Automatic pool cleaners have been around for over fifty years. By now automated pool cleaning has become commonplace and there are so many options available to the pool owner. One thing all pool cleaners have in common is that vacuum they floor of your pool. Some will also clean the walls, steps, coves and other tricky areas, though they not all are equal to these more complicated tasks. We can divide automatic pool cleaners into three basic categories.
- Suction Side Pool Vacuums
- Pressure Side Pool Vacuums
- Robotic Pool Cleaners
The suction side pool vacuum was the first to come onto the market and was followed shortly after by the power side pool vacuum. Both these types of pool cleaners use the suction of the pool pump to move and suck debris from the pool surfaces. They are, however, limited in their capabilities. They follow a random path and don’t always clean very effectively, even ignoring some areas of the pool altogether. They need to be monitored as they can easily become blocked and the pipes can coil, rendering them useless. Both suction side and power side pool cleaners require regular maintenance and consume large amounts of electricity, so they can be expensive to own. While not ideal, these automatic pool vacuums have served us well for many years and have improved over time.
In the 1980’s the robotic pool cleaner made its appearance. At first, these weren’t very sophisticated machines and their price was high. This meant that robotic pool cleaners were only popular with owners of large commercial or public pools – resorts, municipalities, schools and colleges. As the technology improved and manufacturing practices made them more affordable, robotic pools have entered the domain of the home owner. There are many models offered by a variety of manufacturers with a host of different features. But how does a robotic pool cleaner actually work?
While they differ in many ways, all modern robotic pool cleaners have a few things in common. They have an electric motor (or motors) that propel them and create suction. So they work independently of the pool pump and are fully autonomous. In many ways, a robotic pool cleaner operates in the same way as the robotic vacuum cleaners that we use in our homes. They have differences, though, due to the fact that they work in a different environment.
Robotic pool cleaners plug into regular household power outlet and have a power supply unit close to the electrical outlet. The power supply converts the 120V power coming from the mains into a low voltage current (usually 24V). This makes them safe for use in water and won’t cause electrocution. From the power supply, a long cord runs to the robotic pool cleaner. The length of this cord determines what size pool the bot can be used in.
Robotic pool cleaners generally make use of super-efficient electric motors that use very little energy to create suction and provide power to propel them. Like a vacuum cleaner, the pool bot sucks debris from the pool and retains it inside the machine. Filters ensure that clean water is circulated into back into the pool. Most robotic pool cleaners have rotating brushes that dislodge algae and stubborn dirt. They are propelled by either wheels or tracks. Robotic pool cleaners that use tracks are better at climbing walls and negotiating sharp corners. Though one can also get four-wheel drive robotic cleaners that offer the same traction and mobility as those that use tracks.
The main difference between pool robots and other automatic pool cleaners, is their computerized intelligence. The level of electronic sensors and processing abilities varies greatly between the different models. The more expensive pool bots are usually more intelligent and do a better job of cleaning the pool. The robot is equipped with various sensors. Many will scan the pool and determine the most effective way to clean the pool in the least amount of time. Sophisticated models will have a memory and will constantly update their data to improve their capabilities each time they work. Other sensors help the robotic pool cleaner to recognize the waterline and will, therefore, backup and turn around instead of exiting the pool. This function also works for beach entry pools. Sensors also detect the angle of the bot in relation to the pool surface, so it knows whether it’s cleaning the walls or the floors and adapts accordingly.
Programmability is another feature that varies greatly between the different pool robot models. Most have programmable cycles so the pool owner can program the bot to clean at a time that’s convenient. Other functions include customized pool cleaning cycles. These can include cleaning cycles that set the bot to only clean the floor, the walls, or the water line. Some will have a quick cleaning mode that won’t clean the pool as intensively, but will do it in a much shorter time period.
Most robotic pool cleaners have a remote control that allow the user to move the bot manually to a certain area of the pool. This allows you to direct the pool cleaner to a particular area that may need extra cleaning. It also allows the operator to direct the bot to a convenient place from which to remove it from the pool. Phone apps are becoming more popular and these give the pool owner access to information regarding the status of their pool cleaner from anywhere and allow greater versatility over remote control functions.
While robotic cleaners are virtually hassle-free, they do require some input from the owner. The robot has to be placed into the pool and removed again. This isn’t a complicated process, you simply drop it into the pool. But care must be taken to ensure that cord doesn’t become entangled. One also needs to clean the filters after each cleaning cycle and this is also a simple process. The only real disadvantage to a robotic pool cleaner is their price. These are the most sophisticated pool cleaners around and are obviously more expensive than others. Though many see the advantage in their ease of use and superior cleaning power. They generally reduce the amount of chemicals needed because they clean and filter the water very effectively. Many look at their electric consumption as a big advantage. But this isn’t very noticeable as the pool circulation pump still needs to run to circulate the pool water. Though this is reduced when using a robotic pool cleaner.