For inground swimming pools, an automatic pool cleaner can make a big difference in the workload of keeping your pool clean. Pool cleaners vacuum the debris on the floor, and help to circulate filtered water. Available with different levels of automation, features and price points, this blog post is a Buyer's Guide for inground pool cleaners.
Suction side cleaners work off the suction from your pool skimmer. The way a suction side cleaner works is that you assemble all of the hoses and then connect the final hose into the skimmer or dedicated suction port. The cleaner will move around the entire pool in a random pattern, vacuuming both walls and floor of the pool. Most suction side cleaners create movement from a single moving part on the pool cleaner - either a diaphragm or flapper. The suction side pool cleaner only works when your pool pump is running, and it picks up the dirt and debris in the pool and sends it to your filter system. A leaf canister can be added to the hose so that the dirt and debris gets caught in the canister, prior to reaching the pump and filter. This type of automatic pool cleaner is typically the most popular; many customers start with this style of pool cleaner and some upgrade later on to a pressure or robotic cleaner.
Robotic Pool Cleaners
The robotic pool cleaners are the easiest to use - there are no hoses to hook up and you do not have to rely on suction from the skimmer. This style of pool cleaner runs independently from your filter system, and is powered by onboard pump and filter motors. When a robotic cleaner is working - all of the debris is self- contained it goes into a very mesh filter bag or filter cartridge inside the cleaner. You do not have any debris going through the filter system so there is less maintenance involved with a robotic cleaner. The robotic cleaners are typically the most expensive style cleaner but when using this cleaner you will prolong the life of your pool equipment and also save money on chemicals. As the cleaner cleans the pool it also acts as a filtration system; water passing through is filtered down to 2 microns.
Pressure Pool Cleaners
Works from the pressure from your return line, the force of water coming back into your pool gives this cleaner the pressure to operate. With this style cleaner you hook up a hose to a dedicated return line, plumbed for a pressure side pool cleaner. The water pressure will drive the unit around the pool, and the venturi effect sweeps debris directly into a mesh filter bag that is attached to the cleaner.
Most of the time this style cleaner requires a separate ¾ hp booster pump which gives you more water flow coming through return line to operate the cleaner. There is a different model pressure side cleaner, the Polaris 360 that does not require a separate booster pump. The Polaris 360 is powered by one of the return lines that you have in the pool. It has the disadvantage of applying some back pressure on your system, and is not fully automatic, like the booster pump powered model with a time clock.
With having the dirt and debris going into mesh filter bag you do not have to worry about clogging up your pool filter. This style of cleaner does not interfere with your skimmer as does the suction side cleaner, with it's floating hose.
Compare & Contrast
In order to Compare and Contrast each pool cleaner type, let's look at several variables associated with all of them.
Suction Side– Least expensive automatic pool cleaner. Prices start at $200, and go up to $500.
Robotic cleaners – Can be the most expensive, but not necessarily. Robot cleaners range in price from $400 - $1800. Many different models to choose from.
Pressure Side - a Polaris 360 can be used without a booster pump at only $500, but is limited in performance and automation. The booster pump types of pressure cleaners will cost $900, plus some money for the time clock, and possible costs for installation wiring and plumbing of the booster pump.
Suction Side– Least expensive, you'll normally need to replace wear and tear items such as a pleated seal, wing set, foot pad or hoses. The average cost consumers spend on replacement parts for their suction side cleaners is approximately $100 every couple of years.
Pressure Side cleaners - Normally need to replace filter bags, sweep hose scrubbers, sweep hose and tires. The average cost consumers spend on replacement parts for a pressure side pool cleaner every couple of years is about $150.
Robotic cleaners - Normally need to replace wear and tear items such as filter bag or filter cartridge. Brushes and drive belts or drive tracks. Motor replacements can be expensive. The average cost consumers spend on replacement parts for a pressure side pool cleaner is approximately $200 - every few years.
Robotic cleaners- Installation is typically the easiest with this style cleaner. Just plug the 24v transformer into a 110v electrical outlet and then plug the cord from the pool cleaner. With this cleaner you just drop it into the pool and when it's done, remove the cleaner and empty the debris. This cleaner is so simple to operate my 8 year old son can do it.
Suction side cleaners are fairly simple in regards to installation. You have to assemble hoses, attach cleaner head to hoses and then connect the hose to a dedicated suction port, like a vacuum line or a skimmer. You'll need at least a 3/4 hp pump to power a suction cleaner, and you may need to restrict other suction lines to give more suction to the cleaner.
Pressure Side - Since most pressure side cleaners require a booster pump and a dedicated line, this makes this installation the most involved. You should wire the booster pump to a timeclock for independent and automatic operation. If you do not have an underground pipe to connect to, you can install an aboveground hose kit.
Typically suction side cleaners seem to last the shortest amount of time but they are also the least expensive. The average life expectancy of a suction side cleaner is about 3-5 years, pressure side cleaner 5-7 years and robotic pool cleaner 6-8 years. In theory however, since we have parts available for all the cleaners we sell, you can regularly repair and rebuild your pool cleaner, and have it for much longer.
All style cleaners clean the bottom of the pool and almost all of them clean the walls of the pool. In my opinion the robotic pool cleaner does the best job cleaning the pool with the least amount of work. Most pool cleaners won't clean the top step or make it up onto a swimout bench. And if you have an attached spa, you'll have to manually clean it. Robotic cleaners also have the advantage of filtering your pool water as it passes through the filter/debris bag.
Typically the pressure side cleaners have the largest openings on the cleaner to gather large leaves and acorns. Robots and suction side cleaners may have trouble with big debris, and can become clogged. With a suction side cleaner the debris goes through the filter system, and can clog up the pump basket quickly, whereas with pressure or robotic cleaners the dirt and debris goes into an onboard filter or bag, and won't clog up your pump or filter.
Suction side Cleaner - Only works when pool filter pump is running, the least automatic of the three cleaner types.
Pressure Side Cleaner - A pool timer can be used to turn on power to a booster pump. The most automatic of the three cleaner types.
Robotic Cleaner - Most of the robotic cleaners have a built in timer - when the cleaner is done it will automatically shut off, and wait for you.
Which Pool Cleaners are Included in the Inground Pool Kits?
The cleaner that is included with our Deluxe pool kit is the Hayward DV 5000 suction side automatic pool cleaner, item E1055. With our Deluxe Plus kit we include a robotic cleaner - the Hayward eVac, item E1068.
One of the nice features on the Hayward eVac cleaner is the Quick Clean technology. When you put the cleaner in the quick clean mode by pushing that button on the transformer the cleaner will clean just the floor of the pool. If you leave the cleaner in normal cleaning cycle the cleaner will clean both floors and walls of the pool. The Hayward eVac comes with a 50ft Kevlar cord and also includes a caddy cart. You can use the caddy cart to transport the cleaner back and forth to pool and also for storage of the pool cleaner
Can I upgrade my pool kit to a pressure side cleaner (Polaris)?
With a new inground pool installation I would recommend plumbing your pool for a dedicated return line which can be used to operate the cleaner. Even if you do not install the cleaner now, you will already have the plumbing pipe ready to go. If you are purchasing the inground pool kit from Specialty Pool Products make sure you ask for an extra return panel and return fitting to accommodate the pressure side pool cleaner.
You would need to purchase the ¾ hp Booster pump to give the cleaner the extra pressure to operate the pool cleaner. You also the need what he call the head / hose of the cleaner and the one I would recommend also our most popular is the Polaris 380. The cost of the pressure side cleaner will be much reduced when the price of the included pool cleaner is removed.
If I have a pool cleaner, what other pool cleaning tools do I need?
All of the cleaning tools that you need for the maintenance of the pool are included with our inground pool kits. The items that are included are a telescopic pole, leaf skimmer net, wall brush, manual vacuum head and vacuum hose. You may only use the skimmer net and brush, and never need to manually vacuum your pool.
Do the costs outweigh the benefits?
Yes the extra cost of pool cleaners definitely outweighs the cost due to the convenience of not having to manually vacuum the pool. You can enjoy the pool and not have to worry about cleaning it, or threaten to chop down your neighbor's trees. I have a robotic pool cleaner in my own 16’x32’ inground pool and I have never manually vacuumed the pool.
SPP Pool Expert