how does a hot tub work

Lets face it, many of us don’t know a thing about how tubs actually work! 

Unfortunately, the only true way to optimize the use of your hot tub and make necessary repairs as they come along is by knowing the ins and outs of your hot tub’s components.

So how does a hot tub work?

Not only do we want to get you more familiar with hot tub use, but we also want to explore all of the different components that you should know about when using a hot tub.

Let’s dive in and check it out!


Hot Tub Components

While all hot tubs differ slightly, most of the essential hot tub operations are identical. All hot tubs make use of the same foundational structures to hold the internal equipment and perform the same operations with the water.

Let’s check out some of the components found in all hot tubs:


The shell is the part of the hot tub that holds the water. It also has the seats molded into it and provides a mounting point for the jets to rest. The material for hot tub shells differs, though we typically find that they are made out of some sort of acrylic or weather-resistant materials. 

To reinforce these materials, companies will typically add fiberglass or high-density polyurethane foam. This helps the hot tub to withstand the equipment’s weight.


A hot tub cabinet is made to provide structural support. It conceals the equipment within the hot tub, including the pumps, plumbing, heaters, and more.

Filtration Components

Most hot tubs use self-contained units, meaning they don’t need any sort of water connection. Instead, they filter water automatically based on a set time. A filtration cycle can run every couple of hours to help force the water through the filters and remove any unwanted debris. The time between cycles depends on the hot tub model. 

Beyond your standard filtration, hot tubs are treated with chemicals, which help to get rid of bacteria and other impurities.

It is important to understand the filtration cycle, as this is the amount of water that passes through your filter. As a rule of thumb, a hot tub that has the ability to pump a lot of water through a filtration system in a short time period will create a cleaner hot tub environment compared to one that takes longer.

The moving water is controlled by circulation pumps. A circulation pump is a secondary pump that pumps small amounts of water through the hot tub filtration system. The pump works all the time, regardless of whether the hot tub is running or not. 

A circulation pump is very important to maintaining the cleanliness of a hot tub by keeping standing water moving. 

Depending on your hot tub model, you may have a control system, which allows you to control your filtration system and water flow. Essentially, you have the ability to control how much water is filtered regularly.

Heater Components

The hot tub water will pass through a heater element once it has been filtered. The temperature of this heater element is controlled by the user. To help prevent overheating or insufficient water flow, modern heater components are fitted with flow switches or high limit sensors. 

Spa Jets

To create the pressurized massage experience that we are all so familiar with, hot tubs will use a mixture of air pressure and water in spa jets. All spa jets are different, though the basic functionality of spa jets remains the same across the board.

Thanks to the Venturi effect, the water stream that is generated through the action of the pumps helps to pull air through each of the spa jets. Through this mixture of air and water comes bubbles that can help to alleviate pain and soreness as they break against the skin.

Spa jets are simply nozzles that have air drawn through them. This creates a suction-like effect on the hot tub’s air line to pull water through. The spa jets are typically connected to a number of different valves, as this allows users to turn the spa jets on and off in different combinations.

Draining System

To remove water from your hot tub to clean it or transport it, there must be a draining system in place. Hot tubs usually come with a drain that a hose connects to, as well as a drain valve that can be opened and closed to start or stop the flow of water. 

How To Start and Operate A Hot Tub?

Now that you understand a bit more about the various components within a hot tub, you must understand how to start and operate one to make the most out of it.

Here are the 10 necessary steps to start and operate your hot tub with ease.

1 Rinse and Drain

If you just purchased a brand new hot tub to have it shipped to you, there is likely a small amount of antifreeze in it. The reason hot tub manufacturers ship their hot tubs with antifreeze is in the slight case that the plumbing faces damage from freezing temperatures.

This is why it is extremely important to fill the footwell of the hot tub, run the water for a few minutes, and then drain it out using the drain valve. This will help to get rid of any lingering antifreeze in your system.

2 Turning The Power On and Off

Whether you are transporting your hot tub or cleaning it, it is always important to know how to turn the power on and off. 

The main thing to remember is to always disconnect the power to your hot tub. This will get rid of the risk of electrical shock. Beyond flipping your spa equipment switch off, you must also unplug your hot tub and switch the circuit breaker to off as well. 

3 Cleaning Your Hot Tub

Before you ever enter your new hot tub, you should know how to clean it. You can spray your shell and hot tub cover with some mild cleaning agent and wipe both of them down. We recommend using a soft sponge or cloth so as not to damage your shell or cover. Make sure to also rinse your hot tub thoroughly so that it doesn’t foam once it’s running.

4 Installing Your Filter

As you now know, a filter is essential for keeping your hot tub water clean and regular hot tub usage. New hot tub owners must remember to install a filter cartridge into all of the filter wells.

While many hot tubs will only have a single filter well, some have multiple. Be sure to look at your specific hot tub manual to get more information on how to install your filter.

5 Filling Your Hot Tub

The only thing you need to fill your hot tub is a hose. To get rid of impurities and get clean water, we recommend using a hose filter. Hose filters can get rid of copper or iron, which can discolor your water, and calcium, which is the main source of buildup in hot tub plumbing. Clean water is safe water.

A hose filter can also reduce mineral levels to keep your system free from clogs. You can use a filter well if your hot tub has one, though if it does not, you can place it directly into the tub. Make sure to check your hot tub manual to see how high your water levels should be. 

As a rule of thumb, your water level must be high enough to cover the jets without covering the headrests. 

6 Priming Your Pump

The last thing you want in your hot tub line is air. Air pockets can cause serious damage to your hot tub. This is why it is important to prime the pumps.

Some hot tubs come built-in control panel priming. Check your manual to see if your specific hot tub does.

If not, you can prime your hot tub with the bleeder valve:

  1. Begin by turning off the power to your hot tub
  2. Check the owner’s manual to locate your hot tub pump
  3. Shut off the water flow by closing the gate valve on the discharge side of the pump 
  4. Release the air in the pump by turning the bleeder valve counterclockwise
  5. When all of the air has escaped, tighten the bleeder valve and reopen the gate valve
  6. Turn your jets on to check for proper water flow through your pump

7 Adding Spa Chemicals

Before you add any spa chemicals, you want to make sure that your water temperature is at least 80-degrees Fahrenheit. The added heat helps spa chemicals to dissolve properly.

You must first determine the water capacity in your hot tub to determine the amount of spa chemicals you must insert. Always measure your spa chemicals before putting them in the hot tub to make sure they are balanced. Also, be sure to use chemicals specific to a spa and not chemicals specific to a pool.

8 Running The Pump

After you add your chemicals, it is time to work the pump. To evenly distribute the chemicals inside the water, make sure to run your pump for at least ten minutes on the highest speed setting.

9 Setting Your Water Temperature

While temperature preference will vary from one person to another, it is recommended that hot tub users keep their hot tubs at temperatures between 98-102 degrees Fahrenheit. Your hot tub should never exceed 104-degrees, as hot water at this temperature could lead to serious injury for you and your hot tub. 

While your hot tub may have a thermometer installed, it is always recommended that you test your water temperature with a separate thermometer to ensure temperature accuracy.

10 Test Your Water

Your water has had a bit of time to stabilize at this point, though that does not mean that your chemical levels are right. Before you slip into your hot tub, make sure to test your water and adjust the chemical balance if necessary.

Making the Most Of Your Hot Tub

There you have it. 

By now you should understand the basic workings of a hot tub and how to start and operate one properly. Owning a hot tub is a privilege. Through knowledge and understanding, you can make the most out of your hot tub ownership and experience.

Happy hot tubbing!

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