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. Pool robots can shorten your cleaning time so you can take advantage of a cool dip any time you want during those hot summer days.
Being proactive about pool cleaning doesn’t mean you have to work harder. You just need to work smarter. This is where an automatic pool cleaner can save the day. But they’re not all created equally. 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?
How Often Should I Use my Robot Cleaner
If you use your pool frequently, you should probably run your pool robot every day. If you don’t use your pool that much, running it once a week should be enough.
How long do robotic pool cleaners last
The longevity of a robotic pool cleaner varies depending on the frequency of use and how well you maintain it. The average lifespan is approximately five years. However, if you’re good with the upkeep and give it plenty of love and attention, it could last seven years or more.
Robotic vs. Suction vs. Pressure Cleaners
Suction-side cleaners are fantastic for pool owners on a tight budget because they usually cost less than the other types. With few moving parts to break down, maintenance is cheap and easy. They’re perfect for pools that have a more powerful pump than the pool and filter need.
Suction cleaners attach to your pool’s primary filtration pump and use its suction power to move from one end of your pool to the other. To set one up, connect the cleaner’s hose to either a dedicated suction line or to your skimmer.
Suction cleaners have a throat mechanism that allows dirt, dust, and sand to pass through but can clog if larger debris gets stuck.
The unit will remain inoperable until someone comes along and performs an impromptu tracheotomy on the poor thing by removing whatever got lodged in its windpipe.
If sand or silt is what you need to remove, suction-side cleaners are an excellent choice. However, if your pool is plagued with a superabundance of leaves or sticks, get another kind of pool cleaner. That’s because suction machines struggle with this type of debris.
Pressure-side cleaners aren’t as expensive as robotic pool cleaners and are easy to maintain. They attach to one of your pool’s return jets and get their power from the water returning to the pool via an existing pressure-side line. Pressure cleaners don’t use your pool’s filtration system to get rid of debris. Instead, they use a filtration bag to capture all the unsightly flotsam and jetsam detracting from your pool’s carefully cultivated aesthetics.
Unlike a suction-side cleaner, you won’t have to empty the pump basket or backwash the filter to keep your pool’s equipment in good working order. The internal filter bag reduces stress on your pool’s pump and filter, saving you bucket loads of cash down the line. Although they’re terrific at picking up medium and heavy debris, they’re not so good at capturing fine particles or tiny debris. This stuff tends to flow right through the filter bag, where it gets trapped up by the pool’s filter.
These types of cleaners often require a booster pump. The bad news is that not every pool has the plumbing to accommodate this setup. Also, you’ll incur additional electricity costs by running the second pump.
Everything a robot needs to restore your pool to a state of crystal clarity is contained right inside the unit. This makes them fully autonomous cleaning machines. They have a built-in filtration system that utilizes either a cartridge or a filter bag to collect debris. Simply plug your robot in and watch it as it goes to town on all the dirt, filth, and grime that pools seem to magically attract.
Pool robots are exceedingly energy-efficient, helping to reduce your overall power usage and costs. With an ever-vigilant robot patrolling for floating junk and algae stuck to the walls and floor of your pool, you won’t be using manual brushes much anymore, if at all. The virtually maintenance-free design of robotic pool cleaners makes them an excellent choice for pool owners everywhere.
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 a robotic cleaner with a soft, grippy PVC brush.
Size matters, too. You’ll need a robotic pool 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. You could invest a little more in a premium pool cleaner that will be more efficient and cover more area.
Higher-end pool cleaning robots 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 top-notch 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.
What features are important to you
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
Pool cleaning robot maintenance
If you spend a few hundred bucks on a new automatic pool cleaner, you want to make sure it lasts as long as possible. Unlike simpler pool cleaners such as brushes and nets, robotic pool cleaners need a little extra TLC to keep functioning well.
The best pool vacuums will keep going like the Energizer Bunny so long as you follow maintenance rules. First, you should ALWAYS follow the guidelines in the owner’s manual. Keep it handy for reference.
Here are some general tips to keep your pool cleaning robot running smoothly:
- When the cycle is complete, remove the robot from the pool. Prolonged submersion can damage the motor, and there’s always a risk of electrical shock if you swim with it in the water.
- Thoroughly drain all the water from the cleaner when you take it out. Your owner’s manual should tell you how. If not, look for videos online.
- Clean the unit after each cycle – clear brushes and wheels of debris, and empty and rinse the filters.
- Replace any worn brushes or filters ASAP.
- Store your pool robot out of direct sunlight, and protect it from the elements. The power supply is susceptible to damage if left in the rain.
Skip any of these steps, and you’ll be out a lot of money and time. It may not sound fun to clean filters and bother with proper storage, but just keep in mind all the hours of cleaning time you’re saving. That’s more time for you to enjoy a poolside drink and splash around with the kiddos.
Browse our reviews of the best pool robots to find one that fits your budget and pool cleaning needs.More
Best Robotic Pool Cleaners of 2021 – Ratings & Reviews
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. Robotic pool cleaners are a big investment, but for most people, they’re worth it.
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. Write down all these things so you can easily refer to them to find the best robotic pool cleaner that fits your budget.
- 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 pool cleaning robot 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.
Robotic pool cleaners have a wide array of cleaning methods. 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.
Unfortunately, every pool cleaner is going to break down now and then. If your unit is still under warranty, call the manufacturer’s support hotline to see if the company will pay to fix the issue. If not, see if the problem is something you can take care of yourself before calling the professionals.
Check the Power Supply
Check to make sure the unit is securely plugged in and that the power cord isn’t damaged. Ensure the power cord is firmly plugged into the power supply transformer, which is then plugged into a GFCI outlet.
The power supply will have an indicator light telling you if power is flowing through it. If power is getting to the power supply, but the cleaner isn’t moving, the problem lies elsewhere. The power cord could have a short, meaning the wires have broken away from the connection inside the rubber casing. This frequently happens at a point near the cleaner where the stress on the cord is the greatest.
Wires can break if a user exerts too much force when pulling on the cord to remove the unit from the pool. If the power cord is in good shape, test the resistance of the motor using a test meter. This will tell you if power is reaching the motor. If it is and the motor isn’t working, it looks like you might have to install a new motor.
If your robot cleaner is slow or doesn’t climb walls the way it should, this could indicate cracked bearings, old brushes, or worn-out drive tracks. It could also mean there’s debris stuck in tracks, brushes, or the impeller. Or, the debris basket could be full, which could interfere with mobility. Emptying the basket between cleaning cycles helps ensure peak performance. If none of these are the source of the problem, lift the unit partially out of the water to see if it’s sucking air. If it’s not, it might need professional attention.
Robotic pool cleaners can get stuck behind ladders and handrails. You can solve this annoying problem by installing a ladder guard. This relatively inexpensive device can help prevent this problem from occurring. You can also try adjusting the cord length or moving your control box to a different location.
If your robotic cleaner leaves some areas untouched after you program it for an automatic cleaning cycle, it might be that the cord doesn’t have enough slack. The cord needs to have enough length to reach every part of your pool. If this isn’t the problem, it could be that the debris basket is full and needs to be dumped.