The 3 Types of Automatic Pool Vacuum Cleaners

Suction vs. Pressure vs. Robotic Pool Cleaners

Buying a pool vacuum cleaner can be an intimidating experience. With a whole litany of different makes, models, and types available, it can be easy to feel paralyzed by the sheer number of choices.

Fortunately, we’re here to help you make an informed decision!

Here’s our rundown of the three major types of automatic pool cleaners: suction-side, pressure-side, and robotic.

Suction-Side Pool Cleaners

Suction-side pool cleaners use a pool’s suction port to suck up dirt and debris. The pool’s suction allows the cleaner to “pulse” through the water, moving it slowly throughout the pool.

These cleaners are simple, with few mechanical parts, and are a cost-effective option for pool vacuums. However, they’re very energy intensive, and can drive up your electricity bill. They’re also more susceptible to clogging, and require more frequent cleaning, than other types.


  • Most Inexpensive Option
  • Easy to Install
  • Easy to Repair (Fewer Parts)


  • Requires a Decent Pump and Filter
  • More Prone to Clogs
  • Requires More Upkeep
  • Less Energy-Efficient

Our Recommendation: The Zodiac MX8 Elite

  • Efficient, alleviating the energy costs of a suction-side cleaner
  • Active scrubbing brushes, providing a deeper clean
  • Superior wall climbing, scrubbing up to the tile line

Pressure-Side Pool Cleaners

As the name suggests, pressure-side pool cleaners rely on harnessing pressurized water to create suction, picking-up debris, and moving along a pool’s surfaces. The collected debris then moves through the vacuum into an attached filter bag. Pressure-side pool cleaners typically attach to your pool’s return port (rather than the suction port, like a suction cleaner). However, many pressure-side cleaners can also attach to a booster pump, which lets them operate independently of your pump and filter system.


  • More Powerful—Can Clean Up Large Leaves, Sticks, and Acorns
  • Not so Reliant on the Pump and Filter
  • Fairly Easy to Install and Repair


  • Less Energy-Efficient (On Par with Suction Cleaners)
  • Filter Bag Needs to Be Cleaned After Each Use
  • Somewhat More Expensive Than Suction-Side Pool Cleaners
  • Generally, Not Worth the Extra Expense Unless You Have Large Pieces of Debris

Our Recommendation: The Polaris Vac-Sweep 360

  • Booster pump, available
  • Easy to clean, filter bag
  • Scrubber wheels, provide more thorough clean

Robotic Cleaners

Simple, smart, and convenient, robotic cleaners are the gold standard for pool vacuums. Unlike the pressure- and suction-side cleaners, these bad boys don’t connect to your pump and filter system. All they require is a plug-in socket, and they’re good to go.

Like pressure cleaners, robotic cleaners use a filter bag to collect debris, which needs to be cleaned after each use. However, recent years have seen a great variety of different types of robotic cleaners crop up. They range from simple and affordable models to swanky cleaners with jet propulsion, solar power, and four-wheel drive.

Thanks to the automated and programmable interface, robotic cleaners are by far the easiest to use. That said, their more robust build does make them more difficult to repair. Typically, this shouldn’t be a problem: when taken care of, a quality robotic cleaner should last ages. If, however, your robotic cleaner is proving troublesome, it’s best to call an experienced technician like ourselves to fix the problem.


  • Faster, Deeper Cleaning
  • Easy to Install, Effortless to Use
  • Truly Automatic
  • Many Affordable Models Available
  • Energy-Efficient


  • Can Be More Expensive
  • More Difficult to Repair
  • Filter Bag Need to Be Cleaned After Each Use

Our Recommendation: The Dolphin Echo

  • Affordable, best bang-for-buck value
  • Easy-to-clean, filtration system
  • Fast, 2-hour cleaning cycle
  • Durable, sturdy and backed by a 2-year warranty

Curious about more pool vacuum options? Check out our online store today!

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