The Different Types of Automatic Pool Cleaners

Which Type of Pool Cleaner Should I Buy?

This is a common question many pool owners ask. Especially, when there are so many pool cleaners to choose from. So here’s a quick overview of the most common types to help you make the right decision.

Important: if you have an above-ground pool, do ensure the cleaner you choose is suitable for an above-ground pool as the wrong cleaner can damage the vinyl lining of your pool.

Types of Automatic Pool Cleaners

Suction-Side Pool Cleaners (Cost: $99$559)

Suction-side cleaners are well-suited for small to medium-sized pools — above-ground and in-ground. A suction-side cleaner is a vacuum type of cleaner which connects to the suction-side of a pool’s filter system, at the skimmer, or it can be connected to a suction line. The suction-side is where surface water (along with dirt and debris) is pulled into the skimmer and through the pool filter. This type of cleaner requires your pool’s pump and filter system to run it and help it filter. Suction-side cleaners don’t clean as well as pressure-side or robotic cleaners. But, if you’re on a budget and just need something to get started, they will get the job done.

Pros:

  • Low cost – the cheapest of all pool cleaners, especially, at the lower-end.
  • Less moving parts, so less to go wrong.
  • Easy to maintain.

Cons

  • Low pressure means less vacuuming power. Not as effective at cleaning your pool compared to pressure-side and robotic pool cleaners. No scrubbing action leaves a dull finish. Can cost you more cleaning time and effort in the long run.
  • Prone to clog up easily and stop working, especially with larger, 2-inch particles. So, it will perform ok if you live in a sand and silt-laden area. But not if you live in a tree-laden area where bigger particles like sticks and leaves will clog it up.
  • Increases the running costs of your pool. The cleaner puts more load on your filter and pump while in use. Your pool’s filter, alone, can run double while the cleaner is in use.
  • Uses more water as more backwashes are required to flush out the filter.
  • Reduces the suction effect of your pool’s skimmer to collect dirt from the pool’s surface. Most dirt and dust lies at the top 2 inches of your pool’s surface. Dirt and debris not picked up by the skimmer will stain your pool’s surface when it sinks and sits at the bottom of your pool.
  • More suited for DIYers. But ok if you don’t mind the manual labor.
  • Foot pads wear down easily so need replacing often — a recurring cost.

Pressure-Side Pool Cleaners (Cost: $300–$999)

Pressure-side cleaners work well for medium to large sized pools — above-ground and in-ground. They are very popular with pool owners. A pressure-side cleaner is connected to the water return jets in your pool to power it. The pressure-side is the side of your pool (opposite to the suction-side) where clean water is pumped back into the pool. Pressure-side cleaners use the water pressure in your pool to propel the cleaner through the water. Usually, they also require a booster pump to power them. The pool is cleaned using the ‘venturi effect’ to lift debris off the ground and into the cleaner’s filter bag. Simply put: the ‘venturi effect’ is caused by a decrease in water pressure and increase in its velocity to give the cleaner its power.

Pros:

  • A higher-pressure cleaner, so more effective at cleaning compared to a suction-side cleaner. It has a tail that ‘wags’ along behind the cleaner to scrub the floor; so dirt doesn’t rest at the bottom of your pool to stain it. This prolongs the cosmetic finish of your pool, and keeps it shinier. The water jets blast the walls and sides of your pool to loosen debris and move them to the drain where they can be sucked up. It can pick up small debris as well as large debris easily like leaves, branches, and pebbles.
  • Your filter lasts longer and costs less to run as the cleaner doesn’t move dirt and debris into your filter system. It has its own, self-contained filter bag.
  • Easy to maintain. Not much can go wrong. Replacement parts are easily available.
  • Doesn’t clog.
  • Very durable, so lasts a long time.

Cons:

  • Runs off your pool pump, so energy bills will be higher.
  • Most models require a booster pump for consistent flow, power, and pressure. A booster pump does require extra plumbing, so will cost more to fit and run. It helps if you already have one fitted.
  • More suited for DIYers. Although, this cleaner does involve less labor compared to working with a suction-side cleaner.
  • Higher-end models are not cheap to buy.

Robotic Pool Cleaners (Cost: $329–$3199)

Robotic pool cleaners are suitable for medium to large-sized pools — above-ground and in-ground. They are very smart, efficient cleaners. Unlike suction-side and pressure-side cleaners, they are powered by electricity, not water pressure. Robotic pool cleaners can be expensive to buy, but don’t cost much to run. And don’t rely on your pool’s equipment to run; so can reduce pool running and maintenance costs. In the long run, a robotic pool cleaner can cost less to run than a suction-side or pressure-side cleaner. They also automate the entire pool cleaning process, meaning less time and effort is spent.

Pros:                                                                            

  • Very efficient cleaners, even for the dirtiest pools. They can scrub every part of your pool: the tiles, walls, ground, stairs, and even remove dirt and debris from tight corners. They can pick up both large and small debris.
  • Save a lot of time and manual effort.
  • Reduce your pool running, maintenance, and water costs. It’s a self-contained unit which doesn’t require your pump and filter system to run or clean your pool. Also energy efficient, so can pay for itself in just 1 year.
  • Filters water as it cleans, reducing the need for frequent backwashes, saving water.
  • Eco-friendly. Provides better water circulation to keep water cleaner while using fewer chemicals.
  • AI technology makes it a very smart, efficient cleaner. Can be operated by remote, smartphone, and on a timer.
  • Easy to operate and maintain.
  • On top-loading cleaners, no need to lift a heavy cleaner out of the water to change filter bags.
  • Long warranties.

Cons:

  • Higher initial cost than other types of cleaners. But getting cheaper as technology evolves.
  • If not a top-loading model, you have to lift the heavy cleaner out of the water to change the filter bag every time it gets full.

Robotic Pool Skimmer (Cost: around $600)

Robotic pool skimmers are suited for medium to large-sized pools — above-ground and in-ground. This type of cleaner is a relative newcomer to the market. A popular model is the ‘Solar Breeze’ NX2 model. It’s a revolution in the pool cleaner market as it cleans from the top. Most pool cleaners clean from the bottom of the pool: after dust, debris, and organic matter have become water-logged and sunk to the bottom. Removing matter at the surface gives it no chance to decay in the sunlight, so less bacteria and algae are formed.

Pros

  • Can remove up to 95% of debris from the surface of your pool: dust, pollen, leaves, even suntan oil. Meaning your pool equipment does less work.
  • Completely solar-powered. The rechargeable Lithium Ion battery gets charged in the sunlight. So the cleaner will operate for several hours after sundown using the power that was stored earlier in the day. It can operate all day long when most pool filtration systems are idle, and has a maximum run time of 23.5 hours per day.
  • Completely automated. So less time and manual effort needed.
  • Doesn’t rely on your pool pump or filter. And can reduce your pool pump run time by up to 60%.
  • No attachments, cords, or hoses are required.
  • Sanatizes your pool as it goes. On-board chlorine tray holds 2, 3-inch Trichlor tablets.(Solar Breeze only)
  • Quiet in operation.

Cons

  • Only cleans the surface of your pool. You have to scrub and clean the rest.
  • Not cheap.
  • Relatively new, so not as tried and tested as the other cleaners.