Installing electrical to a new or used hot tub can be a daunting thought. The need to access 220 Volt power scares most do-it-yourselfers away from the task, but for those willing to give up a weekend or two the cost savings and self-accomplishment can we worth the task. Below are the major steps and lessons I learned when I recently installing new electrical wiring to my hot tub.
1. Plan Your Project:
Code Review: Reviewing the National Electrical Code (NEC) and any state or local jurisdictional codes should be your first step. You can find excerpts from the NEC on-line. Wiring swimming pools, spas and hot tubs is in section 680 of the NEC. If you do a search on any of the major search engines you will find the national code requirements. The highlights of the NEC include requirement of an electrical disconnect and a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI). The disconnect panel needs to be within sight of the hot tub but greater than 5 feet away from the water surface. The GFCI can be part of the disconnect switch or installed in the main house panel breaker.
You should also check with your local planning and zoning department to determine where you can find any local state or city code requirements. Many times the local jurisdictions will reference the NEC for hot tub solar wire, but it is good to check.
Drawings: Create a scaled plan view drawing of the layout of your new electrical system. The layout should be to correct scale so you can use it to determine the linear feet of conduit, wire, and other materials you will need. You should also create any elevation drawings for conduit that goes up and down walls. This will help you when determining the number of fittings, elbows and conduit lengths needed.
Bill of Materials: Once you have created your drawings, the next step is to calculate the quantity of materials you will need. The materials should consist of conduit (size and length), wires (length and gauge), elbows, junction boxes, conduit C-clamps, screws, disconnect panel and breaker with GFCI, disconnect breaker for the main house panel, and other materials. Once you have calculated all the materials create a Bill of Materials or material schedule with the appropriate number of parts and pieces.
Research Cost: If you do not have an unlimited budget then you should research the cost to purchase all the materials prior to purchasing. You can research costs on-line by going to the major box stores like Home Depot or Lowes, or you can make a trip to the store and determine how much each of the items will cost.
Budget: After determining the cost of each item, multiply the cost of each item by the number of those items needed. Then add all the item summary costs together and this will give you an approximate cost of materials. I would recommend adding 10-percent to the cost for contingency materials that you don't know you need now but will once starting your projects. The materials cost for approximately 100 linear feet of distance between the main houses disconnect and the hot tub cost me approximately $550. Most of the cost was the number 6 control cable. Each wire cost approximately $95. All of my conduit was routed above ground. I receive quotes from electricians over the phone that said they would charge material costs plus $3-$5 per linear foot to install. You should also keep in mind that contractors will often increase the material cost by 10-percent when selling to you.
Tools for the project: Below is the list of tools that I needed to install and connect the electrical to my hot tub: (hammer, Philips screwdriver, flat-head screwdriver, measuring tape, PVC conduit cutter, drill, drill bits including large diameter ones to cut holes through walls, screws for securing conduit to the walls, wire pulling lubrication, fish tape for pulling the wire through the conduit, box cutting knife for cutting any sheetrock).
2. Purchase Materials:
Once you have created your budget and assembled all the tools for your project it is time to go to the store and purchase your materials. I purchased my materials from Home Depot because it was close to my house, but you may have an electrical materials store close to your house. If you do have once close you should purchase your materials from there. Typically they will sell you materials for less cost than you would pay at a big box store. They will also have a larger verity of electrical panels, breakers, and other materials. Remember than you can and should purchase more materials than what you think you will need. You can return any unused materials after your project is complete. This will save you time by not having to stop in the middle of your project to go to the store to purchase materials that you did not know you would need.
3. Install Materials:
After purchasing the materials and assembling any tools you will need it is time to install the wiring and electrical equipment. There is no defined process for installing the equipment but I would recommend you start with the easy installation first. Drill your major holes through walls that align with your desired location. Mount your disconnect box in the location you want and start to route wire from the hot tub to the main house panel. You can do almost all the installation without ever having to worry about the 220 Volt electrical connection.
When you have routed all your conduit it is time to pull your electrical wire. If you followed some of the helpful hints provided at the bottom of this article then pulling your wire should not be too much of an effort. When it comes to installing the breaker in your main house panel, turn off your main house disconnect. This will remove power to all your breakers, thus allowing you to install the new breaker in the panel. Remember this will disable all the power to your house, so choose a time when no one is home or you don't need power, preferably during the day so you don't need your lights.
To get the conduit and wire to your main house disconnect you will need to cut the sheetrock below your main panel. This will allow you to route the conduit inside the wall and go up through the bottom of the existing panel. When cutting the sheetrock you should cut on the middle of each stud which should be 16-inches away from one another. This will allow you to re-install the sheetrock after routing the conduit and wire.
4. Enjoy Your Hot Tub:
When you have finished installing your electrical wiring to your hot tub it is time to fill your hot tub. Your hot tub should be full of water prior to turning it on so that you don't burn-up your hot tub heater. After 8 to 12 hours your hot tub will be up to temperature and you can begin to add chemicals to adjust your PH, Alkalinity, and Chlorine levels. If you are installing a used hot tub I would suggest installing a new filter.
The tips below can save you time and money. I know I wish I would have known them before starting my projects.
1. Increase the size of conduit by at least 0.5 inches that is required by the electrical code. This will increase the ease of pulling the wire through the conduit saving you time and frustration.
2. Use a wire lubricant. There are many types of electrical wire pulling lubricant sold at Home Depot and Lowes. For the most part they are all the same. The cost for the typical size bottle is less than $10.00 and worth the time it will save you. I have even heard of some people using dish soap.
3. Use a fish-tape to help you pull the wire through the conduit. A 25 foot fish-tape is less than $20 and will save you time during wire pulling.
4. Purchase extra materials and return what is not used after your project is complete.
5. Purchase a GFCI disconnect that is made for hot tubs. This will save you some time when selecting materials.
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