Mike the Poolman

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Pressure Side vs. Suction Side pool cleaners

March 22, 2017

This one isn’t even a contest…

The Battle of Little Big Horn, Tyson vs. Spinks, U.S. vs. Iraq (the first time…) Pressure side pool cleaners (also referred to as Pool Sweeps) are superior to Suction side pool cleaners in every way- except price- but we’ll get to that in a moment…

First the differences:

Polaris "Pressure Side" pool cleaner

Polaris “Pressure Side” pool cleaner

Pressure cleaners push water to the cleaner, propelling it along the pool floor and occasionally up the walls. The pool is cleaned by the venturi vacuum the pressured water creates. The venturi effect forces leaves and debris up into a catch bag, net or screen. In addition to collecting leaves, sticks, etc., a tail is present to “scrub” the floor. This little tail is very underrated! In fact, the tail is one of the pressure cleaner’s major attributes.

Whenever the cleaner is on, the tail gently whips back and forth across the pool floor. It provides a consistent scrubbing action keeping dirt from resting too long on the floor and moves it toward the main drain where it can be sucked up by the filtration pump. Suction side cleaners don’t have the tail and it’s a big reason you can tell the difference in plaster condition after five years. The pool with the suction cleaner will likely have a dull finish while the pressure side pool has a brilliant finish.

Suction side pool cleaner

Suction side pool cleaner

Suction cleaners literally suck water to the pump. They have a “throat” mechanism that allows dirt, sand and dust to pass through it but can/will clog if larger debris gets clogged in the throat(and will remain inoperable until the homeowner clears the throat- each time!) Suction cleaners are made for areas with sand and silt and are adequate in these conditions but perform poorly if any leaves or sticks exist. Here in Folsom (Sacramento) it’s the tree capital of the United States and they are useless…

One of the drawbacks of having your cleaner suck water is it takes flow away from the skimmer. Most of the dirt/ dust in your pool lies within the top 2″ of the surface. When you valve suction away from the skimmer you have less flow/ suction off the surface to collect the dirt when it first enters the pool. Well, doesn’t that mean that the suction cleaner will just suck it up when it sinks to the floor? The answer is yes, only for the six hours a day it runs and you’ve just allowed dirt to sink to the floor and given it more opportunity to stain/ dull your finish (think of it this way: will your jeans look better if you get them dirty and wash them or if you just never get dirt on them at all?) Keep the dirt off the floor as much as possible!

So you ask, if there is such a big difference between the two, why do suction cleaners even exist? Bingo: price. Suction cleaners cost half as much as pressure cleaners. To the uneducated homeowner it’s an easy sale. ‘Mr. Smith, we have a $300 cleaner and a $600 cleaner- which do you prefer?’

The bottom line is if you want to save a few dollars and are willing to constantly babysit your automatic pool cleaner then maybe a suction side cleaner is for you. If you want a cleaner that will consistently perform then a pressure side cleaner will serve you well.

Pros of Pressure Side cleaners:

– Very effective at keeping pool clean

– Collects leaves in bag, not in filter (prolongs filter life)

– Scrubs pool finish

– Rarely clogs

– Long life

Cons of Pressure side:

– Price


Pros of Suction Side cleaners:

– Less expensive

Cons of Suction Side:

– Stops operating when large leaves are present.

– Clogs pump basket when it does suck up leaves.

– Takes flow away from skimmer.

– Foot pads wear down easily and are a recurring cost.

– No scrubbing action leads to dull finish of plaster.


I’ve replumbed several pools from suction plumbing to pressure plumbing (it’s not that difficult) and I don’t think I’ve EVER had a customer tell me their suction sweep performed better than their pressure sweep. Usually, I hear, ” I cant believe I waited all these years to convert. It’s not even comparable…”

I think you know what I have in my pool 🙂 !
Its really quite simple: Pressure Side pool cleaners are more effective at cleaning your swimming pool than Suction Side pool cleaners.

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