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Clueless Newbie Question Time!


KansasTubber
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At the end of August, I had a 2011 HotSpring Vanguard (with ozonator) installed. We have a walkout basement, and it sits on the slab by the basement door, under a deck. (I'm working on getting a "roof" installed over the tub so dirty water from the deck doesn't drip in). I am in the tub almost every night for 15-30 minutes, my wife joins me 2-3 times/week, and one of our teenagers might get in weekly. No parties yet, but I'm sure they will happen.

About a week ago, I drained and refilled, and based on what I've read here, I'm moving towards the Dichlor/bleach method from straight Dichlor (although I may use lithium hypo because the HotSpring warranty doesn't like bleach). After a month, I've come up with a few questions:

1. Test strips: I use a Taylor K2006 kit for my weekly evaluation, but I like the convenience of sticking a strip in the water each day, just to make sure the PH and TA haven't gone crazy. However, the strips I have (HotSpring house brand) seem to consistently be low for FC when compared to the Taylor kit. (My daily chlorine routine is to test, then add some Dichlor if there's less than 3ppm.) Is there a better brand of test strips out there?

2. Shock. I was given the standard HotSpring (FreshWater) startup kit, plus a 2lb container of SpaGuard Enhanced Shock (which is chlorine). My dealer isn't a fan of MPS shock, which comes in the kit, but after not really getting rid of the CC with the SpaGuard, I tried it and it seemed to work better without running the FC level up to 20. (High Chlorine = me not using tub = sadness.)

But I may be doing this wrong, so I'm wondering how I should be using this stuff. I've read about breakpoint chlorination, does this mean I need to add 10ppm of chlorine to get rid of 1ppm of CC? With my current chlorine routine, should I also be adding a little MPS to get rid of the CC each day? Is there some reason I shouldn't be using MPS?

And my final question on the SpaGuard chlorine shock is this: Why does this stuff appear to have a lower percentage of available chlorine than the "regular" Concentrated Chlorinating Granules I use every day? Makes no sense at all.

3. Water stabilization: My tap water starts out very high in PH (over 8), and I add enough calcium to get the CH up to 150. Eventually, PH and TA both crash, and I have to add the increaser to get them back up. (I'm guessing this is due to the acid in the Dichlor). I've read a little about borates, will this help maintain the PH and TA? Can someone direct me in the direction of a how-to article for borates?

Thanks for the help! This forum has been really, really useful as I start to understand what's going on in my tub.

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Kansas Tubber,

1. I have only used test strips to compare their results with those from a drop test kit. Because the results were so diverse and inconsistent, I do not use test strips at all. However, if memory serves me well, I believe Waterbear recommended LaMotte test strips. I'm sure Waterbear and/or others will correct me if I'm wrong.

2. It sounds like you were not adding sufficient Enhanced Shock to take care of the contaminants in the water. If you added sufficient chlorine into your tub (with the cover off to allow for off-gasing), the chlorine would have reduced the CC level in your tub.

You refer to the Dichlor/Bleach method, I can't tell whether you've started that protocol or not. Since you are aware of the Dichlor/Bleach method, I assume you are familiar with the effects of CYA as a buffer to chlorine. Yet, you do not provide any test results for the level of CYA in your tub. Since you just recently drained and refilled your tub, I suspect your CYA level is not too high. However...if your CYA level IS too high, then you'll need to increase your chlorine level accordingly. Your CYA level should be between 20ppm - 30ppm. Also, if you have an ozonator, the ozonator will consume some of the chlorine. You may have to include this in your calculations.

As you are aware, the amount of chlorine in Enhanced Shock is less than the amount of chlorine in the Chlorine Concentrate (58% vs. 99% respectively). I do not know what ingredients make up the remaining 42% of Enhanced Shock, but I believe they are additives to improve the "feel" of the water. Even though it's reasonable to think "Enhanced" means higher/more potent chlorine, perhaps the "Enhanced" language in the name refers to the "additives". I don't know what the manufacturers had in mind. In any event, if you want to provide a moderate chlorine boost to your tub when bather use is higher and/or chlorine level is low, Enhanced Shock may be easier to use than Chlorine Concentrate to minimize the risk of super-chlorination.

MPS (monopersulfate) is an oxidizer. It is not a sanitizer. Chlorine is both a sanitizer and an oxidizer. The MPS will assist in oxidizing contaminants and consequently leave more chlorine free to sanitize your tub. By adding MPS, you were able to oxidize more contaminants and reduce CC without super chlorinating your water. However, chlorine will also reduce your CC level. You need to allow for off-gassing from oxidation.

One reason not to use MPS is that some people have an adverse reaction to it. Another, it's more expensive than regular Clorox bleach. If you do not have a sensitivity to chlorine, then there's no particular advantage to MPS.

3. You did not provide your TA level. You need to get your TA level somewhere between 40ppm - 80ppm. If your TA is low, you can add Baking Soda to bring it up. Once your TA level is within this range, your pH will stabilize and not raise or lower so dramatically. Read (and/or review) the Hot Topic "Lowering TA" in the Hot Tub Water Chemistry section to get learn the proper way to adjust your TA and keep your pH in range.

As for borates, I like using Pro Team's Gentle Spa. It is pH neutral and also provides a nice scent to the water. However, you can get borates (20 Mule Team Borax) from your local store cheaper. The recommended amount is 50ppm.

I hope this helps. Good luck.

gman

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I'm going to run a full set of tests tomorrow, I'll report back then. Based on the amount of Dichlor I've used since refilling the tub, I'm expecting to see CYA in the 20-30 range, and will switch to bleach (or lithium hypo) this weekend.

The off-gassing after the shock treatment is something I hadn't considered. How long should I leave the cover off?

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<br />I'm going to run a full set of tests tomorrow, I'll report back then. Based on the amount of Dichlor I've used since refilling the tub, I'm expecting to see CYA in the 20-30 range, and will switch to bleach (or lithium hypo) this weekend.<br /><br />The off-gassing after the shock treatment is something I hadn't considered. How long should I leave the cover off?<br />
<br /><br /><br />

The directions on the back of the most spa chemicals advise running the jets 15 - 30 minutes when adding chemicals. I hope you are leaving the cover off your tub when you add chemicals. The jets on my tub shut-off automatically after 20 minutes. Even though I know liquid bleach mixes almost instanteously, I usually cycle the jets twice (approximately 40 minutes) after adding chemicals, not only to mix (very) well, but to allow for out-gassing. I'll leave the cover open a bit longer after the second cycle. I routinely aim for 60 minutes. I may shorten this time, depending on the weather (and my schedule). Sometimes the cover remains open longer when I'm focused on something else and just don't get to closing it right away.

gman

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<br />I'm going to run a full set of tests tomorrow, I'll report back then. Based on the amount of Dichlor I've used since refilling the tub, I'm expecting to see CYA in the 20-30 range, and will switch to bleach (or lithium hypo) this weekend.<br /><br />The off-gassing after the shock treatment is something I hadn't considered. How long should I leave the cover off?<br />
<br /><br /><br />

The directions on the back of the most spa chemicals advise running the jets 15 - 30 minutes when adding chemicals. I hope you are leaving the cover off your tub when you add chemicals. The jets on my tub shut-off automatically after 20 minutes. Even though I know liquid bleach mixes almost instanteously, I usually cycle the jets twice (approximately 40 minutes) after adding chemicals, not only to mix (very) well, but to allow for out-gassing. I'll leave the cover open a bit longer after the second cycle. I routinely aim for 60 minutes. I may shorten this time, depending on the weather (and my schedule). Sometimes the cover remains open longer when I'm focused on something else and just don't get to closing it right away.

gman

HotSpring spas have a 10-minute "Clean" cycle. I usually start that, add the chemicals, then shut the cover after it finishes. I will definitely start letting it run longer.

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And my final question on the SpaGuard chlorine shock is this: Why does this stuff appear to have a lower percentage of available chlorine than the "regular" Concentrated Chlorinating Granules I use every day? Makes no sense at all.

Without knowing the actual chlorine chemical it is impossible to say since the different chemical forms of chlorine have different percentages of available chlorine (but this has NOTHING to do with how well they work!)

For example, lithiium hypochlorite is 35% available chlorine, sodium hypochlorite is normally sold at a 5.25%, 6%, 10% or 12.5% concentration. Dichlor is usually 56% for the dihydrate and 62% for the anhydrous. What does this mean? Not much really!!!

What is important is that you are putting in the correct amount of any of them to reach a certain ppm level in your water. The different chemicals with need different amounts to achieve the same ppm level in your water but once you add the right amount to achieve that it makes NO difference what chemical you used. (Except for the fact that all of them add other things to your water and, depending on other factors, this could be good or bad. For example, lithium hypochlorite and sodium hypochlorite only add salt, which is fairly innocuous, and are pH neutral on use--alkaline when added but when chlorine is used up as a sanitizer the reaction is acidic so the net effect is pH neutral--while dichlor also adds CYA, which might or might not be desirable, and is acidic on addition and acidic on santizing so the net effect is acidic and that will lower pH and TA.

OF these three Lithium hypochlorite is the most expensive and sodium hypochlorite is generally the least expensive to use to achieve the same chlorine level in the water in ppm.

Also, some of the proprietary chemicals sold (often with 'enhanced' or 'multi action' or something similar in the name) have 'additives' such as borax--sodium tetraborate (good) or copper sulfate (bad) or sodium carbonate (increases TA and pH, could be good or bad), etc. to fight algae or buffer pH or some other 'claim' or just act as e a filler to make it cheaper to sell and increase profit margins (usually the case!) since these additional 'enhancers' are usually less expensive than the primary chemical you are purchasing. (And since this is the 'enhanced' one they sell it for more money also!)

Capitalism at it's best!

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This thread on this forum talks about the difference between the two SpaGuard products. There isn't any reason to use the SpaGuard Enhanced Shock product which is only 58.2% Dichlor. Just use the SpaGuard Chlorinating Concentrate granules which are 97% Dichlor. You may find that ProTeam Spa Dichlor (99% Dichlor) is more economical or even HTH Spa Chlorinating Sanitizer or Leisure Time Spa 56 Chlorinating Granules. The SpaGuard is $18.99 for 2 pounds while the ProTeam is $11.90 for 2 pounds so prices vary a lot.
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