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Caldera Vacanza Quick Start Guide

Instructions on filling your new Caldera Vacanza Hot Tub for the first time:

Starting up your new Caldera Vacanza Series hot tub is not as overwhelming as it might seem. We realize you may see conflicting information, especially if you are getting tips and advice from the Internet. It’s important to remember that not all hot tubs are made to function in the same manner, so please call your salesperson if you have any questions about starting up your hot tub for the first time. If you have well water (private or community) we strongly recommend using a pre-filter attachment on your water hose to reduce and eliminate problematic minerals from entering your hot tub. Please take the time to read thru the following instructions before starting to fill your new spa and refer to the section below, Hot Tub Water Care Guide, for how to properly balance your new spa’s water!

  • Do not fill the spa with hot water, as tripping of the high-limit thermostat may result.
  • DO NOT CONNECT POWER TO AN EMPTY SPA. Power to the spa automatically activates critical components within the spa, such as controls, heater, and other systems. If power is supplied to these components prior to the spa being filled, the components will be damaged, and this may result in a non-warranty component failure.
  • Do not use your spa after filling until all of the steps listed below are completed.
  • Before filling your spa for the first time, remove the equipment compartment door and check to ensure that the unions on either side of the pump(s) and heater are hand-tight.
  1. CLOSE ALL DRAINS, remove the filter compartment cover, skimmer basket, weir, and filter. Unscrew the Spa Frog cartridge caps and remove cartridge before filling. Fill your spa through the filter compartment (using the CleanScreen™ pre-filter that attaches to your garden hose if you are well water). The water level of your spa should be maintained at approximately one inch above the highest jet in the spa. Reinstall the filter and then the skimmer basket, and weir once the spa is filled. Your water level should be above the skimmer basket of the filter compartment.

          IMPORTANT: Watkins Manufacturing Corporation does not recommend that the spa be filled with “softened” water, as this may damage the spa’s equipment.

  1. After the spa has been filled with water and the equipment compartment door is secured, power must be applied to the spa.
  • FIRST activate power to the subpanel from the main house panel.
  • NEXT open the door of the electrical subpanel and reset the GFCI breaker.
  • FINALLY, close and secure the subpanel door.
  1. TO CHECK THE OPERATION OF THE JET SYSTEM and to purge any remaining air from the heating system, push the “JETS” button on the control panel three times (twice for Tarino or Aventine models) to run the jet pump(s) on high speed for one minute. Once the jet system is fully operational (as indicated by strong, non-surging jets), priming of the spa is complete. Turn off the jets by pressing the “JETS” button until all jets have turned off. If you do not feel a steady stream of water from your jets, refer to the instructions for priming the pump in the SPA TROUBLESHOOTING section in your Owner’s Manual.

          IMPORTANT: Be sure that the diverter is in position 1 or position 2 (see illustration on diverter valves in Owner’s Manual) before priming the pump for the first time.

  1. SET THE TEMPERATURE CONTROL to the desired temperature between 100°F (38°C) and 104°F (40°C), then place the spa cover on the spa and allow the water temperature to stabilize (this could take up to 24 hours). Make sure you secure the cover in place using the cover locks. Periodically check the spa water temperature. When the water temperature climbs above 90°F (32°C), you may begin balancing your hot tub’s water. Please refer to our Hot Tub Water Care Guide for more detailed instructions on balancing your hot tub’s water. The spa temperature is pre-programmed to reach 100F (39°C), and will normally do so within 18 to 24 hours. You may raise the water temperature to your desired degree. After a few hours, the water temperature will remain within 3˚F (1.5°C) of your selected temperature.

Hot Tub Water Care Guide for Caldera Spa Customers:

Balancing your hot tub water should not begin until your spa is heated to the desired temperature.  As your water heats up, pH and Alkaline levels may change, so it’s important not to rush through the startup process. Once your hot tub has achieved the desired temperature, you may test the spa water for the first time with your test strips. Simply dip the test strip in the water and then pull the strip out of the water and line up the colored pads on the strip to the back of the bottle. Make a note of what your readings are before adding any chemicals to the water. Ideally, your spa’s pH should read between 7.2-7.6 ppm and the Alkaline should be between 80-120 ppm.

  1. Metal Gon: If you are on a well (private or community) we recommend using a full bottle of Metal Gon to keep any problematic minerals in a liquid state, thus preventing unwanted buildup in your hot tub’s plumbing lines and mechanical equipment. Turn on you spa’s jet pump(s) and pour the full bottle of Metal Gon in your spa’s filter compartment. Allow the jets to run for 30-45 minutes and then turn the jets off. You need to allow the Metal Gon to circulate through the spa’s plumbing lines over the next 8-12 hours. We do not recommend adding anything else to your spa water until 8-12 hours has passed. It’s important not to rush this step.
  2. Stain and Scale: If you are on city water, instead of using Metal Gon, we recommend using one third of the bottle (3-4 oz) of Stain and Scale. Run your spa’s jet pump(s) for 30 minutes and then allow the spa to circulate for the next 8-12 hours. Proceed to next step.
  3. pH and Alkalinity: If you need to make any adjustment to the pH and Alkaline, you may do so at this time using pH increaser or decreaser or Alkaline increaser. ***There is no such thing as Alkalinity decreaser. If your Alkalinity is high, you may use a tablespoon of Muriatic Acid to reduce the Alkaline reading or you may use pH decreaser, which is also a dry acid and will reduce the overall Alkalinity. Make a note of whatever modifications you make so you will have a good idea of what to expect the next time you fill your hot tub and proceed to the next step.
  4. Shock & Sanitize: Add the pre-measured packet called “Jump Start” by SpaFrog to your hot tub and run your spa on a “clean” cycle. This will establish a base of sanitizer in your new Caldera Spa when using either a SmartChlor (GREY color) Sanitizer cartridge.
  5. Mineral Cartridge: Dial your SpaFrog Mineral Cartridge (BLUE color) to a “6” setting by twisting the top cap. Unscrew your SpaFrog Chamber and insert the Mineral Cartridge into the SpaFrog Chamber. Most Mineral Cartridges last about 4 months. ***Caldera Hot Tubs come with an in-line water care system called SpaFrog. SpaFrog is a two part system that will deliver the appropriate amount of natural minerals and sanitizer to you hot tub water.
  6. SmartChlor : Lastly, you will need to add your sanitizer SpaFrog cartridge in the SpaFrog chamber. Twist the cap of the cartridge to a “3-4” setting for moderate use or higher for frequent use. Most sanitizer cartridges last about 4 weeks. 

You are now ready to use your new hot tub!!!

A few things to remember…

After each use: we recommend adding one tablespoon per person of the Oxidizer after each use while running a “clean cycle”. This will help keep your water fresh and clear by removing organics.

Weekly: You may want to add 1-2 tablespoons weekly of a granular di-chlor while running a “clean cycle” during periods of frequent and excessive use. Test your water for pH and Alkaline levels and adjust if needed. Be sure that you are using the Spa Frog test strips to monitor your spa’s water.

Monthly: Add a fresh SmartChlor cartridge to your SpaFrog Chamber. These last for approximately 4 weeks and need to be refreshed regularly. Clean your filter, even if it looks clean, at least once a month! This will remove all organic and mineral build up and will help keep your water fresh and clean. Just rinse it with a hose on a high power nozzle to release all undesirables.

Quarterly: Replace your SpaFrog Mineral Cartridge. These have a finite lifespan of four months and should be refreshed 3 times a year. Clean your spa cover to remove any mildew and apply a protective coat of CoverShield to the top of the cover.

Drain and refill your spa as needed. For most customers, this is once every four months.

***IF YOU HAVE AN OZONATOR installed on your spa, it is not unusual for your “FCL” or Free Chlorine levels to read at “0” on a 5-way test strip. This is normal and do not be alarmed. Ozone system effectively burn out the remaining free chlorine, so you will be left with clean, fresh water (and none of the heavy chlorine smells that you normally see in spas with no ozone system).


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