Suction vs Robotic Pool Cleaners: Which is Best?

In the world of pool cleaning, there are two main methods: suction or robotic.

But which one is better for you?

There are pros and cons to both of these cleaning methods, but it all comes down to which one is best for you.

What is a suction pool cleaner?

Onga Hammerhead Pool Cleaner | Pools
Suction pool cleaner

A suction pool cleaner is your basic, no-frills pool cleaner. It works with the system that you already have in place—the skimmer (the opening in the side of your pool), pump, and filter.

The cleaner uses the suction from your skimmer to pull debris up from the pool floor. This type of cleaner has 3 main parts: a hose, head and footpad.

Suction pool cleaners move around the pool, sucking up dirt and debris before sending them up to the pool’s filter.

There’s no computer that records where the cleaner has been or should go next, and it doesn’t have any ability to avoid obstacles.

Because of this, if you’re not paying attention to where it is going, it can get stuck in corners, on ladders, or even on debris like large leaves.

What is a robotic pool cleaner?

Robotic pool cleaners resemble a large vacuum. They’re full of technology, and each has its own motor, filtration system and sometimes a remote control.

Robotic pool cleaners are very popular due to their efficiency and ability to clean any shape or depth of pool.

They can climb walls with no issue thanks to the rubberised tracks fitted inside them as an alternative to wheels.

The technology inside the robotic cleaner is impressive. They come equipped with built-in gyroscopes for added precision and some even have advanced mapping technology that allows them to remember the most efficient way around your pool.

Suction vs Robotic pool cleaners, what’s the difference?

robot pool cleaner | Pools

Suction pool cleaners are generally much cheaper than robotic pool cleaners, and most of the time they will be perfectly sufficient.

So is it worth the higher price tag for a robotic pool cleaner? Here are some other things to keep in mind:

Suction Pool Cleaners

Suction automatic pool cleaners connect to your skimmer line for power. If you don’t already have a dedicated suction line, it will need to be installed.

One note about this type of connection: your suction-side automatic cleaner will not operate while the main pump is running on its filter cycle.

These cleaners do not require an additional booster pump as they run on existing pump pressure and water flow through the filter system.

Many have adjustable throttle control so that you can reduce or increase the speed of your automatic cleaner depending on debris conditions in the swimming pool.

Suction side automatic pool cleaners may be the right choice for small up to medium-sized pools if you are looking for economy and simplicity in operation.

Robotic Pool Cleaners

Robotic cleaning systems use electricity rather than filtration system pressure to operate their pumps, motors and brushes.

Most robotic pool cleaners have some form of cartridge filter or bag that collects debris from your swimming pool floor and walls before returning clean water into the swimming pool through an internal discharge hose as it works its way around your swimming pool during its cleaning cycle (usually 2 – 3 hours).

Because these types of automatic cleaners are self-contained with a motorized drive system, they don’t require any special plumbing set-up other than access to electricity where they can plug into a GFCI outlet near your swimming pool equipment pad or house exterior wall (sometimes extra extension cords are required).

Robotic Pool Cleaners tend to be very efficient at vacuuming up leaves and fine particles from the surface.

Pool cleaner FAQ

How often should I use my pool cleaner?

It depends on the size of your pool, the type of pool cleaner, and the frequency with which you use it. If you have a small pool that is used heavily, you can run your cleaner for a few hours a day.

How does a pool cleaner work?

Pool cleaners are used to remove debris from your pool water so that it can stay sparkling clean. Suction cleaners use the suction power of your existing pool pump in order to pull water through their system and pick up debris like leaves and dead insects. Robotic cleaners are self-contained and powered by electricity, so they don’t require a connection to your pool’s system.

How long does it take a pool cleaner to clean the pool?

On average, it takes approximately 2 hours to clean the entire swimming pool. If you choose to run the robotic cleaner for 3 or 4 hours, it may not clean any more than it did in 2 hours, so often you’ll just be wasting power.

How do I know when my pool cleaner is not working properly?

Here are a few signs there could be an issue with your pool cleaning:
1. Your filter might not be working correctly, or the pressure may be too high.
2. Your suction pool cleaner has lost its prime. First, check that the hoses haven’t come loose at one of their ends, and then try to manually prime it by holding it upside down.
3. Check all fittings and connections for leaks, and make sure your skimmer basket is not cracked or broken.

How much is a suction pool cleaner?

The cost of a suction pool cleaner can vary greatly, depending on the model. In Australia, you can expect to pay anywhere from $100 for entry-level models up to $800 for high-end suction pool cleaners.

Can you leave a robotic pool cleaner in the pool?

It should be noted that any type of robotic pool cleaner needs to be maintained regularly. Ideally, this means one time per week, but be sure to check with your specific model. With this in mind, leaving the robotic cleaner in for extended periods is not recommended because it may cause issues with water balance or other elements that impact its performance.

Is a robotic pool cleaner worth it?

The quick answer is yes, robotic pool cleaners are worth it for convenience and energy efficiency. They are more expensive than suction pool cleaners, but they are also more energy-efficient and generally do a better job at cleaning. Plus, robotic pool cleaners can be programmed to clean your entire pool at once every week.

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Steve Kropp

Based in Melbourne, Steve's passion is vegetable gardening, and he’s been writing about it for almost 5 years. He also loves all things DIY and is always looking for a new project. When not working on his own garden projects or blogging, Steve enjoys spending time with his family, cooking meals with produce harvested from his garden, and coaching his son’s footy team.