Hot Tub Topside Control Panel: A Complete Guide

Your hot tub’s topside control panel is your mission control for your spa experience. It tells you all you need to know about what’s going on in the water and gives you control enough so you can customize your soak based on what you find most relaxing. The topside controls is responsible for all kinds of functions.

Depending on the model of hot tub you have, there are many different kind of hot tub topside control panels with different options. Some older spas have only one button—others have eight or more. Here is an overview of topside control panel options, what everything does, and how to replace one.

Control Panel Terms

  • The blower or bubbler button will control the hot tub’s influx of air from the blower. The blower itself introduces air into the water through a series of injectors. Different from a jet, blowers cause gentle bubbling in the water to enhance the spa experience when used along with other features of the hot tub.
  • Depending on your hot tub, your spa could feature a variety of lighting options to set the mood. The light button controls all of the light functions underwater—some change colors, some have a light show function. The easiest way to move through the options is by pressing the lighting button until you get to a setting that works for you. Always remember to become familiarized with your owner’s manual to know your hot tub’s specific lighting options.
  • More intense than the blower, this button will control the water flow through your jets. Some larger tubs may have up to three jet buttons to control different sections of jets within the spa. Some also have different speeds/strengths that the pump can send water through. Typically, pushing the button one time will start the jets on a low speed and pushing it a second time will take that to a higher pressure.
  • The button that makes a hot tub a HOT tub! Most spas feature a temperature control on its topside control panel—typically one to raise up the temperature and one to lower it. Most hot tubs come programmed with a preselected temperature that keeps your pool somewhere between 101°-104°. Despite being preprogrammed, you can put the hot tub at a temperature compatible with your comfort level. You can also program it in order to make your hot tub more energy efficient.
LCD Display
  • Hot tubs that come with an LCD display give users the added benefit of getting specific error messages when something goes wrong with the spa equipment. Messages appear on the hot tub topside control panel when the unit needs to communicate something. It could alert you that it’s time for a new hot tub filter, heater issues, or various other maintenance concerns. Check your owner’s manual for a complete list of error messages. Here are some common ones:
    • GFI or GFCI failure—This could mean your hot tub could not trip the GFCI breaker and continued operation may be unsafe. This is an excellent time to bring in a technician.
    • HH, HTR TEMP LMT, OH, or OHH—Any of these messages might mean your spa has overheated. DO NOT enter the water because it may have reached unsafe temperatures. Open the cover and let the water cool off. Once it has regulated, you should be able to reset the system by pushing any button. Test your sensors to make sure everything is working properly.

    If you have some other issues with your hot tub topside control panel, here are some other possible ways to troubleshoot the problem.

    Control Panel Troubleshoot

    • My Unit Has no Message or Doesn’t Light Up
    • Your control panel may not be plugged in. Check your connections to make sure that it’s secure and tight.
    • You may have selected the wrong panel. Make sure the one you’ve purchased as a replacement is compatible with your unit.
    • The wire connecting the panel could be the issue. Check the entire length of the unit’s wire to check for damage. A dent made by a pinch during installation or an older wire that has been gnawed on may render the topside panel defective.
    • There’s a chance the unit isn’t getting any power. Be sure the incoming power is coming from where it should. If you buy a replacement, plug it in to double check that the problem is corrected by a new unit. If the new topside works, replace the old unit. If not, check your transformer and circuit board.

    The Numbers are Missing or Blank

    • Make sure your connection is clean. Dirt, rust, or moisture will cause issues with your panel’s readout. Remove the panel, clean everything carefully, then plug the topside back in.

    I Can’t Read My Panel at Night

    • The backlights may be burned out on your panel and may need to be replaced.

    The Panel Flickers

    • If your readout panel is flickering, check to make sure you have low voltage problems. Your unit may not have sufficient voltage to support the topside panel you have purchased.

    Replacing the Hot Tub Topside Control Panel

    If you need to replace the control panel altogether, there are a few things you should know beforehand. Before you purchase a new panel, make sure it’s compatible with your existing spa control pack. There is often a part number on the existing top side panel when you pull it out of the housing. A sticker is typically on the side indicating a part number from the manufacturer. Otherwise, get the number for your spa control pack and call the manufacturer to find out which top side panel will work for you.

    Replacing a topside control panel is a fairly simple process. First, turn off the power to the unit. Remove the spa access panel and take the cover off of the control box and unplug the wire that goes form the topside panel to the circuit board. Gently remove the topside control panel. Remove the plastic from the self-stick backing of the topside controller. Place the topside controller in the place of the previous one. Plug in the topside wire to the circuit board and power back up the spa to test the function of the new unit.

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