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.


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