New (to me) spa startup

jhitesma

Member
Jul 14, 2010
6
Yuma, AZ
Just got a 2004 calspas tub from a friend. Up until a week ago the spa had been hooked up and in use in his yard but he has to move out and is turning the house into a rental and wanted it out. I had a perfect spot in my yard that's been waiting for a good deal on a spa so it all worked out.

Yesterday we finally got it wired in and I started the decontamination process Nitro outlined. I gave it enough dichlor to bring the pH up to 10ppm initially and let it heat to 100 degrees. Then added a full container of Leslies spa purge, ran the jets for half an hour and am now letting it sit for 24 before draining and refilling.

Just out of curiosity I checked the TC and pH this morning with some strips (I have a HTH 6 way kit and will be ordering a TF-100 soon) and the TC was down to around 2.5. Not sure if the spa purge will throw that off or if it's just the chlorine demand is that high. The spa was pretty funky so I'm guessing it really could be the CD is that high. The previous owner basically just tossed some broken up pool pucks into a floater and that was it. No clue what kind of pucks or anything else. But I do know there are only about 2 jets I don't have to repair or replace because whatever he was doing basically all of the jet diffusers have flaked away. Thankfully he saved most of the jets as they fell out so most of them I should be able to just replace the diffusers. But bottom line is there's no way I'd be getting into this thing or letting my family into it without a full decontamination based on what I know about how it's been maintained.

Alright, enough background. Let's get on with my questions :)

Once I'm done with the decontamination I have a general idea what to do to balance the water and maintain things starting with dichlor and then switching over to bleach once I've built up the CYA level. But the specifics of balancing my water are where I could use some pointers. So here's what I get testing my water right from the hose with the HTH drop kit:

TC: .5
pH: 7.5
TA: 170
CH: 380

I've always known we had hard water here but never realized just HOW hard until now! The tub does have an ozonator, but it does not appear to be functioning right now (can't see the light even in the dark.) based on what I've read here I'm thinking fixing the ozonator would be more work than it's worth...but I'm open to feedback on that. Playing around with the pool calculator it looks like I want to aim for:

FC 3
pH 7.5
TA 55
CH 380
CYA 25
Borates 50
Temp 104

Which should give me a CSI of 0.01

Which leaves me with 3 big questions:

1) Does that sound like a good plan and target?

2) I need to bring the TA down which means adding acid and then aerating to bring the pH back up...but adding the borax will apparently also bring the pH back up. Would it be best to add the borax first and then focus on the TA/pH or should I get the TA/pH dealt with first and then add the borax and rebalance?

3) When adjusting the TA would dry acid or muriatic be better in this case? What's the pros/cons of each?

I've got a day or two while I do this decontamination and without any help I'll just end up overthinking and driving myself crazy. So any help or advice is very much welcomed!
 

chem geek

TFP Expert
LifeTime Supporter
Mar 28, 2007
12,082
San Rafael, CA USA
Your plan of significantly lowering the TA is a good one, both for pH stability and to lower the saturation index to prevent scaling.

I would lower the TA level before adding the 50 ppm Borates since it's easier to make such adjustments without the extra pH buffering. If you use boric acid, such as found with Proteam Gentle Spa, then this will be only slightly acidic. Though it's cheaper to use 20 Mule Team Borax and acid, the quantities are relatively low and Proteam Gentle Spa is more convenient being close to pH neutral.

You can use either Muriatic Acid or dry acid, but just keep in mind that the quantities are small for a spa so you'd probably want to use half-strength Muriatic Acid and dilute it before adding it and it's got nasty fumes though the half-strength isn't as bad. The dry acid will build up sulfates, but that's probably not a problem -- they are more of an issue when one has a saltwater chlorine generator system. Most people use dry acid for their spas, simply because it doesn't fume and is more convenient for the small quantities needed, but it's really up to you.

Richard
 

jhitesma

Member
Jul 14, 2010
6
Yuma, AZ
Unfortunately I can't seem to find Gentle Spa locally and shipping is more than the cost of the product at a few places I checked on-line which makes it kind of silly to mail order.

I will be heading to San Diego next week for a day, but the pro team website doesn't show any CA distributors and the closest AZ distributor they show is a 3 hour drive away.

So it looks like Borax is going to be my best bet even if it does mean having to make some additional pH adjustments.

Considering it's 115 outside right now it's not like we're in a huge hurry to soak :) Though the 104 degree spa water would be kind of refreshing and cool!
 

geekgranny

LifeTime Supporter
Aug 20, 2009
1,358
North Central Texas
jhitesma said:
Considering it's 115 outside right now it's not like we're in a huge hurry to soak :) Though the 104 degree spa water would be kind of refreshing and cool!
Congrats on the "new" spa. DH uses the spa most in the summer. Even in 100+ temps the spa can be quite relaxing and refreshing. Just keep it at a temp that is good for you below 100F. We have an outdoor round stand fan that sits quite a few feet from the spa but has a pretty strong high setting. Using that does some great cooling when you sit with your body out of the water to cool off. If the spa has a bubbler that will help to keep it cool too. Also, having an umbrella for daytime soaking is nice. They now have an umbrella stand that slips under the spa edge for stability. I don't have that but ran the pole through a hole in the wooden shelf off of spa on one side and a conventional stand. Also, if you go with a tilting umbrella you can aim it for privacy or to block sun when it is lower in the sky. Of course you can't beat an off-set umbrella but they cost a lot more than the regular patio umbrellas. For umbrella I wouldn't go less than a 9 ft but if you go larger and have it really close to the spa you might have issues opening and closing it. My cover needs to be open at least one half to open and close the 9 ft that is mounted toward the end.

gg=alice
 

jhitesma

Member
Jul 14, 2010
6
Yuma, AZ
Well, the decontamination is done. And the CD test went well. It wasn't a perfect test since I was still aerating to get pH up after adding acid to get the TA down part of last night and this morning...but the FC only fell to about 7 from 10 despite the aerating so while I don't have a true baseline I'd say it's clean.

I've only got the TA down to about 90 but the pH is very stable there, an hour of running the jets and it didn't climb any higher than 7.5. I haven't added the borax yet...but we're dying for a soak. Just waiting on it to cool down. Even though I set the thermostat at 95 the tub was reading 105 when I opened the cover a little bit ago...I guess this time of year I really don't even need a heater here. Heck the water was 92 out of my hose and this time of year I regularly take nice steamy showers without turning on the hot tap :)

I'm wondering if my pH is really stable now with a TA of 90 or if it's just that there are so many broken jets it's not aerating much. I actually put a little pond pump in and had it spray water up in the air to speed up the aeration when dropping the TA. Replacement jet inserts are on their way but right now only 5 out of 30 jets actually have inserts....and only 2 of them actually bubble when I turn the air knobs. The one air knob doesn't seem to make any difference, but almost all of the jets it controls are missing their inserts so I'm not shocked. Hopefully by the end of the week I'll have all the jets fixed up and we'll be fully enjoying it!

Now I just have to figure out a way to rig some kind of cooler in place of the heater for this time of year :)
 

jhitesma

Member
Jul 14, 2010
6
Yuma, AZ
Thanks again for all the great advice and help.

The spa has been working great. It's been used almost every evening (if not by both of us then at least by my wife) and is a much appreciated addition to our yard!

With just one or two of us in it it seems I need to add about 2oz of bleach afterwards, which is about the same as what it takes even if not used. We did have one day with visitors staying with us that ended up with 6 people in the tub - I gave it a dose of MPS that afternoon in anticipation of the higher bather load...but was lazy and didn't remember to add more bleach after they were done. The next day it was <.5 PPM of chlorine and the water was looking hazy. I gave it enough bleach to bring it up to about 10ppm and by afternoon it was clear again - the next day it was back to the usual chlorine demand. But now I know for next time to keep on top of it and add a bit more bleach while being used or right after when the bather load is that high.

I also replaced most of the jets and found that sure enough the broken jets were a big part of why it was taking so long to aerate. With the new jets I get a lot more aeration (and still have about 1/2 the jets waiting for funds to replace.) In fact after replacing them I had to lower the TA a bit more because the Ph was climbing in use. I finally got the TA down to about 65PPM and between that and the ~50PPM of borates I added the Ph has been nice and stable for two weeks.

The same friend I got the tub from is selling his above ground pool....if I had the cash I'd be temped to pick it up as well just because I'm enjoying keeping the water in tub so crystal clear, clean and balanced :)
 

chem geek

TFP Expert
LifeTime Supporter
Mar 28, 2007
12,082
San Rafael, CA USA
That sounds about right for your chlorine demand since you have an ozonator. If you had 1 person soaking for an hour or 2 people for a half-hour in a hot (104ºF) tub, then that's 1 person-hour which would normally need around 5 fluid ounces of 6% bleach, but with an ozonator the demand is often half that so around 2-1/2 ounces. When not soaking, the chlorine demand is usually around 25% per day so at 4 ppm FC that would be 1 ppm FC or around 3/4 ounces of 6% bleach, but with an ozonator more chlorine is needed since some of it gets oxidized by the ozone.

So what you described sounds right for your situation. Glad it's working out for you.
 

jhitesma

Member
Jul 14, 2010
6
Yuma, AZ
The interesting thing is I figured the ozonator wasn't working. It's a 2004 calspas with their factory install ozonator, and while I can see bubbles coming from it's injector - I can't see the blue glow when I look at it's window at night with the spa running.

But I was thinking the CD seemed a little low and the ozonator helping does make sense I guess. So maybe it is working and the blue glow is just a lot fainter than I expected.

We're also keeping the temps down around 95 so that may have something to do with it as well. Though to be honest I set the spa at 95 but that doesn't mean it stays there in our weather :) I frequently open the top to find the water at 100 or higher just because of our ambient temps.
 

poolgirl22

Platinum Supporter
LifeTime Supporter
Apr 14, 2010
595
Stephens City, VA
I have left the cover off our spa almost constantly when we were in town this year due to the high temps we've had. Consequently, it's exposed to sun a lot so I raised the CYA a little higher and it's holding the FC better. It's stayed incredibly clean as well other than leaves and bugs, likely due to the sun burning off any CCs. I just treat it like a mini pool right now. When we returned from vacation the temp was 114. :shock:
 
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