Pool cleaners review

Do automatic pool cleaners really clean your pool?
 
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01 .Introduction

Pool cleaner

Test results for seven pool cleaners, ranging in price between $582 and $1078

CHOICE tests are different. We buy the products we test — no freebies from manufacturers. Companies can't buy ads on our site and our work is funded by people like you.

You may expect that once you have purchased and installed a pool cleaner the days of scrubbing and manual cleaning have finished. However none of the tested pool cleaners claim to be able to clean a very dirty pool, so some manual work is still required.

There are three types of pool cleaner out in the market: suction, pressure and robotic. Most pool cleaners you’ll come across are suction models — they’re designed to clean hard pool surfaces such as concrete, pebble-crete, acrylic and tiled.

We subjected seven cleaners to difficult test conditions using a variety of common pool debris to see how they would cope.

Please note: this information was current as of July 2008 but is still a useful guide to today's market. 


Brands tested

  • Astral Pool Conga (A)
  • Hayward Pool Vac Ultra
  • Klever Kleena Sprinta
  • Kreepy Krauly Marathon
  • Pentair Pool Shark
  • The Pool Cleaner 2 wheel
  • Zodiac G2

(A) Discontinued, but may still be available in some stores.

What else you'll get in this report

As well as the test results for seven models, you'll get:

  • Information on the different types of pool cleaners.
  • Tips on how to choose the right cleaner.
 
 

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2 CHOICE buys

Zodiac G2

Scored 96/100 | $62596%

Good points:

• Rarely stops.
• Rarely needs supervision.
• Climbs walls readily and even onto lower steps.
• Easy to adjust
• Easy to unblock and clean.

Bad points:

• Leaves tend to float overhead instead of being scooped in.

 

Kreepy Krauly Marathon

Scored 87/100 | $83587%

Good points:

• Rarely stops.
• Rarely needs supervision.
• Easy to unblock and clean.
• Climbs wall readily.

Bad points:

• The initial assembly is complicated.
• The hose comes coiled and needs to be stretched.

 
 

Instructions

Comparison table list

  • By default ALL tested products are listed. You can select up to five items to view in a side by side comparison.
  • Additional columns can be viewed by using the Next/Previous buttons.

Using the filters

  • Use the filters to show only products that meet your specific requirements or which have the specific features you're interested in. Selecting filters automatically updates the Comparison table list.
  • The number shown in brackets represents the number of products that will be shown if you select that filter. 
  • You can view additional filters by selecting the Show more filters button.

Compare products

 
Table Allowing the user to select a number of products dependant on their filter options.
Items to compare

Select up to 5 items below.
Then click the compare button

Compare
 
Price ($)Overall ScoreEase of use score (%)Performance (%)Type of mechanismTypeSupplied itemsAvailable AccessoriesDry Weight (kg)Dimensions (LxWxH, cm)Pipe length (m)Max cleaning length (m)WarrantyContactGood PointsBad PointsBrand
                  
G26259610093InertiaSkimmer box connection, Casette diaphragm typeZodiac
Marathon835879283InertiaOscillating suction diverter, no other moving partsKreepy Krauly
2 wheel895797283GearTurbine driven geared system propelled by side wheelsThe Pool Cleaner
Pool Shark527749660GearOscillating suction diverter with gear driven direction changePentair
Pool Vac Ultra700506043GearTurbine driven system, propelled by gear driven walking shoesHayward
Sprinta799495247GearTurbine driven system, propelled by walking shoesKlever Kleena
Conga7950880InertiaOscillating suction diverter, no other moving partsAstral Pool
Compare

The Astral pool cleaner couldn't clean the pool without constant intervention and so couldn't be scored for performance. It is now discontinued, but may still be available in some stores.

Scores

The overall score is made up of:
Performance: 60%
Ease of use: 40%
Type of mechanism See What to look for for an explanation of how inertia driven and geared suction cleaners work.
Price Recommended retail as of July 2008.

How we tested

Performance We used a 55,000 L concrete pool with a 1 HP pump to power the suction cleaners. Our tester dirtied the pool using common debris such as twigs, pebbles, gumnuts, soil, sand and small and large leaves. During testing the pool was kept at a constant 22°C and the alkalinity and pH levels were kept neutral. We then ran the pool cleaner for several hours to assess how well it cleaned the pool.

If the cleaner had blockages during its cleaning time, the amount of blockages was scored. Any other stoppages not caused by blockages (such as a cleaner getting stuck or falling onto its back and having to be manually turned over) were also taken into account.

Ease of use was assessed on how easy the instructions are to understand, and how easy the cleaner is to assemble, unblock and adjust.

Control accessories

All pool cleaners should be adjustable to some degree to cope with the myriad of different pool shapes and sizes. These adjustments can be weights to adjust the hose buoyancy, a flow indicator to judge how strong the pressure is coming from the pump and a flow regulator at the skimmer box to adjust the main flow.

Deflector

Some pool cleaners are supplied with a mechanism (such as the Zodiac, Kreepy Krauly and Astral) to deflect it from the corners of a pool so the cleaner is less likely to become stuck in one place. This is useful for pools with tight corners.

Hose length

All the cleaners come supplied with a set of hoses, sometimes in one long piece and sometimes in sections that need to be joined together. Look for one that supplies enough hose to clean the length of your pool. It should have enough to reach from one end of the pool to the other, plus a metre or two. For all the tested products you can get additional hose sections.

Storage

How you store your hoses can directly impact on how well the cleaner performs. Always store hoses in straight lengths; if they are stored curled up they can keep a ‘memory’ of this shape and influence the direction the cleaner takes in the pool.

Safety

Observe commonsense precautions when using a suction pool cleaner: always turn it off when you’re clearing a blockage and remove it from the pool when people (particularly kids) are swimming.

Easy to install

You can install a pool cleaner yourself or have it installed by your local swimming pool maintenance store. We found all the models easy to install except the Kreepy Krauly, which required a little more fiddling to assemble. All of them come with hoses to attach them to the pool’s skimmer box, and all the hoses are supplied in sectioned lengths, except the Kreepy Krauly, which comes in a single length.

Once assembled and installed, the only time you should have to deal with the pool cleaner is to put it in the pool to clean it and remove it when clearing a blockage or using the pool.

Great expectations

None of the pool cleaners claims to be able to clean a very dirty pool, so you might need to clean it yourself at the beginning of each season or if you haven’t run the cleaner for a while.

In addition, regardless of how much research and design has gone into the pool cleaners, they find it difficult to deal with every situation they’re exposed to and all need a little help at times. We subjected the cleaners to difficult test conditions using a variety of common pool debris to see how they’d cope:

  • The two best cleaners, the Zodiac and the Kreepy Krauly, took a while to clean the pool but hardly required any attention to clear blockages.
  • Both The Pool Cleaner and Pentair were also good but required a little more attention to clear blockages.
  • The Hayward and Klever Kleena both had difficulty during the cleaning process due to frequent blockages. We found these last two were less likely to stick to the walls and more likely to need pulling apart when they were stopped by a blockage.

Inertia driven cleaners are claimed to take a random cleaning path and geared cleaners a designed one. However, in our test two of the best cleaners, the Zodiac (inertia) and The Pool Cleaner (geared), both had a habit of patrolling the same areas over and over. The pool cleaner tends to follow the direction of the hose attached to the skimmer box and you might need to intervene if you notice it continually moving over the same area.

If your pool has steps, only the Zodiac managed to climb the lower pool steps and clean them.

Both the Zodiac and Hayward do not recommend use with a pool cover. The The Pool Cleaner, Klever Kleena, Kreepy Krauly and Pentair say that their cleaners should operate without issue in a pool with a pool cover.

There are three types of pool cleaner out in the market:

  • suction
  • pressure
  • robotic

Most pool cleaners you’ll come across are suction models — they’re the most visible in the market, cost less than other types and are easy to install. They’re all designed to clean hard pool surfaces such as concrete, pebble, acrylic and tiled.

Suction cleaners are usually fixed by a hose to the pool’s skimmer box, which filters the leaves, and are propelled by the force of water running from the leaf filter to the pool pump. The design of the cleaner’s head and surround (which ranges from futuristic to bug-like) is what makes or breaks the performance of a pool cleaner, but unfortunately you can’t tell how well it will work by looking at it.

The tested pool cleaners come in two main types, which both use suction to clean as well as to stick to the pool walls. One type works by stopping the flow of water and starting it again, making a pulsing action. This action can be provided by a diaphragm, ball or hammer movement in the head of the cleaner; these are called inertia-driven cleaners. The second type has gears that funnel water into a drive that propels the feet or wheels.

Pressure cleaners also work with the pool pump, using a combination of suction and jet action; while robotic cleaners, which are electric and self-propelled, function independently of the pool pump system.

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