One of the most important things you can do for your hot tub is to test the hot tub water. Regular water testing allows you to keep your water "in balance"; extending the life of your hot tub and making for a better bathing experience. What is water balance though?
What Is Water Balance?
Water balance is the relationship between different chemical measurements in your hot tub water. It is based around the concept that water will dissolve and hold minerals until it becomes saturated and cannot hold any more. This is known as the water’s “saturation point”.
Water that is below the saturation point is corrosive. It will slowly dissolve everything it comes in contact with until it reaches the saturation point.
Water that is above the saturation point is scale forming. It can’t hold all of the minerals that are dissolved in it. These excess minerals group together and form scale on any surfaces within the water.
Water that is well balanced is neither corrosive nor scale forming. This is the water that you want in your hot tub!
Benefits Of Regular Hot Tub Water Testing
There are 4 major benefits to testing your hot tub water on a regular basis. These are:
Regular Water Testing Will Help Keep Your Hot Tub Water Clear
Cloudy water in a hot tub can be a sign of two common water balance issues. These are:
- Not enough sanitizer. Without enough sanitizer (either chlorine or bromine) in the water, bacteria will begin to grow. This bacteria makes the water unsafe to use and can give the water a hazy look. Regularly testing your sanitizer levels will help ensure that this doesn't occur.
- The pH, alkalinity and/or calcium hardness is too high. High pH, alkalinity and calcium hardness will all increase water saturation. If one or more of these get too high, the water's saturation will move above the saturation point, releasing dissolved minerals and causing the water to turn cloudy. Regular home water testing and periodic professional tests helps to keep these levels in the correct range.
Ensuring a property water balance is one of the best ways to ensure that your hot tub water stays clean and clear.
Properly Balanced Water Is More Comfortable To Be In
Not only does properly balanced water look clear and beautiful, it is also much more comfortable to bathe in!
The pH of your eyes are around 7.5. As the pH of your hot tub water moves farther and farther away from 7.5 it will begin to irritate them. For this reason, high or low pH - not chlorine or bromine - is the most common cause of itchy, red eyes after using a hot tub.
Not only does unbalanced water irritate your eyes, it can also dry out your hair and make your skin itchy. Balanced water is simply much more comfortable to be in.
Hot tubs are a big investment. Regular water testing will protect that investment by ensuring that it lasts for as long as possible.
Corrosive water rusts any metal components within it, notably pumps and heaters. It also causes plastics to become brittle and degrades rubber o-rings and seals.
Scale forming water deposits calcium scale on any exposed surface. This can be especially harmful to your hot tub heater. A layer of scale as thin as a single piece of paper can reduce the efficiency of your heater by 50%! This causes them to work harder than they need to and greatly reduces their lifespan.
Well balanced water has none of these issues and can seriously prolong the lifespan of your hot tub.
Poorly balanced water can cause corrosion or scale to build up on key components of the hot tub, like the heater element; drastically reducing their life.
Testing Your Hot Tub Will Save You Money
Regular water testing can also save you money in the long term. While it may sometimes feel like a waste of money to keep adding chemicals to your water, these costs are greatly outweighed by the costs associated with unbalanced water. These costs include:
- Reduced equipment life. As we just saw, unbalanced water can cause serious damage to the equipment of your hot tub. The cost of prematurely replacing pumps and heaters greatly outweighs the cost of maintaining proper water balance.
- Treating problems. The cost of properly maintaining your hot tub water is a fraction of the cost of fixing problems like green or cloudy water. You are often not able to use your hot tub while treating these problems, which kind of defeats the point of buying it in the first place!
- Increased sanitizer usage. The effectiveness of sanitizers (chlorine or bromine) changes with the pH of the water. If your pH is off, you will need to use more sanitizer because it is working less efficiently than it would be in well balanced water.
How Often Should You Test Your Hot Tub Water?
We recommend testing your hot tub water at home at least 1-2 times per week. You should also take a sample of your hot tub water in to your local hot tub retailer to have it professionally tested once per month.
How To Properly Test Your Hot Tub Water
There are two types of home test kits; test strips and reagent kits.
To properly test hot tub water using a test strip, dip the test strip into the water then immediately take it out. Hold the strip sideways for 15 seconds, then match the colours on the strip with the colours displayed on the side of the bottle.
Test strips are generally the easiest and most reliable way to test your hot tub water at home.
To properly test hot tub water using reagent kits, fill both sides of the testing block to the indicated level, too much or too little water will throw off your results. Take the reagent bottles and slowly add the required amount of drops of the reagent to the water in the testing block. Make sure to hold the reagent bottles straight to get full drops. Holding the bottles on an angle can result in small drops that will throw off your results.
After testing the water, you can then begin to add in your balancing chemicals and sanitizers, making sure that the jets are on so that the chemicals dissolve evenly throughout the water.
Other Hot Tub Water Testing Tips
- Take your water sample while the hot tub is circulating. Slight differences exist in the balance of still water. Circulating the water evens out these differences and gives you a better idea of the overall balance of the water. If the water in the hot tub isn't circulating, turn on the jets for 30 seconds or so to properly mix the water.
- Take your sample from water that is 12”-18” below the surface (about elbow deep). Water at the surface interacts with air, which affects it’s balance. Water on the surface therefore does not give you an accurate representation of how well balanced the water is overall.
- Check the expiry date on your reagents or test strips. Water testing reagents and test strips generally have a shelf life of around 1 year. The older they get, the less they will change colour. Expired reagents and test strips will therefore always display low level readings, causing you to treat a problem that may not exist.