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First Thing the Tech Will Check That Will Make Him Rich

Many years ago while I worked at McDonalds as a manager, the actual list of first thing to check when something doesn't work is the breaker then is it plugged in? I thought that was obvious but over the years, McDonald's learned that manager's first action was to call the service company.

SO... you go out to the hot tub and its DEAD. "Honey, call the spa repair guy". He comes out, takes off the front panel and pokes around, quickly realized the breaker is tripped, resets breaker, spa comes on, charges you for a service charge. Most service charges are $75-125 per hour. He's been there 15 minutes. That's $300 an hour; nice work if you can get it.

So.... do that for him.... Check the BREAKER. You probably have TWO. One close to the spa and one on the house main panel. Check both. Turn the switch fully OFF and then ON. Always turn fully OFF. That resets a GFCI breaker. Turn ON. If you don't hear the breaker trip again and the spa starts up again, that might have saved you enough to take the family out for dinner.

Now, what if resetting the switches DOES NOT fix? If the spa is dead or acting strange, this is what your spa tech will likely do:


   Dead Spa  

Almost always when I receive a phone tech help, the customer says "power is fine".

I ask him, "How do you know?"   He gets upset with me. Let me explain why I ask:

The only TRUE test that power is correct is with a voltmeter. Although using a voltmeter isn't hard, if you don't have a working knowledge with electricity, best to leave it to those who do. But its critical proper power is present.

On spas that operate on 110-120vac, its a simple line+line+ground. Line to line voltage is 110-120vac. One line to ground is -0-. The other 110-120vac.

Most spas operate on either 3 or 4 wire 220-240vac. Voltage is critical and HOW you take the voltage is critical. Some have purchased little light pens that light up when current is present. They place the pen near a wire, it lights up, "Yes I have proper current." they tell me. Not necessarily so. These pens will react to very low voltage that will make the spa not come on and can even damage equipment.

On spas with three wires, you test like you do a 3 wire 115vac line but with the meter set above 300vac. Hot to Hot is 220-240vac. Then Hot to Ground is 110-120vac. If so, power is fine.

On spas with four wires it becomes a bit more complicated and critical. You do Hot to Hot; 220-240vac. Then One Hot to Ground: 110-120vac. Same with other Hot to Ground. Lastly... and important, Neutral to Ground. Should be little or no voltage. 

 Test Incoming Power to Spa Example
 Incoming 115v Spas

Meter set to AC, probe is testing for 110-120vac at the Black HOT and the Neutral

If 110-115 not present, your incoming power is at fault.

 Incoming 220-240vac Spas

Meter set to AC 250+Volts is testing Hot Black and Red. Readout should be 220-240vac.

If -0-, your incoming power is faulty. Contact electrician. If correct, proper incoming voltage. Go to next step.

Same meter setting as above, test NEU and Red Hot (shown) and NEU and Black Hot.

Both readings should be 110-120vac. If either is not, one or both legs of incoming power has failed. Contact your electrician. If Both test are good, your incoming power is good.

Lastly, check Neutral to Ground.


Should have very low or no voltage. If higher voltage present, likely failed GFCI breaker.


So knowing that the power IS correct is critical. Its usually the first thing a tech will check if the board is acting "weird" or the spa is completely dead. Breakers over time can actually reduce the voltage without tripping. I have seen breakers the were producing 35vac when they should have been delivering 120vac. The spa would not run. Customer replaced the breaker and they were off and running again. If the customer understood and followed the above, they would have saved the cost of my visit.


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