Pool School 110 Automatic Pool Cleaners Suction Side Cleaners

Polaris 340 Available at Aegean Pools

Polaris 340 Available at Aegean Pools

In the last class we talked about automatic pool cleaners that operate on the pressure side of the filter system, this class we are going to discuss cleaners that operate on the suction side of the system.

Most people don’t realize that there are two sides to your filter system; there is a suction side (also known as vacuum side) This side of your system starts at the pump and goes back to the pool.  Your skimmer(s) and main drain are connected to this side of the pump and the water is drawn into the system by the pump.  All plumbing after the pump is considered the pressure side of the system because the water is being pushed out of the pump from here.

So these styles of cleaners connect to either the skimmer on the side of the pool or a port on the side of the pool called the vacuum line.  Most connect to the skimmer.  Just like all automatic pool cleaners they have their pluses and minuses.  Before we get into the details lets take a look at the history of this type of automatic pool cleaner.

Back in the late 1970’s Kreepy Krauly was introduced to the U.S. Market, this was the first suction side automatic pool cleaner.  As I understand it the cleaner was designed by a South African auto repair technician for his son who cleaned pools for a living.  The design was very simple, so simple in fact that it only had one moving part!  It has a hammer that causes the cleaner to jump slightly, when it jumps it moves backward following the weight on the hose.  The trick with this cleaner is finding the right balance of weights on the hose that will cause the cleaner to move in a random pattern.  After the turn of the century Pentair made an agreement with Kreepy Krauly to buy the company and sell Pentair’s entire cleaner line under the Kreepy Krauly name.

Not long after the successful introduction of Kreepy a competing cleaner arrived on the market under the name Baracuda.  Baracuda looks similar to Kreepy, however instead of using a hammer it uses a diaphragm that constricts the flow of water achieving the same effect as the hammer in the Kreepy.  Zodiac Pool Care owner of the Polaris Vac Sweep eventually bought out Baracuda.

After the success of these two cleaners, Arneson Pool Vac created the Pool Vac.  This new style cleaner uses an “A” frame technology with a turbine and an off center cam that causes the cleaner to walk around the pool.  Arneson Pool Vac also made the Pool Sweep, which was mentioned in the last class as a pressure side cleaner.  Arneson later sold it’s designs to different companies.  Hayward bought the Pool Vac design and added additional versions including; Navigator, AquaBug, Pool Vac Ultra, Diver Dave and Wanda Whale.

Then came along the Polaris 340.  This was Polaris’ answer to the Florida suction pool cleaning market.  It uses a turbine drive mechanism but instead of being off centered it drives wheels and rolls around the pool like the Polaris pressure side cleaners.  Like other suction side cleaners it does not handle large debris well.  This cleaners name was later changed to Polaris ATV and finally discontinued.

I mention these four cleaners because they are the basis for all the later designs by other companies after patents ran out.  There are lots of different manufactures making all kinds of suction side cleaners today.  Just about anybody making an automatic pool cleaner has a suction side cleaner.  The reason for this is it is a very popular type of cleaner in the Florida swimming pool market.  In Florida pools are almost as common as cars, and a large percentage of pools in Florida are screened in.  The screening filters out large debris from falling into the pool so the automatic pool cleaner is not burdened by a lot of large debris.  This style of cleaner is less expensive than other types of pool cleaners and does not require a second pump to power it allowing a much lower price point than a pressure side cleaner.

What are the advantages of a suction side cleaner?  The most important advantage is the price point, these cleaners range anywhere from $150 to as much as $600 depending on the model and features.  Plus, this type of cleaner does not cost any more to operate because it runs off your existing pool pump.  If you don’t get a lot of large debris in the pool and the bottom of the pool is in good condition this cleaner will perform well.

What are the disadvantages of a suction side cleaner?  Like any automatic pool cleaner this style is not perfect, it will miss spots around the pool because it goes in a random pattern.  If the cleaner has hose weights that need to be adjusted to find the right balance to make it go in a random pattern (each cleaner is different and is effected by the pool shape and surface so there is not a standard setting) it can be madding trying to find the correct balance.  Word of advice if you have this style cleaner and you achieve the perfect balance DO NOT MOVE ANYTHING, or you will spend hours trying to find that sweet spot again.  This style of cleaner does not handle large debris well because of its clearance to the pool surface.  The suction port is on the bottom of the pool, if it should draw large debris into the unit it can get clogged in the head, if it does make it through the unit it will end up in the skimmer basket.  If you have a lot of debris in the pool the skimmer can get clogged starving the pump for water, which would be a big huge problem for the pump.  This is one of the reasons this cleaner works well in a screened in pool because the screening eliminates a lot of large debris and there wouldn’t be any skimmer clogging issues.   Also, since these cleaners require you to restrict your suction down to the skimmer you are hooking the cleaner to you have now stopped skimming the surface of the pool.  This is not a problem with screened in pools but a problem if the pool is surrounded by lots of trees.

One other big issue with this type of cleaner is that it is bottom dependant.  In concrete and fiberglass pools that dominate the Florida market it generally was not a problem, however in vinyl liner pools where you can have imperfections (wrinkles and sink holes and perfect angles) suction side cleaners can get hung up and may need a kick to get going again.  At this point it goes from being an automatic pool cleaner to being a semi-automatic pool cleaner.  The Polaris 340 (ATV) did not have this issue because it operated with large wheels that just rolled over any problem area.

Over all this style of cleaner works well but they are really best suited for screened in pools or pools that do not have a lot of debris falling into it from surrounding trees.  Just like any automatic pool cleaner if it works in your pool you will love the fact you don’t have to clean the pool and like all automatic pool cleaners they tend to have their own personalities and their owners end up naming them just like the would name a pet.

That is it for this class next class we will talk about robotic pool cleaners and wrap up our semester until next spring, so don’t be late for the next class!


Pool School 109 Pressure Side Automatic Pool Cleaners

Polaris 3900 Sport Available at Aegean Pools.

Polaris 3900 Sport Available at Aegean Pools.

There are three types of automatic pool cleaners on the market today.  They are; Pressure side cleaners, suction side pool cleaners, and robotic cleaners.  This topic is way too large for one class so we are going to address each type in separate classes.  Today we are going to start with pressure side cleaners.

Pressure side cleaners are the granddaddies of automatic pool cleaners.  They work off the pressure side of your filter system and push water through the cleaner, which may seem counter intuitive, but they work.  The very first automatic pool cleaner was the Arneson Pool Sweep which appeared sometime in the 1960’s.  Arneson no longer exists as a company but parts are still available for this cleaner 50 years later!  This cleaner floated around the top of the pool dragging behind it two whips of varying lengths that swept the bottom of the pool pushing the debris to the main drain in the deep end of the pool.  It also had a spray nozzle on the top to clean the tile line of the pool.  While not the best concept it was better than vacuuming the pool manually.

In the next decade a company called Swimrite, no longer in business, came out with the Polaris Vac Sweep.  This unit was light years ahead of the Arneson Pool Sweep because it not only swept the floor like the Pool Sweep did but it also had the ability to vacuum the pool.  You might wonder how a pressure side cleaner that is having water pushed out of it could possibly “vacuum” a pool.  For that we have to go back to the 1700’s and visit with Giovanni Battista Venturi who discovered that Venturi principal.  Basically Giovanni found that when you run water through a compressed tube at a high velocity suction is created.  This suction lifts debris off the bottom of the pool and into the bag at the top of the Polaris.  The Polaris Vac Sweep was such a huge success that Swimrite shut their doors and started a new company under the name Polaris.  This cleaner ruled supreme for many decades and still to this day has a major share of the pool cleaner market.  Since the inception of the Polaris unit there have been many versions with the most current the Polaris 3900 Sport.

There have been several other pressure side cleaners on the market that have appeared in our local market and they include; Jandy Ray Vac, Hayward Viper, Hayward Viio, Hayward Phantom, and the Letro Legend.  While the Letro Legend is still available from Pentair under the name Kreepy Krawly Legend, the other cleaners are no longer manufactured.  One common thing with most pressure side cleaners is they require the use of a booster pump.  A booster pump is an additional pump installed on your filter system that provides the boost in water flow that the cleaner needs to make them perform.  There are some pressure side cleaners that do not require a booster pump, however you will have to divert all the water from your filter system through the cleaner, which will reduce your system’s water flow.  While not the best option if you don’t have a dedicated line or you don’t want to install a booster pump this is a great option.  The non-booster pump cleaners are not as efficient as the units that require a pump but you should not let that deter you from using these cleaners to help keep the pool clean.

The most efficient way to install these types of automatic pool cleaners in the pool is to have a dedicated line going from the filter equipment to the pool.  Although it is possible to install an over the deck configuration with a Polaris Vac Sweep, it is not the preferred method of installation.  Over the deck installations are not available for the non-booster pump cleaners.

These automatic pool cleaners are reliable performers and will provide years of operation before they will need repairing, but just like your car the more you run your cleaner the sooner you will need to have it repaired.  Just like Superman has his kryptonite some pressure side cleaner have theirs as well.  In the case of the Polaris booster pump cleaner family, and the Pentair Kreeepy Krawley Legend it is sand.  The sand will get into the bearings in the wheels and jam up the bearings; the only repair for this issue is to replace the bearings.  We recommend that if you have sand in your pool manually vacuum your pool before using the your manual vacuum system and if your pool is near the beach you may want to consider a different type of cleaner.

While pressure side cleaners seem fairly simple in design troubleshooting a problem really requires someone who has been trained and has experience to address the issues.  For this reason we recommend your take your equipment to a professional like Aegean Pools for repair.  The nice thing about automatic pool cleaners is they are portable and easy to bring to the store for repair.

There is one other common thing to automatic pool cleaners in general and that is they become a mechanical family pet, and just like any pet they get a name.  I think it is safe to say that a majority of automatic pool cleaner owners have named their cleaner.

Key points for operating a pressure side automatic pool cleaner:

– Most Pressure side cleaners require a booster pump to be running in order for the cleaner to operate.  This pump will not run unless the main pump is running.

– Don’t let the debris bag get overloaded it will negatively effect the operation of the cleaner.

– If you have a Polaris 180,280,380,480, or 3900 Sport and it is tilting to one side when it is running, you need to replace the float head (the little football looking device on the back of the unit.)

– If you take your Polaris 180, 280, 380, 480, 3900 Sport, or Pentair Kreepy Krawley Legend out of the pool for more than an hour you should remove the supply hose from the top of the head, otherwise the hose may kink and cut the supply of water reducing the cleaner’s performance.

– The nuts that hold the hose in place should be placed on the connector first then the hose slid over the connector and the nut then screwed onto the hose.  If you put the nut on the hose first then slide the hose onto the fitting and tighten the nut from that side the water pressure will push the hose off the fitting.  This is a common mistake made by most homeowners.

– Most pool cleaners will require about 3 hours to get the best cleaning.  Running it longer just wears the cleaner out more quickly.

– Using the cleaner twice a week will help keep the pool clean and free of algae.

– All automatic pool cleaners are designed to keep a relatively clean pool clean.  They are not really designed to take a pool from disaster to clean.

We are done with today’s class, in the next class we will talk about suction side automatic pool cleaners.   Class dismissed.

Pool School 108 Manual Vaccuming The Pool

Rainbow193VinylVacThumbManually vacuuming the pool is an important step in caring for your pool.  By using your manual vacuum you will be systematically cleaning the entire pool, something that no automatic cleaner on the market today can do.  This fact is often overlooked because vacuuming the pool can be an arduous task, and who wants to perform an arduous task?  But if you know how to set the vacuum up properly, vacuuming the pool is a lot easier.

Follow these easy steps to set up the manual vacuum:

  1. The multiport valve, also know as the backwash valve (if you have one), should be in the filter position
  2. Turn the main drain valve (if you have a main drain) off or ¾ off, what gives the best suction
  3. If you have more than one skimmer, you’ll need to plug the skimmer you’re not using.  Always use the skimmer closest to the filter system
  4. Assemble the vacuum hose to the vacuum head; ensuring that the swivel end of the hose (this is referring to the cuff that is attached to the end of the hose) attaches to the vacuum head.  This is important because if you attach the wrong end of the hose to the vacuum head you may not be able to vacuum the pool because the vacuum hose will allow air into the system and the pump will lose it’s prime.  Not all vacuum hoses have a swivel cuff; the best way to determine if your hose has a swivel cuff is to grab the hose with one hand, and with the other hand try to turn the cuff.  If it rotates 360 degrees then you have a swivel cuff.  If it does not rotate it is a fixed cuff.  You need to check both ends of the hose because only one end will swivel
  5. Attach the vacuum head to the pole and place it in the water.
  6. Connect the vacuum plate to the vacuum hose (if you have one) at the opposite end of the vacuum hose from the vacuum head.  Using a vacuum plate is very important, it keeps large debris from getting stuck in the plumbing that may require a service call to remove the debris from the plumbing.  The cuff at the end of the hose you are attaching to the vacuum plate should be the cuff that does not swivel
  7. While the pump is running, place the end of the hose, not the end with the vacuum head, over the return and allow the hose to fill with water until all the air in the hose has been removed.  Make sure you are holding onto the pole when you do this or the pole may slip into the pool
  8. Without lifting the hose or vacuum out of the water; move them to the skimmer (keeping everything in the water!) Note: If you don’t have a vacuum plate, remove the skimmer basket, slide the hose under the water, and down into the hole farthest from the pool at the bottom of the skimmer.  We do not recommend you use this method as you could possibly clog the piping with large debris.  Rather, we recommend you leave the skimmer basket in place, ensuring that it is not damaged, place the vacuum plate on top of the skimmer basket
  9. Begin vacuuming the pool.

Once you have the manual vacuum set up you will want to pick a spot at one end of the pool, and systematically vacuum the bottom of the pool.  Then starting at one point on the wall, vacuum the walls starting just below the tile line going down to the floor.  Don’t forget to vacuum the stairs if you have them, however, you don’t want to vacuum the very top step as there will be too little water and the vacuum will loose it’s prime

Once you are done cleaning the pool rinse the equipment with fresh (not pool water) and make sure you store your vacuuming equipment out of direct sunlight because the UV light will oxidize the plastic housing and bristles making them brittle.

Class dismissed until next time, now go out and enjoy your pool!