An automatic pool cleaner on the edge of a swimming pool

Automatic pool cleaners: are they worth it?

Automatic pool cleaners make your pool maintenance simple. You’ll not only save time, but money too. Clean water makes it easier to balance your pool chemicals, avoid algae, and keep maintenance costs to a minimum. 

Automatic pool cleaners also help your other pool equipment, like the filtration system, keep working properly too. But there are a few different types. So how do you know the right one for you?

In this guide to the best automatic pool cleaners in New Zealand:

What does an automatic pool cleaner do?

Automatic pool cleaners act as underwater vacuums. Electric motors power the cleaner forwards and backwards as it sucks up debris from your pool. The best part about automatic pool vacuums and cleaners is that they don’t need you! 

So you can focus on swimming more and cleaning less.

Models of automatic pool cleaners

There are three key types of automatic pool cleaner:

Each has its own pros and cons, so let’s check them out in more detail. We’ll start with the lower cost option. 

Suction cleaners

Picture of Hayward PoolVac suction cleaner
An example of a suction pool cleaner

Suction pool cleaners are best for lower budgets

Connecting to your pool skimmer, suction pool vacuums travel randomly around pool floors sucking up large and medium debris straight into your pool filters

They are cheaper, but they rely on a working filtration system. So they put a little more strain on your filter and you might need to clean and maintain it more often as a result. 

Things to look for when buying automatic suction cleaners:

  • Few moving parts. A number of suction cleaners on the market have a lot of parts and these aren’t the best performance-wise. The simpler, the better when it comes this option. 
  • Hose length. Make sure your cleaner can reach around your entire pool! And if not, will it take a hose extension?
  • Wall climbing ability. Cleaners that can get to pool walls are vital for vinyl, fibreglass and concrete inground pools. Make sure that if you go for a cheaper option in a suction cleaner, that it will reach these areas. 

You might find those that can are a similar price to robotic pool cleaners, which are much better value overall. 

The next step up (from a pricing perspective) are pressure-side automatic pool vacuums. 

Pressure-side pool cleaners

Image of Hayward automatic pressure pool cleaner
An example of a pressure-side pool cleaner (image source)

Pressure-side automatic pool cleaners connect to a return jet in your pool. They work by using the water pressure from your filter to generate a water vortex and catch debris in a bag. They’re particularly good at catching medium to large debris

Like robotic pool cleaners, pressure-side cleaners move around a pool automatically. But it’s a little more random. They’re also self-contained like robot cleaners, collecting debris separately from your pool filter. 

If the pressure-side cleaner gets stuck, it should have a backup valve which shoots a stream of water out to nudge the cleaner along. 

Here are some key things to look at when buying a pressure-side automatic pool vacuum:

  • Wall climbing ability. This is a must for fibreglass, vinyl and concrete inground swimming pools in particular. 
  • Backup valve. As mentioned, this helps get your cleaner out of a jam. 
  • Will it need a boost? Not all pools have the right water pressure to run a pressure cleaner optimally. You might need to have a booster pump professionally installed. 
  • Is its hose long enough? Make sure you buy the right size for your pool, or a cleaner that can take a hose extension. 

Pressure-side automatic pool cleaners tend to be cheaper than robotic cleaners. But there’s a little more involved in their installation and upkeep.

Robotic cleaners

Dolphin pool cleaner
The best-selling Dolphin M400 pool cleaner by Maytronics.

Robotic automatic pool cleaners bring the best of pressure and suction cleaners togetherRobotic pool cleaners work by learning the size and shape of your swimming pool, and calculating the most efficient path to cover the area. 

They catch small to large debris in their own bag and clean walls, floors, and sometimes the surface. All with minimal input from you. They require virtually no installation and minimal maintenance.

Unlike other types of pool cleaner, robotic ones usually work independently from your pump or filter, so they circulate water even when those aren’t running. Being self-contained, they don’t cause extra wear and tear on your other equipment. 

The main downside to a robot automatic pool cleaner? 

The cost. They are more expensive, but most come with warranties and save you a lot of time and effort in the long run. Our comparison of the best robotic pool cleaners can help you with more insights. 

Automatic inground pool cleaners versus above ground pool vacuums

Whether you have an inground pool or above ground pool doesn’t matter too much. Most automatic pool cleaners can be used for either.

You need to pay more attention to a cleaner that can reach the length and depth of your pool, and that you have the correct attachments to use the cleaner.

This information should be easy to find when buying your cleaner. You can always chat to your nearest supplier for more information. 

Choosing the best automatic pool cleaners

So now that you know a little more about the main automatic pool cleaner options, how do you choose between them?

Here are some scenarios to help you.

1. I want to spend less than $500 on my automatic pool cleaner

Suction pool cleaners are likely to fit this budget. You might find a pressure-side cleaner if you’re lucky.

Just be wary of the strain these could put on your other pool equipment and make sure to keep everything well maintained.

2. I don’t mind spending more now to save time and money in the long run

It’s best to investigate robotic pool cleaners in this case. 

They’re a bit more up front, but they won’t strain your other equipment or require much time or effort from you to set up and run.

3. I want NZ’s best pool cleaner, regardless of setup, installation, or cost

Robotic pool cleaners get you the best of all the options. They’re the most efficient, least maintenance, and the best value in the long run.

4. Which is better - robotic or suction pool cleaner?

Robotic pool cleaners combine the technology of suction and pressure-side pool cleaners for the best of both worlds.

They cost a little more upfront but give you the best results and greatest bang for your buck.

Are automatic pool cleaners worth it?

Yes, automatic pool cleaners are worth it

The technology these days means you can sit back and relax (or lie back and float), knowing that your automatic pool vacuum has it covered. 

They’re a great way to enhance pool cleaning chemicals action, as well as your pool equipment from dirt and debris.

Curious to chat through your options? Find your local supplier here.

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About the author
Adrian Hill
Adrian Hill

Hey! I'm Adrian, founder and pool expert here at Dolphin Pacific. I love spending time with family, fishing, and have been known to brew my own beer.

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