The Best Robotic Pool Cleaners – Ratings and Buyer’s Guide
Robotic pool cleaners make short work out of what was once a much-dreaded task. No one wants a filthy pool, but pools don’t clean themselves. You must be proactive about pool maintenance so you can take advantage of a cool dip any time you want during those hot summer days.
Being proactive about pool cleaning, however, doesn’t mean you have to work harder. You just need to work smarter. The more tasks you can automate, the better. Suction cleaners and pressure-side cleaners are okay, but they make your pool pump work harder. Therefore, we’ll show you how to find the best robotic pool cleaner in this handy guide.
What to look for in a robotic pool cleaner
To find a pool cleaner that’s right for you, there are 3 main questions you need to ask:
- What kind of pool do you have?
- How much cleaning do you want?
- What features on a pool cleaner are important to you?
Types of pools
Many robotic pool cleaners can tackle any kind of pool surface. However, some are made specifically for in-ground or above-ground pools. Also, if you have a vinyl, fiberglass or smooth tile pool, you won’t want a cleaner with a rough brush. You’ll want one with a soft, grippy PVA brush.
Size matters, too. You’ll need a cleaner that can reach all the way from one side to the other without you having to unplug it from one power source and plug it in somewhere else. Your power supply must also be 12 feet from the pool’s edge. Make sure you know your pool’s length, width and depth so you know how long of a cord you need.
How much cleaning do you want?
Depending on how much you use your pool or your budget, you may opt for a pool cleaner that only vacuums the pool floor. These may or may not come with brushes, and are often the simplest and cheapest.
Other cleaners can clean the floor, cove, and part of the wall. They have rotating brushes and features that help them climb, so they’ll be more expensive.
Then you have the ones that can clean the floor, cove, the entire wall, and the waterline. These are the most advanced and often have smart features that can be controlled via mobile apps.
If you’re new to buying pool cleaners, you may not know exactly what features you want yet. That’s okay. Things you’ll want to consider are:
- Suction power
- Swiveling cables
- Power washing jets
- Programming features
Best Robotic Pool Cleaners of 2019 – Ratings & Reviews
Best Value for Your Dollar
The Heavy Hitter
BOTTOM LINESimple to operate, this is a basic cleaner for the pool floor, walls, and waterline. Best for pools with no sharp corners. Ideal for In-Ground pools.
BOTTOM LINEIf you’re willing to invest a little more and have a big pool that needs lots of cleaning, this is a good option. Ideal for In-Ground pools.
BOTTOM LINEIf you have an above-ground pool or a small in-ground pool, this affordable, basic machine is a good option. Ideal for Above Ground pools.
BOTTOM LINEIf you want something a little more high-tech for your above-ground pool, this robot cleaner is a great option. Ideal for Above Ground pools.
BOTTOM LINEIf you have a large in-ground pool, you want a heavy hitter to tackle the cleaning. This robot may be just what you’re looking for. Ideal for In-Ground pools.
This cleaner is designed to scrub and vacuum the pool floor and walls of most in-ground pools, including vinyl-lined pools. This is a mid-range priced cleaner with a 24-volt dual-drive motor and a 30-volt power supply. It cleans pools of most shapes and sizes up to 50 feet in length.
It will clean most pools within 3 hours and comes with a one-year limited warranty with the option of purchasing an extended warranty.
One of the best things about this machine is how quiet it is. Operation is simple. You just plug it in, drop it in the pool, and turn it on. It has CleverClean tech that maps out your pool to find the most efficient route to clean it. Dual filters catch both large and small debris. No filter bags to mess with.
Dual brushes grip the walls, while the 60-foot anti-tangle swivel cord ensures the machine won’t get tangled up even in oddly shaped pools.
This cleaner doesn’t reach into sharp angles well, meaning you may be hand-scrubbing the steps and pool corners. It’s hit or miss on cleaning the waterline as well. Big leaves sometimes get stuck in the intake, so keep an eye out for any loss in suction.
At 19 pounds, it’s also a bit heavy, especially when it’s filled with water and debris. There’s no caddy for it, so you’ll have to carry it from storage.
Customers liked that this cleaner picked up various debris such as leaves, pine needles and accumulated pollen. They love the plug and play operation. They also love how easy the filters are to pop out and spray clean.
They didn’t like that the mapping feature sometimes didn’t work very well. Some also wished for dedicated scrubbing brushes rather than the gripping rollers. A few customers noted debris fell out as they were removing it from the pool.
Though it’s the most expensive of the Polaris line of pool cleaners, this little robot packs a mean punch on pool grime. There’s not many places this guy can’t reach, so it’s great for in-ground pools of many shapes and sizes.
It comes with a 2-year manufacturer warranty, a 70-foot cord and cleans most pools up to 50 feet in length within 2 hours with a max run time of 3 hours.
The 4-wheel drive Aqua-Trax tires really help this cleaner glide over surfaces. A rear water propulsion system helps it get debris out of hard to reach places like corners and under the pool stairs.
Vortex Vacuum technology assists in pickup up large debris that can clog other cleaners. A 7-day programmable timer and smart mapping make it easy to set it and forget it. A large filter canister holds 4 X more debris than other cleaners.
Though it reaches corners and behind stairs, it doesn’t clean steps and shelves very well. Newer versions have a swivel function for the cord, but it still tangles for some users. Winding the cord on the caddy when storing is also difficult.
It’s also expensive, which may be a deterrent if you don’t have a pool that needs frequent cleaning.
Customers like the special waterline mode, which is something a lot of cleaners miss. They also like the easy-lift system, which makes getting it out of the water much easier.
Users suggest putting only as much cord as you need in the pool and leaving the rest out on the ground to reduce tangling. Several users weren’t happy with how the water jet stirred up fine dirt and made the pool cloudy instead of filtering it out.
For above-ground and in-ground pools, the Aquabot can clean smaller pools in under an hour and larger ones up to 40 feet in length in less than 2 hours. Inclines and wall coves aren’t a problem since this guy can move forward and backward.
This affordable machine is best for general pool floor cleaning and maintenance between manual cleaning, as it doesn’t climb walls or steps. It comes with a 1-year manufacturer warranty.
If you have an above-ground pool, this may be your best option for a robotic vacuum. If you have a small in-ground pool and just need something to keep it maintained between manual cleaning, this is also a good option.
This robot will clean a small part of the walls, up to 6 inches high. Plug-and-play operation makes it super easy to start. Top access filter bags allow for easy filter cleaning and replacement.
For large, in-ground pools, this isn’t your best option since it will likely need several hours and can only reach 40 feet in length. It won’t climb above 6 inches up the wall or clean the waterline.
Since there’s no smart-mapping technology on this machine, it may end up running over the same path and missing part of the pool. There are no brushes, just suction, so don’t expect it to clean corners very well.
It’s kind of hit or miss with this machine. For several customers, it worked fine for light cleaning of their small above-ground pools. But for others, it either stopped working within a year or didn’t work straight from the box.
Customers with above-ground pools were a lot more impressed with the performance than those with in-ground pools. Some had to run it for a few cycles to get a thorough clean.
This model from Dolphin is ideal for above-ground pools. It’s a good upgrade if you’ve already used a cheaper model. With its 24-volt DC motor and 40-foot cord, it cleans efficiently with smart navigation to avoid repeating the same path.
At only 14 pounds, it can clean most above ground pools in 1.5 hours or less. It comes with a 1-year manufacturer warranty with the option of a 4-year extended warranty.
The huge filter basket/cartridge is one of the biggest on the market, with top access removal. The wide intake mouth can suck up large leaves and twigs easily.
Just plug it in, drop it in the pool, and turn it on. SmartNav 2.0 scanning technology keeps the machine from going over the same areas multiple times, ensuring every part of the pool is clean, including the walls.
Despite the scanning technology, this cleaner doesn’t have a programmable timer or remote control function. Though it can climb walls, it may or may not clean the waterline.
The default filter is just a mesh filter basket. Great for larger debris, not for small particles. If you want finer filtration, you’ll have to purchase a separate ultra-fine filter cartridge basket.
Users like the HyperBrush which seems to do a great job of lifting debris and algae so it can be sucked up into the filter. By far the biggest complaint was that it doesn’t filter small dirt without the separately bought cartridge.
Some customers highly recommend buying the extended warranty from the manufacturer, since this and other pool robots are prone to breakage right around the time the basic warranty ends.
This robotic pool cleaner has 24 volt twin DC motors that use 90% less energy than cleaners with AC motors. With several smart tech features, cleaning is efficient and quick.
With its 60-ft cord and smart navigation, this unit can clean an entire in-ground pool in up to 3 hours, including the wall and waterline. It comes with a 3-year warranty that’s not prorated.
With 4 cleaning modes, this machine removes debris from fine dirt to big leaves. The 360-degree swivel cord prevents tangling, and thanks to the long cord, it can clean even large pools without having to move the power source.
A filter indicator shows you when the filter needs changing. It’s programmable and comes with fine mesh filters and a big bag filter. Smart mapping helps it learn the most efficient paths to take for quicker cleaning.
The user manual isn’t that helpful. Watching video tutorials on how to operate this machine is recommended. There’s also a optional remote control (purchased separately) that isn’t very responsive, but all you need to operate the machine is on the power source.
You may want to purchase separate ultra fine filters since the ones with the unit aren’t great at getting the smallest particles out. It doesn’t come with a caddy either, but you can buy one separately.
Customers agree that the user manual is terrible with vague instructions, and many suggest watching YouTube videos to learn how to operate the unit. They love how much debris this unit can pick up, but some owners wish it was smaller so it could clean narrow steps better.
Most customers say it climbs walls just fine, but it may depend on your wall material/texture. For some users, customer service wasn’t helpful when they had problems.
Why buy a robotic pool cleaner?
When it comes to pool cleaning, you have several options. Most depend on your time and budget. Of course, for those who can afford it, hiring someone to keep your pool clean is the easiest option. But since most pool owners can’t shell out that kind of cash, they need to invest in some good pool cleaning tools.
The cheapest options are manual brushes, nets and vacuums, but they’re also the most labor and time intensive. A happy medium lies in automatic pool cleaners, including suction-side, pressure-side, and robotic cleaners.
Robotic cleaners tend to be the most expensive, but not always. They are also the least labor-intensive of the automatic cleaners. Here are a few reasons to invest in one:
- You don’t have a lot of spare time. If you’re working full time and raising a family, you’d rather be in the pool when you get some time off rather than cleaning it. We get you.
- You have health issues. Manual cleaning can be good exercise, but all that reaching and scrubbing can be a nightmare if you have a bad back or other physical limitations.
- You want a healthier pool. A good robotic cleaner has just the right scrubbing and filtration power to remove things you can’t see with a regular pool vacuum. Those with smart navigation ensure every part of the pool gets a good cleaning.
- You want to prolong the life of your pool pump. Many pool cleaners and vacuums rely on your pool’s pump to power them, which puts extra strain on it and your pool filters. A robotic cleaner uses its own power source and filters, which prolongs the life of your pool system.
- You care about the environment. A clean pool means fewer chemicals are needed, plus robotic cleaners are very energy efficient.
What to consider before buying a robotic pool cleaner
What you buy will depend on your type of pool, its features, and how much cleaning you’ll need.
- Type of pool – Some cleaners are meant to work for both in-ground and above-ground pools, but others are made for one or the other. Also, some are better at reaching corners than others, so the shape of your pool matters.
- Size of pool– Cord length on the machine will determine how far it can reach across your pool. The larger your pool, the longer the cord you’ll need. Too short, and you may have to move the power supply from one side of the pool to another.
- Steps, stairs, walls, and waterlines – Pretty much every cleaner can tackle the pool floor with no issues. But some can’t clean stairs and steps or climb walls. Some can’t clean sharp corners. Others won’t clean up to the waterline. Generally the more abilities the cleaner has, the more expensive it gets.
- The debris your pool collects– Depending on where you live, your pool may collect a lot of small particles like dirt, sand and pollen or a lot of large debris like leaves, seeds, and twigs. If you tend to have a lot of large debris, you’ll want a cleaner with a big filter basket so it doesn’t fill up too quickly. For very small debris, look for those with ultra-fine filters.
Once you’ve determined what you need, you’ll want to look for those extra features that can help make the difference between an okay cleaner and a great cleaner.
For instance, cleaners that come with good scrub brushes can do a better job at dislodging debris like algae so it can be sucked up. Some cleaners only have suction power, so any additional brushing will need to be done manually.
Smart scanning systems work to map out the shape and size of your pool for an efficient cleaning path. These can be great for oddly shaped pools so that the cleaner doesn’t end up going over the same area multiple times, therefore wasting energy.
How much the unit weighs is also important since you’ll need to lift it out of the pool. Remember that the water and collected debris will make it weigh more. For heavy units, wheeled caddies can be a real lifesaver as well, so you can roll the cleaner from storage rather than carrying it.
Swivel cords are also a good feature since they keep the cord from tangling up. They don’t always work, but they’re important if you’re not going to be there while the pool cleaner is running.
Other features that are nice but not really must-haves are remote controls and programmability. If you want to run your cleaner on a set schedule while you’re not home or at night, etc, then a programmable timer would be a benefit.
What are the drawbacks to robotic pool cleaners?
As nice as they are to have for saving time and effort, there are a few cons when it comes to pool robots.
- Price – Pool robots are usually the most expensive type of automatic cleaner. The cheapest ones may be about the same price as a mid-range pressure or side-suction cleaner, but the cheapest ones don’t have nearly as many features and tend to break more often.
- Maintenance – With all the moving parts, there’s more to break and replace on a pool robot. The most common complaints are about the machines breaking down. Hint: Look for machines with good warranties, and purchase extended warranties if available!
- Filter cleaning – Unless you want to waste money on disposable filters, you’ll need to clean out the filter bags or cartridges after every cycle. If you have a big, busy pool with lots of debris, you may have to clean them a lot.
- Tangled up cables – Swivel cables help, but don’t always work. There’s always a chance your cable can get tangled on something or be a trip hazard. It’s a good idea to watch it the first few cycles to see if it will be a problem.
- Can damage some vinyl surfaces – If you have a vinyl-lined pool, make sure the cleaner is compatible with it. Some of the brushes can scratch the ink or remove the patterns on the vinyl. Always make sure your vinyl’s in good shape before using a pool robot with brushes.
- Can’t swim with it in the pool – All pool robots are grounded with GFCI plugs that are supposed to shut off at the first hint of any electrical imbalance. However, there’s always a risk of electric shock any time you have electricity and water together. So, while it’s running, you should play it safe and keep everyone out of the pool.
These quick tips and hints come from customers who’ve used the products listed above. They might help you if you need some troubleshooting.
- If debris tends to fall out when removing your cleaner from the pool, try either removing it really quickly or really slowly and keep it upright at all times.
- If you have a beach entrance style of pool, a robotic cleaner may get flipped over if it’s climbing a nearby wall. The water at the entrance may be too shallow for it to turn itself back over. Most cleaners have auto-shut off if this happens.
- To help prevent cord tangling, try stretching the power cord out straight and leave it in the sun for a few hours.
- Make sure the filters are completely enclosed with the door fully locked down, or the cleaner may not run.
- Don’t neglect the usual pool maintenance with regular brushing, testing water pH and chemistry, etc. There’s only so much your pool robot can do. If your pool is neglected and filthy, you need to manually clean it first, then use the pool robot for maintenance cleaning.
- The tracks on the rollers will stretch and loosen after a while, so if you notice it’s not climbing like it used to, try replacing the tracks.