How Does a Hot Tub Control Panel Work? (Here’s How…)

By Dillon •  Updated: 12/06/21 •  15 min read

How does a hot tub control panel work?

A hot tub control panel works like a timer, switch, and control point for the spa. It regulates temperature, displays chemical and heating issues, power failures, and filtration settings. The central control panel is usually located on the top part of the hot tub so people can easily access it.

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An example of a top-side control panel is this Balboa 30-200-3811 Topside Kit. There are many more on the marketplace with different features.

There’s nothing better than understanding every component of your hot tub if you’re using one for the first time

But even some people who have used it for some years do not understand critical components like the hot tub control panel. This is unfortunate because the control panel is the backbone of the operation of a hot tub.

If you don’t know what happens in the hot tub control panel, you can’t solve even the most minor issues that don’t require a technician.

This article will cover essential details regarding the hot tub control panel. 

Some hot tubs can have completely varying control panels from others.

For example, you wouldn’t be surprised to find a hot tub with only one button on the control panel, while others have as many as eight. But, of course, these factors depend on the model and the make of your hot tub. 

Let’s get started!

How Does a Hot Tub Control Panel Work?

A hot tub control panel works like a timer, switch, or control point. It keeps the hot tub’s temperature constant at all times. If you forget to turn off the hot tub, the control panel will work for you. The control panel will also troubleshoot and indicate any issues with your hot tub components and display them on the screen. The control panel can diagnose and show pump, heating, and chemical problems. 

When your hot tub’s control panel runs into a problem, it is advisable to replace it immediately if it cannot be repaired. 

What Are The Buttons On My Hot Tub? 

Here is a basic run-down on the buttons inside a hot tub control panel.

Lights

A light button is provided on your hot tub if it’s equipped with lights to support nighttime soaking. The button helps to control these lights to your needs. For example, you can turn on and off the lights and adjust their brightness to your preference.

Interestingly, some hot tubs are designed with different lighting colors, which you can adjust right from the control panel using the light buttons. 

Jets

Jets are responsible for the bubbling and the massaging experience that gives a therapeutic feeling when using the hot tub. 

Larger hot tubs can have as many as three pump buttons equipped on the control panel of your hot tub. You can use the buttons to adjust the strength and the speed of your hot tub jets as you desire. 

The typical functioning of the jet button is that a single press sets the jets at a low speed. And when you push the button a second time, the speed of the hot tub jet increases. 

Temperature 

Hot tubs are easy to use because they help us choose and set the spa water temperature. Then, you adjust the water temperatures to an appropriate level using the temperature buttons.

Suppose you want to use the spa in winter. You can quickly turn up the temperature. If the temperature feels too high, you can always turn it down right at the control panel. 

Today, most hot tubs have preprogrammed settings on their control panel, but you can always adjust the temperature to your most desirable levels. But you might never exceed 104 degrees because most hot tubs are designed to stay at this temperature or lower. 

Air Blower 

The blower button on your hot tub’s control panel helps to introduce air into the water through different air injections. It controls the air bubbler or blower on your hot tub. 

Blowers are responsible for causing the bubbling effect on the shell when you’re using the spa. This adds to the ambiance of your hot tub experience. When combined with the massaging effects from the jets, you get a more relaxing experience. 

Settings 

The setting button will capture other features not included in the standard buttons discussed. For example, some hot tubs are equipped with music systems whose settings can be accessed from the control panel. 

The single-button control panels serve as the control point to navigate several steps to set up your hot tub parameters. 

LCD Display

Your hot tub communicates to you through the LCD. You can tell where the temperature is set by looking at the display. You can also tell if your hot tub has a problem based on the error display from your LCD.

The LCD display is the communication interface where you learn everything that’s happening inside your hot tub. 

When there’s something unusual happening in your hot tub, a message will usually appear on the top side of your control panel. 

Depending on the hot tub model you’re using, you can get messages on the display that tells you it is time to change the filters. In addition, you can get notifications regarding the need for maintenance or potential problems with other components of your hot tub. 

For your model-specific hot tub, I always recommend you to go through the owner’s manual to know what’s happening from reading the messages on the display screen. 

How Do I Know If My Hot Tub Control Panel Is Bad?

You can tell that your hot tub control is bad when it is dead or frozen when your circuit board is working fine. When this happens, inspect if your display has moisture. For example, look if there are cracked buttons and or whether there’s a wet part on display. 

You can also look at whether the backlight is displaying. If not, change the displays and turn on the power source to see if the problem persists. 

It could also have failed because of water, as observed from the moisture signs. 

Finally, cracked buttons indicate that a heavy object might have fallen on the display and caused some damage. 

How Do I Test My Hot Tub Control Panel?

The best way to test a hot tub control panel is to turn off the spa and turn it back on. Then, if nothing is showing on the display or the display appears frozen, and the spa appears to be on due to water filtration and heating, then the control panel is not working.

But you can use other trial-and-error methods to check whether the control panel is in good working condition. 

One of them is turning on the hot tub to see if it turns on the filters or heats the water. If it does, then the display could be the problem with your control panel. 

This method assumes that a faulty hot tub control will not allow the control of other components. 

If the control panel is not working, the best practice would be to contact the manufacturer and ask for a replacement along with instructions on how to deal with it. 

Often, warranties will cover the cost of the control panel being damaged.

How Do I Reset The Control Panel In My Hot Tub?

You can reset the control panel in your hot tub by turning the hot tub off, giving it between 60 and 90 seconds, and turning it on again.

If the control panel continues to display the error message, consult your hot tub’s manual to see where the problem is lying. 

But if the problem with the control panel persists, you can check its connectors or whether there is water that might have entered the control panel. 

If you still can’t find the problem, you may need to consult with your local hot tub dealer to check if it’s time to change the hot tub control. 

How Long Should a Hot Tub Circuit Board Last?

A hot tub circuit board can last between 5 and 10 years, but it can last up to 20 years with proper care and maintenance. 

The signs of wear on your hot tub’s circuit board include overheating. The circuit board is usually part of central components in your hot tub operations. 

The electronics inside the spa are exposed to harsh conditions that determine how long they last. 

It’s always good to be ready to maintain the electronics inside your spa a few times over the life of your hot tub. 

Problems With Hot Tub Control Panels

Some problems that hot tub control panels include:

  1. Blinking Lights, Strange Messages
  2. Red Lights Blinking 
  3. Red and Green Blinking Lights 
  4. Dashes Displayed Instead of Messages 
  5. Buttons Won’t Work When Pressed
  6. Overheating
  7. Can’t Read the Control Panel in the Dark
  8. Panel Flickering
  9. No Messages

Blinking Lights, Strange Messages

If the lights on your control panel are blinking simultaneously or the system is displaying strange messages on the LCD, there could be a software issue with your circuit board. I advise you to check if there is condensation or corrosion to address the problem. 

Red Lights Blinking

You might also find blinking red lights on the control panel. The blinking red lights mean that you need to reset the control panels.

In many models, resetting involves turning off the power for a short moment and turning it on again.

If the spa is drawing 240 volts, you can reset the control panel by turning off the power at the breaker.

For 120 volts hot tub models, reset the control panel by unplugging the spa and plugging back in after a couple of minutes.

Red and Green Blinking Lights

You can also observe the blinking of both the red and green lights on your hot tub’s control panel. When this happens, know that there’s a low water flow in your equipment.

This could be due to a couple of things, including low water levels in the spa, debris, and dirty filters.

If the problem persists, consult with a qualified hot tub technician if you can’t reach your user’s manual. 

Dashes Displayed Instead of Messages 

When you observe this problem on the control panel, don’t panic. Instead, just reset the panel if it’s displaying dashes instead of the error message.

The recommended procedure, for instance, is turning off the power for about an hour and then turning it on. Then, the problem will have been resolved.

 If the problem persists, consult with a qualified hot tub technician.

Buttons Won’t Work When Pressed

Sometimes the buttons on the control panel will fail to work when pressed. 

If this is the case with your hot tub, check if the fuse in the circuit board is sending power to the topside panel. 

The button can also fail to work if you have installed a bad hot tub side control panel or a bad control board. 

A bad cable could also cause it between the control board and the control panel.

Inspect carefully to determine the cause of the problem.

If you’re still having issues, consults a qualified hot tub technician or call an electrician.

Overheating

Messages such as HTR, HH, OH, OHH, or TEMP LMT mean that your hot tub could be overheating. If that is the case, do not enter the water.

Open up the lid to the hot tub, and let the water cool down. Do not turn on any jets or filtration during this time.

Adding cold water can also help the spa cool down.

After a little while, resetting the power to the hot tub should allow the message to clear back to normal.

No Messages Being Displayed

If no messages are displayed, the connection between the hot tub motherboard and the control panel could be disconnected.

Panel Flickers

If the control panel is flickering on the spa, there could be a voltage issue with the wiring. Check all the wiring connections and consult the manufactures manual. Consulting an electrician is also a good idea.

Can’t Read Hot Tub Control Panel in the Dark

If the backlight on the LCD is damaged or not working correctly, it may be time to replace the control unit. A power connection issue to the panel may also cause this problem.

How Do I Remove My Hot Tub Control Panel?

To remove a hot tub control panel from the top portion of the hot tub, you must first turn off the power, break off the silicone seal, unplug the upper control connectors, remove the panel, add the new panel, and water seal it. A qualified technician or electrician will be able to do this more effectively.

Once your panel is damaged and needs repair or replacement, you’re going to remove it from the mounting. 

Of course, the control panel needs to be handled with care during the removal and the replacement process.

But I shall look at the various steps you must follow to safely remove and place back a control panel from its mounting. 

Turn Off Power 

It’s not advisable to start tampering with your hot tub without first cutting off the power. Therefore, reach the breaker to shut off the power from its source. 

Shutting off the power is critical because it helps prevent electrocutions and other unwanted accidents when working on the control panel. 

Break the Silicone Mounting Seal

It’s very important to be careful when breaking the Silicon mounting seal because you can damage the control panel. 

The best way to do this is to use a plastic spatula. You should place it at the perimeter of the control panel and slide with some force to break the silicone mounting on the control panel. 

If the spatula is not effective, use a flathead screwdriver to do the same.

Unfortunately, the latter is metallic and can cause cracks on the control panel. However, these can be prevented by placing a towel between the silicone and the screwdriver. 

After breaking the silicone seal, lift the control panel slowly from its mounting.  

Unplug The Upper Control Connector 

While the power source is still off, locate and unplug the upper control connector. You’d typically find the upper control connector at the PC board of the hot tub’s control panel. 

But the location of this device can vary across different hot tub models, so consult with your manual if you don’t find it in the mentioned location. 

After unplugging, install the new upper control panel in the same position or the old model after repair. 

Add The New Connector

Placing a new connector through the hole may not always be easy. If you find problems when adding a new connector, use a bent hanger from the lower side to pull the new connector through the hole.

Reach the back to remove the paper liner you’ll find. Then apply silicone to the new panel of about 3/8 inches in size. 

Turn on the power to start up your hot tub system. Do not get in the hot tub with exposed wiring.

Remove The Old Silicone and Add New Silicone

After you’ve tested that everything is working fine, shut off the power to the hot tub. 

Proceed to seal the control panel back to the position.

Using a spatula, remove all the old silicone around the panel trough area. Then add a new silicone layer to seal the new installation in position. 

The essence of removing the old silicone is usually to facilitate adequate sealing and prevent it from dripping. 

Press Down On The New Control Panel 

Next, press down on the new panel to ensure it’s back in place and is sealing correctly. Then, let it sit without power for a couple of hours to dry the silicone.

When you’re done, find a clean cloth and start removing any excess silicone left on the surface to leave it clean as new. 

Turn On The Power

At this point, you can turn the power on to your hot tub. Next, add a small, sturdy piece of wood on top of the new control panel where no buttons will be pressed. This keeps it in position as the silicone drys with the spa cover on.

Allow the piece of wood to remain in that position for about 24 hours. Doing so will allow the silicone to set entirely and provide a solid seal to the control panel. From there, you’ll be good to go. 

How Does a Hot Tub Control Panel Work: Conclusion

A control panel is central to the functioning of your hot tub equipment. 

There is so much that goes on in the hot tub. Ideally, it enables you to control almost all operations from a single point through the press of a button. 

Control panels vary in design and functions based on your hot tub model. But this guide has laid out standard information applicable to most control panels in the modern and the traditional hot tub models. 

I encourage you to familiarize yourself with the basic features and functions of the control panel discussed in this article so that you can diagnose and resolve common issues without calling a technician. 

I have indicated the meaning of different displays that can appear on the control panel, how you can test the control and how you can remove and change the control panel without causing any problems to yourself and your equipment.

I hope this article on how hot tub control panels work was helpful.

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Dillon

I'm Dillon, creator of SpaToolKit.com. During the day I'm a software developer for an engineering company. At night I enjoy sitting in my hot tub and relaxing. My hope is that Spa Tool Kit will be a place where you can find the best information on hot tubs, spa equipment, setups, parts, and accessories. Let's get started!