Keeping your pool crystal clear and in tip-top shape can be time-consuming and tedious. However, you can significantly reduce the monotony of pool maintenance by having a pool cleaner do all the work. Suction-side cleaners are one of the most popular types of pool-cleaning machines.
This article will go over these three main points:
- What suction-side cleaners are
- Choosing the right one
- The 9 best suction cleaners on the market
Let’s dive in!
Pool Cleaner Types
These are the three types of pool cleaners:
- ROBOTIC POOL CLEANERS: Robot pool cleaners run entirely independent of your pool's dedicated filtration system. Instead, they collect dirt and debris in an internal filter bag. While they don’t require basic installation, you’ll need to connect them to a power source. Robotic cleaners have the best cleaning performance of any automatic cleaners, and most can pick up both large and small debris. One disadvantage of robotic pool cleaners is they’re usually more expensive than pressure and suction cleaners. By the way, the world's best pool robots are created by Maytronics® (Dolphin®).
- PRESSURE-SIDE CLEANERS Pressure-side cleaners connect to the inlet port of your pool and use the pressure of returning water to move around in your pool.
- SUCTION-SIDE CLEANERS: Suction-side pool cleaners are designed to be connected to the suction side of your pool's dedicated filtration system. This is the side where water is being sucked out to be filtered. This is the skimmer most of the time, although some pools have a dedicated connection exclusively for pool cleaners. Once you attach the cleaner, the suction moves the cleaner around the pool. Along the way, it captures debris through the hose and into the filter.
More About Suction Cleaners
The best choice for budget-conscious consumers is suction-side cleaners. That’s because they’re the cheapest type of automatic pool cleaners. They’re great for removing light debris such as small leaves and fine sand. Some of them might not be so great at capturing larger debris, such as leaves and acorns.
You can purchase a decent suction-side cleaner for between $100 and $400. While suction-style cleaners cost less to own and operate than other types of pool cleaners, they rely on your dedicated pool filter to clean the water. This means you’ll be spending time cleaning your pool’s filter of all the crud and gunk captured by your suction cleaner.
Some suction-side pool cleaners have wheels, and some climb walls. Others have rubber disks that lay flat against your pool floor, ensuring excellent adhesion, so there's no loss of suction power. Although you can deploy your cleaner every day, you need to use it at least several times a week to keep your pool water unpolluted and pristine (if you want to make sure your pool water is pure, consider doing a water test).
One of the biggest problems with suction-side cleaners is that most of them only work when your pool’s pump is on. This means you might have to run your pool’s entire pumping system while your cleaner is active, causing you to use more energy than you’d like.
How Do Suction Pool Cleaners Work?
A suction-side pool cleaner works in much the same way an indoor vacuum cleaner works. It connects to your skimmer to create a powerful suction that captures dirt and larger debris from the bottom of your pool.
Suction Cleaner Benefits
Suction pool cleaners are massive timesavers. Instead of spending endless hours manually cleaning your pool, you simply connect a suction cleaner and let it carry out its mission. A suction-side machine filters out the dirt, debris, and grime you would have likely missed using manual cleaning tools.
This means you not only save time, but you also get a cleaner pool. In addition to vacuuming up debris and dirt, a suction cleaner also improves poor circulation. This has the effect of distributing chemicals more evenly and reducing nasty algae growth.
What’s more, a suction-side cleaner does all this wonderful stuff without needing to be connected to power. Suction cleaners also don’t require booster pumps — unlike most pressure-side machines.
Can You Leave a Suction Cleaner in Your Pool?
You can keep a suction cleaner in the pool for days. The unit will automatically start cleaning whenever the pool pump turns on. Most manufacturers would tell you to remove the cleaner when you're swimming or adding chemicals to the water. It's also a good idea to take the machine out of the pool when you close your pool for the season.
Choosing the Right Suction Cleaner
Here's what you should think about when choosing a suction cleaner:
- PUMP SIZE: Check the minimum pump size required for the cleaner you're considering. Then, make sure your pool pump has enough power. Minimum pump size will be listed either in horsepower or flow rate (GPH or GPM). Most suction pool cleaners work well, even with low-flow pumps.
- MAINTENANCE: The fewer moving parts, the better. Luckily, most suction machines have few moving parts.
- POOL SIZE: The pool size a suction machine can clean depends on hose length. Get a hose length that's a foot or two longer than the length of your pool. For example, if the total length is 32’, you can use it in a pool measuring up to 30’. You can always order more hose length if you have a bigger pool.
- CLEANING PERFORMANCE: Look at customer reviews to see how well the unit you’re planning on purchasing cleans different types of debris. You’ll want to get a sense of how it handles everything from acorns to fine sand.
Suction-Side Pool Cleaner Maintenance
Most suction cleaners have a simple design, which makes them a cinch to care for. Make sure you frequently empty your filter canister, as it can quickly fill up with gunk. Some suction cleaners have in-line canisters that trap larger pieces of debris before it fills up your filter canister.
Check all wheels, scrubbing brushes, and inlets for debris after each use. In some models, this means opening the body to access the motor. Replace parts as needed. Always store hoses flat, so they don't get kinks in them. If you need more troubleshooting tips, check out this video.
Storing Your Cleaner
After closing your pool for the season, disassemble all hoses and connectors. Drain all the water from them and the cleaner, then lay the hoses flat. Store the hoses and the cleaner out of direct sunlight.
The 9 Best Suction-Side Cleaners
1. Zodiac MX6
The Zodiac MX6 is a compact suction-side pool cleaning device that’s made specifically for smaller pools of up to 25’. A ton of features built into the MX6 make it a powerful cleaning machine. Suction pool cleaners typically take a long time to clean your pool. Fortunately, this isn’t the case with the Zodiac MX6.
Its best feature is its powerful cyclonic suction produced by a rapidly spinning disk underneath the cleaner. Turbines on the spinning disk generate powerful suction even with a low water flow rate.
This is terrific news if you're the proud owner of a variable speed pump. You can set a lower speed that uses less energy, and the cleaner will still work splendidly. Cyclonic suction combined with intelligent navigation means the MX6 cleans your pool almost as well as some high-end robotic pool cleaners.
In fact, if it wasn't for the pool cleaner hose attached to the MX6, it would be easy to mistake this suction pool cleaner for a robotic pool cleaner. That's because of its robotic-like design. Its built-in navigation system prevents it from getting stuck in corners and virtually guarantees full pool coverage.
One problem with this model is its rotating fins get stuck way too easily on palm fronds and long leaves. Another issue is the hoses wear out quickly.
2. Zodiac MX8
The Zodiac MX8 is perfect for pools up to 35’ in length. The MX8 has such exceptional climbing ability that it effortlessly clambers up walls like an aqueous monkey to scrub every single crook, crevice, and cranny of your swimming area. This model can run off almost any size pump, making it one tremendously versatile machine.
One of the best features of this machine is the adjustable intake which users can manually configure to allow the unit to devour debris of all sizes. Another excellent feature is the cyclonic scrubbing brushes which can eradicate tough-to-remove gunk in an instant. The unit also has a wide cleaning path and is engineered to work with variable-speed pumps.
3. Hayward Aquanaut
One area where suction-side cleaners tend to perform poorly compared to other types of pool cleaners is the ability to suck up large debris. Because suction cleaners have smaller intake ports, suction power is often suboptimal. Happily, the AquaNaut 400 doesn’t suffer from this problem.
It not only sucks up large leaves like a champ, but it also comes with an adjustable skirt which helps it to maintain constant suction — even on bumpy surfaces. It’s also quiet enough that you can run it while taking a poolside nap without having to worry the sound will wake you.
The Hayward Aquanaut can run on pumps with lower horsepower. It can also be used on any pool surface, from pebble and tile to concrete and vinyl.
4. Pentair 360042
The 360042 combines a reliable and straightforward design with exceptional cleaning performance. Like many suction-side cleaners, it only has one moving part. This means it'll last a long time with very little maintenance needing to be done. After a few years, simply replace the pad and diaphragm, and it'll be as good as new.
Despite its apparent lack of complexity, it’ll thoroughly clean every square inch of your pool all the way from the waterline to the bottom. Users report that it has good climbing ability. An automatic valve regulates the unit, so it never moves too fast. This ensures that dirt doesn’t get left behind.
This Kreepy Krauly will handle every conceivable kind of debris, including sand, insects, and leaves. There are even cleaner wings that help channel aqueous waste right into the filtration system. However, you might still have to remove larger pieces from the unit to avoid clogging it.
Unfortunately, the 360042 does have a few flaws. It’s more expensive than some other suction-side cleaners. It doesn’t do a good job picking up large debris, but that’s a problem common to most other suction-side cleaners.
It experiences some difficulty cleaning steps and ladders. However, it rarely gets stuck. Some owners say that once the Kreepy Krauly moves to the extreme end of its hose, it starts to rapidly lose suction. This means that if you have a bigger pool, this model might not be the one for you.
5. Zodiac Baracuda
If you want the assurance of buying from a well-known brand, the Zodiac Baracuda is the machine for you. In fact, it’s one of the best values out there, providing a perfect blend of quality and affordability. One moving part makes for easy, quick, and cheap maintenance. The only parts you’ll ever need to replace are the disc pad, the diaphragm, and the hoses.
Most users report that the G3 performs well, far above their expectations. The G3 boasts exceptional cleaning power and can clean even the murkiest of pools. One of the best features of the Zodiac Baracuda G3 is its ability to work with low-flow pumps. If you have a ¾ horsepower or one horsepower pump, the G3 will work flawlessly without requiring a booster unit.
This model is also fantastic if you have a variable speed pump. You can reduce the pump's RPM to save energy, and the G3 cleaner will still work like a charm. The G3 comes with 10 four-foot hoses, endowing the unit with the ability to travel without the hoses kinking or scuffing.
The cleaner head is a rubber fin disk that adheres to pool surfaces for maximum suction. The unit comes with fins that guide the cleaner along as it moves along floors and walls. The secondary function of the fins is to kick up dirt and debris so it can be sucked up more quickly.
One major problem with the Zodiac Baracuda G3 is that it cannot handle large debris. Remove it before you put the cleaner into the water. Otherwise, it'll get clogged and immediately stop its journeying.
This pool cleaner works best on rectangular pools. If you own a pool with another shape, it might not work as well as other pool cleaners you can buy. The G3 is mainly designed for broad, flat surfaces, so don't expect a lot of cleaning on pool steps or sloped walls.
6. Pentair E-Z Vac
The E-Z is an exceptional cleaner for above ground pools that incorporates the groundbreaking design ideas of the Kreepy Krauly, one of the most popular pool cleaners of all time. It boasts a superior hydraulic design, which provides maximum suction for optimal cleaning performance.
Unlike inferior pool cleaners, you won’t have to worry about this baby breaking down every two seconds. That’s because there’s only one moving part, with no gears to replace. The E-Z Vac comes with an innovative valve that perfectly regulates water flow, ensuring the right cleaning speed at all times.
The Zodiac Ranger is an exceptional suction-side cleaner specially designed for above-ground pools. Because it only has one moving part, you won’t hear any annoying flapper noise that could wake when you’re trying to take your daily poolside siesta.
This model is one of the better performing suction-side cleaners and will effortlessly remove all the unsightly debris ruining your carefully cultivated pool aesthetics. It comes with an innovative deflector wheel that prevents it from getting caught on steps, ladders, and other obstacles. The deflector wheel means you won’t have to rescue the device every two seconds from its own self-inflicted predicament — unlike some other models that shall remain nameless.
The compact self-adjusting flow valve automatically regulates water flow, always ensuring peak performance. However, keep in mind its fittings aren’t compatible with Intex pools.
7. Hayward 900 (Wanda the Whale)
If you have an above-ground pool, you don't need an expensive suction pool cleaner. Something smaller and cheaper will do the trick. One good model for this purpose is the Hayward W3900 Pool Cleaner (AKA Wanda the Whale). Wanda is super easy to set up. 32’ feet of hose are included, so it can clean larger above-ground pools of up to 30' in diameter.
This model comes with a deluxe bumper ring that minimizes friction, allowing for easy movement away from walls. This minimizes the chances of the unit getting stuck. In addition to vacuuming debris, Wanda also improves water circulation by moving water from the bottom of the pool to the top. This action thoroughly mixes chemicals and significantly reduces the risk of algae growth.
However, Wanda has a few bugs the manufacturer still needs to iron out. One of these bugs is its tendency to get hung up on drains or ladders. Usually, it ends up freeing itself and resumes cleaning, so you don’t have to intervene.
8. Hayward Poolvergnuegen
The Hayward Poolvergnuegen, a pool cleaner with a hard-to-pronounce albeit fun-sounding name, is an excellent choice for anyone with a small to medium-size pool. It's super easy to set up, requiring minimal maintenance.
One significant disadvantage of suction-side pool cleaners is that for most of them to work, the pool pumps they’re working with must meet a minimum horsepower threshold. If there’s not enough power, the cleaner won’t function, forcing you to either return the cleaner or buy a new pump.
The beauty of the Poolvergneugen is it comes with interchangeable throats to improve debris passage and suction performance. This allows it to be used with even low-pressure pumps. The tires of this model have deep treads that tightly grip pool surfaces, giving it the ability to effortlessly drive over any obstacles that get in its way. The no-nonsense tracks also let the cleaner easily climb walls without slipping.
It comes in two versions: 2x and 4x. The 2x is a two-wheeled cleaner, and the 4x uses a more powerful 4-wheel drive system. The 2x unit comes with 33’ feet of hose. This makes it perfect for pools up to 32′ long. The 4-wheel system gives it better mobility than most other pool cleaners.
One of the best things about the Hayward 4x cleaner is the self-adjusting roller skirt. Concrete and gunite surfaces are rough, which can result in a loss of suction power. The roller skirt prevents this by automatically adjusting whenever it moves over an uneven surface. This ensures the cleaner always maintains maximum suction, and thus, full cleaning power.
This machine is so well engineered, it generates a lot of suction even with less water flowing through. This means if you own a variable speed pump, you can set a lower, more energy-efficient speed and still enjoy excellent cleaning results.
One limitation of the Hayward cleaner is the lack of scrubbing brushes. If your pool has lots of algae and stuck-on grime, you'll have to brush it manually before using the cleaner.
9. XtremepowerUS 75037
The XtremepowerUS 75037 is one of the most inexpensive suction-side pool cleaners ever to hit the market. To make the deal even better, many companies offer significant discounts off its list price. The 75037 cleans any pool up to 30’ in length and provides full pool coverage from the floor to the waterline.
The unit also cleans steps, although, for certain pools, it might only be able to get to the lower rungs. Suppose you want the unit to work to its fullest potential. In that case, you'll need a pump that has at least one horsepower capability.
This device doesn't move around your pool on wheels. Instead, it navigates by using the water pressure from your pool pump. Its thick, pleated base creates a powerful suction that eliminates everything from tiny algae spores to leaves and twigs.
The XtremepowerUS 75037 isn’t ready to clean right out of the box. This means you’ll probably need to adjust it several times until it works right.
If you’re looking for an affordable and easy way to keep your pool sparkling clean, buy a suction-side cleaner. Suction cleaners are simple, quiet, and inexpensive. Thus, they're a terrific option for just about anyone. Suction machines are the easiest cleaners to operate, requiring nothing more than plugging into the intake side of your pool's pump system.