How to Choose the Best Robotic Pool Cleaner - Robo Authority

Best Robotic Pool Cleaners for 2018

Best Robotic Pool Cleaners

As the smart technology evolves the robotic pool cleaners are becoming more affordable and more efficient. You may start to consider to get one of these devices for your pool. 

Since it can be hard to pick out the best pool robot for your use case, we took a look at what makes a good robotic pool cleaner. Having put together specific criteria, we have narrowed the field down to a group of five best products currently on the market.

Keep an open mind, though, because your particular use case might be unique. What someone else considers the best robotic pool cleaner may simply not work in your situation. In this article you'll also find criteria to follow when selecting specific model for your case.

What is a Robotic Pool Cleaner?

Traditional automatic pool cleaners use your swimming pool's filter and pump, but robotic pool cleaners are much different in that respect. These newer models run on electricity and generally derive power from an attached power cord, though a very few models use either solar panels or rechargeable battery packs to get power.

Robot cleaning swimming pool

Since they generate suction power, usually through an impeller motor or other moving part, you won't have to use your pool pump and filtration system at all when running them. Computer logic allows them to move around in your pool along a preprogrammed path, which is much faster than units that would just move about randomly.

Advantages of Robotic Pool Cleaners

Robotic pool cleaners are at least as effective than manual pool cleaners, if not more so. By leaving your pool filtered and clean, a robotic unit can prevent wear and tear on your pool's filtration system parts since it won't have to deal with any of the material removed by it.

They're automatic and work unattended, though you might want to stay close by just in case. Homeowners get the benefit of a piece of equipment that can do most of the work for them, which not only saves time but gives everyone more of a chance to enjoy their pool rather than cleaning it. It could also save money if you're currently hiring someone to take care of your pool for you.

Robotic pool cleaners can also theoretically add value to a home. In the survey financial data proved that pools add a good deal of monetary value to a house. Keeping your pool nice and tidy will ensure that the value doesn't diminish.

Above Ground vs. In-Ground Robotic Pool Cleaners

While the marketing literature of many robots does seem to indicate that they work in both above ground and in-ground pools equally well, most robots have a specialty in reality. Some units might struggle with certain kinds of pools because the geometry of the two are so different.

Generally, the marketing documentation and other related materials will be open about whether the device handles above ground, in-ground or both kinds of swimming pools. For a while, many robots were more adept at cleaning in-ground pools and to some degree this is still true.

Swimming Pool

Newer units are more genuinely able to tackle either type of pool, which makes them more attractive for first-time buyers who want to make sure that their new mechanical pal will be able to tackle whichever kind of pool they have.

When in doubt, just make sure to check before ordering to prevent an unfortunate disappointment. When a company makes what they consider to be the best above ground robotic pool cleaner, they're never shy about it.

Factors to Consider Before Buying a Robotic Pool Cleaner

Before you invest in any robotic pool cleaner, you'll want to consider all of the following items and how they factor into your particular use case. 

Scheduling & Programming

Some of the robotic pool cleaner units come with timers that allow you to program in a schedule. While you can't leave them submerged indefinitely, this will certainly reduce the amount of time you spend taking the cleaner in and out of the pool.

A scheduler will also allow you to have it start automatically at specific times when it wouldn't be convenient for you to go over and do this manually.

Some of the robotic pool cleaners comes with more advanced programming options such as selecting type of cleaning (extra clean, floor only, walls only, etc.).

Programming of the robotic pool cleaner can be done on the special panel on the cleaner itself, on the remote control or the mobile app. These options depends on the specific pool cleaner model, please check what kind of control it offers before you purchase.

Cleaning Brushes

Rotating rubber or hard bristled brushes scrub off dirt and algae the best. Since brushes tend to get the most physical abuse while cleaning the pool, choosing the right ones can help to ensure your unit lasts for the long term.

Pool cleaning robot heads

Depending on the type of the robotic pool cleaner the brush type will differ. Cleaners that just simply vacuum pool floors will usually have fixed brushes. Robotic pool cleaners that clean pool floor, walls and waterline most likely will have active scrubbing brushes. That type of brush aid not only with cleaning, but also with climbing.

Weight

While the physical size of the pool cleaner doesn't matter, you'll want a lightweight unit since it will be wet when you remove it from the swimming pool. This increases weight, and if the cleaner is already heavy then this can be a nuisance.

Some of the pool cleaners have special buggy carts to help move those units around. It also beneficial to look for the units, which have a handle helping to easier remove cleaner from the water.

Four-wheel Drive & Wheel Material

Four-wheel drive wheels make it much easy to get around a pool, especially if the robot has to spend any amount of time down at the bottom.

Wide wheels made of rubber will keep the robot from slipping if the sides or bottom of your swimming pool are slick.

Electric Cord

You want to look for a robotic cleaner that features a sturdy insulated power cord that won't kink up if it climbs any surfaces. Make sure that it comes with a swivel cord to avoid cord tangling.

Climbing Ability

Quality robotic pool cleaners climb up and down the sides of your pool to clean these areas. While many struggle with stairs, some might be able to tackle these surfaces if you have a flight in the shallow end.

Sensors & Navigation

Some robots can get stuck in the corners of the pool and not figure out where they're going. The more advanced robotic pool cleaners have deflection sensors that help to orient them so they'll be able to get out of a jam if they get stuck somewhere. Quality navigation systems are vital, too, so that your robot doesn't keep running around in circles.

Cleaning Cycles

While you'll want a pool cleaner that can do the job as quickly as possible, you don't want one that will gloss over some areas. Newer cleaners come with multiple cycles that offer different levels of cleaning. These offer you a choice of how deep of a cleaning you need.

Durability

Take a moment to think about how much use you'll get out of your pool robot. If you're in charge of a campground or school that has open swim hours, then you'll get much more use out of your robot than a residential user. This means that you'll need something that can stand up to this kind of abuse.

robotic pool cleaner

Energy Efficiency

Aim for a pool robot that draws around 200-250 watt-hours. Anything more than this can really start to run your electric bill up. Some large units can burn through as much as a whole kilowatt-hour if you're not careful.

Maintenance Requirements

In most cases, you won't need many tools to keep your robotic pool cleaner in good shape. You'll probably want to make sure that you have a few wrenches and screwdrivers to tighten drive belts when they come out of alignment.

Eventually these belts will stretch so far that you will have to replace them, but regular maintenance will help to keep them running for a long time. Check to make sure that there's nothing you'll need to do beyond this and emptying the debris regularly.

Service Plans

Many units come with one, but they require you to keep the original power supply and possibly the packaging if you ever wanted to make a claim. You'll want to read over the warranty text and make sure that it covers repairing or replacing defective parts. They might not cover parts like gears that have to be regularly replaced, but these shouldn't wear out quickly after you bought the unit.

In the video below you can see quite a good overview of the additional factors to consider before you make a decision on purchasing any robotic pool cleaner:

Reviews of the Best Robotic Pool Cleaners

We took the time to sift through dozens of different machines in order to bring you the following five units, which we consider to be some of the best robotic pool cleaners currently available on the market.

The 99996403-PC, or Nautilus Plus as Dolphin's marketing literature refers to it as, offers a cartridge filtration system that's very easy to clean. Users are able to activate a spring clean-up option that makes this feature all the more useful. Depending on the size of the pool you're cleaning, it can usually do the job in under three hours. Some users report even having a clean pool in under two.

By using an onboard computer, this Dolphin model does its best to find the most efficient path to take when cleaning the pool. It can get tripped up sometimes, but this keeps it from running around in circles.

Unlike most other cleaning robots, the Nautilus Plus doesn't get flipped over or stuck in small spaces. The special rollers are capable of climbing up and down walls as well. If you have a pool that gets pollen or other particulate matter stuck on surfaces, then it can even use an advanced extra filtration network to remove these pesky specks from them.

PROS

  • Patented swiveling cable design ensures that the cord won't tangle
  • One of the faster units available today
  • Comes updated with a weekly timer
  • Robotic cleaning components expand while submerged in water

CONS

  • May leave scuff marks along the edges of the pool
  • Can't scrub spots of algae off walls
  • Might fail to clean stairs or underwater benches
  • Documentation could be more extensive

If you're into smart home integration and automatic cleaning appliances, then you'll find that the Polaris F9 series offers some of the best robotic pool cleaners for your applications. The F9550 Sport and the closely related F9450 in-ground robot are designed to work like land-based robotic vacuums. They come with remotes, schedulers and other features that take much of the planning out of the equation.

Those who are already used to a robot vacuum are already covered when it comes to the F9 series' learning curve. You won't have to pick up any new operating skills, and the designers made sure that you could easily lift the robot back out of the water. Unfortunately, there seem to be a few kinks in the power distribution system that haven't yet been worked out.

PROS

  • Offers users a motion-sensing remote control
  • Uses genuine four-wheel drive traction
  • Comes with a seven-day programmable timer
  • Filter canister comes out in a single piece for cleaning

CONS

  • Can blow dirt particles out the rear water ejector
  • Cable can get tangled up
  • May get turned upside down
  • Power adapter is fragile

The Dolphin Escape may be the best above ground pool robotic cleaner currently on the market, because it was specifically designed to work with above ground swimming pools. As a result, it really doesn't tackle in-ground pools very well, but this shouldn't be considered a mark against it. After all, that's not part of the design specification.

It can maneuver around above ground pools in a way that most other robots can't. This is largely due to the specially tracked rollers that allow it to climb the same way that an insect might when skimming around walls. Unfortunately, it doesn't always climb quite as high as users might like.

A number of software updates have helped to alleviate all these problems. SmartNav 2.0 robotic scanning drivers allow the Escape to always find the best way around the pool. Some tests indicate that it gets lost even less often than the Nautilus Plus. The light 14 lbs. weight also helps to make it easy to recommend this product. It shouldn't be hard for a single pool operator to move the robot in and out of a nearby chemical shed because it weighs much less than a single bag of chlorine.

PROS

  • Extremely large debris trap
  • Uses a special tracked system for locomotion
  • Dual scrubbing brushes blast away debris and even algae
  • Includes dual separate motors

CONS

  • Usually doesn't come with much in the way of instructions
  • May only climb up half of a solid wall
  • Can't capture fine particles or pollen
  • ​Passes over some slimy dirt

​Hayward is one of the larger names in the industry, and their line of automatic above ground pool vacuums is well-known. As a result, the TigerShark represents a long history of product testing and development. A few features really illustrate this fact.

Quick Clean technology gives the TigerShark enough of a boost that it can clean an entire pool in 90 minutes if need be, though it does require more time for a deep clean. Once you've given your pool a full deep clean, you won't have to again for a while. Simply set Hayward's invention to work and you can do 60-90 minute maintenance cleanings when necessary.

Drawing on their experience designing other pieces of pool cleaning equipment, Hayward's engineers were able to put together an efficient 24-volt electric motor that uses much less energy than many other similar models.

PROS

  • Cleans fiberglass, pebble, tile, vinyl and concrete mixture pools
  • Can clean a pool extremely fast
  • Fits well on the optional caddy

CONS

  • Remote control unit must be purchased separately
  • May miss debris while in the quicker cleaning modes
  • Weighs quite a bit
  • ​Cleaning the filter can be difficult

If nothing else, then the Solar Breeze Pool Skimmer certainly looks futuristic. The design team clearly wanted to capture the feel of solar race cars, and it seems to move almost as fast as one.

While it doesn't dive to the bottom, it works as an extremely efficient skimmer and is more autonomous than most of the competition. The fact that it functionally swims gives it the ability to outrun many other pool robots and it can often remove floating debris that would otherwise be missed.

Since it runs completely on solar power, you won't have to worry about running it too often. Those who are interested in environmental conservation would certainly do well to take a serious look at the Solar Breeze.

PROS

  • Runs on solar power (no power cord required)
  • Will run for several hours even when it doesn't have sunlight to charge the battery from
  • Removes approximately 90-95 percent of all surface debris

CONS

  • Currently doesn't climb or dive
  • Can get trapped in a loop of water from the egress jets
  • Debris cup can sometimes get jarred loose
  • Isn't as durable as some other designs

Which One is the Best Robotic Pool Cleaner?

Out of the models currently for sale, the Dolphin Nautilus Plus might be the best pool robot for most users. The unit itself is small enough to fit into a regular storage shed while still being large enough to not need repeated passes when cleaning a wall.

Since it relies on software to calculate the best path when traveling inside of a pool, it shouldn't get caught running in circles either. This makes it especially attractive to pool facilities that don't have too much time to clean their pools.

Since it comes with what the marketing executives refer to as CleverClean technology, it should be able to clean almost all the interior surfaces of a fairly large pool without too many hiccups.

Nevertheless, keep in mind that those who are looking for something to get rid of stubborn algae or have a smaller pool might want to look into other models. Those with above ground pools will certainly want to consider the Escape instead. Otherwise, most consumers will be more than happy with the Dolphin Nautilus Plus.