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So you bought yourself a hot tub so you could relax, but now you are stressed because you just can’t get those pH levels and total alkalinity (TA) levels just right.
While many hot tub owners never have trouble balancing the pH and TA levels in their spas, others owners struggle with this on a daily basis. This is usually due to the differences in water quality across the nation. Heck, you can even find water quality differences in small communities.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a lot you can do about the quality of the water coming into your home, but there is much you can do to bring your pH levels and TA levels into balance in your hot tub. All it takes is a little knowledge and a few moments of your time.
What Is pH
Your pH level in your hot tub is the measure of how acidic or how basic your water is. The ideal range for your pH in your spa is between 7.2 and 7.8. Anything higher than 7.8 is considered too basic or alkaline and can cause your water sanitizer to function poorly as well as lead to scale formation and even cloudy water. If the pH level is too low, your water will be too acidic. This will lead to poor sanitizer efficiency as well and also cause burning in your eyes as well as potentially damage your hot tub in the process.
Needless to say, balancing the pH is very important for every spa owner. However, before we can balance the pH, we need to understand Total Alkalinity and its effect on pH.
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Understanding Total Alkalinity
There is often a lot of confusion surrounding total alkalinity and what its exact purpose is. Basically, TA is the buffer for pH, and by that I mean it is what gives you the ability to control the pH levels in your hot tub. Without it you would never be able to control the pH levels in your hot tub. That is why you always balance the TA levels first before you even begin to work on your pH levels.
Ideally, your TA levels should be in the neighborhood of 80 to 120 parts per million (ppm). If you measure above or below these readings, you will need to bring your TA levels into balance first, and then worry about your pH levels.
Common Balance Problems
The major challenge that many hot tub owners face is making these two different measurements balance. The reason for this is the same chemicals that lower your pH, also lower your TA levels. This can sometimes cause hot tub owners to enter a very annoying circle as they try to balance their water chemistry.
Let’s take a look at several different water balance scenarios and look at what you need to do to properly adjust your water chemistry.
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1. Low pH, Normal TA
Add a pH increaser that will not impact the TA. This will ensure that your pH levels rise while not impacting the overall TA levels.
2. Low pH, High TA
First, add a pH decreaser to lower the TA levels. Once that is in the correct range, use an increaser that won’t impact the TA levels to raise the pH to normal.
3. Low pH and TA
Add a pH increaser to raise both the TA and pH levels. Retest the water to make sure both have been brought into normal rane.
4. High pH and TA
If both levels are too high, add a pH decreaser to the water to bring both the levels down. Retest the water to make sure both the TA and pH are in normal range.
5. Normal pH, High TA
Add a pH decreaser to lower the overall TA levels. Once these are in normal range, test your pH. If your pH levels have dropped below normal, use an increaser that won’t affect the TA levels.
6. Normal pH, Low TA
Add an alkalinity increaser to raise the overall TA levels. In most cases, the overall pH levels will not be affected.
7. High pH, Normal TA
Add a pH decreaser to lower the pH to a normal range. If the TA levels drop add an alkalinity increaser to bring the overall TA levels back into normal range.
8. High pH, Low TA
First, add a pH decreaser to lower the pH levels, then add an alkalinity increaser to raise the TA levels. This won’t affect the overall pH level.
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Water Source Issues
Some hot tub owners just have bad water, plain and simple. So what do you do if your water source, well, sucks? There are filtration systems you can buy for your hose to help with this and there are even filters you can put on your water lines in your home to help improve the situation.
In the end, however, it may just mean that you have to work a little harder to bring the water into balance. While I know that’s not what you want to hear, unfortunately it is just the way it is and if you want to enjoy your hot tub you will just have to spend a little extra time on your water quality.
While you may not have realized you would have to become a chemist to own a hot tub, balancing your water is important to every hot tub owner. While it may sound difficult, it is actually easier than you think, and regular water checks can help you keep it balanced so your water stays clean and clear and your hot tub stays damage free. Remember to test your water regularly and always do your best to keep your pH and TA levels in their normal ranges. Trust me, you and anyone else that uses your hot tub, will be glad you did.
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Last Updated: Thursday, February 4th, 2016