We all enjoy swimming in a crystal clear, refreshing pool. Few of us, however, enjoy the hassle of cleaning it to keep it that way. Yet, cleaning our pools is vitally important to maintain not only its beauty but our health and our investment as well.
Pool water collects many contaminants, from organic materials like hair and skin to chemicals like detergents and cleaning chemicals, not to mention larger debris like leaves, sticks, and insects. These items threaten both swimmers’ health and the pool’s circulation system.
But keeping our pools clean and beautiful is a complicated and time-consuming task. That is unless you have a quality cleaner, which ensures you spend more time enjoying your pool than laboring over it.
There are many pool cleaners on the market. So, to help you review your options and make the best choice, we have compiled our top 5 inground pool cleaner picks.
|Dolphin Premier Robotic|
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|32 lbs.||3 years||4.6/5|
Our Top Pick
|Polaris F9550 Sport|
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|44 lbs.||2 years||4.3/5|
|Dolphin Nautilus Plus|
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|22 lbs.||2 years||4.2/5|
Best for the Money
Newest on the scene of automated pool cleaners are the fully robotic cleaners. They have been around for a while now, but some of the technological advancements of late are truly incredible.
They are the most expensive option of the automated pool cleaners, but the amount of labor, pool maintenance, and energy costs they save make up for it.
Our number one pick for best robotic pool cleaner is the Dolphin Premier. It is easy to see why, too.
Perhaps the most unique and best thing about it is that it has a fully multi-media filtration system with 4 different types of filters that you can use. It has a microfilter that can remove even bacteria, biofilm and algae, a standard dual filter, and an oversized debris bag that can handle bushels of leaves, acorns, and twigs. Its fourth filter type is a disposable debris bag which you can use if you don’t have the time to properly clean a bag.
No other robots come with all of these options. You usually have to purchase those filters separately, if there even are any made for that machine. This means that you can clean your pool at every level with just this one machine.
Furthermore, because it has a PowerClean brush system with high RPM brushes, it really is able to scrub up the most difficult to remove biofilm and algae from the pool’s floor for the micro-filter to then capture.
The Dolphin Premier is also incredibly efficient. Its motors are able to run on extraordinarily low voltage, just 180 wats. This averages out to reducing energy use by 87% and reducing the cost to approximately just 5 cents per hour. Despite being low energy, it is still very powerful and perfectly capable of cleaning all pool surfaces including your floors, walls, and waterline tile.
Because of its patented SmartNave system, it saves even more energy. It will cover every inch of your in-ground pool, including walls and the tile at the water line, without wasting time and energy aimlessly roaming around. It also won’t waste time with getting tangled up in its own cord because of the patented tangle-free swivel cable.
Because of how thorough its cleaning cycles are, and the variety of filters available to you, you only need to run this Dolphin 2-3 times a week, instead of every day, and can even use an optional remote to program it to run automatically.
It is, however, a bit pricey. It is definitely an investment. However, consider all that you will get with it. It includes every kind of filter you need, its high efficiency means it will barely touch your energy bill and you won’t have to run it as frequently. Top it all off with its 3-year warranty that is not limited or pro-rated, and your investment is well protected, more than any other bot you might buy.
When you think about all of the labor and time this robot will save you, as well as money on energy bills additional cleaning tools or repairs, the Dolphin Premier will probably end up saving you money in the end. It is simply one of the best automatic pool cleaners on the market.
Our second top pick for robotic cleaners is the Polaris F9550 Sport. This neat little bot almost looks like a remote control car for your pool (and it does, in fact, have a remote)!
The Polaris F9550 is a fantastic pool robot that is easy to use. It is actually heavier than the Dolphin, weighing in at a whopping 43.6 pounds. However, its patented Easy Lift System enables you to simply hit a button on the remote to make it surface and evacuate water, making it much easier to lift out of the pool. It also comes with a transport caddy and was designed to have a more manageable shape. So, while heavy, it is actually easier to handle.
Other factors that make this bot super user-friendly are its remote control that allows you to control where its headed (and where you want it to surface) and its extensive 7-day programmable timer and customizable cleaning cycles, including cycles that focus in on the walls or water-line if you desire.
Furthermore, its filter canister is just that – a canister – which is infinitely easier to dump and clean than a bag. Just dump and spray it out real quick with a hose, and you are good to pop it back in and keep going.
Now, unlike with the Dolphin, the Polaris only comes with one standard filter canister. However, you still have the option to purchase a leaf canister and/or an ultra-fine canister for it.
Like the Dolphin, the Polaris will also help you save money on energy. It uses a 110 v transformer (included) for power and has a patented ActivMotion Sensor and long, non-tangle cord, all coming together for an efficient bot and a low energy bill.
Our third top pick for the best robotic pool cleaners is another Dolphin, model 99996403-PC Dolphin Nautilus Plus. This is the best one for the money, giving you quite a lot for the price.
By far the lightest, weighing in at 22 pounds, and cheapest of our reviewed robotic cleaners, this little guy is still extremely efficient at cleaning your pool.
The filters are very easy to put in and remove for cleaning due to its top access filter, and its dual cartridge system means it is picking up both fine and coarse debris at the same time – no need to order or swap out different filters for a different cleaning cycle.
It has the same patented no-tangle cord technology as the first Dolphin we reviewed above and uses the SmartNave system to ensure efficient and thorough cleaning of your pool, regardless of its size or shape. It is also fully capable of cleaning the floors, walls and waterline as well. This bot can clean up your pool in as little as 2.5 hours.
While this model does not come with a remote control, it still provides a weekly timer so that you can set it to automatically perform cleaning cycles at your desired intervals throughout the week.
|BARACUDA G3 W03000|
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|19 lbs.||2 years||4.3/5|
Our Top Pick
|Hayward Poolvergnuegen 896584000020|
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|7 lbs.||2 years||4.2/5|
|Hayward PHS21CST Aquanaut 200|
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|16 lbs.||2 years||4.2/5||$$$$|
If you are considering purchasing a more traditional suction side pool cleaner, there are still plenty of options out there with various upgrades.
For our top pick, we selected the Baracuda G3 W03000 Advanced Suction Side pool cleaner.
This is the master of the suction side pool cleaners. For being a suction side model, it is remarkably versatile, able to pick up both fine and larger debris types and capable of climbing the pool walls.
Unlike many suction cleaners, it can work powerfully even with low-speed pool pumps. Its patented FlowKeeper valve regulates water flow to allow optimum cleaning performance even with low horsepower pumps, not something that most suction cleaner can manage.
Its simple engineering means fewer parts to break or malfunction, and also means a much quieter cleaner. Its 36-Fin Disc improves cleaner’s adhesion to the pool, preventing it from getting stuck on lights, grates and drain covers, a common issue for most suction cleaners with the disc design. It is even able to perform surface skimming with a simple flip of a switch and is able to pick up a variety of debris, from dirt and sand to leaves and twigs. These things combined make it one of the best automatic pool cleaners out there.
Bear in mind, however, that while it is able to pick up some large debris, all it picks up will go straight into your pool’s filter basket, which will get clogged up quickly. One of the downsides about these types of cleaners is that they will clog and back up more quickly, and the strain will be put directly on your pool’s system, not just the cleaner’s.
Here are the pros and cons:
Our runner-up for best suction side pool cleaner is the Hayward Poolvergnuegen 896584000020. It is chock full of unique features that make it a great choice.
One such feature is its use of 4-wheel drive for mobility, rather than a disc design. This 4-wheel drive system comes with heavy duty tread tires and a turn radius of 90 to 540 degrees, combined with pre-programmed steering sequences to ensure full coverage of both deep and shallow ends and easy navigation of corners, tough surfaces, and free-form pool shapes.
Most suction pool cleaners do not have any kind of steering or navigation programmed into them, meaning they are more random, less thorough and less efficient.
Another unique feature about the Hayward is its self-adjusting turbines which enable it to maximize cleaning power. This means that it can work even off of weaker pumps – it is functional on a minimum pump size of ½ horsepower or 35 gpm. That together with its 40 ft hose means this suction cleaner can efficiently clean even large pools up to 20’ x 40’ that are over 6’ deep.
A final nice feature is that it has three interchangeable throats which allow you to pick up different sizes of debris, including leaves.
Our 3rd best suction side pool cleaner is the Hayward PHS21CST Aquanaut 200.
The Hayward Aquanaut 200 is a smaller, yet still pretty powerful suction side cleaner. It has patented V-Flex technology, which means it is ensured to run at optimum power at nearly any flow and can handle even larger debris without clogging.
It has numerous pre-programmed steering sequences, ensuring that the entire pool gets equal coverage, whether the shallow or deep end, and this includes the walls as well. It has a roller skirt that also enables it to adjust for obstacles while maintaining its suction.
It’s a zippy little cleaner that is great for pools up to 16’ x 32’ and only weighs 16 pounds.
However, it is a little limited on the types of pools it works well on. It is recommended that you use it only with concrete, gunite, vinyl, fiberglass, tile or pebble pools.
|Polaris Vac-Sweep 280|
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|18 lbs.||2 years||4.4/5|
Our Top Pick
|Polaris Vac-Sweep 3900|
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|23 lbs.||2 years||4.3/5|
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|23 lbs.||1 year||4.1/5||$$$|
Finally, we’re going to take a look at the best pressure side pool cleaners. If your pool has the plumbing necessary for the booster pumps needed for these pool cleaners, it is a fantastic option that will put less strain on your pool’s pump and circulation system.
Our top pick for the pressure side cleaners is the Polaris Vac-Sweep 280. A powerful and efficient pressure cleaner, the Polaris gets a thorough cleaning job done in less time.
It is a great pressure vacuum option for any type of pool with double jets to make sure it gets the job done quickly and extremely well. Its single-chamber debris bag catches both small and large debris before it reaches the pool’s pump basket or filter, which means less strain on your pool’s system.
It does require a Polaris booster pump, which is not included, and which also requires that your pool is already set up for a booster pump and pressure side cleaner. It has a 31’ hose and only weighs 18 pounds, which keeps it light and easy to set in the pool, though it may have some difficulty reaching every bit of the pool if it is larger than a 30’ pool.
But, especially considering its price, it is a fantastic option. It is really the only cleaner you will need.
This monster truck of pressure side cleaners, the Polaris Vac-Sweet 3900, is our second top pressure cleaner pick.
It is as sturdy and rugged as they come and is the fastest and most powerful of all of Polaris’ pressure pool cleaners. It has PosiDrive technology, which gives it 50% more torque, and 3 jets to provide an additional 40 GPM of pool filtration, enabling a much faster and more powerful clean cycle. With such a high filtration rate, this means that bacteria and algae won’t even have a chance to form.
This Polaris model has a 5 liter dual-chamber debris bag, allowing it to pick up and store even more debris. It has also been engineered with an auto-reverse feature that kicks on every few minutes to ensure that it frees itself if it got stuck.
With so much power and such large debris capacity, this pressure side cleaner is ideal for large pools that may need additional help with circulation to prevent the development of bacteria and algae. It is also perfect for pools that deal with a lot of large debris, such as those that may be placed under or close to trees that regularly drop leaves and limbs.
Our choice for 3rd best pressure side cleaner is the Pentair LL505G, or Kreepy Krauly Legend. A nice option for smaller pools that may have some larger debris to manage, the Kreepy Krauly Legend has some unique features.
Designed with 4 wheels rather than the standard three, this pressure side cleaner is not as prone to tipping over as most. It was engineered with front-wheel drive to give it strong traction, allowing it to clean inclined surfaces and a dual vortex venturi jet system for powerful vacuuming.
While it is fairly small, it still comes with a large intake throat for larger debris without resulting in clogs and also has a unique duckbill valve to prevent debris from escaping when it is turned off.
Finally, as with the best pressure side cleaners, it comes with a built-in backup valve which activates every few minutes to free the vacuum should it get stuck.
This Pentair model is ideal for smaller pools and is a little restricted to pool type. But its numerous unique and powerful features make it a perfectly adequate machine.
Clearly, when you are considering what automated pool cleaner to purchase, you have a lot of options. It can be overwhelming enough trying to figure out whether to buy a robotic, pressure or suction side cleaner, forget narrowing it down to a specific model after that.
So, before we go any further, first let’s make sure you have a truly good understanding of the differences between each type of automated cleaner.
Robotic pool cleaners get their name from the fact that they use motors, chips, and sensors to perform their task. They are plugged into an outlet through a low-voltage transformer and move around the pool floor and walls, filtering the water as they go.They have two separate motors, one which moves it along the pool’s surfaces, and the other which sucks water up through the bottom and through its filters and pumps it back out through the top of the bot.Essentially, robotic pool clears act like vacuum cleaners, collecting the debris in their self-contained filter bag or cartridge and returning the clean water back into the pool. The filters can filter out debris down to only 2 microns! While they move along the pool’s surfaces, they also scrub them.A couple of the positive benefits about this method is that because the bot keeps the water circulating and moving so well, and because of how fine its filtering is, the pool will require much less chemical treatment. This means less money as well as healthier, less chemically toxic water.
Robotic cleaners are able to cover most/all the interior surfaces of your pool at a relatively decent speed and with thoroughness. You do not have to run your pool filter for it to work, which lessens the strain on your pool’s system. In fact, many insist that you should turn the filter off before using the robot so that sediment and finer debris will settle on the bottom and make it easier for the robot to vacuum up.
A suction side pool cleaner is basically a vacuum that is powered by your pool’s filtration system. Its hose is connected directly to the suction side of your of pool filter through either the skimmer or a dedicated suction line.The pool pump’s suction powers a turbine, which is what propels it with a stop/start motion. The vacuum part of the unit, relying on the suction from the pool pump, sucks up light debris which is then returned to the pool’s pump basket.For this type of pump, you need to make sure that your pool pump has at least ¾ horsepower or greater, else the suction cleaner will struggle with low flow and poor suction.
Pressure side cleaners connect to the return side of your pool’s circulation system. Another name for them is booster pump powered cleaners, as most pressure cleaners are powered by a booster pump located next to your pool pump. Because the booster pump can be operated on a timer, this means you can set the cleaner to operate at regular times each day.Pressure side cleaners have their own hydraulic system inside, which enables them to use the water pumped back into the pool to propel around. These cleaners have their own internal debris bags to catch the debris that they filter out of the water. This feature saves your pool filter from being filled with this debris.Pressure side cleaners work by distributing the water they intake into three separate areas of the device. These three areas are its sweeper tail, its thrust jet, and the venturi port.The sweeper tail stirs up the water to kick the finer debris like sediment up so that it is easier to vacuum. The thrust jet, as may easily be guessed, is where the already filtered water is jettisoned out the back to help with propulsion. The venturi port is located on the bottom of the unit and is where larger debris like leaves is sucked up into the debris bag.
As you can probably tell, each cleaner has its specialty, its strengths, and its weaknesses. Before making a decision about which type to pursue, consider these factors:
These factors should start making it clear which type is best suited to you.
In general, if you have an unscreened pool area in danger of a lot of large debris, a suction side cleaner is unlikely going to be a wise idea. All of that debris will constantly be threatening to clog up the cleaner, and even when it does not, will very quickly fill up your pool’s system. This could lead to a lot of wasted energy and damage. The energy bill will also be quite a bit higher to run these.
But, if you have a screened in pool of relatively normal or small size with just light debris, and you do not really have the budget for a more expensive robot or pressure cleaner, then the suction cleaners should be perfect for you.
If your pool already has the plumbing in place, it is a larger pool and/or susceptible to larger debris, then a pressure side cleaner can be an excellent choice. The level of cleaning they can achieve is better than a suction cleaner, as their motion and circulation help prevent the development of bacteria and algae, and their debris bag saves your pool’s filtration system from the strain.
If you have the money, or are willing to see it as a long-term investment that will save you in the long-run, the robotic cleaners are probably universally the best choice. They will be able to clean all pool types, all pool surfaces, and will be able to clean even to the microbial level without a problem. If you get the large debris canisters/filters or buy ones that come with all size filters, then you are set.
These guys also require the least amount of effort on your part, since they can be programmed to run at regular intervals and can be left in the pool most of the time.
After our reviews of pool cleaners in their various forms, we hope you are now more confident with how to proceed and purchase the best pool cleaner for your pool.
As a quick summary, here is the bottom line:
Each of these types constantly improves with their technology, and essentially, each one can get the job done. Some may just need a bit more of your assistance than others.