Suction-Side Automatic Pool Cleaners for your Inground Pool
Suction-side automatic pool cleaners attach to one of the suction ports at the pool. Usually, this port is the skimmer, or your pool may have a separate vacuum port where the cleaner's hose can attach. With the hose attached and the filter pump running, suction is created on the underside of the cleaner by the water being pulled out of the pool by the pump.
Suction-side pool cleaners move randomly or automatically around the pool with motion created by a device that gives a stop/start pulsation of water. As the automatic pool cleaner travels, debris is sucked up through the neck and then into the hose, past the suction port, through the pipe, and stops at the filter pump strainer basket, while smaller debris passes right through to the filter. The cleaner, its hose and the volume of water flow can be manipulated to create a variety of cleaning patterns, to maximize pool coverage and cleaning efficiency.
Some Advantages of Suction-Side Pool Cleaners:
- They install simply and extremely easy to operate
- They have a proven track record
- Lower cost than other types of automatic pool cleaners
Cleaner is Moving Slowly: First check the pump basket for debris & ensure that water is flowing properly and the filter is clean. Next check the throat of the cleaner and the portion of the hose that attaches to the suction port for any obstructions. Also check the hose itself for splits, holes and obstructions. If your yard has lots of trees / leaves, you'll want to have an in-line leaf trap to use with your suction cleaner.
Cleaner is not Cleaning the Entire Pool: This can be caused by any number of reasons: (1) the hoses could be too short, or the cleaner could be following the flow pattern of the water in the pool (as strong flow from wall return jets will push a cleaner into a pattern). To fix this, adjust the return port wall fittings or add wall fittings to the return ports. It helps to point the fittings at a downward angle. If your pool doesn't have wall fittings at the return ports, there are alternative wall fittings made by the manufacturer to divert the flow.
Notes about Suction-Side Automatic Pool Cleaners
- Always rotate the wearable parts on the cleaners and replace those wearable parts when needed. These parts will prevent the need to replace more expensive components.
- If you have only one skimmer, most skimming action is lost while your cleaner is hooked up.
- Unless the cleaner has an in-line strainer basket somewhere on its hose, the filter pump basket can get clogged up rather quickly.
- If the strainer basket becomes full, it will reduce filtration and put more front pressure on the system by restricting the flow into the filter. Having a suction side cleaner is much better than having none at all. On the bright side, suction-side cleaners are available for half the cost of pressure side cleaners.
Robotic Automatic Pool Cleaners for your Inground Pool
These are self contained electric cleaners, which are put into the pool when there is a need for cleaning. Well known quality brand names include Aquabot, Dolphin and Aquavac. To operate a Robotic pool cleaner, a transformer is plugged into a wall outlet and a long (usually 50 ft) cord from the unit plugs into the transformer to receive low voltage power to operate the cleaner. This power operates two motors within the cleaner; a pump motor which draws debris into the cleaner's filter and a drive motor which moves the cleaner around the pool.
Advantages of Robotic Pool Cleaners:
There are distinct advantages to owning a robotic automatic pool cleaner, especially with inground pools:
- Offer the fastest cleaning cycle
- Self contained filter is easily cleaned
- Perform very well, are feature-rich and some units are even computer chip controlled. some feature remote control operation so you can steer the unit from a lounge chair, others are programmable and completely automatic!
- The only type of automatic pool cleaner not attached in any way to the pool's circulation system, so they produce no resistance, and ease wear & tear on your pump & filter
If the unit is not moving, first check that the indicator light on the transformer is on. If not, check that the transformer is turned on and that the 3V fuse is not blown. Note that it is possible for the indicator light to be glowing even though the fuse is blown. Check the electrical outlet using another electrical devise to be sure that power is available. For older units, try wiggling the power cord plug from the unit to the transformer as some may begin to short out at the plug; requiring a new plastic female plug (available at your local hardware store).
Next, inspect the unit itself while it's partially underwater. Is the pump motor receiving power? Is there water gushing out of the top of the unit? This would indicate that power is reaching the unit. Is the pulley on the drive belt side turning? If not, this could indicate a shorted motor or a corroded drive T, which would also require motor replacement.
Are the drive belts tight and in good repair? Drive belts can become stretched and weak over time. If your belts are "skipping" and are not locked into the grooves of either the drive pulley or the wheel tubes, they may need to be replaced. Check that the wheel tubes are in proper position, with bushings in place on either end. If the tubes are not straight, the drive belts will not be tight.
If the unit is moving but not picking up any debris, lift the unit up near the surface of the water. Does water gush out of the top? If not, the pump motor may be shorted. Unplug the unit and pull it out of the water. Remove the vent cap on top of the unit and check that the impeller does not have string wound around the base. Turn the impeller by hand to check spin. Plug in unit and check spin. If there is no spin, the pump is probably shorted. Another indication that the pump motor is not working properly is if the unit won't climb the walls very far before falling off. The pump motor provides the suction it needs for climbing.
SPECIAL NOTE: Never pull or lift a Robotic automatic pool cleaner by the power cord! Always try to reach into the pool and lift the unit only by the handle.
Pressure -Side Automatic Pool Cleaners for Inground Pools
Pressure-side automatic pool cleaners attach to the pressure side (return side) of your pool's circulation system. The force of the water being pumped or "pushed" back to the pool powers these units, and creates a vacuum which deposits dirt and debris into a bag or your pool's internal filter. Some pressure-side cleaners require a dedicated cleaner line and additional booster pump because your pool pump would not provide the required PSI pressure,. Others can effectively use your pool's existing pump to power it. Which version you choose depends on the PSI pressure of your pump vs. the cleaner you are considering.
The water that flows into the unit splits into three directions; the sweeper tail, the thrust jet and the venturi. The sweeper tail gets fine debris off the walls and floor and into the pool water where it can then head towards the filter. The thrust jet is a series of ports and gears which motor the unit around the pool in a random pattern. The venturi is the port where leaves are sucked up into a bag (that you empty when full) as the unit rolls over debris. An in-line back-up valve reverses the flow every few minutes to change its pattern and remove it from possible obstacles.
Advantages of Pressure-Side Cleaners
- They are helpful in distributing clean, filtered water around the pool
- They have their own debris bag so they don't compromise the filter system or clog the skimmer with debris
- Even with the bag full, a pressure cleaner still operates, stirring debris up. It just won't suck up any more debris until the bag is emptied
For Cleaners Requiring a Booster Pump:
Without the booster pump, some units would crawl along slowly, picking up very little debris. For these cleaners, the return pipe is cut after the filter and feed water is directed to the booster pump, which then pumps water through a dedicated line midway down the pool wall. This line can be run under the deck and through the pool wall, or over the deck for a less expensive installation. The big advantage to the booster pump models is that they are usually run with a timeclock, and can thusly turn itself on and off fully AUTOMATICALLY!
For Cleaners That Work with your Pool's Existing Pump:
"Low pressure" pressure-side cleaners have given their manufacturers a whole new market share by reducing the cost of installing their cleaners. They operate in a very similar fashion to the booster pump cleaners, and connect to one of the existing return ports. A test is made at that return port to determine if the circulation system can deliver the proper amount of pressure to operate the unit.
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