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The 5 Best Automatic Pool Cleaners (Vacuums)

Let’s not kid ourselves, no one likes cleaning. It’s boring, takes a lot of effort, and uses way too much of our time. Pool cleaning is no different. 

Fortunately, automatic pool cleaners make your life easier. These pool vacuums do the work for you so you can focus on more important things in your life.

Let’s talk about the best automatic pool cleaners or pool vacuums available right now, and how to pick one that works for you.

Our Picks For Best Pool Cleaners

We looked high and low for the best pool vacuums across numerous categories, narrowing it down to just a select few.

Best Overall (Recommended)

Dolphin Nautilus CC Plus Robotic...
Dolphin Nautilus CC Plus Robotic...
  • Hello, free time! Let the Dolphin Nautilus CC Plus...
  • The clean you need without the hassle. The...
  • Ditch the pumps and hose. Unlike the energy hogs...

Best On A Budget

VINGLI Pool Vacuum Cleaner...
VINGLI Pool Vacuum Cleaner...
  • EASY TO SET UP & EFFICIENT CLEANNING & SUPER...
  • WARM TIPS: Please notice that this pool cleaner...
  • GREAT SUCTION POWER & CAN'T STUCK: This automatic...

Best For Small Pools

XtremepowerUS Premium Automatic...
XtremepowerUS Premium Automatic...
  • 10 hoses included for up to 30' pool. Ideal for...
  • Require at least a 1 hp swimming pool pump or 1600...
  • No tools required and no electricity needed;...

Best For Large Pools

Dolphin Nautilus CC Plus Robotic...
Dolphin Nautilus CC Plus Robotic...
  • Hello, free time! Let the Dolphin Nautilus CC Plus...
  • The clean you need without the hassle. The...
  • Ditch the pumps and hose. Unlike the energy hogs...

Best Premium Pick

DOLPHIN Premier Robotic Pool...
DOLPHIN Premier Robotic Pool...
  • Drop and go. Easy to use, single button plug and...
  • CleverClean delivers a smart and efficient clean...
  • Powerful, dual scrubbing brushes forcefully attack...

Are Automatic Pool Cleaners Worth It?

Here’s a quick breakdown of the pros and cons:

Pros:

Cons

  • Bulky and take up storage space
  • Can be expensive and spike your monthly maintenance costs
  • Can sometimes get jammed/stuck/clogged

Types Of Pool Cleaners (Vacuums)

We already touched on the different types of automatic pool cleaners, so let’s talk about the key differences and why you might choose one over the other.

Suction-Side Pool Cleaners

Zodiac Baracuda G3 W03000 Advanced...
Zodiac Baracuda G3 W03000 Advanced...
  • Quiet, powerful suction cleaner; works with...
  • Devours small and medium-sized debris and cleans...
  • FlowKeeper Valve automatically regulates water...

Suction-side automatic pool cleaners use your existing equipment to keep the pool clean. They’re ideal for pools with low amounts of foliage, and they excel at sucking up fine dirt from the pool.

Suction-side cleaners can be hooked up 2 different ways.

The first way is through a dedicated suction line that’s been installed as a port on your pool wall. If your pool doesn’t have this port, the other way you can hook it up is through the pool’s skimmer.

Take off the skimmer lid, remove the basket, and hook up the vacuum’s hose to the suction hole in the skimmer. These cleaners include various adapters so you shouldn’t have any problems connecting it this way. The hose then runs out the opening of the skimmer and into the pool where it connects to the vacuum.

An in-line leaf canister can also be connected to this cleaner between the hoses. This helps prevent large debris like leaves and twigs from entering the system and clogging the pool pump.

Pros:

  • Cheapest automatic pool cleaner. They range from $150 all the way up to $500. Expect to pay around $300 for it
  • Easy to hook up using the pool’s existing suction line
  • Good at sucking up fine dirt and light amounts of foliage, and with fewer moving parts, less repairs are needed

Cons:

  • Not ideal if your pool gets heavy foliage, as leaves will clog the system unless you use an in-line leaf canister
  • Expensive operating costs as the pump must be run to create the suction force (it also requires A LOT of suction)
  • Won’t scrub down the pool walls, leading to a dull pool finish

Pressure-Side Pool Cleaners

Zodiac F1 Polaris Vac-Sweep 360...
Zodiac F1 Polaris Vac-Sweep 360...
  • Powered by triple jets and advanced cleaning...
  • Works in all in-ground pools of any size and...
  • Sweeps, scrubs, and vacuums the bottom and walls...

Pressure-side automatic pool cleaners require a dedicated booster pump to operate. This pump is set up with your pool equipment and a hose is run from it to the automatic cleaner.

The booster pump pushes water through the hose which creates suction underneath the unit. Debris is then sucked up and caught in a bag or basket/canister (depending on the model).

Some pressure-side pool cleaners also include scrub brushes on the front of the unit. These brushes provide a thorough cleaning of the pool’s surface so you don’t have to brush down the pool walls manually.

Pros:

  • Better all-around automatic cleaner than the suction-side models and ideal for high-foliage pools. Also less likely to clog and will prolong your pool filter’s life
  • Consistent suction force allows for fast cleaning of the pool, and brushes on the unit clean the pool walls
  • Automated to turn itself on and off, and can also be programmed for customized cleaning

Cons:

  • Requires an extra pump be installed into your pool system
  • Booster pump is pricey, costing $350 on average
  • Pressure-side cleaner is a lot more expensive than a suction-side unit, costing anywhere from $200 to $900

Robotic Pool Cleaners

Dolphin Nautilus CC Plus Robotic...
Dolphin Nautilus CC Plus Robotic...
  • Hello, free time! Let the Dolphin Nautilus CC Plus...
  • The clean you need without the hassle. The...
  • Ditch the pumps and hose. Unlike the energy hogs...

Robotic automatic pool cleaners are standalone units which can be used with any type of pool, and don’t rely on the use of any other pool equipment. 

Unlike suction-side and pressure-side cleaners, they don’t use your pool pump or a dedicated booster pump. Instead, robotic cleaners have their own motor/pump built directly into the unit.

Self-powered, all it requires is to be plugged into a power outlet. The unit makes its way around the pool, inhaling debris which is caught in a filtered basket.

Pros:

  • Independent operation from your pump and pool system
  • Can clean a pool in under 1 hour
  • Has pre-programmed cleaning patterns (ie. only the floor, only the walls) and will climb to the surface when finished
  • Has built in scrubbers to brush down surfaces
  • Low operating costs, as it only requires electricity rather than running your entire system
  • Great at picking up fine debris, including other contaminants like insects and dead algae

Cons:

  • Most expensive automatic pool cleaner ranging between $500 and $1600 for a residential pool
  • Distance it can travel is limited by power cord length
  • Tracks and wheels of the unit can get jammed by heavy debris in the pool

Note: You can also buy manual pool cleaners (manual pool vacuums) which are simply made up of a vacuum head attached to a telescopic pole. They’re much cheaper than automatic cleaners but they also require far more time and energy to get the job done.

Features You Need To Consider

Now let’s talk about the most important features to consider when it comes to choosing an automatic pool vacuum.

Suction Strength

The stronger the suction on the automatic cleaner, the larger the amount of debris it can pick up off the floor of the pool.

Of course, your choice will also depend on how much debris your pool sees in the first place. Some backyard have a ton of trees/leaves, bushes, and other plant life that can blow into the pool, while others have sparse amounts. 

In addition, dirt is another thing that gets into the pool quite frequently, so you’ll need something with strong enough suction to pick it all up.

Suction-side vacuums are good for very fine debris and minimal foliage, but a heavier polluted pool would benefit more from a pressure-side or robotic cleaner.

Brush Material

Some pressure-side and robotic models will include brushes on the front of the unit. This helps scrub down the pool walls so you don’t have to. 

While it’s an excellent feature (and time saver), you need to be sure that the brushes on the vacuum won’t damage your pool surface

Many of them come with an array of soft rubber blades, which help protect the pool’s finish. But if you have a vinyl liner pool, you need to pay particular attention to this area of the cleaner, as some brushes can be too harsh and puncture the liner of the pool.

Cleaning Coverage

Coverage from automatic pool vacuums is usually pretty good, but as with anything automated, it’s not always going to work flawlessly. 

If you have ladders or steps, it might be harder for the cleaner to get into these areas, as they’re designed to cover open areas like the floor and walls, where leaves and other debris are more commonly found.

In the case of robotic cleaners, you’re also at the mercy of the power cord they come with. If you have a large pool, you may need to run an extension cord so the unit can fully make its way around the pool.

Dolphin Nautilus CC Plus Robotic...
Dolphin Nautilus CC Plus Robotic...
  • Hello, free time! Let the Dolphin Nautilus CC Plus...
  • The clean you need without the hassle. The...
  • Ditch the pumps and hose. Unlike the energy hogs...

Also, at times, automatic vacuums can get stuck but it’s usually due to an obstruction such as a ladder, steps, or the main drain(s).

Bag/Cartridge Compatibility

For robotic pool cleaners, they’ll either use a bag filter, cartridge filter, or in some cases, both.

Cartridges are becoming more prevalent as the go-to filter. As water passes through the unit, the cartridge filters out any pollutants it can, down to 2 microns for really clean water.

Once the pool is clean, you simply remove the filters and hose them down. Eventually they’ll need to be replaced, but you can prolong their life simply by rinsing them off after each use.

Hose/Cord Length

You’ll need to ensure the cleaner has an adequate amount of either hose or power cord, so that it can reach the furthest deepest areas of the pool

As mentioned earlier, if using a robotic cleaner in a large pool, you may need to run an extension cord depending on how far away the power outlet is.

Many of these robotic models also include an anti-tangle/swivel technology in the cord, so the unit can move freely at all times.

Cleaner Weight

While automatic pool vacuums aren’t particularly heavy, if you have limited mobility it could pose a bit of a problem getting the unit out of the pool.

Many of them are under the 20 lb. mark, but the lighter the weight, the easier it will be to pull the cleaner out of the water.

Other Things To Consider

Let’s finish on a few final things you should take into consideration when deciding on the best pool cleaners.

Pool Sizes And Shapes

The size and shape of your pool can be a determining factor in the type of automated cleaner you go for.

In general, large pools benefit the most from a robotic cleaner. This is because they do a fantastic job covering the walls and floors, no matter what the depth is.

Smaller pools can get by with a suction-side or pressure-side cleaner, but it also depends on how much debris your pool sees.

As for the shape of the pool, most cleaners adapt no matter the shape. However, traditional shapes such as rectangles can be troublesome as the unit has a harder time getting into corners, whereas a lagoon style, freeform pool is easier for the machine to move on.

Pool Types And Finishes

You need to be careful when choosing a vacuum that will be compatible with your pool’s finish. 

For the most part, all 3 cleaners are designed to work with concrete pool finishes (plaster, aggregate, tile) and fiberglass pool finishes. 

Where you have to be careful is with vinyl liner pools. Their vinyl liner is very delicate so ensure that the cleaner you choose is compatible, and won’t damage or put a hole in your pool.

Inground Vs Above Ground Pools

You can use any type of automatic pool vacuum with an above ground pool

The only differences you’ll find are that you won’t require as much suction power, and you won’t have any problems when it comes to the reach of the unit.

Both of these are due to the shallow nature of above ground pools

Our Top Pick

Dolphin Nautilus CC Plus Robotic...
Dolphin Nautilus CC Plus Robotic...
  • Hello, free time! Let the Dolphin Nautilus CC Plus...
  • The clean you need without the hassle. The...
  • Ditch the pumps and hose. Unlike the energy hogs...

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