Last Updated: September 21, 2020
Pressure side pool cleaners derive their power from the jets of water returning to the swimming pool from the pump. In other words, it’s the pressure side of the pump driving the cleaner instead of the suction side. Because they’re running off your swimming pool’s pump, these cleaners don’t need any electricity or outside power to get working.
Pressure side cleaners are great, but lots of manufacturers think they have the wherewithal to design and build them. New models are popping up all over the place, and figuring out which ones are good and which ones to avoid can become a real challenge.
Our goal is to do all that hard work so you don’t have to. We like the challenge of researching these machines, comparing them to each other, hashing out what works and what doesn’t, and putting it all together for you in the form of these reviews to help you decide what to get for your pool. So start reading and learning.
|Best Overall||Polaris Vac-Sweep 360||
|The Runner-Up||Hayward TVP500C||
|Best for the Money||XtremepowerUS 75037||
Even with a 3/4 hp pump, this pressure side cleaner from Polaris keeps on running and scooping up everything in its path, and its path eventually covers the whole pool. It does all this without requiring a booster pump to do it, just the regular pool pump. Sweet.
You’ll need to take some time adjusting the pressure, vector nozzle, and hose length, but once you’re dialed-in, all you have to do is sit back and enjoy your nice clean pool.
This cleaner has an automatic reverse feature that kicks in every few minutes to keep it from getting hung up on the stairs or tight corners. All sweepers get stuck occasionally, but this keeps it to a bare minimum, and that makes it easier on you.
A lot of sweepers get trapped in the deep end of the pool, circling endlessly while leaving the shallow end untouched. The Polaris Vac-Sweep 360 is one of the rare sweepers that manages to cover the entire pool bottom, seemingly without effort. It keeps the pool spotless from one end to the other.
The tail sweep seems to be a bit useless. It brushes things around, but you can ignore this if you like.
The Harvard TVP500C TriVac requires 24 PSI to run correctly. Once you’ve got that adjusted, it does pretty well for itself. It has an extra-large bag for leaf and debris collection, which means you don’t have to empty it every day, sometimes only once a week.
Three high-pressure water jets break up algae and grime, while a large suction inlet scoops up everything they knock loose. It does a pretty good job of cleaning until it gets stuck.
The unit has a mechanical backup system that activates every few minutes to maneuver out of tight corners or away from walls. Unfortunately, it doesn’t back up very far, or for very long, so it tends to get hung up again. Then the backup system tries again to kick in but doesn’t do a very good job. Once it’s stuck, it’s stuck. You’ll need to rescue it. This can be quite frustrating and counterproductive.
If that weren’t bad enough, this cleaner also has a noticeable tendency to get trapped in the deep end of the pool. The TVP500C is a good option for flat-bottom pools with minimal obstructions. For in-ground pools with deep and shallow ends, you might want to look elsewhere.
The Pentair is a powerful machine if you’re using it in an above ground pool or an in-ground pool with little or no incline on the bottom. Within those parameters, it works great, scooping up very high loads of leaves and debris.
The installation process was marred by a sub-standard manual that doesn’t explain things very well. Check the company website for better instructions. Once this cleaner is installed, you will notice it needs more weight over the back tires—they barely touch the bottom of the pool, floating more than turning.
In a regular in-ground pool, the Kreepy Krauly gets stuck in the deep end. It can climb out if its path takes it straight up the hill, but if it approaches the incline at any kind of angle, it veers off and circles back to the deep end. No amount of adjusting it or fiddling with the pressure makes any noticeable difference. Once it’s in the deep end, it’s there to stay.
The bag holds a substantial amount of leaves and debris. As a result, you don’t have to empty it very often unless there’s been a large storm.
This cleaner doesn’t need any electricity or tools to set up, but it does require a 1 hp swimming pool pump in order to work properly. Anything less won’t do the trick. There are 10 hoses included, for a total of 30 feet, but they are a little too heavy and stiff for the cleaner to function correctly when they’re attached. Use some lighter hose (up to 10 feet) and you’ll get much better results.
The cheap construction of the unit is very likely to break after one season of work. It might help you to consider this a “disposable tool”. Otherwise, you’ll be frustrated when it starts breaking down – which is almost guaranteed to do. Use it for one season, throw it away, and get a new one for the next season. The price is low enough to remain an economical option.
It climbs walls, moves at a fairly good pace of 8-10 feet per minute, has pretty good suction, and generally works fine – until it doesn’t. Then it’s a giant headache. The customer service is terrible. The XtremepowerUS 75037 is the best for the money but only if you consider it a low-cost, one-season-only purchase.
The Xtremepower US 75060 is another cleaner that works well until it doesn’t. Unfortunately, the price is too high to be considered a disposable model. It has a decent reverse feature and does an above-average job of cleaning. The problem is, it doesn’t work for long before it starts falling apart.
When the reverse (or backup) valve comes apart, you can look inside to spot the problem: a bunch of cheap plastic gears that start wearing each other down from Day One. Perhaps the cleaner might last longer with metal gears. It might also be worth the price. But that’s not the case now.
Theoretically, there is a customer service line you can call for help, but you’re wasting your time if you do. The company won’t honor the warranty and there aren’t any replacement parts to do your own repairs. In other words, once this thing breaks, all you can do is give it the old heave-ho!
Finally, it won’t run solely from your swimming pool pump. It requires a booster pump to even work at all. Unless you enjoy throwing good money after bad, avoid the XtremepowerUS 75060.
Warranties are a huge question mark for pool equipment of all kinds. Even major brands can fool you into thinking they’ve got good warranties that are worth something, only for you to find out too late that they’re not interested in hearing anything from you once they’ve got your money.
Read the warranties and keep all your receipts, whether you buy online or at a local swimming pool store, but be aware, it may not do you any good. Forewarned is forearmed and all that, but you may wind up firing blanks.
Shipping is an important expense that many people assume they can avoid if their purchase is over a certain amount. For the most part, that’s true. There are exceptions to every rule, and they can show up when you least expect it. Always double-check to make sure you’re getting free shipping, otherwise, you could get sticker shock when you’re ready to check out.
Quality control is a key ingredient in determining the efficiency and lifespan of a pressure-side cleaner. Good quality control will cost you something extra, but in the long run, it will be worth it. A large part of the equation revolves around how pressure side cleaners work. Let’s take a look.
Pressure side cleaners work by utilizing something called the Venturi effect, named after the Italian physicist who discovered it, Giovanni Battista Venturi (1746–1822). In fluid dynamics, the velocity of an incompressible fluid such as water has to increase when it passes through a choke point or constriction. In response, its static pressure must decrease in accordance with the principle of conservation of mechanical energy.
When water flows through a large tube suddenly enters a smaller tube, the speed of the water increases and its static pressure decreases in direct correlation. The water in the larger tube moves slower and has higher pressure, while the water in the smaller tube moves faster and has lower pressure. That pressure differential is what drives a pressure side pool cleaner.
A swimming pool pump, at constant pressure, can drive one cleaner faster and more efficiently than another depending on how well, or how poorly, they’re each designed. Plastic or rubber tubing or thin-walled tubing can flex, bend, and expand unpredictably, dramatically lowering the efficiency of a cleaner. Metal or hard plastic tubing that doesn’t have these problems will yield a greater pressure differential, and thus have more power for cleaning your pool.
A good pressure side cleaner should be able to work off a 3/4 hp pump without any loss of functionality or effectiveness. You can always dial a stronger pump down, but it’s impossible to dial a less powerful pump up, so the weaker the pump that’s required to power your cleaner, the better off you’ll be.
A cleaner should be lightweight enough to be pushed by the water jets created by the Venturi effect. If it’s too heavy, the jets won’t be strong enough to move it. Then it’ll just sit in one place sucking at the bottom of your pool, and possibly damaging the liner in the process. A lighter cleaner will also be more effective at climbing the walls of your pool. The higher it can climb, the more it can clean.
On the other hand, it needs to be heavy enough to stay on the bottom. Too often these cleaners are so lightweight that some of the wheels actually float up off the bottom. Tilting the head at an angle like that reduces the strength of the suction, with a commensurate reduction in cleaning action.
The weight of a pressure side cleaner has to be like Goldilocks and the Three Bears: just right.
A good cleaner should be able to back up to get itself out of corners and away from stairs and sides that might trap it or result in it getting stuck. This is usually accomplished with an in-line back-up valve in the feed hose that reverses the flow every so often. This changes the cleaning pattern in a semi-random direction and backs the cleaner away from possible obstacles.
If the backup valve is made from cheap plastic that can break or unprotected metal that is subject to rust or corrosion, eventually it’ll break, and then you’ll be stuck with a cleaner that requires constant babysitting. Remember, these aren’t “smart” machines. They work on mechanical linkages and pressure differentials. If one of these breaks, the whole thing is toast.
A good cleaner needs good suction to do its job, and the stronger the Venturi effect, the stronger the suction will be. So, a good cleaner needs a good Venturi effect to get it going. A good Venturi effect is dependent on strong yet lightweight parts to create the pressure differential it requires. That comes from good engineering and design.
Some Johnny-come-lately, fly-by-night outfit won’t be able to command that kind of design and engineering expertise. Just because a company is a major brand name, it doesn’t guarantee you’ll get a quality product, but your chances are a lot better with one. Whenever possible, buy from a major company.
If you’re buying online, you’re more than likely spending enough money to qualify for free shipping. However, some of the less expensive models may not meet the minimum requirements. There is also the ever-present danger of damage during shipping. The more times a product is shipped from one place to another, the greater the chances it’ll eventually be damaged. Of course, you probably won’t have to worry about paying sales tax, so that’s a plus.
If you’re buying a cleaner from the local swimming pool store, you’ll have the advantage of knowing it’s in good shape before you buy, or at least, undamaged from shipping. You’ll also have somewhere to go to in case of problems. It’s harder for a company to ignore a customer who is standing in the middle of a store, as opposed to a customer who is comfortably removed over a telephone line or email.
There is more to pressure side cleaners than just opening the box, hooking them up, and throwing them in the pool. There are a number of additional attachments and add-ons that can be purchased to improve them and the results you get from them.
The sweeper tail is an often overlooked and sometimes sneered at, part of the cleaner. The tail sweeper moves back and forth as the cleaner moves along the floor of the pool, helping to get fine debris off the sides and bottom of the pool into the suspension. From there it can be drawn into the cleaner and its filter.
But sweeper tails are generally poorly constructed even on the best cleaners. Sorry, but it’s true. Go ahead and get a spare sweeper tail attachment. They’re generally foam or some other lightweight material that won’t damage the pool liner or cut it. That means they’re also inexpensive and easy to put on and take off. Grab a couple of spares when you’re ordering your cleaner and save on shipping.
Spare leaf bags are also a popular add-on when you’re buying one of these cleaners. You’re taking a load off the filter on your pool pump by using a pressure side cleaner and extending its useful lifespan. You can use those savings to get some extra leaf bags. This makes it easy to switch out bags and then take your time cleaning it without having to rush.
Extra hoses, floats, and weights are another group of add-ons you should consider getting when you buy your cleaner. Pressure side cleaners, by design, have to be lightweight for the water jets to get them moving and cleaning your pool. Many times, the hoses that come with them are either too stiff or too heavy, which results in very poor turning or backing up. A stiff hose can tip a cleaner over if it doesn’t want to flex or bend.
Get some extra hoses that have lighter and thinner walls. Remember, you want stiff tubing inside the cleaner to prevent flexing that would disturb the pressure flow, but outside the cleaner, it doesn’t matter.
Get some hose floats and weights to adjust the hose so it stays out of the way, yet follows the cleaner around the pool. You’d be surprised at the difference made by attaching some floats and/or weights at strategic points on the hose.
In these reviews, we’ve taken a metaphorical weed whacker to the collection of pressure-side pool cleaners that have sprung up all over the place. Some are worthy of your time and attention, while others are barely worth the time it takes to throw them overboard.
The choice for the top pick is the Polaris Vac-Sweep 360. It doesn’t get trapped in the deep end of the pool like so many others. It backs up nicely, rarely gets stuck, and manages to get the job done in a matter of hours. Equipment that works dependably is worth the price, and this one definitely is.
The spot for best for the money goes to the XtremepowerUS 75037. It does a decent job of cleaning the pool until it breaks down, which it absolutely will do. But, given the low price, you can think of this the same way you would a disposable razor and get a new one every year. It actually makes sense that way.
Hopefully, these reviews have given you the kind of useful information you need to make a good decision. Keep them close at hand as you decide.