DO AMERICAN FIBERGLASS POOLS REQUIRE AUTOMATIC POOL CLEANERS?
I do get asked this a lot. People that previously owned or do own gunite pools cannot imagine life without a pool boy to stop by once a week and an automatic pool cleaner to boot! The simple answer is that most American Fiberglass Pool buyers do not opt to have an automatic pool cleaner included with their pool purchase. Why, you may ask? QuIte simply the smooth non-porous gelcoat surface on an American Fiberglass Pool does not allow most things to adhere to it, requires little brushing, and only occasionally vacuuming. Of course it you live in an area with lots of trees or an area where the wind always blows, you could use a little help from an automatic pool cleaner. Let’s take a look at the automatic pool cleaners that are available.
1. Suction cleaners: These include any cleaner that connects directly into your skimmer. They are typically inexpensive, $700 or less depending on the brand name. I am not a fan of these cleaners since they are prone to clogging up your pool plumbing lines. You can get a filter to connect between the head of the unit and the skimmer. My experience is that the filter gets heavy with leaves and debris and the pool cleaner comes to a standstill as well. I particularly don’t advise use on older pools. The old plumbing may eventually be damaged by the thumping / vibration the cleaner produces as it moves. My own score 1-10 with best being 10, how about a 3? That’s as good as I can rate them. They are popular though and primarily bought by folks looking for an inexpensive pool cleaner or new pool owners that are not aware of anything better. They do little or no cleaning on pool walls or stairs. You must keep your skimmer basket, pump basket, and leaf filter cleaned often so your pool pump is not damaged.
2.Pressure side cleaners: This type of cleaner runs on electricity and requires a dedicated booster pump and a dedicated time clock. There are lots of different ones available on the market. They cost $1200 – $1600 in the box and do require assembly and complicated installation. Always make sure the booster pump time clock is set to run within the cycle of your pool pump time clock. If not, expect to be replacing the booster pump motor. That’s a $550 mistake. This cleaner requires a dedicated fitting usually located in the middle of the pool side wall. Debris like sand, leaves, and twigs are vacuumed up into a bag on the top of the unit. Once the bag is too full, the unit will just lay over on its side. So keep an eye out for that bag’s contents. The biggest problem for these cleaners is an incessant need for tune ups to replace expensive multiple worn parts. Cleaning ability is much better than suction cleaners. One more thing, different pool surfaces can require different tires on the cleaner. My own score is 7. This is because of the additional electronically operated booster pump and the parts necessary to keep it in tip top shape.
3. Robotic pool cleaners: These guys can be taken out of the box, be put directly into the pool, plugged in, and are working immediately. They have a 50’-75’ waterproof cord that stretches from a transformer that is plugged into a GFIC receptacle. No assembly is required, just plug it in and forget it. Cost is typically $1200 – $1500. These units are the only automatic pool cleaners that actually brush, vacuum, and clean the tile line of a pool. They easily climb pool walls and will clean all but the very first step in your pool. Since they are built with internal cartridges filters, some claim that you can tone down your regular filtration cycle 2-3 hours a day while the pool cleaner is running. This is a remarkable piece of machinery and my personal favorite. My score is 9.5.
There are a couple of other cleaners like pressure side units that do not require a dedicated booster pump and even solar powered units. They are not particularly common and thus will not be included in this blog entry.
I almost always suggest to our American Fiberglass Pool customers that they try their new pool without an automatic pool cleaner first. You can always buy one as an aftermarket unit later.
Quote of the day: “Happiness and moral duty are in separately connected.” George Washington