Robotic Cleaners vs. Manual Pool Vacuums—And How to Install Both

Remember that great time when you were swimming and stepped on a sharp piece of rock? Yeah, me neither. When it comes to your pool, little oversights like not properly chlorinating your pool, not shocking your pool, or not getting the right pump for you can lead to major buzzkill. Keeping the bottom of your pool floor clean with the help of a robotic cleaner or a manual vacuum is no different. Here I’ll explain the difference between the two, why they’re necessary, and how to install them. Unlike these devices, this explanation won’t suck.

What is a Robotic Cleaner? And What Year Is It Again? 

Being able to swim whenever you want to (plus, without sharing a pool with strangers) is huge. But it can also seem like a lot of work to own a pool—and own up to all your pool maintenance. To make things easier on yourself, the first thing you should do is make sure you have a routine. The second? Take whatever reasonable shortcuts that come your way.

The robotic cleaner can be one of those golden maintenance shortcuts. Usually designed with an energy-efficient electric motor, these mean machines navigate and suction small and moderately-sized debris in your pool all on their own—and all while not requiring a booster pump or hooking into the pool’s filtration system. If you choose the right robotic cleaner—that is, one that really works—you won’t need to buy a manual vacuum. Hate to say it, but if you choose a cheaper, less efficient robotic cleaner or automatic cleaner, you’ll also need to vacuum manually. That is, unless you like stepping on twigs. Yowch.

Looking for an automatic cleaner that does get the job done? My recommendation is the Blue Torrent Stinger Automatic Pool Cleaner. As the most advanced non-robotic cleaner on the market, I consider it an exception to the rule. 

I’ll Do the Grunt Work. What is a Manual Pool Vacuum?

Similar to robotic cleaners, pool vacuums suction up the dirt and debris from the bottom of your pool—but you’ll have to do the hard work yourself. Vacuuming by hand takes a lot of strength and a lot of time, and the slower you go the better. The last thing you want to do is kick up particles, decrease the visibility of your water, and wait hours for everything to sink to your pool floor so that you can vacuum again. That’s a lose-lose situation. 

Why Do I Even Need to Clean My Pool Floor?

Unless you have an indoor pool, your pool is in the environment—and during pool season, it’s practically asking for leaves, twigs, and other debris to fall right in. Plus, there’s other sediment that swimmers leave behind, such as, you know, hair (someone’s got to say it). Although it’s absolutely required that you use chlorine to keep your pool clean and safe, chlorine sanitizes bacteria and organic matter—it doesn’t actually remove the visible debris in your pool. And in the interest of keeping a pool and not a tiny, dangerous lake, you’re going to need to clean the floor once a week, either with a robotic cleaner, an automatic cleaner, or a manual vacuum. And again, most automatic cleaners also require a manual vacuum to get the job done.

Less Time and Effort? Sign Me Up. How Do I Choose a Robotic Cleaner?

When choosing a robotic cleaner, look for a model with that is self-contained—meaning it won’t need to hook up to your skimmer. This keeps installation easy, and avoids adding stress to your pool’s filtration system. You’ll also want to pay attention to the quality of the robot cleaner’s filters, which will trap dirt and debris inside (much like a household vacuum). You’ll want a strong suction power so that stubborn dirt and algae doesn’t stand a chance. Make sure the cleaner has high maneuverability—this is more important than speed, because nothing slows down a cleaning job like your model getting repeatedly stuck. And lastly, make sure that your cleaner is durable—or get one with a lifetime warranty. It’s a smart investment, but an investment all the same.

You can do your own research for a robotic cleaner that fulfills these criteria and more, or follow my lead: the Blue Torrent MyBot In-Ground Robotic Pool Cleaner is the most economical, high-performance robotic cleaner on the market.

Got My Robotic Cleaner. But How Do I Install It? 

This one’s easy. In order to install a robotic cleaner, you need one thing: an outlet. Unlike all other automatic or manual pool cleaners, these models don’t need to be hooked up to your pool’s great circulation system. I know I’m always telling you to take the DIY approach, but for this one, you really, really don’t need to call a professional.

I know what you’re thinking: water and electricity... isn’t that a deadly combination? Good question—I can already tell you’re less likely to mess around with a blow dryer and a bathtub. But unlike that blow dryer, robotic cleaners were designed to be in water. They run on low-voltage sources through ground-fault circuit interrupter (GCFI) outlets, which automatically turn off power if they detect that anything electric isn’t right. So yes, these cleaners are safe to use. Plus, you won’t need to do anything except clean out its bag—much like a household vacuum. This depends on use, so just keep an eye. If it stops sucking up debris, chances are it’s time to clean the vacuum out.

I’m DIY Through and Through. How Do I Choose a Manual Pool Vacuum?

When choosing a manual vacuum, you’ll want to keep it simple. Make sure that it has strong suction power, a maneuverable head (this will save you a ton of elbow grease as you move it back and forth in your pool), and is rechargeable—it’s a pain to move around more hoses and cords than you need.

If you’re interested in a clean pool, don’t overlook the heart of your circulation system: your pool pump. The 1.5 HP Variable Speed Blue Torrent Thunder Pump is a robust and thorough pump and the most reasonable decision any pool owner can make: it comes with a lifetime warranty, is eligible for rebates, and pays itself off in under one year. 

Got My Manual Pool Vacuum. How Do I Install It?

This one is much more complicated than a robotic cleaner, and will take more time—but again, it’s the cheapest option. In order to install a pool vacuum, do the following steps:

1.     Attach the vacuum head to one end of a telescopic pole—this is the same pole that usually attaches to the skimmer net you use to scoop out floating leaves (and bugs, because someone’s got to say it). Most manual vacuums were designed to do this and have clear markings. If yours doesn’t, follow the manufacturer’s instructions on how to get your vacuum to the bottom of the pool—without you in it.

2.     Attach one end of the vacuum hose to the vacuum head. Again, this should be pretty clearly marked, and the hose should’ve come with the model. Hold the pole and lower the vacuum head into the pool, along with the hose. Make sure the other end of the hose is outside the pool—we’re taking care of that next.

3.     Locate the filter skimmer—where water enters the pool from your pump—on the pool wall. Plug the other end of the hose into its water intake nozzle. This looks like a pipe with a large head and usually has crosshatched plastic lines across its face. This nozzle will send water in through the hose, and you’ll see bubbles coming out of the vacuum head—this’ll stop once the hose is full of water. Now the vacuum head should lay flat and tight on the pool floor, no problem. You’ve created all the suction you need.

4.     Switch the filter nozzle on your pool vacuum to the intake mode, and then guide the head along the floor with the help of the telescopic pole. You’ll see the dirt get sucked in.

5.     Disconnect the hose from the filter when you’re done, and store your pool vacuum in a clean place. Get ready to repeat this next week, or whenever you see dirt and debris on the bottom of your pool. For now, congratulations: you’re done.

Installing vacuums takes a ton of time—and you have to repeat it each week. Instead, try the Blue Torrent MyBot In-Ground Robotic Pool Cleaner: it’s the most economical, high performance pool cleaner on the market—and comes with a lifetime warranty. According to customer David Lain, “Very pleased. My wife loves it.”

Go On, Practice Your Handstand—That Floor is Clean.

Whether you chose the ultra-easy robotic cleaner or the challenging-but-rewarding pool vacuum, you did a great job. The bottom of the pool floor is clean and your water all the more clear for it. Plus, you won’t need to worry about stepping on anything but your smooth pool floor. Think this calls for a celebratory dive—don’t you?


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