Robotic Pool Cleaner vs Suction: 6 Pros & Cons

robotic pool cleaner in an inground pool cleaning the floor

If you are considering replacing your suction cleaner with a robotic cleaner this article is for you.  How do you choose whether a robotic cleaner is best for you?  Is there ever a time a suction cleaner would be a better solution?  In this article we will weigh the strengths of each type of cleaner against the other in what we are calling robotic pool cleaner vs suction.

How Does A Robotic Pool Cleaner vs Suction Pool Cleaner Work?

First, there are the basics of how each cleaner works.  Let’s start with the suction cleaner.  The suction cleaner is most popular in areas with a low leaf load but a high dust load, like Arizona, Nevada and parts of California.  In these areas a suction cleaner was considered the only option for years, and it works quite well.  The suction cleaner, as the name suggests, operates on suction.  Suction cleaners are plugged into either a dedicated vac-port in the side of the pool or the skimmer throat.  

Suction cleaners use the power of your pool pump to move around the pool.  There is a mechanism powered by the moving water which turns the wheels, creates a jumping motion, or moves the flappy paddles on the sides of the cleaner to move it around the pool. 

Some cleaners are more successful than others when it comes to cleaning the whole pool floor.  Generally it is accepted that one of the best is the Hayward Navigator.  Though many pool professionals have brand loyalty and many Pentair or Jandy aligned companies avoid everything Hayward, it’s undeniable Hayward has one of the best suction cleaners ever designed.  

Suction Pool Cleaner Problems

The weak point of a suction cleaner is leaves and large debris.  Debris will clog the cleaning head and sometimes the hose.  Even if the debris makes its way back to the pump, it gets caught in the pump basket itself. 

In a high leaf load condition, your pump can lose flow and struggle to keep running if you don’t remember to clean the basket regularly.  Also, smaller debris will be making its way to the filter, and you’ll need to backwash or clean the cartridges more often when you have a suction cleaner.  

homeowner having to struggle to remove a suction vacuum showing the disadvantages of that a robotic pool cleaner vs suction one has

Depending on the cleaner and the shape of the pool, suction cleaners can get stuck, or only focus on one portion of the pool.  Suction cleaners for the most part do not clean steps or benches. Furthermore, they definitely do not clean the walls of the pool.  This means you still need to manually brush the walls regularly if you want to prevent algae build up.

Robotic Pool Cleaner vs Suction Comparison

When weighing robotic pool cleaner vs suction, one of the most noticeable issues with a suction cleaner is the fact that it is always in the pool.  Nearly everyone just leaves the suction cleaner in the pool because of the aggravation of taking it out and putting it in.  Thus, whenever you’re swimming in the pool you’re swimming with a vacuum hose and head.  Kids play with it, and can cause premature damage by pulling on the hose, or banging the vacuum around.

Why Robotic Pool Cleaners Are Better Than Suction

The robotic cleaner is by no means a silver bullet solving all these issues in one fell swoop.  However, in the realm of robotic cleaner vs suction, the robotic cleaner does bring some solutions to the table.  For one, the robotic pool cleaner does not use the pump and filter system of the pool to operate.  In fact, your pump can be off and the robotic cleaner can do it’s work. 

When most robotic pool cleaners are done with their cycles or full of debris, they will automatically stop.  Some will even notify you they are done with their cycle and ready for cleaning or to be pulled out of the pool.  

self sufficient blue dolphin vacuum showing the cleaning differences between robotic pool cleaner vs suction pool cleaner

Robotic pool cleaners are larger than suction cleaners, but are much easier to get out of the pool. There is no flooding the hose or vac ports to deal with.  You simply pull the cleaner out of the water, put it on your pool cleaner caddy, or carry it to the shed until the next time you clean the pool.

Robotic pool cleaners have a built in system for navigation of the pool.  Though random, depending on your pool type and cleaner, robotic pool cleaners are capable of climbing the walls. In fact, they can actually even brushing the tile line as part of their cleaning cycle. There usually is a rotating brush as a part of robotic pool cleaners. This will brush algae off the surface of the pool which is especially useful for gunite pools. Gunite surfaces tend to be a little rough. Therefore, leaving nooks and crannies for algae to get a foothold.  

What To Know Before Buying A Robotic Pool Cleaner

Though robotic pool cleaners are not exceptional when it comes to high leaf loads, some are better than others.  Make sure you do your research.  On the high end of pool cleaners, we recommend the Dolphin family of products.  Dolphin has been in manufacture and iteration of pool cleaners since the 1980’s and there really is no other robotic cleaner in the world with as many hours of research and testing. 

On the low end of pool cleaners, there’s always the Aiper Seagull SE which is great for your above ground or flat bottom pool of any kind.  Just don’t expect it to climb the walls.

Robotic Pool Cleaner vs Suction Summary

When looking at robotic pool cleaner vs suction, we hope this has been a helpful comparison of the basics.  If you want to dig deeper into the various cleaning types, check out our articles on if you need a robotic pool cleaner or how suction pool cleaners work.