Since the beginning of the invention of automatic pool cleaners the designers have tried to develop the perfect automatic pool cleaner and each cleaner as progressed toward perfection. We have in previous classes discussed manual cleaners (Pool School 108), pressure side automatic pool cleaners (Pool School 109), and suction side automatic pool cleaners (Pool School 110), what we have not discussed is robotic automatic pool cleaners.
For definition purposes a robotic automatic pool cleaner is defined as a self contained autonomous cleaning system. This means that the unit does not require your filter system to be operating in order for the robotic cleaner to function.
Going back in time to the 1960’s and the first robotic like automatic pool cleaners were made by Aqua Vac and they were called the Aqua Queen for residential pools and the larger pools the Aqua King. These cleaners were very heavy and did not contain any computer controls. They were mechanically affected by bumping into something which would cause them to change direction randomly. The Aqua Queen had a cartridge filter on board so it actually filtered the pool water. These units were extremely durable and still operate today after 50 years!
The next major change in robotics came in the early 1980’s with the introduction of the Aqua Bot. This unit was originally designed and built in Israel. It was the first cleaner to introduce a computer circuit board built into the cleaner. These early models took off in sales and were marketed everywhere including the Price Club. The manufactures choice to sell them at the Price Club dissuaded most swimming pool retailers from selling the product. That fact combined with early design issues caused this cleaner to have a dry spell in sales until better designs came along. Problem one was water and computer circuits just do not get along well together and moisture getting into the circuitry was an issue. The other big issue was it would operate in the pool and out of the pool. I know from personal experience when a customer who had taken one home to “try it out” called me and told me the cleaner had climbed out of the pool and was going across the yard!
In the last 30 years designs have come a long way and the Aqua Bot from the 80’s would be no match for a robotic cleaner today. Today there are a dozen or more robotic pool cleaners on the market. Price points range from $300 for and above ground pool cleaner to thousands of dollars for a commercial robotic pool cleaner. It is safe to say that in robotic pool cleaners you get what you pay for. It is best to stick with an automatic pool cleaner for in ground pools that will start around $800 and go up in price from there.
Many of the robotic cleaners today have quick clean cycles and large filter capacity that will clean your pool from top to bottom. No other type automatic pool cleaner can make that claim. No pool cleaner is 100% perfect, in other words they will no doubt miss a spot here and there. The top of the line robotic cleaners solve this problem by offering a remote control function. If when the cleaner has finished cleaning the pool and you find it missed a spot with the remote control you can manually direct it to the spot it missed! This saves you the hassle of pulling out the manual cleaner and cleaning it yourself.
The other big advantage robotic pool cleaners have over all other types of pool cleaners is that they are energy efficient. You have to run an extra pump for a pressure side cleaner and for the suction side cleaner you have to run your main pool pump which cost considerably more than a robotic cleaner that runs on 24 volts. The power consumption is a fraction of the other cleaner options which saves a lot of money.
Easy to operate, inexpensive to run, and very reliable robotic pool cleaners are beginning to dominate the automatic pool cleaner market and who knows perhaps one day in the near future and engineer will design the perfect automatic pool cleaner!
Well Pool School is over for 2013 enjoy your off season break, school will resume in March 2014 when we will talk about automatic chlorinators. Enjoy your break!
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