So you finally have a pool ready to go. But before you go and enjoy your pool, you have to ask yourself one question.
Do I have a plan to keep this pool clean?
Without a plan to keep your pool clean, you may end up with a green pool covered in gunk and algae. You can see how hard it is to clean a pool by looking at youtube videos, like this one from Clean Pool & Spa’s channel, where he describes having to dump about a ton of sludge from a pool because it had gotten so bad.
At this point, you might be wondering if it’s really that big of an issue. Besides the obvious grossness of the slime, are smaller amounts of algae really dangerous to humans. Generally, algae grows naturally in ponds and lakes and people can safely swim in those just fine, right?
While that’s true, here is something to consider. As Pool algae can grow and multiply they become homes for harmful microbes. It’s these microbes that can cause health problems on swimmers if exposed to them.
So instead of exposing yourself to that risk, you could seek a professional cleaner to do it or buy yourself an automatic pool cleaner.
Top 5 Pool Cleaner on the market
Why Everybody Should Have an Automatic Pool Cleaner?
Automatic pool cleaners are machines that do the heavy lifting of pool maintenance. These devices are built to suck up debris, keep your pool looking clean, and some can even scrub walls or help filter your water in some models.
Besides reducing the amount of labor you have to use to keep your pool clean, these devices are also easy to use and constantly being improved upon as technology improves. By doing the cleaning on its own, these devices leave you more time to enjoy your swimming.
What About the Cost?
For a general cost breakdown, once a week pool cleaners tend to run a range from $75 to $165 per month. This doesn’t sound like much, but compare that cost to doing it yourself.
After the initial purchase of cleaning supplies, you could expect to pay as little as $20 to $100 a month. That is a
I should go buy an automatic pool cleaner now!
Hold on, before you run to your pool supply store,
There are three options for automatic pool cleaners and being familiar with each one will help you make your purchasing decision. Those three options are; Suction-Side, Pressure-Side, and Robotic pool cleaners.
Types of Automatic Pool Cleaners
For the most part, the differences between these cleaners lie in a few specific factors; how are they powered, how much do they cost, what can they do, and which pools are they best for?
How are They Powered?
Suction-Side Pool Cleaners
The suction-side pool cleaner is powered by your pool’s filter system. It uses that system to push it along the pool where it sucks up small bits of debris and deposits it in the filter.
Pressure-Side Pool Cleaners
This compares to the pressure-side pool cleaner that also uses your pool’s system to function but some cleaners require a separate booster unit to give it power. Because it stores debris in its own vacuum bag, there is no need to keep watch on your filter as it runs.
Robotic Pool Cleaners
Finally, we have the robotic pool cleaners that are self-contained systems. You simply have to plug it into a transformer and place it in the pool and it will suck up debris into its own container.
Tying It All Together
The suction-side pool cleaner does run on your filter, so your pool has to be kept running for it to work. Also, because it deposits debris in your filter, this runs the risk of causing problems for your pool.
The pressure-side cleaner avoids this risk by having an internal unit, but it will require refurbishing your pool’s system if there isn’t already a set up in place for the booster. But it does share the same problem of requiring your pool’s systems to be turned on.
Robotic pool cleaners avoid both problems by not requiring the pool to work and not putting your pool’s systems at risk. If power is a concern, robotic pool cleaners are the clear winner.
But let’s talk about what you pay for that power.
The Cost of Your Automatic Pool Cleaner
While robotic pool cleaners can be used while the pool is off reducing power usage, the complexity of these systems are such that if the cleaner breaks or malfunctions you will need a specialist to make any repairs. Repair costs are then higher than the other options as repairs are difficult to do yourself.
Pressure-side and suction-side pool cleaners both run on systems that you should already have existing, and both cleaners are relatively simple to repair in the case of problems. But suction-side pool cleaners are the clear winner as far as price boasting the lowest up front price.
They require your pools to be on to function, so you are using much more power during cleanings than you would with robotic cleaners.
Additionally, pressure-side cleaners often require a booster pump and many suction-side pool cleaners fail to function if you have a weak pool pump. Also, suction-side cleaners sometimes lack features like optional leaf canisters which some homes need, which further raises the cost.
Putting It All Together
Suction-side pool cleaners are the cheapest up front option. But what you save in that cost means more power costs while the cleaner is working and you will have to manually empty your filter more often.
Pressure-side pool cleaners are the middle of the road option, but your pool filter may require a booster pump or require a plumber if it was not designed with a booster pump in mind.
Robotic cleaners are the most expensive up front and can require the most cost to repair, but it can run while the pool is off.
What Can My Automatic Pool Cleaner Actually Do?
It’s not surprising that all three types of pool cleaners can clean. They sweep through your pool picking up debris and tossing it into a receptacle for later dumping.
But the difference is in how effective they can be at their jobs and whether they have any useful extras. Let’s take a look.
Do You Have Small Debris?
Both suction-side and pressure-side cleaners can pick up small debris perfectly well. The suction-side cleaners place any collected dirt into your filter, where as the pressure-side cleaners collect it in a self-contained pouch.
While some buyers may prefer the pressure-side cleaner pouches, some shoppers do prefer the convenience of everything being collected in the filter since they have to clean it anyway. These shoppers enjoy knowing that they only have to worry about cleaning one thing rather than two.
Do You Get Some Large Debris?
Robotic pool cleaners and pressure-side pool cleaners tend to do a better job of picking up large debris or leaf clumps. These are idea if your pool sees a lot of nuts and berries or if it’s below a large group of trees.
What Else Can Automatic Pool Cleaners Do?
Robotic pool cleaners are not just great at picking up small and large debris but they offer extra filter power to your pool. Some automatic pool cleaners, especially robotic ones, can even scrub your pool walls and floors.
Also, since these systems run on microchips, many robotic cleaners can be controlled by remote control, so you can quickly direct the cleaner to problem areas.
Before we go into detail on each type of cleaner, let’s figure out which pools want which cleaners.
The type of pool you have will determine which is the best option for you. Pools are expensive to maintain and the cost of maintenance can be high, so you want the best bang for your buck.
I Have an Above Ground Pool
Above ground pools tend to have the fewest requirements. The reason for this is because above ground pools have flat bottoms and so pool cleaners designed for them don’t have to worry about steps or slopes.
This pool cleaner is suggested for above ground pools only, because the bumps and slopes of an in-ground pool can cause it to rub right through it’s plastic tubes.
Since the requirements though are relatively light on above ground pools, it’s advised that you do some online research and figure out what pool cleaners are rated highly before you go shopping at your local pool store.
Here’s a website that can get you started at considering costs. As a tip, ask your vendor for help if you’re unsure of which ones are suction-side, pressure-side, or robotic cleaners.
I Have an In-ground Pool?
In ground pools though require a bit more work and consideration. But answering a few questions will make these considerations far easier.
Does Your In-ground Pool Have a Cleaner Line?
If you have a dedicated cleaner line, then the site recommends pressure-side pool cleaners as an easy choice. Since a booster pump and time clock would be all you’d need to add.
Be sure you know that if your cleaner line is a vacuum line, it can be converted to a pressure line with some simple plumbing. If you would prefer not to make any changes, then suction cleaners can work just as well.
How Big is the Debris Your Pool is Getting?
If your pool has large trees or features surrounding it that shed larger leaves or debris, then it suggests using any pressure cleaner for your needs. According to pool center, cleaners like the Polaris 360 or the Hayward Trivac are effective at dealing with larger leaf and debris volumes.
If your pool is in a desert environment or only collects small sized debris or debris in small amounts, then suction side and robotic cleaners are perfect for you. These cleaners are available in a wide range of price points and likely any features your need can be found.
One thing to know though is that many suction and robotic cleaners can clog up too often if your pool collects a lot of debris such as spring or fall leaves. If this is the case, then these pool cleaners will require frequent intervention or the pool will need some manual cleaning.
So I’ve made my choice. What do I need to know?
Whether you go with a suction-side, pressure-side, or robotic pool cleaner, no guide would be complete without going into some in depth details.
Let’s go over these three types of cleaners one by one and see what we need to know.
What do You Need to Know about Suction-side Pool Cleaners?
How do I Install My Suction-side Pool Cleaner?
As we’ve seen through this guide, suction-side pool cleaners attach to the suction side of your plumbing. Below is a handy video guide that shows you, step-by-step, how to install your suction-side pool cleaner.
Small Things to Know About Your Suction-side Pool Cleaner
First, you should know that these cleaners do limit your skimmer’s ability to function if you only have one.
If you have the luxury of a dedicated cleaning line, then be sure to have your installation prepared at that station to ease the strain on your skimmer.
How Does My Suction-side Pool Cleaner Work?
These cleaners work by creating a suction on the underside of the cleaner as the filter pump runs. The cleaner moves randomly and automatically around the pool guided by the motion of a stop/start pulse that a device gives in the water.
The unit travels, sucks up debris through the hose, and dumps it into the pool filter.
Are Suction-side Pool Cleaners Any Good?
Since it’s been pointed out that suction-cleaners are the cheapest option, it’s often asked if these cleaners are any good.
They do the job of a cleaner well enough, but as stated, they can limit your skimmer’s ability to function with most skimmer action being lost while your cleaner is connected. Also, the filter can get clogged rather quickly as all debris is dumped right inside.
Finally, these cleaners are the least ‘automatic’ since you have to set it up and put it away each time you use it. So what you save translates into more work and immediate oversight.
If you are looking for good suction-side pool cleaner options, then you should know that they are divided into two types; pulse types or hydro drive powered.
Hydro drive cleaners are generally more powerful, faster cleaning, and make a lot less noise then their pulse type siblings.
The Care and Maintenance of Suction-side Pool Cleaners.
One advantage of your choice to use a suction-cleaner is that there’s not a lot of daily maintenance to keep them long-lasting and working well. In general, you just have to make sure to do a few key things.
- Pull the cleaner out of the pool before shocking the pool or swimming in it.
- Run the cleaner only as long as you need, usually up to 3 hours, to reduce wear.
- Store the head and hose carefully. It’s best to keep them out of the sun and out of harm’s way.
- Disconnect all hose sections for storage and lay all the parts flat rather than coiled if possible.
What do I do If My Suction-side Pool Cleaner Breaks?
If your suction cleaner breaks down, it’s mostly going to be an issue of needing a replacement parts. Some models, like the Kreepy cleaners, only have 1 moving part and won’t need many replacements.
Always rotate the wearable parts on the cleaners and replace those parts when needed. In general, you can expect to pay less than $20 per year to keep your cleaner at peak performance.
Obviously, the more parts a cleaner has, the more potential problems can appear. This isn’t always a bad thing though, as many suction side cleaners with more parts also have more features.
But always be sure to compare and contrast before you make your purchasing decision, because some inferior products will boast having many working parts to hide the lack of features or low quality materials.
As these systems are relatively simple, all you will need is a screwdriver to make repairs, but most cleaners won’t require tools at all for repair. Many websites have schematics or diagrams in their pool parts department so you can see how cleaners are assembled and can tell what parts are worn or broken.
Cost and Features of Suction-side Pool Cleaners.
The price range for quality suction-side cleaners can be seen at online retailers such as this one with the
While this is quite a wide range, the more expensive cleaners tend to boast features such as the ability to make wider turns to cover more of your pool in less time or a free hose or piece of replacement equipment.
As stated, since these cleaners work on your skimmer or dedicated cleaner lines, the power costs during use will be much higher since your pool must be on for the cleaners to work.
Troubleshooting Your Suction-side Pool Cleaner
Some of the common problems that can come up are suction cleaners moving too slow or the cleaner not cleaning the entire pool. If you notice these problems, here are some handy tips that will help you bypass these problems.
What do I do If Your Cleaner is going Too Slow?
- If your suction cleaner is moving slow, first check the pump basket for debris and make sure your filter is clean.
- You should also hold the cleaner head underwater to prevent air from being sucked in and check the throat for obstructions or clogging.
- If your pool has lots of leaves and trees nearby, then you may want to use an in-line leaf trap to help your suction cleaner as heavy leaf volume may overwhelm your cleaner.
- Finally, suction cleaners are built and sized to the pool pump. So an aboveground pump will not be able to move an in-ground model around the pool. If your in-ground pool has plaster, then make sure the suction cleaner is built to stand up to rough plaster surfaces.
My Suction-side Pool Cleaner isn’t Doing a Very Good Job Cleaning. Why?
- Check your hose, because it may be too short for the cleaner to reach.
- Sometimes the return jets will be too strong for the cleaner to go where it wants to. So adjust the return port wall fittings or add wall fittings to the return points. It helps if the fittings are pointed at a downward angle.
- Finally, try adjusting the hose, head unit, or cleaner itself as different adjustments will create different cleaning patterns.
- One thing to be careful of is that if there’s too much suction, the cleaner will go too fast and fly around the pool resulting in poor cleaning.
What You need to Know about Pressure-side Pool Cleaners?
How do I Install My Pressure-side Pool Cleaner?
If you’ve bought or plan to buy a pressure-side pool cleaner but don’t know how to get it installed, then worry not. Here is a helpful video that shows you a step-by-step guide to install your pressure-side pool cleaner.
After you’ve done your installation, it’s time to get cleaning!
How does My Pressure-side Pool Cleaner Work?
The hydraulics in the machine pump pool water back and forth which sends these machines on their way. These cleaners have some clear advantages over other types
While these machines clean your pool they also distribute clean water around your pool. It also keeps debris within it’s own bag to keep from affecting your filter system.
Using the devices sweeper tail, thrust jet, and venturi, these machines split the incoming water to help it function.
But while you’re shopping for pressure cleaners, you should know that some attach to existing return ports and are powered by the pump. Other pressure cleaners require an additional booster pump to function and are known as High Pressure Cleaners.
Let’s look at this in further detail.
High Pressure (Booster) vs Low Pressure (No Booster)
High pressure cleaners are the ones that use a booster pump to deliver a consistent flow rate for the cleaner. These pumps need about 30 PSI to operate their water management systems well.
To prepare a system for these booster pumps, a plumber would have to cut the return pipe after the filter and install a Tee fitting. This diverts water out of the return line to the booster pump which them pumps through a dedicated pipe.
Then an install valve and hose attachment would have to be installed above ground with a hose run across the pool deck connected to the cleaner.
Obviously, this takes up a bit more time and expense if your pool wasn’t built with this system in mind, which can make high-pressure cleaners a less desirable option.
Because booster pump models have internal clocks, they can be set to turn themselves off when they are done. This limits wear and prevents you from making a second trip to the pool to turn it off.
So while the low-pressure cleaners have a lower cost barrier of entry, they tend to do the job more efficiently in the long run.
Pros and Cons of High and Low Pressure-side Pool Cleaners
Here are a few things to consider if you are deciding between these two.
Booster pump cleaners deliver a consistent flow for constant power and they often run with a timer remaining on only for 2-3 hours per day. This helps reduce wear.
Low pressure cleaners create back pressure on the filter when connected to a wall return and require you to turn them on and off.
Generally, booster pump cleaners are faster and more powerful.
With these in mind, you should be able to determine which cleaners best meet your needs.
The Care and Maintenance of Pressure-side Pool Cleaners.
We know that nothing goes along perfectly well and pressure-side pool cleaners are certainly no different. By now, you know how to install your device, but how do you keep it up when things go wrong?
First, if you’re using a booster pump high-pressure model than you should install the booster pump so that it is constantly flooded with water. Typically this means installing it beneath the pool return pipe.
Not doing this runs the risk of the device failing to run at full power which will limit effectiveness or prompt re-installation down the line.
If you notice that your cleaner isn’t changing directions and orientation, then check the valves and timers for malfunction or clogging with sand. To fix these problems, wash the device thoroughly in water or open and inspect it for any clogs or stuck equipment.
Be sure to perform regular inspection and maintenance on your pumps and cleaning lines, because the cleaner cannot function at peak performance if either of these systems have issues.
Finally, you may notice that back-up valve failure can be caused by a failure of hose floats. If you notice your hose dragging on the floor of the pool, check the floats because dragging can tear holes in the casing.
Cost and Features of Pressure-side Pool Cleaners.
A brief search for an online retailer to compare the cost of top rated pressure-side pool cleaners reveals that most of the high rated ones have costs averaging $600. The one stand-out exception is the Polaris 6-130-00 model which boasts a price tag of $209.99 at the time of printing.
Many of these models will tell you whether they are designed for in-ground or above ground pools, but all of them will address the issue of power. Sometimes this promises plenty of power if a booster pump is installed like in the Polaris P39 model.
What you may be surprised is that many of these cleaners also feature scrubbers that help clean your pool’s floors and walls along with the sweeping and scrubbing ability that we have come to expect from these cleaners.
Troubleshooting Your Pressure-side Pool Cleaner.
With all cleaners, pressure-side cleaners can show some problems.
If your cleaner is moving slowly, try inspecting the hose from the wall to the unit making sure there are no splits or holes that allow pressure to escape.
If the cleaner is not reaching all parts of your pool, then try adjusting the thrust jet to create different cleaning patterns around the pool. Most cleaners default to 11:00, but if you adjust them to 1:00 then the cleaner will track in the opposite direction.
But the most important factor in whether or not your cleaner reaches your entire pool is to examine the hose. Too much or too little hose will affect it’s ability to receive pressure and function at it’s peak.
If your cleaner gets caught up in ladders or drains, then try using ladder guards and drain covers to limit these problems.
What You Need to Know about Robotic Pool Cleaners?
Installing Your Robotic Pool Cleaner
Because robotic pool cleaners are complex systems you might think that it will be difficult. But videos like this one show how easy it can be.
Robotic cleaners are plugged into wall outlets with a cord that extends from the unit to the transformer. Transformers will take 110 volts from your outlet and change it to a safer-around-water voltage.
This low voltage powers the unit by activating brushless motors that draw debris into the unit’s filter. A drive motor moves the unit around the pool.
The Care and Maintenance of Robotic Pool Cleaners.
Many of the considerations you will make for caring for your device are covered in the troubleshooting tips below, but here are a few things that must always be kept in mind.
Robotic pool cleaners are heavy, so there is always a temptation to drag it around by the cords. But you should not do that because it runs the risk of loosening the plug which can cause malfunctions and shorts. Always handle your cleaners by handles or ask your local pool service store if they have caddy’s that can match your cleaners.
Outside of making sure your plugs are safe and functioning though, many of the maintenance issues you may experience are more matters of diagnosis so you can tell a certified technician what needs fixing.
Cost and Features of Robotic Pool Cleaners.
The typical price range for robotic pool cleaners start at around $600 and can raise as high as nearly $2000. While these are long term investments that will carry you through for years with proper maintenance, issues and servicing may require specialist care which adds occasional expense.
Many of these cleaners feature scrubbing and cleaning ability to add to the debris cleaning that you want to keep your pool maintained. But models such as the Aquabot also have auto shut-off timers or remote controls so you can be sure that it’s not on longer than at all necessary.
One helpful feature is that models like the Dolphin DX4S have weekly timers that can be set so that the cleaners work on your schedules.
The neatest thing about robotic cleaners is that the pump motor keeps the unit pressed firmily to the floor or wall, which allows it to scrub your pool’s floor and walls.
If your chosen cleaner has a remote control function, then you can guide it from the comforts of your lawn chair.
One thing to note is that above ground pools have walls with 90 degrees inclines and robotic cleaners cannot scale those angles. So you’ll be hard pressed to find a cleaner designed for an above ground pool that can scale walls.
These devices are heavy though, so you will want to be careful about how you move them around.
To help ease the difficulty in moving these devices in and out of storage, be sure to ask if your preferred model has a carry caddy optional or something similar.
Troubleshooting Your Robotic Pool Cleaner.
Although robotic cleaners are intricate systems that require a specialist to handle certain issues, there are some issues that you can resolve or diagnose on your own.
My Robotic Pool Cleaner isn’t Moving!
If the cleaner isn’t moving check to see if the light is on. If it is not, then make sure that the transformer is on and the fuse isn’t blown.
Sometimes it helps to plug another appliance into the outlet to be sure that it’s not your plug that’s having problems.
If power is available try wiggling the plug from the unit to the transformer. Older units may short out at the plug, so buying a new plastic female plug is advised.
Next, make sure that the drive belts are tight and in good repair. These belts can weaken and stretch out over time and a simple replacement can keep it from skipping or locking in place.
To help extend the life of your cords and plugs, you should also never pull the unit or lift it by the power cord. Always lift them by the handle.
My Robotic Pool Cleaner isn’t Picking up Any Debris!
If the unit moves but doesn’t pick up debris, lift the unit near the surface of the water and see if water is gushing out of the top.
If not, you may have a shorted pump motor.
If that happens, unplug the unit, lift it out the water, and remove the vent camp to check the impeller. Some models can have string or hair wind around the base locking it up.
Also, be careful if you have trees or large debris in your pool, especially after storms.
Large debris can clog the cleaner requiring cleaning with a hose or a skimmer. With equipment as pricey as the average robotic pool cleaner, you don’t want to cause it damage by being careless.
What Do I Do Now?
You should have a good idea on what you want to buy and what to look for when you purchase your automatic pool cleaner. But if you need any help or have questions not covered by this guide, contact your pool supply vendor and see how they can help you.
Good luck in your automatic pool cleaner purchase and enjoy the savings to your wallet and the time you’ll have for more swimming.