How Does a Pool Vacuum Work?
What’s better than enjoying a warm summer’s day in your own swimming pool? That’s okay… we’ll wait!
This is a rewarding way to spend time with family and friends. That is, until you walk outside expecting to jump in the water and find your swimming pool is dirty and discolored.
Pool vacuums make the process of maintaining a clean swimming pool year-round easy and convenient. With this equipment, pool owners will turn this daunting chore into a simple habit (an enjoyable one at that!).
How does a pool vacuum work? We’ll cover this and more. Let’s dive in!
The Importance of Vacuuming a Pool
Vacuuming is crucial to fighting algae and keeping the chemistry of your water balanced. If you don’t vacuum weekly, you’re allowing dirt and debris to build up. With time, algae will start to form, requiring special (and expensive) treatment.
Algae is introduced to your pool when wind or rain brings algae spores into it. It can grow very quickly, becoming visible in a matter of hours. Essentially, algae is the reason the water turns green. It’s not recommended to swim in a pool with algae, even if there’s only a small amount present. The harmful bacteria in algae can present health risks like fevers or skin irritation.
To prevent algae from forming, you need to keep your pool balanced and clean. Vacuuming is an essential part of proper pool maintenance. It will keep it looking great and available for swimming.
How Does a Pool Vacuum Work?
Pool cleaners work similarly to a standard vacuum; they use suction to collect debris and dirt. Instead of sucking in air though, they suck in water. From here, they’ll filter the dirt out and release clean water.
The exact mechanics of the vacuum depend on the type of pool vacuum you’re using. Manual vacuums for instance, operate much differently than robotic ones. Understanding how different types work will help you determine which is best for your pool and your budget.
Types of Pool Vacuums
Your pool vacuum choice is based on the amount of time and money you’re able to invest in keeping your swimming pool clean. There are two main types of vacuums: manual and automatic.
Manuals are considerably cheaper than automatic vacuums but require more time and effort. When using a manual vacuum, you’ll need to clean the pool yourself. Many pool owners share that it causes fatigue and strain to their backs.
For automatic vacuums, there are a few varieties: side suction, side pressure, and robotic. They all operate distinctly which we’ll go over in this guide. However, they’re popular options because they require significantly less of your attention and time to clean. You can leave an automatic vacuum completely unattended while it cleans your pool. Sounds nice, right?
The biggest disadvantage is they’re more costly when compared to manual vacuums.
Let’s explore each type of vacuum more in depth.
Manual vacuum cleaners are the original and most common type of pool vacuum. They are the most affordable and most straightforward to operate.
They consist of a vacuum head, a vacuum hose and a telescopic pole. The hose is connected to and powered by the pool’s water pump.
The pump sucks up water through the vacuum head and hose into the skimmer. Then, a filter collects debris and dirt. Lastly, the pool’s pump pushes the filtered water back into the pool.
To hook up a manual vacuum cleaner, start by attaching the vacuum head to one end of a telescopic pole. You will likely already have a telescopic pole. They usually have a skimmer net or brush attached to it. Most manual pool vacuum heads are a universal fit.
Next, attach one end of the hose to the head of the vacuum. The vacuum head should have clear places to insert the telescopic pole and the hose. Insert the end into the water with the pole and make sure the other end of the hole is out of the water.
Read our guide for more information on how to vacuum a pool manually.
Then, attach the open end of the hose to the water intake nozzle. This has many names and you may be familiar with calling it the skimmer plate or vacuum plate. It is on the inside wall where water enters the pool. Remove the skimmer basket before doing so.
Once you attach the hose there, it will send water through it. Air bubbles will exit through the vacuum head and once all the air is out of the hose, suction will be created.
Switch the filter nozzle to intake mode and you may begin vacuuming. Using the telescopic pole, push and pull the head against the walls and floor and you will see dirt being sucked up.
The dirt and debris will be collected in the pool’s filtration system. Therefore, you will need to clean out the skimmer and backwash the filters after each vacuum.
Suction Side Vacuum
One type of automatic pool vacuum cleaner is the suction side. It’s the most common type of automatic pool vacuum and largely operates the same way a manual vacuum does. It also uses your pool’s water pump to power it.
What’s the main difference between a suction side vacuum and a manual version? Instead of you pushing the vacuum head with a telescopic pool, it moves around the pool on its own. It uses the suction from the pool pump to propel itself through the water.
Of automatic pool cleaners, suction side vacuums are the most affordable. They’re simple to install and operate. Suction side vacuums are best for finer and smaller debris and may have difficulties with large debris.
Moreover, some suction side models are equipped with their own filter bag. If not, you will need to clean out the skimmer and filters after each use, like a manual vacuum.
Suction side pool vacuum cleaners do not need to run constantly; a few hours each day will be effective. Many people choose to keep automatic vacuums in the pool whenever the pump is on to optimize cleanliness. They’re installed the same way as manual vacuums but without the telescopic pole.
As a reminder, always remove your automatic vacuum before adding chemicals, especially shock, as it can damage it.
Pressure Side Vacuum Cleaners
The second type of automatic vacuum cleaner is called a pressure side or booster pump vacuum. They are attached to the return side (the pressure side) of your pool’s water pump. Essentially, they attach to the pool jet and use the water passing through to propel them.
Pressure side cleaners are equipped with their own filter bag so you don’t have to clean out the skimmer or backwash your filters after each vacuum. They’re generally more costly than suction side vacuum cleaners because you need to purchase a booster pump to operate them properly. Many pool owners talk highly of pressure side cleaners since they reduce wear and tear on their water pump compared to other vacuums.
One slight disadvantage of pressure side vacuum cleaners is that most pools are plumbed to be compatible with suction vacuums or pressure vacuums, but not both. Therefore, if you want to install a pressure side, you may need to install additional plumbing.
The installation process can be lengthy and unless this project is in your wheelhouse, professional help is encouraged. This installation will add a booster pump to your existing pool pump system and a cleaning line. The booster pump will connect to and power a dedicated cleaner line which will then send water to the vacuum.
Once the proper plumbing is in place, attach the vacuum hose to the connection port for the dedicated cleaner line. Pressure side vacuums have wheels and the RPM of the wheels is used to calculate the right amount of pressure. Proper functioning pressure will create 28 to 32 RPMs.
Depending on the size of your pool and how frequently it is cleaned, a pressure side vacuum should take about 1 to 3 hours to do a thorough job.
Robotic vacuums are the least time-consuming and require the least effort of all pool vacuums. That being said, they are the most expensive option. As the newest option for pool vacuums, they are completely self- contained. Therefore, they have their own power source, filtration system, and filter bag.
Robot pool vacuum cleaners have a small electric motor as their power supply. It does not hook up to your pool’s pump, only a standard outlet with a grounding port. Some models use a rechargeable, wireless battery versus an outlet plug-in. This is more energy efficient than other pool vacuums and puts no strain on your pool equipment. It’s best to turn off your pool’s water pump while the robotic vacuum is cleaning.
Moreover, robotic vacuums are compatible with all pool types and require no in-depth installation or integration into your pool’s plumbing. They have a few parts that allow them to function autonomously, including:
- Power Supply: typically 110 volts of electrical supply.
- Transformer: this controls the amount of suction power.
- Filtration System: the internal system collects dirt and debris in the vacuum. It will need to be cleaned out periodically depending on the size of the collection bag and how dirty the pool is.
- Remote Control: robot vacuums are controlled using a remote with various functions depending on the model. Many include: on and off, speed, mode setting, and timer.
Robotic vacuums are best for daily maintenance. They achieve a high standard of cleaning and are ideal options to keep your water looking its best every day.
A clear blue pool requires a lot of cleaning and knowledge to keep the water chemistry in balance. You have to keep debris out, manage the water filtration system, and clean the floor and walls with scrub brushes and a pool vacuum.
An effective way of doing this is by investing in a pool vacuum. Since they don’t all work the same, you need to decide which type is best for your needs. However, after this guide, you should have a better understanding of how each works and the right one for you.
The most important takeaway for choosing a swimming pool vacuum is that any vacuum is better than none. Invest in a quality pool vacuum cleaner and enjoy all the benefits it’ll bring!
About the Author
Stefan Schulz is the founder and owner of PV Pool Cleaner. He spent his college years working at Niagara Pools and Spas, one of the largest Swimming Pool and Hot Tub Dealers in the Eastern United States.
Today, he utilizes his background, experience as a pool owner, and the resources of his digital marketing agency, Orpical Group, to generate informative and engaging content for pool owners everywhere.