The first test.  Kid approved.

The first test. Kid approved.

Siri and I have been thinking about a hot tub almost since we started thinking about getting a house together.  Hot tubs are excessive.  Hot tubs are fun.  We wanted a hot tub.  We have included it in the roof deck plans; better get one now so we know it works before we try to build a deck around it.

Knowing full well we couldn’t afford a new one we searched for Craigslist for nice used ones starting a year ago.  We even checked a few [awful] ones out.  After a year we made the decision not to wait any longer. We found one that was relatively modern and working.  We drove down to check it out and started working on the logistics to move it.  We were lucky enough to get all of the wires, breaker boxes, conduit from the tub all the way up to the fuse box.  This stuff adds up and was likely worth several hundred dollars.  We did need a few little extras, but not much.

It was a tough move.  We hired a “hot tub mover” to do this, but it was really just a tow truck driver and his sons.  Getting it from the street to the back was a tight squeeze.  Tight enough that I had to remove the iron gate on the alley.  We got a few scratches, but nothing major.

We hired our friend Tom to wire this up.  Hot tub electrics are no joke.  240V @ 50 Amps is a lot of juice…. sitting next to water.  Code is pretty clear on this:

  • GFCI protected because water + electric = bad
  • Emergency cutoff breaker within sight (not too far)
  • 5′ minimum from the breaker/disconnect box (not too close either)
  • Bonded to any metal within 5′
  • Can’t be under any power wires (so if they come down, they don’t land in the tub)
  • Can’t be within 10′ of those lines (so you can’t possibly reach one from the tub)
  • 60″ minimum from non-tempered glass windows and doors (don’t want glass in the tub)
  • Wires must be protected by conduit.
  • etc, etc.

Anyways… we got it all wired up, conduit ran.  Gave it a few days for an inspection and then finally I got to fire it up…. pumps worked for about 20 seconds, but it wasn’t full yet so I shut it off… that was the last I got out of it.  Something died. There was an error code “E1”.  Time to call tech support.


I was really trying NOT to learn how hot tubs worked; well fuck.

Their website says “Proudly Made in the U.S.A.”  yet nearly every part is made somewhere else.  Ethink, a Chinese company, makes the controller, heater and topside controls.  The 2x4s are stamped with maple leaves.  If you are using parts from other countries, be honest about it.. or at a minimum put those pieces together with some U.S.A pride.

This thing’s MSRP is as much as a car.  You’d expect car like fit and finish.  Sadly that’s not the case.  This thing was screwed and glued together in a hurry and it shows.   The pumps are screwed into a piece of plywood with the rubber bushings still attached to the base of the pump.  Too lazy to eliminate a source of vibration I guess.  Also the “sealed” electronics box would have been.. if they hadn’t just run too small of wires through the connectors without first seeing if they actually sealed.  The sides are held on by 3/8″ strips of plywood and stapled 1/16″ into the boards.  A tiny bit of movement and they just fall to pieces… and you will need to move them because there is no access panel on this thing, not even to adjust the subwoofer. Set it and forget it.

As for the technical service, they must be closely tied with their sales department because every path led to “replace part”.  They said the “E1” error was a loose wire and apparently really hard to troubleshoot.  “You should buy a new controller to see if that works.”  I asked if they would take it back if it didn’t fix the problem they said “no returns”.  What’s the incentive there to actually support your product?  Fuck Energy Saver Spa alias Laguna Bay Spa, Home and Garden (Home Depot), Dr Wellness.

Since the price to replace the control box (had to buy the whole box, not just the circuit board) was $400, we decided to shop around.  Turns out a brand new controller with a warranty, documentation, integral heater and included top side controls was the same price.  We ended up buying a Gecko YE-5.  It’s relatively basic, but it supports all the features we have.  Of course this won’t drop in, but its not rocket science.  I had to do some PVC pipe work to lower and lengthen the heater location.  We reused a few parts, bought a few from home depot.  Pretty easy stuff. Finally got it in a full 3 hours before the first big freeze of the year.

Future plans include adding a 120V outlet so we can add a Bluetooth adapter to the stereo and new speakers (one is blown).  Plans also include reducing our operating costs by insulating all 4 sides and getting the ozonator working again.

Next time I’m just going to build one from scratch.