02.Cleaning your pool
All pools require cleaning to remove the leaves, dirt and human residue that collect in them. The kind of cleaner you need will depend on:
- The kind of pool – inground or above ground.
- The size of your pool.
- The quantity and type of leaves it collects.
- The filtration system and plumbing you have.
- Your budget.
The cheapest option is of course, to do it yourself by 'hand vacuuming'. The 'vacuum' is attached to your skimmer box to create suction and then you manually push the vacuum around the surfaces of your pool with a telescopic pole. Typically this will take between an hour and an hour and a half and you’ll need to do it once a week.
Employ a pool cleaner
Most pool shops offer cleaning and maintenances packages where a trained pool professional will come and clean your pool. They’ll also check it’s operating correctly and do any required maintenance. A regular visit may cost from $50 upwards. One-off call-outs will naturally be more expensive.
Automatic pool cleaners
There are a variety of automatic pool cleaners. Suction cleaners, often known as creepy crawlies, are the most popular and are also the cheapest. But there are also discharge/ pressure cleaners and robotic cleaners.
A Kreepy Krauly is a brand of pool cleaner which was developed in the 1970s and is still available. These days its name (or 'creepy crawly') is often used to describe all suction pool cleaners.
Suction cleaners attach via a hose to your skimmer box and use the suction created by your filtration system to suck up grime. They work by scrubbing the pool’s surface up to the waterline and picking up leaves. Most manufacturers recommend that you remove these cleaners from the pool when people are swimming. There are two kinds:
Inertia driven suction cleaners — these cleaners clean in a random pattern. While they will cover every inch of your pool, it may take some time. Some surface areas may end up being cleaned 10 times, others only once. Inertia driven cleaners work well in 'old-fashioned style' pools with curved walls and no sharp corners.
Geared suction cleaners — move in a pre-determined pattern and will clean your pool surface in the shortest time possible. They can easily get into tight corners which makes them suitable for smaller pools with lots of steps and sharp ledges. Geared cleaners have more moving parts than the random pattern models, so are likely to require more maintenance.
A suction cleaner made out of good quality plastic from a reputable brand should last for 10 to 15 years. Bear in mind that these cleaners sit in sun and chlorine for most of their working life and can clock up more than 1000km per year – so some cheaper models may not last the distance. Before you buy, make sure the model you’re interested in has a reasonable warranty period. Expect to pay upwards of $500. See our test report for more information and test results for suction cleaners.
Pressure cleaners are more powerful than suction cleaners, making them ideal for pools with a heavy leaf load. These models clean through a combination of suction and jet action. While some can be hooked up to your existing pool pump, the majority of models operate with an additional booster pump. This means they need their own separate hose connection in the pool wall.
If your pool doesn't already have one of these, you will better off looking at other options as they can be expensive to retrofit. Models that connect directly into your existing pool pump may put strain on the filtration system. This is far from ideal, so consider whether your filtration system will be able to take the extra load required.
Like geared suction cleaners, pressure cleaners can reach into tight corners. They collect everything from fine sand to rocks and leaves. This debris ends up in a filter screen or bag which will need to be emptied. These cleaners only need to run for as long as it takes to rid your pool of debris — this could be as little as half an hour, compared to up to 8 hours for a suction cleaner. Typically, you will need to use your pressure cleaner at least once a week — or more frequently if you have a high leaf/debris load.
Overall pressure cleaners are more expensive than suction cleaners. They are also likely to require more maintenance. Models that use your pool’s pump start around $1100. Those with a booster pump start around $1800.
Robotic or electric self-propelled cleaners
Robotic cleaners are good for very large pools, because they are efficient and they aren’t limited by the length of a hose. They are mainly used by commercial pool operators. Like the pressure cleaners, robotic cleaners are capable of sucking up a high leaf load.
They operate completely independently of any pool plumbing, moving thanks to their own low voltage power source. They collect debris in their own bag or body and have their own pump and built-in filter which cleans the water before returning it to the pool.
They are by far the most expensive of the three automatic pool cleaner options, starting at around $3500.