What Sort Of Pool Cleaner, Sweep Or Robot Should I Buy?
Cleaning a pool is a labour of love. However, it’s also a frequently neglected chore with consequences that typically lead to the dreaded green pool. A Pool Cleaner can come in many different forms including human, robot or smart device. However, in this article, we’ll be on the traditional methods for removing algae and debris from a pool’s walls and floors.
What is a pool cleaner?
A pool cleaner is a device that cleans the walls and floors of a swimming pool. There are four types pool cleaner: Pressure cleaners (pool sweeps) which use a separate pump and a thin pressure hose to power the cleaner. Robots use low voltage electricity for power usually via a floating electric cord. In-Floor cleaners use pop-up jets that sweep leaves to a special main drain. These have their own pumps and must be installed when the pool is being built. Suction cleaners operate by plugging a large-diameter vacuum hose into the skimmer box and uses the water flow of the pool filter pump to power the cleaner. It’s worth noting that none of these pool cleaners sanitise the water – for that you’ll need an automatic chlorinator or lots of time and/or help.
How does a Pool Cleaner work?
Below we cover the four main types of pool cleaner.
1. Pressure Cleaners
Pressure cleaners are also knows as Pool Sweeps. In our experience a pressure cleaner is the best type of pool cleaner for most pools for several reasons, including:
- Good long-term unattended operation
- Large leaf capacity
- Easy to lift out of the pool
- Easy to empty the leaf bag
- Largely trouble-free
- Improves water, sanitation and circulation
Pressure cleaners do a good job of cleaning a pool and you can go away on holidays and leave them running. They may fill up their waste bag but they will not be damaged and the pool will generally be in good shape when you get home.
The two main types of pressure-based pool cleaners come from Polaris and Jet-Vac. The Polaris climbs the walls and brushes them whereas the Jet-vac does not. However, the Jet-Vac will pick up larger leaves and hold more of them. If you would like more advice as to the brand and the model… and there are differences in performance between models, get in touch with Pooled Energy.
You must have a suitable fitting in the side of your pool, usually opposite the skimmer box, to use a pressure-based pool cleaner. This is plumbed to its own pump. A complete cleaner, head, hose and pump will typically cost between $1,500 and $1,800 including GST. If you don’t have a wall fitting and the wall is exposed and accessible from the outside, it is surprisingly easy and inexpensive to install one.
In a nutshell: If you have a Pooled Energy system, the pool sweep will be controlled automatically by the automation system and adjust for season and, in some cases, weather. Click here to learn more about saving pool energy, chemicals and automation.
2. Robot Cleaners
Robot cleaners are very effective pool cleaners but more fiddly than pressure cleaners. They also hold fewer leaves and less debris. They are provided on a trolley and need to be removed from the pool after each use. They are often heavy when full of water and need to be lifted out carefully to avoid strain while the water drains (although some newer, more-expensive models use water jets to help with lifting and quicker water evacuation). They should be stored out of sunlight as this affects the plastic from which they are made.
If you get a quality robot, it will usually ‘learn’ the pool and do a good job of cleaning the floor and the walls. Some models climb and clean stairs as well. They filter to quite a fine degree and are the quickest of pool cleaners: taking two hours to do the average pool. We prefer the larger, more durable commercial-grade robots. We have not tested the battery-powered versions as yet but urge some caution as the technology is new and unproven and, as such, we recommend staying with the cord-powered versions for now. Most have a power supply on their trolleys. This plugs into the mains and provides the low voltage for the robot. They use only about 200 watts and are economical to operate.
In a nutshell: If you do not have a pressure cleaner fitting, try a robot pool cleaner. If you have a suction cleaner, and you pool isn’t plumbed for a pressure cleaner, we highly recommend you use a robot cleaner.
In-Floor Pool Cleaners
In-floor pool cleaners are built into the pool at the time of construction and have pop-up jets that are activated in sequence and use jets of water to sweep leaves to a special main drain that collects them. Unfortunately, we see quite a few that have been installed incorrectly and either do a bad job of ‘sweeping’ or use a great deal of energy when doing so. When they work, they work reasonably well but are generally the most energy intensive of all the pool cleaners as they need to run for the longest times.
In a nutshell: If you are having problems with your in-floor cleaner, please contact Pooled Energy for an audit and recommendations. Sometimes, simple plumbing changes can rectify problems.
Suction Pool Cleaners
We do not recommend suction cleaning devices under any circumstances for a range of reasons:
- They prevent you skimming the water surface in most cases. Virtually all the debris and dirt in a swimming pool comes through the surface. The surface layer is the most highly-contaminated in the pool and the one most essential to clean. The NSW Government Health Department recommends that 75% – 80% of the water filtration in swimming pools be taken from the top layer and the remainder from the main drain at the bottom of the pool. The World Health Organisation recommends 90% and 10% respectively.
- If you leave a suction cleaner plugged-into the skimmer box as most people do, you are taking no water from the surface layer at all. While the suction cleaner is busy cleaning the bottom of the pool, its suction hose is usually completely blocking the skimmer box and therefore the filter takes 100% of its water from the bottom.
- The surface layer of the pool will become progressively more contaminated with floating body oils, sunscreen and cosmetics, while debris and dust (that should have been skimmed) will now slowly sink to the bottom – making the water dirty and cloudy on its way down and the surface’s appearance unpleasant. This all makes for much more work (and energy usage) for both the suction-based cleaner and the filter. You are unlikely to achieve higher water-quality standards if you use a suction pool cleaner. Moreover, the water is unlikely to be as well sanitised.
- Suction cleaners are also not well suited to automatic operation. If you have one, it is likely that you have many leaves in your pool and you will have to manually clean out the skimmer box quite often. Otherwise, the efficiency of the filter will fall quickly due to the skimmer being blocked. Of course, all pool skimmer boxes need periodic cleaning. However, any leaf load that accumulates is better distributed between a pressure-side cleaner and a skimmer: not just the skimmer.
- Suction-based pool cleaners tend to choke on larger debris and leaves and will not pick up such things as gum-nuts and small sticks – unlike pressure-side cleaners.
- Contrary to popular belief, suction cleaners do not run for free. In fact, they use a significant amount of filter-pump energy. Filters using suction cleaners need to run at higher speeds or longer times, irrespective of the type of filter. US Electricity utility studies suggest that suction cleaners consume significantly more energy than pressure-based side cleaners (which use their own separate pumps and, in our opinion, do a better job in a shorter time).
- Some suction cleaners are noisy and not suitable for night time operation.
- Some suction cleaners have a plate in the skimmer box with an additional inlet to the suction hose. This is sometimes spring-loaded with the intention of allowing some surface skimming. This is seldom successful as it requires high pump power and water is diverted from both skimming and suction which prevents either working well. More often however, it forms a vortex that sucks air into the pump: stopping it momentarily until it primes itself again. This pushes pressure surges through the system and loses energy and pool filtration efficiency.
- Water circulation is impacted as the water suction is only through the head of the cleaner. Our experience is that pools with suction cleaners have lower water quality and experience more stagnant areas (which are at greater risk of algae infection and subsequently, green pool).
In a nutshell: The Pooled Energy system can operate with existing suction cleaners. However, we strongly recommend that you consider another type of pool cleaner, such as a pressure-side cleaner with its own pump, or a robot. We believe that you will get much better results and have a cleaner pool at less cost.
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