If you have a hot tub/spa, there will come a time when you will need to replace your spa heater. It is an inevitability with owning a hot tub. Generally speaking, this comes about every three to five years. This article assumes that you have already determined that the spa heater or spa element needs replacing. Generally this is the case when you have a "dry fire", where the heater is running and no water is flowing through it. That will generally kill the heating element (even if the thermostat and flow switches are working properly), and thus the need to read this article. There are many other issues that can arise that will cause the heater to fail and the need to replace it. A dry fire is one of the more common problems that we experience with hot tub/spa owners.
Tools needed for a spa heater replacement: Pipe Wrench, Crescent Wrench, Screwdriver, and of course, your new spa heater.
In most cases, your spa system will be made by Balboa Water Group. Therefore, your heater will be as well. That isn't necessarily a bad thing unless your system is out of warranty by your spa manufacturer and you need information from them. They make decent products, but their service leads a lot to be desired when it comes to the consumer. Fortunately over the years, and with the Internet, information accumulates and we are able to better service your needs. If your spa heater is not made by Balboa Water Group, that is okay as well. We can help you determine that. We have an article to help you in determining your spa heater part number as well. You can find it at: FINDING THE RIGHT SPA HEATER.
If you already know what spa system you own, this will definitely make things much easier. If it is a Balboa system, we have developed a cross reference to help you locate the proper spa heater replacement.
You can locate the proper spa heater replacement by looking at the following reference: SPA HEATER LOCATOR
You probably should decide first whether you are going to want to replace the entire spa heater or attempt to replace the spa element. Typically, a new spa heater will cost you about $120 with shipping. A replacement element will cost you about $50. If you are thinking, well the element is about half the cost of a new heater, you should also take into account the wear and tear on the existing spa heater, including corrosion and overall age. In most cases, it is better off replacing the entire heater so that you don't need to hassle with the element. It will also eliminate the chance of actually replacing the element and finding that your spa heater still does not work properly. The extra $50-$75 is probably worth it in the long run. Over time, your spa heater tube becomes corroded and shows signs of age. When water and electricity mix, metal starts to break down immediately.
At this point, you should have also figured out whether you have an electrical based spa heater for your system or whether it is a gas heater system. Generally speaking if you have a gas heater system, it is probably attached to the outside of the spa. Replacing either is a fairly simple process.
Grab your wrenches. Here we go...
Replacing your hot tub heater can be done with a few simple steps.
Step One - Turn Off The Power and Water
Before you start pulling out any type of spa heater you must make sure that you have turned the power off! You will need to go to your breaker box and make sure that the breaker is turned off. After you have made certain that the power is off, go to the water valves on each side of the spa heater and turn them off. This should be the easiest part of the process.
Step Two - Drain the Water From The Spa
Using the same drain that you use to change your spa water, drain all of the water out of the spa.
Step Three - Remove the Power Line to the Spa Heater
Once you have the water in the spa completely drained, and you are ABSOLUTELY SURE that the power is turned off, you will need to remove the power line to the spa heater. You are going to do this in one of two ways. It will either be connected to the system with a simple plug that you can unplug, or it will be hardwired to the system. If it is hardwired into the control unit, you will need to disconnect the wires. This is where you pull out that screwdriver that I mentioned that you will need. First of all, you will need to open the front of the spa control system case. The screws should be in the top left and right corners or close to it. If you need to disconnect the wires (if they are hardwired), make sure that you mark the wires appropriately so that you are certain that you put them back in the right place once you need to reconnect the wires.
Step Four - Remove The Old Spa Heater
Using the pipe wrench I mentioned that you would need, take off the couplings that are holding down the heater unit. They will be large couplings on either side of the heater. Be very careful not to crack them, as you will be using them with the new heater. Once they are removed, carefully remove the old spa heater. If you happen to crack the couplings and they do crack, you can get replacement couplings from us online at: UNIVERSAL FIT SPLIT NUT COUPLING
Step Five - Install The New Spa Heater
You will be putting the new spa heater in place, exactly in reverse of how you removed the old spa heater. Make certain that no debris from removing the old spa heater has fallen into the housing. Set the new spa heater into place and make certain that it is level. Using the pipe wrench, tighten down the couplings holding the spa heater into place.
Step Six - Make All Connections
Once the couplings are tightened down, plug the spa heater power back into the spa system. If it was connected using a plug, plug them back in. If they are hardwired, make sure to connect the wires back into the same place that you disconnected them from. Place the control system cover back and securely tighten it to the casing with the screws that you removed.
Step Seven - Refill Your Spa / Return Power
You can now refill your spa. Turn on the water and allow the water to go back to its normal level. You can now go to the breaker box and return power to the spa. Allow the spa pump to begin circulating the water and the heater to start warming it up.
Extra Step For A Gas Heater
In the event that you are replacing a gas heater for your spa, it is done relatively in the same fashion as an electrical one. The primary difference being that you will need to shut off the gas line as well as the power and disconnect the gas lines from the spa heater. There are also inlet and outlet pipes that will bring the water into the spa heater for warming water up. They will also need to be disconnected prior to changing out the gas spa heater.