Automatic Pool Cleaner Buying Guide

The earliest pool cleaner, a type of cistern cleaner appeared in the late 1800’s. It relied on a combined suction pump hose and hollow arm type device to remove the build up of gunk at the foot of the cistern tank. This technology progressed into the more efficient technology used to clean swimming pools.

The first suction pump adaption arrived in 1939 and made use of driving wheels to provide movement for the pool cleaner. By 1967 the first electric-powered pool cleaner appeared and did not need to attach to the filtration pump.

Nowadays, there is a choice of three automated pool cleaners in the market. One type is robotic and completely independent, while the other two rely on the water filtration systems to function.

Types of automatic pool cleaners


Suction-Side-Pool-VacuumThe suction cleaner is the cheapest on the market and hooks up to the filtration medium and pool pump. This cleaner works by connecting the unit to the pump via a hose. Once dropped into the pool it moves at random across the pool surfaces: the bottom and sides. The randomized movements increase its ability to reach every last part of the pool.

This type of pool cleaner is operated with rotating brushes that dislodge and scrape the surface. Any loose debris gets sucked up into the filtration system. The entire design is quite basic and easy to use. Plus, the price is very affordable to make a popular choice for residential pool owners.

Pressure Suction

Pressure-Side-Pool-VacuumThe pressure suction cleaner not only relies on the filter pump for suction, but also has a built-in pump to give that extra help. The high pressure to suction the pool means more gunk and scum gets removed from the bottom pool surface. It is particularly useful for algae growth.

This system is more complicated and is a little bit more expensive than the standard suction cleaner. Yet, it is more effective when working with a low-rated pump. This increases its use and flexibility and operates in more pool types no matter the filtration system.


Hayward-RC9740The robotic cleaner is programmable and powered via an external source. This pool cleaner is self-contained and not dependent on the pools filtration or pump system. It runs on a dedicated electrical power source (must be close to the pool) and the most expensive of the pool cleaners. The cleaner is connected to a water resistant electric cord and built with a personal filtration collection bag. Robotic cleaners have at least two motors: one for the suction pump and another for the drive brushes/wheels.

With a regular cleaning schedule in place the filter canister or bag is emptied after each job. But, for the first clean of the season or a particularly dirty cleanup, the cleaner may need to stop and debris removed from the filter canister/bag as required.

What are the features?

Bump Bars

The bump bars extend from the sides of the cleaner to let the unit know when it is time to turn to avoid hitting the stairs or walls. The bump bars switch on or off to make it possible to clean side walls or the bottom surface. The basic robotic pool cleaner with no side cleaning feature relies on the bump bars to avoid getting trapped in a corner or at a wall.

2 Wheel Drive

The 2 wheel drive is typically built with a compact design. This means they aren’t the most efficient at cleaning pool surfaces. They are a practical choice for the small pool and still provide a useful degree of cleaning capability. This is subject to the debris and dirt being loose and not caked in.

4 Wheel Drive

The cleaners with the 4 wheel drive are the most efficient. It is possible to use the most effective and large brushes and creates greater suction. Plus, they are more efficient at climbing the stairs and walls. The premium models even include tank tread variation over the wheels. This tread improves the grip while moving across the bottom/side surfaces of the pool.

Filter Canister/Bag

The robotic style of cleaner has a hard shell canister or a filter bag. Certain models have dual canisters/bags for increased capacity on the big jobs. The high-end units even have the ability to switch to the next canister/filter bag once the first one fills up. Once the canister/bag is full the system shuts down.


The robotic cleaners with the programming options vary in their effectiveness. The basic command includes setting the time for the unit to run. An advanced option includes inputting a complete daily schedule. Remote sensing capability is useful to target a particular area of the pool. Point the remote at the affected area and the cleaner will get to work.

What is right for you?

The right pool cleaner is dependent on the type of pool and to a certain degree the filtration pump and its power.

Above Ground Pool

Let’s get a quick overview of the different above ground pools.

The temporary types are fill-and-empty pools that have no need for a pool cleaner. They are for kids and parties. The build is hard-shell plastic or inflatable and there is no filtration system.

The long-term or permanent above ground pool has a fame to help hold the liner in place. This frame limits the ability for side-crawling cleaners to work. But, a simple suction cleaner attached to the pump hose is more than enough. Also, these types of pools are packaged with low-powered pumps. So, the right cleaner must match the rating of the HP of the pump. An upgraded pump can help to rectify most problems.

A robotic cleaner or a pressure cleaner would avoid most issues related to the shortages of a low-powered pump. But, the automatic pool cleaners are quite expensive and could cost a sum that is similar or more than the actual pool.

In-ground pools – Rectangular

The rectangular in-ground pools are the simplest to keep clean and accept any type of pool cleaner. A simple suction cleaner is a useful choice for the pool owners that invest in a regular clean. The suction cleaner does need a relevant powered pump. The pressure cleaners are the highest rated and intended for larger pools or want a heavy-duty cleaner. They are great for algae growth. Or, the robotic cleaner is a practical option for the rectangular pool. But, they are the most expensive, so one of the two other pump-driven options may be more practical.

In-ground pools – Non-rectangular or designer

The robotic pool cleaner gives the best performance in the unique shaped pools. This type of cleaner has the freedom to move and is not tethered to a hose. The cleaner has the ability to navigate angles and curves that most other cleaners neglect. The risk of getting stuck in a corner is low because of the built-in directional control. Plus, they are more efficient at cleaning wall surfaces without the square corners.

Is it possible to use other pool cleaners? Of course! But, there may be a need to use manual pool cleaner to finish those missed areas. The robotic pool cleaner is the only real choice for cleaning every last nook and cranny.

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