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Hot Tub Aficionado

Hot Tub Aficionado (4/5)



  1. I haven't been here in a very long time. I have a Strong Csxi80 - bought at Costco in 2009. 10 years now. Costco spas were quite a topic of debate back ten years ago. Here's my update: After 10 years, the pump seized up. Since it was ten years old, I bought a replacement pump - a Waterway "Executive 56" 4Hp (12 amp/4.4 amp). This is exactly what was in there to start with. Considering the amount of hours on the thing, I think it did real well. Online price, $275 with another $5 for new seals for the unions. The heater was working fine after 10 years, but since I was in there anyway I replaced it with, again, an exact replacement - Balboa M7 5.5kW. I'll rebuild the old pump and heater and keep them at the ready as spares. Which I may need.... in another 10 years. The motor is probably fine - most likely only needs new bearings. We'll see. Waterway still makes the same wet end pump. It's not expensive... but they also sell all the parts. So the wet end will be cheap. An element for the heater is $25 at Spa Depot. A titanium one is $15 more, but considering that the original went 10 years, I'll buy lunch with that $15 instead. The shell looks perfect. No blisters, no hairline cracks, no stains. The Balboa controller (VS-511) still works fine. The cabinet of this model is a plastic molded type that is, IIRC, some flavor of polyethylene. It still looks (no exaggeration) just like new. I do *nothing* to it except hit it with the pressure washer for maybe 1 minute total, once a year. No protectant, nothing. It's the best part of the spa, as far as I'm concerned - considering the way some 10 year old wood cabinets and frames look on spas my friends have. Interestingly, Strong mounted the pump and controller on a piece of Trex (or the like) synthetic deck board, instead of wood. So that hasn't deteriorated at all, either. Wood is cheaper than Trex, and since it's inside, no one would notice. But they used the synthetic, which says something about Strong... or at least about them 10 years ago. This spa was less than $5000, delivered. I don't know what that money can buy you today, but from what I see when the various "road shows" go to Costco, the prices are a lot higher than that for anything comparable. I'm an engineer, and I bought this because it had the Balboa spa pack, the 56 frame Waterway pump, and the synthetic cabinet. I figured good components would be reliable. They have been... and the design makes the thing very easy to work on. The question marks were on the reliability of the plumbing and how well the shell would hold up. There haven't been any problems with either of those. The Csxi is not the most deluxe spa out there. Some of the high end brands are stunning. But the Csxi80 continues to provide great bang for the buck.
  2. It's always desirable to place the GFI as close to the spa as possible (while respecting local regs about how close the panel can be to the water). GFIs are very sensitive and trip if they detect very small mismatches between the current going in and the current coming out. If you want to put one in your main panel, you may be fine... but there's a chance you'll get an increase in false trips. The longer the wire run from the GFI to the device, the more likely that a tiny amount of current will find another way home, due to stray voltage or induction losses...and it will trip. Very annoying. I wouldn't bother with one at the main panel - instead, get in the habit of testing your GFIs at the sub panel.
  3. I bought mine at about the same time that DK got his. Still have the tub, still haven't had any problems. I've been on Bromine the whole time. I haven't gotten a new cover yet, but need to soon. I'm still very happy with the tub. The cabinet hasn't shown any degradation at all - a far cry from wood panel cabinets. The proof of the pudding is in the eating, and I've enjoyed the spa - and the $4000 I saved - for 5 years now.
  4. I got my CSXi80 more or less at the same time DK got his. Similar to his report, mine is still working great, no problems in 4 years.
  5. 3 years plus on mine, no problems... looks & runs like new.
  6. The CSXi80 is a good spa. They've been in the field for 2+ years, still no rash of complaints... not even a small rash... at any review site on the web. Plumbing is fine. They could have used reinforced vinyl hose running to the jets, but it hasn't leaked, apparently for any owners posting. Access for repairs is exceptional. The parts could replace themselves, that's about all that could make it better. Parts quality is ok, the stuff is decent name brand and available anywhere including on line for competitive prices. Insulation works fine. The scheme is sound.... spoken as an owner of more than one spa (not at the same time!)and an engineer with 3 patents for thermal... believe what nonsense you like, though. On the CSXi80 (mine anyway) the jets all carry water. Some of the later models have air-only jets. All CSXi80 jets turn off. I find the hamstring jets useful but not always...if you don't like them turn them off. The argument that more jets means more opportunities for leaks is correct. But if they're done well, it doesn't mean that you are going to have a problem. And if you do... on this model the repair couldn't be any easier. I upgraded some of the single nozzle jets on mine to clusters. The jets are cheap and I like it better now. Jet power could be a better. Turn off unused jets and it gets better. Replace some of the single streamers with clusters and the feel gets better still. Jets are cheap and easy to change. If the jetting bothers you, get a few and try it. By the way I've been in a HotSpring and while they come with better jets, the power isn't great, either. I like seats in the corners and wish they hadn't wasted a corner position on stairs. The cabinet is a big plus. Durable and looks exactly like it did on day one. Rinse the dust off with a hose, that's the maintenance routine. It is not the most top-end spa on the market. I paid $4800 delivered. Good value, good build quality. The arguments about which spa is better are stupid. If I was a buyer, I would be paying attention to the horror stories owners post, such as you see about ThermoSpa and the like. You have to be careful that they are real owner posts (just sayin'.... people here have agendas). I am not in the spa industry in any way, shape or form nr do I have any relationship with anyone that sells spas. At this time I don't even own Costco stock, but yes I have bought and sold it in the past (hey it's a good stable if unspectacular performing stock). I am a consulting mechanical engineer and have never even had a consulting gig with a spa company. Have to say that because... well... you know what's coming.
  7. You discussed this with Balboa? I thought you were just a Costco spa owner and now you're calling the controls manufacturer to discuss their product lines? LOL, sounds like you really work for Strong. I don't work for Strong, nor do I have anything to do (nor have I ever) with the Spa industry at any level. If you would like to make a little side wager, say, 5 years of gross earnings, based on tax returns, that I am fibbing then I will pay for the plane ticket to wherever you live to collect on the bet . Assuming you haven't wasted all your money on high end spas. The reason I called Balboa is because your buddy Roger, in a previous argument - oops discussion - made a similar outrageous claim about that the Balboa VS was a cheap controller. The website didn't give indicate that it was, and, not wanting to talk out my derierre like some here, I called them. It took about 5 minutes of my day. But now I know - gasp - an actual FACT as opposed to the fantasy promoted here. I actaully called them twice... the second time was to see why their controller was only rated for 12 amp pumps (ampacity of traces on the circuit board is the reason, not a relay or other easily changed part) as I was working out what I would do to increase the pump power on mine. You see, there are some of us that prefer facts rather than speculation or spout nonsense. Of course Balboa is going to tell you all their controls are top notch. In the elctronics manufacturing world, it would cost them more to make a cheap version than to just use similar parts and design in all of them. Its called, 'economy of scale' and 'efficiency of mass production'. The problem I have with you guys is that it's all nonsense. None of you can point to anything and say - "lookee there, that's junk". Just like your post, Spatech. If you think the Balboa guy was fibbing, how about you point to something about the controller that's cheaper? Not an electrical engineer? OK, fair enough - how about you point to failure rates of the VS compared to other controllers? Don't have any data? Then just maybe your statements aren't really justifiable? This is where you trot out the "I have years of experience" argument. Great. Me too. 30 years of engineering. Which tells me that talk without data is pretty useless.
  8. I'm mistaking high end?!? I don't really think there's a definition written anywhere about that, do you? Your definition of features is a poor one, IMO. We have been told on this very forum that inexpensive spas are sold based on having bells and whistles while the quality sucks! Now you are saying that high end means that the HS controller has bells and whistles? Here's what I think: Terms like high end are subjective and mean nothing. If the feature set is sufficient to meet one's requirements and the product is well made and reliable, that's a good product. The Balboa fits that bill. If you like the features of your HS controller, great. All that nonsense isn't worth 15 cents to me. As for the price, the reason Balboa costs less is because the sell a whole lot more controllers than HS. It has nothing to do with quality. The titanium heater on the HS is nice... my spa doesn't have it, but Balboa offers it and I'll think about getting one when mine goes out - depending on the life I got out of my standard one and the price for the titanium at the time. You have a serious misunderstanding of filtration. "No-bypass filtration" is precisely a gimmick. Filters do nothing to take out urine or sweat. NOTHING. They remove particles in suspension. That is, dirt. Urine and sweat, along with all sorts of other things, go into solution and are not removed by paper filters. I can deal with my single filter in exactly the same way you deal with your five. And I have the same amount of particulates in my water as you do: insignificant. You may not want to hear it, but your HS isn't filtering urine or sweat, not even a little. The warranty doesn't shift anything. You pay for it when you buy. That's the real gamble. A longer warranty costs you cash at the time of sale. That means that you are betting that your spa will fail. The manufacturer has the data and knows his failure rate and repair costs. So you are, effectively, ALWAYS betting against the house. Manufacturers profit on the warranty - not on each tub but on the total composite of tubs the sell. Most of the time, a shorter warranty is the result of higher manufacturing costs resulting from lower volume of production. The smaller manufacturer doesn't have the ability to price in a longer warranty because it would make his final price too high. In the case of Costco I'm sure the warranty is cut to lower the cost for Costco. It does not necessarily have a thing to do with the quality of the tub (although it might - but you can't conclude this without data). Another point you don't recognize is that not only do tubs with high jet counts cost considerably more to manufacture, they also have higher failure rates in the plumbing since the number of parts, shell penetrations, clamps and glue joints goes up dramatically. That is the real reason why your HS, with its foam fill, doesn't have many jets. It's cheaper to make, and they can't stand the increased chance of a leakage associated with high jet counts, being that everything is foamed. You've never seen an Evo, but I've seen a HS. I'll agree that the cabinet looks fine. But it's not as nice. There is no way I would trade my Evo cabinet for a HS or Sundance standard cabinet. And you really don't know that the Evo is any less energy efficient than a foam spa. That debate has raged on for years. Some other high end spas (Arctic, for one) use a similar system to the Evo and get very competitive numbers. Fact is, I've analyzed the estimates right from the HS web site about their projected costs and it comes out about the same as what I spend, based on adjustments for cost per kW-hr and temperature. The insulation argument is about as good as the "high end" argument... there is no hard data that makes any case that one is better another. But you don't see many Evo owners complaining about their electric bills. The $5k Watkins tubs are not worth $5k. Of course I also think Nordic tubs are a joke for the money, too. The Vanguard is pretty nice, I looked at it. The local HS dealer here wasn't going below $8400 here in CA. But times are tougher now, maybe they're being more flexible. I paid $4800 for my tub, delivered. It cost me $200 to move the spa to the backyard. The electrical panel cost $94 at Lowe's, it's a Midwest NEMA-3R enclosure with a Seimens GFI breaker . Electrical hookup is what you get with your HS, not a full electrical run. If you can do the electrical, the hookup is nothing. If you have to job it out, it will take your electrician 20 minutes to do. That's worth maybe $30 if he's there to do the real, permitted electrical installation anyway. So someone would have just over $5100 in an Evo like mine, compared to no less than $7500 for your Vanguard. I'll count my cash while sitting in my Evo, thank you!
  9. You discussed this with Balboa? I thought you were just a Costco spa owner and now you're calling the controls manufacturer to discuss their product lines? LOL, sounds like you really work for Strong. I don't work for Strong, nor do I have anything to do (nor have I ever) with the Spa industry at any level. If you would like to make a little side wager, say, 5 years of gross earnings, based on tax returns, that I am fibbing then I will pay for the plane ticket to wherever you live to collect on the bet . Assuming you haven't wasted all your money on high end spas. The reason I called Balboa is because your buddy Roger, in a previous argument - oops discussion - made a similar outrageous claim about that the Balboa VS was a cheap controller. The website didn't give indicate that it was, and, not wanting to talk out my derierre like some here, I called them. It took about 5 minutes of my day. But now I know - gasp - an actual FACT as opposed to the fantasy promoted here. I actaully called them twice... the second time was to see why their controller was only rated for 12 amp pumps (ampacity of traces on the circuit board is the reason, not a relay or other easily changed part) as I was working out what I would do to increase the pump power on mine. You see, there are some of us that prefer facts rather than speculation or spout nonsense.
  10. The various models of Balboa controllers are all the same exact quality, and use the same parts. The difference in the VS and the other lines is in the number of pumps and features they support. I had this discussion - with Balboa. The HS controller may be more "high end", whatever that means. All I care about is that it does its function and doesn't fail. Not a lot of complaints about Balboa. I've had two... no failures. That seems plenty 'high end' enough. Plus when it dies I can get another one for cheap online, rather than pay big bucks for a proprietary controller from HS or Sundance or D1. As for flux capacitors, that argument is comedy-fiction just like the movie. Sure there are some cheaper spas out there. But the Evo uses US made Waterway Exec 56 pumps with US motors. Not a cheaper model. The Balboa isn't any different than any other Balboa. And the shell is CCA with acrylobond. The cabinet is much better than the standard cabinet on a Sundance or Hotspring. No-bypass filtering is a marketing gimmick. It isn't particularly hard to implement. And there isn't any advantage - most of the rest of the spa world, including high end spas, use bypass filtering and the water is perfectly clean. There is no logical reason to assume that no-bypass is needed. It's not like the oil system in your car engine (and yes those do have a bypass but generally oil is 100% filtered except under certain circumstances). Warranty has nothing to do with how a well a company stands behind a product. That's another marketing ploy. Warranties are priced into the product, and companies make profit on them. You can't infer anything from a longer warranty, unless you know the failure rate of the spa and the average repair costs. Same old-same old here. When given the facts, the nay-sayers can't really point to anything about the Evo that's cheap. Because it isn't cheap. it also isn't the fanciest spa out there. But it's a good value, far better than most. I've looked at the cheaper Watkins models and what they are is... still overpriced. But you're free to hold any opinion you like. The only spa I thought was a comparable value to my Evo was the H20... that's a nicely designed spa, and only about $1200 more than my Evo... but unfortunately the dealer went under. Too bad. That one also has great bang for the buck. Personally I think HS products are underwhelming and overpriced. Even the idea of dealing with all those filters seems silly. I have just one to clean, and my water looks perfect. If you like your expensive spa, great. Enjoy. Some of us have a spas that work great, provide a ton of relaxation, and are solidly built of available parts that are easy to get to. Oh, and we saved several thousand. I can afford any spa, but think one would have to be nuts to spend $10k on one of the name spas. Evos are not the most 'high end' but my wallet is sure more 'high end' as a result of not spending $10k on an overpriced one!
  11. I'm not here to sell one or the other, I am here to give advice based on my 25 years of experience as a spa tech. I have no doubt there are a large number of satisfied customers. I have said repeatedly that if you have low expectations, you will be happy. DK117, what you have been sold is a spa with a fraction of the power needed to run the jets effectively, because jet numbers sell spas, but they don't make power, they need power to work, 30 jets/pump is a good ratio if each bank of 15 is split with a diverter valve. Guru, you said you could offer some specific comments if you were given some details about the spa. You've got details. So what are your comments? Thinly-veiled negative statements like. "if you have low expectations, you'll be happy" don't count. Many owners, including myself, have already commented that the power is a bit on the weak side - that's not really new information. The easy solution is, turn off jets. There are plenty you can pick from to leave on, and if you shut the others off the jet performance is ok. Honestly, still not as good as my previous spa. But ok. If you have been working on spas for 25 years then you surely know that diverters are convenient but you pay a price in pressure loss when one is put in the circuit.
  12. Spa brands come and go out of Costco all the time, Strong is just the "saveur du jour". If you want for me to respond specifically to the brand you have, then with your volouminous research, you should be able to answer my questions, because, yes, believe it or not, I'm trying to be helpful. What I am not here to do is validate your decision. If you have no idea the brand of pump, the style of shell manufacture, the makers of the mother board, brand of jets etc are, you essentially only know your spa's model name. You seem to be basing your purchase decision on Costco, not on in depth knowledge of the product. By knowledge, I don't mean reviews and opinions, I mean facts. I posted in detail the differing decisions a manufacturer must make, how does your tub rate on these criteria? The thread is a question on markup, not on the quality or design choices. Not that I think markup has any relevance to anything, but that was the question. But to answer your specific issue, what's in a Strong has been pretty well documented elsewhere. The CSXi80 has: * Balboa VS series controller. Standard heater (not titanium) * Waterway Executive 56 pumps (2) with the AO Smith 12A, 2 speed motors (not Chinese knockoffs as was intimated in another thread) * Continuous cast acrylic shell with acrylobond backing * Polyethylene cabinet, rotomolded in several pieces and assembled with stainless steel screws. No frame - wood or metal - at all. Tool-less access, 8 total removable panels (2 per side). Not as cool as some of the stone-look upgrade cabinets at the Sundance dealer, but far better than their standard offerings. The best standard cabinet I've seen. And I was worried that it would look like plastic crap before I actually got the spa. *Full ABS plastic bottom *50 sq ft filter (pleatco supplied w/ spa) *80 waterway (mine are marked MADE IN USA) jets, most are singles, about a dozen clusters come standard (I can't be exact, I changed out a bunch of mine). All have stainless face trims. * Too lazy to go out and measure the tubing size running to the jets. It could use more jet performance, but that is helped by changing the jets and closing jets on unused seats (just remember to open them all back up when you exit the spa - keeps the plumbing much cleaner). The spa is manufactured in the USA. Of course the controller has parts from Asia, almost all electronics products do. Still, it's a Balboa. But, a guru would know that a list of parts doesn't tell you much about the build quality, comfort, or how well the components play together. For that you need actual reports from people, no? So what's you're point exactly? Or did you post the costco website review to highlight to visitors that a spa arrived dead? Look closer, 91% of owners would recommend it to a friend. 91%. If you read many internet reviews for any type of product, you'll recognize that 91% is pretty darn good. Costco makes its profits on MEMBERSHIP DUES. That's their business model. Look at the financials. It's all right there. Almost no gross profit from sales. The membership dues drop to the bottome line. Costco markup covers their overhead, which is extremely low - after all, it's a warehouse store. In the case of spas, they drop ship from the factory. That's why stuff is cheaper there than, say, WalMart, who has more buying power and generally sells lower end stuff. Really... you would have to be delusional to beleive that a traditional spa dealer - with rent, insurance, salaries and commissions, and a full load of other small-business overhead, could possibly have a comparable markup to Costco. Or maybe that's why the dealers all converge on any Costco oriented threads? Just sayin...
  13. There's a huge amount of discussion on this forum relating to Strong spas. Do a search and you'll find as much as you would ever want to read. The bottom line is, owners are generally pleased. Customer service, as per your experience, also gets high marks.
  14. As it happens, there are cases where Costco does extend the manufacturer's warranty. I just had to replace my old TV and was pleasantly surprised to learn that at Costco, in addition to having the brand and model I wanted at a great price, doubles the manufacturer's warranty on TVs. Getting back to warranty costs, of course you're right... it's not a simple issue, you do have to shop. Different designs, build quality, and parts and material quality have an effect on warranty cost. Similarly, a more efficient service organization will result in lower service costs. There are a dozen such issues that affect actual costs and thus the price of the warranty, including the overhead rate of the party offfering the warranty and the profit that they price into it. With a spa, you're buying a product that has more to consider than just a warranty, so you really have to shop! Most would evaluate the spa based on the total value proposition it offers in comparison to other competitive spas and sellers. A lot of that is completely subjective and based on your preferences and what you think is important. Things that you value, I may not want and visa versa. Warranty hasn't been as important to me, but there are other things that I look for that may not be important to you. I do feel that if the spa developed a fatal problem (a shell issue, for example) and I was feeling like I didn't get decent value for my money, then Costco's return policy would be valuable. Hope your repair isn't too painful to your wallet. Good luck!
  15. It's not just about checking part numbers. DK117 I agree with DK on this. Sometimes, the part number on Costco items is different. Usually it's because the product is packaged differently or comes in a different size container. Very often the Costco version of a product will have some extra stuff in the package... for example, a TV might include an HDMI cable that the same TV sold at another retailer doesn't include - hence, it will have a different part number. This is not uncommon with mega-retailers. I disagree on the DIY stuff. You don't have to be a home mechanic. You call them, they send someone. Same as any other spa. A few months ago, I a needed a gasket, and Strong (the maker, not Costco) scheduled a tech to come out to install it. No muss, no fuss. As it happens, I cancelled the appointment and installed it myself... far easier than having to be tied to the house waiting for the service guy, something that I just don't have time to do. Is this support model faster or slower than a dealer? I don't know. It probably depends on the dealer. One thing I do know is that no one complains about Strong Customer support on this forum. That may or may not be true with the Watkins, or the CalSpa products Costco also has been selling. There has to be some advantage to a dealer... maybe quick response support is it. OK, fine. You pay for that as part of the higher price. Hopefully you won't need too many service calls anyway. In any case, it doesn't mean that you have to be a DIYer to own a Costco spa. I also agree with DB3808 on Costco. It's a completely different business model than Walmart. They don't derive their profits the same way at all, and thus their marketing and CS strategy is different. This has been gone over dozens of times in this forum, you either get it or you don't. Costco, as DB3808 says, generally offers more for less. Their markup is lower than most other retailers because they have lower overhead and because they derive their profits primarily from membership dues (read the quarterly report - not the text, the financial statement - and you will see this for yourself). Their motivation is, therefore, to offer the best deal to the member and keep them happy, so that he/she will want to re-up every year. That's why Costco is unique. Most of the time they succeed in offering products that are a great deal, but not 100% of the time. No one is perfect. On the other hand, warranty is in fact a priced item. Warranty service costs money. In general, companies price warranties based on statistics of historical failure rates and their internal cost associated with performing on the warranty. And they make profit on them, too. There are textbooks on the subject of pricing warranties (I have one that I use all the time!). In any case, it sounds like you "assumed" that the Watkins model you bought would have the same warranty as the dealer Hot Spring. Your spa was not offered as a Hot Spring, but as "from the maker of Hot Spring". Your initial asumption might have been a reasonable mistake... but it was nevertheless a mistake. And not, really, Costco's fault or Watkin's fault - they didn't hide the warranty or misrepresent the product, after all. Chalk it up to tuition for the school of hard knocks. Get your spa running and go out and relax in it.
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