Suction-side pool cleaners are the simplest of automatic pool cleaners. Often the cheapest, too. You can get one for as little as $99. They are suitable for above-ground and in-ground, small to medium-sized swimming pools. There are a variety of models on the market with unique features to suit your type of pool and individual cleaning needs.
How Does a Suction-Side Pool Cleaner Work?
A suction-side cleaner connects to the suction-side of your pool’s filter system at the skimmer or to a suction line. The suction-side (opposite to the pressure-side) is where surface water, along with dirt and debris, is pulled into the skimmer and through the pool filter. A suction-side cleaner is a vacuum type of cleaner that automatically moves around your pool to clean it, using pressure for suction to surfaces. It requires your pool’s pump to run and your filter for filtration.
The Pros of a Suction-Side Pool Cleaner
- Low cost to buy – the cheapest of all pool cleaners, especially, at the lower-end.
- Less moving parts, so less to go wrong.
- Can clean the pool floor, walls, and up to the waterline.
- Easy to maintain. Just store it to dry-out after use.
- Innovative features on individual models cater for individual cleaning needs and pool types.
- Some models can pick small and large debris simultaneously.
The Cons of a Suction-Side Pool Cleaner
- Works on low pressure, so there is less vacuuming power. It is not as effective or efficient at cleaning your pool compared to pressure-side and robotic pool cleaners. It doesn’t scrub for a sparkling finish. Overall, it can cost you more in cleaning time and effort.
- Some models can clog up easily and stop working, especially with larger debris like sticks and leaves. However, some models have been designed to deal with this very problem.
- It can cost more in the long run. It uses your pool pump and filter to run and filter water, so energy bills will be higher.
- Because it uses your pool’s filter, you will need to frequently flush-out the filter with more backwashes, using more water.
- It interferes with your pool’s skimmer to collect dirt from the pool’s surface by reducing its suction effect. Most dirt and dust lies at the top 2 inches of your pool’s surface. So, dirt not picked up by the skimmer will stain your pool’s floor surface when it sinks to the bottom of your pool and sits there.
- More manual labor is involved with this type of cleaner than any other. Which is ok if you don’t mind the DIY and manual labor.
- Not the easiest of cleaners to operate: more preparation of the pool is required, and to set up and assemble the cleaner before it can be used.
Is it Worth Investing in a Suction-Side Pool Cleaner?
If the initial cost is a factor, and you just need something to get started, a suction-side cleaner can help clean your pool. It won’t be as effective at cleaning your pool compared to a pressure-side or robotic pool cleaner. Nor as energy efficient to run as it will increase your pool running costs.
Maintenance-wise, most models don’t have many moving parts to go wrong or replace. Also bear in mind, they do involve more manual labor than other types of cleaner. And can cost you more time, effort, and money in the long run. However, newer models have addressed some of the above issues.
How Do You Choose the Right Suction-Side Pool Cleaner
When deciding on a suction-side cleaner to buy, ask yourself these 3 key questions:
What type of pool do I have?
Suction-side cleaners are well-suited for small to medium-sized pools, above-ground and in-ground. Note: this does vary from model to model: some may be suited just for above-ground pools, while others for in-ground pools.
Stairs, drains, light fittings, and ladders can cause problems. So check for cleaners designed to handle these obstacles. Suction-side cleaners are suitable for concrete, gunite, tiled, vinyl, and fiberglass pools. But one model isn’t always suited for all those surfaces. So be sure to double-check the cleaner is suitable for your pool’s surface.
The suction-side cleaner’s hose must also reach the full length of your pool, without tangling. Also, bear in mind that larger pools will require more electricity to clean them. So, it may be more cost-effective to purchase a different type of automatic pool cleaner: one more suited for larger pools.
What’s my budget?
Consider, not just the initial cost of buying a pool cleaner, but also the long-term running costs of a suction-side cleaner and your pool. Then compare that to using other types of automatic pool cleaners. Ask yourself: is the cleaner energy efficient? How much extra does it cost in energy when it runs off my pool equipment? And how much extra water will I use (especially for backwashes) as result of using this cleaner?
Bear in mind, the higher-end suction-side cleaner models can cost close to $500. If you have a higher budget (around $300), it’s always worth considering pressure-side and robotic pool cleaners, too.
What’s the main purpose of my cleaner?
Do you live in an area that can leave large debris in your pool, or small debris? Or both? Some cleaners can handle one or the other, but not always both.
Extra features & options to consider
There are a number of features and options available which vary by model and by manufacturer. So, consider the options that are most important to you based on your cleaning needs and budget. Here are the most important ones to look out for:
A suction-side cleaner works on low pressure. So, depending on the model, may not be that effective when cleaning floors and walls. Especially when it needs to climb those walls.
Can it handle the type of debris in your pool?
Is it effective in picking up small debris like insects, sand and silt? As well as larger debris like twigs, branches, rocks, and large leaves?
Can it clean around stairs, drains, light fittings, and ladders, without getting stuck? Some cleaners offer optional add-ons for a specific purpose, or are designed for a specific purpose.
Some models are designed to be more energy efficient than others.
Some models are designed to use 30% less water.
Smart cleaning cycles
Some models use technology to determine the best cleaning path around your pool and to manoeuvre around awkward areas. This results in a better end-result, while saving time and money.
Does it require a booster pump to operate?
Suction-side cleaners work off your pool equipment. Some cleaners require booster pumps to operate (although, not many), and booster pumps use a lot of electricity.
Check your pool pump power rating
Some suction-side cleaners require a minimum pump power rating to work effectively. Generally, a 3/4 horsepower pump is adequate to power most cleaners. Note: if suction is too high, this will affect the cleaner’s ability to move along.
Features to prevent clogging
Suction-side cleaners are prone to clogging, especially with larger debris. Some cleaners have features to prevent this, like adjustable or larger throats to let larger debris pass.
Less moving parts
Does the cleaner have moving parts which may be costly to repair, like gears, wheels, or diaphragms? If so, consider whether you really need the feature.
Some cleaners are made from thermoplastic to last longer, especially against a harder pool surface.
Check hose lengths can cover the size of your pool, without tangling.
If the hose gets damaged easily, which can happen around corners and ladders, this will affect its performance.
The more jets the better
More jets make it a more efficient cleaner to blast away dirt, especially from tight corners.
Quiet in operation
Some cleaners make an annoying hammer or flapper noise. If this could be a problem for you, opt for a model that is quieter in operation.
Filter bag sizes
An over-sized filter bag lets you clean your pool longer without interruption to empty the filter the bag.
A reliable brand for after-sales service and warranty
As with any product, you want it backed by a reliable brand that can:
a) Build an effective, durable suction-side cleaner that lasts.
b) Provide a reliable, quick service to fix or replace your suction-side cleaner.
c) Ensure replacement parts are reasonably priced and are easily available.
d) Provide a long warranty to cover the product for an adequate length of time. Warranties for suction-side cleaners are usually for 2 years.
What are the Best Suction-Side Pool Cleaner Brands?
Three established brands for suction-side pool cleaners are: Kreepy Krauly, Barracuda, and Hayward. All offer a host of innovative features to suit your pool and individual cleaning needs which are unique to their brands and range of cleaners. All three brands offer great after-sales service, parts availability, and warranties.
Kreepy Krauly are owned by Pentair, who were founded in 1966. Their first suction-side cleaner inspired many of the suction-side cleaners you see today. The ‘Kreepy Krauly Kruiser’ is an improved version of the now-known classic version of the Kreepy Krauly suction-side cleaner. They have been trusted over the decades by 3 million pool owners for suction-side cleaners.
The ‘MX’ and ‘G3’ ranges of suction-side cleaners are their most popular. Barracuda started in 1976 and have their roots in Australia. They are now owned by Zodiac, a conglomerate of Fluidra: the largest global manufacturer and distributor of robotic pool cleaners. This brand has innovation and advances which go back a long way: evident in all their pool cleaners, not just suction-side cleaners.
Hayward have a wide variety of ranges that are popular for suction-side cleaners. Hayward have been manufacturing pool equipment for over 80 years, and is the largest in the world. Like all their pool equipment, they provide technologically advanced cleaners which are built to last. Some of their suction-side cleaner models have been proven for cleaning performance for over 30 years.