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Hot Springs Spa Not Heating


Oingofan
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Hello all,

This last week I found that my 2006 Vanguard Hot Springs spa had a few problems with it...that all seemed to occur at once. My circulating pump went out, tube going into the ozone injector pulled off (creating a leak), and the spa decided to barely heat up...with the temperature going down rapidly over the week when it was so cold out. Well, I replaced my old pump with a new E5 pump (which pumps more and uses less energy). After some research on this great forum, I found how to diagnose the heater relay board problem and am pretty concerned about the type and amount of failures occurring. Additionally, I wanted to share some additional tips that I found along the way. As always, I'm just offering advice from a home owner perspective and this is my first experience dealing with problems in my spa. If I'm wrong on anything, please let me know and I'll try to correct it.

It's important not to ever let your spa freeze with water in it as it will destroy your plumbing and parts inside. If you can't get it running, it is better to drain/winterize it. I discovered my problems in the dead of winter after 10PM at night...with ice on the spa cover. It was not a fun night. That being said, the temperature of the water was low and I didn't have parts on hand, so I decided to drain my spa. In the meantime, I hoped on this forum and started doing my diagnosing. After that, parts were ordered. I decided to replace the recirculating pump first.

The new E5 circulating pump is much lighter and smaller than the old pump. When it showed up on my doorstep (which I ordered online to save $$$), I was surprised at how small and light the package was. Since the inlet to the pump is shorter, I needed to get new vinyl tubing from Home Depot which I cut using a PVC pipe cutter. Before you take the tubing off, you need either the spa to be empty of water or prepare to stop the water from coming out by using corks/stoppers of some type (rubber, etc.). Using pliers, I removed the pipe clamps, but initially had trouble taking the old tubing off easily. The trick to taking the tubing on and off is using a heat gun (or a match if out in the field). You just need to barely heat the tubing and it will be pliable to easily go on and off the pipe nipples. Don't forget to put your pipe clamps on before putting the pipe back on! :) Just use the old screws with some elbow grease to put the pump back down to the area where the old pump was. It doesn't matter if the holes don't match up to the old ones.

Spa problems 004s.jpg

Since I now had extra vinyl tubing, it would be ideal to replace the older yellowish ugly tubing where I could. Not only that, but the ozone injector tube had been pulled off earlier...and was now shorter than what was needed. Why after all these years was it shorter to where it fit before? Well, I believe that as the temperature in the spa dropped to the 40's, the vinyl tubing contracted (shrank) and pulled off. Fair enough. The older tubing was looking like it's had enough anyway...so it was easily and quickly replaced. The only area where I didn't replace was where the tubing was glued into fittings.

Spa problems 010s.jpg

OK, now for the problem with the spa not heating. I opened the panel to the IQ2020 inside (with all power shutoff) and found all kinds of cool looking stuff. Within the IQ2020, you'll see two primary circuit boards. The smaller one on the left is the heater relay board and the big primary board is the one on the right. It is very important to not touch anything inside with the power on...unless you want to get fried since we are talking high voltage here (220V in my case). The power was turned on and I observed that the heater LED was in fact turned on...great! That means that the thermostats (that go into the heater core) are working properly. It should be noted that heating tubes in the No Fault heater will not be hot to the touch when they are working, so you can't judge if it is working based on that. Instead, your tool of choice will be a multi-meter (or volt meter).

Measuring AC voltage on the heater relay board while the primary board was showing that the heater was on, I was able to carefully insert the probes of the multi-meter inside of the flag terminals of the large wires leading to the No Fault heater. Since my spa is wired for 220V, this is how my readings should have been if the heater relay board was working properly:

Black to Green: 120V

White to Green: 120V

Black to White: 220V

Instead, this is how my readings were:

Black to Green: 120V

White to Green: 120V

Black to White: 0V

The No Fault heater wasn't getting the power it needed. Visually looking at the heater relay board, I noticed some areas that looked like it could have overheated on the left-most relay:

Spa problems 013s.jpg

Spa problems 015s.jpg

I turned all power to the spa off and proceeded to carefully take the heater relay board out. To take the wires off of the terminal block, you simply insert a small flat head screwdriver into the slot above the wire and gently lift up...releasing the wire. Perform the reverse to put them back in. The flag terminals can gently be pulled off using needle nose pliers. After I removed the board, I then looked on the backside and saw this:

Spa problems 020s.jpg

Closer view of the failure:

Spa problems 018s.jpg

This is a rather large failure that appeared to have overheating and fire involved. It even torched the area on the side and behind the board:

Spa problems 008s.jpg

What concerns me is that this is a major failure that many others on this board have experienced and it involves fire...yet there has been no recall of these boards. Instead, replacement boards are happily being sold to everyone who experiences these problems. The replacements boards have been updated with wider circuit paths, increased electrical capacity on the relays, cuts in circuit board to separate circuit paths and an updated terminal block that does away with the flag terminals.

Front view of new heater relay board:

Spa problems 024s.jpg

Rear view of new heater relay board:

Spa problems 025s.jpg

Old vs. new front view:

Spa problems 022s.jpg

The new heater relay board comes with good 2-sided page instructions on taking the old board out and replacing it with the new board. You'll need to cut two flag terminals on the black and white heater wires for them to use the new terminal. After I replaced the board per the instructions and double checked my wiring, I turned the power back on and found everything working 100%.

Even though I was able to find the heater relay board for $110 online, I'm very concerned about such failure and feel that Watkins (Hot Springs) and/or Invensys Appliance Controls (manufacturers of the heater relay board) should voluntarily place a recall for the older boards since they are failing in the large numbers (according to the respective number of people having this problem on this forum), at the same relay location...and most of all...causing heat/fire/smoke within the circuitry of the spa. If only 5%-10% of everyone experiencing this problem join and write something on this forum, imagine the number of spas in use that are respectively having this problem.

Wayne

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  • 3 months later...

My relay board was burnt/scorched. I had also ordered a new heater initially thinking that was the problem, then after reading this thread/topic I went and checked the board and sure enough...

Previous owner had replaced heater and thermostors in 2006 (spa is a Jan. 2002 Landmark model S) but *not* the relay board, I bought the house with the spa in April 2010 and everything ran fine up until a couple of weeks ago (when I emptied all the water, cleaned the shell, and refilled). Thanks to this thread and others the new relay board is installed and working a charm!

Now I just have to replace the Freshwater III ozone thing......

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There are probably 50-100 people out of the million plus HotSpring owners who have the ability and desire to do something such as this or solder on new relays. I think it's great and all the power to you. However, for the other million people or so who have spent $5000 to $10000 or more on the initial purchase on their tub it's not really that unreasonable to spend the $100-$150 or so it takes to replace this component if needed. It only takes a person with even limited abilities about 20 minutes to replace it with the new board. Just my thoughts. Good work though.

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  • 1 year later...

Wayne,

Thanks a million for this post. My Hot Springs spa stopped heating about a year ago. I (like many others) assumed it was my heating unit. I would have replaced it had I had the money. I just drained it until I had the time and money to attempt a fix. Last week I decided to do a little more troubleshooting and found this site. Your post prompted me to look at my relay and I found that it had the same burn marks as yours. I found the replacement relay board for a good price on ebay and installed it today. Now we have a hot tub again instead of a cold tub. Without your post (with great pictures and information) I would have still been lost. I would have been out $300 if I would have bought a new heater. And for the record, I replaced the circulation pump just before the board blew. I used the same pump you did. I too am flabbergasted that Hot Springs has not owned up to their mistakes and recalled these items. Thank you again for your post.

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  • 1 year later...

Hello, I'm late to the game here, but our Vanguard V (circa 2006) also is not heating properly. Cool day yesterday and I jumped in waiting for the wonderful heat that was barely there. My time didn't last long. I flipped breakers off & on. Checked temperature setting (at 102 F). Tonight, all I can see is the red light on the spa from my window here.

I would greatly appreciate any suggestions.

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Hello, I'm late to the game here, but our Vanguard V (circa 2006) also is not heating properly. Cool day yesterday and I jumped in waiting for the wonderful heat that was barely there. My time didn't last long. I flipped breakers off & on. Checked temperature setting (at 102 F). Tonight, all I can see is the red light on the spa from my window here.I would greatly appreciate any suggestions.

 

I had to trouble shoot mine today. Same as others - bad relay. My board looks almost identical to the one in this thread. If you have a multimeter, it is easy to test.

http://www.backyardplus.com/testing_heater_relay_board.php has a step by step "how to test". But the short version is that you should have 220 across black/white. Do not test your black to green as in the original post, as that should kick your ground fault.

My tub is "new to me", got it from a friend who was moving. It was working fine at his place, but of course after the move had to be refilled. My guess is that the relay being held open for so long to heat the water just could not take it any more. It did get it to about 90 before it died. Hose temp is about 55 right now I would guess, so that is a 45-50 degree change being asked of the heater and relay, quite a bit of work.

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  • 3 months later...
  • 2 weeks later...

Hi, similar problem, but older spa, a 1993 Classic with older relays, not a circuit board. I have determined that the heater relay was not engaging when powered. I want to do a more specific test before I pull it out. Please guide me through use of a multi-meter to test the relay. I assume I will get readings that show a bad relay (thermostat was replaced and heater was tested with plug adapter, both working). I also assume once I replace the bad relay I will perform the same test prior to filling and expecting heat to function. Thanks for all your help.

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Plot Twist -

So.........dear hubby decided to help by draining the spa and forget to unplug it (110V). I came outside a bit later - with most of the water drained - and the unit was clicking to beat the band. I immediately unplugged it. The spa was refilled, balanced, and turned back on. It heated up to near 100 and then the temps outside got so cold we wouldn't set it in. Didn't pay attention to the heat until we tried it out a few weeks later. The heat is at 95 but won't go higher. I really think the tub is just maintaining the heat it had. I have done all the tests above.

Results - zero voltage across the heater relay board BUT the board has NO indications anywhere of any damage. Hmmmmmm........what now? The heater tested out at about 11 ohms. Both lights on the main board are one as indicatied. No GFCI issues. Could it be something else?

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  • 2 years later...
On 3/30/2015 at 8:34 AM, dccranch said:

Plot Twist -

So.........dear hubby decided to help by draining the spa and forget to unplug it (110V). I came outside a bit later - with most of the water drained - and the unit was clicking to beat the band. I immediately unplugged it. The spa was refilled, balanced, and turned back on. It heated up to near 100 and then the temps outside got so cold we wouldn't set it in. Didn't pay attention to the heat until we tried it out a few weeks later. The heat is at 95 but won't go higher. I really think the tub is just maintaining the heat it had. I have done all the tests above.

Results - zero voltage across the heater relay board BUT the board has NO indications anywhere of any damage. Hmmmmmm........what now? The heater tested out at about 11 ohms. Both lights on the main board are one as indicatied. No GFCI issues. Could it be something else?

Sooooooo Close to a useful answer.     I have a similar problem.  All the diagnostic tests Ive read indicate my heater is fine, but I just rpelaced the board, even though it did not show visible damage, and My tub is still not heating!!!!   Grrr

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  • 2 years later...
On 6/30/2017 at 11:55 PM, heytat said:

Sooooooo Close to a useful answer.     I have a similar problem.  All the diagnostic tests Ive read indicate my heater is fine, but I just rpelaced the board, even though it did not show visible damage, and My tub is still not heating!!!!   Grrr

I have the exact issues . Did you get a response to what to do next? 

On 6/30/2017 at 11:55 PM, heytat said:

Sooooooo Close to a useful answer.     I have a similar problem.  All the diagnostic tests Ive read indicate my heater is fine, but I just rpelaced the board, even though it did not show visible damage, and My tub is still not heating!!!!   Grrr

 

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