Pool Cleaning 101: Understanding and Choosing Pool Cleaners

Why Automatic Pool Cleaners are the Best Tool for Pool Maintenance

 Swimming pools need year-round maintenance to ensure that they’re clean and safe. However, depending on how you’d do it, it’s either too expensive or labor-intensive. But because of the power of science and technology, pool owners don’t need to be trapped between these two conditions. You can now ditch manual pool cleaning or hire professional cleaning services in favor of automatic or robotic pool cleaners.

This article provides a comprehensive description of each type, the pros and cons, and the better choice contingent on your circumstances.

Pool Cleaning 101: Understanding and Choosing Pool Cleaners

Types of Automatic Pool Cleaners

Automatic pool cleaners fall under two types: suction-side and pressure-side cleaners. Before delving into each class, it would be advantageous to understand the basic concept of water circulation.

Even if you don’t feel it, a swimming pool has a system that keeps water moving in and out of a mechanism. This makes sure that the water is continually roving about, preventing algae and microbe buildup in there. The mechanism that I’m talking about here is the pump and the filter. Simply put, a suction mechanism draws water into the filter while the pump propels the sifted water back out.

Pool Cleaning 101: Understanding and Choosing Pool Cleaners

The problem is, relying on the pool’s pump and filtration system is hardly enough, especially if you have a busy pool. You are either obligated to spend countless hours manually cleaning all types of debris or admit that you need help. Of course, I suggest doing the latter.

Suction-side Pool Cleaners

The two automatic pool cleaner types utilize the circulation system we briefly discussed in the previous section. They roam about by using the water pressure as it’s suctioned in and out of the filter and pump.

Suction-side pool cleaners may be fastened to the pool’s skimmer and filter, but a better practice is to connect them to a dedicated or separate suction line. This way, it does not override the skimmer’s function. Skimmers are very important because they keep the surface free from larger types of debris such as leaves, branches, bugs, and twigs.

Pool Cleaning 101: Understanding and Choosing Pool Cleaners

Suction-side pool cleaners effectively take out small particles such as sand or dirt. Therefore, if these types of debris are more common in your area, you may want to purchase a suction-side pool cleaner.


  • Lowest-priced automatic pool cleaner
  • Not difficult to maintain and the spare parts are quite inexpensive
  • Can be generally left out in the pool 24/7


  • Can rapidly overwhelm your filter
  • Majority of models could not clean walls
  • “Steals” a lot of function from the skimmer and the main drain

Pool Cleaning 101: Understanding and Choosing Pool Cleaners

Pressure-Side Pool Cleaners

Pressure-side cleaners may be installed on the pool’s return line or through a booster pump. The booster pump presents an extra operating cost, but it helps pressure-side cleaners to function at their best. What’s more, these cleaners are designed to get rid of more sizable debris such as twigs and leaves.

Looking at the overall activity of these cleaners, they do not overload the pool’s filter system as much as suction-side cleaners do. That’s because pressure-side cleaners “bring” their own garbage bags, so to speak, taking care of bigger debris while leaving the finer dirt to the pool’s filter. Pressure-side models generally cost a lot more, but they are also highly durable. Some can last up to 7 years before needing to be repaired or replaced!

Pool Cleaning 101: Understanding and Choosing Pool Cleaners


  • Not as demanding for the pool’s filtration system
  • Upkeep and maintenance are affordable
  • Spare parts are common and widely available


  • May require a booster pump increasing operational cost
  • Needs more maintenance than suction-side cleaners
  • Many models only pick up debris and do not actually “scrub” floors and walls

Installing Automatic Pool Cleaners

Instructions for installing suction-side and pressure-side cleaners are more or less the same, except for the booster pump and the fact that you’re connecting them to the opposite ends of the filtration system. Booster pumps are best set up by someone who is doing pool work professionally. Otherwise, a lot of things can go wrong.

Pool Cleaning 101: Understanding and Choosing Pool Cleaners

Here are some general tips in installing automatic pool cleaners:

  • Start by switching the pool pump off.
  • Spruce the pool up, especially its pump and filter basket. You may choose not to clean the twigs and branches off the surface if you’re installing a pressure-side cleaner.
  • After cleaning the pump and filter basket, turn the pump on for a few minutes to clear the lines.
  • Assemble whatever parts that need assembly. Ensure that the hoses are of the right length.
  • For a suction-side cleaner, submerge the hose in the water to get rid of the air inside. After this, link the skimmer to the regulator valve.
  • Put the pool cleaner in the water and connect the hose to it as soon as you see bubbles starting to appear. For pressure-side cleaners, make it a point to set the wheels’ RPM at the right range. If it’s too fast, it will float; if it’s too low, it will have difficulty moving around.
  • Be sure to follow all the instructions on the manual as far as fittings and the position of the valves go.

Robotic Pool Cleaners

Automatic pool cleaners involve some form of manual work, but if you want to completely automate the process, look no further than robotic cleaners. These machines have their own “engine,” so they work and move unaided by the pool’s filtration system.

Robotic pool cleaners have heavy-duty wheels and other tools to scrub and clean pool surfaces and vacuuming the dirt after. The majority of robotic pool cleaners for in-ground pools can also move up walls and waterlines, while some are equipped with mapping features. Robotic pool cleaners are costly, with a low-tier model costing at least $400. However, if you carefully weigh the pros and the cons, it saves you time, power, and money in the long run.


  • Do not require complicated installation
  • Helps spread clean water all over the pool
  • Armed with filter bags, therefore, reducing the load off your filtration system


  • More expensive than suction or pressure-side cleaners
  • Parts replacement could be a hassle
  • Needs more effort after completing a cleaning cycle

The Verdict: Which One Should I Choose?

If you do not have the budget for a robotic cleaner yet, suction-side and pressure-side cleaners are viable options, though some pressure-side cleaners can be worth as much as a cheap robotic cleaner. In general, no matter the type, automatic cleaners significantly reduce pool upkeep time compared with manual maintenance. Committing to one is just a matter of budget and personal preference.

Now, with all that being said, if you come upon a budget robotic cleaner or a higher-end model at a discount, it would literally save you time and money in the future. However, be reminded that you cannot forego other essential maintenance steps just because you use a fully automated cleaner. For what they’re worth, these robots could not do water testing or balance the water’s pH level for you. They are just complementary tools designed to reduce manual labor.

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