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BEST POOL VACUUM: 5 GREAT PICKS

On a hot day, nothing beats a dip in your pool, but maintenance can be a drag. You want the best pool vacuum to make upkeep painless, yet the options are overwhelming.

If you need help selecting a pool vacuum that will fit your pool, budget and needs, read on.

WHY GET A POOL VACUUM?

The answer to, “why get a pool vacuum?” is if you don’t, you’ll soon be swimming in a green, soupy mess instead of enjoying your own personal oasis. Really, pool vacuuming isn’t an optional activity.

At the very least, you’ll need some kind of system in place to regularly remove debris and get rid of algae build-up, whether you’re planning on doing it yourself, or you’re using a pool service.

Pool vacuums come in different styles, from the 100% human-powered to a robot with more smarts than your laptop, but the idea is the same regardless of the type: using suction and a cleaning head, the vacuum collects debris and puts it somewhere you can get rid of it.

If you have no idea what pool vacuuming is or how to do it, check out this helpful how-to video.

HOW DO I KNOW WHAT KIND OF VACUUM I NEED?

If paying a pool service is out, your pool is more than 10,000 gallons or you have limited time to do your own maintenance, then an automatic pool vacuum may be worthwhile investment.

Automatic pool vacuums save you from having to hook up and clean the entire surface on your own. Instead, after the vacuum has done its work, you empty out its trap, or clean out your filter and that’s the extent of your involvement.

Pool vacuums have gotten really fancy (and some are pretty pricey), so doing some research before you drop a few hundred bucks is smart.

Before you get sticker shock, though, remember that even the most expensive cleaners will pay for themselves in a couple years when compared to the cost of hiring a pool service.

SHORTCUT TO REVIEWS

Pool Vacuum

Quality

Price

Our Rating

Barracuda G3

A+

$

Polaris Vac-Sweep 360

A+

$$

Dolphin Nautilus

A+

$$

Smartpool NC72RC

A++

$$$

Aquabot Turbo T

A

$$$$

A SEA (POOL) OF CHOICES

When trying to choose the best pool vacuum, consider how dirty your pool gets. Ask yourself some questions :

  • Is it surrounded by lots of trees that shed their leaves into the water?
  • Does it get a lot of direct sunlight and algae growth?
  • Do you have a lot of stairs that collect gunk?
  • Are you strong enough to lift something in and out of the water?

If you answered no to those, then a simpler, less expensive option may be all you need. If you had lots of yeses, then consider which products will be able to handle the mess.

There are three kinds of “automatic” pool vacuums: suction-side cleaners, pressure side cleaners, and robot cleaners, each with their pros and cons. The best fit for you depends on your budget and how much cleaning you really need to have done.

($) Suction-Side Vacuums

Move around and clean using suction from your pump and filter system.

  • PRO: These are typically the most budget-friendly, can handle large debris like leaves and rocks, don’t have many moving parts so they don’t break easily, can be left in the pool and are fairly easy to install.
  • CON: Because they depend on your pool’s built-in pump and filtration to get their cleaning done, they may have weak suction and clean poorly. They also have lots of messy-looking hoses and can slurp air.

($$) Pressure-side cleaners

Move around and clean using suction from your built-in pump and an additional booster pump.

  • PRO: They’re durable, relatively affordable, do a good job of picking up large debris like leaves and pine needles, and can be left in the pool.
  • CON: Because of their design, you have to install a separate return line to operate them, and they’re not energy efficient because of the extra booster pump.

($$$) Robotic pool cleaners

Have their own motor and pump, and don’t use your pump/filter system.

  • PRO: They do a good job of cleaning large AND small debris, they act as an additional mini water filtration system, are self-contained, very easy to install, can scrub tile walls and stairs, and are energy-efficient.
  • CON: They’re the most expensive choice and you can’t leave them in the water all the time, which is a big deal because they can be heavy.

Let’s look at some of the best offerings for each of these categories.

TOP PICKS

Zodiac Barracuda G3

This is a suction-side cleaner that works with cement, pebbled, or tiled in-ground pools.

The Good:

  • The Barracuda is the least expensive of any of our picks and has the fewest moving parts, meaning there’s less to break or have to replace.
  • Despite being a suction-side cleaner, the design of the Barracuda means it cleans well even if your pool pump doesn’t have a lot of horsepower.
  • The cleaning head is protected by a “deflector wheel,” which helps to keep the head from getting fouled up in ladders or corners.

​The Not-So-Good:

  • If you have a raised anti-vortex main drain cover, the Barracuda will often get stuck on it. Most pools are now being required by law to use raised anti-vortex drains because they’re safer for swimmers.
  • Because the hose included comes in multiple sections, even if you install it correctly it could have air leaks that keep the cleaner from working well
  • If you’re not very familiar with how your pumps and skimmers work, it can be frustrating to get the Barracuda dialled in with the proper pressure to keep it cleaning efficiently.

Polaris VacSweep 360

This is a pressure-side pool cleaner that works on all types of in-ground pools.

Polaris Vac-Sweep 360

The Good:

  • Even though it’s a pressure side cleaner, this one doesn’t require a booster pump, which is great if you were dreading having to set up an additional line. It runs off of the pool’s clean water return.
  • The Polaris captures goop in a large bag, which is a lovely feature if you’re dealing with big and small debris. The size of the bag means you don’t have to empty it as often.
  • If you have a pool with a lot of tight nooks and crannies, the Polaris has a back-up valve feature that will scoot it backwards and free itself if it gets tangled.

​The Not-So-Good:

  • Although it’s advertised as being able to clean the walls, it has a hard time getting up them. Likewise with stairs or other obstacles.
  • The filter bags need to be replaced at least every year, and they’re not inexpensive. The provided hose can also wear out quickly.
  • No booster pump saves money and energy, but it also means that this cleans less efficiently than a boosted model.

Dolphin Nautilus

This is a robotic pool vacuum recommended for in-ground pools.

Dolphin Nautilus Robotic Pool Cleaner

The Good:

  • If you want a robotic pool vacuum but don’t want to spend buckets of cash, the Nautilus might be a good choice.
  • Because it has multiple filters made for both big and small gunk, it can actually trap most of the dirt. If you have leaves and lots of sand getting into your pool, it will pick up both.
  • The Nautilus scrubs the pool surfaces with little brushes, which is great if you have a pool that collects a lot of algae. Because it can climb your pool’s walls, it can even scrub the algae off of the waterline.

​The Not-So-Good:

  • When you take it out of the water (which you have to do—can’t leave it in), you must immediately flip it upside down to keep the gunk from spilling out of the filters and getting back in the pool.
  • This robot cleans in a random pattern; sometime it will miss a spot, even if you run it multiple times.
  • If your pool has a LOT of large debris, the filters will fill up very quickly and you’ll have to clean them multiple times during a cycle.

Smartpool NC72RC

This is a robotic pool cleaner for all types of in-ground pools.

Smartpool NC72RC

The Good:

  • The NC72RC has different cleaning modes—it can do an hour “fast clean,” which primarily focuses on the bottom of the pool, or a three-hour “deep clean” that hits floor, walls and nooks. It also comes with a remote control, so you can zip it over to do a spot clean if needed.
  • Rather than screens, the goop goes into a bag, which is great if you want to go longer between emptying and cleaning.
  • Unlike some other cleaners, the NC72RC is relatively light, making it easier to put it in and take it out of the pool.

​The Not-So-Good:

  • If you buy this robot online, you’re not eligible for the manufacturer’s 2-year warranty.
  • Because of the thinness of the cord, it becomes predisposed to tangling after several uses
  • Removing the filter bag to clean it can be a little bit tricky.

Aquabot Turbo T

This is a robotic pool vacuum that works for in-ground pools of all materials except for tile.

Aquabot Turbo T

The Good:

  • The Aquabot Turbo T is full of bells and whistles. It comes with a remote control, its own caddy (which is very handy, especially if you can’t lift or move heavy things over long distances), an external timer, power washing jets and treads that help it over pool obstacles.
  • Especially if you have lots of really fine debris, the Turbo T may be a good choice because its filters are designed to handle the smallest bits of particulate matter. It can get rid of tiny stuff even on the walls because can climb and scrub.
  • It has a filter bag rather than a filter screen, which means you have to clean it less often and it more easily picks up large and small items. When you do have to take it out, it has a large handle so you can more easily grab it and lift it.

​The Not-So-Good:

  • This is the most expensive pool vacuum on our list.
  • It’s also the heaviest pool vacuum on our list.
  • There are a lot of moving parts, and if something goes wrong, replacing those parts can be very costly.
SO WHICH DO I BUY?

For overall utility, the Smartpool NC72RC comes out ahead of the others.

If you can afford it, a robotic pool vacuum is a real time-saver and the NC72RC has a good balance between price and features.

With its different cleaning modes, you can use it more or less depending on how much scrubbing your pool needs.

Because it can scrub AND vacuum, all maintenance is done in one go, which isn’t the case with the Barracuda, and it has a remote control for spot cleaning, which the Nautilus lacks.

Unlike the Polaris, NC72RC doesn’t need to be hooked into the pump, skimmer or filtration system in order to work, making setup especially easy.

Compared to the bulky Turbo T and Nautilus, the NC72RC’s low weight means that even though you have to remove it after it’s finished, it’ll be easier to get out.

And because it uses a bag rather than screens like the Nautilus, it can clean for longer and pick up bigger debris.

If a sparkling pool with minimum hassle is your goal this summer, then the Smartpool NC72RC might just be a home run.

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