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March 6th, 2008

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March 6th, 2008

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Heavy Covers Waste Energy

March 5th, 2008

Heavy Spa Covers Waste Money. Have you seen this advertisement?  It would be impressive if the business putting it out there actually had something different to offer.  But since every rigid foam spa cover will eventually  saturate with moisture buying another one is just a waste of money.  But it seems like every spa dealer is selling the same thing.  Right here is where your mother would say, If all your friends were jumping off a cliff does that mean you would too?  Just because everybody is doing it does not make it right.

Maybe instead of just buying another cover that you know is going to end up the same way we should look at what went wrong with the last one.
What causes every foam filled spa cover to get heavy?

The type of foam used in the typical spa cover is made up of beads of foam bound together to make a light weight rigid board.  This sort material is used in all types of construction applications.  The way it works is the little air spaces in between the foam beads holds the air still.   These foam boards are commonly used to insulate refrigerated rooms, and crawl spaces under a house.  However this type of insulation is not designed to be exposed to warm, humid air.  Providing it is used in a dry situation, foam board has a predictable insulation value.

If you wanted to produce the perfect environment for a rigid foam board to fail you would need to put it over a source of warm, humid, steam.  Why?  Because steam can get into those tiny air spaces in the foam.  Once the steam cools it turns to water.  The water displaces the air until the foam has no insulation value what so ever.

Some spa cover dealers like to give you the impression that wrapping the foam with plastic will stop their cover from getting saturated.  Or layers of plastic, or thicker plastic will be the answer.  Although this seems to make sense, in reality every cover that uses foam will eventually get saturated.  No matter what it is wrapped in once the foam is saturated the cover is not insulating.  And the only way to avoid the foam from saturating is to never put it on your spa.

You may have looked outside this winter at your spa cover that was so heavy you could not lift it, and thought it was insulating your spa water  because snow would not melt off it.  Snow does not melt off a frozen pond either but that does not mean the pond water is warm.  When snow falls on a saturated foam spa cover, it freezes the moisture in the cover because it is in direct contact with the foam.  Basic science tells us that cold sinks and heat rises.  What does happen the steam from your warm spa water hits the bottom of the frozen spa cover.  Then the steam cools and turns back into water. The water, now cooled, falls back into the warm spa water, cooling it off.

So before you replace that cover with another one that will just end up in the same condition, I suggest looking for a different type of spa cover.   Check out the SpaCap.  The only Spa Covers that will insulate the water from the water surface, without rigid foam.

Will A Tapered Spa Cover Get Heavy?

February 10th, 2008

Most spa dealers offer a cover with a taper. They promote this type of cover as though the ability to shed rain and moisture will keep it from getting saturated.

If this worked would there ever be another heavy spa cover? True, it does help the spa cover shed rain. True, rain running off the spa is a good thing. Unfortunately this does not have anything to do with why a cover gets heavy.

Here is a simple test you can do yourself to test what I just said. Go and purchase a new spa cover with as big a taper as you can find. Bring it home but before you put it on your spa weigh it. A hanging weight will probably be most accurate and simple to read. Record the weight and date it. Put the new cover on your spa only to be positively sure that no rain or outside moisture gets into your new hot tub cover, put a tarp over the whole spa, cover and all.

Weigh the cover once a week and record it with the date. When the cover begins to get heavy you will know how long it took and that it was not due to outside moisture. If you are keeping all the rain water totally away from the spa, why is it getting heavy?

The fact is outside moisture is Never what causes the foam in a spa cover to get heavy. Foam covers get heavy because they are in use over steam from your spa water. Here is a way you can prove this to yourself. Purchase two new spa covers. Weigh them both and record and date it. Put one cover on your spa and use it as normal. Store the other one in you garage or some other place out of the moisture. If you weigh them each every week, before long you will find the one in use on the spa will begin to get heavy. The one in storage in a dry place will not get heavy.

Now we come to the reason why. What gets into the foam is the steam from underneath the spa cover. The steam particles are much smaller than water molecules like rain. Steam can get through the smallest hole. Since there is no lack of steam above spa water, it will always eventually work its way into the spaces in the foam. So in fact, the only way to avoid having any rigid foam spa cover saturate is to never put it on your spa or never put water in your spa.

So what is so bad about a spa cover getting heavy? Aside from making the spa cover more difficult to use, is saturation bad? The insulation in a foam cover comes from the air in the foam. If those air spaces are filled with water then that insulation value is gone. Worse yet, when the weather gets cold the moisture in that foam freezes. This is what fools a lot of people in to thinking that their foam cover is doing a great job of insulating. When snow falls on a frozen block of ice, it sits there and piles up.

Meanwhile the spa is working harder to keep the water warm. As steam hits the bottom of the frozen foam, it cools and condenses, falling back into the spa. Snow will sit just fine on a frozen lake but that does not mean that the ice is insulating anything.

So what is the solution? Well, you could buy two or three hot tub covers and rotate them as you notice them getting heavy. Always have one or two drying out in your garage. Once the saturated spa cover is off the spa, it will begin to dry out. You can rotate it back on to the hot tub when the next one gets heavy. Since all vinyl is rated by hours outdoors, you will still need to be buying new covers to replace the ones that fall apart.

The other choice would be to find a spa cover that does not use foam. If you shop online there are alternative spa covers that your local spa dealer does not have to offer. Be sure to check out the Spa Covers from SpaCap.com.

Is A Spa Cover Lifter The Answer?

February 9th, 2008

So you have owned your spa for a while and replaced the cover when it got heavy. Now your wondering if you should get a lifter. Well if you want to get one for ease of use they work great. If you are getting one so you can avoid replacing your spa cover then save your money. A cover lifter only works with a spa cover that is not saturated or heavy.

The spa cover lifter was invented as a means to assist in the removal and storage of a hot tub cover while the spa is in use. The mechanism and idea work great and can make the process fairly quick and easy. The trouble is that most spa owners are sold a lifter as a means to remove a heavy cover. Unfortunately no lifter is designed to work with a saturated cover.

The way a typical lifter works is by means of a bar that extends from one side of the spa to the other along the fold in the spa cover. The operator still has to fold the cover back over the bar to begin the opening process. If the cover is already heavy it will not assist this first phase at all.

The second part of the process is to push the lifter back toward the way you want the cover to go. Once again if your cover is saturated and heavy this is where the real damage is done. Since the spa cover was never designed to hang by the material hinge and most are some grade of marine vinyl the heavy cover will pull itself apart merely due to its own weight. In this case that would be the best thing that could happen.

Most spa cover lifters attach to the sides of the spa. If the weight of a heavy cover puts too much strain of these pivot points it could rip the screws out of the sides of the spa or worse tear the sides of the spa off. This might sound impossible but it does happen

The bar lifter does make a nice place to store the spa cover while you are using the hot tub. Again it is important to note it requires a light weight spa cover to work easily. That means, if the reason you bought the cover lifter was to avoid having to replace your heavy spa cover, it is not going to be the answer. You will still need to replace your typical rigid foam filled hot tub cover every couple of years to make that lifter effective. In most cases this would be a lot more frequently then you replace it now.

If you already own a spa cover lifter, you probably know all this. Do not despair. You just need to be prepared to replace that cover every one to two years. When you buy the new cover, store the old one under cover in a dry place somewhere. When the new one spa cover is about a year old you can rotate the old one back onto the spa. When it is stored in a dry place away from the warm steam of your spa the foam will dry and be easy to lift again. You should be able to get some extra life out of your covers this way. Eventually all vinyl will crack and fall apart so this is not a permanent fix. If you get used to rotating covers you can get more life out of them. Think of it like being a football coach. If you have a key player that is essential to your game plan it just makes sense to give him a break now and then.

If you plan on using this rotation method of replacing covers do not bother buying the most expensive foam spa cover you can find because they all fall victim to the same thing eventually and the cheap covers will last just as long with rotation.

Another option would be to purchase a different type of cover that would not saturate, get heavy or pull apart at the seams. It could still be used with a lifter mechanism. If you shop online I know there are options that your local spa dealer does not have to offer. Look for something that will not weigh more that a typical foam Spa Cover and that can work in a similar way to lay over the bar. Keep in mind the goal is to use your spa, not your lifter. You may have to make adjustments on how or where your lifter pivots from to accommodate a different kind of cover, but if it makes getting in and out of your spa easy that is the real bottom line.

Using Your Spa Less?

February 7th, 2008

Is your spa cover keeping you out of your spa?  If you have had your hot tub for a while you probably have gone through a few Spa Covers. Before you buy your next one maybe it would be a good idea to figure out why they keep having a problem.

When you went in and told the salesman that your cover got heavy. More than likely he told you that now they have developed a better foam cover. One wrapped, glued, dipped, sealed in multiple layers of special stuff. But  that one got heavy eventually.

The next logical step was to buy a cover lifter.  You bought another cover and started using the cover lifter.  Unfortunately every foam spa cover will always eventually become moisture saturated and heavy. Regardless of what wrapping is around the foam it is doomed to get heavy because when the warm spa water turns to steam it gets into the crevices in the foam, cools and condenses back into water.  Once enough water gets into the foam not even a cover lifter will help you get it off or back onto your spa.

Even if it were possible to keep the foam from saturating with water no rigid cover is ever going to be in contact with the water that it is supposed to keep warm. Every spa cover that uses foam is constantly losing heat between the bottom of the cover and the spa water surface.

But the sad fact is that with a foam cover that slowly gets heavy hot tub use slowly goes down. Generally speaking the foam fails slowly so you don’t notice it. If you use your spa every day, you do not notice the slight difference. It just becomes a little more work. So you just put up with it. Eventually your brain registers the amount of effort required and the thought of wrestling that cover off the spa becomes less about how good the spa feels and more about the effort required.

That is a tragedy considering how much you looked forward to it when you first got your spa. It is also unfortunate considering how much you spend to heat the water that you are less willing to get into. It is a shame considering how much you paid a lot of money to get that spa in the first place.

Did you know that the more time you spend in your spa the less sleep your body requires? If you got your spa for therapeutic purposes how often do you think you can afford to go without that therapy before you start to suffer?  Are you willing to loose all that just for the sake of a few inches of foam?  If you have started stacking stuff on top of your spa you are not using it enough.  Seems like an expensive place to pile your stuff but people do.

Before you just buy another foam filled spa cover that you know is just going to end up the same as the one you have now can I suggest an alternative?  Shop online for a different type of cover. Look for a spa cover  that does not use foam so it will not get heavy. If you do, you can enjoy your spa for years to come.

The High End Custom Spa

January 20th, 2008

Every week I get a call from someone wanting to know if we can build a custom spa cover.  The answer is yes with a qualification.  Not every spa can be covered.  Before you let work begin on that custom spa idea you should consider how you plan to cover it.  After the spa is built it will often be too late.

Spa manufacturers are building all sorts of shapes and sizes these days that can be purchased and delivered to your home and covered easily.  But for high end custom built spas, that often cost six figures it is not so easy.  Unfortunately far to often it is after the spa is complete and the owner gets their first heating bill that they think about a cover.

These spas are often featured in spa magazines and truly look amazing.  Who would not want one?  They look like theme park attractions you can own.  They often feature natural looking rock walls and water falls, spill ways and infinite edges so that while you sit on the spa you can see the landscape beyond.  All very impressive and expensive.  Unfortunately heating and keeping debris out of such a work of art can also be an expensive proposition.

If you ask the designer of one of these spas how they intended it to be covered when the spa was not in use, the answer is they do not want it covered.  That may not seem so bad if the spa is in southern California or some tropical island.  However even these places need to keep rain water and blowing debris out of the spa.  In snow country it becomes even more important to cover the spa when not in use.

If you are considering having one of these spas built, make sure the designer is including a cover into the process and that it does offer insulation.  Just having a safety cover anchored over the spa is not going to keep heat in or debris out.  To insulate the water when the spa has different heights around the edge such as a spillway, the spa cover should actually rest on the water.  By coming in contact with the water the insulating cover will cut down evaporation and chemical consumption too.

In order for the cover to be easy to attach and remove you also need to consider access around the spa.  If you have one side of the spa hanging off in space it may be attractive but fastening any cover on that side would be precarious without some consideration of how to safely maneuver around outside of it.

Likewise a spa buried in a rock wall.  If a wall of any kind rises up vertically, although beautiful will always be problematic for fastening and keeping stuff out of the spa.  Planning on a cover before built is the only way I know of to deal well with this.

There are solutions available to cover almost any spa if the cover is built into the initial design.  It will most likely be a costly spa cover and pricey to replace however not as expensive as leaving the spa uncovered.  The reason for the cost is that each time it is built is basically a one off production.  This is why most concept cars go straight to a museum.  If anything breaks on it there are no replacements sitting on a shelf somewhere.

Why Shop Online?

January 17th, 2008

Have you ever driven to the store looking for the perfect shoe?  You go from store to store looking at what they have to offer until you find just the right one.  But when you go to the sales person and ask for one in your size they tell you that they are sold out of your size.  The more this happens, the more enticing online shopping becomes.  Some of the bigger traditional stores have tried online stores and come to the conclusion that they don’t work.  If you check out their stores you can buy anything they could not sell in the store but not every item the store sells.

The traditional Brick and Mortar edge.  For store owners who depend on foot traffic to make  sales the growth of online retailers is a serious threat.  The local store now has to focus on its strength and hope that remains enough to win the consumer.

Privacy and Security.  Preying on the fear that your private information will be out there for anyone to grab and abuse is a favorite of the traditional store.  However as more americans get used to online banking, booking travel arrangements, buying movie tickets and using secure websites this perceived advantage is loosing its punch.  These days you are more likely to loose your privacy to a person you actually hand your credit card to than online.

Interaction.  The internet is said to be an interactive medium.  The local store will seem to again have the advantage here since the have sales people right in front of you to answer your questions.  The problem is that anyone who has ever gone to the internet before they went shopping tends to know more about what they are looking for than the sales people.

A well thought out website anticipates your questions and answers them with knowledge and experience.  When you go in to a store you rarely get to talk with the owner.  It just is not possible for the owner to be available for every customer walking through the door.  But online, the owner can be involved.  Experience has taught them the questions you are going to ask about every product and they know the answer.  You can be half way around the world, shopping while the store owner sleeps and he can still be answering your question because he has anticipated it.

Selection.  In the past, a traditional store could boast selection as a key advantage  over the online store.  That is far from true now.  You can generally find exactly what you want on line often direct from the manufacturer or a website specializing in that particular product.

Shipping.  The traditional store may boast no shipping.  However that depends on your point of view.  You still pay for shipping when you buy from the local store, it just comes in the form of a higher price.  If the item is not in stock you pay for your gas to go to and from the store to find that out.  Then when the item is at the store you pay for your gas back and forth again.  In most cases I find it costs me less to buy something on line and pay the shipping than it does to drive all over and come home empty handed.  After driving to and from work the last thing most people want to do is get back in the car and drive more.

The internet can be a cost effective way to save money as a consumer.  By cutting out the need for a store, the middle man between the manufacturer and the consumer one can get a higher quality product for the same price as a similar one from your local store.

Choosing Spa Chemicals

January 16th, 2008

Since mankind decided that hot tubs would be fun we have had to face the challenge of keeping that water clear and safe. Chlorine and Bromine have been in use since almost day one. Both have their advantages. They kill everything. The down side is also that they kill everything. By that I mean that Chlorine and Bromine are both caustic chemicals. That is both how they function and what makes them less desirable. Not only do they kill germs and bacteria but they are harmful to your skin, hair, bathing suits, spa jets, pump impellers, pets and environment. With the heightened awareness of the environment and our own physical health, there has been a wide variety of alternatives to the old standards.

Minerals can be used to treat the spa water with less harmful effects. First, Copper can be used to treat your water and keeps stuff from growing in your water. It is a lot safer for your skin, hair and health, and won’t cause premature break down of your pump and jet components. Still, because it does a good job of killing things you need to use care when you empty your spa. Some areas have banned using copper to treat water because if it does end up in the water shed it will kill fish and algae.

Another popular choice is Silver and zinc. I would just recommend sticking with the liquid based versions. You should never use anything directly in the filter area of the spa because you do not want the risk of anything being sucked into the water pump.

Ozone can also be effective in water treatment. It works by exposing ultra violet light to air which forms an energetic oxidizer. It destroys algae, viruses and bacteria. Again you should know how to use your system properly. Avoid over exposure to ozone while using the spa. No ozone bubbles should be entering the spa during occupancy. Also you should not be able to smell ozone while you are in the spa.

One thing that a lot of spa owners forget about is checking your spa water pH. Maintaining the proper pH level can greatly improve the effectiveness of the water treatment. Spa water that is not properly balanced can cause irritation to eyes, and mucous membranes. Just because you keep a handle on your chemical treatment, do not get lazy about checking the pH.

Finally, circulation of the water. Stagnant water, especially warm stagnant water is a breeding ground for life. Regular circulation of the water for significant periods of time will reduce the need for chemicals and increases the effectiveness of the spas filtration. It is better overall for your spa pump to run for three to four hours at a time for two to three times per day as opposed to running for thirty minutes at a time ten times per day. If your spa only runs for thirty minutes it does no have enough time to properly filter all the spa water.

The bottom line is that yo want to be able to enjoy your spa for years to come. However like your car, regular maintenance can have a profound influence on that. If you maintain your car, change the oil, replace the filters, rotate the tires, you stand a much better choice of enjoying your vehicle with fewer unpleasant surprises. The same goes for your spa.

Are You Using Your Spa?

January 16th, 2008

Is that heavy foam cover the reason why? In Search of the Perfect Replacement Spa Cover? If you have had your hot tub for a few years you’ve probably bought a few foam covers. You probably bought the first replacement cover from the same place you bought your spa.

You went in and told the salesman that your cover got heavy. More than likely he told you that now they have developed a better foam cover. One wrapped, glued, dipped, sealed in multiple layers of special stuff. But even that one got heavy eventually.

One friend of mine just thought he was getting weaker, until he went to the spa dealer and looked at a new cover. Preparing to use as much effort to lift the new cover as he did his own at home, he nearly threw the cover through the front window of the store. It was then that he realized his cover was getting heavy. Like him you have most likely figured out that rigid foam spa covers are flawed technology.

All rigid foam spa covers will always eventually become moisture saturated, heavy, and might even break or blow away. Regardless of what wrapping is around the foam it is doomed to get heavy.

Even if it were possible to keep the foam from saturating with water no rigid cover is ever going to be in contact with the water that it is supposed to keep warm. Every rigid foam spa cover is constantly losing heat between the bottom of the spa cover and the water surface. As the spa water produces steam that steam hits the bottom of the cooler rigid foam spa cover, condenses and falls back into the spa actually cooling the water.

But the real point is that with a foam cover that slowly gets heavy we slowly stop using our spas. Generally speaking the foam fails slowly so you don’t notice it. If you use your spa every day, an ounce different here and there does not get noticed. It just becomes a little more work. So you just put up with it. But after while you get home from work and the thought of wrestling that cover off the spa just becomes less important.

That is a shame considering how much you looked forward to it when you first got your spa. It is also a shame considering how much you spend to heat the water that you are less willing to get into. It is a shame considering how much you paid of your hard earned money to get that spa in the first place. Did you know that the more time you spend in your spa the less sleep your body requires? If you got your spa for therapeutic purposes how often do you think you can afford to go without that therapy before you start to suffer?

Are you willing to loose all that just for the sake of a few inches of foam? I see it every day. People with spas in their back yard, but instead of using their spa they pile stuff on it. It might be the picnic table they moved just to make it easier to mow. Maybe it is toys the kids left out or the barbecue. Seems like an expensive place to pile your stuff but people do.

I propose you get back to enjoying your spa. Instead of replacing your heavy spa cover with another one that is just going to end up the same way, shop online for a different type of cover. Find a different type of spa cover that does not use foam so it will not get heavy. If you do, you can enjoy your spa for years to come. You will thank me later.