Pressure Side Pool Cleaner Icon Tired of fishing leaves and other big debris from your pool? Consider a pressure pool cleaner. We’ve listed the best models, along with ratings, reviews, and a handy buyer’s guide.

updated: February 12, 2020
Pentair Pressure Side Pool Cleaner near the pool.

Pressure side pool cleaners are one of the best options out there for automated pool cleaning. They’re a good balance between cleaning power, maintenance, energy use, and price.

Cleaning the swimming pool is no one’s idea of a fun summer activity, but it’s necessary to keep the water crystal clear and healthy so everyone can enjoy it. Every time someone takes a lap in the pool, and with environmental debris falling into it, harmful oils, chemicals, and germs are left behind. Pressure side cleaners are a smart way to handle all that gunk so you spend more time swimming than cleaning.

How do Pressure Side Cleaners Work?

Pressure side pool cleaners attach to the pressure (return) side of a pool’s pump system. Water heading back into the pool pump propels a pressure side cleaner along the bottom of the pool. The cleaner moves in a random pattern along the floor and walls of the pool.

Concept drawing how the pressure side pool cleaner works.

There are two types of pressure side pool cleaners:

  • High pressure (or booster pump cleaners): These require a separate ¾ hp booster pump to power them. They need around 30 PSI to operate best. The booster pump provides a consistent flow to the cleaner. The advantage of this type is that they have a time clock for scheduled cleanings and can automatically stop and start so they don’t run any more than they need to. This saves electricity and wear and tear on the cleaner. The booster pump keeps them from being bogged down by full pool skimmers, pump baskets, and dirty filters.
  • Low pressure: These have no separate booster pump, though they look much the same as their higher-pressure counterparts. They run on just 15 – 17 PSI and need a larger hose of around 1.5” diameter. Initial purchase price and installation is generally cheaper than the booster pump cleaners. Suction power is dependent upon a well-running pool pump and filter system. Full skimmers and dirty filters will bog them down considerably.

How do you hook up a pressure side pool cleaner?

It depends on which type you have and your pool’s plumbing system.

For a booster pump cleaner, you’ll need a Tee fitting installed to the return pipe after the filter. The booster pump sends water through a cleaner pipe midway down the pool wall. If you don’t have a dedicated cleaner pipe, you’ll need to install one first either under the deck and through the pool wall or with an over-the-deck kit.

Pentair booster pump for the pressure side pool cleaners.

The booster pump needs either 115V or 230V with a dedicated 15 amp breaker and outdoor timer or time clock. This lets you run it for 2-3 hours a day while the main pool pump is on.

For low-pressure cleaners, they’ll connect to an existing wall return. You may need to test pressure with a testing stick to see if the system can deliver enough power to operate the cleaner. They won’t work in pools with floor or “slit” returns or in pools with pumps less than 1hp.

The best installation for low pressure cleaners happens when water is diverted to the cleaner before it reaches the filter and connected to a dedicated pipe rather than a regular return pipe. This will lessen backpressure on your pool pump and filter tank. You would need to install a 3-way valve between pump and filter, then install another small filter (ex: Jandy Energy Filter) on the cleaner line past the 3-way valve. The open valve diverts water to the cleaner while a pressure gauge on the small filter maintains a constant flow rate.

If you don’t want to do the above method, then you can connect a low pressure cleaner to a regular return line using adapters between ¾” to 1.5” for smooth or threaded pipes. You may need to restrict flow from other return lines just to get enough pressure to the one you’re using for the cleaner. For large pools, if you’re connecting to a return line on the far end of the pool, you may need another length of feed hose, a swivel, and 2 connectors just so the cleaner can reach all areas of the pool.

More

Want to spend more time swimming than cleaning? Here are our 2020 ratings and reviews of the best pressure side pool cleaners.


1Best All-Around Performance
This triple-jet, all-wheel belt driven cleaner reaches every corner.

The Polaris 380 is an upgraded version of the previous 280 and 360 models. It adds another nozzle to produce three powerful water jets, and is designed to better reach corners and stairs. The belt-driven mechanism is easier and cheaper to replace than the shafted system in the older models.

Designed for all in-ground pools, the Polaris 380 comes with a large-capacity filter bag, 31-foot hose kit, and wall mount. Warranty: 1-year limited / 5-year for frame.

ProsThe Good

The 380 sweeps, scrubs, and vacuums the walls and floor of in-ground pools of any shape or size. A wide throat with triple jet system is ideal for large debris such as leaves, acorns, rocks, and more.

An extra-large filter bag reduces the need for frequent emptying. The all-wheel, belt driven system is designed for fast cleaning in 3 hours or less. The in-line backup valve prevents the cleaner from getting stuck in corners.

ConsThe Not-So-Good

This cleaner is popular but expensive. It requires the Zodiac PB4-60 Polaris booster pump, which is sold separately. It’s compatible with the TailSweep PRO accessory, but this is also sold separately.

Pool step cleaning can be hit or miss. Low-pressure pool pumps may not have enough power to drive this cleaner, even with a booster pump. For those who prefer color choices, the black color is discontinued, and only the white/blue color is available.

Customer OpinionWhat Customers Say

Many fans are repeat buyers and had their original Polaris cleaner for years before replacing with this model. Most customers thought the price was worth it for how thoroughly it cleaned their pools.

Some customers thought cutting the hose to the proper length was difficult. A few mentioned the hose getting tangled or wheels falling off. Some users with low pressure pool pumps found it didn’t have enough power, even with a booster pump.

Take a Look At These Alternative Models:
  • Polaris Vac-Sweep 3900 Sport Pressure Side Pool Cleaner
    Polaris Vac-Sweep 3900 Sport
    Price: High

    The 3900 Sport has several upgrades over the 380, though it is a good bit more expensive. It has the same 3-jet system and backup valve. The 3900 has an additional 40-GPM filtration power through the dual-chambered 5L filter bag whereas the 380 has only a single-chambered bag. While the 380 is compatible with the TailSweep PRO (better sweeping power & reduces water spray outside pool), the 3900 actually comes with this attachment. It has 50% more torque from an all-wheel PosiDrive system with stainless steel chain.

More Info

2Cleans in Just One Hour
Fast cleaning four-wheeled design with powerful scrubbing action

Kreepy Krauly is a household name for pool cleaners. The “Racer” is an appropriate name for this model. It’s bright blue and cleans a 15’ x 30’ inground pool easily within 1 hour. The Racer is designed to be user friendly. All accessories install with a quick press and snap.

The cleaner comes with 3 10-ft. sections of hose, a wall outlet connector kit, debris tail bag, and sweep hose. Comes with a 1-year limited warranty.

ProsThe Good

The huge throat picks up large debris easily. It comes with an improved wall-connector kit with adjustable pressure valve. An internal backup valve and four wheels ensure a full range of movement for quick navigation throughout the pool.

A velcro closure on the bag makes emptying simple. LED lights help you see it for night cleaning. The front-mounted scrub brush scours the floor. It’s safe for vinyl, but only if the vinyl liner is in good condition.

ConsThe Not-So-Good

This cleaner does require a separate booster pump. It usually won’t climb to the waterline and does best on the pool floor. The sweeping tail can cause the cleaner to be unbalanced, making it tip over. However, most pools don’t even need it.

While the plastic connections are simple to attach, they can also break fairly easily. Debris can get stuck in the Velcro fastener, which makes closing the bag difficult.

Customer OpinionWhat Customers Say

Most customers agreed that setup and installation was simple. They liked the LED lights, more for the cool effect than anything. They love how fast it is and how well the scrub brush picks up fine debris.

For some customers, this cleaner got stuck in corners and stairs more than other models. Several had issues with parts and connections breaking. Some customers said it didn’t transition well from the deep to the shallow end of the pool.

Take a Look At These Alternative Models:
  • Pentair Legend Pressure Side Pool Cleaner
    Pentair Legend
    Price: Average

    The Pentair Legend is offered in both gray and white. It’s a little more expensive than the Racer. It works best for pool floors and can partially climb walls. Like the Racer, it comes with 30 feet of hose and four wheels. It requires a separate booster pump (recommended: Boost-Rite 1hp pump). It has an even bigger intake than the Racer for large debris and better gripping wheels with a more stable design to reduce tipping over.

More Info

3Best for Vinyl & Fiberglass
Removes silt and small debris with no booster pump necessary

This is one of the smallest pool cleaners in the Polaris lineup. It’s affordable for those who don’t want to invest a lot. It’s gentle enough for use in vinyl and fiberglass in-ground pools up to 16 x 40 feet. Better yet, it’s one of the few pressure side cleaners that don’t require a separate booster pump.

Provided accessories are an all-purpose filter bag, hose sections, quick disconnect, and universal wall fitting. Warranty: 1-year / 3-year for frame.

ProsThe Good

This cleaner can cover an average-sized pool in 3 hours or less. It hooks to your existing return line and needs no extra booster pump. The jet assembly dislodges debris from pool surfaces, where it’s then trapped in the filter bag on the other end of the sweep hose.

The compact design allows the 165 to fit into tight spaces and corners better than larger cleaners. It’s good for smaller debris like silt, sand, and pine needles.

ConsThe Not-So-Good

With no extra booster pump, this cleaner depends on the power from your pool’s pump. Therefore, the pool filter must be cleaned regularly, or the 165 won’t do much good. That lack of a power boost also means the cleaner will tend to get stuck now and then.

The 165 won’t be good for concrete pools since the jets lack enough force to dislodge debris from rough surfaces. It’s also not ideal for large debris.

Customer OpinionWhat Customers Say

Though designed for in-ground pools, some customers have reported good results with above-ground pools. But keep in mind that Polaris recommends the Polaris 65 or Turbo Turtle instead for an above-ground pool.

One common complaint was that the hose was stiff and coiled up too often. For some users, it got stuck turning in a circle or wouldn’t move from the deep end to the shallow end.

Take a Look At These Alternative Models:
  • Polaris Turbo Turtle Pressure Side Pool Cleaner
    Polaris Turbo Turtle
    Price: Low

    This model comes in a colorful blue and green turtle design and is recommended for above-ground pools. It has a shorter hose of 24 feet. It’s good for pools up to 5 feet deep. It cleans the pool floor and sweeps the sides in 3 hours or less. Like the 165, it doesn’t require a booster pump, and the filter bag is located on the end of the sweeper hose. The Turtle hooks to your existing return line.

More Info

4Pressure Side Pool Cleaner
Affordable cleaning of small to medium debris for in-ground pools

This cleaner is affordable and has a sleek, silver, 3-wheeled design. Ideal for in-ground pools of many surface types, it’s best for small to medium debris. This lightweight cleaner is easy to maintain and does a commendable job when working at peak performance.

Included with the cleaner itself is an all-purpose filter bag, quick disconnect universal wall fitting, swivel connector, and hoses. Warranty: 30 – 90 days, but the actual time frame is unclear.

ProsThe Good

The slim design and belt-driven wheels help this cleaner move quickly through the pool. The mechanics are fairly simple, with no backup valve on the hose that often breaks on other models.

It has a built-in backup valve in the cleaner itself that kicks on every few minutes to change the direction so the cleaner doesn’t get stuck in a corner.

ConsThe Not-So-Good

Unfortunately, you may only get one season’s worth of cleaning from this model. When it breaks down, there’s really no fixing it. While you won’t be out a ton of money for the cleaner alone, you will also have the added expense of a booster pump.

The hose is really stiff, which can limit mobility, and if you have a lot of large debris in your pool, this cleaner won’t do a great job.

Customer OpinionWhat Customers Say

When it works, it works well. The plastic construction is lightweight enough for most customers to pick up. Some customers thought it didn’t tangle as much as other models.

Customer service is almost non-existent. There are no replacement parts to be had, and existing plastic parts are not durable. Warranty information is very hard to find and may be from 30 – 90 days, according to varying customer reports.

More Info

Why buy a pressure side pool cleaner

There are several benefits to owning a pressure side cleaner. One is the time and physical exertion it will save you over having to brush and scrub daily. It will definitely save you money since you don’t have to hire a professional pool cleaner.

Vac-Sweep 165 at work.

With some of them, you can schedule cleaning for specific days and times. Those with large filter bags can capture a ton of big debris and won’t have to be cleaned out constantly. All that debris catching helps prolong the life of your pool pump and keeps it out of your pool skimmer and filter.

What is the best pressure side pool cleaner

There are a lot of choices when it comes to pool cleaners. With pressure side pool cleaners, think about specific features that will work best with your pool setup. The best cleaner is one that fits your budget, thoroughly cleans the type of debris most commonly found in your pool, and doesn’t require constant maintenance. Here are some of the top features you’ll want in a good pressure side cleaner:

    Polaris Turbo Turtle at work.
  1. Cleaning power: Pressure side cleaners remove dirt in a couple different ways. The most powerful ones produce suction like a vacuum and are good for large debris like leaves, acorns, sticks, and rocks. It sucks the debris through an intake throat directly into a filter bag.
  2. Simpler cleaners just dislodge dirt and “catch” it in the filter bag as it trails behind the cleaner on a sweeper hose. Those will work better for small to medium debris such as sand, silt, and small pebbles.

  3. Booster pumps: Cleaners with the highest suction power will need a separate booster pump. These aren’t cheap, so you’ll need to consider that in the total cost. If you already have a booster pump installed, you’ll need to make sure the cleaner is compatible with it. Not all of them are compatible with every booster pump.
  4. Low pressure cleaners sometimes don’t require an extra booster pump. Good examples are the Polaris Vac Sweep 165 and the Turbo Turtle. While they won’t cost as much, you must have a strong enough pool pump to power them AND you’ll need to keep your pool filter super clean. Any drop in pressure will bog them down.

    Pressure Side Pool Cleaner cleans the in-ground pool.
  5. Type of pool: Most pressure side pool cleaners are specifically designed for in-ground pools. You’ll find the occasional one made for above-ground pools (ex: Turbo Turtle). The average pressure side cleaner will easily cover an 8-foot deep pool that’s 10’ x 10’.
  6. Your pool’s surface material is also an important consideration. Concrete and tile pools can handle sturdier cleaners with hard wheels. Vinyl and fiberglass surfaces may get scratched if the wheels are too hard or have rough treads. Be especially careful if you have any pre-existing damage or if you have roots or rocks under the pool floor. For instance, the Pentair Racer can work fine in a vinyl pool as long as the surface is in great condition.

  7. Setup & Maintenance: Automatic cleaners are supposed to save you time, not add to your already full plate. Most cleaners have a downloadable owner’s manual so you can get an idea of how much work it will take to install it. If it looks like the schematics for an interdimensional spaceship, you may want to look for something a little simpler to set up. Otherwise, you’ll have to call a pool expert, and then you’ll be out another few hundred bucks.
  8. Spare parts.

    Maintenance should likewise be as fuss-free as possible, especially if you’re new to using automatic pool cleaners. Filter bags should be easy to remove and clean out. Hardware should be easy to replace when needed. For major repairs, it wouldn’t hurt to research your local pool supply stores to see which brands they can service so you won’t have to spend extra money mailing the cleaner to the manufacturer.

  9. Spare parts: Certain items will need to be replaced when they wear out. Or you may want different types of parts depending on changing needs in your pool. For instance, leaf filter bags as opposed to all-purpose sand and silt bags.
  10. Stock up on extra parts when you buy a pool cleaner so you won’t have to wait a long time for parts to come in and won’t have to pause your cleaning schedule. Things to buy – extra hoses, floats, bags, weights, belts, gears, sweeper tails, etc. You’ll find a good list of all these things in most owner’s manuals.

What’s the big deal about booster pumps?

One of the necessary evils to owning a high-pressure cleaner is having to purchase a separate booster pump. Your pool’s pump doesn’t produce enough pressure to propel them. But what is it exactly? It’s basically a pool pump without the strainer pot attached. They’re wired and plumbed up in exactly the same way as a regular pool pump. It’s a good idea to place the booster pump at a lower elevation than the return pipe so the pump is always filled with water to prevent overheating. You’ll want to make sure it’s not in any danger from flood water, however, and is also protected from inclement weather and plants/weeds.

Booster pump at work.

Many pool equipment manufacturers also have their own lines of booster pumps. The good thing is that these pumps are usually interchangeable with several types of cleaners. So if you buy one booster pump, it can last through several cleaners from various brands (with proper maintenance, that is)

Common troubleshooting tips

We’ve seen the same types of complaints from customers among all models of pressure side cleaners. These are the issues most likely to crop up if you own one, along with some troubleshooting tips we got from the experts:

  • My pressure side-cleaner is moving slowly.
    1. The first thing you should check is the inline strainer, usually located at the wall fitting. Make sure it’s clean.
    2. Also check the pressure bleed-off valve on the wall fitting. It’s designed to allow excess water pressure to escape, but if opened too much, can make the cleaner sluggish
    3. Pentair Racer at work.
    4. Check the hose between the wall and cleaner. Carefully inspect to see if there are any splits or holes. Replace any damaged hoses. A little leakage at the swivel joints is normal.
    5. Slightly lift the cleaner out of the pool. There should be a solid, steady stream of water that sprays out 10 – 20 feet from the back of the unit. Remove the filter bag. The water should shoot up nearly 20 feet from the venturi (top). If the stream is weak in either area, check the sweep tail adjustment screw. If it’s loose, tighten it, and if missing, replace it. Inspect the tail for holes or a missing tip.
    6. Inspect the wheels and belt-drive or gear system. If there are any sticks or sand jamming them up, clean it out. Adjust the wheels if they are too tight or loose. Replace any worn belts or drive shafts. If treaded tires have become worn down, replace them so they have better traction.
  • My pressure side cleaner isn’t reaching the entire pool.
    1. Check the thrust jet. The default is set at 11:00. Try 1:00 to move the track in the opposite direction.
    2. Is the hose a proper length? Cleaners will need plenty of hose to reach the far corners and deep end. Too much hose can get tangled or inhibit the cleaning pattern.
    3. Most pressure side cleaners won’t do much for steps, stairs, and loveseats. You’ll need to brush and net them manually every now and then.
    4. Stuck in the deep end? Adjust the hose floats. Add 1-2 more floats if necessary. Check for pressure loss at the wall fitting, hose, or inside the unit.
  • My pressure side cleaner gets stuck in one area.
  • Polaris Vac-Sweep 165 stuck in a tight corner.
    1. If your cleaner is getting stuck behind the ladder, there are ladder guards available like this one from Polaris that block the cleaner from getting stuck.
    2. If stuck on the main drain, try a drain cover to smooth the transition from drain to floor so the wheels can glide right over.
    3. Watch to see if it will back itself out of a jam. A hydrotimer in the back-up valve pushes the cleaner off the floor every 3 minutes or so and often helps to get it going again.
  • My pressure side cleaner back-up valve isn’t working.
    1. If your cleaner is getting stuck and doesn’t get itself out, the back-up valve may be broken or clogged. Inspect for damage or flush the valve out with water.
    2. Check the hose floats on either side of the back-up valve. If they are letting the valve drag across the floor, the valve casing can get damaged.
  • My pressure side cleaner hose is tangling.
  • Hose is about to tangle during pool cleaning.
    1. Make sure you don’t have TOO much hose. Follow the owner’s manual to ensure you have the proper length to fit your pool.
    2. There may be too much pressure (power) propelling your cleaner, which can cause it to move around in circles, thereby tangling itself. Adjust pressure where needed.
    3. Make sure all hose swivel joints are moving freely.
    4. Are all hose floats actually floating? Adjust them until they are. If they still sink, they may have taken on water and need to be replaced.
    5. Stiff hoses can tangle more easily. Remove from the pool, stretch it out in the sun and let it sit for a day. If it still wants to coil and feels brittle, it’s time to replace either the entire hose or affected sections with a softer, more flexible hose.

Final thoughts

Buying an automatic pool cleaner of any type is one of the smartest investments you can make for your pool. Try to purchase the best one that your budget will allow for, as you usually get what you pay for with pool cleaners.

Our top recommendations are the Polaris Vac Sweep 380 or the Pentair Racer. Both are exceptional at removing high volumes of debris and get it done quickly, saving energy and giving you more time to enjoy the pool.

The Polaris Turbo Turtle cleaner is cleaning the pool.

Just read through our reviews to find out what might work best for your pool. Ask friends and family who also own pools if they have any recommendations. You can even ask your local pool supply store about the latest and greatest models.

Author
Our pool maintenance expert, Luke Reed, earned his BS in Civil Engineering from Georgia Tech in 1998. Since then, he’s worked in a variety of industries, including design and construction of luxury swimming pools.
image description Comments
Eric Gordon (LA)
February 12, 2020 at 9:15 am

Should I run the pool pump at night or during the day?

Kevin (Cleanup.Expert Team)
February 14, 2020 at 9:27 am

There are pros and cons to each. For daytime, the circulation is good for maintaining the chlorine levels during peak sun exposure. For normal operation in really sunny, warm climates, it’s probably best to run it during the day. But at nighttime, it’s cheaper to run it for your electric bill during off-peak hours. Nighttime is also good if you’re doing a chemical treatment and need a really high chlorine level – that will prevent any sun burnoff. You could also try splitting it – running it 4 hours during peak sun time and then 4 hours overnight.

image descriptionAdd comment

Pool Maintenance Tips & Tricks

How to use cyanuric acid safely
Learn how to use cyanuric acid safely as a swimming pool stabilizer
In this guide to using cyanuric acid, you’ll learn why it’s important as a pool stabilizer. We’ll look at what it does, how to add it to your pool, how much and often to add it, and safety precautions.
Refill Your Pool Water
Is a pool water delivery service worth the cost?
How much does it cost to refill a swimming pool? It depends on your water source. If your water quality is bad or you’re in a location with water rationing, you might consider a water delivery service.
Water Bug In Pool
Learn How to Eliminate Water Bugs In Your Pool – And How To Keep Them Away
Aguide on how to prevent water bugs in your pool (they are more than just annoying). Click here now to learn the risks and types you may have - don’t risk it.
Swimming pool - Clean and Maintain
Do you really know how to clean and maintain your swimming pool?
Cleaning your pool is often a dreaded chore. But with proper equipment, good planning, and established routines, it will become second nature. Our beginner’s guide has tips and tricks to keep your pool sparkling all season.