Cleaning the swimming pool is a thankless task, but it’s also a necessary one. Even if you use a pool cover to keep out falling leaves or dead insects, dirt and grime is still going to accumulate in your pool.
Keeping your pool clean used to be a time-consuming endeavor that consumed a good portion of your afternoon once a week. Fortunately, there’s a better way to do it.
This is where a robotic pool cleaner comes in handy. Robotic pool cleaners can turn a messy, frustrating job into something relatively simple and hassle-free. More expensive robots can even work autonomously, freeing you to take care of more important matters.
Even with an automatic robot, cleaning our your pool might still take the better part of an afternoon. But you’re not going to be the one to do it, and that makes all the difference in the world.
Things to Consider
While pool cleaners designed for in-ground pools will often work just as well in above-ground pools, the reverse is frequently not the case. A lot of it comes down to what is powering the robotic cleaner. A lot of in-ground pool cleaners connect directly to the filtration system, while above-ground pool cleaners often connect to the filter pump. Here are some things you should keep in mind while you’re shopping.
1. Filter Pump Compatibility
A lot of high-end robotic pool cleaners function independently of the pool’s water pump or filtration system. If you’re looking to buy a pool cleaner on a budget, however, you need to pay attention to its filter pump requirements. Robotic cleaners that connect directly to the filter pump often require a specific flow rate in order to function properly.
2. Material compatibility
Pool cleaners use different tools in order to clean your pool. Some depend on suction and function primarily as filters. Others use vacuums to remove dirt and grime, while others still remove buildup through rotating bristles. More expensive models will often use multiple methods to clean your pool. That said, not all pool cleaners work with all types of pools.
3. Programmable Timers
This is really more of a convenience than a necessity, but it’s a pretty big convenience. A programmable timer means you don’t have to babysit or supersize the robot as it cleans – simply set it to work and retrieve it later when you have the time.
4. Good Sensors
Some robotic pool cleaners have a tendency to get stuck in the corners of the pool because their sensors aren’t good enough to effectively navigate these awkward angles. Pool cleaners that have the right sensors can avoid these annoying obstacles, meaning less frustration for you.
5. Pool Size
The effectiveness of your robotic pool cleaner will vary heavily depending on the size of the pool you have. A lot of pool cleaners have an ideal size ratio, and won’t be able to clean larger pools effectively. In general, larger pool cleaners are able to cover a larger area.
The Best In-Ground Robotic Pool Cleaners
If you’re in a hurry and need a pool cleaner yesterday, we’re happy to recommend the Aquabot Pool Rover Hybrid Robotic Pool Cleaner. This is an effective cleaner and it represents the perfect balance between performance and price.
Best Robotic In-Ground Pool Cleaners Under $100
Intex Auto Pool Cleaner
Robotic pool cleaners come in a wide variety of models. Even if you don’t have a lot of money to spend, that doesn’t mean you can’t find a quality product. The Intex Auto Pool Cleaner is one of the most affordable pool cleaners on the market, and while it can’t match the performance of a more expensive model, it works well in most situations.
Unlike most pool cleaners, the Intex Automatic has some very specific requirements in order to function properly. It needs a filter pump with a flow rate between 1600 and 3500 gallons per hour (gal/hour), and it attaches to your pool via a 24’7” inlet connector hose. At just over 15 pounds, it’s fairly light, and it does a thorough job of cleaning the pool, although its a bit slow.
Now for the bad part: this cleaner only works with Intex brand pools. If you have an Intex, this is great news, as its guaranteed to work for your pool as long as your filter pump is strong enough. If you don’t own an Intex, however, you’ll have to find something else.
GHP Turbo G3 Inground Above Ground Cleaner
If you’re looking for a fast, effective automatic pool cleaner, the GHP Turbo G3 Pool Cleaner Vacuum is not going to be anybody’s first choice. But if you have a limited budget and don’t have an Intex pool, the GHP gets the job done. It’s not very fast, but it works.
There are a couple of points I like about this pool cleaner. For one, it works on both in-ground and above-ground pools, which gives you some flexibility. And while it sometimes struggles to climb the walls, it does a decent job of it most of the time, and it is capable of self-navigation.
However, it will get stuck on the ladder, so it’s recommended that you remove the ladder prior to using the pool cleaner. It requires a ¾ HP / 1600 gal/hour pool pump to work properly, and it is recommended for pools up to 16 x 34 feet.
The biggest problems with the cleaner are that it is slow and somewhat flimsy. It’s made out of PVC, and while it doesn’t feel like it’s going to break, it looks very flimsy. Also, it takes a long time to clean your pool, so don’t use this if you plan on swimming later that day – chances are it won’t be finished.
Ultimately, you’re not going to get an A+ pool cleaner for less than $100, but for anyone on a budget, this is one of the best automatic pool cleaners around.
Best Robotic In-Ground Pool Cleaners Under $200
Hayward Aqua Critter Automatic Above Ground Pool Cleaner
A cute ladybug aesthetic isn’t the only thing going for the Hayward Aqua Critter Automatic pool cleaner. It’s lightweight, cleans quickly and runs of of your pool’s filtration system, making it easier to set up and use.
The Hayward Aqua Critter uses a simple vacuum that picks up algae, dirt, leaves and other particles from the water and the surface of your pool. It took me about fifteen minutes to install, and it cleaned my pool in around two hours. One of the features I liked about it was the setup of the hose.
The connecting hose is assembled through eight four-foot sections, which lets you make the hose as short or as long as you need it to be. The Aqua Critter follows a programmed path that makes its cleaning more efficient.
That said, the Aqua Critter comes with a couple caveats. The first one is pretty standard: the pool cleaner needs a pool pump of at least ¾ HP. The other drawback is more limiting. The Aqua Critter does not function with soft-sided above-ground pools, which limits the number and types of pools you can actually use this cleaner with.
For those of you who have a compatible pool, however, this is probably the best pool cleaner for its price on the market, and it is covered by a one-year warranty.
Hayward 900 Wanda the Whale Suction Above-Ground Pool Cleaner
The Hayward 900 Wanda the Whale is very similar to the Aqua Critter pool cleaner. Although they have a different chassis, the two cleaners have very similar features, and are competitively priced as well.
The Hayward 900 pool cleaner uses a simple vacuum that picks up algae, dirt, leaves and other particles, and it uses a turbine to filter and circulate the water in your pool. Installation is a breeze, and it runs its entire cleaning cycle in about two hours. It’s especially designed to navigate around and up walls, and it has a bumper built in to minimize friction.
Like most pool cleaners, the Hayward 900 requires a minimum ¾ HP pool pump. And like the Aqua Critter, the Hayward 900 is recommended for above-ground pools that have been permanently installed. If that’s not you, then you may need the Intex Automatic Pool Cleaner or something similar. Otherwise, this is a great budget choice for a pool cleaner.
Best Robotic In-Ground Pool Cleaners Under $300
Aquabot APRVJR Pool Rover Junior
Aquabot is one of the biggest names in the business, and their robotic pool cleaners are packed with competitive features. The Aquabot APRVJR is one of the less expensive Aquabot models, but it’s still more than capable of cleaning your dirty pool.
Unlike all of the previous pool cleaners on this list, the Aquabot APRVJR is fully automatic, relying on its own filtration system rather than the pool’s built-in system. Its filter bag catches particles as small as two microns, and it includes 40 feet of floating cables and a power supply transformer.
It also works quickly, cleaning your pool in as little as an hour. It has an automatic two-hour shut-off, and its motor is covered by a one-year warranty. The Aquabot APRVJR works quickly and has powerful suction, but thanks to its large wheels and cumbersome design, it cannot scale the walls of your pool.
Depending on how much dirt and grime has accumulated there, this might be an issue. It’s not a perfect cleaner, but it is a powerful one, and it offers fast performance and a decent warranty.
Aquabot Pool Rover S2-40i
The APRVJR is not the only Aquabot pool cleaner on this list; neither is it the best. Aquabot Pool Rover S2 40 overcomes some of the previous models’ shortcomings, and in most ways is a superior, more effective pool cleaner.
The biggest difference is in the design. The previous Aquabot pool cleaner I reviewed was hampered in some ways by its oversized wheels. While they did enable it to clean more quickly, they also limited the area the cleaner could cover. The Pool Rover S2 40 isn’t going to be able to scale your walls entirely, but it does offer better area coverage, inlcuding coves with at least six inches of floor-to-wall radius.
Like all Aquabot models, the S2 $0 has a built-in filtration system that captures particles as small as two microns. Its suction works at over 80 gallons per minute, and its power supply has both one- and two-hour functions to accommodate the size of your pool.
The filtration system has easy top-access, which makes cleaning easier. The biggest problem is that the motor has a tendency of wearing out, and after the first year it is not covered by a warranty. If you can get past this problem, however, this is a good mid-priced model.
Best Robotic In-Ground Pool Cleaners Under $400
Aquabot Pool Rover Hybrid Robotic Pool Cleaner
The Aquabot Robotic Hybrid Pool Cleaner has it all. It moves through the water via a jet-propelled propulsion system. It has an automatic guidance system that covers the floor of any-shaped pool. And its vacuum suction cleans everything from leaves to practically invisible particles.
There’s a lot more to this cleaner than meets the eye. For one, it is compatible not just with above-ground pools but with in-ground pools as well. It cleans 5400 square feet per hour, has a large 34-quart (8.5 gallon) storage filter for debris, and is backed by a two-year warranty. All of this, and it only weighs 10.6 pounds.
The biggest problem with this rover is that the cord has a tendency to get twisted and tangled, which puts a lot of strain on the cable and inevitably leads to damage. It’s best if you find a way to untangle it after each use, but it seems like this is a problem Aquabot should get a handle on. For the price, however, this is a powerful and effective pool cleaner.
Aquabot AJET122 Pool Rover S2-50
The Aquabot AJET122 is the last above-ground pool cleaner on the list. It’s also arguably the most effective, as it features, in addition to its vacuum, two rotating brushes to help loosen dirt for easier cleaning.
Like the Aquabot Hybrid, it comes with two different sets of filter bags and, like all Aquabots, filters down to an impressive two microns. It also has easy top-access filters that filter 80-85 gallons per minute, and like its cheaper cousin, the S2 40, provides partial wall coverage. It has two different cleaning cycles between one and two hours, and weighs 22 pounds.
While this is a solid robotic pool cleaner, it shares some of the same problems with other Aquabots. It seems a little too easy to overtax the motor, and the cables sometimes get twisted to the point where I’m worried they’ll get damaged. I’m not sure that there’s anything better than this for the price range, but it’s still disappointing.
SplashNet Aquafirst In-Ground & Above-Ground Pool Cleaner
The Aquafirst Pool Cleaner resembles the design of the Aquabot S240 and S250 almost to a tee, which makes its design inspirations clearly obvious. However, the Aquafirst does provide one major improvement over the Aquabot – it’s better at scaling walls.
Another major difference is its range. With 50 feet of cable, the Aquafirst pool cleaner can cover about 10 foot-larger pools than most Aquabots, which means you get a bit more bang for your buck. Like the Aquabots, Aquafirst runs on its own filtration system, but it doesn’t catch particles as small as Aquabot.
The pool cleaner runs fine and the extended range is a nice improvement, but it lacks the brushes of the Aquabot S250 and its warranty is only good for a single year. If you have a large pool, this is a better fit than Aquabot, but I think the Aquabot Hybrid or S250 offers better performance.
Best Robotic In-Ground Pool Cleaners Under $800
Dolphin Nautilus CC Plus Automatic Robotic Pool Cleaner
Dolphin makes some of the best pool cleaners on the market, so it’s no surprise that the Dolphin Nautilus CC Plus Automatic Robotic Pool Cleaner is one of the best robotic pool cleaners out there. It’s biggest downside is its price, but if you have the money, this is your best bet for a powerhouse pool cleaner.
There’s a lot of good things to say here. The cable is 50 feet long, allowing the Dolphin Nautilus cleaner to cover more of an area and service a larger pool. It comes with a two-year warranty on parts and labor, which is always welcome. Like some of the more expensive above-ground pool cleaners, the Nautilus has easy top access to the filters.
The Nautilus Plus is programmed with advanced tracking technology, which helps it to clean your pool more quickly and efficiently, and it can be set with a programmable timer up to one week in advance. It has both a vacuum and a powerful built-in brush, and a large filter area to cleanse the water as it works.
It’s not a cheap pool cleaner, but it’s one of the best on the market, hands down. If you can afford it, this is one the to buy.
As you can see, robotic pool cleaners come in a wide variety of forms, from relatively simple vacuums connected to your filtration system to completely independent robots with advanced sensors and features.
Picking the right robot for your pool is not a decision to take lightly. If you’re still not sure which model to go with, the Dolphin Nautilus is a great choice, especially for larger pools. But whatever you choose, you can buy it with confidence.
18.2 x 18.9 x 21.2 inches
White and Blue
Up to 40 feet
18.2 x 18.9 x 21.2 inches
White and Blue
Up to 40 feet