Spas and hot tubs are a relaxing way to unwind at the end of the day. They come in many different sizes and shapes. Jet pumps move the water around and shoot them through jets within the tub itself. Some of the larger units may also have two water pumps and a blower motor in order to deliver water pressure through the large amount of jets they must supply.
These motorized units need to be protected by GFCI circuit breakers to keep the users safe in the tub. Be sure that any timers are located at a distance that you cannot touch the water with your hand, foot, or any other part of your body while turning the time dial on the timer. This will help eliminate the risk of electrical shock to the user.
Spas and hot tubs should be labeled with a sticker from a recognized testing lab, like Underwriters Laboratories (UL). These units should always come equipped with the manufacturer's instructions for safe installation and operation of the unit.
In order to feed the spas and hot tubs, the power requirements vary from unit to unit. The smaller units simply plug into a 15-amp, 120-volt ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) outlet. Other larger units may require a 50-amp, 240-volt feed to power the pump motors and associated heaters that may be installed. These larger units are hardwired to a junction box within the access panel mounted in a side access panel under the unit. On some models, an easily removable panel or door gains you access to the pump, wiring, and control for easy maintenance.
Spas and pools must have power fed through a service disconnect switch. This allows you to turn the power on or off to the spa or hot tub. In most cases, this is a timer switch that, once turned to say 30 minutes, will count down and turn itself off. The disconnect must be located at least five feet from the edge of the spa or hot tub. The rule assumes that at that distance, you cannot have your foot in the water and touch the switch. It is a safety feature to prevent someone from being electrocuted.
Imagine if the switch was within reach of the spa or hot tub while you were in the water. You reach out to add more time to the timer and as you touch the switch, you're electrocuted. That could happen if you came in contact with part of the circuit. By placing the switch far enough away so that you'd have to actually get out of the water to advance the timer, this virtually eliminates the possibility of standing in the water while working the switch. The maximum distance the switch can be is 50 feet and within sight of the person in the spa or hot tub.
For safety purposes and to see if local permits are needed before installing a spa or hot tub, check with your local electrical inspector. He or she may require that a licensed electrician make the electrical connections. Remember, when we're talking about water and electricity, they don't mix. Please take extra safety precautions to prevent electrical shock and keep your family safe. By making the proper electrical connections and observing electrical safety, you'll have a fun-filled soak in the tub!