be cause for concern, however King Technology cautions that the "SmartChlor Reserve" will show up a Combined Chlorine in some tests. To be sure, there is no detectable chloramine stench. I have not added any MPS that would otherwise skew the CC reading.

The OTO Chlorine test consistently indicates halfway between 0.5 and 1.0. Curiously, it never drifts up to a higher value, even if left to sit for several minutes.

I had one anomalous FAS/DPD test which initially showed 6 ppm FC and 0 ppm CC. Immediate re-testing showed the usual 0.5 FC and 6 CC. I'll assume user-error unless it happens again.

We travelled out of town for over 48 hours and so set the tub to Away mode. This mode allows the temperature to drift down to 81F, but otherwise maintains normal filtering schedule of 4 hours per day. Upon return, FC again tested at 0.5 and CC this time was at an all-time high of 11. The following morning after a soak, FC remained 0.5 while CC indicated 8.5.

In addition to logging test results, I've started logging soaks in person-hours using the Notes feature of the Pool Math app. That will help quantify bather load in relation to test results.

Considering
1. Adding borates
2. Removing the SmartChlor cartridge for a day to test the claim that "SmartChlor Reserve readily shifts to Free Chlorine" (and at what point does the Frog test strip indicate SmartChlor Out).
3. Disconnecting the high-output ozone generator

One variable at a time, though, so I think borates are next. Item 3 might wait until the next SmartChlor cartridge.

That's it for this update.
 

JoyfulNoise

TFP Expert
Platinum Supporter
May 23, 2015
17,378
Tucson, AZ
I would remove the ozone. It’s reacting with chlorine and the two are annihilating one another. Ozone is only useful in a bromine tub or if you can apply ozone oxidation BEFORE you chlorinate. The current setup is going to produce a lot of organic CCs which may not smell but could still be health concerns. It’s dangerous to mix oxidizers as the reaction possibilities are highly variable.
 

BravoRomeo

LifeTime Supporter
Jun 15, 2012
74
San Juan Islands, WA
I would remove the ozone. It’s reacting with chlorine and the two are annihilating one another. Ozone is only useful in a bromine tub or if you can apply ozone oxidation BEFORE you chlorinate. The current setup is going to produce a lot of organic CCs which may not smell but could still be health concerns. It’s dangerous to mix oxidizers as the reaction possibilities are highly variable.
Yes, that would be an interesting test. Follow my logic here... Presuming ozone is reducing the FC by some constant rate, and further, if it's true that the alleged "SmartChlor Reserve" readily shifts to FC (as claimed), that FC reduction via ozone should ultimately show up as drag on the reserve. Logic would dictate that turning off the ozone should cause an increase in my FAS/DPD CC readings, all else being stable. This assumes my ozone generator is effective.

Actually, I think I'll hold off on the borates now. I'm more interested in the ozone part of this. I have read many times here ozone is useful on a chlorine tub with a daily bather load, in that it can decrease post-soak oxidizer requirements by about ~50% (be that chlorine or MPS). For infrequently used tubs, the scales tip to ozone being a drag on chlorine (~50% increase). So, for my daily-use tub, a distinct possibility is disconnecting the ozone will not produce a measurable change. Only way is to try it and measure!
 

JoyfulNoise

TFP Expert
Platinum Supporter
May 23, 2015
17,378
Tucson, AZ
It depends a lot on what products are created by the reaction of ozone with organics. In the extreme condition, if you had sufficient ozone levels, almost all bather waster would be reduced to CO2, N2 and NO3(-). However, there are many intermediate products along the way and having chlorine around can create chlorinated organic compounds that are persistent pollutants. There are many such compounds that can form that would also be resistant to oxidation by ozone.

Yes, as ozone decreases FC, more is released by the DCDMH and DCEMH. The chlorinated hydantoins in the @Ease cartridges are slow sanitizers - they release chlorine very slowly and are slow to dissolve (unlike a fast sanitizer like trichlor). This is why they are useful in toilet bowl tanks - they dissolve slowly and release minimal amounts of chlorine. So it’s not surprising that the DPD test picks it up in the CC portion - the chlorinated hydantoins probably don’t oxidizers the DPD very quickly and so only the released FC is what is measured. Then, when you add the iodide, the c-DMH compounds react with that and form the triiodide anion which is what the DPD dye reacts with. So you really don’t have high CCs, the chlorine is simply being accounted for in the CC portion of the test. So, in all fairness, you should add the DPD powder, then add the R-0003 AND THEN titrate. Then what you would record is Total Chlorine (TC) levels and you’ll just have to assume your nitrogenous CCs are very low.
 

BravoRomeo

LifeTime Supporter
Jun 15, 2012
74
San Juan Islands, WA
So I disconnected the ozone generator for a 48 hour period, and continued soaking daily as normal. Not much changed: FC consistently tested at 0.5 ppm, and the false CC reading climbed a couple of points. I suspect 48 hours isn't enough time to really evaluate O3's level of interaction with Frog @ease SmartChlor. Ozonator is reconnected, as I see no harm in using it at this point.

Otherwise, now on week #3 with the new tub and Frog @ease SmartChlor system. All is well, and I really can't complain. There's basically nothing to do before or after soaking, which is a big win for my other half. I wouldn't recommend this system for someone who likes to test and micromanage (not that I resemble that remark). The included Frog @ease test strips are better than nothing for a pass/fail, but of course I still prefer my TF-100 kit.
 

JoyfulNoise

TFP Expert
Platinum Supporter
May 23, 2015
17,378
Tucson, AZ
So your total chlorine level increased after removing the ozone. That makes sense since there’s no longer a constant source of chlorine demand from the ozone. It’s probably best to not refer to the second value as CC at all since that’s not what it really is. Total oxidizer (TO) is a better term (sum total if the FC and CC parts of test).

How much CYA is added to the tub at startup?
 

BravoRomeo

LifeTime Supporter
Jun 15, 2012
74
San Juan Islands, WA
So your total chlorine level increased after removing the ozone. That makes sense since there’s no longer a constant source of chlorine demand from the ozone. It’s probably best to not refer to the second value as CC at all since that’s not what it really is. Total oxidizer (TO) is a better term (sum total if the FC and CC parts of test).
That's a good idea. For example, this morning's test revealed 0.5 FC, and 7.5 in reserve, so a TO of 8.0.

How much CYA is added to the tub at startup?
The Jump Start package contains the following according to the MSDS:
33.3% Sodium dichloroisocyanurate
35.5% Citric acid
31.2% Inerts

Per the label, the 43g net weight packet treats 600g. I added 14g (should have been 17g, to be precise), which increased FC by 2.8 ppm and CYA by 2.5 ppm. Testing the water after dosing revealed 3 ppm FC. Afterwards, I found that the instruction sheet made no mention of dosage per capacity. I guess that's simpler for the target market, average tub size, and time required to heat up prior to first soak anyway.
 

JoyfulNoise

TFP Expert
Platinum Supporter
May 23, 2015
17,378
Tucson, AZ
That's a good idea. For example, this morning's test revealed 0.5 FC, and 7.5 in reserve, so a TO of 8.0.



The Jump Start package contains the following according to the MSDS:
33.3% Sodium dichloroisocyanurate
35.5% Citric acid
31.2% Inerts

Per the label, the 43g net weight packet treats 600g. I added 14g (should have been 17g, to be precise), which increased FC by 2.8 ppm and CYA by 2.5 ppm. Testing the water after dosing revealed 3 ppm FC. Afterwards, I found that the instruction sheet made no mention of dosage per capacity. I guess that's simpler for the target market, average tub size, and time required to heat up prior to first soak anyway.

Assuming your pH is 7.5, a CYA of 2.5-3ppm and a FC of 0.5ppm, you are looking at a hypochlorous acid (HOCl) level of about 56ppb (0.056ppm) which is high enough for pathogenic control. It probably wouldn't control algae, but algae is rarely a problem in a hot tub, bacteria is much more concerning. It looks like they add on the silver ions to help control bacteria as well.

So, even though testing is a bit awkward with the false CC reading, it seems the system could provide you with good control over your hot tub's sanitizer AS LONG AS you are willing to pay the price for their system. I would still probably choose to shock the tub regularly with unscented bleach or liquid chlorine just to be safe and to provide for some regular, high concentration oxidizer. 0.5ppm FC is really too low to oxidize anything significant and if anyone were to urinate (accidentally, of course...) in the tub while soaking, then you'd see a huge drag on the FC levels.
 

Certified106

Well-known member
Sep 10, 2018
101
Athens, Ohio
Very Interesting information and your tests are showing exactly what I saw myself also. Every time I tested when using smartchlor my combined chlorine was upwards of 8-12 depending on bather load. I actually called the company and they said that the smartchlor would read as combined chlorine and then as it detached it would maintain a very low FC level of around .5-1. They also said PH was a critical part of getting their system to work correctly and that the alkalinity could be lower as long as the PH stayed in range. Had I continued with the smart chlor I would have most likely shocked at least once a week with bleach to make sure it was sanitizing well.
 

BravoRomeo

LifeTime Supporter
Jun 15, 2012
74
San Juan Islands, WA
One month update:

Our first @ease SmartChlor cartridge is just about used up. There are still some chunks in it rattling around. SmartChlor reserve, aka Total Oxidizer (tested as CC) has dropped from the typical 7 or more PPM to just 3 this morning. FC continues to test between 0.5 and 1 PPM.

FC > 0.5
CH 150
TA 50
pH 7.5
Borates 50
Salt 600
Temp 101F

Water quality has been great. We do have some minor sudsing when the jets are on high w/aeration. As an experiment, about a week ago I tried shocking with MPS and the result was little or no effect on the suds. I suspect they are related to 1) being a new tub, so continued manufacturing lubricants and plasticizers coming out, and 2) soap/conditioner residue from showers prior to entry (we have softened water, so you never quite get that squeaky clean rinse on your skin after lathering up - something I learned is called stearate).

Summary thus far - SmartChlor works as advertised, and the cartridge life, in our case, has exceeded manufacturer specs (most likely due to our small tub, so a setting of 1 out of 4 with 4-hour/day total filter cycle time). I've started to trust it more. The included @ease-specific test strips aren't bad for a quick check and coarsely align with my TF-100 detailed testing.
 
Last edited:

BravoRomeo

LifeTime Supporter
Jun 15, 2012
74
San Juan Islands, WA
Very Interesting information and your tests are showing exactly what I saw myself also. Every time I tested when using smartchlor my combined chlorine was upwards of 8-12 depending on bather load. I actually called the company and they said that the smartchlor would read as combined chlorine and then as it detached it would maintain a very low FC level of around .5-1. They also said PH was a critical part of getting their system to work correctly and that the alkalinity could be lower as long as the PH stayed in range. Had I continued with the smart chlor I would have most likely shocked at least once a week with bleach to make sure it was sanitizing well.
Our experiences our similar then. Given the lack of CYA, I've trusted the constant 0.5 - 1.0 PPM FC provides adequate oxidation and sanitation. Ordinarily, maintaining that low level of FC without ever crashing it to 0 would be challenging, so this is an interesting solution.

Good to know they seem to understand TA may have to be low to have stable pH. I would expect the pH requirement is not only for effective chlorine and silver ion, but also predictable erosion rate of the silver chloride mineral cartridge.

Cost looks to be about $90 per quarter. King Technologies has this in their FAQ: "SmartChlor is slightly more expensive than dichlor but less than other systems'". Hmm. I don't think their definition of slightly is the same as mine, but then again I don't shop for dichlor at my local spa dealer.
 
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JoyfulNoise

TFP Expert
Platinum Supporter
May 23, 2015
17,378
Tucson, AZ
As long as tub water is being changed at a regular interval (3 months) and the plumbing is purged (Ahh-some works really well for that), then I think the added cost is worth it if one has a tub designed to work with these cartridges as it makes chlorination very much a hands free process. The dichlor/bleach method is probably cheaper BUT you have to add bleach every day. Given the low FC levels involved, I wonder how a high bather load tub would react. My guess is it would not keep up with heavy use and require more oxidation to keep it clean.
 

BravoRomeo

LifeTime Supporter
Jun 15, 2012
74
San Juan Islands, WA
Now at five weeks in on the first SmartChlor cartridge. It just doesn't want to seem to give up the ghost, although I can measure that it hasn't been dispensing as vigorously as before (TO levels have now dropped from 8 to about 3), so I increased the dosage shutter from 1 to 2. There is still solid compound rattling around inside, and the tub continues to test at 0.5 FC. Surely it will run out, sometime soon. I'm keeping a close eye on it to be sure.

The manufacturer of the system instructs:
Shock the hot tub with a non-chlorine shock when you replace the FROG @ease Smart- Chlor Cartridge or once a month.

As a one-month-elapsed experiment, I added 4 ppm of Dichlor then tested about 30 minutes later. All of that added chlorine simply increased the reserve, or TO (as measured CC) by 4 ppm, leaving FC at... drumroll... 0.5. It would appear adding chlorine binds to any available DMH. The recommendation to use MPS would make sense in that case.

As long as tub water is being changed at a regular interval (3 months) and the plumbing is purged (Ahh-some works really well for that), then I think the added cost is worth it if one has a tub designed to work with these cartridges as it makes chlorination very much a hands free process. The dichlor/bleach method is probably cheaper BUT you have to add bleach every day. Given the low FC levels involved, I wonder how a high bather load tub would react. My guess is it would not keep up with heavy use and require more oxidation to keep it clean.
Whether a constant 0.5 - 1.0 FC is enough to oxidize bather waste is an interesting question. In my testing it seems as if the chlorine is released from the DMH as it is used. Testing the water after soaking often shows closer to 1.0 ppm FC, whereas I'm more used to lower FC levels after soaking with manually dosed or SWG systems.

One consideration in this system's favor is shelf-stability and compactness for storage vs. bottles of bleach. Hmm.
 

JoyfulNoise

TFP Expert
Platinum Supporter
May 23, 2015
17,378
Tucson, AZ
As far as I know, chlorine does not reversible bind to DMH. So if you added dichlor and the FC stayed the same but the TO part of the test increased, then the chlorine most likely created true CCs (chloramines). So that is in fact a problem - the chlorine dosing system you are using doesn’t allow you to distinguish true chloramines from some other false CC ... that makes water quality problematic to maintain.

When “shocking” monthly, I would suggest a more complicated routine of removing the old cartridges entirely and then using bleach up to 10ppm to oxidize bather waste until the true CC reading comes back down. Of course, with all the spent DMH in the tub, that could contribute to a residual CC level that may have a floor value of 1ppm or greater. Thus, you’ll never be able to breakdown the CCs entirely.
 

BravoRomeo

LifeTime Supporter
Jun 15, 2012
74
San Juan Islands, WA
Strange as it may seem, we're still running on that first cartridge. Thinking it was empty, I opened it up to discover solid material which gives off a light chlorine odor when disturbed.

Agreed that with this system and my current TF-100 kit, it is not possible for me differentiate between chlorine reserve bound to DMH and bad CC's. The FC continues testing at between 0.5 and 1.0 PPM, like, as you say, a floor. I thought I had read in the Frog SmartChlor literature that the free chlorine quite easily transitions between the reserve and back again. I wouldn't know how that would possibly work, but always interested to understand.

So far my other half has been quite happy with this system... I'm totally overkilling the monitoring out of curiosity.
 

BravoRomeo

LifeTime Supporter
Jun 15, 2012
74
San Juan Islands, WA
Another update - we are now on the second SmartChlor cartridge, so we did get over six weeks out of the first one. Along with swapping in a new cartridge, we changed the water, mainly as part of our sound insulation project so we could lift the tub, and to it being a new tub and wanting to dump whatever plasticizers, lubricants, and such that had potentially leached into the water over the first few weeks (it was a very distinct PVC odor as that was happening at first). This water should last us the rest of the season. Time will tell.

Thanks for following along and offering up the constructive feedback!
 
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ckendalls

Gold Supporter
May 17, 2018
76
Clermont FL
Another update - we are now on the second SmartChlor cartridge, so we did get over six weeks out of the first one. Along with swapping in a new cartridge, we changed the water, mainly as part of our sound insulation project so we could lift the tub, and to it being a new tub and wanting to dump whatever plasticizers, lubricants, and such that had potentially leached into the water over the first few weeks (it was a very distinct PVC odor as that was happening at first). This water should last us the rest of the season. Time will tell.

Thanks for following along and offering up the constructive feedback!
Any updates? We just started a new tub with this @ease system after Awwsome treatment since we got a bunch of it “included”. I maintain our SWG pool totally TFP wise and with borates. The water seems agreeable so far but the pH rises very fast with aeration at their recommended TA. I am going to try dropping the TA to 50-60 and using boric acid at 50ppm.