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Copyright
 1997 through 2010
Havenmade Inc.
The Spa Specialist
hot tubs and spas
James Arjuna
The Spa Specialist

Hot Tub Construction: Hot Tub Fires
Electrical Safety.

Spas And Hot Tubs


copyright 2003 through 2010 , Havenmade Inc.

 



What causes houses to catch fire from a hot tub?



This subject of safety runs throughout our entire web site, because it is one of the  most important design concepts a consumer should consider. 


Steel and Aluminum Enclosures.

Every material used in the construction of electrical enclosures has a fire rating.  The worst is plastic with out fiber reinforcement.  The best is steel.
The steel that we use is similar to what is found in bar be que grills and gas or electric stoves.  It is also the same steel as used in your homes electric service panel. We use metal enclosures on all the electrical control boxes.

If you were to go to Google Alerts and subscribe to "hot tub fires", you will see a pattern of hot tubs that catch on fire. The pattern is plastic boxes on older spas.
There have been 5 in the last six months according to the newspaper articles I have read.  There should be ZERO, if these spa manufacturers had any brains and used steel control boxes.  Those people's lives are threatened by this, (and as I do more research on this, I'll bet people have died from this.)

Here is what happens inside those boxes, because I have seen this many times.  The power lugs coming into the spa pack corrode and arc, or circuit board relay starts to fail, it starts arcing like a welder and the arc melts through the plastic and starts the spa on fire.  Then the spa starts the deck on fire and then the house. These are things that consumers don't think about. How is it possible for a spa to have a UL or ETL listing and have plastic control boxes, when you can't use plastic on any home sub panel with multiple breakers or multiple connections. The more connections the more possible corrosion, leading to arcing.

With steel or aluminum the arc never gets outside the enclosure.  I have seen this on three of our Haven Spas in the last 9 years.   Most always it is from the electrician, not connecting the power wires to the spa correctly.
They must be tightened and then as the strands compress and settle under the lug, tighten them again to take all the "slack" out of the strands.  The strands literally move out as the lug is tightened and it can fool you into thinking it is tight. Go back in a few seconds and you can tighten it more, because the strands settle "like spaghetti" as they spread out.  Also in wet areas along the coast, you must use an anti-oxidant on the wires or have someone check them every few years for corrosion. Corroded main lugs start fires.

There is no qualified electrician in the US who is allowed to use plastic load centers in your home next to flammable materials.  So why is the load center of a 50 or 60 AMP spa allowed to be made from plastic?

There is no qualified electrician in the US who is allowed to use plastic load centers in your home next to flammable materials.  Not only is it not a good idea, IT IS AGAINST THE LAW.  So why is the load center of a 50 or 60 AMP spa allowed to be made from plastic?   It is because of profits and companies who are only concerned about money and not concerned about a statistic of someone's home being destroyed, "once in a while".

Every time I have seen a burned out control box made from steel, you cannot tell from the outside of the box what is inside.  The outside looks all clean and white, with no signs of electrical arcing.
When I opened up the box, then I can see all the black and burned out electrical parts.  With plastic, you mostly can't even tell where the box is or even what it was, after the fire, because as the deputy fire marshall told me, he could not even tell what "that black charred thing was" with the wires coming to it was.  This was after they put the fire out and the spa burned the deck and almost burned the house down.
If the owner had not been home, he would have no house to come home to.

I ran a small electrical contracting business for over 7 years, and the NECA code book, seem to not apply to spas.  Why?

I can't stress how idiotic it is to use a plastic enclosure on high current spa boxes.   Plastic main boxes are a "time bomb" waiting to start fires "down the road". If you look now, you will see many of them, and in the future, 8 to 12 years we are going to start seeing more fires from spas than ever.  Prior to 2003, most spas had steel or aluminum. 

If you understand electricity at all, a steel control box or aluminum is a grounded metal enclosure that shields the electronics from outside radio waves or any arcing influences.  It also, AND THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT TO UNDERSTAND, grounds out the arc from any electrical connector that touches it and IMMEDIATELY TURNS OFF THE POWER TO THE SPA, because the Ground Fault Protection, trips immediately.  As soon as any arc touches the encloser metal, which is grounded, it instantly turns off the power and stops the arcing.

With plastic enclosures, the GFCI (ground fault circuit interruptor)  does not trip, because it is not a conductor, so the arc keeps on going, melts and penetrates outside the plastic box.  I can't even begin to tell you how dangerous that is on an old spa.  As the wires ages and start to have corrosion it will eventually break the connection and create a "distance" between the connection.  It is that slight distance where the arcing occurs.  When the electricity is turned on, it jumps that small gap and gets very hot.  It melts the wires and creates an even bigger gap that becomes a bright "arc lamp".  If it were to contact metal the arc would shut off the GFCI..  If it contacts plastic, it melts the plastic and starts arcing on the outside of the box and the plastic will start to burn, even if it has flame retardant in it, because it is a "petroleum" product.  

The second best is aluminum, but it still has a much lower resistance to fire escape than steel.  But with the advent of the GFCI Aluminum is OK

Why take the chance.  We only use metal control boxes on Haven Spas; Aluminum on some models with less current.



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Here is a cheap plastic control that is found on very expensive spas from So, CA. They could have at least left a little room around the circuit board, but that is what cheap corp. spas look like.

Hot Spring Junk
Large corporations are only about money, and they take chances with your life. This board needs to be placed in a metal box, not plastic.
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This is a real control box made of steel.  This is found on our Haven Spas.  This is the largest one, but they are all Steel.  Look at the difference from the IQ nonsense of that company above.  Their spas sell for high prices with cheap everything, from the shell, pumps, and control box.

Quality Steel and Heavy Switches


Notice that even the heater wires are enclosed in the metal box.  All of the equipment we use has the heater wires in the box.
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  If you look at this CLICK HERE you will see photos of a heater with the wires in a tiny black  plastic box.  I don't call that anything but dangerous and guess what?  It did catch fire and this company did not change the design much at all. 

Size Of Spa VS Energy Use
Jet Numbers in the Brochure
"Modern" Metal Frames
How To BUY Quality
Multiple Pumps
Diverter Valves
Bogus Information
How Spas Filter Economically
What's Involved in Filtering?
Message Board Awareness
The Importance of Engineering
THERAPY!
Installing Spas Indoors
Before You Buy any Spa About Controls
Read this about spa controls!!
Before You Buy any Spa
Read this about spa design!!
See the Haven Spas
Check out our very informative Message Board Forum
Hot Tubs and Safety: The US The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission
Full Foam and Bad effects on water flow
Electrical Fires









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