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You know you’ll be spending much less time leaning over the edge of your pool with a scrub brush once you buy an automatic pool cleaner. But you’ll get a few other surprising benefits, too.

  • Filter wear and cleaning time is reduced when using pressure-side or robotic pool cleaners.
  • Regular use of an automatic cleaner lightens the load on your skimmer, meaning less crud for you to empty.
  • Automatic pool cleaners help disperse heated pool water more evenly than just running your filter system.
  • You can even run your pool cleaner under a pool cover, with some exceptions.




This cleaner hooks up to the return jet(s) in your pool and uses water pressure to propel itself through your pool. Pressure-side pool cleaners have wheels, a filter bag, a sweep hose, and a return-jet hose. They’re great at picking up medium and large debris.

Once installed, your pool pump pushes water through a hose to jets located underneath the pool cleaner and along the sweep hose. These concentrated streams of water work to move the cleaner along while also loosening debris and pushing it up into the filter bag. Fine particles will flow through the filter bag and get cleaned out in the pool filtration system.

Some models of pressure-side cleaners, such as those created specifically for above ground pools, do not have a filter bag. Those models rely solely on your pool’s filter system to grab debris kicked up by the automatic cleaner. If you use one of these, be vigilant about scooping out large debris with a hand skimmer so your pool skimmer won’t get clogged.

Pressure-side cleaners are available across a wide price range, with most models usually falling between $200 and $900. Premium models include features such as rubber wheels that better grip pool walls and a zippered filter bag.

While less expensive models have fewer bells and whistles, most will still get the job done. Be sure to choose a model that’s safe for use with the type of pool walls you have.


Before you choose an automatic pool cleaner, it’s important to understand swimming pool circulation. This is important because each type of automatic pool cleaner interacts with your pool circulation and filtration system a bit differently.

Keeping your pool water moving is part of what helps keep it clean. No one wants to swim in stagnant water, no matter how much chlorine you put in it. Gross. So your pool—whether above ground or inground—has a system to move water around, and keep it filtered and swimmable.

The system starts at the skimmer where water is sucked out, and ends at a jet (above ground pools) or multiple jets (inground pools) where the water is pumped back in.

The pump pulls water into your skimmer and through some pipes to your pool filter. The filter catches sediment and gunk as water passes through it. Then the pump pushes that freshly cleaned water through some more pipes and back into the pool via the return jet(s).

Ideally, you’d want to run your pool pump 24 hours a day, but that would get very expensive very quickly. The second-best option is to run it 12 hours a day, which will turn all that pool water over at least once.

The part of your pool filtration system that pulls the water out of the pool is the suction side. The part that sends clean water back into your pool is called the pressure side.

And that brings us to automatic pool cleaners.




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These powerful little machines are as cool as they are useful. They pick up debris of all sizes. Even better, they don’t attach to your pool circulation system at all, so they don’t rely on your pool filter. They run on good, old electricity.

That’s right—you plug them in, and then put them in the water. Sounds counterintuitive, right? Don’t worry, they’re built to work that way.

Robotic pool cleaners run on very low voltage, so they’re submersible. They have very long power cords that can only be plugged into ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) outlets. Those are the outlets that will automatically shut off if any electrical imbalance is detected, so you won’t get shocked.

Some models are also “double insulated,” which means they’re designed to work safely without the grounding prong plug. However, for safety’s sake, it’s best if you plug those into a GFCI outlet too.

You may have spotted solar-powered robotic cleaners on the market. Those can be more accurately described as robotic skimmers. They float around your pool gathering debris from the surface of your pool, just like hand skimming. While they won’t replace vacuuming or wall scrubbing, you may find them helpful in reducing the amount debris that sinks to your pool floor.

A robotic pool cleaner drives around your pool, scrubbing the walls and floor with little brushes and vacuuming up everything from silt to acorns. Most models will clean your pool floor and walls, while some can even scrub the water line around your pool. Because they’re not hooked into your filter system. Robotic cleaners have a filter bag or built-in cartridge for debris collection.

You’ll find a few robotic cleaners for less than $500, but most cost between $500 and $1,000. While the inexpensive models will certainly get the job done, premium models have convenient features such as waterline scrubbing, rapid water release for easy removal, remote controls, and programmable cleaning cycles.

You could spend a lot less time cleaning your pool and a lot more time enjoying it if you invested in an automatic pool cleaner. Between the three types—pressure-side, suction-side, and robotic—you’re practically guaranteed to find a model that fits your budget. Each type functions differently, so it’s worth learning a bit about how they work so you can choose the one that’s right for you.


The best option for anyone on a tight budget, this type of cleaner hooks up to your skimmer or dedicated suction line. It rolls around your pool sucking up debris, sending it through your pool’s filtration system. It will pick up mostly medium debris, but some models can be set to pick up silt and small debris too.

Once your suction-side cleaner is hooked up to your skimmer, the power of the water being sucked through it will help it amble around your pool floor. Some suction-side cleaners will also climb walls, and some have wheels, while others have rubber disks that lay flat against your pool floor.

You can usually buy a suction-side cleaner for somewhere between $100 and $400. While they cost a little less to own and operate, remember they rely on your pool filter to clean the water. This means you may find yourself spending a bit more time cleaning your filter. It could also shorten the life of your pool filter.

Of course, you’ll also need your pump running for a suction-side cleaner to work. Be sure to select the model made to work best with your pool type and wall finish.