Swimming Pool Vacuum Cleaner Reviews
This page is a review of traditional swimming pool vacuum cleaners - suction based, pressure based and robotic vacs. If you are looking for a review and comparison of hand held pool vacuums then read this Hand Held Pool Vac Comparison Review
Of every purchase that you can make for your swimming pool an automatic pool vacuum is by far the most rewarding. Cleaning the pool is the most labor intensive aspect of pool ownership and an auto-vac can dramatically reduce this workload. While many pool owners will want to know what is the "best pool vacuum" the reality of the situation is that the question is better asked as which pool vac best meets your specific, unique usage requirements the best. There are a few different kinds of pool vacuums which you need to understand in order to make an informed decision about which one will be the right fit for you.
Suction Cleaners - Suction side, or suction based pool vacuum cleaners work in the same way that manually vacuuming your pool works. The only difference is that instead of attaching a vacuum head & telescopic pole to the suction port for your pool (wall suction port or skimmer suction port) you attach a small independent vacuum cleaner. This vacuum cleaner is propelled by converting the suction force of the pool pump to generate forward momentum.
Pressure Cleaners - Pressure side pool vacuum cleaners operate in the opposite fashion to the suction side cleaners. Instead of being installed into a vacuum suction port these vacs connect directly to the pressure side (return port) of the pool which provides the energy for forward momentum. Typically this style of pool vac requires a second pump be installed, a booster pump, specifically to operate the cleaner.
Robotic Pool Vacuums - Robotic pool vacs, or automatic pool vacuums are the newest type of pool vac available and are the only of the three that operates independently of the circulation system. These smart vacs are designed for optimal pool cleaning performance, ease of use and minimal power consumption. If you can afford one these are almost certainly what you are looking for.
Choosing the right vacuum for your pool is actually fairly easy. If you are looking for a pressure side vacuum this means that your pool was built specifically for this type of vacuum. Usually this would require an isolated return line to the pool as well as a plumbing configuration that allows for the installation of a second pump. If you already have a setup like this then a pressure side vacuum or a robotic vacuum are good options for you. Pools without a pressure side vacuum setup should consider a suction side vacuum if you have a tight budget for buying your new pool vac, or a robotic pool vac if you have a larger budget and want to get the best pool vac money can buy. Above ground pools usually have suction based cleaners simply due to the price point of the units however there are robotic pool vacs for above ground pools also!
Above Ground Pool Cleaner Reviews
This is a suction based pool vacuum from Pentair called the Kreepy Krauly Lil Shark which is designed for use in above ground pools. This vac comes with 30' of hose, in 3 foot sections, and connects directly into your skimmer, or skimmer vac plate if you have one. Designed with very few moving parts this vac should last at least a few seasons - plus it is great for chasing the kids around the pool.
A similar style suction based cleaner from Hayward is the Hayward 500 Aqua Bug pool vacuum. This cute little vac also comes in two other styles - Diver Dave and Wanda the Whale. All three models come with 32' of hose and extra hose lengths can be purchased if you find this is not long enough for your pool. Both the Pentair and Hayward versions of these cleaners will struggle to work with very small pool pumps as often found with entry level and portable pools. A self priming pool pump of at least 1/2 horsepower is required to operate these units.
This is the Zodiac Ranger suction side pool cleaner for above ground pools. This cleaner comes with 32 feet of hose lengths and a built in deflector wheel to help avoid hangups in corners and around steps. Not designed for soft wall pools, this cleaner is suitable for permanent above ground pools up to 30 feet in length. This diaphragm driven pool vac will clean the floor and walls of most above ground pools including sloped bottom above ground pools.
The Kreepy Krauly E-Z Vac above ground pool cleaner from Pentair is a suction side cleaner that comes with 32 feet of hose. This pool vac can clean any shape of above ground pool, including sloped floors, and uses a flapper for forward momentum which creates the typical pulsing noise associated with this type of cleaner. This cleaner, as with the Zodiac Ranger, require a minimum of a 3/4 horsepower pump in order to operate.
The Polaris Vac-Sweep 65 is a pressure side pool cleaner for above ground pools. It comes with 24 feet of hose and connects directly to a 1.5" return port and uses the circulation system of the pool for movement (does not require a separate booster pump like some other models of pressure side cleaners).
A pressure side above ground pool cleaner from Zodiac is the Polaris Turbo Turtle. This vacuum comes with a 28 foot hose and is suitable for pools up to 5 feet deep or less that have a minimum of a 3/4 horsepower self priming pool pump. This cleaner does not require a separate booster pump like some pressure side cleaners and connects directly to the return port of the pool.
If you have an above ground pool but want the cleaning technology of an automatic, robotic pool cleaner, then you should consider the Aquabot Pool Rover Junior Robotic as a cost effective option. Most inground robotic pool cleaners could work in an above ground pool however they simply cost too much to be suitable since they can cost nearly as much as the pool itself. This pool cleaner comes with a 40 foot long cord which is long enough for almost any size of above ground pool.
The Pool Rover S2 40 robotic pool cleaner is also featured in the inground pool cleaner section below since it is suitable for both applications. While good for smaller inground pools only, this vacuum is perfect for any above ground pool large or small. It comes with a 40 foot hose and is designed for floor and wall cover cleaning only - not a full wall and waterline cleaner. If you have an unusually large above ground pool you can also get the Pool Rover S2-50 that has a 50 for long cord.
Price will be a big determining factor when looking at pool cleaner options for your above ground pool. Both pressure side and suction side cleaners have their advantages, like their simplicity and their low cost, but robotic cleaners can operate independently of your pool circulation system. This is significant for above ground pools as the equipment, specifically the pump, is usually very light duty. Adding a 30' hose section to the suction line adds a great amount of strain onto a light duty pump motor, much like a pressure side cleaner adds a flow restriction that increases the load on the pump. The end result is that both pressure side and suction side pool cleaners can strain the pump and reduce filtration performance and longevity.
Suction Side Pool Cleaner Reviews
In the world of suction based cleaners the Hayward Navigator automatic pool cleaner needs to be at the top of the list. This is an extremely popular cleaner that has been in use, relatively unchanged, for decades. Connect this cleaner to the skimmer suction line, or wall vacuum port, and let the Navigator do the rest of the work. This unit is the concrete pool version however it also has versions for Vinyl Pool Vacs and Fiberglass Pool Vacs.
This extremely popular suction side pool vac is the Baracuda G3 which utilizes a single moving part for maximum longevity of the product. This vac uses a flapper or diaphragm that pulses when under suction vacuum. This pulsing provides the forward momentum as the cleaner randomly cleans the interior surface of the pool. This vac works well with variable speed, two speed and low speed pumps.
Similar to the Baracuda G3 is this more affordable unit, the Generic Kreepy Krauly Pool Cleaner. This budget friendly suction vac will require additional hose sections to be purchased if your pool is larger than 16x32 and also requires a minimum flow rating of 1600 GPH (25 GPM) to work which compares well to some other, more expensive models. This cleaner will not last long enough to pass down to your grandchildren but should get the job done for a few seasons at least.
Another popular suction side pool vac is the Zodiac MX8 pool cleaner. This unit is also a good choice for low speed, 2 speed and variable speed pumps running at least 20 GPM. The dual track design allows for nimble maneuvering and cleaning of the pool up to the waterline. This pool vac also has a larger suction opening than other models for larger debris and cleaning abilities.
This is the Pentair Great White inground pool cleaner. This pool vac is suitable for any type of interior pool finish including vinyl, fiberglass, pebble, plaster and most painted surfaces. With a 15" sweep for fast cleaning and custom programming to reduce hangups this is a good choice for pool owners loyal to Pentair equipment. ]
The original Kreepy Krauly by Pentair is the most popular suction side pool vac in history with over 3 million total sales. If you want a suction vac that has passed the test of time then you can not do much better than the original Kreepy Krauly. This unit is suited for all pool shapes and interior surfaces including vinyl, concrete, plaster, tile and fiberglass.
The major limitation of suction based pool cleaners is that they rely on the circulation system of the pool to operate. This means that changes in pump speeds, or changes in system pressures can cause the unit to stop working efficiently. Additionally suction based pool vacuums can struggle with getting stuck, or hung up, on various components of the pool like the main drain, ladders, steps and deep end slopes. Pools with powerful circulation systems can also influence the path of suction cleaners, specifically creating dead zones any place where return jets are pointed.
Pressure Side Pool Cleaner Reviews
This pressure side vacuum is the Polaris Vac-Sweep 360 pool cleaner. This version of the Polaris pressure side vacuum does not require a separate booster pump, which is a unique feature of this unit, and a huge cost savings compared to other pressure side pool vacuums. This unit also has the ability to vacuum walls in addition to the floor area with an easy adjustment.
This is the Pentair Kreepy Krauly Pressure-Side inground pool cleaner. Typical as per pressure side cleaners this unit requires a separate booster pump to be installed in the pump room. Usually pressure side cleaners like this are only installed on swimming pools that were specifically built with isolated return lines for this purpose. This vacuum, using pressure side power, can clean the entire pool surface in 1-3 hours.
The Polaris Vac-Sweep 3900 pressure side pool cleaner is the Polaris version that does require the use of a separate booster pump. High-flow volume bag allows for 40GPM of flow which creates a greater cleaning force than other types of pool vacuum. If your pool was built for a pressure side cleaner this is the one it was made for.
The Zodiac Polaris Vac-Sweep 165 pressure side pool cleaner is one of the more cost effective pressure side cleaners available. Best suited for vinyl or fiberglass pools, this unit can also be used on concrete pools that are not specifically rough like aged plaster. This vac is able to operate without the need for an additional booster pump which makes it a value compared to other more expensive pressure side cleaners. While the performance of a dedicated booster pump may be slightly better, this pressure side vacuum will get the pool clean with as little investment as possible.
Pressure side pool vacuum cleaners are the least popular of the three main styles of pool vac. This is not an indication of vacuum ability but more an indication of the unique plumbing configuration that these require - as well as the usual requirement of needing a second pump to operate them. In an industry where energy efficiency is becoming more and more important it can be hard to justify the electrical costs alone of booster pumps. If you have an existing pressure side vacuum that needs to be replaced you should strongly consider upgrading to the energy efficient robotic pool vacuums.
Robotic Pool Cleaner Reviews
The Hayward Tigershark robotic pool cleaner, like all robotic cleaners, operates independently on the pool circulation system meaning this vac will continue to clean the pool even if you turn off your pool pump for part of the day. This vacuum has a built in 3 hour cleaning cycle and will power down after this time to conserve energy. Suitable for cleaning floors and walls up to the waterline, this vac has a 55 foot cord and can clean pools up to 20x40' in size. This model of robotic cleaner is also available with a Hand Held Wireless Remote Control if you want maximum control and ease of use.
The newest robotic pool cleaner from Hayward is the Aquavac 500 model. This vac is designed for cleaning floors as well as walls up to the waterline and the onboard microprocessor allows for efficient cleaning cycles and custom programming. The 60 foot tangle-free swivel cord is suitable for pools up to 20x40'. You can also order this robotic pool cleaner with a Caddy Cart Included
If you are looking for an entry level robotic pool vac for cleaning only the floor of your pool then consider the Hayward SharkVac as an option. This vac is suitable for all types of interior pool finishes and does not require any replacement bags or filters - simply lift the lid and rinse the onboard filters with a garden hose. This is a very energy efficient robotic vacuum using only a small amount of energy to operate - similar to a single light bulb. It has a 50 foot cord suitable for pools up to 20x40'.
The biggest complaint with robotic pool vacuums is simply the price which is prohibitive for many pool owners. This Pool Rover S2-40 is a very cost effective entry level robotic pool cleaner that is suitable for inground pools and above ground pools. Compatible with any pool surface, plaster, vinyl or fiberglass, if you are looking for a robotic pool vac option for the price of a name brand suction cleaner then this is the one for you. It has a 40 foot long tangle-free cord that can handle pools up to 40' long under ideal circumstances since it is only designed for floor and wall cove cleaning only (not walls and waterline). If you have a large pool you can also get a similar model with a 50 foot long cord with the Pool Rover S2-50
The Aquabot Pool Rover Hybrid robotic pool cleaner is suitable for both above ground pools as well as most inground pools up to 40' long. Designed only for floor cleaning this would be an ideal cleaner for small inground pools but larger pools, especially those with deep ends, might struggle with the 41 foot long cord.
The Aquabot Junior robotic pool cleaner is another affordable, entry level automatic pool vacuum. With a cord length of 51 feet, which is longer than many robotic vacs, this unit is suitable for pools up to 20x40' and possibly larger. Compatible with vinyl liner, fiberglass or concrete pool interior surfaces. Suitable for maintenance cleaning and debris such as leaves and fine silt particles on both the floors as well as the cove of the walls - but this unit does not scrub the waterline. The Aquabot Classic version is the same unit with an adjustable handle and the ability to scrub the walls at the waterline.
This is the Maytronics Dolphin Triton 820 robotic pool cleaner. In the world of pool cleaners, Maytronics have developed a reputation among industry experts as being some of the highest quality pool vacs on the market. If you are looking for a reliable brand name unit that will clean the floor, walls and waterline, then this is an option you need to consider. Comes with an extra long 60' cord and also available in the remote controlled Triton Plus model which allows you to manually steer the vacuum. The Triton series from Dolphin comes with a caddy cart and convenient handle for lifting the vac out of the pool.
The Dolphin Nautilus robotic pool cleaner has an extra long 60 foot long tangle-free cord that is suitable for pools up to 50' long. Compatible with all types of pool interior surface, concrete, vinyl and fiberglass, this robot will clean the floor and walls up to the waterline. The Nautilus model from Dolphin is slightly more affordable than the Triton model, with a similar set of features except this unit does not have a caddy cart or a built in handle for lifting out of the pool. If lifting the robot is a concern you can look at the Triton or even upgrade to the Nautilus Plus model which has a feature that drains the water from the vac within 6 seconds making it much easier to remove it from the pool.
The Polaris F9450 robotic pool cleaner is 4 wheel drive to avoid hangups and comes with a caddy cart and a 60 foot cord for pools up to 50 feet long. With an extra large filter storage area this would be an ideal robotic vac for pools with a heavy debris load. This vac cleans floors and walls up to the waterline and has a 7 day programmable setting to configure for your specific use patterns. This 9450 model is also a great option for elderly pool owners as this robot surfaces with the touch of a button and automatically evacuates the water as you lift it for the lightest lift possible removing it from the pool. This unit replaces the 9400 model that does not have this water evacuation feature.
The 2 wheel drive version of the robotic pool cleaner from Polaris is the 9350 Sport model. The 9350 is the same as the 9300 version except that the 9350 includes the water evacuation system to make lifting the vacuum out of the water as easy as possible. The 9300 series robots all have a 60 foot long cord for pools up to 50' in length and include a caddy cart for easy transport and storage. If you want a remote control the XI series include this feature and all of the 9300 series are designed to clean the floor, walls and waterline of the pool.
The entry level robotic pool vacuum from Polaris is the Polaris 9100 2 wheel drive cleaner. This unit is designed for cleaning pool floors and wall coves (not walls or waterline) and comes with a 50 foot cord for pools up to 40' long. This vac does not come with a caddy though due to the relatively small size it does not really need one.
The Kreepy Krauly Prowler 830 robotic pool cleaner from Pentair has a 60 foot cord and comes with a wireless remote control. This vac scrubs, filters and vacuums the water as it moves about the pool following an efficiently designed logic route that will clean the average sized pool (16x32') in about 2.5 hours. Designed for cleaning of floors and wall surfaces up to the waterline, this unit also has a "cartridge full" light indicator that lets you know when you need to empty the vacuum filters. This unit comes with a caddy cart for easy storage and transportation. For the same model without the wireless remote look at the Pentair Prowler 820 version.
Some common concerns about robotic pool cleaners are whether they come with a caddy cart, the length of the operating cord and whether there is a water clearing setting to assist with lifting out of the water. Another common question is whether the vacuum can be used in a salt water pool - all pool cleaners can be used in a salt water pool however it is expected that this will have a net reduction in the longevity of the product. Even stainless steel can and will rust, especially lower grades of stainless steel, but having a salt water pool should not stop you from buying a pool cleaner. Every part of a pool is likely to experience a reduction in longevity due to salt water, at least to a small degree, and a pool cleaner is subject to this reality also. More than the salt content itself, pH outside of the ideal range is hard of pool cleaners so be sure to keep your water balanced at all times to get the maximum life out of your vacuum.
Learn About Your Pool From An Industry Expert
Learn directly from a pool and spa expert with this video tutorial series designed to look at mistakes commonly made while installing pool and spa equipment such as
pumps, filters, heaters, salt water and more. Take a look at these Installation Tips from Steve.