Automatic Pool Cleaners

Note: A newer and more up-to-date version of this article can be found here.


So you’re looking for a new pool cleaner?

When you’re looking for a new automatic pool cleaner, there are a few things to consider when deciding between pressure, suction, and robotic pool cleaners. All types will get the job done, but each provides their own advantages.

Before discussing any of the cleaners, it is important to note that between pressure and suction cleaners, most pools are only plumbed to be compatible with one or the other. The first step to determining what cleaner you should be in the market for figuring out what is compatible with your system.  Robotic cleaners are not tied into your system, and are therefore compatible with any pool.

Pressure Cleaners

As the name suggests, pressure cleaners use water pressure provided from a return line in the pool to push debris into a filter bag attached to the pool cleaner. The advantage of using this filter bag is that debris is not transferred into your pool equipment, and bigger debris is more easily collected (relative to suction or robotic cleaners). This can significantly reduce the debris load on the filter and prolong the life of your equipment.

Pressure cleaners are typically the second most expensive option behind robotic cleaners, and require you to manually clean out your filter bag on an as-needed basis. If prolonging the life of your equipment is a priority, but you don’t want to spend the money on a robotic cleaner, a pressure cleaner is what you should be in the market for.


Buy this if…
Your pool is only compatible with a pressure cleaner, you want to reduce your filter load, you have large debris like leaves, and/or you don’t want to spend the money for a robotic cleaner.

Suction Cleaners

Suction cleaners are the cheapest option of the three types of automatic pool cleaners. These cleaners rely on the suction created by your pump to move around the pool and collect debris. The debris is then transferred through your system until the filter or filter basket removes them.

Suction cleaners are good at collecting finer dirt because the filter is better at removing this than a filter bag on a pressure cleaner. Bigger debris sometimes creates issues though. Rocks, nuts, leaves, or branches may get stuck in the cleaner, preventing the cleaner from properly traversing the pool.

Depending on where the debris is, cleaner parts may be damaged or water flow may be inhibited, preventing the pool from being effectively cleaned.


Buy this if…
Your pool is only compatible with a suction cleaner, you get a lot of finer dust and debris in the pool, and/or you want a cheaper automatic cleaner option.

Robotic Cleaners

Robotic cleaners are the most compatible and highest quality option you can take advantage of. These cleaners run off a low voltage motor that is powered by plugging into a GFCI outlet. These outlets can sense any interruptions in the flow of electricity and shut themselves off if a problem is sensed, therefore making them ideal for outdoor use. Robotic cleaners are not connected to your pool in any way, and any debris that is picked up is stored in a filter bag inside the cleaner. These bags need to be cleaned out periodically to ensure optimal performance.

Because of the separate filter, robotic cleaners prevent your pool filter from having to deal with much of the debris in the pool. Just like a pressure cleaner, this prolongs the life of your equipment.

Robotic cleaners like the popular Dolphin cleaner by Maytronics, contain a filter bag that is capable of filtering out particles as fine as D.E. filters do, so you can count on a clean pool.


Buy this if…
You want to reduce the load on your pool equipment and cost is no object when looking to keep your pool clean.