Rob Cox, April 9, 2012
How to select an automatic pool cleaner
Pool cleaners can make the life of a pool owner much easier. If your pool was built with a pool cleaner in mind, selection of a new or replacement pool cleaner is much simpler. But what if you never had a pool cleaner?
How does one wade through over 60 different pool cleaners - to find the pool cleaner that will do the best job for your pool type, shape and size?
Let's start simply - by first making a distinction between inground and above ground pool cleaners. This will narrow down your choices to two large categories. From there - it's a matter of weighing the benefits of each pool cleaner type: Suction, Robotic and Pressure type pool cleaners.
Pool cleaners for aboveground pools have distinct differences from their inground cousins:
1. Exclusively made for vinyl lined pool surfaces.
2. Made for flat-bottom pools, without a deep end.
3. Operate with slower flow rates, from smaller pool filter pumps.
For aboveground pools, the available choices for pool cleaners includes suction cleaners, robotic cleaners and pressure cleaners.
Suction cleaners attach to the skimmer - just plug the cleaner hose into the skimmer, below the skimmer basket, and the cleaner will vacuum the pool floor, bringing the debris into the pump basket. For larger debris loads, an in-line strainer can be installed between the hose and the skimmer, to overcome the problem of a small pump basket being quickly filled, and needing nearly constant emptying. Suction cleaners can also work with a skim-vac plate, made by Hayward, which allows the cleaner to deposit the debris into the larger, easier to clean skimmer basket.
NOTE: If you have a very small intex type pool, with a small pump/filter combo - sometimes without a pump basket, a suction type cleaner will not be the best choice for you. For an aboveground suction pool cleaner to work, it needs enough power available from a separate pump, one with a pump basket, and at least 3/4 - 1hp in size.
Suction cleaners for aboveground pools are quite affordable, as are most products made for aboveground pools. They are typically $100-$150. Not too technically advanced, but if you have a larger pool, and are tired of manually vacuuming, these cleaners will get the job done - faster and easier than you can do yourself.
Robotic cleaners for aboveground pools are your other option. The advantages to a robotic cleaner over a suction-type pool cleaner are:
1. Self Contained, on-board debris bag.
2. Independent of your pump and filter system.
3. Filters the water as it vacuums the pool.
4. Will operate on smaller, Intex type pools.
Aboveground pool robots have come down a lot in price in recent years. Formerly only available for inground pools, at a cost of $1000 or more, manufacturers have answered the call, and produced robotic pool cleaners that you can buy, for under $300. Robotic pool cleaners require no installation or special plumbing, just a grounded outlet to plug-in the transformer box.
Pressure cleaners for aboveground pools are the third option. These cleaner types operate on the pressure of the water returning to the pool; they hook up to one of your pool wall returns. Unlike most inground pressure type pool cleaners, there is no additional booster pump required. They operate on the pressure created by your pool filter pump.
Pressure cleaners for aboveground pools have the dual benefit of not robbing you of skimming action while operating, plus they catch debris in their own bag, preventing the need to empty a small pump basket or bringing dirt into the pool filter, and requiring extra backwashing.
Inground Pool Cleaners
The first question I would ask someone looking for a new inground pool cleaner is: 'Do you have a dedicated cleaner line?' This is a plumbing line, usually positioned at the mid-point of one of the long walls, where a cleaner can be connected. It can be either a suction line (coming into the pump), or a pressure line (on the return side of the pump).
In some cases, when a pool is built, the pool owner may opt to have the dedicated cleaner line installed, in case they decide later to purchase a pool cleaner. The pipe is sometimes left as a 'stub-pipe', sticking out of the ground, or sometimes it is connected to either the suction or return plumbing.
If a dedicated cleaner line is connected on the return side (after the filter), I would recommend installing a booster pump and a timeclock - and a pressure side pool cleaner like the Polaris 380 or the Letro Legend. These pool cleaners fit the bill for a true 'automatic pool cleaner' that will turn itself on and shut itself off. This is a big benefit, preventing you from remembering to do this. And if a pool cleaner operates for the entire time that the filter pump is running, it will quickly wear and tear, requiring more frequent tune-ups.
If a dedicated cleaner line is connected into the suction side (coming into the pump), this allows you to connect a suction side cleaner like a Kreepy Krauly or Hayward Navigator, without sacrificing much of the skimming action. Otherwise, a suction cleaner, connected to the skimmer, will reduce the amount of skimming action.
No dedicated cleaner line? No problem, you can connect a suction side cleaner into your wall skimmer. These cleaners include a device that will allow you to maintain a small amount of skimming action while the cleaner is connected, if your pool pump has enough 'oomph' - or if you have two skimmers, and a large enough pump, you may be able to skim the pool while cleaning the pool. Otherwise - hook up the cleaner to clean the bottom, then unhook it after a few hours, to allow the skimmer to keep the surface of the pool clean.
A dedicated suction line can be converted to a dedicated pressure line, if desired. Just cut the pipe off near the ground level, and reroute it to the return side, by use of a Tee fitting or a 3-way valve.
If no dedicated cleaner line exists - and there is only one skimmer in your inground pool - I would recommend looking at the many choices for inground robotic pool cleaners. We have 7 brands competing for this business, with many choices to consider. The more expensive models have more power, remote controlled operation and on-board lighting.
Prices have come down in this pool cleaner category in recent years, and you can pick up a nice robotic pool cleaner for as little as $700, from Aquabot. Robotic pool cleaners are a good choice for pools without dedicated cleaner lines, or older pools with crushed-pipe returns, or those with smaller, inefficient pool filters.
Pool cleaners are fun to buy and fun to watch, your dog may spend hours barking at this underwater animal. Check out our full line of pool cleaners at low prices. We have over 60 different pool cleaners to choose from! If that confuses you, don't worry, send us an email or give a call - we'll help you sort through the options!
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