By Guy Erlich
Today, automatic/robotic pool cleaners are not only a convenient maintenance accessory for pool owners, but are also a great tool for industry professionals when incorporated into their service routine. That said, with so many of these products in the market, not only do industry professionals need to be well-versed in troubleshooting any number of complications they might face, but also be able to resolve any issues the consumer might have when using their cleaner. In addition to common user error, like any robotic product, sometimes faulty parts can be the cause of a robotic/automatic pool cleaner to malfunction. This article will provide some troubleshooting tips for industry professionals and pool retailers when faced with a pool cleaner that is not working properly.
An easy answer to a common problem
An automatic pool cleaner that constantly flips over can be a nuisance; however, one of the most common reasons why this happens is because of the water level in the pool. When the water level is too high, the waterline is too close to the coping and, as a result, when the cleaner climbs the pool wall and grabs the coping, it causes it to flip onto its back.
In fact, this can be detrimental to the cleaner’s motor(s) because it is no longer submerged, but rather exposed above the water. A robotic pool cleaner’s motor is cooled by the water; therefore, when it operates out of the water it can get hot fast, which leads to failure. Depending on the outside temperature, the motor can potentially fail as quickly as within one hour (if it is extremely hot, e.g., 32 C [90 F], it may only take a matter of minutes before it burns out). Most cleaners have electronic systems which attempt to account for this, but they are definitely not fool proof.
Another common problem is when a homeowner uses their automatic/robotic cleaner for the first time and forgets to remove all of the air from the unit before starting the machine. Not only can this cause flips and ‘wheelies,’ but it also keeps the cleaner from performing correctly.
If the unit still contains air, it will float—as little as an inch above the pool floor—so it looks as though it may be working when in fact it is not. It can take a long time to remove all of the air. To do this properly, the cleaner must be held underwater, shaking it left to right and up and down, to disperse all of the air. Once complete, and the unit is dropped into the pool, it is important to watch to make sure it is actually resting on the pool floor.
It is also important to remember there might be a chance the pump motor is weak or turning too slow. The only resolution in this case is replacing the motor.
The following are some similar, more specific calls/complaints with automatic/robotic pool cleaners, why they may happen, and how to fix them.
The cleaner does not lay flat on the pool floor
If air has been removed from the unit as described above, and the cleaner is equipped with poly vinyl alcohol (PVA) brushes, it is possible that they have not absorbed enough water to make them pliable. This is a common call and is easy to fix. Simply place the unit in the pool for at least 30 minutes or until the brushes become soft. Once the brushes are soft, the unit will lay flat on the pool floor.