How to Choose a Pool Cleaner

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Spring ushers in new blossoms, warmer temperatures, and the start of pool season. To get maximum enjoyment from your pool, it’s important to keep it clean. An automatic cleaner (also referred to as a pool vacuum) allows you to spend more time splashing around in your pool rather than on the deck cleaning it. So before the pool season gets underway, make sure your pool cleaner is working or consider purchasing a newer model to keep your pool’s surfaces thoroughly clean.

If you’re in the market to buy a new pool cleaner, there are three questions you should consider when deciding which pool cleaner is best for you:

  • What kind of pool do you have?
  • What type of dirt and debris do you have?
  • How much maintenance is involved?

How to Choose a Pool Cleaner: Three Main Pool Cleaner Options

Pressure Cleaners

Pressure-side cleaners connect to the pool via a dedicated return line and may require a separate booster pump to operate. Debris is captured in an attached filter bag — keeping it out of your pool’s filtration system and prolonging the life of your pool filter. If your pool system was built with the appropriate plumbing to support a pressure-side cleaner, then a pressure cleaner would be an ideal choice for you.

Good for general cleaning, pressure-side cleaners feature a large throat for exceptional removal of big debris such as leaves, twigs, acorns and pebbles. Plus, pressure cleaners move around distributing clean, and heated water throughout the pool, reducing cold spots. Overall, pressure cleaners are easy to use and simply require routine emptying of the debris bag to maintain effective performance.

As the creators of the first three-wheeled pressure cleaner on the market over 40 years ago, Polaris continues to lead this category with top-performing cleaners like the Polaris Quattro Sport, which capably collects both fine and large debris with its innovative Dual-Stage Filtration and actively scrubs away stuck-on debris with its unique brush design.

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Suction Cleaners

Attached through the skimmer or dedicated suction line, a suction-side pool cleaner sucks up debris, capturing it in the leaf catcher, skimmer basket, or pump filter basket. Designed for efficiency, suction cleaners operate quietly while your pool system is running (when swimmers are out of the water).

Suction cleaners do a fantastic job at collecting fine debris like sand and algae. Some models, like the Zodiac MX8™ Elite even feature cyclonic scrubbing brushes to remove stuck-on debris from the floors, walls and tile line. With just a bit of maintenance to empty the skimmer and pump filter basket regularly, a suction cleaner may be the right choice for you.

Robotic Cleaners

Unlike pressure and suction cleaners, robotic cleaners aren’t powered by your pool’s filtration system and can be used with any type of in-ground pool. Just plug it in to an outdoor GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupter) electrical outlet, place it in the pool, and the robotic cleaner goes to work drawing in everything from medium debris to fine particles — like algae, pollen, sand, leaves and pebbles — and collecting it in an easy-to-clean internal canister.

Some robotic cleaners even provide premium features like custom cleaning cycles while maximizing energy efficiency and pool cleaning coverage for quicker cleaning times. A robotic cleaner cleans for just pennies a day, consuming less energy than other types of cleaners, however, they do require a slightly higher level of hands-on interaction — needing to be removed from the pool after each use and regular debris removal from the canister.

Popular models by Polaris® include the 7240 Sport, which offers lightweight handling, Cyclonic Vacuum technology that captures debris without losing suction throughout the cleaning cycle, and features an Easy Clean Filter Canister with a transparent lid so you can see when it’s full. A more advanced option is the Polaris ALPHA iQ+, a best-in-class 4-wheel-drive robotic cleaner with SMART cleaning technologies that learn your pool and that can be controlled by the intuitive iAquaLink™ mobile app via a WiFi connection — allowing you to clean, monitor, schedule, and troubleshoot anytime, anywhere.

Whichever type of automatic pool cleaner you wind up with, start using it when you first open the pool and stick to a routine cleaning schedule to ensure that your pool water remains clear and swim-ready. Think of it as being proactive and preventing potential problems.

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Coke vs. cola, spa vs. hot tub: these are among the many soft lines in the sand that we use to describe similar-yet-distinctive things. And like how “soda” and “pop” can mean both Coke and Pepsi, people use the words “spa,” “hot tub” and “Jacuzzis®” interchangeably.

So what sets them apart? Which word describes what you’re looking for best? Read on to learn the difference between a spa and a hot tub, and which one’s a better fit for your backyard.

The Real Question: Build or Buy?

Both hot tubs and spas are hydrotherapeutic, using heat and water jets to create relaxing, pleasurable experiences. The biggest difference between a spa and a hot tub is in their construction: spas are built on site, whereas hot tubs are bought as prefabricated units.


swimming pool with spa

These in-ground units are typically built as permanent improvements to existing backyard pools. Since they’re constructed from scratch in your backyard—from excavation to steel/rebar installation, to pouring the spa surface and applying a finish—the building process of a spa connected to a new pool will typically take several weeks, depending on the timeline for the pool build. With these custom builds, more space is required in a backyard for the in-ground spa, the connection pool and the equipment pad.

Because they’re built specifically for a homeowner, spas give people the freedom and flexibility to customize the design tailored to their preferred aesthetic. From shape and size to LED lighting, to customized jet placement, overflow edges and other custom design elements, spas can be built to owners’ exact specifications. And, because they’re built in conjunction with a pool, spas use the same equipment pad as an in-ground pool, including the pool heater, pump, and filtration systems.

Another differentiator is the intended purpose of a spa. It’s usually built as a complementary feature to further enhance the enjoyment of a residential pool. Swimmers can easily hop from the pool right into a connected spa to warm up and relax after a swim.

Hot tubs

Hot tub

Since these units are prefabricated, all homeowners need to do is buy and install them. One could easily go to a nearby pool supply store, buy a hot tub unit, and have it installed in their backyard that same day. Because of their prefab nature, hot tubs are by definition above-ground and freestanding. All hot tub components are built into the hot tub “cabinet” or housing, including the plumbing and electrical systems. This allows convenience at a lower cost and takes up less space, but does sacrifice durability and customization.

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Since hot tubs are independent from pools and can typically be added at less expense than a pool, they are especially popular with homeowners who are not yet ready to invest in building an in-ground pool or who may not have the space for a pool. It isn’t uncommon for a hot tub to be the main feature for backyard entertainment.

But what about Jacuzzis? Allow us to explain.

Wait, then What’s a Jacuzzi®?

Saying “Jacuzzi vs. hot tub” is a bit redundant. Jacuzzi is to a hot tub as Kleenex is to tissue.

Put simply, a Jacuzzi is a brand of hot tub. The Jacuzzi brand first paved the way for the home hydrotherapy market and delivered it to the masses.

Here’s a little history for you: Claudio Jacuzzi adapted his family’s agricultural water pump technology to fit a residential-sized tub to treat his child’s juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. The hot water and jet streams soothed his child’s aching joints. From there, he developed it into a product for sale. Given the opportunity to place the Jacuzzi-brand hot tubs as a prize on the 1950s television show Queen for a Day, the hot tub entered the American cultural lexicon as a symbol of comfort and luxury.

Today, there are many other brands of hot tubs, although in conversation people often refer to any hot tub as a “Jacuzzi.”

What Fits You Best?

So, how do you decide between a spa vs. hot tub? It all comes down to your lifestyle. Whether you prefer a permanent spa that complements your in-ground pool or a less expensive, separate above-ground system offering the same hydrotherapy benefits, both options will help enhance your backyard.

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