What Will Break on Hot Tub First?
Food for thought:
During the buying process, prospective buyers will often ask about the cost of upkeep and maintenance they can expect over the life of the spa. Perhaps the most common concern people have regarding future problems they may encounter is the biggest failure items on hot tubs. They want to know what components, if any, they will have to worry about replacing over the life of their spa.
A quality spa should last between 15-20 years with proper upkeep, and over the course of that lifespan, some components on the spa are more prone to failures than others. As a spa owner, there are several steps that should be taken to minimize the risk of part failures, but in some cases these preventative measures are not enough. After working in the spa industry for several years, I have seen similarities between the parts that fail, regardless of the make or model of spa. Based upon my experience, I have compiled the following list of parts that tend to fail at the highest rate:
Shaft seals and heating elements: Over the course of the spas life, there is a good chance that one or both of these parts will need to be replaced. Shaft seals on the pumps are in direct contact with water, and as a result they are subjected to the water's chemistry. Whenever the water balance is off, particularly the pH level, deterioration of the seal is more likely. Water that is too acidic or basic will gradually corrode the rubber on the seal, allowing water to track back into the pump, possibly ruining bearings and other components. Salt water systems also pose a similar risk, as the salt can corrode metals or gaskets within the plumbing, even in the presence of a sacrificial anode meant to protect against corrosion. It is always a good idea to check the pump seals periodically for leaks. With good water chemistry, a seal can last a long time, usually several years. In extremely poor conditions, they may need to be replaced annually. Fortunately, a shaft seal is an inexpensive part, generally costing $25 or less. Poor water balance and salt systems also pose risks to heating elements. Heating element's resistance to corrosion will vary based upon what they are made out of. Generally speaking, incoloy (corrosion-
resistant nickle alloy) elements will deteriorate quicker than titanium, so it is important to know what is included on your spa prior to buying. Quality manufacturers will use titanium elements in their products. You can expect to spend between $70 and $100 on a new element, depending on the material.
Circulation pumps: Altogether, the most common failure item on spas is the circulation pump. These small pumps circulate the water for 24 hours a day to aide in the spas filtration. Unfortunately, with these pumps running 24/7/365, they are at a higher risk of failing that virtually any other component on the spa. Water balance issues and clogged filters further compound the risk of failure. If the pump fails, then the spa stops filtering and in many cases stops heating. Once the circulation pump is effectively kaput, there is little one can do other than replace it with a new model, which typically costs bet
ween $250-$400. Most people obviously aren't interested in shelling out that kind of money for a new circulation pump every few years. Fortunately, many manufacturers build spas without circ pumps. These spas run a jet pump at low speed for a programmable duration of time to filter and heat the spa. A non-circ configuration is popular because it doesn't over tax a pump, and moreover circ pumps are not made to be repaired unlike jet pumps. If the jet pump does fail over time, in most cases it can be repaired rather than replaced. Today's jet pumps are very energy efficient, so running one at low speed to heat and filter a spa is not going to cost an arm and a leg, either.