Best Automatic Pool Cleaner for your Pool

vacuum-the-pool-Being a pool owner, I spent countless hours outside vacuuming my pool by hand instead of in my pool enjoying it. I finally decided to take a chance and get an automatic pool cleaner.

But! There are literally hundreds of pool cleaners on the market; I wasn’t sure what was best for me.

If you are in the same boat, today’s topic is going to discuss the best automatic cleaner for your pool type.

Above Ground vs. In Ground Pool Cleaners

Many factors go into buying a pool cleaner. Let’s start with the difference between an in ground or above ground cleaner. For the most part, the cleaners are going to perform the same. Hose and cord lengths for in ground cleaners tend to be longer since in ground pools are typically larger in size. Secondly, many of the in ground cleaners will clean and climb the walls along with sloped floors. Aboveground pool cleaners are best for flat pool bottoms.

The Best Pool Cleaner for Your Pool

I say ‘your’ pool, because each pool is different in many ways, and these can all influence what type of cleaner would work best in your pool.

  • Do you have a dedicated cleaner line, pressure or suction?
  • How’s your filter? Large and effective works best for suction cleaners.
  • Pool pump size? Larger pumps are more effective for suction cleaners.
  • Amount of debris – is the pool surrounded by forest, or desert?
  • Pool floor contours, shape of pool, depth of pool, surface type?hmmm-guy

For the average pool, most automatic cleaners fit the bill, but for unusual pool types or those with low powered pump and filter, choices are more limited. If you need help with choosing the best pool cleaner for your particular pool – read on.

Pool Cleaner Types

Suction Side Pool Cleaners

kreepy-krauly-pool-cleanerSuction side cleaners are one of the most popular and cost efficient cleaners on the market today. These cleaners work off the suction from your existing pump and filter. Hook up the vacuum to your skimmer, turn the pump and filter on, and let the cleaner go to work! As the cleaner makes its way through the pool, it picks up the debris sucks it thru the hose and into the pump basket.

zodiac-cyclonic-leaf-catcherIf you are like me, and have a lot of leaves and debris fall into your pool during early and late parts of the season.  A leaf canister, allows you to trap the leaves before they reach your filter. Installs between two sections of hose right before the skimmer. The Zodiac Cyclonic Leaf Catcher is a new vertical style canister, that will work on any suction cleaner to increase leaf capacity, and keep pool filters cleaner.

On an above ground pool, it is important to note that a ¾ hp pump or larger is needed to run a suction side cleaner. A pump that is also too small will not provide adequate water flow to allow the cleaner to operate properly. Larger pumps of 1-2 hp will operate the cleaner and also keep the skimmer(s) working.

hayward-aquacritterFor both in ground and above ground suction side cleaners, they will run on a random pattern throughout the pool. One of the biggest differences on in ground vs. above ground is that the hose length on an in ground cleaner will be longer as the pools are generally bigger. Secondly, the in ground cleaners can clean the entire pool, walls and floors.

Many in ground and above ground suction cleaners only have one moving part, which ensures reliability of the cleaners and tend to be relatively inexpensive to change. While suction side cleaners are great for the price, we do have two more categories of cleaners that work independently of the pump and filter system.

Pressure Side Pool Cleaners

polaris-65-165-pool-cleanersThese types of cleaners are powered by water pressure, and are more popular on in ground pools. There is one above ground pressure cleaner – the Polaris 65 which connects to the pool return line. The Polaris 165 works exactly the same, but it has a longer hose for deeper inground pools.

As with the suction cleaners, the Polaris 65 should be used with a pump greater than ¾ hp and uses your pools filtration system to direct powerful jets of water to loosen floating debris. This cleaner floats on the surface and has a bag that skims along the bottom picking up debris.

polaris-booster-pumpThe more common pressure side cleaners include the Polaris 180/280/380. All three of these models require a ¾ hp booster pump to power the cleaner. By having it’s own booster pump, the cleaner works independently from your pool system. Pressure cleaners come equipped with a debris bag that to hold large amounts of leaves, keeping them out of your filtration system.

polaris-360-pool-cleanerWhile looking at the pressure side cleaners, you may come across the Polaris 360. So how does this differ from the Polaris cleaners ending in 80? The 360 is a low-pressure cleaner, that connects to your return line – no booster pump needed! These cleaners will run when your pump and filter are running, whereas booster pump cleaners have a timeclock, and turn themselves on and off.

Whether you purchase the cleaner with or without the booster pump, both types will scrub the pool walls, floors, and stairs. Each unit is equipped with a backup valve which will pull the cleaner away from pool obstacles and allow it to change directions if it gets stuck. Lastly, these cleaners will work with most pool types, including vinyl, gunite, and fiberglass.polars280-pool-cleaner

All of the models are similar as far as make and how they function. The Polaris 280 has the biggest throat and debris bag of all the cleaners. This means that more debris is picked up and your pool will be cleaned quicker.

Robotic Pool Cleaners

aquabot-classicI have to admit, robotic pool cleaners are my favorite. Why? Simply plug the cleaner into a GFCI outlet, gently place the cleaner in the pool, and let it go to work! Whether above ground or in ground, these cleaners have a programmed cleaning pattern unlike the other types of cleaners that randomly move around the pool.

For both pool types, the cleaners come equipped with either a filter cartridge or bag. Robotic pool cleaners have their own built in filtration system, so they do not work off your existing pump and filter. This eliminates the need for hoses, and you’ll cut backwashing in half as the debris is not going through your filter. And, they help your filter, as most robotic cleaner bags or filters will typically filter down to about 2-3 microns.

For in ground pools, robotic pool cleaners are designed to climb the walls, floors and steps, where the above ground cleaners are made for a flat floor. Robotic cleaners do well with all types of debris, but some of the largest acorns or leaves may be too much for some robots.

RoverInground robots tend to have brushes on the front and back to help loosen and remove dirt and fine particles and use tracks, whereas aboveground robots have wheels. Prices for aboveground robotic cleaners have come way down in the last few years, many using the newer ‘Jet’ technology which only requires one motor for vacuuming and tracking.

Best Pool Cleaner for Your Pool?

BEST-POOL-CLEANERNow that we’ve discussed the three different types of automatic pool cleaners, hopefully it gives you a better idea of which one will work best for your pool type and pool equipment. If you have any questions, automatic pool cleaners are kind of our thing – give us a call, or send an email to our pool cleaner experts!

Happy Shopping!

Kristin Malak
InTheSwim Staff Blogger




Best Automatic Pool Cleaner for your Pool — 15 Comments

  1. I have a polaris 360 which is about 7yrs.old and I think it is on its
    way out, will not stay on floor of pool gets hung up in corners, etc.
    I have a 16X32 in-ground vinyl liner pool, which would be best for me to get.

    • Hi Ceil, I love the Polaris 360! 🙂 If it won’t stay on the floor, it may have air trapped inside of the unit, or the pressure power to the cleaner may be too low (check wheel RPM), or the backup valve, swivels or hose may be losing pressure. For the corner problem, also check the backup valve, to be sure it cycles every 3 minutes. Adjusting the tail sweep jet to 11 or 1 o’clock can change the direction of travel, or removing a length of hose, can sometimes be the trick, to avoid certain areas. If you still want to replace the Polaris 360, the Polaris 165 may be a good option, or a robotic cleaner like the Aquabot Breeze or Pool Rover S2-50 may be a good choice.

  2. I have a 16×32 in ground block pool with a vinyl liner. I am told I cannot use the robotic wall climber type pool cleaner on a cement block pool. Is this correct? If not what would be the best pool cleaner for this type of pool

    • Hi Robert, you can use robotic cleaners, they just won’t climb the wall. But they may try to – repeatedly, which can cause some wear and tear – but wait, you have a deep end and a liner? But just have cement block walls, and not steel or polymer? What’s the difference? If your pool is all one depth, you can use aboveground pool cleaners, like the Aquabot pool rover T. If you have a deep end then you can use the S2-50

  3. hello we have a 18×36 in-ground vinyl liner pool and have heard some of the cleaners leave hold or marks on the side walls and bottom. Any suggestion on which on is best?

    • Hello, if your side walls and bottom are sand then it could be something to consider, but if you have a vermiculite or pool base or concrete bottom to the pool, no problems with pool cleaners marking up the floor. On sand bottoms however, an aggressive and fast cleaner could potentially make small divots or wheel marks. The least impactful type of cleaner would be the suction cleaners, like a Kreepy krauly or Hayward poolvac. Polaris 360 can be a good choice if you have the dedicated cleaner line, but most Polaris booster pump models could create sand divots or could create wear marks on spots that they frequently visit. Robotic cleaners with soft vinyl brushes are normally not a concern for wear or punctures or sand floor issues, but some models do have a lot of parts that can wear down or become askew, or somehow fall out to damage the vinyl (lots of little clips, screws and such). Same thing with pressure cleaners.

      So to answer the question – the safest cleaners to use on a vinyl pool are the simplest cleaners, and the simplest is the Kreepy/Baracuda style of suction cleaner with a round disk. These can be made more functional with inline strainers, and will not compromise skimming if you have two skimmers, or a dedicated cleaner suction line.

  4. i have a 32,000 gallon pool, i had a Polaris360 pool cleaner that just broke, but i never really liked it, never seem like it moved or pickup debris, my pool guy said it would be better to go with one that has its own pump, my question is if i go with that option if it breakdown would i have to replace the pump again or just the cleaner or should i go with a robotic cleaner instead. i’m trying to go with something that if i need to replace will not cost me too much money.

    • Hi Gloria, definitely go with the booster pump cleaner. Since you already have a dedicated cleaner line, it makes the most sense to me. Buy a Polaris 380 with booster pump, and connect it with it’s own timeclock. It only needs to run for 2 hours per day, or less, so the booster pump can last a good long time, 10-15 yrs if you’re lucky. The cleaner can last forever with small repairs, or be replaced entirely for $699. Robotic cleaners are convenient and quick to install, but aren’t quite as automatic as the polaris 380 with timeclock, and – repairs to robotic cleaners can be just as expensive, if not more, than a polaris pressure type pool cleaner. If it was my pool, I’d go with Polaris 380, (or 280 for big leaves, or 3900 if you want to be cool).

  5. I have a 16wx35l salt water Fiberglass pool. It has a tanning shelf and steps. I am looking in to buying a robot vacuum for the pool. What would you suggest. (Not close to trees, so we just get an occasional leaf.)

    • Hi Tammy, many pool cleaners don’t work on shallow tanning shelfs, because of the shallow water (they need to be completely submerged). And many cleaners can’t make the sharp, near 90 deg transition from pool wall to tanning shelf. If you are ok with not having the shelf auto-cleaned, you can use any robot (I like the Tiger Shark), the Polaris robotic cleaners may work, if your shelf is deeper, like 12″, but if only 6-8″, I don’t know for sure – you may need to ask Polaris? Many tanning shelves have return jets that keep them mostly clean, and just a weekly brushing is fine…

  6. I have a 6000 gal. Kidney shaped pool (fiberglass) and one end has stairs and a seating area- picture a hot tub). Looking for the best pool cleaner for my shape and size. I also have 3 trees around that drop 3 different nuts in the pool- kill me now!
    What would work best? I currently have a Polaris that’s OLD and not doing a good job. I do have a GFCI plug close if a robot would be best otherwise I have the side pressure and pump currently.

    • Hi Ryan, your pool is very small, at 6000 gallons. 3 different nuts, wow. The Polaris is likely the best choice, it may just need a rebuild kit, or various new parts (belts, tires, tail) or you can replace it with a new Polaris 380 or 3900 Sport cleaner. Polaris cleaners are best for nuts and large leaves, which can clog suction or robot cleaners. They also are the most automatic type of pool cleaner, because the booster pump turns on/off, each day to keep the pool clean. In your case, with such a small pool, I’d recommend 2 or 3 cycles per day, of 30 minutes each. Some would say that a Polaris in your pool size is a bit of overkill, but it likely is the best option for your (tree) situation. The Polaris can be easily overworked, and then suffers from wear/tear, so set your timeclock to run only the number of hours needed, to keep the pool clean. In your case, probably under 1 hr per day. Larger pools may need 2 or even 3 hours per day.

  7. I have a 22ft above ground pool with a large tree covering half of it… lots of leaves and acorns fall into our pool. Which cleaner will work best with the acorns? I have a version of the kreepy crawler and the acorns gets stuck in the flapper.

  8. Pingback: Keeping Your Pool Clean and Safe For Children | Handy Tips

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