so i ran things for a few hours... the heater works, the jets work, the pump works. only the butt-bubbles aren't working (i can live with that). so far, no sign of a leak, and i'm leaving the panels off overnight to see if there are any leaks i'm not seeing (the concrete is mostly dry from the earlier leaks, so that's a good start).
i'd like to have an electrician take a gander at it and make sure i didn't miss anything before i'm willing to leave it turned "on" to filter and so on full-time, but it's certainly good enough to turn on the heat and what-not a few hours before i want to get in and let it do its stuff!
(and the butt-bubbles might just be blocked by goo and that slowly work its way out).
hopefully i'll be in as productive a mood tomorrow as i was in today, and i'll double check the connections and put the panels back on (well, most of them. some might get replaced with whatever i have lying around in the garage).
if it's still not raining at that point i'll trim the tree in the backyard, finishing up my trimming and meaning i then can move on to hacking all the limbs into firewood.
So, the rent house has a built-in spa out back. when we first moved in 1.5yrs ago i toyed with it but there was some leak i couldn't find without taking all the screw-off access panels off and i got busy with work. well, i'm unemployed right now and have been doing a lot of yard maintenance (finished trimming front-yard trees and mowed all of lawn today), and decided to take all the access panels off. most were half rotten, yuk. but i was able to clean all out under it and found the last leak (all the leaks have just been loose couplings, this last one was some used a garden hose valve instead of a ball valve for the drain and it was slowly leaking; i replaced it with a trip to ace hardware!).