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This year we captured a ton of debris and emptied dozens of robotic pool cleaners and found that not every robot measures up to our leaf, debris, and algae tests. We took the robotic pool cleaners in our line-up for real-world tests in a pool with various types of leaves, debris and even acorns.
As we dropped each cleaner in, we evaluated the ability to pick up varying types of debris. We evaluated the ability to climb the wall and clean the waterline. We noted he ease of cleaning the filters, and the ability of the cord to remain tangle-free for multiple cycles. We found that the best robotic pool cleaners did each of those extremely well.
The first thing to understand when shopping for a robotic pool cleaner is how manufacturers set pricing and feature sets. The entry level robotic pool cleaners are stripped down versions, often with important core features removed. For example, robots under $1,000 do not have the ability to clean the waterline. The tile at the waterline is normally one of the dirtiest areas in a pool. A robot's effectiveness depends on many factors, such as the suction power and the width of their vacuum path. We found that robots with more motors, wider vacuum paths and larger inlets took less time to do the job.
The waterline, sometimes called the tileline, is where debris, algae and bacteria may grow if not cleaned on a regular basis. A robot that leaves this area untouched defeats the purpose of having a pool robot. Robots must have special software, sensors and motors to adhere to and clean the area just above and below the tileline. Robots sold at lower price points, normally those under $1000, do not have the ability to clean the waterline.
Make sure your robot specifically lists "waterline cleaning" in addition to the typical wall cleaning. Otherwise, you'll need to clean the waterline and tile area the old fashioned way, with a brush.
Get the anti-tangle swivel. You'll thank us later. Twisted and tangled cables used to come with the territory of owning a pool cleaner. Luckily, most robotic pool cleaners now have a genuine 360 degree anti-tangle swivel. It's one of the greatest engineering achievements ever. Without a swivel, you'll spend way too much time detangling the power cord. When the power cord becomes a tangled mess, performance and efficiency both go downhill. Based on user reviews, a tangled cable is one of the leading complaints when there is no swivel on the robot.
Does your pool get a lot of leaves and debris? Dolphin Premier has the answer with Multi-Media. Now you can choose the right media for the job. Want to clean fine debris and algae that passes through other pool cleaners? Choose MicroFilter. Need to pick up a bushel of leaves? Go oversided leaf bag.
The filter capacity is very important, especially if your pool is in an area near trees. You don't want to have to stop what you're doing every 30 minutes to empty a bag full of leaves and debris. Some robots like the Dolphin Premier have a large oversized bag that holds significant more debris than any cartridge filter. This is a very desirable feature if your pool collects a lot of leaves.
There are two types of propulsion that move robotic cleaners through the water: 2 wheel drive, 4 wheel drive and tracks. The best design for ultimate traction is the track. The contact surface of a track is much greater than even four wheels. The result is greater traction and improved efficiency. When a cleaner's wheel is spinning in place, efficiency is going to suffer.
Robotic pool cleaner repairs can be expensive. The average cost of a replacement motor is $425 with labor. A power supply will set you back at least $200. You want a cleaner with a three year warranty. Period. The cost of warranty repairs can be a shock for pool owners as some repairs end up being 50% of the robot's value. Pool robots have a hard life. There's water, sun, chlorine and a dozen other chemicals. Read a few robotic pool cleaner reviews and you'll notice that they'll need repairs from time to time. Premium robots have a 3 year warranty and you'll save enough money after one under warranty repair to cover the difference between a Premium and entry level robot. Protect your investment with the maximum warranty of 3 years.
In order of rank, the top 3 robotic pool cleaners for 2019...