If you’re a pool owner, you are likely very familiar with the ongoing struggle that is keeping your pool clear and clean. Try as you may, no matter what you do, dirt, debris, bugs, and anything else floating around in the air always seem to find their way into the water. The second you clear it out, it’s right back in the next day.
Now, there are a number of ways to address the things in your pool, some much more convenient than others. You can choose to take the old fashion route, or you can go with automatic pool cleaners instead.
We are big fans of this option, as automatic pool cleaners can make your life a whole lot easier, and keep your pool looking great all season long. If you play your cards right, you may even save money in the process.
Whether you’re new to the world of automatic pool cleaners, or are simply looking for some extra information to put to good use, we’ve got you covered either way. Read on to find out more.
As the name suggests, an automatic pool cleaner is a pool cleaner that operates largely on his own, without the need of a pool owner guiding them along. This stands in stark contrast to say, a hand-held pool vacuum or net that one can use to suck up or trap debris in a pool.
Do these cleaning methods have their place? Of course. There are some days where you may only need to skim the top of the pool to grab a leaves that have fallen in, or maybe a few twigs.
Still, nothing really compares to being able to let a cleaner do most of the work for you, if not all of it.
Automatic pool cleaners fall into three main categories that we’ll touch on shortly, but just know that the standard definition of one is any pool cleaner that works automatically instead of manually.
Aside from the fact that an automatic pool cleaner provides a large measure of convenience, they are also more efficient, and provide a better overall cleaning. Depending on the type of cleaner you’re using, you may even save significant amounts of money on both energy costs and pool maintenance.
There are three main classifications of automatic pool cleaners that are generally accepted.
These automatic pool cleaners rely on the suction side of your pools system to vacuum up unwanted particles and debris in your pool. Operation is fairly simple with these: connect the hose from the cleaner to the suction side of the pool’s connection, and it’s ready to go.
The cleaner will then begin to slowly make its way around the pool, vacuuming up whatever is in its path. Since it is connected to the suction of your pool, and debris collected is sent straight to the intake and to your pool’s filter. This makes a suction side cleaner basically an extension of the pool’s suction, providing targeted cleaning on the pool’s surface.
The main appeal with suction side cleaners is their simplicity. The cleaner and hose are the only real parts, and the cleaner itself doesn’t have any moving parts aside from the vacuum portion. Most of the time you can let the cleaner do its thing without having to interfere too much.
The other benefit is the fact that these cleaners are the cheapest automatic cleaners you’ll find. They may be cheap, but it doesn’t mean they aren’t effective. You’ll notice a marked improvement in your pool after just a few hours of operation. A few certain models can even scale your pool’s walls, although this is rather rare.
Side suction cleaners are not good at handling any large debris in the pool so you’ll want to examine the pool before putting the cleaner in. If if encounters large debris, or simply a large amount, the small hose may get clogged, which may turn into a bigger issue. If you aren’t keeping tabs on the cleaner, you may have a big mess on your hands.
The other big disadvantage is the cleaner’s mode of operation. Piggybacking off of your pool’s filtration system causes a great deal of stress on the system, and could result in your pool’s filter being clogged, as everything the cleaner collects goes straight to the pool’s filter. You'll have to spend more time cleaning and maintaining your pool’s filter and pump.
At the end of the day, a side suction pool cleaner is a very viable option, especially if you don’t have a lot of money to spend upfront. You still get the benefit of having an automatic pool cleaner, and a mostly clean pool with minimal effort. Still, expect to add some wear and tear to your pump and filters.
Pressure side automatic pool cleaners work in the opposite way that side suction pool cleaners do. Rather than rely on suction from the pool’s system, pressure side cleaners are connected to the other side of the pools pump system, and use the water pressure generated to move around and scoop debris into the cleaners bag or cartridge.
The cleaner’s internal debris storage stores the debris until it is ready to be emptied. This method differs from the side suction pool cleaner’s operation, which sends the debris directly to the pool’s filter. Still, pressure side cleaners are very much automatic, and do all the cleaning on their own.
Pressure side cleaners are certainly easier on your pool’s filtration system, as the cleaner handles the load itself. The unit’s operation also allows it to trap debris floating in the pool, while avoiding larger debris that would otherwise jam it up.
Also, like the side suction cleaner, pressure side cleaners are economical, and have few moving parts to worry about.
These cleaners aren’t the best for picking up small dirt and other similar particles. If you’re hoping the cleaner will sweep up all the dirt on your pool’s floor in a few passes, you’ll be fairly disappointed.
Pressure side cleaners are also hard on your pool’s pump system. In most cases, you’ll need a booster pump, or a second pump altogether. This results in a big increase in your energy bills from the increased load on the pump system.
Like the suction side cleaner, the pressure side cleaner is an effective choice if you don’t want to spend much money on a cleaning system. There are some sacrifices you have to make when using this cleaner, and some may not favor the trade-off.
Robotic are automatic pool cleaners in every sense of the term, but they are mostly considered their own category of cleaners at this point. It’s common to see pressure and suction side cleaners referred to as ‘automatic cleaners,’ while robotic cleaners are referred to by name, despite being automatic cleaners themselves.
There are many reasons for this. Robotic cleaners operate on their own like the other two types, but they don’t rely on the pool to do so. They are powered by electricity, and do not connect to either the pump or the filter system.
Robotic cleaners have their own cartridges to store all the particles and debris collected, and can almost always scale any walls, steps, and inclines in a pool. They usually have internal software that allows them to either learn or scan a pool’s surface area and develop an efficient cleaning cycle route.
Robotic pool cleaners run on cleaning cycles times that tend to be around three hours long, although some have the option of running fast cycles that are less thorough, and also provide the ability to add extra time. Once the cycle is complete, the cleaner will shut itself off.
All robotic cleaners use suction to take in debris, and many have scrubbing attachments on the bottom, and/or use water pressure sprays to blast dirt off the pool’s surface before sucking it into the cartridge.
Once a cartridge is full, the user can easily lift it out, and then use a hose to remove all the particles trapped inside.
There are many advantages a robotic cleaner provides over other automatic cleaners. First of all, these cleaners often possess a much more efficient cleaning ability that takes in debris in a variety of ways. This ensures that debris and foreign objects are removed from the surface, as well as any dirt and debris floating around in the pool.
Robotic cleaners also save your pool’s pump and filtration system from any added stress. Since the cleaner handles both the suction and the filtering, your pool’s system avoids having to run longer and use more energy. This also saves a significant amount of money off your electric bill, as robotic cleaners are low voltage, and hardly consume any electrical power during a cycle.
Another major advantage is the sheer amount of conveniences provided. Robotic cleaners learn your pool’s surface, and operate on a preset cycle time that allows you to leave it unattended while it takes care of the pool, shutting down once complete.
The downside to all of these features and conveniences is the fact that you’ll be paying more money for the cleaner. Extra features such as remote controls and customizable programming will cost you more.
If you are willing to spend the money, robotic pool cleaners are more than worth it. The convenience and cleaning ability is unparalleled, and you’ll be doing your pool’s pump and filtration systems a huge favor as well.
While the money may be more upfront, your robotic cleaner will end up paying for itself over time anyway, as the energy savings and savings on replacement parts and maintenance for your pool will be kept to a minimum.
A little common sense will go a long way with automatic cleaners. Regardless of the type you use, always make sure you inspect your pool for any large objects that could either jam up the cleaner, or cause it to stall or be blocked while cleaning.
If you use a suction side or pressure side, always check the pool’s pumps and filters to make sure they are functioning properly beforehand.
For robotic cleaners, make sure to observe your cleaner during its first few cleaning cycles to make sure that everything is working properly, and that your cleaner isn’t experiencing any problems, or having difficulties with certain parts of your pool. Always clean the filter and cartridge after each use to avoid build up and motor failure.
Having trouble deciding what’s best for you and your pool? There are a few aspects you can consider to determine the type of cleaner to purchase.
Lower budgets should opt for suction and pressure side models to save on initial costs. If your pool stays relatively clean on its own due to location, these types may suit you perfectly well. If you have a weak pump system, a pressure side model may be best.
If you are willing to spend the extra money, and want a pool cleaner you don’t have to keep an eye on, a robotic cleaner will be your best choice. This is also true for pools with irregular shapes and steps that may otherwise cause issues for non-robotic cleaners.
By now you should have a good idea of the main types of automatic pool cleaners available, and which one will work best for your pool and budget needs. If you’d like to get our thoughts on some of the most popular models available, be sure to check out our article covering the best pool cleaners on the market.
Do you have any pool cleaner tips or questions? Sound off in the comment section below!