Make pH, total alkalinity & calcium hardness adjustments promptly.
You'll protect the filter system, the spa surfaces, get better chlorine &
sanitizer efficiency and virtually eliminate red eyes & dry skin.
Here's what Spa water testing involves:
- Testing & maintaining the sanitizer level - chlorine,
bromine, biguanide (Soft Soak or BaquaSpa), Pristine Blue
- Testing & maintaining the pH
- Other important water balance levels
Testing & maintaining the sanitizer level - No matter
what basic chemistry or spa care sanitizing system you're using, chlorine,
bromine, biguanides (such as SpaGuard® Soft Soak®), or other
alternatives such as Pristine Blue®, you have to keep an eye on that level.
Too low - bacteria & biofilms can get out of control & cause real problems.
Too high - that's just being wasteful; it's unnecessary to maintain high
sanitizers levels in most spa or hot tub applications.
But sometimes you do
want that sanitizer level a bit higher, like just before a big spa party or if
you're going to be away for a period of time. That temporarily high sanitizer
level will protect the spa water from getting "out of whack". How many
times have you been to or been the host of hot tub party and you can actually watch
the water become hazy as the party goes on (then realize that hardly anyone has
used the bathroom all day! Yikes!). Starting a spa party with a higher
sanitizer level could have prevented that.
But, you also have to know what sanitizer level you're
testing. Especially in the case of chlorine, which chlorine are you
testing? Free Available Chlorine (FAC) or Total Chlorine? What's the
difference? FAC is the chlorine level that is actually active & working
killing bacteria. Total Chlorine is exactly that - the total
amount of chlorine present in the spa, FAC plus combined chlorines. And
you don't want combined chlorines. Combined chlorine is chlorine plus
waste; usually in the form of nitrogen (chloramines). It smells & causes
red eyes and often times
- which is NOT necessarily an allergic reaction.
When you have a strong chlorine odor, the cause is typically a
very poor level of FAC and a High level of chloramines. The only way to
get rid of them is shock the spa.
Click on this link for more
information on chloramines & other chlorine issues. Here's quick chart
as to proper sanitizer levels:
||1.0 - 2.0 ppm
||2.5 - 4.5 ppm
||30 - 50 ppm
||0.5 - 1.0 ppm
How often should you test the sanitizer level? Ideally,
every day. Realistically, 2 times per week is great. You may want to
keep a log in case you ever need to treat a problem. When you call us,
we'll be able to help you diagnose that problem.
Testing & maintaining the pH - Here's the question that
we're regularly asked: "Why do I have to test the pH? The water looks great and
besides, the chlorine level is more important to watch." Where's that
buzzer? Wrong! Testing & maintaining pH is almost more important than testing
for sanitizer. Why?
With an improper pH level, nothing works the way it should!
All hot water sanitizers work best in a very narrow range of 7.2 to 7.8. If the
pH is low (less than 7.2), you may have really clear water but, you'll burn
through chlorine like crazy, your blonde hair will turn green, corrosion of spa
surfaces & equipment will take place. We've even seen skin abrasions due to low
pH ("but the water is SO clear!").
Water with a high pH, sanitizers become sluggish & work
slowly. The results: hazy or cloudy water, scaling of spa surfaces &
equipment begins to occur. Physically, you'll also notice red eyes, itchy
skin, dry hair.
When you notice the pH going off, either low or high, don't
Correct it as soon as possible. Use pH increaser such as
SpaGuard® pH Increaser when the pH is low. Retest the following day. Use pH decreaser such as
pH Decreaser to lower the pH when it gets high. Retest the following day. Always make incremental
adjustments to prevent see-sawing.
Testing tip: Never test the spa water after the
running the jets or high speed pump. As the bubbles in the spa burst, carbon
dioxide (CO2) is released and the pH is driven UP giving a false high pH
reading. Always wait about 1 hour after the jets & air bubbles have run to
perform a test. Leave the cover off for about 10 minutes to allow gas-off of the
Learn more about the
importance of water balance here.
Other important water balance levels -
Water testing shouldn't end with sanitizer & pH. There are other
components that need to be watched for optimal sanitizer effectiveness,
protection of spa & hot tub surfaces & equipment, and bather's comfort & health.
These other water chemistry indicators are Total Alkalinity, Calcium Hardness,
Metals, TDS & Chlorine Demand.
Briefly, the Total Alkalinity (TA) is a buffer
for the pH - good range 80 - 150 ppm, depending on spa surface type & type of
sanitizer used. If the TA is low, the pH will "bounce" around & you will
have difficulty maintaining it for more than a couple of days. If the TA
is high, the pH will tend to be high which will contribute to scale build-up.
Calcium Hardness (CH) is the measure of how much calcium & other carbonates are
in the water. Low CH will lead to aggressive water (similar to low
pH) as the water wants to balance itself & therefore eats away at any & all
surfaces. High CH will be shown as cloudy water, with the water becoming
cloudier as the water warms - especially above 85 F - typical in a spa. Rapid scaling will
also occur damaging filters & heaters. High calcium is generally caused by
using calcium based chlorines or from very hard source water.
TA & CH
should be tested at least once each month. Once adjusted, they do not
fluctuate wildly except in the case of heavy rains or copious amounts of make up
water. Gunite, concrete and tile spas should be especially aware of water
chemistry to maximize the life of the spa's surfaces.
Metals, TDS (total dissolved solids) & chlorine
demand should be tested from time. Tests should be performed by a
qualified pool & spa water professional. If you suspect or are having staining
problems, problems maintaining a sanitizer level, incurable cloudy water or
slime, please bring in a one quart water sample for a free complete computerized
For more information on the workings of your pool, click on the
6 Keys to Spa Care
Some information contained in this
article is courtesy of the BioGuard Chem PLUS 2003, 2004, Chem College 2007 &
H2-Know 2011 Reference Guide.
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Test Kits & Strips
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