Best Automatic Pool Cleaner for your Pool

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Being a pool owner, I spent countless hours outside vacuuming my pool by hand instead of in my pool enjoying it. I finally decided to take a chance and get an automatic pool cleaner.

But! There are literally hundreds of pool cleaners on the market; I wasn’t sure what was best for me.

If you are in the same boat, today’s topic is going to discuss the best automatic cleaner for your pool type.

Above Ground vs. In Ground Pool Cleaners

Many factors go into buying a pool cleaner. Let’s start with the difference between an in ground or above ground cleaner. For the most part, the cleaners are going to perform the same. Hose and cord lengths for in ground cleaners tend to be longer since in ground pools are typically larger in size. Secondly, many of the in ground cleaners will clean and climb the walls along with sloped floors. Aboveground pool cleaners are best for flat pool bottoms.

The Best Pool Cleaner for Your Pool

I say 'your' pool, because each pool is different in many ways, and these can all influence what type of cleaner would work best in your pool.

  • Do you have a dedicated cleaner line, pressure or suction?
  • How's your filter? Large and effective works best for suction cleaners.
  • Pool pump size? Larger pumps are more effective for suction cleaners.
  • Amount of debris - is the pool surrounded by forest, or desert?
  • Pool floor contours, shape of pool, depth of pool, surface type?

For the average pool, most automatic cleaners fit the bill, but for unusual pool types or those with low powered pump and filter, choices are more limited. If you need help with choosing the best pool cleaner for your particular pool - read on.

Pool Cleaner Types

Suction Side Pool Cleaners


Suction side cleaners are one of the most popular and cost efficient cleaners on the market today. These cleaners work off the suction from your existing pump and filter. Hook up the vacuum to your skimmer, turn the pump and filter on, and let the cleaner go to work! As the cleaner makes its way through the pool, it picks up the debris sucks it thru the hose and into the pump basket.


If you are like me, and have a lot of leaves and debris fall into your pool during early and late parts of the season.  A leaf canister, allows you to trap the leaves before they reach your filter. Installs between two sections of hose right before the skimmer. The Zodiac Cyclonic Leaf Catcher is a new vertical style canister, that will work on any suction cleaner to increase leaf capacity, and keep pool filters cleaner.

On an above ground pool, it is important to note that a ¾ hp pump or larger is needed to run a suction side cleaner. A pump that is also too small will not provide adequate water flow to allow the cleaner to operate properly. Larger pumps of 1-2 hp will operate the cleaner and also keep the skimmer(s) working.


For both in ground and above ground suction side cleaners, they will run on a random pattern throughout the pool. One of the biggest differences on in ground vs. above ground is that the hose length on an in ground cleaner will be longer as the pools are generally bigger. Secondly, the in ground cleaners can clean the entire pool, walls and floors.

Many in ground and above ground suction cleaners only have one moving part, which ensures reliability of the cleaners and tend to be relatively inexpensive to change. While suction side cleaners are great for the price, we do have two more categories of cleaners that work independently of the pump and filter system.

Pressure Side Pool Cleaners


Pressure side pool cleaners are powered by water pressure, and are more popular on in ground pools. There is one above ground pressure cleaner - the Polaris 65 which connects to the pool return line. The Polaris 165 works exactly the same, but it has a longer hose for deeper inground pools.

As with the suction cleaners, the Polaris 65 should be used with a pump greater than ¾ hp and uses your pools filtration system to direct powerful jets of water to loosen floating debris. This cleaner floats on the surface and has a bag that skims along the bottom picking up debris.


The more common pressure side cleaners include the Polaris 180/280/380. All three of these models require a ¾ hp booster pump to power the cleaner. By having it's own booster pump, the cleaner works independently from your pool system. Pressure cleaners come equipped with a debris bag that to hold large amounts of leaves, keeping them out of your filtration system.


While looking at the pressure side cleaners, you may come across the Polaris 360. So how does this differ from the Polaris cleaners ending in 80? The 360 is a low-pressure cleaner, that connects to your return line - no booster pump needed! These cleaners will run when your pump and filter are running, whereas booster pump cleaners have a timeclock, and turn themselves on and off.


Whether you purchase the cleaner with or without the booster pump, both types will scrub the pool walls, floors, and stairs. Each unit is equipped with a backup valve which will pull the cleaner away from pool obstacles and allow it to change directions if it gets stuck. Lastly, these cleaners will work with most pool types, including vinyl, gunite, and fiberglass.

All of the models are similar as far as make and how they function. The Pentair Racer has the biggest throat and debris bag of all the cleaners. This means that more debris is picked up and your pool will be cleaned quicker.

Robotic Pool Cleaners


I have to admit, robotic pool cleaners are my favorite. Why? Simply plug the cleaner into a GFCI outlet, gently place the cleaner in the pool, and let it go to work! Whether above ground or in ground, these cleaners have a programmed cleaning pattern unlike the other types of cleaners that randomly move around the pool.

For both pool types, the cleaners come equipped with either a filter cartridge or bag. Robotic pool cleaners have their own built in filtration system, so they do not work off your existing pump and filter. This eliminates the need for hoses, and you'll cut backwashing in half as the debris is not going through your filter. And, they help your filter, as most robotic cleaner bags or filters will typically filter down to about 2-3 microns.

For in ground pools, robotic pool cleaners are designed to climb the walls, floors and steps, where the above ground cleaners are made for a flat floor. Robotic cleaners do well with all types of debris, but some of the largest acorns or leaves may be too much for some robots.


Inground robots tend to have brushes on the front and back to help loosen and remove dirt and fine particles and use tracks, whereas aboveground robots have wheels. Prices for aboveground robotic cleaners have come way down in the last few years, many using the newer 'Jet' technology which only requires one motor for vacuuming and tracking.

Best Pool Cleaner for Your Pool?

Now that we’ve discussed the three different types of automatic pool cleaners, hopefully it gives you a better idea of which one will work best for your pool type and pool equipment.

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