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In Floor Pool Cleaning Systems vs. Automatic Pool Cleaners


I’m writing this article to help people in making a decision regarding their pool cleaning system.  Many people get confused in deciding which pool cleaning system is best for their pool. Most pools in the Atlanta area have suction side cleaners or pressure side cleaners(automatic cleaners). These cleaners are the little robots that have a hose attached to them and are connected to the wall of the pool. They operate by using the suction from the filter pump or the return from the filter pump.  Some models have their own dedicated booster pump like most pressure side cleaners and others don’t, like suction side cleaners.  These styles of pool cleaners have advantages and disadvantages.

 Advantages of Automatic Cleanersinground pool builder atlanta

Automatic cleaners are simple systems that clean most pools effectively.  Pressure and suction automatic cleaners are fairly easy to install and maintain.  This style of cleaner can be installed on existing pools as well as new pools. Automatic pool cleaners are easy to clean out as well.  Simply empty the debris bag and install the bag back on the cleaner and you are cleaning again.  The maintenance is pretty simple as well. Most automatic cleaners have parts that wear with time and need replacement to prevent damage to the cleaner.  These items are the wheels, bumpers, and rollers on the sweep tail.   Automatic cleaners can be completely removed from the pool for swimming by disconnecting the leader hose from the pool wall.  Another advantage with automatic cleaners is that they are relatively inexpensive when compared to infloor cleaning systems.

Disadvantages of Automatic Cleaners

Automatic cleaners do have some disadvantages for some pools as well though.  Many of the pools constructed today have sun shelves, benches, or shallow areas that an automatic cleaner is not able to reach. This means that the person that cleans the pool must manually brush these areas to push the debris to an area where the automatic cleaner can pick it up. Another disadvantage is that automatic cleaners do eventually wear out and need to be replaced. Automatic cleaners only remove debris that doesn’t pass through the mesh in the debris bag. This is great for leaves and most small particles but, they do not remove silt and fine particles as effectively as infloor cleaners. 

In Floor Cleaning System in floor pool cleaning system

Infloor cleaning systems have a series of pop up sweeping heads that push debris to the deep end of the pool where it is removed by a specialized drain. From this point the debris is carried to a container that has a large basket which traps large debris and the fine particles go into the pool filter.  The basket is cleaned much like a skimmer would be and the filer is cleaned by backwashing or cleaning the cartridges.  The pop up sweeping heads operate much like a lawn sprinkler head; working in zones to sweep the pool from shallow to deep. The heads are color matched to blend with color of your pool finish.

 If you ever had the opportunity to hear pool professionals discuss infloor cleaning systems you would might think they were having a heated argument. There are many mixed opinions on this type of systems.  Over the years of being in the pool business I have eliminated many infloor systems in existing pools because of the owner’s  dissatisfaction with the system.  For many years I told customers “these systems don’t work” or “you’ll have problems with this type of system” but, many customers kept requesting infloor cleaning systems.  This is when I began to really study why people were dissatisfied.  In my research I found that most infloor cleaning systems were never installed properly. If installed improperly, there is not much that can be done to remedy the situation.  I also learned that the systems that were made 10-15 years ago aren’t what they are today.  This is the reason that pool professionals on the opposing side say automatic cleaners are a better choice.  After installing many infloor cleaning systems and going into great detail while installing them, I found that I now prefer infloor cleaning systems over automatic pool cleaners.


Advantages of In Floor Cleaning System

 Pools with shallow depths and zero depth entries can be cleaned without manually brushing. You don’t have to worry about the leader hose getting tangled and the cleaner not doing its job. Infloor cleaners don’t get tangled in ladders or rock work either. There is no real visible sign of the cleaner in the pool. Many people don’t like looking at an automatic cleaner laying in the pool when not in use. Pools with lazy rivers and planter islands cannot be cleaned with automatic cleaners but can with an infloor cleaning system.  Another advantage is that heated water is distributed evenly through the floor heads in the bottom of the pool making it more efficient to heat the pool.  Also, the manner in which the filtered water is distributed across the entire floor of the pool, aids in distribution of pool chemicals. There is not much maintenance associated with infloor systems other than empting a strainer basket located at the pool equipment pad.

Disadvantages of In Floor Cleaning System

The main disadvantages to infloor cleaning systems is the initial cost associated with installation. This type of system is usually double or even triple the cost of an automatic cleaner. Another disadvantage is that any service that may arise will usually require assistance from a pool professional. If this system is not installed correctly on the front end, the system will not clean effectively.

Hybrid cleaning systems

A hybrid cleaning system is a combination using infloor cleaning technology in conjunction with an automatic cleaner. I have had customers who really liked the idea of having an infloor cleaning system for their entire pool but, have been offset by the cost. One of the main reasons for they liked the infloor system is the ability to sweep the benches and shallow areas automatically where an automatic cleaner can’t reach. With a hybrid system you can get the best of both worlds.  Instead of having a system with 20 or even 30 infloor cleaning heads in the pool. You can strategically place a few infloor cleaning heads in the areas that the automatic cleaner would not reach.  You then install an automatic cleaner for the main body of the pool. This type of system works well for want the benefits of both systems at a cost savings.

I hope that this article will help you in making the right choice for your pool cleaning needs. Please respond with any questions you may have.  If you found this information helpful, please link to it.


Love the infloor system. If you have lots of leaves could be a problem. I also like auto cleaners. For a service guy its better to have either than neither!
Posted @ Friday, October 29, 2010 3:17 PM by Luke Norris
Luke, I think with the AVSCO drain that I like to use, you'll find they handle large debris very well. Let me know what you think. Magnolia leaves are still tricky though!
Posted @ Saturday, October 30, 2010 4:06 PM by Ben Whitlow
I just bought a home with an in-floor cleaning system. The owners of this home were MIA so I didn't get any instructions. Unfortunately the realtor changed all the valve openings around and I have no idea how to correctly set up the pool so that this system works efficiently. Any help would be great!! I should also mention this is my first pool and that too is a learning process.
Posted @ Wednesday, April 06, 2011 11:10 AM by Nancy
Nancy - If you can take some pictures of the current valve settings I may be able to help you. Since you are a first time pool owner you may want to schedule an appointment with a local service company to give you a lesson. email any pix to
Posted @ Wednesday, April 06, 2011 5:57 PM by Ben
We are at the beginning stages of getting a pool - the infloor system our pool builder uses the A&A infloor system - is this a good product?
Posted @ Tuesday, April 26, 2011 9:11 PM by Jane
We recently got a in-floor cleaner.. But it does not clean effectively if there are twigs and leaves in the pool.
Posted @ Thursday, October 13, 2011 5:58 AM by Jennifer Bolduc
I bought a forclosed home with an infloor pool cleaning system. I love it. I have replaced almost all of the pop up heads as the others were cracked and didn't function properly ($$$.) Now the pool looks great- however, the system gets stuck on one station. Is there a manual somewhere that I can reference to ensure the wheels are correctly set up?
Posted @ Tuesday, June 19, 2012 12:45 AM by Danielle
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Posted @ Wednesday, August 22, 2012 4:48 AM by Coleman Hot Tub Filters
I have an in-floor system. I am not totally satisfied with it and I have tried to attach an automatic cleaner from time to time. I get a lot of suction and power with the in floor, however, I can't seem to get any suction power when I attach an auto cleaner. Any idea what could be the issue? without an auto cleaner, I must mannualy remove large amounts of leaves in the fall.
Posted @ Wednesday, August 29, 2012 2:12 PM by JD
JD - What type of auto cleaner do you have (Make and Model). It could be several different reasons. Does the auto cleaner have a dedicated pump?
Posted @ Wednesday, August 29, 2012 3:25 PM by Holly Whitlow
Hi guys, thanks for the post. Just wanted to make a quick note here about the latest product from Dolphin: The Dolphin Premier.  
I actually use one in my own pool and I really do love this product. It cleans far better than anything I've used in the past, it is more energy efficient, it is convenient, it has multimedia options, it does not get tangled in its cord (as many others do), and it even has smart nav technology so it "learns" my pool! 
It's pretty great. If you're interested, check it out  
Thanks again. 
Posted @ Wednesday, February 06, 2013 1:06 PM by Premier Robotic
I am thinking about starting. Thank you for this information, it has been educational and helpful to me.
Posted @ Friday, March 08, 2013 4:26 AM by Contemporary Furniture Online
My question is about the pop up units themselves. Is there a specific pattern in which they should be set up to perform optimally? Some of them have become stuck and I am about to replace some or all of them. When I insert the new ones, do I need to make sure they are facing in specific directions before restarting the system or does the system not require any coordinated pattern between the individual heads? It just seems to me that two adjacent heads should not be facing each other at any point when water is jetting from them but then again, maybe it doesn't matter? Just not sure if there is some magic pattern that is supposed to be used to make it work similar to a big toilet bowl, flushing dirt toward the main drain. I don't have a standard rectangle pool. It is difficult to describe but essentially like starting with a standard rectangle, then as if cutting it in half at the midpoint, take both halves and offset them from each other by about three feet, as if they are two rectangles that don't line up exactly. There's a Tetris piece that looks exactly like it...the green jagged one that if turned sideways could remotely look like a letter "Z." Don't know if that matters for the purpose of this question.
Posted @ Sunday, May 05, 2013 3:15 AM by Frank
How do I turn in-floor system off? I have Pool Valley. It is old, not working properly and I don't like the maintenance. You advise is appreciated.
Posted @ Sunday, June 16, 2013 1:58 PM by Igor Shegolev
I recently put in a pool with pop ups. So far I really regret it. I've had the pool for two weeks and can't seem to get it clean even with daily brushing and manual skimming. It always seems to have debris in it. Plus no matter how many times they adjust them there are pockets along the bottom that gather dirt or debris. My pool contractor says the drain can't be set too high because of new regs but I never see anything go into it, just settle around it. My question is 'how can I tell if there's a problem vs. being too picky?'
Posted @ Wednesday, June 19, 2013 1:20 AM by Donna Smith
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Posted @ Sunday, September 22, 2013 2:36 PM by Pool Builders
I have read the advantages and disadvantages of the floor cleaning system. You have posted very nicely, I think this will be great for all people who are regularly using floor cleaning system.
Posted @ Monday, October 07, 2013 5:30 AM by Concrete Grinding Polishing Equipment
I have an infloor cleaning system and just recently purchased a Pentair variable speed pump. I used to have a whisperflo. I am not happy with the new pump because running at the highest speed does not allow enough water to push through the popup heads to clean my pool. I was happier with my single speed. Is it common for the variable speed pumps to not operate as efficiently as the single speed ones? I wanted to save money on my energy bill switching to a variable speed one but now my pool looks dirtier than before and I don't feel like buying a separate vacuum cleaner.
Posted @ Sunday, January 12, 2014 7:53 PM by Darlene
Great read about two comparison but for me I must go for in Floor pool cleaning system just like <a href=>Pool cleaning service in Newport Beach you will assure the cleanliness of your pool. 
Posted @ Monday, January 27, 2014 4:18 PM by Max
Iam currently getting a pool build and the cleaning system being installed is PV3 which cost $3000. How good it is compared with A&A and Polaris.
Posted @ Wednesday, April 30, 2014 11:36 PM by William
Can you use both on your pool..? The infloor cleaning system and possibly a zodiac too..?  
Thanks for your help
Posted @ Monday, July 14, 2014 3:14 PM by jana
I recently replace the gasket on my pop up aerator unit. I now have increased pressure and the pop ups no longer work. Suggestions?
Posted @ Sunday, August 03, 2014 9:51 PM by jack
I would like to know if anyone has sucessfully used both systems..I am not real happy with my infloor cleaners and would like to try the new zodiac ....any comments on this..? Thanks in advance for your help...
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Posted @ Wednesday, October 29, 2014 6:02 AM by R. Le
I'm so glad I found this post! I learn so many new things from you and the comments bellow!
Posted @ Thursday, December 11, 2014 9:05 AM by Jenny
So informative article! I want to buy such kind of a cleaner but I wasn't sure about the advantages and the disadvantages.Thanks a lot for the information!Twickenham Carpet Cleaners Ltd. 
Posted @ Monday, January 26, 2015 8:21 AM by twickenhamcarpetcleaners
Our in-floor sucks---or, I should say, it doesn't. We have heavy leaf-fall from December to April. I have spent more on having this the lines cleaned out than I ever would have on a Polaris. 
Plus---at its best, it takes 3 days for debris to travel from shallow end to the main drain. We were sold the wrong system for our pool. After 15 years of manually scooping leaves, I am seeing about adding an automatic cleaner. Would love to attach a picture.
Posted @ Monday, February 16, 2015 11:36 AM by Jan
You wrote in the start of the blog that you are writing this article to help people decide and understand the importance of hiring cleaners of pools and this was a really succcessful attempt. You have beautifully described the significance of pool cleaners. 
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