Suction or Pressure Side Pool Cleaner

Suction or Pressure Side Pool Cleaner?

To answer that question it would be best to give a brief explanation of the difference between a pressure side pool cleaner and a suction side cleaner. A pressure cleaner uses the return water from a separate dedicated booster pump to propel the cleaner around the pool. A pressure cleaner has a bag on top of the cleaner and the pool’s debris is collected in the bag. A suction cleaner uses your main filtration pump to suck up debris which is then returned to your pump basket. To determine which cleaner is best for your pool let’s dig a little deeper.

Pressure Side Cleaners

polaris2803Though I believe pressure side cleaners are the better of the two options not all pool’s are equipped with a booster pump or have room to add one. Most pressure cleaners require a dedicated booster pump be installed, so if your system was built with the plumbing for a pressure side cleaner then a pressure cleaner would be right for you. If your pool was not plumbed for a pressure cleaner then there is a special cleaner called the Polaris 360 which works off of the return water of your main pool pump. Unlike the name implies a pressure cleaner does not power blast your pool surface, the cleaner actually uses your pools return water to create a suction vortex to pull debris from the pool into a bag attached on top of the cleaner. As mentioned before the pressure side cleaner requires a dedicated booster pump to push water through the cleaner to create this jet stream. The pressure side cleaner is ideal for heavy debris because of its wide throat design. The large throat design allows for large clump of leaves, large acorns and twigs to be caught into the cleaner bag without fear of clogging.

Popular Pressure Side Cleaners: Polaris, Letro, Poolvergnuegen 

Suction Cleaners

the-pool-cleaner2 (1)A suction cleaner uses your main filtration pump to suck up debris which is then returned to your pump basket. Suction cleaners are susceptible to issues of low flow, so if your filter is ¾ horsepower or lower I would suggest contacting the manufacturer to determine that your system meets the required cleaner flow rate.

A suction side cleaner is essentially a vacuum cleaner that runs off the suction power of your main pool pump. The cleaner’s hose is connected to either a dedicated suction line or directly to your skimmer. Suction cleaners are powered by a turbine which is spun by the force of pump’s suction. Suction cleaners are ideal for screened in pools or ones which mainly face sand and dirt with light leaf traffic.

Popular Suction Side Cleaners: Poolvergnuegen, Hayward, Baracuda


Our recommendation would be to go with a Pressure Side Pool Cleaner if you already are plumbed for this type of cleaner, get large debris or get low flow from your main filter pump. We suggest a suction side pool cleaner if you are not plumbed for a pressure cleaner, have a main filter pump above ¾ HP or do not get very heavy debris. If you have any questions on which type of pool cleaner is right for you we would be happy to help, just leave a comment below.

42 thoughts on “Suction or Pressure Side Pool Cleaner?

    1. Every pump and filter system has a suction and a pressure side. A suction cleaner can be hooked into the skimmer to run off your main pump. There are pressure side cleaners that can run off one of a return line, so you do not need a dedicated booster pump.

  1. Hello-
    We just bought a house with a zodiac pool, it has a CL460 cartridge filter, spectra JHPU/SHPU pump and has an energy filter. We were told the energy filter would work with the 380 and no booster pump was needed? We tried to hookup our polaris 380 to the side wall, but it appears the dedicated line doesn’t suck, just blows water out. The vac will move around the pool when installed in the side wall, it sucks up large stuff in the bag, but not sand or small debris? We tried to hook it into the skimmer, but it doesn’t move at all when we hook it up through the skimmer. What are we doing wrong? Do we need a different vacuum? Any info is appreciated as we just want to get the pool clean. TIA.

    1. The Polaris 360 is a pressure-side cleaner; it is unique from most other Polaris models because it runs off the return line instead of a dedicated booster pump system. The 380 requires a booster pump. So if the previous owner was using the cleaner and they do not have a booster system, you have the 360, not the 380.

      I’d refer to the Polaris 360 owner’s manual troubleshooting section to begin with. The troubleshooting begins on page 12.

  2. I have a vinyl liner in-ground 21000 gallon pool with one return port, a skimmer, and no drain. Pump motor is 2 hp. Which pool cleaner would be best for me?

  3. I have a new dolphin premiere doesn’t use pool system at all. Had own bags to collect what’s in pool does rocks leaves everything. So why wasn’t this one mentioned or do you not offer them

  4. Great information.
    Just ordered your pool guide ebook.

    To get the pressure up which pump should I go for? We have almost no circulation in our pool even if it cleans ok through the skimmer.

    Look forward to hear from you


  5. Matthew , I have 2 returns , would it be advisable to run the 360 as the only return , trying to get more pressure ?

  6. I just purchased a zodiac MX8 elite but could not get the correct pressure/ suction to get the recommended rotation on the wheels. I have a variable speed pump and tried adjusting the RPMs as well but could make it work. Have seen this before?

    1. The MX8 requires strong suction for it to work properly; your system may not be able to create the amount of flow rate it requires to work. If you have maxed out your RPMs and the cleaner does not respond, you may have to get a more conventional model like the Pool Cleaner.

  7. Hello Matthew,
    Unfortunately I’m stuck with a suction style cleaner (hate it). I currently have the Baracuda MX8.
    From reading your explanation above it sounds that my best option is the Polaris 360 (suction) however I can find it. Do you guys carry this cleaner?

      1. Matthew thank you for your immediate respond and the link. I was reading the specs and it says “pressure” I apologize for my ignorance I just want to double make sure It’s going to work with my system of suction. Also do you carry this in Black? It sounds like its available in black. Thank You in advance.

  8. How to robotic pool cleaners compare to these type of pool cleaners and why would I choose a robotic over them?

  9. I have tile pool. I have tried a few suction cleaners. None of them can climb out of the deep end or climb walls. The tile is too slick. Would pressure side cleaner do better?

  10. I have a fiberglass insert inground pool. it has a three return jet ports, a skimmer and a bottom drain. there is also a port that does not jet or suck water. do you know what this extra port is for? I did find a conduit stubbed outside of the concrete perimeter of the pool recently while laying a patio next to the concrete. it looks as if it would lead to that extra port.

  11. Remove pop up system. Add 2 return lines to pool. New cleaner . Dedicated suction line for cleaner
    How do I know which would be best with what someone is saying he can do for our pool. Its in bad shape.
    17 years old. Hate the pop ups. They only move dirt around. Going from plaster to pebble tec . Also have 2 suctions in bottom. Small one clogged up within the first year. Had cleaned a couple times.

  12. hello , iam working on a project for the college and i have a question, what is the flow rate of the suction side vacuum cleaner ?? on what it depends ?

    1. The suction for the suction side cleaner is produced by the main pool pump; so the flow rate is dependent on the pump ‘s HP and feet of head. if you want to figure out the feet of head of a pump system, read this guide: How Do I Calculate Feet of Head for My Pool?.

      After you figure out the feet of head of your plumbing, then you can find the make, model , and HP of your pump and use its pump flow curve to figure out the flowrate, e.g. pentair challenger flow chart

  13. We previously have used a Polaris with a booster pump but that booster has gone out and we need a new Polaris. Would the 360, which says it does not need a booster pump, work? Would I have to completely block my other four jet returns?

    1. A booster pump pushes water the same way your standard pool pump does, but instead of water flowing to your filter the booster pump’s flow is routed back to your pressure side pool cleaner. The water from the booster pump is then jetted through your cleaner, creating a venturi effect to whip up and capture debris on the pool floor.

  14. Hi Simmons,

    Thanks for sharing this nice post. My own point of view, “Poolcleaner’s 896584000020 for Concrete Pool cleaner” is best pool cleaner everr. This is the second one I owned. First one worked for many years flawlessly. This new unit is simple and easy to install and works far better than units twice its price. Thank you…

    Kayla Robey

  15. I didn’t know that not all pools are equipped for pressure side cleaners. I will have to check what my pool has been plumbed for. It’s good to know that there are alternatives if it doesn’t have it. Thanks for sharing.

  16. Matthew,

    One thing you didn’t mention about a suction side cleaner (I’ve had both suction and pressure side cleaners over the years) is that depending how it connects, a suction side cleaner may interfere with the skimmer’s normal function of collecting floating debris from the surface of the pool. As I recall, the suction side cleaner system I owned had a special valve that toggled back and forth between cleaner and skimmer functions. But that was an optional extra that didn’t come included with the basic unit.

    1. Good point, Patrick. There is a special skimmer vac plate made by Hayward that toggles between the cleaner and skimmer functions. It is Hayward part number W491R Large Skimmer Vac Plate.

      These vacuum plates are great because they prevent the user from installing and uninstalling the cleaner line. The back and forth of installation can take a toll on the cleaner, skimmer, and the user.

  17. I’ve been using a Polaris 360 pressure side pool cleaner for years and it works great. After a few years I modified my plumbing configuration so I could direct water after filtration to the 360 so it would no longer clog the little mesh cup at the junction of the 360’s hose to the pool wall. I don’t know why the original plumbers bypassed the filter for the pool cleaner but it caused that little tiny mesh filter to frequently clog. Fixed now! I also installed a valve and pressure gauge to allow me to precisely adjust the water flowing to the 360 for optimal operation.

    For the main pump I installed a very efficient Pentair Intelliflo, which saves me huge amounts of money over the original Jandy Stealth pump.

    Given how well this configuration works, I don’t know why professionals install suction side cleaners or the pressure side cleaners that require a booster pump. I get plenty of pressure with a portion of my return flow directed to the 360, and avoid the added electricity waste or cost of running a pressure side booster pump.

    1. Dan, nice work on upping your pool cleaner game; that is real ingenuity. Installers and homeowners usually prefer the traditional tried and true method of installation rather than modifying plumbing systems.

      1. Matthew, Referencing Dan G. comments (July. 2015), I have 13000 gal pool with four return jets with two skimmers, but no dedicated pool cleaner line (pressure side). I have a 3 hp variable filter pump. is it possible to convert one of four return jets as a pressure side cleaner line taking water from the outlet of filter as Dan G had done? if this is workable, i don’t need a booster pump, which is my primary objective. Plan to use Polaris 280 or 380 cleaners. thx

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