Spa Boy from Arctic Spas brings automated salt chlorination to hot tubs
By Michelle L. Cramer
Ten years ago, salt chlorinating and web connectivity were top of mind for Canada-based hot tub manufacturer Arctic Spas. The company looked to create a competitive edge, says co-owner Brent Macklin, so Arctic started exploring options.
“We actually went and bought a little hardware-software company,” Macklin says. “If we were going to build a spa pack, make it salt compatible and eventually try to automate it, then the best way to do that was to develop all that technology ourselves.”
Within a year, in 2010, the first version of a salt chlorinator was factory installed in an Arctic hot tub. It was a learning curve from there to get the product just right. “We didn’t test it long enough [initially],” Macklin says. “We had some hurdles and some issues with the system itself, but we kept plugging away — kept working, fixing and solving — and got to the point where the salt system was pretty bulletproof.”
The original Arctic Spa salt system was manually controlled, meaning homeowners and spa techs still had to test the water, and then would turn the dial up or down on how many hours a day it worked to maintain proper sanitizer levels.
But in 2016, Arctic developed a probe that stays in the water and tests it automatically. It detects minimal drops in sanitizer levels and then turns the salt chlorinator on as needed, bringing the levels back up and holding them there. Spa Boy was born.
“Gone are the days of dipping strips or counting drops and doing all the testing,” Macklin says, “because the tub just tests it for you and holds the levels for you perfectly. I have a 16-year-old who plays volleyball, so when the whole team of volleyball girls shows up [for a hot tub party], there’s no system in the world that deals with that. But under normal usage, the Spa Boy system just maintains your levels and basically gets rid of all the caps of this, teaspoons of that testing. The tub just takes care of itself.”
A phone app that connects to Spa Boy allows homeowners to make sure water sanitizer is on point. Of note, Spa Boy will monitor pH, but homeowners or service techs will have to manually adjust that for proper levels.
Aaron Pilon, sales manager for Arctic Spas Edmonton, says that, while other manufacturers will likely offer a similar product in the future, to him, they still won’t be able to compete. “It still won’t be Spa Boy, because Spa Boy is automated,” Pilon says. “Automation is genuinely what people want and why Spa Boy is so successful… it’s in a league of its own.”
Since the majority of the hot tubs Arctic Spas manufacturers are custom built, Spa Boy is an optional add-on upon order. Additionally, any Arctic hot tub sold in the last five years is upgradeable.
Pilon says the Edmonton store has seen a massive increase in sales that he links directly to Spa Boy. “We are seeing a new type of customer buying spas now — the no-maintenance crowd,” he says. “This demographic has been a notoriously hard group to sell a spa to for obvious reasons. Now we are seeing people who always wanted a spa without the maintenance actually becoming spa owners and loving it.”
Michael Swartz, owner of Arctic Spas Denver, says customers love the soft skin, no chemical smell and ease of maintenance. “They are bragging to their friends how great Spa Boy is and it’s the best thing to happen to their Arctic Spa,” he says. “We now have customers come into our store and asking what tubs have Spa Boy — and they won’t buy a spa without one.”
About the Brand
Blue Falls Manufacturing, maker of the Arctic Spas brand, was founded in 1997 by three childhood friends — Darcy Amendt, Dennis Kellner and Brent Macklin — who started in the industry as retailers. Macklin says the company manufactured approximately 800 spas in its first year as a small regional manufacturer in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. By the mid-2000s, the company hit 10,000 spas manufactured annually, with dealers across Canada, the United States and Europe.
“Our focus is always trying to have over-built, better insulated, longer lasting spas that can sit out at 30, 40 below zero and run effectively and efficiently,” Macklin says.