Jun06

When your spa water goes sideways

Causes and cures of common spa ailments

You may have had a spa for years, or you may have had it for days, but now your water looks nasty, smells nasty, or there's stuff all over the inside of the tub. Sooner or later, most people will experience one of these issues. Here's some things to keep in mind when you're trying to solve these issues.

First, lots of little ickies love to grow in warm water. If you allow your sanitizer levels to get too low, everything from algae to bacteria will happily start to breed in your tub, and do so quickly. If your tub has been neglected and the sanitizer got too low, odds are quite good that this has happened. The first step in combating this condition is to get your sanitizer levels back where they belong, and keep them there. You may find that the sanitizer levels drop off very quickly at first as the sanitizer is working hard to kill off the stuff that is growing in the water. You will also need to shock the tub more than usual for a little while to free up "stuck" sanitizer and burn off debris in the water. Addition of an enzymatic treatment is also helpful to digest the debris in the water. If algae has started to grow in your tub, it may be necessary to add an algaecide to the water as well to kill it off, especially if you are sanitizing with biguanide, which is weak against algae. If your water is severely fouled and changing the water is practical, it is best to drain and refill the tub to reduce the amount of gunk in the tub. Regardless, plan to remove and clean the filters several times during the cleanup process, because a lot of junk will end up there. If sanitizer, shock, and enzyme don't provide satifactory results in a reasonable time period, more drastic products are available to really give the stuff in your water a swift kick in the jaw, but they should be a last resort.

Second, a lot of undesirable things can end up in the tub water even in a tub that is well-maintained. Anything on the clothes and bodies of people (and sometimes pets) who get into your spa WILL end up in the water. The two most common contaminants are detergents and oil. Making sure that only thoroughly rinsed clothes (and hair) are allowed in your spa will minimize the amount of detergents in your tub, but if you do get significant detergent in your tub, products are available to quell the inevitable foaming that results. Oils get into your spa both from products we put on our bodies, and our bodies themselves secreting oils. These get mixed into the water by the agitation of the jets and make a milky emulsion like a very thin vinaigrette salad dressing. The filter can't really do much with these oils, but an enzymatic treatment is all it takes to digest them to water and carbon dioxide. You can also end up with tiny particles of whatnot in the water which are too small for the filter to catch. A chemical called a flocculant (or simply a clarifier) will cause the little particles to stick together so they become large enough for the filter to remove. Some flocculants are so aggressive that they actually make the particles so big they fall out of the water all over the tub, so if you weren't planning to vacuum out your tub, be sure you know what you're buying!

Third, the water you put into your tub at fill time can have a huge impact on the tub experience. Some water has a lot of minerals, usually calcium, and some has a lot of metals, usually iron or copper. All of these can cause water clouding and tub discoloration if you don't address the issue. Excessive calcium will often cause a white crusty buildup called scale, especially if the water pH is allowed to get too high. Any significant metals will often cause staining on the tub surfaces. Iron leaves brown stains, and copper leaves green stains. Water additives can neutralize these contaminants so they don't affect your spa experience, but it's important to put them in as soon as you fill the tub so they don't stain the tub before you add them.

If this sounds complicated, it's not. Making it even easier is that Fireside Hearth and Leisure has all the chemicals you need, and the expert advice to help you keep your tub in top shape all year 'round. We hope to see you the next time you have a question about your hot tub.

May05

Spa Sanitizers Compared

A basic guide to choosing a sanitizer

Customers regularly ask me which sanitizer to choose. Each of the sanitizers has advantages and disadvantages and there is no "perfect sanitizer," but there is sure to be one that will work for you. Fireside stocks all three of these sanitizers and all the helper chemicals to go with them, so if you need some chemicals, come on over! What follows is an overview and comparison of the three sanitizers.

Chlorine: The original pool and spa sanitizer, and still preferred by some people.

Pros: Chlorine is widely available, inexpensive, simple and reliable. Chlorine is available in tablets for use in a floating dispenser to achieve more constant sanitizer levels.

Cons: Chlorine has a distinctive sharp odor that many people find unpleasant. It can dry skin and damage clothing. A few people get rashes and headaches from exposure to chlorine. It is also very poisonous and caustic if ingested in concentrated form.

Bromine: The most recommended spa sanitizer. Chemically a cousin of chlorine.

Pros: Like chlorine, bromine is widely available, inexpensive, simple and reliable. Bromine is also available in tablets for use in a floating dispenser to achieve more constant sanitizer levels. Bromine’s main advantage is that when used properly, bromine sanitizer has much less odor than chlorine.

Cons: Bromine is much more likely than chlorine to cause skin irritations and rashes. If the water pH is allowed to drift out of balance, bromine can actually produce a much worse odor than chlorine, although this is very unusual. Most bromine sanitizers actually contain some chlorine, which means that people highly sensitive to chlorine might react to bromine sanitizer as well. It is also very poisonous and caustic if ingested in concentrated form.

Biguanide: The least irritating spa sanitizer. Recommended for people with sensitive skin.

Pros: Biguanide is chemically unrelated to either bromine or chlorine. It has no odor, and generally does not trigger headaches and rashes, even in people sensitive to bromine or chlorine. It is also less dangerous to handle than chlorine and bromine, and less harmful if swallowed in concentrate. Some of the other chemicals used in conjunction with biguanide are similarly less dangerous than their chlorine and bromine equivalents.

Cons: Biguanide is only available in a liquid form, which means that a floating dispenser is not an option. Biguanide therefore must be manually dosed when water testing indicates that the sanitizer level is low. Biguanide and its helper chemicals are also significantly more expensive than chlorine and bromine, and not as widely available. While biguanide and its helper chemicals are significantly less dangerous than chlorine and bromine, they are not harmless, and still need to be kept away from individuals who might accidentally ingest them in their concentrated form.

Jun14

Automatic Combustion Control Video

Quadra-FireĀ®

Automatic Combustion Control Video

Wood stoves have come a long way. The Quadra-Fire wood-burning units of today are equipped with Automatic Combustion Control, which feeds the fire with air when it’s needed most—and controls it for consistent, extended burns.

Apr12

Why choose Viking Spas?

In a spa market that has dozens of options, why should you choose a Viking Spa? Here's my top 5 reasons.

5. Viking Spas cost less than most other hot tubs without sacrificing quality. While price should never be the sole deciding factor in a purchase decision, there's also no reason to pay more for one product when another is just as good and meets the needs for less money.

4. Viking Spas feature a unique polymer shell that is both more durable and less slippery than most others. This reduces the likelihood of shell cracks and increases safety compared to other tubs, and because they're so tough, Viking Spas feature a lifetime shell warranty.

3. Viking Spas are made in Michigan by Michiganders. These tubs are designed with our harsh winters in mind, and buying a Viking puts your money to work making Michigan a better place to live and work.

2. Viking Spas carry a great warranty. Most Viking tubs carry a 6-year warranty, and are designed such that in most cases, you'll never need to go to the hassle of a warranty repair, because the build quality really is that good.

1. Viking tubs feel great. With options like the Extra Therapy System and an ozonator to keep your water sparkling clear, you'll experience the relaxation and therapy that only a spa experience can bring, and the knowledge that you didn't break the bank to do it will make it that much more enjoyable.

Come on in, and let us show you how a Viking Spa can make your life more enjoyable!

Jan19

Why Harman pellet stoves are awesome!

5 reasons why Harman owners quickly become enthusiasts

These days every manufacturer seems to say that their pellet stove is the best, and understandably so, but what do customers who have owned multiple brands consistently say? Why, "My Harman pellet stove is the best one I've ever owned," of course! Why is that? Here's 5 reasons why the Harman pellet stoves are much more enjoyable to own than any other pellet stove.

5. They require a great deal less maintenance than most other pellet stoves.

Every pellet stove is going to require a certain amount of maintenance, but Harman has made it so incredibly easy that it makes most other stoves look clunky. Basic maintenance can be done with the unit on, and the machines are designed with accessible components so deeper cleaning is also a snap. Plus, the burnpot is designed in such a way that overfueling and pot choking are virtually impossible.

4. The bottom-feed-ish "Pellet Pro" burner design is incredibly nice.

It's not a true bottom-feed system, which is a good thing because true bottom-feeds are a bit of a fire hazard, but this design is one of the things that Harman pellet stoves do completely differently from other stoves, and it really makes your life easier. For one thing, the pellets aren't constantly rattling down the chute into the pot like they are in so many other stoves. For another, the small stuff in the bag doesn't disrupt the flow of pellets in any way, and it gets burned right along with the pellets because of the way they're fed in, whereas in many stoves the dusty portion blows into the ashpan unburned. If you happen to have some really dusty pellets, such as pellets that got damp, this burn system will chug them into heat when most other stoves would go out. And remember I said that you can't choke it by overfilling the pot? Any excess gunk in the pot, be it ash, clinkers, or excess pellets from overfeeding is simply pushed over the front edge into the ashpan by the incoming pellets. This design is a fundamental of what makes a Harman pellet stove, and it really makes these stoves shine, especially when the fuel is sub-par.

3. They are built like a tank to last almost forever.

These stoves are built to last in every sense of the word. The steel is high-grade, the welds are exceptionally clean, and the electrical components are top-quality. Premature failure of any part of these stoves is almost unheard-of, and the parts you expect to wear out eventually, like motors and sensors, still last a really, really long time compared to other stoves. And for the DIY crowd, they're quite easy to self-service, because the wear parts are placed in fairly easily accessed locations.

2. The stoves give more BTUs for their size.

Compared to many other stoves, they are less bulky in your living space, and give out greater maximum heat. On top of that, they are all at least somewhat aestetically pleasing. Harman has a stove rated for 71,200 BTUs, and it takes up less floor space than a lot of other stoves rated for 50,000 BTUs. These are real workhorses, both in reliability and capacity.

1. The temperature management system is second to none.

Most pellet stoves work on a simple thermostat, much like a gas-fired appliance. This works, but it is hard on the ignitors, and can be annoying, as the stove is constantly cycling on and off. Rather than burn full-bore and then turn off like most other stoves, the Harman stoves actually adjust the burn rate to provide a heat output customized to the heat needs of the environment. As the need for heat increases, so will the heat output of the stove, and as the need for heat decreases, the stove will decrease its output proportionally. This keeps the room temperature steadier, can save pellets, and makes sure you always have a warm stove to stand in front of when you come in frozen from your outdoor winter activities. This temperature management system is one of the Harman distinctives, and truly sets it apart from practically all other stoves on the market.

In conclusion, is a Harman pellet stove a little bit more expensive than other quality pellet stoves? Yes, it is, but it is absolutely worth paying the small amount of extra money needed to get what I personally believe is the most durable and friendliest pellet stove ever made.

—Jason