Have you heard the stories about my adventures with electricity? Here’s yet another:
A few months ago Robin and I decided it sure would be nice to have the spa running to relax in during the cold winter evenings. The buried 250 gallon propane tank in the back yard had been close to empty for a couple of years, so I ordered up a 700 dollar refill.
The fellow who came to certify and fill the tank also checked the regulator on the spa heater for me and found that the thirty year old item was defunct. I had him change it out for an additional 75 bucks. Then we fired up the pool pump, flipped the switch on the heater, and watched it light up.
All was well for about five minutes, then water came rushing out of the bottom of the heater, extinguishing the burner and effectively shutting down the whole operation. Inspection revealed that the heat exchanging manifold was corroded away and leaking like a sieve.
Cha-ching! I went on a search for a replacement pool/spa heater, and after discovering I could save 40% on a RayPak 266,000 btu unit via the internet (model PR266AEPX) with free shipping vs any of the DFW area pool supply companies, I decided to install myself.
Two weeks later the unit was dropped at my curb, and I installed and wired it in that weekend.
Here’s where it gets tricky.
Attached to the wiring harness was a big red tag with wiring instructions. On one side was a diagram for wiring the thing with 240 volts. The opposite side was a diagram showing how to wire it for 120.
I was wiring into a 240 feed. While laying the harness and tools out, the red wiring diagram tag blew off the top of the heater and went sailing across the yard. Robin (who was standing by with 911 on speed dial as she always does when I’m pretending to know what I’m doing with electricity) chased it down and returned it to me. I slapped it down on the top of the heater again and used a wrench as a paper-weight to ensure it stayed there this time. What I didn’t notice was I had placed it 120 volt side up this time.
I proceeded to go through the happy and simple motions of wiring the thing in with wire nuts and electrical tape. When I was all done I had Robin flip the breaker on.
I cranked up the pump and flipped the power switch on the RayPak to the on position.
The digital display lit up with what appeared to be Martian hieroglyphs for a moment, then there was a nice crakling sound and a curl of smoke drifted out of the housing in the general area of the transformer.
Upon opening the cover I saw the transformer had blown and then realized what had happenned as I referred back to the diagram and saw that the 120 volt side was facing up.
I ordered a new transformer for 80 bucks and sat around for another week until it arrived.
That evening I replaced it, being careful to wire for 240 volts this time.
When it came time to power the RayPak on the thing fizzled again, only this time the smoke came from the controller board.
Surmising that the previous incident had likely blow something in the circuits, I ordered a new controller board for around 300 dollars and waited a week for it to arrive.
It sat on the shelf for another month while I served my first four weeks at my new job. I was too consumed with drinking from the fire hose as I figured out new systems and processes to bother with any household projects.
Finally today I managed to install the circuit board without incident. The spa is currently heating up to a relaxing 103 degrees and this evening Robin and I intend to cook ourselves in it like a pair of happy lobsters.
Close inspection of the old circuit board showed that the enemy once again was a fried component. It’s not a capacitor this time, but rather appears to be a resistor that failed to resist the strange load that was sent to it as the original transformer fried to a crisp.
For those who think the lesson learned from this is to have professionals perform these jobs, I must remind you that even with the additional expense of 500 bucks or so in replacement parts, I still came out over 500 dollars cheaper than if I’d bought this same RayPak heater from a pool supply here, and that doesn’t even include the savings on labor, either.