Friday, January 30, 2009

Too warm for Ice

On my way out of town I stopped by Eagle Falls to check out the flows. The upper falls is totally running, as is the lower section of the falls proper. How ever to the right of lower falls is a formed cascaded. Nothing great. Just a smear of snot, as thin a dictionary paper in spots, but still: ICE. Slid my way down to the base of falls and soloed my way back up. Always fun to play with tools.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Spa 2 Go Repair II - 2 of 7

The first year I quit my job to be a full time ski bum, I moved into a house with a great hot tub. It was located (both house and hot tub) in Tabernash, a small town just outside of Winter Park Colorado. I'd spend many hours sitting looking at the western slope of the Continental Divide.

When we moved to Tahoe and were looking for our first place to rent, a house with a hot tub was selected. A year later when the landlord wanted to turn his rental into a vacation rental, we found another house with a hot tub. By this time we had become seriously addicted to our daily soaks.

This most recent (year and a half) move, found us in a house without a tub. OMG!! We thought we could get by without one, but who were we kidding, we were junkies by now. The thing with hot tubs are they are rather permanent installations. With my rate of moving every year or two, this fix was not going to be easy to come by.

Enter the Spa 2 Go. Made by Comfort Line Products (CLP), the inflatable hot tub holds 250 gallons of hot water, seats four, sets up and take down in minutes, and cost about $700. PERFECT!! I did question the durability of the tub, but my sore muscles silenced my doubt.

The tub arrived, and as promised, 250 gallons of hot water was soon produced. But it is not without it share of problems. So here goes my list of issues:
-weak heater, will take about 2 days to get 40 degree tap water hot, about a degree an hour
-in cold weather, while in use with cover off, it drops about a degree every 15 minutes
-the inflatable tub developed a "bulge"
-pump unit clogs and stops spinning, needs clearing
-connector fitting breaks and requires some rigging
-cover not UV resistant and tears
-can not keep temp when snow accumulated on it or cold rain
-jets are worthless. Pump cold air into water dropping tub temp even faster
-temperature sensor corrodes and sends an OVERHEAT warning, and shuts system down

This last issue was terminal. I contacted CLP, if under warranty (12months) they could send me another power pack (heater/pump unit) for $89 shipping and handling. Mine was past due (15 months). A refurbished unit was about $300 with no warranties, and a new unit was $400. I ask for a schematic, and was denied. So I took the thing apart to see what was wrong.

The power pack comes as a sealed unit. It looks rather intimidating but it is not. If you have found this blog and are reading this to look for repair help, keep reading. First off, before you start to take things apart, most issue arise because of low or no flow. Check CPL's website and customer service contact for a list of trouble shooting techniques. The pumps impeller can easily jam, and a simple push with a wire can get it going again. Back flowing with a garden hose can also help clear things up.
Enough with the salad greens, now let's get to the meat and potatoes of this article. If you do not have a broken power pack, NO NEED TO READ ANY FURTHER. The details might bore you.If you flip the power pack over you will notice the barrage of screws. To access the components you need to remove the cover. You do not need to remove all of the screws. Though I do not have a picture of the underside I can talk you through it. I did not know what was what so I removed and took apart everything. There are four screws holding the water pump unit, the pump unit is the one with the cable and small ridged hose going to it. This does not need to be removed, you can see it at the very far left of the picture. There are two screws holding the filter tank in place. These can be recognized by the two large bosses the screws sit on. These do not need to be removed either. The pump and the filter tank is held together by a black plastic pin spanned nut accessed from the inside of the filter tank. Several small screws, which sit flush to the bottom of the case hold the air pump to the case. The air pump and screws do not need to be removed. In the picture the air pump is removed and is sitting inside the cover, out of view. The screws holding the cover in place are the ones that are sitting on the small raised plastic bosses. The cover should wiggle free, the two air pipes have snug fitting rubber fittings. The only thing that connect the cover to the rest of the unit is the white ribbon cable seen connected to the control circuit board.
I added two more pictures of the power pack with its cover off. These two pictures show the air pump and the curicut box in place. This would be how the pack looks with just the cover removed.

The water flow path is as follows. Water enters from the white fitting on the left/top. The white garden hose fitting is a repaired item. Traveling across the hose the water enters the filter tank outside of the filter (not shown), goes across the membrane to the center, down into the pump, across the ridge pipe seen from the outside bottom of the power pack and up. This is where the water encounters the first temperature sensor, of the two sensor system. What is strange about this system however is that both sensors are right next to each other with no component in between them. Usually a dual temp sensor straddles a heater element to inform the controller if the heater is working or not. The sensor is what is known as a temp/limit sensor, meaning that is design to give an error message if its output is outside a preset working range. The sensor is a ceramic shielded thermocouple. Taking a resistance reading across the connections showed that the two sensors recorded different results; I would assume they need to be the same. Also one sensor's resistance jumped a magnitude of 100x when submerged in water, and the other didn't. I suspect that the water in the tub was too acidic, and eroded the sensor's shielding element, exposing the inner thermo couple unit. It then gave an erroneous temperature reading. When the reading became too high it shut itself down. The day prior to the "OH" error code the tub temp read 106 but couldn't have been more than 96. Before I continue with the sensor, let me finish the travel path of the water. The water then touches the 2nd temperature sensor. I believe that this sensor monitors the condition of the heater element due to it proximity but is a little redundant. The piping then goes down, and turns into a stainless steel tube. Housed in this tube is heater element. It has three wires connected to it and lies horizontally. The final component in the control system is pressure sensor. I assume it monitors the effective of the water pump, and shuts the system down if the flow rate drops below a certain pressure reading.

CPL use to sell parts to outside vendors. But now they do not. All service is done through their partner company/shop This is a good site with many trouble shooting info. The customer service rep, Candy, would not sell me a temperature sensor. I finally found a company that use to service CPL products. They however stopped since they can not get parts anymore. I did however find that they had a few sensors in their back stock. You might want to check with They provided me with a part number: stg-1120, $26.50, I ordered two. The part that came however did not look like my original. It even came with it's own fittings. The electrical plug on one of them did not fit my control circuit board either. But I cut and soldered the old one in place. This makes me think that any two wire temperature senor will work. As long as you figure out how to make a water tight mount.

I installed the temp sensors and tested the unit in my tub. Everything seemed to work. I then proceeded to replace all the parts. I however was not able to fit the cover back on properly. The final 1.5 inches or so is blocked. I just left it as with the cover sitting. I do have a wooden box I built around the power pack to protect it from the elements, so I am not too concerned. I can not however use the air jets (which i don't use anyways) with the cover half on. Oh well. At least I got my tub of hot water again.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Happy New Year

Happy Chinese New Years Everyone.

Go out and do something fun today.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Spa 2 Go Repaired -1 of 7

Last night I got to soak in my hot tub again. After being down for two weeks, I finally got the parts and fixed it. What a major PITA. Details to come.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Ending Hunger

Now a word from our sponser:

There is a great website that is working to end hunger worldwide including in the US. All you need to do is click the button on the website and the value of 1.1 cups of food will be given to the hungry. You can click everyday!! If you clicked every work day for one year you would be donating 286 cups of food and it only costs you a few seconds a day.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

New skis

My downhill ski quiver was looking rather grim with only two skis in them. My powered skis: Line Prophet, and my Daily Drivers: Solomon Pocket Rockets. With the lack of snow, warm days and cold nights, the ski slope resembles an ice skating rink, more then the fluffy posters ads seen in magazines. Like the frozen lake in my last post, but tilted on its side. Being relatively new to skiing both my downhill skis are wide (100 and 90mm underfoot); not the best for firm icy conditions.

Earlier when I said I had two pairs of skis in my quiver, that was slightly misleading. That is because I have several quivers, as does my wife. Therefor I could not justify dropping large amounts of cash for a new ski.

I was in the used gear shop (9 lives) one day, and what did I see. A narrow Atomic Beta Ride 8.20 for $5.95 (circa 2000 +/- 2). I looked at the bases, though dirty and dry they were in decent shape. My friend Kemen, who works at the shop sees me inspecting the ski and comes over. "You can have those for free", he says. Turns out he bought those earlier that week and pulled the back country touring bindings off of them, and was reselling the skis (basiclly jsut giving them away). The dirty base was skin glue, they were only mounted once, and appeared to have very little use.

(pictured ski is not mine, mine are blue)

My next task was to procure a set of bindings. When asked, many people offered me their old bindings, but I wanted a pair of Demo bindings, which can be adjusted to any size boot. With the large number of winter guest we receive, having a ski that can fit everyone is a nice feature. Soon a pair of Salomon S900 came up for sale, mounted on a pair of giant 190s with blown out edges. I ended up paying $45 for the monstrosity and pulled the bindings off if them.
(binding pictures is not mine)

Finally came the task of mounting them. I have mounted bindings myself a few times but they have always been touring bindings, where the boot clips into the binding without them being mounted. As you can see in the picture, with a two piece binding this is a little more difficult. I figure I could spend all night mounting these things, or I could spend a hour at a shop using the right tools. Two shop tools in particular make mounting bindings a piece o cake. A jig and a ski drill.

A ski drill is special due to it's shoulder, which sets the depth of cut. Its shoulder also acts like a bushing guide for the jig.
The jig is super simple to use. Set to type of binding, line up to center line of ski, drill holes in the color coordinated holes. The holes are drill bushings design to interface the ski drill.
Total work time about 30 mines. But the whole process required the better part of an evening to BS with my shop friend, and to drink a few beers I brought for him.
If you want to read more about ski bindings check out this PDF by Salomon about bindings.
So there you have it, my new ski, and possibly your ski if you come up to visit me!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Wild Ice

So what do local Tahoeits do when it is cold out but there hasn't been new snow for weeks. What else but to go search for Back Country Ice. My experience with ice skating however is much more limited. Other than the hundreds of hours logged watching Olympic ice skating, my only real world ice skating experience is Valentines day at Squaw 2 years ago. I thought that I was doing well and got the hang of it. But if anyone who has skied backcountry will tell you, that SHIT is HARD!! Variable backcountry conditions make you long for the next time you could lay your edges on some corduroy. The same can be said about back country ice.

The section of beach near our work has a large shallow bay. Over the last few weeks, I have been watching it ice over. Today I finally braved the ice. Tough but well worth the effort.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Test Blog

Being an avid forum user, it is natural for me to want to advance to the blogging stage.

Here is my first test blog.