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A guide to selection and installation of automatic pool cleaners

Maiden voyage

Before any cleaner can operate, however, it needs power. In the case of robotic cleaners, this is typically an outdoor electrical outlet. (The cleaner’s power supply, which in turn plugs into the outlet, must be at least 3 m [10 ft] from the water’s edge for safety, according to the National Electrical Code [NEC] and some local codes.) For pressure and suction cleaners, the power will come from the pool equipment.

Once the cleaner is in the water, turn it (or the pool pump) on and allow it to run for a couple of minutes to ensure all the air is out of the system.

For suction cleaners, it is important at this stage to confirm the hose length is correct. The pump needs to be turned on when checking the length, as the hose will contract when the pump is operating. If the hose length is checked when the pump is off, it may appear long enough when it really is not.

With the pump on, move the cleaner with a pool pole to the furthest point in the pool from its attachment point (typically the skimmer) and ensure it has adequate slack. If hose length adjustments are necessary, be sure to turn off the pool pump before disconnecting sections.

Hose balance is also important for suction cleaner operation. This should be observed with the pump off. The balance is correct if the cleaner’s seal rests flat on the bottom of the pool and the drive tube, or leader hose is at a 45-degree angle relative to the pool floor. If the angle of the drive tube is off, the hose is too light and the weights should be moved closer to the unit. If the cleaner is lying down, the hose has too much weight.

Thrust jets, which are unique to some pressure cleaners, may also require some fine tuning upon first use. These jets alter the direction of the cleaner. Sweep hoses are another commonly adjusted part of most pressure cleaners. Sweep hose motion can be adjusted by turning a screw.

For pressure cleaners, another item worth checking is the wheel revolutions per minute (RPM), as this can help determine if the cleaner is receiving the proper water pressure. To measure wheel RPM, turn off the pool pump and remove the cleaner from the pool. Mark the front drive tire with a marker and place the cleaner back in the pool while someone turns on the pool and booster pumps. Count the rotations of the marked wheel for one minute. If the RPM is too high, an on-site adjustment can be made by fine tuning the bypass valve at the wall fitting. If it is too low, adjust the bypass or verify the cleaner line pipe size and filtration pump size.

Refer to the manual

This article has provided an overview of how to select and install most types of automatic pool cleaners. However, always consult the owner’s manual for product-specific instructions. A subsequent article will cover routine maintenance and troubleshooting.



Sue Robach is the national training manager for Pentair Water Pool and Spa. She has been leading technical seminars and preparing training materials for 20 years. Prior to joining Sta-Rite, which was later purchased by Pentair, she ran her own pool service firm in Sacramento, Calif. She can be reached via e-mail at

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