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All about spa and hot tub keypads, topsides and side panels


Hot tubs first started appearing in the United States in the 1940’s. The materials and technology used in their construction has continued to improve year after year. Some hot tubs are still being controlled by mechanical systems with switches and relays, however these days most are being controlled by some sort of digital system. One part of these systems are keypads. These are very important and are extremely specific to what control system they will work with. In this guide we will work to explain different aspects and components of keypads, help identify which keypad you need, and some tips for installation and operation.

General description of spa and hot tub keypads, topsides and side panels


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Fig. 1: Usual spa and hot tub keypad location

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Fig. 2: Spa and hot tub pneumatic keypad with thermostat & air buttons

Step 1

Keypads are the control interface where the hot tub user can control various functions of the spa including commands such as controlling water temperature or turning on/off pumps, blowers, and lights.

Step 2

They are normally located on the top sill of the hot tub (Fig.1) but can sometimes be found on one of the skirting panels, as well as being installed remotely up to 300’ away from the hot tub.  

Step 3

The number of buttons can vary from one model to another, from a single button to as many as 12+.

Step 4

Older keypads may include items such as thermostat knobs to control heat, and pneumatic air buttons to trigger switches to turn on pumps or lights.  (Fig.2) 


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Fig. 3: Modern spa and hot tub digital keypad

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Fig. 4: Spa and hot tub keypad with attached cords

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Fig. 5: Spa and hot tub auxiliary keypad (no display)

Step 5

Modern keypads (Fig.3) typically contain some sort of digital display (usually LED, or LCD) that can show the current or set temperature, display time, and show when a pump, light, or blower is engaged.  In the event there is a failure, they can display error codes to help with diagnosing.  When a control system first starts up, many will display the current settings, or software revisions.

Step 6

A keypad will usually include a permanently attached cord that will plug in to the control system (some exceptions, where a detachable cable is used, do exist). (Fig.4)

Step 7

Keypads can be any shape, however, rectangle, oval, and rectangle with rounded sides are the most common.

Step 8

Some spas come equipped with auxiliary keypads. These will usually not contain a digital display and will be limited to 1-4 buttons. Auxiliary keypads are designed to be a secondary interface and work in conjunction with a normal main keypad. (Fig.5)


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Fig. 6: Overlay sticker for spa and hot tub keypads

Step 9

Most modern keypads contain an Overlay sticker that labels the buttons, displays the manufacturers logo, and provides a protective shield over the keypad. (Fig.6)

Common display types of spa and hot tub keypads


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Fig. 1: Spa and hot tub keypad LCD display

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Fig. 2: Spa and hot tub keypad LED display

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Fig. 3: Spa and hot tub keypad with no display

Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) keypads for spas and hot tubs

Type of visual display in which a layer of liquid crystal is sandwiched between two transparent panels of polarized glass.  In most cases, this appears as black numbers or letters in a grey background and provides a lesser amount of visual contrast. (Fig.1)

Light Emitting Diode (LED) keypads for spas and hot tubs

Type of visual display in which semiconductor diodes glow when voltage is applied. LED’s can be found in all types of appliances from your tv remote, the tv display, alarm clocks, indicator lights, and much more. This type of display generally appears as red numbers or letters in a black background and offers a higher degree of contrast. (Fig.2)

No display keypads for spas and hot tubs

Some keypads will not have a display at all. These might include older Pneumatic Keypads, and Auxiliary Keypads. (Fig.3)


Spa and hot tub keypads' types of cords & connectors 


Cords and connectors/plugs come in a few different styles. It is very important to match the type of cord and connector that is on your existing keypad when searching for a replacement.

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Fig. 1: Modular (phone type) connector for spa and hot tub keypad

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Fig. 2: Modular Molex connector for spa and hot tub keypad

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Fig. 3: JST connector fro spa and hot tub keypad

Spa and hot tub keypads' modular (phone type) connectors

Common type of connector and cord. This type can be found on many different models and brands throughout the years.

These are similar to land line telephone connectors, as well as coaxial data cables for computers and modems.

Available in 6 or 8 pin configurations, be sure to match when choosing a new keypad.


(Fig. 1)

Spa and hot tub keypads' molex connections

Used by select hot tub equipment manufacturers such as Balboa Water Group.

Incorporates a molded plug with specially shaped “Pins”. Available in 4, 6, or 8 pin configurations.

(Fig. 2)

Spa and hot tub keypads' JST connections

Japan Solderless Terminal

This type of connection is common everywhere in electronics. Plastic connectors with wires pressed into the connector without being soldered.

Available in many different pin configurations, however, for hot tub keypads, 8 and 10 pins are most common.

(Fig. 3)


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Fig. 4: Ribbon cord / connector for spa and hot tub keypad

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Fig. 5: Molded plug for spa and hot tub keypad

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Fig. 6: in.link connector / cord for spa and hot tub keypad

Spa and hot tub keypads' ribbon cables and connectors

Commonly found in computers and hard drives is a multi-wire cable where the internal wires run parallel to each other. As a result, the cable is wide and very flat making it flexible and resembling a ribbon.

In hot tub keypads, these are very common with select manufacturers such as Jacuzzi, and Sundance.

Pin configurations for keypads can run anywhere between 8-20 pins, however, 10 and 14 pins connectors tend to be the most common.

(Fig. 4)

Spa and hot tub keypads' molded plugs

Typically found on older control systems. Thick plastic molded plug used for both keypads and equipment such as blowers, and pumps.

Has become much less common in modern hot tubs. Available in many different pin counts, and positions.

(Fig. 5)

Spa and hot tub keypads' in.link connector / cord

Proprietary Connector used by only one equipment manufacturer, “Gecko Alliance”. Common in newer controls such as X-Class, and Y-Class systems.

Connector consists of a plastic molded type of plug with fastener that will snap into receptacle to provide a tight secure fit.

(Fig. 6)


Helpful tips when choosing a new keypad for your spa or hot tub


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Fig. 1: Keypads only work with specific spa and hot tub control systems

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Fig. 2: Spa and hot tub control system information sticker

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Fig. 3: Chip number on spa control system circuit board

Step 1

Compatibility is always the most important aspect to consider. Most control systems will only allow one specific keypad to control their functions.

(Fig.1)

Step 2

Before searching for a replacement, carefully remove the keypad from the shell of the spa or its installed location. Most often you will find useful information or model numbers on the underside. (See the “Keypad Removal Tips” section for step-by-step instructions)

Step 3

Locate and write down the control system information. Including brand, model number, options, and chip number off the circuit board. These bits of information can help when searching for a replacement.

(Fig.2, Fig.3)

Step 4

Take a clear picture of the keypad or bring the keypad with you when searching. Being able to easily verify button configuration, overall size and shape can be helpful.