As swim spas continue to grow in popularity, the need also grows for appropriate means to evaluate the products.

Water facility operators and government regulators have long looked to independent experts for assurance that quality standards are preserved for each new generation of pool and spa products. NSF International fulfills this important industry role every day, across the globe. Founded in Ann Arbor, Michigan in 1944, NSF is an independent, not-for-profit organization that provides the technical services of standards development, product certification, facility auditing, education, and risk management for public health and the environment.

NSF International has served as a third-party expert to the pool and spa industry for more than a half-century. At the request of the American Public Health Association and the National Spa & Pool Institute (now known as APSP, the Association of Pool & Spa Professionals), NSF was asked to develop technical evaluation standards for the testing and certification of pool- and spa-related materials, chemicals and products. NSF/ANSI Standard 50, initiated in 1959, remains the primary standard by which most pool and spa products are certified.

NSF/ANSI Standard 50 specifies requirements for the material health effects, corrosion resistance, performance, disinfection efficacy, durability testing, design and construction, marking and user instructions for many types of equipment used at a waterpark, pool or spa. The standard covers every form of pool and spa, public and private, and every component, from pumps and chemicals to suction fittings and water test devices. Equally important, NSF/ANSI Standard 50 is in a constant state of evolution, incorporating the latest product and material test methods and regulations.

NSF’s criteria for swim spa systems

In 2012, NSF introduced the first comprehensive protocol to evaluate every component of a swim spa.

Existing criteria were vague and flawed with allowances for the use of outdated plumbing materials, inappropriately sized steps, lack of slip resistance testing requirements, insufficient water filtration efficacy testing and other issues. The NSF criteria address those and many more important aspects.

CCS 11804: Component Certification Specification for Public Use Spa, Swim Spa, Hot Tub or Related Equipment combines elements of more than 16 national standards and test protocols to create one all-encompassing benchmark. The new protocol clarifies the required process for manufacturers.

CCS 11804 testing and evaluation criteria include:

• Material evaluation – Verification that water contact materials meet regulations for corrosion resistance, toxicological health, and safety, and do not leach harmful contaminants or color into the water.

• Spa shell integrity – Chemical and performance testing to evaluate the durability of the shell. Testing includes surface, sub-surface, colorfastness, wear and cleanability, cigarette, chemical resistance, hydrostatic load deflection, point impact for seats and rim, flammability, water resistance and thermal shock.

• Electrical safety evaluation – Validation of testing and certification of the spa system to the requirements of UL1563.

• Accessibility and safety features – Evaluation of safety features, including floor slope, floor and step slip resistance (via ASTM F462), step dimensions, contrast and depth markings, handholds, and railings.

• Performance testing – The equipment used in the spa or swim spa must be NSF/ANSI Standard 50-certified (or tested and certified to other criteria) for spa use at the flow rate of the spa system.

• 30-minute volumetric turnover requirements – Verification of the rate of water circulation and turnover to ensure it meets the high performance level of 30-minute volumetric turnover.

• Water surface skimming capacity – Testing of the water intake system to confirm twin inlets capable of the 50 percent surface skimming requirement as well as entrapment protection.

• Filtration efficacy testing – Testing for particulate reduction analysis and turbidity reduction rate of the recommended filtration system to verify it effectively captures water contaminants.

• Water chemistry – Analysis of the manufacturer-recommended chemical treatment system and a categorization of its capacity.

• Supplemental treatment – Systems such as UV, ozone and other technologies also must meet high standards for performance and treatment efficacy.

• Suction fittings and propulsion and exercise systems – Testing of the swim current or exercise system for entrapment safety. This entails evaluation of specific fasteners, grate/sump installation method, UV exposure and strength testing of the suction fitting materials, pull load testing, finger, limb, hair and body entrapment testing, and load testing including shear load, horizontal and vertical load, point load, and other types of load testing via in situ testing of the entire swim current system.

This includes verifying that the circulation suction fittings are plumbed in pairs with hydraulically balanced piping and that each outlet is operating below its rated capacity. It also includes evaluation or testing of suction vacuum release systems and confirmation that all suction fittings are compliant with ANSI/APSP 16 as mandated by the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act.

• Product markings, data plate and owner’s manual - Verification that important user and safety information is noted on the product and in the owner’s manual.

Sufficient flexibility is permitted to acknowledge variations in functional design, such as different water treatment and skimming systems, as well as factory designed and built systems vs. factory designed systems intended for on-site installation with a separate skid pack of circulation, filtration and treatment systems components.

In addition to testing swim spas at its world headquarters, as part of its review process, NSF conducts an audit of the manufacturing facility to verify conformance to quality assurance requirements, and to confirm that only authorized materials and components are used in the manufacturing. NSF conducts unannounced facility audits each year, as well as periodic retesting to assure ongoing compliance.