Spas offer a terrific way to relax, as well as having noted therapeutic benefits. However, they do require a lot of attention and maintenance. With the days getting chillier, you may be thinking either of cozy spa evenings gazing at the stars or closing it up for the season. Either way, you also need to take steps to ensure that your hot tub, open or closed, is safe for all members of your family.
There’s no difference between the two, and either term is acceptable. Originally, hot tubs were constructed of wood, but when composite materials came along, some people began referring to them as spas to differentiate the construction style. Now the terms are used interchangeably.
Many cultures throughout history have touted the benefits of bathing in hot, therapeutic waters. The use of spas remains an important ritual all over the world, not simply as relaxation or therapy, but as a social opportunity as well.
In addition to reducing stress, the bubbling hot water has other real health benefits. The Arthritis Foundation reports that hot tubs have been found to be an effective treatment for many arthritis symptoms by helping to relax muscles, decrease stiffness, and ease pain.
The typical spa is an aboveground structure, round or square, filled with water that is circulated and cleaned via a pump filter system. Although less common, they can be installed below ground. Many consider this to be a more aesthetically pleasing choice, but below-ground spas are much more costly to install. Spas come in a variety of materials, and have several different filter options, each with slightly different maintenance requirements. Follow the filter manufacturer’s instructions for best results.
The water in your spa is susceptible to greater chemical fluctuations than a swimming pool, simply because it is a much smaller volume of water. In addition, higher operating temperatures of spas and higher bather loads make it an ideal environment for bacteria to grow. For these reasons, daily testing of the water is recommended to prevent the propagation of bacteria, and to keep the filtration system and pump in good condition.
Preventive maintenance is key. Testing your spa only takes 30 seconds, and it’s a good habit to get into. While typical care and maintenance is fairly simple and relatively inexpensive, deferred maintenance can be costly, as well as exposing your family to possible health problems. Here are the basics of caring for your spa:
If Closing Seasonally:
Also, you must periodically drain and refill your tub with fresh water to avoid an excessive build-up of total dissolved solids (TDS), which can clog your pump filter. There are no strict rules for how often you replace your spa water, but use this formula as a guideline: Estimate the number of liters of water in your spa, divided by the number of daily bathers, divided by 12, equals the number of days between draining and refilling. For example: 2000 liters of water, divided by 2 daily bathers, divided by 12 equals 83 days between draining and refilling. If you know the gallon capacity of your spa, multiply the number of gallons by 3.78 to figure the number of liters—a typical 500-gallon spa is approximately 1,893 liters.
NOTE: If you don’t have the time or inclination to fool with all of this, finding a service professional to mind the upkeep on your spa is easy. Fees are typically what you might pay for a lawn service.
Chlorine is a caustic chemical, and some people find that is irritating to skin and eyes, as well as lending a strong chemical odor to your spa. If you fall into this category, you may want to consider the installation of an ozone generator instead.
Ozone generating devices spray ozone gas into the spa water, which effectively kills any bacteria present, and is reputed to keep your water clearer longer than bromide or chlorine. However, you still have to balance the water with other chemicals. Also, to function properly, ozone generators must operate for several hours a day, which consumes additional energy.
Pregnant women and those with high blood pressure should not use hot tubs. If you have any serious medical condition, check with your doctor before using a spa.
Children should never be allowed unsupervised access to a spa, as drowning is common. The National Spa & Pool Institute recommends using a locking safety cover for your spa. If you have a home with young children, this is a must to ensure their safety. Make sure the cover you purchase meets ASTM International F1346-91 safety standards—this information is listed in the documentation included with your cover. There are also alarm systems that can alert you if the cover is disturbed, adding an additional layer of protection. These are valuable measures, but they are still no substitute for adult supervision. Talk to your kids about possible hazards, and make them your allies in the safe use of your spa.
Lastly, be smart and don’t bring any breakable glassware into your spa. Sure, that frosty margarita is just the ticket while kicking back in your spa, but use only plastic, shatterproof containers whenever drinking any beverages in or around your spa.
Worth Every Penny
There is nothing quite like sinking into a tub of bubbling hot water after a long day. The small amount of time and money you spend on the upkeep of your spa is nothing compared to the invaluable relaxation it provides you and your family. Enjoy!
By Robert Bundy
[Main Image: Fancy Photography | Veer]