I have owned a hot tub or spa most of my adult life. It's one extravagance in life which I would place ahead of many other wants. I feel a nice hot 103-103° bath with _strong_ massage action of the jets, to be health promoting and stress releiving. In the hot bath environment it's easy to relax alone or set the stage for a more intimate encounters and heart to heart talks.
I've always been in a better mood comming put of the spa than before going in. It's a wonderful and unique place to spend time with close friends and loved one's. Often I will just use the jets to go over the body muscles and get warm and relaxed before bedtime everyday.
Keeping some comfortable broad rimmed rain hats is a must to enjoy the spa during one of my favorite times of year...during wet, foggy weather and downpours.
I've built, plumbed, wired and created a custom heating coil/circulation pump for one mahogany hot tub and rebuilt/maintained and used a 14 year old, no-name spa. I finally cut it up with a SawZall and got the pieces picked up during the annual "Bulky Waste pickup day" rather than pay $350 to get it to the dump. Sawing fiberglass is very unpleasant and requires "suiting up" with protective gear. Old spas (fiberglass) can get brittle, then crack, be a pain to work on as leaks develop and have no to a negative value, especially since the cost to have them moved (to a nieghbors) start at $250, usually starting at $350 in the SF Bay Area. I have moved spas myself, with a group of men and almost got hurt.
I purchased a 2001 Dream HP (@Home Series) spa from a nieghbor in 2004. The price was right for the formerly $6K spa in excellent condition. The HP version is an upgrade model, standing for "High Power". Instead of one 4 horsepower motor, two 3 hp moters are used.
The best feature in any spa is strong jets. The one downside in this older model are all the smaller "euro jets" which cannot be turned off. So, when trying to work on one muscle, there may be a jet shooting somewhere you don't want it too...
Newer Dimension One model's many accessory "euro jets", can be fully turned off. This may also help make the rest of the jets a little stronger.
If I were shopping for a new spa testing out the strength and position of the jets would be very important.
The "deep soak" of an open interior design, Hot Tub, along with just one or two very powerful jets works very well, for a body massage. The open type spa design is available. I might have tried one of those out. One thing for sure, they would hold more water.
All the seats, ridges and do-dads in some modern designs seem to complicate the interior of the spa. I do like open design tubs for doing wet type floating massages (watsu) and the ease of moving within the spa. The seating is never used to capacity, usually one or two persons at a time, so it seems overkill that every seat was designed to have it's own jets.
The addition of special high mounted, rotating neck jets is a great improvement in modern spas. The later 2002 Dimension One "Dream" models have down pointing neck jets. This is an even more complicated shell design, with neck jet projections. I was told by the dealer, that men with long torsos, may have trouble fitting under the jet.
The dealer metioned that Dimesion one seems to try out new designs in the @Home series and then migrate them to the other lines.
I replaced 2 regular jets with rotating ones. Easy to replace and the Dimension One dealer charged me cost, about $8 per jet. The rotating pulsing actions seems to be most effective at muscle relaxing. I wish there were better/stronger jets for legs and feet. Most of the smaller jets, which can be shut off, are closed making the others stronger. Too may jets that can't be turned off, shooting to many places would not be a preference in spa buying. But it's not that bad.
I keep a few of the jets slightly open, so water inside doesn't become trapped and stagnant in the piping.
After removing the equipment panel (everyone should see what's inside) I noticed a very small drip mark comming from out of the pump shaft seal. No big deal. I believe it's a $15 part but requires removing the motor. I'll wait to see if it develops beyond a small spot, before replacing.
Dimension One uses Gecko Spa equipment packs. The Gecko factory is in French speaking Canada. Appears the digital equipment is well constructed. The controls work fine but are read upside once in the tub. Heating is limited to 104°, which is plenty hot. I modified the door panel, adding threaded inserts and stainless screws, instead of regular deck screws into the wood frame.
I replaced the stock filter with a cheaper aftermarket one and flushed the whole system with spa flush, since the upkeep had not been maintained well. The "Dream HP" came with a bag of anti-bacterial, metal releasing crystals, in the top of the filter. Heard it was not so effective and now use a Nature2 silver/copper releasing cartrige. Cartridge lasts until the water is changed, about 3-4 months. One more level of bacterial protection. Silver and copper ions are known for being effective.
Keeing a biologically clean, clear spa, one free of smelly chemicals has been an avid pursuit. Ozone, silver/copper ions with small amounts of oxidizer and infrequent but regular trichlor additons has worked well. Bromine has a smell I can't stand, seems to stick in the skin and is apparently hard on some spa equipment internals. Trichlor is used to kill bugs weekly/biweekly, but doesn't stick around smelling for long. I feel rinsing the body _well_, in order to remove bacteria introductions before tubing is good idea.
To my delight, the unit came with a Dell Ozone/circulating pump system. The Dell unit didn't work but was replaced for free by Dell Ozone:) The circulating pump is set to suck a small amount of ozone into a seperate jet 24 hours a day. The dealer didn't know much about ozone use, other than it's an added on part, which very few buyers request. The "Dream", like most other modern spas is built to be "Ozone ready", which usually means there is a seperate jets to shoot ozone into the water, as well as providing extra electrical connections for an ozonater and possibly a circulating pump. There are a number of designs and levels of complexity to ozonaters used in spas.
I removed the low output/low cost $80 Dell corona CDS-16 Ozonater unit and installed a Ozotech OZ2PCS Ozonater and HD20 Air Dryer unit in a nearby garage.
The corona discharge ozonater creates less by-products (like Nitiric Acid) using "dried" air.
Finally discovered one important reason why light bulb (small florescent tube style) type ozonaters may be used. They don't seem to create enough energy to cause byproducts to form while using normal, potentially high humidity atmoshperic air, like what would be found around or under a spa. The corona discharge units use high voltage to make O3. They make much more ozone and don't require a bulb replacement.
High grade silicon rubber tubing and a GFCI protected electrical line are strung to the spa. A 14 event per day, digital timer, allows the circulating pump to be used intermitently along with a more concentrated ozone output. I'm hoping to triple the circulation pump life and using timed ozone ouput, to go with the filtering cycles as well as 30 minute "on" cycles. Still playing with the treatment cycles, but too much ozone can be smelly and corrosive. Correct concentrations can reduce chemical usage and bacteria enormously.
After researching Ozone a great deal and even building my own ozonater (not recommended due to high voltages around a water), it has become clear that Ozone can be a very effective sanitizer, although Trichlor is still used every week or so to make sure and kill "the bugs", then allowed to "gas" off. I would use chlorine if the spa were to be used by a bunch of bathers, like at a party.
A small amount Peroxymonosulfate (Oxybrite) is used as an extra oxidizer several times a week either after exiting spa or during a filter cycle.
Just started trying a small amount of organic polymer "Sea Klear" on occaision to clear up any water cloudiness. Using chelating type metal removers will also removed the siver and copper ions, when using Nature2.
I'd also like to start making my own silver and/or copper ions. Apparently zinc is also used. Premade copper ion compounds for spa use is not legal yet in CA, for some reason. The same kind of silver ions that some people drink, for reported health benefits(unless they OD and turn black/shiny!) seems like the right track.
Ozone seems to create a need for regular "Spa PH Up" additions and can get smelly at too high concentrations.
I think it's important to treat the spa cover regularly with something like "303 Protectant", both under the cover and out, for a long life. The cover should be protected from any kind of constant chlorine or Ozone off gassing from the water.
Wish I could find a Sumbrella spa cover cover, like my last spa had. It was called a "spa sock" and fit with some velcro. This may save the cover from sun/physical damage, although it appears under the cover, chemicals can gradually break down the thread or leak into the foam. This happened on my last non-ozone spa, even though the top vinyl looked almost new.
The pebbled plastic shell material is nice for non slip. A lounge type seat is appreciated, but the half a dozen "bucket type" seats seem more designed for lots of bathers at once.
Wish I could use the cover lifter, but it's up against my house wall. Removing the covering takes some effort. It's very hard for a woman without some upper body strength and certainly not relaxing. Seems the closer the spa is to the house, the less impediment to using one regularly. Just outside the backdoor is likely not up to code, but makes ease of use, very practical. especially in cold weather...the best time for relaxing in hot water.
Seems a little "flashy" but something like a Colorscape 22 LED light replacement might provide for "colored light therapy", or just look very cool. Saw them for only $80. Apparently, it's very important to use the right tools when unscrewing parts (lens section?) of the spa light, using a tool to keep the stationary part from turning. I didn't take the light apart yet, but the dealer warned that unscrewing the wrong part could start the tub leaking...then he gave me the special tool.
The Dimension One dealer was mostly helpful, except for the ozone. If one were an original buyer they would have been even better, even though the spa was bought at their store. Did seem like they were very good at finding lots of ways to get out of warranty or responsibility, while advertising/touting such a great spa warranty.
The Hot Springs Store down the street was strange. Felt like I was with a cult or at a MLM meeting(3 salsemen) Apparently everything about the spa is propriatary. Looks like some advanced designs, especially the Titanium heater. Allthough when questioned "why I would want to buy a spa which used parts purchased from lots of different companies"...made me think about parts and repair costs. Economies of scale (did Hot Springs have it?) and advantages of interchangable parts and product manufacturing specialization... didn't seem to go over in the glazed eyes at the Hot Springs store. Likely difficult to get parts to work on my own spa from these guys. Sem like fine spas with a great reputation. Makes me wonder if the cost is worth it? The degree of product confidence seemed a little over the top and off putting.