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Introduction

Choosing a pool cleaner should be simple, right? … You could just go to the shop, pick one off the shelf (,the cheapest one?), take it home, plug it in & hope for the best. But as with most things, a little forethought can save a lot of regret later on. So here’s what we’ve learnt having seen different cleaners being used in different pools, by different people. We also offer our own totally non-biased conclusions, and a bit of advice about what to do when dust and ash gets into your pool.First, let’s look at the various types of cleaners:
  • Automatic: ie. Powered by water pressure (eg. The pool pump), to collect debris into a filter (eg. The filter box)
  • Robotic: ie. Independently powered (by mains or battery) to collect debris into an on-board cartridge.
  • In-pool : ie. These are built in as part of the pool design.

Down To Business

Whatever way you go will depend on three things:

  • Your Pool ie How big? What shape? What Surface? What features?  What surroundings?
  • The Cleaner ie How big? What type?
  • You ie How much do you want to do? How much time do you have? How safety conscious are you?
Robot Pool Cleaners

Your Pool

How big? What shape? What Surface? Are there steps?
Is there a wading area or platform? Is there a separate spa area?
These questions are all relevant to how well any solution is going to work. Here’s some pointers why:

Pool Size

The cleaner will need to be able to reach all areas of the pool, so the suction hose (for automatic cleaners) or DC power cable (for most robotic cleaners) will need to be long enough for the attached cleaner to reach all parts of the pool. If you are lucky enough to have steps far away form the filter box (for automatic cleaners) or the power source (for most robotic cleaners) then it’s a good idea to make the cleaner’s reach extend just short of the steps, since most pool cleaners are prone to getting stuck on steps.

Pool Surface

Is it Tiles? Concrete? Pebblecrete? Fibreglass? Vinyl?

The pool surface is VERY important in considering how to maintain your pool. The issue is Algae, which can penetrate its roots into concrete, pebblecrete and grouting, but not into tiles. The exposed algae heads can be controlled by chlorine treatment, but unless these are brushed away, the roots will remain, and the heads will grow back, and spread. That’s why you need to ‘brush’ your pool, in some cases (eg. with pebblecrete) using a wire brush. We have also found that using a (petrol, not electric powered) high pressure cleaner or guerney under the surface of the water can work well here, remembering that any algae in suspension must be removed from the pool completely.

Not every type of cleaner is good for every type of surface. Some general guidelines are:

  • For smooth surfaces (eg, Tiles, Concrete, Fibreglass), use a pool cleaner that has a ‘roller’ for best results.
  • For acrylic surfaces (ie. Vinyl), avoid using a pool cleaner with rollers, as these could potentially abrade the vinyl, or worse, create a leak.
  • For rough surfaces (eg Pebblecrete), even having a roller won’t eliminate the need of having to brush the surface to dislodge algae.

Pool Features

Does it have Steps? A Wading Area? A Ledge? A separate spa? Are the corners rounded or square?

Any pool cleaner is prone to being stuck on steps. We’ve seen it happen whether they have wheels, rollers, paddles, flaps, whatever. What can also cause more problems is where the pool has a ledge or a shallow wading platform. A pool cleaner that has rollers (particularly a robotic one that doesn’t have a suction hose coming out of the top) will be prone to getting stuck on the ledge, or even turning turtle if the ledge/platform is quite shallow. We’ve seen it happen.

Pool Surroundings

ie. Trees? Access to power?

When it comes to leaves, it’s size that counts. If the leaves are large, and the cleaner has a small intake, then you’re just not going to get a good result. If this sounds like your pool, then look for a cleaner with:

  • Large intake slots, preferably rectangular ones rather than circular ones
  • An on-board cartridge (or attached bag) to collect leaves, rather than having them clog your filter box.
  • Sufficient power and volume to collect & retain all it can during the cleaning cycle

This is where cleaners equipped with rollers or wheels have an advantage over those cleaners that just paddle around, and where robotic cleaners can have an advantage over automatic cleaners, because large leaves and long fronds can get caught in the suction hose. And even if they don’t get caught, they can clog up the skimmer basket, which is no good for the pump, or the efficiency of the pool’s circulation/filtering system. Also, have you ever tried to remove the skimmer basket when it’s full of junk and the pump is going? Anyone who cleans a pool regularly knows these things.

If you decide on a robotic cleaner that plugs into a wall socket, then you will need a power outlet near the pool. And remember that nobody should be swimming while the cleaner is in the pool, it’s not safe. That is, unless you use a robotzoo pool cleaning robot, since ours are battery powered and there’s no risk of anyone being electrocuted.

Pool Equipment

ie The Pump? Skimmer box? Chlorinator?

If you decide on an automatic (suction type) cleaner, then is the pump powerful enough to drive the cleaner? Remember that the pump also has to force water through a filter (eg a sand filter), which creates a drop in the suction pressure (‘head’) available to the cleaner. Over time, the filter will get dirty, and the pressure available will drop further. If you add the effect of a clogged skimmer basket, there could be insufficient pressure to drive the cleaner. There are guidelines for the size of pump relative to the volume of the pool, but an extra buffer should be added for the above considerations. Or if you don’t want to mess around with the pump, then consider getting a robotic cleaner.

The size of the skimmer box also matters, but to a lesser degree. The type of chlorinator should not make a difference, but electrolytic cells will create a slight loss of ‘head’.

Pool Chemistry

ie. Saline? Chlorine? Hydroxy?

Saline based pools will have slightly more buoyancy than chlorine based pools. But whether this is noticeable is a moot point. Either way, the cleaner needs to stay on the bottom surface and not float, so it is possible that weights may need to be added to the cleaner or hose attachment to ensure this. If you’re sceptical about this, we’ve seen it happen.

If you’ve gone to the expense of installing a Hydroxypure system in your pool, then it’s unlikely that you will choose kind of device running around in it other than the one specially recommenced by the experts. But in reality, it doesn’t matter. The Hydroxypure system just substitutes one type of chemical with another. The control of algae and leaves in your pool will depend more on other factors.

Your Cleaner

There are four basic types of pool cleaners:

  • Automatic (suction): ie. Powered by water pressure (eg. from the pool pump) drive the cleaner & ‘pull’ debris into a filter (eg. The filter box)
  • Automatic (pressure): ie. Powered by water pressure (eg. from a separate pump) drive the cleaner & ‘push’ debris into a filter (eg. a bag)
  • Robotic: ie. Independently powered (by mains or battery) to collect debris into an on-board cartridge.
  • In-pool : ie. These are built in as part of the pool design.

Automatic (Suction):

ie. Powered by the suction from a pump (eg. The pool pump), to collect debris into a filter (eg. The filter box)

ProsCons
Usually the least expensive optionRequires the most intervention & attention
Technically/mechanically the simplest optionMay not give the best results
Easy to get sparesDependent on other equipment working
Light to get in/out of poolFills up the filter basket
Noisiest option (pump must be on)
More backwashing of filter – water waste

Automatic (Pressure):

ie. Rather than using suction pressure, these will ‘blow’ water through the cleaner to power the wheels/tractors.

ProsCons
Usually the least expensive optionRequires the most intervention & attention
Technically/mechanically the simplest optionMay not give the best results
Easy to get sparesDependent on other equipment working
Light to get in/out of poolFills up the filter basket
Noisiest option (pump must be on)
More backwashing of filter – water waste

Robotic:

ie. Independently powered (by mains or battery) to collect debris into an on-board cartridge.

Robotic cleaners come in two types, ie those with wheels, and those with rollers. The differences are as follows:

  • Wheels. Their function is to pick up debris off the floor, not scrub the surface. And they won’t clean to the waterline.
  • Rollers.  These types will clean the pool surface as they go, usually all the way to the waterline.
ProsCons
Doesn’t impact on pump/filtration systemMore expensive than automatic option
Usually very quiet No swimming if it is plugged in to wall
No clogging of the filter basketCan be heavy to lift in/out of pool (up to 15kg)
Good at picking up larger leavesTechnically the most complex (electronics)
Conserve water – less need to backwash

In-Pool Systems:

ie. In-built and immovable, as part of the infrastructure of the pool.

In-pool systems usually ‘sweep’ whatever has settled at the bottom of the pool into a catchment where it is collected for disposal.

ProsCons
Doesn’t impact on pump/filtration system
(has a separate circuit)
More expensive to install
(needs a separate circuit)
Hardly noticeable
– no observable equipment
Pool may require extra cleaning
– to get areas missed.
No clogging of the filter basket
– uses a separate receptacle
Needs to be serviced regularly
Regular operation so the pool always looks cleanDoesn’t scrub the walls of the pool
Conserve water
– less need to backwash

You

ie. Do you love doing everything yourself, or can’t you be bothered?.

For some people, looking after their own pool can be relaxing. For others, it can be annoying. Either way, we think that having a cleaner for your pool is important, as you never know when you may need it at the spur of the moment.

Our Conclusions

We’ve used both automatic cleaners and robots extensively, and our conclusion is that a combination of approaches works best:

  • The best option for picking up larger leaves and debris from the bottom of the pool is a cleaner that has larger intakes and a bigger storage volume.
    Robotic Cleaners and Automatic (Pressure) cleaners provide these things
  • The best option for picking up finer dirt and algae that settles on the bottom of the pool is one that will use the fine particle capture capabilities of the pool filter system.
    Automatic (Suction) or Built-In cleaner will do this.
  • The best option for scrubbing down the walls or tiles of the pool is a cleaner that has rollers rather than wheels or paddles.
    Rollers can be found on Robotic Cleaners and some Automatic (Pressure) cleaners.

So you see there is not yet one solution for every situation in cleaning you pool. And we haven’t even starts talking about the pool filter! But we will, just briefly, because we get so many calls from people about the problem of Dust and Ash.

Dust and Ash

We get a lot of calls from people especially in country areas, complaining about fine topsoil dust from dust storms, and ash from bushfires settling in the bottom of the pool. These fine particles are not able to be captured by the pool cleaner (or even the filter). The dust gets recirculated, and makes the pool look muddy after going through the filter.

It’s unlikely that any pool cleaner will be able to solve this problem, as most will only capture particles down to about 150 microns. The fine dust and ash can be as fine as 5 microns. A sand filter will capture particles as small as 20 microns, but this is not enough to capture the fine dust and ash.

There are other substrates that you can put in your filter, such as crushed glass, which will capture particles as small as 5 microns. Some substrates can also have a charge which helps them capture ionised particles. We have also heard that acrylic pillow stuffing works well, eg. when used in the skimmer box with automatic suction cleaners. The advantage of this approach (if it works) is that the material can be thrown away, with minimal wastage of water. Talk to your local pool store.

Also, another simple preventative measure is to get a cover for your pool, either a solar blanket, or even better, if dust is a major problem, a hard cover that you can stand on. Then you can  just sweep the dust away. An added advantage of covering your pool is that it will reduce water loss due to evaporation, and act as a natural heat trap to warm the water for swimming.

Do You Want to Find Out More?

If you would like us to assess the suitability of your pool or lawn for our devices, please just fill out the enquiry form below. Alternatively, if you would prefer to speak to us first, please call us on 1 3000 ROBOT. (1 3000 76268)

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