Robotic pool cleaners: The automatic age

Tuesday, 18 September, 2012

Robotic pool cleaners: The automatic age

The future of pool cleaning is here so don't be left behind - join the robot cleaning revolution and make life easier for your clients.

Robotic pool cleaning technology is gaining a strong, loyal group of pool owners in the Australian market - it is one of the fastest-growing product categories in the pool industry. With a plethora of new robots entering the market it is worth asking why this is happening and what makes robots better than other cleaning products.

One answer is value for money. Robots have a significant number of end-user features compared to all other pool cleaners.

Pool + Spa discusses some of the features that make robotic cleaners so popular.

Superior cleaning ability

Systematic - Many robot cleaners are systematic. The ones that are systematic have in-built electronics, with sensors, logic and controls to enable the robot to navigate the pool. Dan Kwaczynski, managing director of Maytronics Australia, says, "The better ones actually map the pool each time they are installed. This means they provide superior coverage and don't get stuck."

Brushing, scrubbing - Robots are designed not simply to suck debris from a pool but actually scrub to the surface as well. Some also have extra brushes designed to work independently at high speed.

Independent filtration - Robots can have on board their own independent filtering system. This removes debris from the water and filters as it goes. Comparisons show this to be at a very high level compared to pressure cleaners.

Strong suction power - Robots also often have an extremely strong suction power, ranging up to 250 litres per minute. That's as much as the main filter pump in many pools.

Wall climbing and waterline scrubbing - The enormous suction creates an additional benefit: it enables the robot to climb walls (shown below left), benches and ledges and once at the surface they can be programmed to scrub the waterline as well.

Easy to use

Robots are extremely easy to use: place them in the water and press the "on" switch. There is no need for hoses, floats, bumps or booster pumps.

Reclaim the pool - Dan also says "Because robots have superior cleaning abilities, for most pools you really only need to use them once or twice for them to look like pools again, instead of looking like hydraulic factories with pipes and hoses in all directions."

Environmental benefits

Save power - Robots operate and filter inside the pool. They are completely independent of the pool's main filtration system. The great benefit of this is that water does not have to be pumped through 20 metres of piping through bends, elbows etc. for filtering. Instead, the water is filtered right there in the pool. Independent studies by electrical companies shared with Pool + Spa by Maytronics Australia have shown that annual savings can be around $300 per annum, even after the small running cost of a robot is taken into account. Note, however, that you still need pool filtration, just not to the extent required by other cleaners.

Save water - Because robots filter in the water, they remove the debris from the system. This in turn means that the main pool filter unit does not become clogged as quickly, which results in fewer backwashes. "Estimates are that backwashing is reduced by up to 50 per cent when using robots compared to all other cleaning methods," says Dan.

Save chemicals - Robots help to reduce chemical requirements. In Australia the vast majority of pools have suction cleaners that are permanently in the pool and connected. In these circumstances, the skimmer is completely ineffective - the result is that all debris landing on the surface must slowly go through the water, making the water cloudier and also requiring chemicals to control. When a robot is used, the pool's skimmer starts working again. Also, by removing the debris rather than storing it in the pool's main filter, the chemical load is reduced.

Hassle-free pool cleaners on the move

In terms of household users, robotic pool cleaners are gaining popularity with time-poor families who want to spend the day enjoying their pool instead of vacuuming it.

"Robotic cleaners have evolved significantly over the past five years," says Bryan Goh, group marketing director with Waterco. "Today's top-of-the-line products combine user-friendly operation with water, energy and chemical conservation features."

Most pool cleaners in the market today are suction cleaners. However, these cleaners experience various restrictions, for example some cannot operate at high enough speeds, and they are fitted into a pool's skimmer, thus reducing the pool's skimming ability and also reducing its turnover by adding a restriction to its pool circulation.

Advantages of robotic or automatic pool cleaners:

  • Environmental benefits: Clients can automatically and systematically clean their swimming pool without relying on the operation of filtering equipment. The result is a dramatic reduction in energy costs when compared to all other types of automatic pool cleaners.

  • Most suction cleaners need the pool's filtration system to operate at a higher speed, negating any energy savings from the use of variable speed pumps.

  • Pressure cleaners require not only the normal filtration system to be operating, but also the addition of a booster pump. This significantly increases energy consumption and ultimately cost.

  • Less maintenance: Robotic cleaners vacuum and trap pool debris in self-contained compartments or bags. This technique saves excessive backwashing or rinsing the pool's filter, which is needed with suction-style cleaners.

  • Total pool cleaning: These clever cleaners are equipped with scrubbing brushes, so not only do they vacuum the pool's floor and walls but they also scrub the actual surface, regardless of whether it's vinyl, fibreglass or concrete. This keeps it looking in peak condition for longer.

  • Clearer water for swimming: Robotic cleaners improve the circulation, resulting in less algae growth and improved water chemistry.

  • Perfect for time-poor people: Most robotic cleaners clean the entire pool, including walls and steps, in a matter of a few hours. Place the cleaner in the pool - it does the rest.

Suction cleaners can also incur difficulties if there is quite a lot of debris in the pool, as the debris goes straight to the filtration system, which requires backwashing or maintenance. With a robotic cleaner, it is trapped within it.

Additionally, robotic cleaners not only keep the pool floor and walls clean, they also improve water circulation. Bryan says, "This helps maintain correct water chemistry while also reducing the likelihood of algae growth."

Swimming-pool maintenance is ongoing, and, depending on which area of the country you are in, it can be a year-long activity. Algae and bacteria can quickly take over pool water and, if they do, it can cost more to return the pool to optimum condition than it would to maintain it on a daily basis.

Fortunately, the current range of robotic pool cleaners is sufficiently extensive for clients to find the right one to suit their budgets and pools, be it in-ground, above-ground, concrete, vinyl or fibreglass.

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