Hot tubs are a great way to relax and unwind, and now that you’ve finally got your own in your backyard, it’s time to get it up and running. While you may be eager to take a dip, there’s one important thing you need to do first: wire your hot tub. Here’s a complete guide to help you out.
Standard hot tubs need a dedicated 240-volt, 50-amp circuit, secured with GFCI protection. This is done by running wires from the main electric panel to a manual GFCI shutoff box and then connecting the spa to the shutoff box with flexible, weatherproof wire.
Wiring a standard hot tub yourself might not be the most straightforward process, but it can be done with some careful planning and the right tools. However, before you start, you should review the specifications of your hot tub and your home’s electrical system, so that the wiring process goes as smoothly as possible. Let’s take a look at the steps and what you’ll need to proceed.
Can You Wire Your Own Hot Tub?
Wiring a hot tub only requires an intermediate understanding of electrical work. So it’s not really as daunting of a task as it may seem. If you have some experience with household wiring projects and feel confident in your abilities, then wiring your tub should be no problem.
However, if you have even slight doubts about your wiring skills or don’t understand any part of this guide, it’s probably best to hire a professional electrician. Improper hot tub wiring can result in electrocution and other serious injuries.
Plus, many manufacturers void the warranty if the hot tub isn’t wired by a licensed professional. So, it’s really up to you to decide whether to tackle the job yourself or hire an electrician, but choose wisely!
What Supplies Do You Need to Wire a Hot Tub?
If you’ve decided to wire your hot tub yourself, you’ll need the following supplies:
- GFCI shut off box
- Rigid Grey PVC Conduit
- PVC cutter (on Amazon)
- Conduit Clamps & Screws
- PVC Cement (on Amazon)
- Double-pole Circuit Breaker
You’ll also need a handful of tools, including:
- Electric Drill
- Hole Saw Attachment
- Voltage tester (on Amazon)
- Screw Driver
- Wire Strippers
- Wire Cutters
- Tape Measure
- Fish tape (on Amazon)
- Electrical tape
Determining Your Hot Tub Type
In terms of power requirements, there are two types of hot tubs:
- Plug-and-play tubs: These tubs have a low amperage (10-15 amps) and can be plugged into any standard 120-volt outlet. They’re usually small, portable spas and don’t have a powerful heating or jet system.
- Standard hot tubs: These tubs require a 240-volt, 50-60 amp GFCI circuit breaker and must be hardwired directly to the main electrical panel. Compared to plug-and-play tubs, standard hot tubs have a 300% better heat rating and come with many more features such as stronger pumps, lights, and waterfalls.
Since the two types are far different in power requirements, it’s important to know which type you have before starting the wiring process. The hot tub description or the owner’s manual should detail the required voltage and amperage.
If not, you can always check with the manufacturer or your retailer. But make sure you have all the necessary information before proceeding.
How Do You Wire a Hot Tub?
Now coming to the main part, here’s how you can wire your hot tub step-by-step:
Step 1: Plan the Route
The first step is to determine the path from your home’s main service panel to the GFCI shutoff box (which you’ll be installing six feet away from the spa) to the electric panel in your spa.
This route is known as the conduit run; make sure it’s short, direct, and has the fewest number of bends. Once you’re satisfied with the route, mark and measure the distance to buy the required amount of conduit.
Step 2: Install GFCI Shutoff Box
GFCI is a manual switch that disconnects the power to the spa whenever there’s an imbalance in voltage. This protects your tub and anyone using it from electrocution in case of a faulty grounding system.
Shutoff boxes are essential, and every manufacturer recommends their installation. If your home is already equipped with one, you can simply connect the conduit to it.
But if not, you’ll have to install it near the main breaker. For the exact location, manufacturers recommend a spot within the visual range and 6 feet away from the spa.
Step 3: Dig the Conduit Trench
Dig a trench to bury conduits, following the route you planned earlier. Local building codes usually regulate the depth of the conduits.
So, make sure you check that before proceeding. Beware of any existing electrical lines running underground. Use a wire locator (on Amazon) to be on the safe side.
You can also use metallic electrical tubing or armored cables instead of PVC conduits. But make sure you follow all the safety regulations.
Step 4: Lay the Conduits
First, make a hole in the wall near the main electric panel using a hole saw. Make sure it’s big enough to fit the conduit; you’ll use that to run wires from the panel to the spa outside.
Now, lay the conduit inside the trench, starting from the hole near the panel. Secure each conduit section with clamps every few feet and glue the sections together using PVC cement.
Make sure the end near the spa is secured well inside the electric panel. You can use a flex pipe to guide the wires inside the spa’s equipment bay. Since it’ll be a wet environment, don’t leave any chance for the water to seep in and damage the circuit.
The trench is still not filled at this point; that’ll be the last step.
Step 5: Pull the Wires
Once the conduit is in place, it’s time to pull the wires. You can use fish tape for this purpose; it’ll help you guide the wires through the conduit without any kinks. Make sure you leave six inches of extra wire on both sides for future repairs.
Start by feeding the wires from the main panel through the conduit to the shutoff box. Then, feed another set of wires from the shutoff box to the spa panel.
Step 6: Hook Up the GCFI to the Spa Panel
Once the wires are in place, it’s time to connect them to the spa panel. Start this with the second leg of the circuit between GCFI and the spa. Open the spa panel and locate the terminals for the line. Your user guide should have detailed instructions; ensure you follow them closely.
Your next step should be connecting the spa to the main power supply, but first, you need to cut off the power to the entire house.
Step 7: Disconnect the Main Power
It’s absolutely crucial that you disconnect the power to your home before working with live wires. To do that, remove the cover of your main electric panel and locate the shutdown button.
Depending on the model, it should be either a handle or a switch. Once you find it, flip it to the ‘off’ position. Then, use a voltage tester to double-check that there’s no power running through the wires.
Step 8: Connect the Spa to the Main Power
Time to connect your spa to the double pole circuit breaker inside the main electric panel. Remember that the incoming wires from the electric poll are still live with 240 V, so be extra careful.
First, connect the green and white ground wires to the panel’s ground bar panel. Then, connect the black and red load wires to the respective slots on the circuit box. Make sure all the screws are nice and tight. Label the breaker with ‘Spa’ or something similar so you don’t forget the circuit.
Step 9: Restore Power and Test the System
Finally, you’re ready to test your handy work. Flip the shutdown switch back to the “on” position and restore the power to your home.
Fill your tub with water and turn on all the jets, heaters, and other features. If everything is working properly, you should see smooth operation without any issues.
Step 10: Fill in the Trench
Once you’re sure that the electrical system is up and running, finish your project by burying the conduits. Cover them with dirt and rocks, then pack the soil tightly around the conduit. Make sure there are no gaps or loose soils so the ground doesn’t sink in after rain or under stress.
And that’s it! You’ve successfully wired your hot tub and can now enjoy it for years to come. Just remember to have regular maintenance checkups and keep an eye on the electrical system so that everything stays in good working order.
Mistakes to Avoid When Wiring a Hot Tub
Although wiring a hot tub may not seem too difficult, some mistakes can be easily made if you’re not careful. Here are some common mistakes that you should do your best to avoid:
- Not following the manufacturer’s instructions. Every model is different and has specific requirements, so it’s absolutely necessary to go over every detail in the manual. Skipping over this step can lead to serious problems down the line.
- Not burying the conduit deep enough. The rule of thumb is to bury it at least 6 inches below the ground, but some places have different requirements. Make sure to check with your local building code before starting the project.
- Burying conduits under the tub. Conduits are used to keep water and dirt away from the electrical system, so it only makes sense that they shouldn’t be placed under the tub. Doing so can lead to serious problems in the future.
- Forgetting to acquire the necessary permits. Depending on where you live, you may need to get an electric permit, water permit, or both. Failure to do so can result in hefty fines or, in some cases, your project getting shut down.
- Not using the correct type of wire. Hot tubs need to be wired with THNN standard copper wire, which is different from the type used for most household appliances. It’s also code-regulated, so check with your local building department before starting the project.
- Not labeling the circuit breaker. This one may seem like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how often it’s forgotten. Labeling the breaker can save you a big headache down the road.
- Not testing the GFCI device. GFCI is a safety device, but if it’s not at the right frequency, the whole setup could be rendered useless. Always test the GFCI before connecting it to the main power.
- Not considering the surrounding of the tub. The location of the hot tub can have a big impact on the safety of the wiring. If it’s placed directly below overhead wires, too close to the main panel, or in an area prone to flooding, you could be asking for trouble.
- Not getting approval from the local inspector or electrician. This is probably the most important step in the whole process, especially if you’ve done the whole wiring yourself. The inspector will check to ensure everything is up to code and that there are no potential hazards.
- Insisting on DIY when you’re in over your head. Just because you’ve watched a few YouTube videos doesn’t mean you’re qualified to do every job yourself. If you’re unsure about anything, it’s always best to consult with a professional. You’ll be doing yourself (and your hot tub) a big favor in the long run.
Why Hire a Professional?
Sometimes the risk and cost are just too high to try and tackle a project like this on your own. For example, the tools and supplies needed for wiring a hot could easily set you back hundreds of dollars, and that’s not counting the time and effort required to acquire permits that professionals can obtain more easily.
Above all, your safety should be worth more than the money you would save by doing it yourself.
Most licensed electricians charge between $50 and $100 per hour. So even if it takes them three hours to do the job, which is on the high end, you’re still looking at the cost of $150 to $300.
For installing a $5,000 spa, that’s a pretty small price to pay for the assurance that the job was done right and that you won’t have to worry about any costly mistakes down the line.