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 on how to set up a hot tub.
Don’t want to read? Print this Hot Tub Setup Guide!
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.
There are different electrical requirements for each hot tub. Refer to the owner’s manual for guidance on which voltage your spa requires.
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.
240V spas are typically 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.
- Turn off spa at the breaker, or unplug it
- Remove the access panel (equipment door).
- Make sure your gate valves are open, this will allow water to flow through the pump, heater and into your spa.
- Double check that your drain valve is closed. You don’t want to lose all the water you’re pumping in!
- 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.
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:
- Install the filter cartridge.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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, they show chemicals needed for a hot tub for each sanitizing system plus the simplest way to balance water and add your sanitizer system.
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. Currently only available on the Belize UltraRay Spa Series.)
Here is a list of some hot tub startup chemicals we recommend:
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.
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. Testing is required once a week. Learn more about Bromine.
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 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.
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!
For more information about operating, maintaining and caring for your spa see our Spacyclopedia.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published February 2014 and has been updated June 2017 for freshness, accuracy and comprehensiveness.