Pool School 115 Returns and Circulation

EcoBluEyeballThe most overlooked aspect of swimming pools is the lonely Return Jet. When I refer to a return jet I am speaking about the port on the side of the pool where water enters the pool from the filtration system. Returns Jets are so simple yet vitally important and always overlooked. I want to take a moment and give these simple devices all the respect they deserve.

The way water returns back to your pool from the filter is important to keeping your pool clear and algae free. The first thing to keep in mind is that water is like all of us, it is lazy. That is right we are all lazy, we do things the easiest way possible, we don’t want to work hard so we find the least resistant method of doing something. Water is the same way it takes the path of least resistance. With that in mind if you have more than one Return Jet in the pool most of the water will go to the jet closest to the filter system because that is the easiest route. In order to make the water flow efficiently we have to use different size returns eyeballs. Return Eyeballs are the devices we screw into the fitting in the pool wall that allows you to direct and restrict the flow of water back to the pool. For proper water flow balance you want to put an Eyeball with a smaller opening on the fitting closest to the pool filter and the return or returns farthest from the pump you want to install an Eyeball with a larger opening. But be careful you want some back pressure on the Eyeball to get it to project the water further into the pool. Think of a garden hose if you take the spray nozzle off the end of the hose and just let the water run out of the hose it only projects a few inches from the end of the hose, however if you put your thumb over the opening and restrict the flow you can get the water to project a few feet from the hose. This same principal applies to your Return Jet.

With the advent of two speed and variable speed pumps, projecting the water flow becomes even more important. When you run the pump on the lower speed the water flow back to the pool is reduced, so restriction becomes even more important. In order to achieve the best water flow you would have to change the Eyeballs out each time you switched the speed of the pump. To resolve that issue we have a new style Eyeball called a EcoBlu iBall. This Eyeball has a special silicone eyeball that expands and contracts with the change in velocity of the water flow. With the EcoBlu iBall you don’t have to worry about what size eyeball you put in the port as it will automatically adjust to the optimum opening size. Problem simply solved. We have these Eyeballs at Aegean Pools.

Now that we have the return jets balanced we need to configure the eyeballs so that the water flows in a pattern that includes the entire pool. We don’t want to have dead areas in the pool. Many people, including a lot of service technicians, overlook this very important aspect of pool care. First, if you are like most people you have your Eyeballs pointed at the surface of the pool water because it is cool to see the water moving; however, this is not helping your water circulation. The best direction for the Eyeball is pointing it to the side and down at a 45 degree angle. Next we want to get the water moving in the same direction, so make sure when you turn your Eyeballs they will be consistent with the first Eyeball you set. Also, if your return Eyeball is next to the automatic surface skimmer you want to point the Eyeball away from the skimmer. It is counterproductive to have the water that was just filtered going directly back to the filter, we need to bring in that stale water from across the pool back into the filter system, so point the Eyeball away from the skimmer. With the Eyeballs pointing the water in the same direction we can drive the debris on the surface of the pool to the skimmer so it can pick it up.

You have now been to school on how to properly adjust your water flow to keep your pool looking its best and stop algae dead in its tracks. Now stop ignoring your Return Eyeballs and go spend a little well overdue quality time with them! Class dismissed.

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Pool School 114 Automatic Skimmers

SkimmerDiagramEAlmost every pool has an automatic surface skimmer, this is the device that is on the side of the pool that draws water into it, and it is probably one of the least understood pieces of equipment on everyone’s pool. Don’t feel bad it was years after I got into the pool business before I understood how they worked and why they were there.

So let’s travel back in time, to say the early 1900’s, and pools were coming into vogue with the wealthy. The problem with pools in the early days was there wasn’t a filtration system; the pool was just stagnant, nothing moved. After a week or more the water did not look so good at that point they would open the drain at the bottom of the pool and drain all the water out and refill the pool with fresh clean water. Not a very efficient system but water was cheap and that was the best you could do. Without a filter system you had debris collecting on top of the pool and it had nowhere to go, you had to get a leaf skimmer out and skim the surface of the pool by hand. This is an arduous and boring task. With the advent of filter systems they solved the dirty water problem but the skimming issue was still a problem. Along came the invention of the automatic surface skimmer. The concept is to skim debris off the surface of the pool so you don’t have to, when done properly you will have very little debris to remove from the surface of the pool.

The operation of the skimmer is very simple, at the mouth of the skimmer is what people like to call a flapper, the technical name of the flapper is a weir. The weir has two functions; first it enhances the skimming action on the surface of the pool by creating a drop on the back side of the weir which pulls debris from further out into the pool. The second function is to block the flow of debris out of the skimmer when you turn the pump off. If your weir is missing or not working properly you will not pull debris off the surface of the pool as well as you should, and when you turn the pump off all the debris you collected will end up back in the pool. So it is wise to make sure your weir is in place and working properly. When I say working properly I mean it should float freely on the surface of the water leaning back slightly when the pump is running.

One of the other functions of the skimmer is keeping large debris from getting stuck in the pipe that goes between the skimmer and the pump. Inside the skimmer is a basket that strains the water keeping large debris out of the pipe. Ideally you should never run the pump without the skimmer basket in place. The skimmer is also used to vacuum the pool, when you use it for this purpose you must use a vacuum plate on top of the skimmer basket when you connect to the system. If you don’t use both the vacuum plate and the basket you may pull something into the plumbing that will be too big for the pipe and block the flow of water. The only solution for this is to use a second pump to blow the suction line out backward. Not a pleasant process, so be smart and use the vacuum plate.

As I said earlier the skimmer is one of the most miss understood components on the pool system and one of the most confusing things is when you have more than one skimmer. When you have more than one skimmer there is a balance you need to achieve to get the maximum skimming action from both skimmers. If you don’t balance your skimmers then you will have one skimmer that draws water really well and one skimmer that has very little draw. To equalize the flow you will need to use what is called a trimmer plate. The trimmer plate is located at the bottom of the skimmer and can be slid over the hole farthest from the pool at the bottom of the skimmer. The skimmer closest to the filter system will always draw more water than the far skimmer. So you would slide the trimmer plate over the hole farthest from the pool at the bottom of the skimmer closest to the pump about half to three quarters of the way over the opening, and you would make sure the far skimmer’s trimmer plate is not covering the hole at all. You would play with the position in the skimmer closest to the filter until you feel you have even flow. So you are probably wondering why there is a trimmer plate in the far skimmer. Clearly you are thinking about what is going on and that is excellent! I like that! The purpose for the trimmer plate in the far skimmer is for vacuuming the pool. When you vacuum the pool you usually use the skimmer closest to the pump and we need to block the flow of water into the far skimmer, so you would take the trimmer plate and slide it over the hole farthest from the pool blocking the flow of water from the skimmer and completely uncovering the hole in the skimmer closest to the pump.

Class is over it is time to hit the pool and have fun. Class dismissed!

Pool School 113 Pumps

Super-Pump

Hayward SuperPump

A pump according to Dictionary.com is “an apparatus or machine for raising, driving, exhausting, or compressing fluids or gases by means of a piston, plunger, or set of rotating vanes.” Sounds pretty simple right? Wrong, pumps have many options and must be sized not only to the size of your pool or spa, but also to the size of the filter you are using.

We are first going to go to the basics, moving water. How much water do you need to move? This will depend on what type of pool you have; commercial or residential?

If you have a commercial pool (a pool that is open to the public) by health department requirements you must turn the volume of water in the pool over every six hours. Let’s say for example you have a 100,000 gallon commercial pool, you will need a pump that will turn over 16,667 gallons an hour. We need to break this down into minutes for comparison purposes, so we need a pump that will move 278 gallons a minute. Now you can begin your search for the correct size pump. Let me tell you that will be one huge pump! A residential pool needs the same type of calculation but the size is much smaller. Let’s say you have a pool that is 20,000 gallons using the formula we used in our commercial pool example, but our required turnover time for a residential pool is ten hours. So, we need to turn over 2,000 gallons an hour or 33 gallons a minute. Once we determine the size of pump we are going to employ we need to make sure the filter we have will accommodate the designed flow rate of the pump, otherwise you will have a problem with water clarity or you could possibly cause damage to the filter trying to push too much water through too small a filter.

Let’s now talk about the different types of pumps. Most people do not realize that there are really three classifications of swimming pools; commercial, in ground residential and above ground residential. Each of these swimming pools requires a specific type of pump. Some commercial and residential in ground pools use the same type of pump depending on the number of gallons in the pool. But above ground pool pumps are a completely different animal. Commercial and in ground residential pumps are designed to lift water from below ground, where above ground pool pumps are designed to be fed water from above the ground. If you tried to put an above ground pool pump on a in ground pool you would struggle to get the pump moving water. So when you are shopping for a new pump make sure you purchase the correct pump for your type of pool.

The balance of this class we are going to talk about residential pool pumps. There are four types of motors; single speed (most common), two speed, variable speed, and variable flow.

Single Speed Motors- The shaft of these motors only turn at one speed usually 3,450 rpm.

Two Speed Motors– These motors will operate at high speed (3450 rpm) and can shift to a lower speed, usually a fraction of the high speed. These pumps have been historically used on spas; however they have been showing up more frequently on both in ground and above ground pools. The advantage here is that you will save money operating the pump at a lower rpm, however to make up for the slower volume of water you have to run the pump longer.

Variable Speed Motors– These motors have several preset speeds they will operate at, and will sometimes have a timer function and possibly even freeze protection. The advantage with this motor is you have some preset speeds you can perform various activities with like operate a water feature, clean the pool or filter, and save money on daily operation.

Variable Flow Motors– These motors are the premium motors because they allow you to set the flow rate in gallons per minute of the pump to whatever you want the flow rate to be up to the maximum designed flow rate of the pump. You can usually program several different flow rates to be whatever you want them to be, they are not preset, and this gives you maximum flexibility in operating special features on your pool. These motor may also have a timer and freeze protection built into them.

A little known fact about pool pumps is that not all similar horsepower pumps are created equal. This seems odd I know, however the ability to move water lies not with the motor’s horsepower, but lies with the internal design of the pump housing, impeller and diffuser inside the pump. So when you go to compare pumps you should consider horsepower, but don’t forget to consider the most important function, how much water the pump will move.

When it comes to caring for you pump one of the most important things is your shaft seal. The shaft seal keeps water from leaking out of the back of the pump (where the water is moving) and into the motor. This shaft seal is a two part item and it rotates against itself with the rotation of the motor. Remember the motor is rotating 3450 times in one minute! So in one hour the seal has rotated against itself 207,000 times! So if you operate your pump 12 hours a day the shaft seal will have rotated 2,484,000 times! Now do that for six months you are now at 447,120,000 times. So in two years you have rotated the shaft seal almost one billion times! That shaft seal will be pretty worn out and if you don’t replace it water will leak into the motor and ruin the motor in very short order. So we recommend you replace your shaft seal every two years to extend the life of your motor.

Another key issue with pumps are the gaskets; the gaskets perform two different functions. First, they keep air from getting into the strainer on the vacuum side of the pump; if the strainer lid gasket fails then you will have difficulty getting the pump to move water. Second, they keep water inside the pump from leaking out of the pump and from bypassing the impeller. It is wise to replace the lid gasket or O-Ring every two years and the other gaskets three to five years.

One last issue with a pump is the strainer basket. This basket is a strainer that will catch large debris before it reaches the impeller. If large debris were to reach the impeller it would clog it up blocking the flow of water. So it is important that this basket be in place while the pump is running. You should inspect the basket every year for cracks, and if the basket is cracked replace it as soon as possible. The best way to check a basket for cracks is to give it the Charmin test, what you do is gently squeeze the basket to see if any of the plastic grid separates from itself. If it does open up you will need to replace the basket. The way most baskets get cracked is people will bang them to empty the debris out of the basket, as the basket gets older it becomes more brittle and susceptible to cracking when you bang it. The best way to empty a strainer basket is to empty the bulk of the debris that will fall out into a trash can, then get a five gallon bucket of water fill it with water then take the basket turn it upside down in the bucket swish it around a little then lift it out. Most of the debris that would not come out in the trashcan will float off in the bucket and you haven’t banged the basket against anything. Basket life extended!

Ok, it is a beautiful day outside and time to go out and enjoy your pool! Class dismissed!

Pool School 112 Automatic Chlorine Feeders

CL200Automatic chlorine feeders are designed to make caring for your pool easier. Don’t confuse and automatic chlorine feeder with a salt generator, while they both do the same thing (add chlorine to the pool water) they use different methods to achieve that end. So for the purposes of this discussion we are not going to discuss salt generators. There are many different types of automatic chlorine feeders; chlorine tablet feeders, liquid chlorine feeders and granular chlorine feeders. The most common type found in residential swimming pools by far is a chlorine tablet feeder. The other two types are most common to commercial pools and our focus here is going to be residential feeders.

Some people do not use an automatic chlorine feeder preferring instead to add their chlorine tablets to the skimmer on the side of the pool. While it is convenient to do this, it is fraught with potential problems like equipment damage. When you put a chlorine tablet in the skimmer you are introducing an extremely high level of chlorine directly into your filter system. When I say high level I am talking about levels 50 ppm or higher, this would be 10 times or more higher than the level you would keep in your pool. The problem here is that the equipment in your filtration system is made up of either plastic or metal components, chlorine is a strong oxidizer and very low in pH and will oxidize both metal and plastic. What this means is that the high concentration of chlorine will make all the plastic parts brittle and it will corrode away metal components in the system. The shaft seal on the motor has a metal spring to give the seal the compression it needs to keep water from leaking into the motor. Adding chlorine tablets to the skimmer can cause premature shaft seal failure from the extreme environment you create. If water leaks into the motor it will quickly ruin the bearings in the motor, and in short order you will need a new motor. It will also shorten the life of you skimmer basket and the spring in the multiport valve that you use to backwash the filter, not to mention what the chlorine is doing to the grids inside your DE filter.

When you add your tablets to the skimmer you will find it difficult to control the amount of chlorine in the pool because you don’t have any control over the flow of water through the skimmer. You will end up with either too little, or way to much chlorine in the pool water. Too little chlorine and you will have algae and potential bacteria issues, too much and you are wasting chlorine. Using a automatic chlorine feeder allows you not only to better control the amount of chlorine you are putting into the pool water, but also extends the time between additions of tablets to the feeder.

So the best way to avoid all these issues is to install an automatic chlorine feeder to your system. There are two different styles of automatic chlorine tablet feeders; in-line and off-line feeders. I personally prefer in-line feeders because there are fewer parts to be replaced and as you will recall from the previous paragraph, chlorine is brutal on the plastic components. An in-line feeder is inserted directly into the pipe after the filter and allows the concentrated chlorine to go back into the pool and get diluted before it goes through the system. An off-line feeder connects to the pipe with smaller tubes, one goes into the pipe between the pump and the filter and the other on the pipe after the filter going back to the pool. With this type of feeder about every three or four years you will have to replace the tubing and the fittings that connect the tube to the pipe.

A couple of tips for winterizing a chlorine table feeder; make sure you completely drain the feeder and if it has a drain plug do not reinstall the plug until you are ready to open the pool in the spring. If you winterize the chlorinator and re-install the plug condensation can form inside the feeder and when the temperatures drop below freezing they can freeze and crack the feeder. The other tip is when you winterize the chlorinator remove the cover from the feeder and leave it off the feeder. The reason you want to leave the cover off is that even though there are not any tablets in the feeder there is still a residual of chlorine in the feeder; this small residual will continue to break down into a chlorine gas and it will ruin the o-ring in the lid of the feeder. The o-rings they put on chlorinators are made of Viton rubber, an expensive rubber that is resistant to the effects of chlorine, they generally last about two years but less if you leave them on the chlorinator during the off season.

Well that is it class for Automatic Chlorine feeders, class is dismissed but if you are using chlorine tablets and you don’t have an automatic chlorinator, then your homework is to install a feeder before the next class.

Pool School 111 Robotic Cleaners

Image

DOLPHINSUPREMEM5.1Since 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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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.