Pool Info: Pressure Cleaners
Pressure-Side Pool Cleaners
Pressure Cleaners: In-Ground Pools
Pressure side cleaners are those that attach to the pressure side (return) of your pool's circulation system. Also called booster pump type cleaners, the water that is pumped or "pushed" back to the pool propels these units which have their own hydraulic power plant inside. Being on the pressure side [and not the suction-side], these units have distinct advantages. They are helpful in distributing clean filtered water around the pool and having their own debris bag means that they don't compromise the filter system by bringing dirt and debris into the pump basket and pool filter. Even with the bag full, a pressure cleaner still operates, stirring debris up; it just won't suck up much more debris until the bag is emptied.
These cleaners attach to one of the existing return ports and are powered by the pool pump (Polaris 360, Letro Legend II, Jandy Ray-Vac, etc.), or to a dedicated cleaner line with an additional Booster Pump (Polaris 180, 280, 380 and Letro Legend). For a complete list of swimming pool pressure cleaners, please visit our cleaners page.
The water that flows into the unit
splits into three directions; the sweeper tail,
the thrust jet and the venturi.The sweeper
tail is a little "stirrer-upper" as
I call it, which helps to get fine debris off
the walls and floor and into the suspension where
it can then head towards the filter. The
thrust jet are the jets on the back of the cleaner that help propel and direct the unit. Similar to the exhaust in a car, the thrust jet is the exit point of water that has gone through the "Water Management System, which is a series of ports and gears that drive the unit around the pool in a random pattern.
The venturi is the port on the bottom where leaves are sucked
up into a bag (that you empty when full) as the
unit rolls around the pool. An in-line back-up
valve in the feed hose reverses the flow every few minutes to
change the cleaning pattern and remove the cleaner from possible
The Polaris 180, 280, 380, 480 and 3900 Sport and the Letro Legend models require a booster pump to power the unit. These cleaners need about 30 PSI to operate their hydrogears, or water management system, effectively. Most filter systems don't run that high of pressure to power these cleaners properly. When installing a pressure side pool cleaner, the return pipe is cut (after the filter), and a "Tee" fitting installed. Feed water is thusly directed to the booster pump which then pumps water through a dedicated line, usually installed midway down the pool wall. This line can be run under the deck and through the pool wall, or over the deck for a cheaper installation.
Without the booster pump, these units would crawl along slowly, picking up very little debris. Polaris 360 models operate at only 15 - 17 PSI, and are not intended for use with a booster pump. Letro followed suit and introduced the LEGEND II. These two cleaners I call "low-pressure side cleaners." This has given these manufacturers a whole new "market share" by reducing the cost of installing one of their cleaners. The 360 & Letro operate in a very similar fashion to the booster pump cleaners and connects to one of the existing return ports. A test is made at that return port to determine if the circulation system can deliver the proper amount of pressure to operate the unit.
The 360 will not work well for pools with floor returns or "slit" returns of crushed copper pipe, or pools with small, slow circulation systems. The 360 and Legend II can be as effective in cleaning the pool as the booster pump driven models, although very dependent on the effective operation of your pump and filter system. The main advantage to the booster pump models is that they are usually run with a time-clock, and can thus turn themselves on and off automatically, saving energy and wear and tear from operating too long.
Pressure-Side Cleaner moving slowly?
Pressure side cleaners operate independently from the pool filter system, and are not usually affected by a dirty filter or full pump basket, for instance. The booster pump delivers a fairly consistent flow rate to a pressure side pool cleaner. If your unit is operating slowly, check the inline strainer, usually at the wall fitting, to make sure it is clean. This small steel strainer should be checked regularly. The wall fitting also has an adjustable pressure bleed-off valve, to allow excess water pressure to escape. Open this valve too much and your cleaner may become sluggish.
Inspect the hose from the wall to the unit, making sure there are no splits or holes allowing pressure [water] to escape. A small amount of leakage at the swivels is normal. When you get to the unit itself, lift it slightly out of the water to inspect the water flowing out the back through the thrust jets. A solid steady stream should spray out of the back, shooting 10-20 feet. Likewise, with the debris bag removed, the stream spraying from the venturi, out the top of the unit, should reach heights of nearly 20 feet. If either of these is lacking, there may be an internal loss of water, in the water management system.
If the water pressure is fine, you will want to inspect the wheels and the gears or belts that drive them. Sticks or sand can jam up the wheels, and wheels need to be adjusted to engage the gears or belts properly. Too loose or too tight and your cleaner just won't get traction. Drive belts or drive shafts will need to be replaced every so often, as they wear over time. Tires can become rounded, especially on rough plaster pool surfaces. This will affect speed somewhat and climbing ability.
Pressure-Side Cleaner not cleaning the entire pool?
Adjustments to the thrust jet can create different cleaning patterns around the pool. Default setting is 11:00, but you can try 1:00 o'clock, to have the cleaner track in the opposite direction. The length of the hose is important, does it have enough hose to reach the far corners? Too much hose can also be a problem, creating a tangled feed hose, or disrupting cleaning patterns. Steps and loveseats won't get much attention from your pressure side pool cleaner. Just hit these with a brush or net regularly to keep them clean.
Pressure-Side Cleaner becoming stuck in one area?
If your pool cleaner gets stuck behind the ladder, you can use one of the many available ladder guards to prevent the cleaner from getting back there. Likewise, if stuck on the main drain of the pool, main drain covers exist that smooth the transition from floor to drain. Pressure-side pool cleaners use an inline back-up valve, or a hydrotimer device, in the feed hose. This hydro-timer allows water to escape the device every 3 minutes or so. Water stops flowing briefly to the cleaner, and this escaping water fromt he back-up valve will lift the cleaner off the floor for just 15 seconds or so. As the hydro-timer once again allows water to pass through the back-up valve to the cleaner, the re-positioned cleaner can now operate in a new direction and orientation. These back-up valves and hydro-timers can malfunction or become clogged with small bits of sand, allowing the unit to become stuck.
Pressure-Side Cleaner hose tangling?
You may have too much hose, follow manufacturer's recommendations for sizing the hose to fit your pool [important!]. The unit may be overpowered, allowing it to loop around wildly, tangling itself. The hose swivels may not all be functional, check each one to make sure they are "swiveling".