Applied Chemistry

Yesterday I took a little trip to a brand new type of store for me to frequent: the pool and spa supply store. (Up here, they all sell woodstoves, too.)

The reason: we are installing a hot tub in our solarium tomorrow. And hot tubs require chemically treated water.

I learned quite a bit about our water yesterday. First of all, it will take all this to manage it:

I learned that spa water needs to have a certain level of alkalinity and hardness to stabilize it, so that it is not subject to rapid swings in acidity and doesn't suffer corrosion of metal parts over time.

I learned that our water, which comes from a drilled well that is at least 80 feet deep, is too soft and acidic to be used as is in a hot tub. I didn't expect that. We will have to add calcium and sodium carbonate to the water whenever we fill the tub.

I also learned that there are lots of systems for managing spa water. The store I went to carries four product lines - chlorine, bromine, baguanide (a peroxide based system), and mineral systems. I chose the mineral system. With this system, a cartridge containing silver and copper is placed inside the filter. A very small amount of chlorine is added when a new filter is installed, and an oxidant is used regularly to destroy the oils and other goodies we leave behind us when we use a hot tub. The sample hot tub in the store uses this system, and the water was beautiful, clear and odorless, much nicer than the sample tub in another store we visited recently. At the other store, a miasma of chemicals almost knocked me over when the clerk lifted the cover on the spa.

There is one other system out there that adds salt to the water, and uses the chlorine in salt and a catalyst to disinfect the water. There are lots of salt water systems available for swimming pools, which require treatment of tens of thousands of gallons of water, but apparently only one for spas that use only a few hundred gallons. I think I will wait until there are more choices out there. Competition can be a good thing.

Getting the hot tub has been a catalyst of sorts for us, resulting in a great deal of work being accomplished in a short time on a project that we started years ago. That is worthy of its own post.

Something else to think about: we probably need to add calcium to our water supply as a whole. As we think about it, our water appears to be corrosive. Those green stains in the bathtub? Not copper in the water, but copper being leached out of our pipes by our water. I think I have more applied water chemistry ahead of me.


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