This spring and summer has been really stormy, so I’m glad I signed up for this blog post months ago!
I got to take home 4 pool cleaners, which had been returned to us, but without defects – try them out in my inground pool, and report to you my honest reviews of each pool cleaner.
I started in late May, and switched cleaners every few weeks, so I could give each them a good test.
My Pool – rendered above, is an inground vinyl, slightly ‘Lazy’ – I like to say. It’s got 2 skimmers, a main drain; 2 wall returns and two step jets. 24,500 gallons, and a 1.5 hp Hayward pump. I don’t have a booster pump, so I can’t try one of those pool cleaners.
There’s lots of tall trees around that aren’t much problem, except during storms, which fills the skimmer baskets and puts a lot of leaves in the pool.
With this information in mind, I chose from 4 pool cleaner models that we had in the returns section of our warehouse. Not every model was there, but a pretty wide selection. I took 2 suction cleaners, a robotic cleaner and a pressure cleaner. Ronny helped me load them up in my little car, and they went home with me.
ZODIAC BARACUDA G3
Assembly: 13 minutes. Pulled out the cleaner head piece and connected the wheel deflector (top) and the finned disk (bottom), and then connected enough hoses to reach from my middle skimmer to the furthest corner of my pool.
Then I connected the skimmer bits, called a FlowKeeper, pushed all of the air out of the cleaner hose, and connected it to the skimmer piece.
At first it didn’t move, until I closed the main drain line, and then it started moving. It would move faster if I closed the other skimmer halfway, but I left it open.
The instructions tell you that you must point your return fittings (eyeballs) downward, but I decided to ignore this, because I like to have a little ripple on the surface. The G3 didn’t seem to mind.
Coverage: It seemed to clean the pool completely, except for steps and the vertical walls on my pool. It liked to get trapped in one corner for a while, but always got loose eventually. After a rain storm, when lots of debris went in the pool, I could see that it was missing some spots in the pool. I rotated the eyeballs down, like the instructions say, and it did improve the coverage.
My pump basket was catching the debris, so I had to empty it 3 times in one day, after the storm. It sucked up all of the leaves and sticks in the pool, nearly spotless. One stick did get stuck, inside the cleaner, I had to reach in and pull it out.
Review: For the price, a good cleaner that could be counted on 9 out of 10 times, but I was worried about keeping the pump basket clean, although an inline strainer accessory can be used. I also like to have my return fittings pointed up. I gave the Baracuda G3 cleaner 3.33 stars, and after drying, boxed it back up.
HAYWARD POOL VAC ULTRA XL
Assembly: 10 minutes. Pulled out the Hayward Pool Vac from the box and connected the hoses together (Tip: it’s easier if the hose ends are wet).
Hayward uses a flow meter for testing the flow, so after connecting all the hoses and filling with water, I inserted the leader hose into the skimmer hole, and held the other end under water.
For this cleaner, it worked best when I just barely cracked open the main drain, according to the flow meter tester that comes with the cleaner. Replacing the flow tester with the head part of the cleaner, it started to roam around.
Coverage: Hayward says the Pool Vac has ‘Programmed Steering’, but I don’t think it has any onboard software, it does this whiling dervish sort of cleaning path, and somehow it does get to all areas.
This one also did not climb my walls too much, but did do the lower step regularly. There are 3 adjustments on the rear flap to affect the cleaning pattern, but it worked fine right out of the box.
The opening on the bottom of this cleaner is a bit smaller than the G3, and I wondered if it would clean large acorns or very large leaves. I didn’t have any of those for it to test with, but it cleaned my whole pool perfectly. Like the other cleaners, I ran it every day for 3 hours, after I got home from work.
Review: Real simple to install, but it looks a little more complicated to work on. It has a lot more parts and gears and things inside. It had slightly better suction than the G3 suction cleaner, and is faster to clean, but maybe better suited for small to medium debris size. I gave the Hayward Pool Vac Ultra XL 3.50 stars, and pulled him out to dry.
Assembly: 30 mins. This is a pressure side cleaner, which means that it operates from water under pressure, or the return line, instead of one of the suction lines into the pump.
Had to get another hose section ($25), and swivel (15) to use with my pool, because both of my returns are on the ends of my 36′ long pool. Technically it’s still 2 ft short, and I plugged it into the shallow end return.
The Polaris comes with a set of adapters to connect to most any wall return fitting. Mine are threaded, so I screwed in the adapter and connected the hose.
Then I measured wheel speed and saw that it was below the recommended flow of 28-32 RPM of wheel speed. I barely had 22, so I put a smaller eyeball fitting on the other return, and closed the step jets, and it came up to 28 – sweet!
Coverage: This really has the best coverage and speed of the cleaners tested thus far, but I did notice that it raised the pressure on my filter tank by nearly 8 lbs. I found out it’s the back pressure that the cleaner is causing on the system, because it restricts the flow coming into the pool, by directing over half of the water through the pool cleaner.
Polaris 360 cleaners work best I’m told, on a system where the water is drawn off or diverted to a dedicated or separate cleaner line, before it reaches the pool filter. This avoids the back pressure on the filter tank and return line, but – since I don’t have a dedicated cleaner line, I plugged it into my shallow return, and it ran fine, despite the higher filter pressure, and extra parts I needed.
I love how it captures the debris in it’s own bag, so I don’t have to worry about the pump basket getting full. It has the largest throat of all cleaners tested, It would be hard to clog. When the bag looks full, I just shut off the pump and pull off the debris bag, and empty.
It cleaned the whole pool in under 2 hours. To remove it I had to shut off the pump, and then quick disconnect it from the wall. The pool circulation on the surface was not great when the cleaner was connected, it robs most of the water flow, so you lose most surface action when using the 360 in the way I did, but it’s only for a few hours.
Review: The most fun to watch! High marks for coverage and cleaning ability. Extra credit for having it’s own debris bag. Lots of parts though, not a simple invention, probably has higher maintenance costs than a suction cleaner. It would also be best used with a dedicated cleaner line in the middle of the pool, and a fairly strong pump, at least a 1.5 hp. I gave the Polaris 360 4.0 stars, and pulled him out after his two week trial.
Assembly: 5 mins. Definitely the quickest installation. Plug and play. I literally unboxed it and set it in the pool, then plugged the other end of the 50 ft floating cord into the transformer box. I didn’t have an outlet close to the pool of course, so I had to run an extension cord over part of the lawn and the Aquabot cord does run across the pool deck.
I raised up the power box, under a small table, to keep it from the rain, if this was a permanent cleaner for me, I’d make a more permanent solution.
So, for assembly the Aquabot is definitely the easiest to install, just drop it in the pool! Push the power button, and it starts doing it’s thing!
Coverage: This cleaner actually climbed the vertical walls in the deep end, though randomly, and spent most of it’s time on the floor. The coverage was perfect, it didn’t miss a spot. It has an automatic shut-off after 4 hours, but took only slightly more than 2 hours to get the pool spotless.
Not being connected to the pool plumbing is nice; robotic pool cleaners are completely independent of the filter system. They don’t affect and aren’t affected by, the flow and pressure of your filter system.
Aquabots also have the benefit of filtering the water while it operates, and although all of the cleaners had some improvement on the water clarity, the Aquabot really made the biggest difference (at night, with the pool light on).
Review: This type of cleaner was so easy to install, and started working right away, with complete coverage and fast cleaning. It’s a little heavy to lift from the water, but is manageable. They make a caddy cart, but you can carry it by the handle on top.
Looks like it could have expensive repairs, if things went wrong. There are low voltage motors, and a few gears and pins and bushings and things. But, if all is well – this cleaner outperformed all of the others tested. I gave the Aquabot Junior 4.2 stars and boxed him up.
This was great fun! And, I get to keep one of the cleaners! Can you guess which one I chose? They’re all great inground pool cleaners, and we have dozens more just like them.
Recommendations: I don’t suggest trying 4 different cleaners, but I would recommend this – for the best performance, go with a booster pump or pressure cleaner on a dedicated pressure line – if you have one, otherwise consider a robotic pool cleaner. Suction cleaners are cheaper to buy, but not as full featured as the more expensive models.
Like almost everything, you get what you pay for. We have nearly 100 models of automatic pool cleaners at In The Swim – there’s one to meet your budget and needs!
InTheSwim Staff Blogger