Just installed new Controlomatic Smarter Spa, many questions!

joecooler

Well-known member
Jan 13, 2019
87
Longmont, CO
So yesterday I got my SmarterSpa installed, dumped the water, and started over. By the time I was done it was late. I had planned to balance hardness and alkalinity before adding salt but based on the SmarterSpa instructions it looked like I should just add salt right away so I went ahead and did that and went to bed. I added 10 cups of salt for my 420 gallon spa, based on their recommendation of 2.5 cups/100 gallons. This morning the "too much salt" light is flashing on the unit, but it seems like it must have been working because the chlorine measures around 3ppm using the Taylor chlorine/pH tester. Hardness is REALLY low (25ppm) so I've started the process of trying to get that up. Here are my initial questions:

1) Was it OK to go ahead and add salt before adjusting hardness and alkalinity?
2) What should my target hardness be? I've seen anywhere from 150 to 250 as the recommended minimum.
3) What should my target alkalinity be? Again, I've seen recommended minimums all over the map.
4) Should I be concerned about the salt content being reported as high?
5) Once I get everything balanced, what do folks recommend in terms of using shock, pH up/down, and chlorine granules? Can I punt on all of this? If not, how does your usage change when combined with a SWG system?

Thanks in advance!
 

dw886

Gold Supporter
Sep 19, 2016
218
ND
So yesterday I got my SmarterSpa installed, dumped the water, and started over. By the time I was done it was late. I had planned to balance hardness and alkalinity before adding salt but based on the SmarterSpa instructions it looked like I should just add salt right away so I went ahead and did that and went to bed. I added 10 cups of salt for my 420 gallon spa, based on their recommendation of 2.5 cups/100 gallons. This morning the "too much salt" light is flashing on the unit, but it seems like it must have been working because the chlorine measures around 3ppm using the Taylor chlorine/pH tester. Hardness is REALLY low (25ppm) so I've started the process of trying to get that up. Here are my initial questions:

1) Was it OK to go ahead and add salt before adjusting hardness and alkalinity?
2) What should my target hardness be? I've seen anywhere from 150 to 250 as the recommended minimum.
3) What should my target alkalinity be? Again, I've seen recommended minimums all over the map.
4) Should I be concerned about the salt content being reported as high?
5) Once I get everything balanced, what do folks recommend in terms of using shock, pH up/down, and chlorine granules? Can I punt on all of this? If not, how does your usage change when combined with a SWG system?

Thanks in advance!
Following this because I'm interested in your feedback on the SmarterSpa. Trying to decide between the ChlorMaker and the SmarterSpa.

I know on my Pentair IC60 for my pool, the salt water detection from the unit can be calibrated with what the actual test results say, so for #4 above, I'd test the actual salt levels vs what the SmarterSpa says...
 

joecooler

Well-known member
Jan 13, 2019
87
Longmont, CO
The SmarterSpa came w/some salt detection strips ... really hard to read. I'm guessing I'm at 2000-2500ppm which is on the high side of what they recommend, but not awful. It is producing chlorine so I think I'm OK. I don't think I'll bother with the strips again ... at this point I trust the controller to do it's thing. The only adjustment on the SmarterSpa is what they call the zero-point, the chlorine level at which it starts automatically producing chlorine. It can be adjusted in a range of 10-30 but they don't explain how much chlorine that actually corresponds to.

I choose the SmarterSpa based on the recommendation of a neighbor who has been using one for quite a while. He is really happy with it and says he rarely has to do anything with his spa chemistry, and changes the water much less frequently than he was before he got it. I just really like the idea that it is fully automated, and produces based on the actual chlorine level, so if you don't use it for a while it won't over produce like a system that just runs on a fixed schedule. FYI, I noticed that you can get it on Amazon for $380, a big discount off the $480 price on the Controlomatic web site where I bought mine!

Based on the lack of comments I'm thinking I might not get answers to my questions, but I did call Controlomatic and here's what they told me:

1) Adding salt right away is fine (and it hasn't caused any problems w/balancing the water, as far as I can tell)
2) Based on this thread I decided to adjust CH to 150ppm. This worked fine - the dosage recommended on the bottle to get there from 25ppm (what it was out of the tap) worked perfectly.
3) Based on the same thread I'm shooting for 50ppm TA. My tap water started at 30ppm. Oddly, after adding 1/4 cup which should have increased it by 20ppm based on the dosage recommended on the bottle (420 gallon spa), it didn't budge. I added another 1/4 cup this morning. I hope it moves somewhat after that! So I guess it's possible the salt in the water is making it hard to get that to move. I'll keep you posted.
4) Per above, I think I'm fine - the SWG is working so the salt level is w/in the range that it works.
5) I would really like answers to these questions. This is my first spa, which I just bought last November, and my first tub of water did not go well - it got cloudy and I really struggled to get it clear again, eventually it was just a soupy mess. I'd like to avoid that, and also avoid adding too many chemicals, but it's really not clear to me what the magic formula is. I'm hoping the SWG system will go a long ways towards solve that for me but I'm sure I'll still need to do some manual management.

Sorry for the novel ... hope this information is useful to you, and I hope someone can answer my remaining questions re/TA and sanitizer.
 

dw886

Gold Supporter
Sep 19, 2016
218
ND
The SmarterSpa came w/some salt detection strips ... really hard to read. I'm guessing I'm at 2000-2500ppm which is on the high side of what they recommend, but not awful. It is producing chlorine so I think I'm OK. I don't think I'll bother with the strips again ... at this point I trust the controller to do it's thing. The only adjustment on the SmarterSpa is what they call the zero-point, the chlorine level at which it starts automatically producing chlorine. It can be adjusted in a range of 10-30 but they don't explain how much chlorine that actually corresponds to.

I choose the SmarterSpa based on the recommendation of a neighbor who has been using one for quite a while. He is really happy with it and says he rarely has to do anything with his spa chemistry, and changes the water much less frequently than he was before he got it. I just really like the idea that it is fully automated, and produces based on the actual chlorine level, so if you don't use it for a while it won't over produce like a system that just runs on a fixed schedule. FYI, I noticed that you can get it on Amazon for $380, a big discount off the $480 price on the Controlomatic web site where I bought mine!

Based on the lack of comments I'm thinking I might not get answers to my questions, but I did call Controlomatic and here's what they told me:

1) Adding salt right away is fine (and it hasn't caused any problems w/balancing the water, as far as I can tell)
2) Based on this thread I decided to adjust CH to 150ppm. This worked fine - the dosage recommended on the bottle to get there from 25ppm (what it was out of the tap) worked perfectly.
3) Based on the same thread I'm shooting for 50ppm TA. My tap water started at 30ppm. Oddly, after adding 1/4 cup which should have increased it by 20ppm based on the dosage recommended on the bottle (420 gallon spa), it didn't budge. I added another 1/4 cup this morning. I hope it moves somewhat after that! So I guess it's possible the salt in the water is making it hard to get that to move. I'll keep you posted.
4) Per above, I think I'm fine - the SWG is working so the salt level is w/in the range that it works.
5) I would really like answers to these questions. This is my first spa, which I just bought last November, and my first tub of water did not go well - it got cloudy and I really struggled to get it clear again, eventually it was just a soupy mess. I'd like to avoid that, and also avoid adding too many chemicals, but it's really not clear to me what the magic formula is. I'm hoping the SWG system will go a long ways towards solve that for me but I'm sure I'll still need to do some manual management.

Sorry for the novel ... hope this information is useful to you, and I hope someone can answer my remaining questions re/TA and sanitizer.
Yes, very helpful - thank you.

For #5, if it gets cloudy, if it were a pool, you'd SLAM it. Since it's a Spa with a smaller volume of water, I'd say that you could do this faster by cleaning with Ahh-some (to make sure anything in the plumbing is clean), doing a brush to remove anything from the sides, and then dumping the water and starting over. To prevent it from happening again, you'd make sure that your levels are all inline with the TFP parameters for FC / CYA / PH / CH / TA / Salt for your SWG, etc. Don't let your FC drop below the recommended level, because that's when the cloudiness starts. To do all of this, you'll need a good test kit if you don't already have one. I have a TF-100, which has the FAS-DPD testing for FC, and I love it.

I haven't had a spa in the past, but from what I've read, the higher temperatures in the water are more prone to breeding bacteria and contaminates. Others with Spa experience may be able to add more...
 

joecooler

Well-known member
Jan 13, 2019
87
Longmont, CO
That is exactly what I did - ahhsome cleaning, then dumped it, then bleach/water mix to wipe it all down, then started over. First fill was not w/the SWG, just used chlorine granules and I think I did a bad job of keeping up with it. Don't know if it had biofilm from the factory or if it was just user error on my part but over time it got harder and harder to keep the water looking good. Had a couple of teenager parties in it (my kids and their friends) and after that I never really could get it clear again. Don't know if I should have hit it with more shock or chlorine right after the parties or what. So, I'm hoping the SWG will do the job for daily chlorine maintenance, but unclear if I need to do more after it's been used, and especially after heavy usage. Does it need to be shocked? Hit w/extra chlorine? I need the experts to weigh in here! :-D
 

Nigel459

Member
Mar 9, 2019
6
Ontario
How has it been going with your Smarterspa SWG over the last 4 weeks?

I'm one week in to using the ChlorMaker (the non-FC-detecting one) and love it so far. Hands off FC addition is awesome. I also like the lower salt level required with these units, really can barely taste it (if you try!). Also barely had to add salt to my water, maybe 1/2 of what they recommended, to get the unit into the blue "good" zone. Must have had some salt from the previous bleach additions.

I do see the merit to the SmarterSpa FC detection for going away for sure, as that's one thing I have no idea about--how much FC might "build" and how low to turn it down if we're away for a while. Thankfully there are lots of folks willing to "check on" our tub while we're away :)

So far the boost mode is all we've needed (wife and I) to keep up with chlorine demand after soaking for 20-40 mins. FC pops right back up in our smallish (285g) spa (Hot Spot SX). I will probably still add some bleach/mps after heavier use to aid in the FC catch-up when that time comes.

I thought I'd comment here in order to follow along with this thread and see what routine you have settled in with.

Based on my first dichlor additions, I should be around CYA 25 and my FC always sits between 2.5-3.5. I also have a couple of months left of Nature2 in the filter. We use the recommended level 4 on the Chlormaker. Water has been sparkly great. What CYA and FC levels are you running it at and once again how's it been going?

Cheers :)
 

joecooler

Well-known member
Jan 13, 2019
87
Longmont, CO
Still absolutely loving mine! Water remains crystal clear. At first I was checking chem levels a lot (was also trying to get TA and pH worked out) but in the last week I think I checked twice. My FC runs anywhere from 0.5-3, depending on when in the cycle I check it. I am using it almost every day, and occasionally twice daily. Mostly it's just been me in it, w/someone else joining me just a handful of times. I think right now it's set to run for 5 hours once it kicks on.

No idea what my CYA is ... too low to read, so basically 0 I guess. I'm confused about this one as some folks here insist you need some even in a hot tub running an SWG, and others say you don't. I find the water quite comfortable so I decided not to worry about it. I figure that over the summer it will get more use from my sons and their friends and I'll have to hit it w/dichlor occasionally which will raise the CYA eventually.

My only concern at this point is, what happens when I get more people using it, and especially my college age kids, who caused a lot of problems w/my last fill before I had switched to the SWG. I assume I should hit it w/some extra chems right after they are in it, but the question is what and how much? I know at least part of my problem before was insufficient sanitizer, but how much dichlor should I add after young people have been in it? And, it also seems clear that part of the problem was all the lotions etc that washed into the tub; what can I do about this? Clarifier didn't seem to do much before but maybe I didn't add enough, I guess. I'd love some recommendations here so I can keep the water looking great after the kids start using it!
 

Nigel459

Member
Mar 9, 2019
6
Ontario
Thanks for following up :)

Same here--my Chlormaker has been great, keeping steady level of FC (2-2.5) for our usage, completely hands off, save for pressing the boost button if we are in for a longer period. If it's just one person, or the two of us for a quick soak, we don't even use the boost. Guess that means we are clean people, haha.

CYA: yes, I'm a bit confused as well, as I've seen some on here unequivocally state that low or zero CYA values will mean "harshness" of the chlorine, i.e. bleaching effect on suits, odour, etc. Mine should be 20 based on a few dichlor additions and I find no adverse affects. I emailed the manufacturers of the chlormaker about CYA and they said that it is not required in a spa.

As for heavy use, I would recommend adding liquid chlorine, aka bleach, per the recommendations of this TFP forum, after heavy use. MPS would also work if you prefer the dry powders, but it messes up your chlorine (TC) testing for a while (~a week or so?). Dichlor will work but will also increase your CYA fast, which you don't want to get too high... Any or all of the above oxidizers are the best way to deal with any impurity such as oils and lotions in my experience.

Still absolutely loving mine! Water remains crystal clear. At first I was checking chem levels a lot (was also trying to get TA and pH worked out) but in the last week I think I checked twice. My FC runs anywhere from 0.5-3, depending on when in the cycle I check it. I am using it almost every day, and occasionally twice daily. Mostly it's just been me in it, w/someone else joining me just a handful of times. I think right now it's set to run for 5 hours once it kicks on.

No idea what my CYA is ... too low to read, so basically 0 I guess. I'm confused about this one as some folks here insist you need some even in a hot tub running an SWG, and others say you don't. I find the water quite comfortable so I decided not to worry about it. I figure that over the summer it will get more use from my sons and their friends and I'll have to hit it w/dichlor occasionally which will raise the CYA eventually.

My only concern at this point is, what happens when I get more people using it, and especially my college age kids, who caused a lot of problems w/my last fill before I had switched to the SWG. I assume I should hit it w/some extra chems right after they are in it, but the question is what and how much? I know at least part of my problem before was insufficient sanitizer, but how much dichlor should I add after young people have been in it? And, it also seems clear that part of the problem was all the lotions etc that washed into the tub; what can I do about this? Clarifier didn't seem to do much before but maybe I didn't add enough, I guess. I'd love some recommendations here so I can keep the water looking great after the kids start using it!
 

Nigel459

Member
Mar 9, 2019
6
Ontario
Our Chlormaker runs for 30 mins every 3 hour cycle--on level 4. If we "boost" it it produces for 3hrs. Our spa at 285 gal is smaller than yours. I am absolutely loving not having to splash in bleach after use etc.

Went with the Chlormaker due to cost, over 150 cheaper than Smarterspa (at Canadian retailer) initially and half the cost for replacement cells (100 vs 200). Although at our lower use, the cell should last around 10 years based on the hours it is producing... so at this point I somewhat regret not springing for the Smarterspa. If the chlorine detection tech really works, then that's pretty awesomely automated!
 

joecooler

Well-known member
Jan 13, 2019
87
Longmont, CO
It is working perfectly .... I'm 6 weeks in now and I've not added chlorine once. Water is perfect. I've pretty much stopped testing it ... probably should still check once/week but the last few weeks have been crazy busy and I just kind of forgot. I checked yesterday and everything was perfect!
 
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