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  1. Sure, thus far it seems to be quite minimal maintenance. I use the tub regularly (~5 times a week) which probably helps, but the time I'm in the tub does vary quite a lot 10 minutes to 45+ minutes so that makes it a little harder to dial in - since obviously very regular use makes a very regular demand for chlorine generation. I have been bouncing around a bit between 3 and 4 use level and checking about once a week that my levels are OK. The test strips that came with the tub seem kind of crappy, at least for me it seemed like the color from the bromine would leak down into the chlorine area which would mess with the color (even holding the strip flat) and even when that wasn't an issue they didn't seem super accurate. I've been testing with the taylor kit which seems way more consistent. It seems like the logical extension of the ACE would be to have an automated chlorine level test and would then adjust the chlorine output up and down. So if any nice dealers in the SF/BA want someone to test something like that let me know.
  2. Yeah I got: http://www.hotspring.com/shop-hot-tub-models/highlife/vanguard/custom-cabinet which says the panels are treated with a sealant and have vertical supports that I can use to support any custom siding I want. Since I'm not really putting a siding on it and instead am putting sunk into a deck (with once face getting a custom facade) I wasn't real clear if I should do some additional water protection. I guess I could just wrap it with some heavy plastic and staple that inplace, since it would be under a deck it wouldn't get much in the way of water wind or sun. I wish they would specify a bit more what is expected for weather proofing when putting a tub into a deck like this.
  3. Hi, I have HS Vanguard tub that I've been using for a couple of months (love it). The time has come for me to build a small deck around it (always been part of the plan.) I got the tub setup for 'custom exterior' because the tub will end up being partially recessed. 2 sides will have deck to the height of the bar top. One side will have deck about 15" below that, and the front will have no deck and instead have a facade matching the redwood decking. I have read through the custom install guide and the one thing I didn't really see anything about is how waterproof, or not, the 'custom exterior' of the tub is when there is no shell on it. The plywood look like it has been treated with something, but there are definitely panels so I could see in theory water going through the deck and blowing into the joints during a storm. The screws also seemed unlike 'exterior' grade screws I'm used to - but it could just be they are coated with something I don't use to. Basically trying to find out if I need to put up some kind of waterproof barrier myself on the exterior before I put decking around it or if it is good to go as is. Kind of weird the custom install guide didn't mention it (or if I did I've missed it the last couple of times I've read through.) Anyone have any thoughts? Thanks.
  4. Thanks! I only ask about the bromine because the test strips that came with the tub had that and it always seemed to get a reading. Appreciate the responses, going to get that taylor kit.
  5. A couple of quick follow ups. Do I need to test for bromine? Also the control panel for the tub has a test for salt levels for the ACE system, is that just not very accurate?
  6. Hi, I got a HS vanguard a few months ago with ACE and have just been using the 5 in 1 test strips that came with it. System seems to be working fine and I haven't had any issues (though it has only been a few months) I was wondering what sort of test kit I should go with when the strips run out? I was looking at taylor kits on amazon and it seemed a bit confusing as to what to get as it seems like I need a full kit for either the chlormine or bromine and then need to buy the reagent for whichever one didn't come with the kit. Any thoughts to help out a slightly confused consumer would be appreciated.
  7. And to follow up, the tub is in, and I have been loving it. No problems with anything thus far (though it's only been installed for a couple of months.) Use it maybe 5 days a week.
  8. Yeah I was talking to my Hot Springs dealer about that just yesterday, they work the same way, they only do warranty work on the tubs they sell. Probably better to try and negotiate the price down at your local place (show quotes from other places selling them cheaper, try for 1-3% reduction for cash/check, maybe store credit instead of discount since they get a margin on that more or less, see about floor models or 2010 stock they still have, etc.) if you are interested in the warranty. If you can save lots and lots by getting refurbished maybe worth it if you stash the savings away for future repair efforts. See if you can get some kind of warranty out of the refurb person?
  9. So it is basically 26-27% off the List price (which presumably no one actually pays) and about 6-7% off their initial end of the year sale price quote. Not huge but reasonable enough I suppose.
  10. To follow up on the pricing: I went with the Vanguard they had with no cabinet with ACE and talked them down $600. I basically gave them the average of the better prices I found here and offered to split the difference with them (since the location is very expensive vs the rest of the country and I do value purchasing from some who is highly likely to be around for the life of my warranty) and with a little bit of talking about it they agreed. Now I just need to finish the electrical and the slab so I can get it installed.
  11. Yeah fair enough, I guess the question is if it's a little _too_ high even with the local high costs (but lower delivery costs and high volume) since it seems like others are getting the same tub for ~1.5k less (I can get closer with the floor model or no-cabinet, but ~1.5k seems like a big difference when just comparing apples to apples) Is there any real difference between the ACE and the aftermarket SWCG? (Other than the cost and that ACE is built in with a nice interface?) I keep talking myself into it then out of it. I assume I could just add it later if the standard regiment wasn't for me, so maybe I should just go with that and see how I like it. Sketchup model: http://radiantenergy.org/tub.skp If I wanted it partially sunk it seems like I would need to either raise the tub (which I didn't want to do because of the support structure I'd need to build - being cut into the hill like that the tub is very stable (not sure is a retaining wall under the tubs front edge for additional support)) or to lower the deck which is a problem since the deck is already at grade on the hill side. I could do that by digging out more dirt to lower the deck and putting in a retaining wall behind, but honestly I've moved something like 21 tons of retaining wall blocks down into the yard for this terracing project mostly by hand and I'm pretty done with it.
  12. @Mark SC - I hadn't see the aftermarket SWCG stuff, I looked through the forums some and am not quite sure about it - seems like it floats around in the tub and has a cord that goes over the edge? Also I know there is lots of marketing spin on everything but are the aftermarket SWCG comparable to ACE? Seems a bit weird that aftermarket could sell at 300 and turn a profit and ACE sells at 1000 (or 1400 lol) without there being some additional cost to the system which one would imagine is a benefit to the consumer. I've looked for threads about ACE but honestly it tends to degenerate into dealers and spa people bickering at each other. Maybe I haven't found the right thread? Mostly I'm just looking for ease of use, I'm quite technical and engineering minded so doing normal water maintenance isn't something I would have any problem with, I'm just trying to minimize things I need to do every week / X days. @new2spa I definitely hear you on the wet test. I wasn't thinking of the vanguard for any other reason than it was available to test and fit the space I have. I liked it more than the aria (shoulder jets seemed weak when set to just turn on the lounge side, and when all the jets where max the current from the other side pushed me out of the lounge, oops) or the limelight flair (lounger was short for me (i'm 6'2"), great shoulder jets though, but I'm thin and the bottom jets actually went past me on either side - fail.) I'll probably see if I can get a bit of a better deal, I can pay in cash (the hot tub fund finally filled up after a couple years of saving) so hopefully that would help. The area is sadly just expensive so they don't have to make huge concessions to keep things going. @walleye thanks for checking around, that is a good datapoint as I can add the 1k ACE apparently goes for and see 10.2 which would be good for negotiating. @spatech (the unreal one) I've thought about doing the partially sunken, the only real problem is the location - this is on a fairly steep slope so basically the front would be exposed and the back and one side would have decking around it, in order to have any decking it needs to be at the height of the spa. I could maybe step it down as it goes down the hill, but that starts to look pretty odd. I could post a picture of the sketchup mockup if you where interested. I was thinking of just orienting it such that the warming seat could be used for ingress/egress. Thanks for all the useful info everyone, very helpful.
  13. Also not on the quote but in the talking afterwards he said he could throw in a nice lifter. Not totally sure it would work with my layout as of yet but that would be additional value for the quote.
  14. Hi, I've done some wet tests and like the HS Vanguard the most thus far, just wanted to see if anyone had any thoughts about the quote I got. $11.8k before taxes for the 2011 model with ACE and delivery and starter kit. Which seems pretty steep to me based on looking through the forums, though the prices I've seen have been for tubs a few years older. They charge $1400 for the ACE system, so if I did without that I could drop it to 10.4k (but then presumably it would cost more monthly for chemicals if I wanted to do something like SILK, though just clorine/bromine would still be quite cheap I imagine.) They would also give me $500 off for a floor model or 1k off for a getting one with no cabinet (The tub is going to fit into a deck so so that is actually OK for my situation.) I live in Marin near San Francisco, so certainly it is generally just an expensive place to be. But this is a high volume dealer (they claimed to be the highest volume dealer in the US, which might actually be true as they have a number of stores around the Bay Area) so it still seemed a bit steep. They do have a good reputation as a dealer and have been in business for 30+ years so that is a plus. Does anyone have any thoughts? The MSRP on the tub is 12.4k but obviously there are pretty solid margins on these things.
  15. Hi, I've been researching the purchase of a new hot tub and unsurprisingly I seem to still have questions. Though hopefully the are more informed questions / opinions. I'm currently mostly looking at Hot Spring spas due to the dealer situation where I live. I am in the San Francisco Bay Area (in fairfax up in Marin county) and the dealers that are local (within 20 minutes) are a Hot Springs dealer with 4/5 on yelp.com, a Sundance dealer with 2/5. There is a D1 dealer a bit over an hour away with great reviews but I'm a little concerned about the distance. There is a Bullfrog dealer and hour+ away with no reviews. (None of them had a lot of reviews really) All the brands seem pretty solid but I've had a few personal recommendations for HotSprings (one from friends who have had a couple of generations of hotsprings tubs in the family from the local dealer) and one from an electrician friend who has installed a lot of them (and owns one now himself.) Not totally ruling out anything else but wanted to give my rational for my current preference. I certainly could have missed a dealer as well. I know many people think they want a lounger then wet test and don't like them that much. I suspect I'm not one of those people - I haven't wet tested the various HS models yet but I've lived a few places over the years that had lounger tubs and I always loved them, so unless there is something specific about the current HS loungers that happens to irk me I'm probably going to want a lounger which limits my selection a bit more. So with no wet testing I'm currently looking at the Aria I guess. I'll probably try some of the sundance spas as well (though the idea of getting the Marin and living in Marin county just seems a little crazy for the sundance line I was curious if anyone has done any custom exterior facing? I'd like to tile the face of my Spa (It will be set into a deck and face will be exposed on 2+ faces) I know some of the HotSprings can be purchased 'custom ready' where they have some kind of exterior plywood or plastic board looking stuff and you build the face over that. With that system it seems like I could Tile appropriately cut sheets of plywood and hang them from a bracket so everything lines up with the lip of the spa. I don't know what I would do with the rounded corners though. Is this something people do or does everyone just stick with the fake wood plastic? I guess alternatively would could probably find the correct adhesive to tile directly onto the spa - but it seems like that would be kind of difficult to arrange things so the panels could still be taken off and have it look good? If anyone knows more about the practicalities of custom exteriors I'd love to hear some thoughts. I'm pretty decent at DIY home/construction projects. If anyone is interested in the mockup of my tub/landscaping plan: http://radiantenergy.org/tub-ew.jpg (it will still be a few months before tub purchase as I have only just started in on the most visible retaining wall and stairs.) In a similar DIY vain, does anyone do solar heating with spas? I did a large DIY solar hot water heating setup for my house and radiant floor heat, but I haven't seen a lot about people doing it for spas. I suspect I could get some good cost reduction on energy costs, but obviously I'd void my warranty by doing it, so this might be a future project post warranty expiration. A used tub would get me around the warranty issue, but I've been watching craigslist for used HS tubs for the last 5 months or so and they just don't show up very often and when they do they typically are 10 years old and a model I'm not in love with since most of them don't have loungers. For pricing, are there any particular tricks for getting good deals? I realize these are a high margin item so it seems like there should be some decent wiggle room. Are floor models a decent deal? Do dealers cut better deals when the new model years come in? (For that matter when do hot tub new model years come in? I know with cars they dates are completely out of whack with reality of what year it is, ha!) I doubt I need any of the entertainment system options - might get the 'less maintenance' ACE system if I end up with the HS tub. Anyway sorry to be so rambling, just been thinking about this quite a bit recently.
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