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Outdoor

Best Automatic Pool Cleaner

Pool cleaners come in a wide array of styles, function and design. In general, they all work off of your return pump with some requiring a booster pump to help them scrub and remove  difficult dirt and debris. Alternately, self-contained robotic models work off a battery pack and are equipped with their own brushes and capture bag that keeps grime out of your pools filtration system.

With pool cleaners, the axiom of “you get what you pay for” generally rings true. The most expensive types will be completely automatic, while the least expensive models may be nothing more than an underwater broom attached to a tube for manually sweeping the pool sides and bottom. Be sure to check out our automatic pool cleaner buyer's guide below which contains useful information to help you choose a unit best suited for your needs.

Dolphin 9999313-SWV Dolphin Advantage Plus RC Robotic Pool Cleaner with Swivel Cable

For the best cleaning ability, in both above and below ground pools, and the easiest to use unit, none beat the Dolphin 9999313-SWV Dolphin Advantage Plus RC Robotic Pool Cleaner with Swivel Cable. The swivel cable keeps the cord tangle free and out of the way so the robot can move freely in any direction. It will easily climb the walls, it has a remote control that will allow you to guide the unit manually, and it features a 1-hour rapid clean cycle for those touch-up cleaning chores.

Pentair 360032 Kreepy Krauly Prowler 830 Robotic Inground Pool Cleaner

The name says it best, and the Kreepy Krauly Prowler 830 Robotic Automatic Pool Cleaner will do your pool proud whenever it needs a cleaning. The swivel cord design keeps it from tangling, it has a remote control for manual cleaning, and comes with a built-in timer to clean your pool at times when you are away. It works on both above and below ground pools, and truthfully, this cleaner could be ranked #1.

Hayward Shark VAC Pool Cleaner

If you want the best bang for the buck robotic, then the Hayward SharkVac Robotic Pool Cleaner is the one for you. Although it may be one of the lesser expensive units on this list, it cleans almost as good as the top rated models in both above ground or below ground pools. It may have difficulty with leaves, but in every other aspect, for the price, it works great. It is fast, the filter housing is on top, so you don't have to turn it over to clean it, and it will climb walls, but it won't do stairs.

Water Tech BLD03RC Blue Diamond RC Robotic Pool Cleaner

For a price no object robotic, the Water Tech BLD03RC Blue Diamond RC Robotic Pool Cleaner is the one to get. It is completely programmable, so you can customize it to clean exactly what you want, the remote control allows you to take control manually, and it will climb walls with the best of them. The price is high and it won't work on above ground pools, but it still ranks as one of the best robotic available, at any cost.

Aqua Products Pool Rover S2-50

The least expensive robotic on this list is the Aqua Products Pool Rover S2-50. But don't let the price fool you. This is a solid cleaning robotic that works in both above ground and below ground pools, has a kink-free swivel cable, and it will climb inclined walls. Although it has basic timer and shut off operations, so it is not very versatile, the cleaning functions rival the top rated models in any pool you put it in.

Kreepy Krauly Legend LL505GG Pressure Side Pool Cleaner

You'll need an optional booster pump for this baby, but if you get one, the Kreepy Krauly Legend Grey Top, White Bottom Pressure Side Pool Cleaner will do a great job your pool cleaning chores. Made for in-ground pools only, it has four wheels for stability and features front wheel drive to get it up inclines. The large capacity debris bag keeps it in the water longer before you need to empty the bag and it will do your entire pool in about one to three hours.

Zodiac F1 Polaris Vac-Sweep 360 Head and Hose Pressure Side Pool Cleaner

If you are looking for a superior cleaner that doesn't need a booster pump, than the Zodiac F1 Polaris Vac-Sweep 360 Head and Hose Pressure Side Pool Cleaner is the one for you. For in-ground pools only, it hooks into your return line and vaccums the bottom and sides of your pool with ease. It is made to clean any pool in three hours or less, and if it had a bit more power, it would have been a top choice.

Zodiac 6-120-00 Polaris Vac-Sweep 165 Pressure Side Pool Cleaner

For the best bang for the buck unit here, the Zodiac 6-120-00 Polaris Vac-Sweep 165 Pressure Side Pool Cleaner can't be beat. It is the least expensive cleaner here, but the shape of the unit maximizes the vacuum and jet sweeping action. It comes with an easy to detach filter bag and will clean any pool in three hours or less. If you are on a budget, this is the cleaner to get.

Zodiac 6-130-00T Polaris Turbo Turtle Pressure Side Pool Cleaner

If you want to put in a little fun when cleaning your above ground pool, the Polaris 65 Turbo Turtle Above Ground Pressure Side Automatic Pool Cleaner will clean as good as it looks. This unit is made for above ground pools that are 5 feet deep or less. It works over virtually any above ground pool surface, and it's fun to watch as it cleans your pool. No booster pump needed, cleans your pool in three hours and the kids will love it.

Polaris 380 Pressure Side Automatic Pool Cleaner

If you are looking for a price no object pool cleaner, you can't do better than the Polaris 380 Pressure Side Automatic Pool Cleaner. You'll need an added booster pump to run this baby, but the three venturi jets will clean bottoms, walls and even stairs. All of the waste is deposited into an easy to empty Zip-lock filter bag, and although expensive, this is the most powerful pressure pool cleaner on the list.

Zodiac W70472 Baracuda G2 Automatic Pool Cleaner

Effective and reliable, the Zodiac W70472 Baracuda G2 Automatic Pool Cleaner is lightweight and easy to use. Just attach it to your skimmer or a dedicated vacuum line and let it go. It will clean the walls as well as the pool bottom, and the greater the suction power of your pump, the more effective that it will be. For the price and for it's effectiveness in cleaning, this suction pool cleaner comes in at #1.

Zodiac Baracuda W01698 Ranger Suction Side Automatic Above-Ground Pool Cleaner

If you have an above ground pool, the Baracuda W01698 Ranger Suction Side Automatic Above-Ground Pool Cleaner is the one for you. One of the least expensive cleaners on this list, it has a unique Flowkeeper valve that automatically regulates water flow to give you peak performance with any pump. It will even clean dished-out bottoms up to 72 inches. For above ground pool cleaning, this is #1.

Pentair GW8000 Lil' Shark Pool Cleaner

Although a bit more expensive than the previous above ground pool cleaner, the Pentair Lil' Shark Pool Cleaner has actual brushes around the suction hose to add a scrubbing action as it vacuums. It works best on vinyl linings and deals adequately with dished out areas on the bottom, although deeper dishes may cause it to circle. It has five adjustable cleaning paths, or it can be hooked onto a pole for use as a hand vac. Versatile and effective, this is a good choice for above ground pool cleaning.

Pentair K70405 Kreepy Krauly Classic Inground Automatic Pool Suction-Side Cleaner

For a cost no object pool cleaner, the Pentair K70405 Kreepy Krauly Classic Inground Automatic Pool Suction-Side Cleaner will clean your in-ground pool and give superior results. This unit uses a flapper valve for reliability, and the 2 year warranty proves its durability. It runs off your pool pump and works on any in-ground pool surface, cleaning both the bottom and the wall. Although this unit costs about as much as some robotoic cleaners, if you are willing to pay the price for admission, this is the best cleaner, bar none, on the list.

Kokido Derby Automatic Vac Above Ground Swimming Pool Vacuum Cleaner

For smaller steel walled above ground pools, you don't really need anything expensive, you just need something that works, and that's exactly why the Kokido Derby Automatic Vac Above Ground Swimming Pool Vacuum Cleaner makes this list. Inexpensive with no high-tech bells or whistles, it runs off of a standard 1/2 horsepower pump and works best on steel walled pools. For a little money and a lot of cleaning, this is the cleaner for you.

Buyer's Guide

 

Automatic Pool Cleaner Buyers Guide

The first pool cleaner was actually designed as a cistern cleaner back in the late 1800's. A suction pump hose was attached to a crude type of hollow arm, and this was dragged over the bottom of the cistern tank to remove built-up sludge and other gunk. From there, it became a small step to adapt that technology into cleaning the bottom of swimming pools.

1939 saw the first adaption of the suction pump being attached to driving wheels on a pool cleaner to give them freedom of movement, while in1967 came the first electrically powered pool cleaner which didn't need to be attached to the filtration pump.

Today, there are three main types of automated pool cleaners available today, two of which depend on the water filtration system of your pool filter pump, and one of them which is totally robotic and wholly independent as it goes about its cleaning duties.

Automatic Pool Cleaner Types

Suction Cleaner
These are the least expensive pool cleaners and rely totally on the pool pump and filtration medium. They work simply by hooking up a hose from the pump to the unit, dropping it into the pool and letting it randomly crawl around on the bottom and up the sides of the pool. Eventually, it will make it to every part of the pool by way of its randomized movements.

A suction cleaner operates by using rotating brushes (much like a vacuum cleaner beater bar) that scrape and dislodge debris which then gets sucked into the pool filtration system. The design is upfront and basic, they’re easy to use, and obviously the least expensive, all qualities which make these units the most popular cleaners available.

Pressure Suction Cleaner
A pressure suction cleaner also employs the suction from the filter pump but also has its own built-in pump that increases the pressure within the unit. This increased suction pressure gets more of the scum and gunk off the pool bottom, and works the best on algae growth.

These units are a bit more complex, and naturally that means they’ll be a bit more expensive; however, they work better with lower rated pumps, making them a bit more flexible for any type of pool regardless of the filtration system being used.

Robotic Cleaner
These are fully programmable cleaners that use their own external power source. These are the only pool cleaner types that do not rely on the pool pump or the filtration system since they’re completely self contained.

These are the most expensive pool cleaners, and you'll need a dedicated electrical power source located outside of your pool. The cleaner is tethered by a waterproof electrical cord and they're equipped with their own filtration collection bag within. Most come with two different motors, one for the drive wheels/brushes and another for the suction pump.

If regular cleaning is done, the filter bag or canister can be emptied when the unit has finished. However, if the pool is very dirty (such as during the first cleaning of the spring) the process may have to be stopped a couple of times to empty the filter bag/canister.

Features

Bump Bars
These little bars/fenders extend slightly out and away from the main unit, telling the pool cleaner when to turn if it hits a wall or stairs. They can be activated or deactivated if you want just the bottom of the pool cleaned or you want your pool cleaner to go up the sides. The most basic automatic pool cleaners that don't have side cleaning capability rely on bump bars so they don't get stuck at a wall or in a corner.

2 Wheel Drive
Due to their smaller, compact nature, 2 wheel drive cleaners aren’t quite as efficient when it comes to cleaning a pool. These units are best suited for smaller pools and will provide a surprisingly effective amount of cleaning capability, provided dirt and debris are loose and not caked on.

4 Wheel Drive
These are the most effective and most efficient cleaners available. The 4 wheel drive system allows the use of larger and more effective brushes, the design has greater suction capability, and these particular units are better at climbing walls and stairs.

Better still are the tank tread variation attached over the wheels on premium models. This gives them extra grip on pool bottoms as well as when going up and down the sides of the pool.

Filter Bag/Canister
Robotic-style pool cleaners all have filter bags or a hard shell canister, but some have dual bags/canisters for extended cleaning chores. On more advanced units, when the first filterbag/canister fills up, the unit automatically transfers the vacuum stream to the empty one. When they both fill, the unit automatically shuts off and returns to where it started to be serviced.

Programmable Timer
Robotic pool cleaners have varying degrees of timer programmability. Basic programming allows you to program in the time you want the unit to clean, while more advanced programming allows users to punch in a daily schedule. Remote sensing capability will let you point a remote control at a specific area of the pool, and the cleaner will take care of the affected area and go back to its starting position.

What's Best for You

What's best for you depends on the type of pool you have, and to a lesser extent, on the power of your filtration pump.

Above Ground Pool
Let's make a distinction about the type of above ground pool here. The weekend fill-and-empty types don't need a pool cleaner, and they’re basically used for parties and kids so they’ll only be used on a temporary basis. They’re mostly inflatable or hard-shell plastic, and there is no connection for a filtration system of any kind.

The most common permanent type of above ground pool generally has a frame that holds up the liner. Because of this frame, side crawling suction cleaners do not work well, or they don't work at all. A basic suction cleaner which attaches to your pump hose is all you'd really need. However, most above ground pools come with pumps that aren’t very powerful, so it’s very important to get a suction pool cleaner rated for the horsepower of your pump. You can also upgrade to a higher power pump which eliminates any problems.

Of course, a pressure cleaner or a robotic cleaner would solve many of the deficiencies of a lower powered pump. The problem is these automatic pool cleaners may cost more than your pool, and although they would be excellent cleaners, the high cost may not justify their purchase.

Rectangular Below Ground Pools
Rectangular below ground pools are the easiest to clean and any type of cleaner would be suitable for use. If you clean regularly, a basic suction cleaner would be all you need, providing that your pump power is up to snuff. Pressure cleaners are a step up and meant for larger pools with the potential for algae growth, or if you simply prefer to have a heavier-duty cleaner. Robotic cleaners also work well in rectangular pools, but given their high price you might be better served to go with one or the other pump driven models.

Designer or Non-Rectangular Below Ground Pools
This is what a robotic pool cleaner is made for, and offers the best performance out of any of the other cleaner types. Since they’re not tethered to a hose, these units can move freely about the pool, easily negotiating curves and angles other pool cleaners might miss. They have less of a chance to get hung-up in a corner due to their innate directional sensing ability, and they can better navigate walls which don’t have square corners.

Can the other pool cleaners get the job done? Certainly! But afterwards, you may be out there with a manual pool cleaner to take care of the areas that they have missed. In most cases a robotic pool cleaner will clean almost every nook and cranny without you having to lift a finger.

Dale Y
Dale Y has been writing about home improvement and Do-It-Yourself projects for more than a decade, using his own hands-on maintenance, construction and facilities management experience as a guide. He has covered the gamut by writing about news and views, home and garden ideas, home and business maintenance, and property management. As an offshoot, he had his own sewing machine and small appliance repair business, and can tell an embroidery stitch from a stretch stitch, all the while cooking the best salmon fillet ever on a countertop grill, while making a smoothie in the latest bullet blender. In this capacity, he has used a wide variety of tools and equipment for every need, worked with products ranging from adhesives to solvents, sewed shirt sleeves with a #14 needle and finished leather appliqué with a #18 needle.
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