Robot v Suction v Manual Pool Cleaner - Which Pool Cleaner Should I Buy?

Buying your swimming pool kit direct is a great way to save money. Do you put some of your savings towards buying a robotic pool cleaner, suction pool cleaner or stick with manually vacuuming your pool? How are they different and which does a better job is a good question to ask! It's time to clean up some of the myths and talk facts. 

Before you jump online to buy your new toy, why do you need a pool cleaner? While your pump and filter do a great job, particles, leaves, hair, dirt, dust etc will settle on the floor of your pool and algae will be interested in attaching to the walls,  particularly porous concrete pools.   Just like your floors at home need vacuuming year-round, so do pools to prevent cloudy water and algae blooms. If you bought your non-porous fibreglass swimming pool kit direct through us, you'll spend less time on maintenance and cleaning however you still need to vacuum. Learn more about whether concrete or fibreglass pools are easier to maintain here.

Manual Pool Cleaners  Swimming Pool Kit Direct Manual Pool Cleaner

These are like your home vacuum. A vacuum head with rollers is attached to an extendable pole so you can push it around your pools floor. Suction comes from connecting a hose to the vacuum head and your skimmer box and turning on your pump. Just add a human (usually Mum or Dad. The kids are too busy swimming to clean!) and 30 minutes later you should be done. For the best water quality, manually brush down the walls and allow the particles to settle for an hour before vacuuming. If you have a variable speed pump, run your pump on high while vacuuming. If you bought your swimming pool kit direct through us, a manual pool cleaner is included free.  Click here to learn more about single speed and variable speed pumps.


Suction Pool Cleaners    Swimming Pool Kit Direct Suction Pool Cleaner Belt DriveSwimming Pool Kit Direct Suction Pool Cleaner

Suction pool cleaners are an economical semi-automatic option. Setting up a suction pool cleaner is similar to a manual vacuum by attaching the vacuum hose to the skimmer box. The difference is you can throw it in the water and walk away. When the pump comes on, the cleaner will move around the pool floor and up the walls vacuuming everything in its path. As it moves around in random patterns, sections often get missed which need manual vacuuming. 

As the cleaner is attached to the skimmer box, leaves and other debris that would normally be skimmed from the surface of your pool into your skimmer box will end up on your pool floor. The volume of water through the filter drops as well so monitor your water quality initially and increase your pump running time if it is becoming cloudy. Compared to manual vacuuming, you will be relaxing pool side in no time.

Plenty of people leave their suction cleaner in the pool continuously. While saving you time, leaving it connected will mean your pump will continuously run on the highest power use setting. Make sure you keep a close watch your pH and chlorine levels as rubber and plastic don’t like either in too high a concentration and will shorten your cleaners life.

The main downside of a suction pool cleaner is draining and coiling up the 8+m long vacuum hose after each use and the annual replacement of plastic and rubber parts. If your pool has right angle corners where the pool wall meets the floor of the pool, suction cleaners can tend to get stuck. If you bought your swimming pool kit direct through us, your fibreglass pool shell will have rounded, pool cleaner friendly joins so this won't be an issue. 

Quality suction cleaners range between $280 and $1,000. You will annually spend around $100 to $150 on consumables that wear out like diaphragms, retaining rings and curtains.

Robotic Pool Cleaners Swimming Pool Kits Direct Manual Pool Cleaner

We so want to make a Lost in Space reference here. Alas, no. If you are looking for a pool cleaner that will learn the shape of your pool, can be controlled from your smart phone and is completely independent of your filtration system, you might start mumbling “robot pool cleaner” in your sleep. Note:  this is the top of the range model functionality

Robots plug into a standard power point. A transformer in the unit converts the power to a safe low voltage level which in turn powers the wheels or tracks that move it around your pool. (Yes, it’s a long power cable!). The robotic pool cleaner vacuums straight into its own filter compartment (like a house vacuum) and will suck up all sizes of debris. This is why they are also referred to as “self contained units”. As the debris is not going into your filter, you’ll notice your filter will need less backwashing or cartridge cleaning and your chemical consumption dropping. 

Being low voltage, they are very economical on electricity use. As they do not rely on your pump and filter to operate, your skimmer box will collect surface debris and your pump can run on its lowest power setting for daily operation while your robot cleaner goes to work. While the cost more to buy, the operational cost per year is considerably lower than a suction cleaner. Always check how much the unit weighs as you need to be able to pull the robot from the water. Cheaply made robots tend to be heavier than a quality robot. Also check if the robot has a self draining function which removes any water from the unit before taking it from the pool to make it lighter. 

The downside is with all that extra time relaxing next to your pool, you’ll be able to think what your new robot friend cost. Entry level models that are any good will start around $1,200. All the bells and whistles including artificial intelligence and remote smart phone operation are up to $2,800. Start dropping Christmas present hints early!

Key Takeaway

Whether it is you, a pool cleaning service or the house guest, someone has to vacuum the pool regularly. Even in winter when there are icebergs in the water. Manual vacuums work just fine. If budget is tight, start there and look at upgrades later on. The decision to upgrade to a suction cleaner or robotic cleaner comes down to whether you are happy to trade a higher upfront cost for less time maintaining your pool. If you can invent a way that is really low cost and fully automatic, let us know and we’ll all be rich!

If you would like to learn more about the differences between concrete, vinyl liner and fibreglass pools, you can download our very popular and free The Essentials You Need To Know Before Buying A Pool e-Guide here. 

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Rohan Taylor
About The Author

Rohan Taylor

My wife and I grew up playing in swimming pools. Our daughters learnt to swim in our backyard fibreglass swimming pool. There is nothing quite like hearing kids splashing about and giggling. As pools do, our pool became a social magnet for friends, family and neighbours which we loved. Helping customers to have their own pool and saving customers thousands on their pool and equipment is the best job in the world.