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New Spa - Lots Of Basic Questions

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I resently bought a portable spa with a vinal liner. I am a little overwhellemed reading about all the different chemicals and products avalible. I bought a chemical starter kit with the following:

- 5 Way Test Strips

- Bromine tablets, with floating dispenser

- Spa Shock

- pH Up

- pH Down

- Foam Away

- Something to prevent scale buildup

I put in the inital water Friday night. I did a water test both days after. I added bromine the first full day. It said to add 1 tablet per 100 gallons. So, for my 280 gallon spa, I added 2 tablets and a bunch of powder from the bottom of the bottle. The powder spilled out of the dispenser and felt like sand on the bottom of the spa. It disolves slower than I expected. A few basic quesions.

My eyes arn't the best, but I think the pH and alkilinity were in the "good" range today, I built up about 1ppm of Bromine. Is it normal for it to take a long time to build up at first?

I remember that my water was always on the hard side, from when I had a fish tank. But there is something on my test strips that says "Total Hardness". The scale goes up to 250 or something, but mine is always at 0. What does this mean? Does it need changed? How?

I am also a little confused about spa shock and how it works. It seems that procedures are different with Bromine than Clorine. I have not added shock yet. I have heard a lot of conflicting advice on when to use it. My understanding is that it is not nessicary at first because it does not add bromine, just reactivates the used "waste" bromine that is there. Correct? And there is no way to test or moniter the level of "waste" bromine. So you just kind of guess and put some in once a week? Or if the water gets cloudy?

Also, is it safe to pickup the bromine tablets with my fingers? That white dust went everywhere. It said to wear gloves and eye protection, but is it really THAT dangerous, as long as I don't eat it? How about other chemicals?

Thank you for your help getting started. I will probably have a lot of dumb questions at first. I haven't used the hottub much yet, but I love it. Can't wait to add a light, and ozoner, and... wait, I am already over budget.

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The tablets for your floater are bromide + an "activator". They are released slowly. They may, or may not, be putting out enough to maintain sanitation. You'll still want to shock after use or once a week. You don't have enough bromide in your water to be "activated" for a bromine shock so you would be doing a chlorine shock.

You need a "bank" of bromide in your water of @ 30ppm. Go buy a packet and dump it in. HTH Brom-start is one brand and it sells for @ $3.00

The bromide is "inert" until you "activate" it. Most of us use household bleach to "activate". This converts bromide to bromine, which is your sanitizer. After the bromide does it's thing it reverts back to bromide (the "bank" previously mentioned) so you won't need to add any more bromide until the next water change. You just keep "reactivating" it.

You should be able to maintain a desired level of bromine with the floater when the spa is idle and you'll want to shock (adding chlorine to bring bromine level to 10+ppm) after use or once a week if the spa hasn't been used.

The tablets could, over time (weeks-months), build up a bromide bank of 30ppm but you'll be chasing your tail until then so spend the $3.00 and dump the bromide in now.

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