I’m not saying I’m old or anything, but I remember when swimming pools didn’t have automatic pool cleaners. At that time I had in-ground pool maintenance routes and was somewhat threatened when people started to buy them for their pools. It didn’t take long to realize that auto cleaners were no threat to regular professional maintenance, but nonetheless they were here to stay.
Automatic pool cleaners haven’t changed much since, but they did go through some bumps and turns. For a time there was a battle between the suction type and the pressure cleaners. The suction type won. Polaris had a great cleaner early on. It was the best for picking up lots of leaves and larger debris, but was really pricey as it had to have its own pump and a separate water line plumbed into the pool. They tried to make a cheaper version and even went for a suction one, but they never worked as well. There was also the introduction of the robotic pool cleaners a little later. These are kind of neat, but have always been too expensive to become popular in the market.
Today’s auto pool cleaner market is almost the same as it was in the beginning with the exception of the added robotic types. Every year a ton of new makes and models and promises come out and most of them don’t last long. They are just crappy versions of the tried designs and usually come with stupid bells and whistles that rarely do what they claim. OK, I may be a little cynical about this, but you would be too if you had to deal with the constant influx of promises that are never realized along with all the discontinued models.
Then Came Auto Cleaners Made for Above Ground Pools
Like most things in the swimming pool industry, automatic cleaners for above grounds came out a little later. Also like most things, the above ground auto cleaner was (and still is) a little cheaper both in quality and price than the auto cleaners for in-ground pools. There weren’t as many options for the above ground buyer, as most retailers would have just one or two cleaners available to purchase with the pool package. Memory lane alert – back in the eighties Recreational Factory Warehouse sold a pressure side auto cleaner with their pools. It was called a Manta and although it looked really cool and sleek, it didn’t work well at all. Back then a fellow
installer, Steve, once said, “Poor Manta. It moves all around the bottom of the pool trying desperately to pick something up, but it can’t.” I still laugh when I think about the Manta. It was a piece of garbage, but they sold thousands of them.
Today, the above ground pool cleaner market is almost the same as it was in the beginning. You go to a local above ground retailer and they’ll have one auto cleaner available with the package and you’ll either get that one or not get a cleaner at all. The Internet has improved things a bit as some retail sites will give you a couple of options for different ones. Also since you’re already on the Internet, you can research the different models to help you decide. Mostly though, above ground pool buyers don’t spend much brainpower on getting an auto cleaner as there are too many other decisions to make when purchasing the pool and equipment.
My Opinion on Auto Pool Cleaners for Above Grounds
Here’s a typical Q & A I regularly have with customers. Feel free to add an accent while reading the questions.
- “What’s an auto cleaner?”
Yep, I get that one so I might as well answer that here too. An automatic pool cleaner is a device that attaches to your pool’s skimmer and uses the suction of the pump to move around the bottom of the pool to suck up debris in order to keep the pool clean.
- “May I swim while it’s in the pool?”
Yes, you can, but most people take theirs out of the pool when they are swimming.
- “Will I still have to clean the pool manuallly?”
Most likely, yes. Auto cleaners can do a nice job keeping the pool clean, but they usually don’t keep it spotless. You’ll have to vacuum it yourself.
- “I’m getting steps for my pool. Will the cleaner get stuck at the steps?”
Often auto cleaners will get caught on or around the pool steps or ladders. Though, there are adjustments that you can make to help with that.
- “Do they have warranties?”
Yes, of course. The warranties are usually between one to three years.
- “Do they work very well?”
The average above ground auto cleaner will work pretty well for at least the first year. Keep in mind that they only cost between $80 and $130. So, don’t expect it to be the Second Coming or anything.
- “How much are they?”
When you buy them separately they are about $80 to $130. A lot of the time they are part of an upgraded package when you get your pool, so it can be hard to tell what you actually pay for it.
- “Do you think I should get one?”
I’m not really certain. So, I’ll put it to you this way. I would say only get one if your expectations are low. This device will only help keep your pool clean. So, if you think it means you no longer have to clean your pool manually, you’ll be disappointed.
- “Are they easy to install?”
Yes. In the world of installations, auto cleaners are very easy. Plus they almost all come with an instructional DVD.
- “OK, which one should I get?”
Personally, I don’t think very highly of auto cleaners for above ground pools. There are tons of them manufactured every year and then you never see them again. Also, bigger retailers will have some obscure cleaner that no one has ever heard of for a good price with the package. They are hit and miss as to how well they work. It’s been my observation that they all work about equally well which is usually not great. If you have a choice I’d say get the Aqua Bug by Hayward. It’s probably only marginally better than the others, but that design and model have been around for a while.
Automatic pool cleaners for above ground pools are not built to last like the ones made for in-ground pools. And the price difference reflects this as they are about one third the cost of an in-ground cleaner. There are now some robotic cleaners for above grounds and I have had limited feedback on them as they too are more expensive so I haven’t seen many here in Central Florida. The few reviews I have gotten on them have been mixed.
There is another advantage to getting an auto cleaner for above grounds and that is it improves circulation. Above ground swimming pools typically have a skimmer and only one return line which is right next to the skimmer (inlet). Because of this, some of the bigger pools can have circulation issues. Having an auto cleaner will help with circulation a lot because the cleaner is moving all over the pool bottom sucking up water and sending it through the filter. This is something to keep in mind if you have a bigger pool and are having some algae issues.
Overall, I’m not a fan of auto cleaners for above grounds, but they are usually less than a hundred bucks, though, so it may be worth it to see if you’ll like one. Some people love their cleaners.