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How To Use Your Old Iq2020 Circuit And Not Replace It!


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I recently came across a Caldera Hawaiian Spa from a friend who said it didnt heat anymore...thus the cheap price. When I filled it up...everything worked except the heat. I thought it was strange because the heater itself wasnt bad...it just wasnt getting a full 240V. I rapped on the relay and thats when I saw the spark. I removed the board and sure enough...the soldering joint had melted off the relay. 2012-05-13142054-1.jpg

When I researched the internet I found out that the Caldera and Hot Springs IQ2020 first generation boards werent powerful enough to handle the heater. I mean, just looking at the relays, they are rated for 20A open but only 10A closed. The far left relay was the only relay rated for the 16A it requires for the heater...that still leaves the other relays...underpowered.

Referring to OHMS Law, we note that I = E/R. In laymons terms; if voltage goes up, current goes down and when voltage goes down, current goes up! On a day when demand for electricity spikes, this is when we see electronics like this exceed its rated amperage. Line voltage goes down and VOILA...your amperage spikes!

The new generation of Heater Boards fixed this problem with beefier relays and better current carriers. However, for me, it would cost me $200 or more. I spent that just getting the GFCI's. I didnt have the money!

That night, I had a dream...no, literally...I dreamt this. The main problem with these old boards wasnt that they were faulty...they just couldnt handle the load demands. So it hit me...why not have something ELSE bear the burden? So, I found an old water resistant plastic box, an old relay with a 240V coil, and some oven wire. The relay was from an old convection oven that was 3 phase...but voltage is voltage and hey, the coil wasnt three phase.

This modification for these tubs will almost eliminate any load on the heater relay board...and still operate safely!

Materials: Watertight project box, 240V Coil Contactor, 12 Gauge braided wire (solid is too hard to work with), Wire Nuts, Electrical Tape, and Replacement board relays (or solder).

Step 1: You'll need a watertight project box big enough to fit in the control area...dont let it or any other wires rest on the heater pipe. Youll also need a contactor with a good amerage rating with a 240V coil...the coil being the most important element.

2012-05-1495194012.jpg

Step 2: Replace the relays if they are burnt up (about $3 online and get the right ones, the models are listed on the part itself) or in my case, resolder the bad joint. Chances are, the rest of the board is ok but not in every case so dont quote me on this. This would involve the removal of the board if not already done.

Step 3. Re-Install the board into the box and reinstall the wires BUT do not wire up the wires to the heater.

Step 4. The terminals that formerly went directly to the heater from the board, will instead be routed to the coil on your relay (which should be mounted inside your box securely.

2012-05-1495194021.jpg

Step 5. Split incoming power from the 20A GFCI via a wire nut so that the 240V is going to the circuit board but also 240V can be diverted to one side of your contactor. Dont try to pair up the wires on the board...it just wont work...use a wire nut.

Diagram.jpg

Step 6. I used oven wire but 12 GA should be fine. From the other side of your contactor, wire it to your heater (this would involve removing the old wires from the existing terminal block). Diagram2.jpg

2012-05-1495194002.jpgThe main key is to take the burden off the relays on the heater board...when installed, it will pull almost 0 current through the board...the current will come directly from the breaker but will still be controlled by the board.

Step 7: Even after you have removed the old wires from the heater element, DO NOT LEAVE THE GROUND WIRE OFF...reinstall a ground from the heater to the board...especially when working with water, you can never have enough grounds!

If the old board is still salvageable and you wired it correctly, she'll take right off! Tape up all loose wires, bundle wires as well as possible, and install in an area as far away from water as possible.

I hope this saved you a few hundred bucks! It worked well for me and it is still safe! The tub is well out of warranty anyways.

If you liked this article, tell me about it! Thanks for reading...and happy soaking!

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A couple of points of caution:

First, heater elements are purely resistive loads, not inductive like motors. As such, when the voltage drops to the heater, the amperage also drops and the heater output as measured in watts also decreases. This is the principle that is in play with hot tubs that can be connected to either 120 volts or 240 volts. For example, let's take Watkins 4 kW heater. At 240 volts, it draws ~16 amps (give or take) in order to achieve nearly 4 kW of heat output. If that same tub is only connected to 120 volts, that same 4 kW heater now only draws approximately 8 amps and the heat output drops to approximately 1 kW.

Second, don't do this to a tub in warranty. It will void the warranty.

Third, anyone who has been servicing tubs for over 20 years will remember the use of these old style, larger relays that didn't burn out as frequently. I still occasionally work on old Jacuzzi Avanza hot tubs from the early 80's with it's large 12 kW heater element (actually a pair of 6 kW elements) controlled by large Potter & Brumfield contactors. Now that was quality.

Fourth, I would not use stove wire in your modification. Any design modification to a tub voids it's UL or ETL listing and transforms it into a "Field Constructed" hot tub. As such, it is your butt on the line if something goes wrong. Much of the stove wire on the market is NOT rated for damp or wet environments. When working on Watkins tubs, I always reach for the 90 C rated THHN/THWN-2 conductors.

Fifth, you should run your conduit all the way into the IQ2020 box. Ending the conduit where it just enters the equipment compartment is not code compliant. It also appears that you may have exceeded the allowable conduit fill percentage and may require larger conduit.

Sixth, you'll need conduit between the IQ2020 box and your field constructed box. Alternatively, you may be able to use some SO hard service cord, as long as you get some rated 75 C or better.

John

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It's not a bad idea, but 12 guage is a tad small for a 6KW. (Yours may be 1.5 KW, but someone reading this may not realize that theirs could be up to 6KW)

As a homeowner-if you feel comfortable doing it- go ahead, it's your rear on the line. But as a professional- that's a complete waste of time. I can replace the heater PCB (a relatively inexpensive part) in 15 minutes and be on to the next call, and still be able to sleep at night knowing if something else breaks- this won't come back to haunt my insurance company.

If you're really handy- you can just replace the relay's on the PCB, but be sure to vent them (small slice in the PCB right behind the relays) so this doesn't happen again.

As for voiding the warranty- unless that actually led to the failure of said part- I wouldn't deny a claim simply because it was there. And that you're doing it at all implies the warranty has already expired anyway.

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Perhaps I was a bit vague when I wrote this post...let me clarify.

- Yes, this was 100% out of warranty by a good 5 years.

- When the box and wires were finally and safely stowed, they were in conduit (pictures were taken as I was constructing it)

- I am not a service technician and I did not write this article with the intention of inspiring field technicians...this is for the average handyman with a hot tub trying to avoid the costly replacement board.

- Oven wire was a tad overkill, however, it was available and oven wire is used where resistive elements are found.

- As for being a "field constructed tub" and going against the UL Compliant standards...again, this is for someone who owns a tub completely out of warranty.

- Yes it is a 1.5KW heater

- And finally...I am not here to insult the training or experience that hot tub installers have acquired over more years than my lifespan...I was broke, I wanted a working hot-tub, I had spare parts, and I knew electronics. I apologize to anyone who read this and reeled away from their computer screens in disgust.

It's not a bad idea, but 12 guage is a tad small for a 6KW. (Yours may be 1.5 KW, but someone reading this may not realize that theirs could be up to 6KW)

As a homeowner-if you feel comfortable doing it- go ahead, it's your rear on the line. But as a professional- that's a complete waste of time. I can replace the heater PCB (a relatively inexpensive part) in 15 minutes and be on to the next call, and still be able to sleep at night knowing if something else breaks- this won't come back to haunt my insurance company.

If you're really handy- you can just replace the relay's on the PCB, but be sure to vent them (small slice in the PCB right behind the relays) so this doesn't happen again.

As for voiding the warranty- unless that actually led to the failure of said part- I wouldn't deny a claim simply because it was there. And that you're doing it at all implies the warranty has already expired anyway.

Yes...I agree it was an ENOURMOUS waste of time...but the parts I had were free, and I didnt have the money to buy a new PCB Board.

All in all though...whether the criticism was constructive or just to pity me...thanks for reading!

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Perhaps I was a bit vague when I wrote this post...let me clarify.

- Yes, this was 100% out of warranty by a good 5 years.

- When the box and wires were finally and safely stowed, they were in conduit (pictures were taken as I was constructing it)

- I am not a service technician and I did not write this article with the intention of inspiring field technicians...this is for the average handyman with a hot tub trying to avoid the costly replacement board.

- Oven wire was a tad overkill, however, it was available and oven wire is used where resistive elements are found.

- As for being a "field constructed tub" and going against the UL Compliant standards...again, this is for someone who owns a tub completely out of warranty.

- Yes it is a 1.5KW heater

- And finally...I am not here to insult the training or experience that hot tub installers have acquired over more years than my lifespan...I was broke, I wanted a working hot-tub, I had spare parts, and I knew electronics. I apologize to anyone who read this and reeled away from their computer screens in disgust.

Yes...I agree it was an ENOURMOUS waste of time...but the parts I had were free, and I didnt have the money to buy a new PCB Board.

All in all though...whether the criticism was constructive or just to pity me...thanks for reading!

lo, I enjoy a good bit of creative enginnering, and yours appears fine. It just scares me that others that might know just enough to be dangerous will read and attempt with disasterous results. After 25+ years in the filed- I'm sometimes still amazed at some epic homeownder blunders.

But if I came accross this, I'd chuckle, mention somethine about crude but effective, and say well done, lol :)

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Perhaps I was a bit vague when I wrote this post...let me clarify.

- Yes, this was 100% out of warranty by a good 5 years.

- When the box and wires were finally and safely stowed, they were in conduit (pictures were taken as I was constructing it)

- I am not a service technician and I did not write this article with the intention of inspiring field technicians...this is for the average handyman with a hot tub trying to avoid the costly replacement board.

- Oven wire was a tad overkill, however, it was available and oven wire is used where resistive elements are found.

- As for being a "field constructed tub" and going against the UL Compliant standards...again, this is for someone who owns a tub completely out of warranty.

- Yes it is a 1.5KW heater

- And finally...I am not here to insult the training or experience that hot tub installers have acquired over more years than my lifespan...I was broke, I wanted a working hot-tub, I had spare parts, and I knew electronics. I apologize to anyone who read this and reeled away from their computer screens in disgust.

Yes...I agree it was an ENOURMOUS waste of time...but the parts I had were free, and I didnt have the money to buy a new PCB Board.

All in all though...whether the criticism was constructive or just to pity me...thanks for reading!

lo, I enjoy a good bit of creative enginnering, and yours appears fine. It just scares me that others that might know just enough to be dangerous will read and attempt with disasterous results. After 25+ years in the filed- I'm sometimes still amazed at some epic homeownder blunders.

But if I came accross this, I'd chuckle, mention somethine about crude but effective, and say well done, lol :)

Thank you for that, it made my day. As I said, Im not a spa technician so I wasnt sure if my setup was offensive to techs out there. Its nice to know Im not crazy. Thanks again!

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Every day, I repair high voltage equipment. I install compressors, condensor fans, circuit boards, and disconnect boxes. I have my hands in the proximity of live line voltage. From the average person's point of view, I may have what is considered a career with risk. I would never encourage nor recommend anybody to do what I do (especially if it means making a few bucks)...the purpose of this write-up was how I personally overcame adversity and IF somoene found themselves in the same situation as me (broke but ambitious) this COULD be an option for them. If it pleases the court, however;

If you have a currently working hot tub, if you have a good healthy bank account, if you are not experienced in electricity or maintenance, if you do not know what any of the terminology in the post meant, if you are not comfortable fixing things yourself, if you have an IQ less than 50, if any modifications frighten you, if you plan on suberging your entire spa in water, if you are a trained spa technician, if you jam forks in electrical outlets for fun, if you think amperage is "turnin the geetar louder", if you think IQ2020 means you're smart AND you can see good...then please DONT DO THIS TO YOUR TUB.

2 Weeks later, through a torrent of rain that lasted 2 days...my tub has maintained a steady 102 and not even a single hiccup. I get in it every night and my name isnt in the obituary yet.

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  • 11 months later...

a new relay, top of the line of course, and beefing up the circuit with a few wire jumpers woulda cost you $20 maybe.

Perhaps...but one of the things I tried to accomplish with this project was to take the primary load off the board entirely. I am sure a new top of the line relay would fix it but that involves finding the correct relay with the correct pin arrangement, desoldering, soldering, and then running a high current load back through an old circuit board. You may or may not have any additional problems and it would make the OEM arrangement correct, but, I had the parts, I didnt have the time to shop and wait for delivery, and to this day (over a year later), I have not had a single problem with this setup. In Tennessee, it rains all winter long and this baby kept on chuggin away.

That being said, "Beefing up the circuit" would be more of a hassle than running a few wires to a relay...soldering that much onto a decade-old board, you might as well buy the replacement.

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