Pool Cleaners ~ Choose Carefully!
by Sean Griffin, July 30, 2009
With so many cleaners in the pool industry how do you determine what cleaner is going to suit you best? Deciding which cleaner is going to work in your particular pool can be difficult. With a variety of makes and models it can be a little overwhelming when looking at purchasing a pool cleaner.
I recommend doing the proper research and comparing pricing, warranty, and features. Read all possible reviews and come to an educated decision as your cleaner can save you the headache of manually cleaning your pool but can also become a migraine in itself.
Many pool builders will include some type of cleaner when constructing pool. If you are satisfied with the original cleaner, replacement parts are readily available for most models and you can swap them out to increase the life of your cleaner. You are not limited to using the original cleaner. If you have a dedicated cleaner line (a pipe from the equipment pad to a central wall location 'dedicated' for either a suction or pressure cleaner) you have several options.
A dedicated cleaner line gives you the ability to operate a pressure cleaner. You can use the pool pump to operate several low pressure pool cleaner models, like Ray-Vac, Polaris 360 or the Letro Legend II. You also have the ability to install a booster pump which some other pressure cleaner models require. A booster pump cleaner is preferred, as you will always have peak power and performance for your cleaner and are able to utilize a timer clock on the booster pump, so as not to run the pool cleaner more than is needed. A dedicated cleaner line can also be plumbed into the suction side of the pool pump, and be used to operate a suction pool cleaner, without having to use the skimmer. Polaris dominates the pressure cleaner category, followed by the Pentair Letro line.
If you do not have a dedicated cleaner line you still have several options. First there are suction cleaners that operate on the suction created by your pool pump. These cleaners typically adapt to your skimmer line and operate when pool pump is on.
Suction cleaners are the cheapest pool cleaners to buy and operate, however there are drawbacks. Slower than other cleaners, they also bring the debris into the pump and filter, whereas pressure and robotic cleaners catch the debris in their own bag. A suction cleaner can quickly clog up a pump basket, requiring more trips to the pump, while reducing filtration and circulation of the pool water. A favorite for above ground pools, suction cleaners are a strong product line, and close to 40% of all cleaners sold are suction type pool cleaners. Kreepy Krauly, Polaris ATV, Dirt Devil, Navigator are top models in this category.
You also have the ability to use a robotic cleaner. One of the advantages of robotic cleaners is that they operate independently and are not reliant on water pressure/suction. Robotic cleaners can also be removed and stored when not in use. Several models are designed to operate on vinyl while others are geared towards gunite/in-ground pools. Make sure your selection is compatible with your pool surface. Robotic pool cleaners run on a programmed timer, so you simply drop it in the pool, plug the cord into the low voltage transformer and come back in a few hours. Pull out the unit and clean the debris bag or pleated filter cartridge. Aquabot and Aquavac have long dominated the US robotic cleaner market, and Smartpool has gained share with a lower priced line of robotic cleaners, attracting the above ground pool owner.
Another important factor in determining what cleaner is right for you is what type and size of debris you are attempting to remove from your pool. Certain cleaners have the option of fine mesh bags meant to remove sand and silt. If you get large debris make sure the cleaner you are considering has a large enough opening and enough power to pick up whatever ends up in your pool (Polaris 380 can suck up golf-balls). Many cleaners get clogged very easily, so if you have large Oak trees nearby, consider this strongly.
Whatever type of pool you have and wherever you are located there is a cleaner that will do the job. I find the most reliable cleaners to be robotic because they are self reliant. My second choice would be a cleaner that operates on a separate booster pump. Cleaners with booster pumps will still work with a filter that has a higher pressure when system needs to be backwashed and has a more consistent gpm output unlike non-booster pump cleaners which need to rely on the pool pump to operate. Suction cleaners also will only function when pool equipment is operating correctly, and running whenever the pump is on means a shorter life for wearable parts.
Pool cleaners can remove the stress of constantly cleaning your pool but does not replace maintenance. Continually monitoring cleaner and changing/cleaning any bag will ensure a longer life for your cleaner. Change out necessary parts that are designed for wear to prevent bigger problems. Brushing your walls and skimming pool surface will put less stress on your pool cleaner and help keep your pool in tip top shape.
So, to review, when considering a pool cleaner, ask yourself these five questions.
- In Ground or Above Ground Pool?
- Vinyl liner, Fiberglass or Plaster finish?
- Dedicated Cleaner line? Suction or Pressure?
- Light, Medium or Heavy debris load?
- Size of Pool?
This will narrow the field of choices down to just a few pool cleaner models. Price is always a strong consideration of course, but keep in mind, as with anything else, with pool cleaners, you pretty much get what you pay for. The more expensive models usually work better and faster with less need for human involvement.