Spa and Hot Tub Troubleshooting
At startup, before you increase the temperature in your spa:
- Turn the power OFF and bleed the air out of the heater chamber.
- Turn the power ON and turn the pump "ON" high speed by pressing the jet button twice.
- Turn the power OFF and bleed the air out of the heater chamber one more time.
- Turn the power ON and turn the pump "ON" high speed again to make sure that water is pumping through the jets and air has escaped from the spa plumbing. Once air is no longer passing through the heater chamber, you may increase the temperature and enjoy your hot tub.
Air present in the heater chamber will heat much faster than water.
Our temperature sensors display the temperature in the heater chamber.
When they detect a rapid increase in temperature, they will display
"OH" at 108°F (42.2°C) and "HLer" over 112°F (44.4°C).
Once the temperature drops below 104°F in the heater chamber, you may press 'SET' to get rid of “HLer”. This is done to ensure that enough water flows through the heater to cool it down.
The best and effective solution is to install an automatic air bleeder in your spa plumbing (click here to see the Automatic Airbleeder). Not following the above instructions will cause a heater dry fire and may destroy the water sensors and temperature sensors located on the heater manifold.
Tools needed to troubleshoot your spa:
- Calibrated thermometer
- Good Amp Meter
- Good Ohm Meter
Problem (1): The temperature displayed on the topside controller doesn't match spa water temperature measured by a separate calibrated thermometer.
Make sure the pump that circulates water through the heater is 'ON' for at least 10 minutes before you compare temperatures between our controller's Temperature Sensor and your thermometer.
General Information About How Spas Are Made
All hot tubs by design must be equipped with two temperature sensor circuits. One is called a Hi Limit Sensor (HLM) and the second one is the Temperature Sensor (SENS). The Hi Limit circuit is designed to shut power 'OFF' through the open Neutral relay if the temperature where the Hi Limit Sensor is located exceeds 112°F (44.4°C). The Temperature Sensor (SENS) senses and displays the spa water temperature at the location where the sensor is inserted. It also allows the consumer to set the desired water temperature from 45°F (7.2°C) to 104°F (40°C). On most spa controls, the Hi Limit Sensor and the Temperature Sensor are located on the heater manifold. However, some spas have their Temperature Sensor located on the spa shell and the Hi Limit Sensor located on the heater manifold. When comparing the displayed temperature to your thermometer you must take the temperature reading from your thermometer near where the Temperature Sensor is located on your spa otherwise the comparison may not be accurate.
If the Temp and Hi Limit Sensors are located on the heater manifold:
The heater manifold is located inside the spa cabinet. If the sensors are located at the heater manifold, the Temperature Sensor senses the water temperature inside the heater manifold (near the heater element), displays the temperature it senses on the top display, and commands the heater circuitry accordingly. In many spa applications especially during winter, the temperature inside the spa cabinet where the control and heater are located will be different (usually lower) than the water temperature inside the hot tub. When the pump is not circulating water through the heater manifold, the temperature of the water volume inside the heater manifold (approximately 0.3 gallons [1.2 liters]) may drop a lot faster than the temperature of the water volume inside the hot tub (200+ gallons [750+ liters]). In addition, the back of the spa shell is insulated with several inches of foam, but the spa cabinet itself may not be insulated (or poorly insulated). Cold air penetrates through the spa cabinet and lowers the temperature of the pipes including the heater manifold where the sensors are located. The Temperature Sensor will display the temperature it is sensing in the heater manifold. If the pump is 'OFF' and not circulating water through the heater housing the temperature inside the heater housing will continue to drop quickly. Once the temperature drops 15 to 20 degrees below the desired temperature setting, the freeze guard circuitry will energize the low pump circuitry continuously.
To check the temperature accuracy:
- Turn the circulating pump 'ON' for 15 minutes (to circulate water through the heater manifold).
- Using a separate, properly calibrated thermometer, measure the temperature at the heater manifold and compare it to the display.
- If the measured temperature is within +/-9°F (5°C) of the displayed temperature.
Solution A: Use the calibration 'CALB' procedure on our controller and calibrate the Temperature sensor to match your thermometer.
Solution A1: Using flame retardant insulating material, wrap the temperature sensor, the strain relief and the area immediately below the strain relief on the manifold itself (the entire manifold may not be needed).
- If the measured temperature is >18°F (10°C) of the displayed temperature.
Solution B1: Try to better insulate your spa cabinet.
Solution B2: Change the location of the Temperature Sensor to be inside the spa shell (you risk losing freeze protection at the heater manifold).
Solution B3: You may need to change the Temperature Sensor, or very rarely, the PC Board.
The opposite can occur during summer time if the spa cabinet is not well ventilated.
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Displayed Temperatures Don't Match
Problem (2): Do to improper electrical installation of the GFCI, the GFCI is tripping.
After installing a new GFCI, the GFCI is tripping. Check the wiring in and out of the GFCI as shown below.
A common mistake when installing a GFCI is wiring it backwards. The input side of a GFCI is the 'LINE' side. The output side is the 'LOAD' side. When wiring a GFCI in, the L1, L2 and N (if you have Neutral) coming from your electrical panel MUST connect to the 'LINE' side of the GFCI. Then connect from the 'LOAD' side of the GFCI to the spa control terminal block.
Another common mistake installing a GFCI is not connecting the Neutral (when you have Neutral) through the GFCI along with L1 and L2.
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New GFCI Tripping...
Problem (3): GFCI trips within 60 seconds from turning the Power "ON".
Step (1): Turn the power "ON". Press and hold the upper arrow (marked Temp) for 2 seconds. A temperature setting will start flashing. Press the down arrow (marked Time) to lower the temperature setting down to 45°F (7°C) and press Set. Now the heater is "OFF". With the temperature set low, the heater will stay OFF. Go through all the functions of your spa with the heater OFF. If the GFCI does not trip, then the heater is shorted to ground and the heater needs to be replaced. Just to be sure, raise the temperature back up to energize the heater. If the GFCI trips, then the heater has a fault and needs to be replaced.
Exceptions There is a rare possibility (1 in 5000) that the PC board is shorted to ground. Usually there are burn marks on the PC board terminals where the black wires feeding the heater are connected.
Problem (4): GFCI trips immediately.
Step (1): Unplug all the electrical accesories connected to the spa control (such as Pump (1) or the Ozonator). Turn the GFCI "ON". If the GFCI does not trip, then the problem is with one of the accessories.
Step (2): Turn the GFCI "OFF". Plug each accessory in individually and turn the GFCI "ON". If the accessory works and the GFCI does not trip, then the accessory is good. If the GFCI trips, the accessory is bad and must be replaced. Repeat for all the electrical accessories.
Step (3): If all the accessories are unplugged and the GFCI still trips, there is a possibility that the PC board is shorted to ground. Look for any burn marks on the PC board. If the board does not show any burn marks it is unlikely that the board is the problem, however, you may change the board. Step (4): GFCI is bad and needs to be replaced.
Problem (5): GFCI trips when a function is energized.
Functions control accessories like Pumps, Light, Ozonator, etc.
Step (1): Turn the GFCI "OFF". Unplug the electrical accessory from the spa control for the function. Example: if the GFCI trips when when Pump (2) is energized, unplug Pump (2) from the spa control.
Step (2): Turn the GFCI "ON". Activate the function, if the GFCI does not trip then the accessory device is bad and needs to be replaced.
Problem (6): Heater shorted to ground.
Heater elements are 100% tested with dielectric test, MegaOhm test and water tested with a complete spa control. Once a heater passes these tests it is impossible to fail due to manufacturer defect.
Problems caused by application:
The heater is a rod that must be 100% submerged in water. Consumers often fill the spa shell, however the spa plumbing is trapped with mixture of water and air. When air is nesting inside the heater manifold on the top surface of the heater element the switching mechanism associated with the heater circuitry may not detect the air when mixed with water inside the heater chamber. The heater will energize, the air will heat at a much faster rate than the water and destroy the heater element electrical insulation causing a short circuit to ground. The GFCI or breaker will trip and open all live circuits to the hot tub control. In many cases, the heated air expands inside the heater chamber and explodes causing a hole in the stainless steel or polymer housing.
When this happens the heater must be replaced and we suggest a simple automatic airbleeder be installed before or after the heater manifold on the discharge side of the pump. Click here to get one.
Keep in mind that you cannot have a fire where water exists.
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