Hot Tub Setup – A Start-up Guide for New Spa Owners

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The ULTIMATE Hot Tub Set Up Guide for new owners

Not sure what to do now that your hot tub has arrived? Of course we wish it were as simple as filling it with water and hopping in. However, it does take a little work to get your spa set up.  I’ve put together 7 easy steps to make hot tub start up a breeze.

Read your hot tub owner manual

1. Read the Owner’s Manual

First, please take the time to read your owner’s manual! There is valuable information in there to give you an idea of how your spa works and how to prevent any mishaps or damage to your new hot tub before you get to use it.

2. Electricity

There are different electrical requirements for each hot tub. Refer to the owner’s manual for guidance on which voltage your spa requires.

110-120V - Spa GFCI Cord
110-120V – Spa GFCI Cord

120V spas are often called plug-n-play. They are lightweight, portable spas that use standard household voltage of 110-120V. Many operate on a standard 15 amp household circuit. These have a GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) plug at the end of the cord and plug right into the outlet. Dedicated circuits are required to prevent overload.

220-240V - GFCI Load Center/Breaker
220-240V – GFCI Load Center/Breaker

240V spas are full sized, acrylic spas. They are designed (for the most part) to operate on hard-wired, GFCI protected 220-240V, 50 amp circuits. These spas must be wired by a qualified electrician. The National Electrical Code specifies a manual disconnect access must be installed at least 5 feet away and within line of sight of the spa for safety.

120V spas take longer to heat than 240V spas. Some 120V hot tubs are convertible to 240V to reduce heat time. However, the conversion requires an established hard-wired breaker which may be costly. Read our comprehensive guide on hot tub wiring.

3. Prepare for Fill Up

Most hot tubs are shipped with a small amount of antifreeze in them to protect the plumbing from possible freezing conditions. To avoid any water balancing issues, fill water in the spa’s footwell, run the pumps for a couple minutes and drain.

Hot-Tub-Equipment

  1. Turn off spa at the breaker, or unplug it
  2. Remove the access panel (equipment door).
  3. Make sure your gate valves are open, this will allow water to flow through the pump, heater and into your spa.
  4. Double check that your drain valve is closed. You don’t want to lose all the water you’re pumping in!
  5. Spray and wipe clean the interior shell of the hot tub with a suitable mild, non-foaming non-abrasive cleanser. Common household cleaners should be avoided. They can cause damage to the spa shell, foaming issues and alter the pH balance.

CleanAll on Spa Shell

Q: “Do I need to rinse the spa of any cleaners before filling it?”

A: Products such as CleanAll are earth friendly and biodegradable. It contains nothing that will harm you, your spa, or affect water chemistry if left in the water. CleanAll is very mild and will be diluted when you add the water to your tub. 

4. Fill It Up!

How to fill a hot tub:Prefesh1

  1. Install the filter cartridge.
  2. Place a garden hose over the filter area (which will help prevent an air lock). Also, it’s a good idea to use a hose-end filter will make balancing water easier and to reduce the amount of impurities that can contaminate your water.
  3. Fill water to recommended water level as specified in the owner’s manual. Low water levels can cause damage to the pump and heater element.
  4. Reopen equipment door and check for any leaks around the plumbing. It is not unusual for fittings to come lose during shipment. If you do detect any small leaks, you’ll want to hand-tighten them right away. (Using a wrench can easily crack the nut and cause the leak to worsen).

“With new components, hand tightening should be ample to make sure the fitting is sealed tightly. Using a wrench could easily crack the nut and cause the leak to worsen.”                        – Mark, SpaDepot.com Hot Tub Expert

5. Power up the Spa!

After checking all the fittings are tight and are sure no leaks are occurring, you can replace the cabinet door and turn the power back on at the circuit breaker.

Review your owner’s manual on how to operate your new spa controls and how to turn on the hot tub.

Hot tubs can take approximately 7 – 24 hours to rise to temperature. Heat time depends on spa size, voltage and other factors such as outside temperature. 120V spas take longer to heat than 240V.

Belize Topside 2

Press all the buttons on the topside control panel for functionality of all the components. Turn on jets, blowers, or other settings to make sure water is flowing.

If water does not flow from the jets when the pump is running, there could be an air pocket. You will know this has happened when after filling and starting the spa, the pump does not function. New spa owners often have difficulty the first time they start their spa and the pump fails to prime. Follow steps in your owner’s manual on how to prime the pump.

6. Balance Your Water

Test and balance your hot tub water before you introduce any sanitizers. It is important to balance prior to adding sanitizers to avoid unwanted problems such as cloudiness, discoloration or foul smelling water. Also, keeping your water balanced is crucial to promote long equipment life, and healthy, clean, clear spa water.

Balance your water with test strips

Your water source to fill the spa will more than likely stay the same, so balancing water is simple once a system is established. Keep a record of supplies used, filter cleanings, and weekly chemistry levels to help your routine. We have created a Spa Log book for your convenience and logs up to 2 years of records.

What chemicals to add to hot tub for the first time is dependent on your chosen sanitizer. Check out these guides, depending on your sanitizing system. They show the simplest way to balance water and add your sanitizer system.

Bromine Quick-Start Guide PDF

Cleanwater Blue Quick-Start Guide PDF

Nature2 Quick-Start Guide PDF

7. Sanitizer System

Hot tubs, unlike baths aren’t refilled with fresh water each time you use them. Spas require a sanitizer system to purify, disinfect and kill any bacteria and unhealthy microorganisms. Even if you install a UV system or an ozonator, the use of some chemicals are still required, just in lower amounts. (SpaDepot’s new UltraRay Complete system combines UV and Ozone to take water purification to the next level.)

Sanitizers
Bromine Tablets | Cleanwater Blue | Nature2

Cleanwater Blue System

An easy-to-use, healthy alternative mineral water purifier in liquid form. One bottle can last 4 – 6 months. Cleanwater Blue is odorless and will not cause red eyes or skin irritation. This sanitizing system frees you from the chore of frequent maintenance, as it requires testing and dosage only twice a month.

Bromine System

Brominating Tablets provide excellent sanitizing for spas and hot tubs, without nearly the odor of chlorine. Bromine tablets are slow-dissolving for optimal use in warmer water. These tablets are placed in a floating dispenser which releases a metered amount of treatment into your spa as the water circulates. Learn more about Bromine.

Nature2 System

The Nature2 spa purifier sits inside your spa filter cartridge. The unit sanitizes by releasing a small amount of minerals into the hot tub water during circulation and lasts for 4 months. If used with an oxidizer such as Oxy-Spa or Dichlor granular chlorine, Nature2 is an odorless system.

Chlorine System

Chlorine is the most common pool sanitizer. While many hot tub owners also use chlorine, we don’t recommend using it as the only sanitizer (although it works great as a shock). Chlorine depletes quickly and requires daily maintenance. If you do use chlorine, use it combination with a mineral purifier like Spa Frog or Nature2. Always use Dichlor sanitizing granules, never Trichlor tablets in hot tubs. These chlorine tabs are too acidic and too powerful for the small amount of water in a spa.

Salt Water System

Saltwater hot tubs systems are actually chlorine generators, learn more about Saltwater systems.

There are other sanitizers to choose from than these listed above. To learn more or if you are still unsure of which sanitizer to use, visit our Hot Tub Sanitizer Comparison guide.

Get All Your Start-Up Essentials

SpaDepot.com offers Pro Supply Kits to equip you will all the essential products you need to get your spa up and running. This is much more cost effective than purchasing each product separately.

Pro-Supplies-Kit

Time to Enjoy!

Once your spa is heated, and you’ve allowed the chemicals to circulate for at least 30 minutes, it’s time to put your suit on and hop in!

Relaxing Spa Soak

For more information about operating, maintaining and caring for your spa see our Spacyclopedia.

Printable Start-Up Guide for New Spa Owners PDF

 

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published February 2014 and has been updated June 2017 for freshness, accuracy and comprehensiveness.

27 comments

  1. Hi Martin, You are very welcome! Thank you for the feedback, I”m glad you found the article helpful. Have a great week! Thank you, Bonni The Spa Depot

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  2. Where do I locate the main drain on my spa i have used a pump to get the ter out but there is still water in the base of the spa

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  3. Excellent information!! This information will help the needy to get an idea of how spa works and prevent any mishaps or damage to the new tub. You have provided good startup guide for hot tub setup!

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  4. Hi Stephen, Great question. If you have a drain near the base of the spa it will more than likely be located in the spas equipment area, or somewhere on the baseboard. Since not all spas have drains at the bottom, we often recommend using a wet/dry vac to remove any remaining water. If you have any further questions please feel free to call our tech support at (800) 823-3638 M-F 8am-5pm Pacific. Thank you, Bonni The Spa Depot

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  5. Hi Ted,
    Yes, we can help get you what you need! Depending on what year your Oval II is, we can email or send you a hard copy. Please give us a call at your convenience: 1-800-823-3638 and ask for Mark.
    Please let me know if you have any additional questions.
    Thank you,
    Kaisa
    The Spa Depot

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  6. I have a two person Belize oval I spa (about 5 years old) but I have misplaced my manual. I have never understood the mysterious symbols on the control/display panel. What do those icons mean?
    Thanks for any help you can offer.

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  7. Hi James,
    Thank you for your comment. We can help you with the manual and identifying the buttons on your top side control. Please give us a call at your convenience: 1-800-823-3638. One of our technical support specialists can email you the manual and go over the buttons with you.
    Thank you,
    Kaisa
    The Spa Depot

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  8. I replaced the main pump and motor on my spa. It is a two pump system. When I turned the power back on it appears to be in some endless loop. It turns the lights on, cycles through the colors, flashes them on and off. Turns circulating pump on and off same with heater and main pump. This has gone on for two hours. It will take no input from the control panel. Help!!!

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  9. Hi John,
    Thank you for checking with us! Turn the power to the spa off and unplug the topside control panel from the circuit board. Make sure both the plug and receptacle look good, and if you find any corrosion, clean it off prior to plugging it back in. Turn the power back on. If that does not fix the problem, please email a photo of the topside control panel and circuit board to Help@Spadepot.com. We will be able to find the correct replacement topside. Replacing your topside should take care of the problem.
    Thank you,
    Mark
    SpaDepot.com

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  10. Hi Carol,
    Acid is typically used to bring down stubbornly high pH. If your source water has a high pH level, it would be good to use acid to bring it down to the proper range. If your pH level is in the proper range to begin with, you do not need to add acid to new water. We do offer a muriatic acid replacement called Acid Magic. Acid Magic is safer for all spa or pool pH reduction and cleaning applications because it can’t burn intact skin. We have it available here:
    http://www.spadepot.com/shop/Acid-Magic—Muriatic-Acid-Replacement-P662C634.aspx
    Hope this helps!
    Thank you,
    Mark
    SpaDepot.com

    Like

  11. We have just purchased a house with a hot tub and have no idea how to make use it. It’s a model:M-3321a. We need to know how to use the chemicals and do we leave the hot tub on 24/7?

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  12. Hi Clive,
    Our Spacyclopedia is a wonderful resource to get your started with your newly acquired hot tub. It should contain any information you might need:
    http://www.spadepot.com/hot-tub-spa-information.htm
    If you run into any problems or questions the Spacyclopedia can’t answer for you, feel free to give us a call! We have a great customer care team that will be able to troubleshoot any issues you have.
    (800) 823-3638 M-F 6am-5pm Pacific
    Thanks,
    Bonni
    SpaDepot.com

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  13. Hi Valerie,
    Check your sanitizer level. Musty water usually means you don’t have enough bromine/chlorine/mineral sanitizer. If you do use a mineral sanitizer, then be sure to supplement with non-chlorine shock after each use.
    If your sanitizer level is within range, the musty smell may be coming from your spa cover. Older spa covers collect water inside, growing mildew, which can drip back into the water. Learn more about musty spa covers here:
    https://hot-tub-blog.spadepot.com/2015/01/why-does-my-hot-tub-cover-stink.html
    Thanks,
    Sarah
    SpaDepot.com

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  14. thanks for the great info! very easy to follow. quick question, does it matter if the cover is left on or off after chemicals have been added and the spa is circulating? and should the filter be left on or is it ok to turn it off when it’s not being used? thanks again!

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  15. Hi Tyler,
    Great question! It’s best to leave your spa cover off for about 30 minutes after adding chemicals to let gasses escape.
    The filtration cycle is important to the cleanliness of the spa and should be on a regular cycle, like twice a day for 2 hours each, or whatever your spa manual recommends.
    Let me know if you have any further questions.
    Thanks,
    Sarah
    SpaDepot.com

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  16. First time with a hot tub, and it came with the house. Excited to use. Was told it needseems a new heater. Not sure though. Gentleman who gave us the house wasn’t very handy with tools so I’m thinking it could possibly be something else. Any suggestions??

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  17. Hi Charles,
    I would recommend giving our technical department a call and speaking with one of our hot tub experts. They will be able to walk you through any issues you are having with your new tub, as well as recommend any supplies you may need.
    (800)823-3638 M-F 6am-5pm Pacific
    Thanks,
    Bonni
    SpaDepot.com

    Like

  18. Hi Jason,
    Since every spa is different, cabinet access can vary greatly. Some spa cabinets use screws to attach the main access panel, others have a locking panel, etc. If you need some help finding access, please email a few photos and a short message to our technical care team at help@spadepot.com. They will be happy to help.
    Thanks,
    Sarah
    SpaDepot.com

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  19. Very useful piece of information! The images helped great deal in understanding the entire process of hot tub set-up. Thank you!

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  20. I didn’t know there was this many steps for setting up a spa. My wife and I want to buy one for the summer and fall, so this is helpful to know. It’d be great to have a UV sanitizer, so we wouldn’t have to use as many chemicals.

    Like

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