If you want to cut down on pool cleaning costs and keep a happier, cleaner swimming pool, you should consider the best pool vacuum robot. These bots are designed to roll around the bottom and sides of your pool, filtering out debris while also cleaning the surface to help remove any new algae or other problems.
The best of the best, and our #1 pick, is the Dolphin Nautilus Plus ($685.00), with it’s 60-foot swivel cable, intelligent mapping system, and thorough 2.5 hour cleaning cycle. This pool bot is both easy to use and very effective with 360-degree filtration, two different filters for fine and coarse particles, and cartridges that are simple to clean. That makes this model a great choice for more challenging pool shapes – but lets take a look at other factors that may be important to your unique situation.
Best Pool Vacuum Robot
How We Choose the Best Pool Vacuum Robot
One of the features we take a close look at is navigation. A pool bot isn’t much good if it can’t accurately read your pool shape and make sure surfaces are cleaned equally. The best options use digital mapping to scan the pool accurately, and then run a circuit without bumping into anything (something our Dolphin pick does particularly well). Great models can also scoop around the waterline and handle curves with ease.
Then we took a look at cleaning and filtration. Filtering out debris is nice, but we prefer to see rubberized brush rolls that can take care of algae and other serious pool problems too. Filter systems can either be bags or cartridges, but they should be large and easy to rinse out at the end of a cycle. And when it comes to cleaning, powerful suction is also important! Our top picks have efficient pumping systems that can move a lot of water in a short time.
Design is important as well. Simple designs that don’t require extra hook-up accessories or tubes are important: Our top picks all have pre-formed shells that don’t have any easily breakable parts, and are simple to open up if necessary. This can also affect the warranty: The durable design of our Dolphin pick is one reason that the warranty is a full 2 years instead of just one year. Hayward, meanwhile, offers up to a 3 year warranty depending on the model that you ultimately choose.
We also pay attention to, for lack of a better word, handling. These pool bots are larger than many people realize, and then need to be easy to place in the water and (this part is important), and easy to safely remove without trouble or injury. Handles and lightweight designs are particularly important here. Our top pick got the weight down to 16.5 pounds, which is great compared to the 18-20lb range that most models come in at.
While it’s sometimes hard to tell based on photos alone, one of the most important components of pool vacs is the cable. Cables should never tangle or get caught while the vacuum is running through its program. Models need to have swivel cables that re-orient themselves when necessary to avoid this…and they need to be long enough for your pool, preferably 40 feet or longer depending on your setup – and as you can imagine, more complicated hidden swimming pools may require even more cable than that.
Why You Should Buy a New Pool Vacuum Robot
The right swimming pool robot vacuum can save you money on cleanings, if you know what you’re doing and choose the right model for your pool. This is especially true if you have a pool that tends to struggle with debris (near to trees, frequently uncovered, in a windy area, etc.) and can benefit from frequent cleaning. The less time debris spends in the pool, the less chance of problems like algae developing, so frequent bot cleanings can contribute to the longevity of your pool – and it may not even cost that much electricity.
A pool robot vacuum can also catch grime, slime, and other problems that you or a pool cleaner may not notice, especially if equipped with fine filtration beyond just a mesh screen. This is particularly useful for extra-large pools where the in-pool filter may not be able to handle everything effectively.
#1 Pick Dolphin 99996403-PC Nautilus Plus – Editor’s Choice/Best Robotic Pool Vacuum
Price: $685.00 | Cleaning Cycle: 2.5 Hours | Surfaces: Walls, Coves, Floor, Waterline | Cable Length: 60 feet
WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: Ease of use and excellent filtration mark this great beginner’s model.
Not sure what pool bot to get? Start with this excellent Dolphin model, which does just about everything right. From full scrubbing for all pool shapes (including coves), to an extra-long cord, to cartridge filters that are easy to unlock and rinse, this pool vacuum robot is made to be useful…and the price is highly competitive for such a feature-rich model.
The 360° suction ensures that more floating bits get capture by the bot, while the two rubberized rollers take care of nearly any pool surface out there. The Plus model also comes with scanning tech that learns the individual shapes of each pool so that it makes fewer awkward mistakes, and generally acts with more intelligence while it cleans. The two filters are divided into fine filtration and mesh for coarse filtration, for one of the most complete cleaning cycles we’ve seen yet.
The model also has “waterline” cleaning, which means it pokes above the surface of the water a few inches to make sure all those floating bits get taken care of. Additionally, with the modular components you can handle most maintenance tasks and replacements yourself, a great feature for new owners. However, keep in mind that the 2.5-hour cleaning cycle is a little long, so give this bot plenty of time to get the job done.
#2 Pick Smartpool NC22 SmartKleen – Best Pool Vacuum Robot for Small Pools
Price: $295.07 | Cleaning Cycle: 2 Hours | Surfaces: Walls and Floor| Cable Length: 40 feet
WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: An affordable model ideal for smaller pools.
Look for a less expensive model that can still get the job done? Try out this Smartpool model, which is designed primarily for smaller pools closer to home – suggested for 14′ by 28′ by 6′ pools or less. Fortunately, the model supports pretty much all surfaces (vinyl, fiberglass, concrete) and is relatively fast and lightweight for easy handling.
It also has solid tracking technology – not quite Dolphin’s mapping system, but enough detection to avoid bumping off walls. The average cleaning cycle lasts for 2 hours before automatic shutoff, so it doesn’t take as long to run a cycle as the Dolphin model, either. If you’ve got a small pool, this is the bot cleaner for you.
#3 Pick Hayward RC9990CUB TigerShark Quick Clean – Best Pool Vacuum Robot for Large Pools
Price: $982.79 | Cleaning Cycle: |1.5 Hours | Surfaces: Floor, Walls, Coves, Waterline | Cable Length: 55 feet
WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: A masterful unit that can handle even the most challenging pools – for a price.
This Hayward pool robot vacuum is a high-end, super-fast model that’s excellent for pools which have more awkward shapes or cleaning needs. The high price is offset by the short cleaning cycle (two cycles recommended for the average pool), as well as the bot’s ability to handle pretty much every kind of pool you throw its way.
The cartridge filters are easy to remove and clean, and the whole system is designed for quick, simple use on all pool surfaces, including pebble and tile. Plus, the motor is made to save electricity! If it wasn’t for the high price, we would have scored this model higher, but you may not want to pay nearly $1,000 for a pool bot that has many of the same features as models half the cost.
What to Look for When Buying the Best Pool Vacuum Robot
Surface Material Compatibility
- While we tried to pick models that work well on all common surfaces, pool vacs are all designed the same way. Pool surfaces can be vinyl, fiberglass, gunite-style concrete, pebble-and-tile, and more. We don’t have time to go into the advantages and disadvantages of these surfaces right now, but all you need to know is you want to look for a model that’s properly rated to handle your pool’s particular type of surface.
- The last thing you want is a bot that has a chance of damaging your pool surface, because nothing is more annoying or expensive to fix over the long term. One reason our Hayward pick is so pricey is that it’s made to work on just about any surface, without causing damage.
Cable Length for You
- Cable lengths can vary quite a bit – and so can your needs, depending on the setup. Most models have a “control unit” that you install or plug in, and then a cable that runs from the control unit to the bot. Based on where you plug in the control unit, your cable needs to be long enough for the bot to cover all the surface area of your pool.
- Unfortunately there’s no easy way to judge this other than taking some precise measurements before buying – and choosing a longer cable to make sure there’s no problem.
- If you know your own system well enough, choose a spot where your control unit can be place (according to your electrical setup), and then measure the distance to your pool. Add the distance that the bot will need to travel inside the pool – this can vary based on bot behavior, but adding in a couple lengths from the longest side of your pool should be enough. When in doubt, call out an electrician or pool expert to ask for help.
Above Ground vs. In-Ground
- An above ground pool vacuum robot is generally designed for smaller spaces and easier cleaning jobs, since above ground pools tend to be smaller setups. In-ground pools are larger, and tend to favor larger bots with larger filtration capacities. Our top models are designed to work well both for in-ground and above ground pools, but it’s important to note the difference.
- Any time you mix electricity and water, you need assurance that the device is going to be safe. Certifications help ensure your peace of mind on this matter. There are many different certification options (CE, UL, ETK, CSA), which are typically defined by region.
- Make sure that a model has been certified for your region – multiple certifications show a brand that understands safety is important.
- Does the pool bot come with a remote control, or do you need to manually turn it on or off? Remote controls are generally more useful, however there’s wiggle room here for personal preference. If you’d rather not keep track of a pool remote at all times, manual controls may be more your style – especially if you’re already in the pool when you need to switch the bot’s program over.
- Mobility is a general factor that focuses on how well the pool bot handles and turns. Soft turns with high-quality mapping are usually better, because they clean corners more effectively and avoid the possibility of cable tangles more reliably. The bot should also be able to easily find traction and climb your pool walls to the water line without being dislodged.
Mistakes to Avoid
Ignoring Power Supply. Control panel installation and cables are an important part of pool vacuum cleaners, so you need to pay close attention to their requirements. Take a look at specs like output voltage (24 V DC, for example, is a common requirement) and make sure your electrical system can support it. This is especially important for models sold internationally, which may have varying power requirements.
Never Rinsing the Filter. Rinse out the filter after every use! That’s why filter bags and canisters are there – they need to be cleaned out so that your pool bot operates effectively. Otherwise, you aren’t getting your money’s worth because the pool bot can lose suction and cleaning capacity when the filters are backed up.
Not Taking Safety Precautions. Pool vacs add a bot and a long cord to your pool area. Be very careful when it comes to tripping or stumbling hazards. Even falling onto the bot in the pool can result in some serious injuries. Pool bots should be used while the pool is empty, but we know it can be tough to find time when a pool is both uncovered and not in use. Be careful no matter what.
Forgetting Other Pool Care: A pool bot does filter out dirt and scrub the walls, but that’s all it does. You can’t just forget about other types of pool care. Whether it’s you or a pool service, you need to make sure that the chemical balance of the pool remains optimal and that run times and temperature are both set as recommended. Improper chemical balances or temperatures will cause problems with algae and decay no matter how many pool bots you throw in.
What Else You Should Think About
When looking for the best pool vacuum robot, remember to find one that works with your pool size, pool surface materials, electrical system, and pool shape. That’s a lot of variables! Research is your friend here – and remember, you can always call a pool cleaner or similar service and ask about which of our picks would be best for your pool situation. This little video gives you an idea of how to start your pool vac, and there are also many resources on maintaining your pool chemical balance. Speaking of maintenance, you can save money with careful DIY maintenance on your pool bot – just remember to take safety precautions!
Keep in mind that robot pool vacuums and floor robot vacs are two different models (it sounds obvious, but please don’t get them confused). If you want to learn about today’s latest robot cleaning options to automate cleaning inside your house as well as outside, check out our feature on Neato vs. Roomba.