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More to spa care than meets the eye

By Staff Writer 

The belief that spa maintenance is the same as pool maintenance could not be further from the truth. 

For one thing, spas are used at elevated temperatures, which has a huge effect on many factors. It not only increases bather waste, but also changes a disinfectant’s reaction rates, which in turn, changes the types of by-products that are produced. 

Temperature also affects water balance, such that given all the same water balance values, changing only the temperature will also change whether the water is actually balanced, corrosive, or scale forming.

But even if the water is balanced, the heat alone places some additional stress on the equipment and plumbing, impacting the lifetime of the materials.

And of course, the heat increases evaporation rates, which increases the quantity of total dissolved solids.  

Then there is the effect of the jets, which also increases bather waste, leading to increased dissolved solids, increased sanitizer demand, increased evaporation, and foaming. 

And all of these factors are magnified by the spa’s size, which, at about 1/40 the size of an average residential pool, concentrates the impact of all of these effects.

But where a hot tub really stands out as distinctive from a swimming pool is the propensity for bacterial growth. The same features that make hot tubs enticing to humans make them equally inviting to bacteria, and some of these pathogens can cause illness and even death.  

While this is not so much of a concern for the average residential spa, for high-traffic commercial hot tubs, illness is a real risk if the spa is not properly maintained.  

The main reason for this is the propensity for the growth of biofilms within the spa’s plumbing. Biofilms are an assemblage of surface-associated microbial cells that are enclosed in a polymeric matrix. They are comprised of bather waste such as body oils and skin cells that both feed and protect the bacteria within.

The articles included in this issue of Service Industry News will explore some of the unique features of bacterial control in hot tubs and spas.

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