Best Robotic Pool Cleaner for In-Ground Pools

Home automation is not just about hi-tech, wifi-connected gadgets. Home automation is about making your life easier with tools that free up your time.

Before I bought my robotic pool cleaner, I spent anywhere from 3 to 6 hours PER WEEK trying to keep my pool clean for my family.

Now that I have our automatic pool vacuum, I’ve cut my pool maintenance time down to about 2 hours per week TOTAL.

Quick Reference: My Purchasing Criteria





Pool Blaster
Has its own pump
Has a turning brush
A/C Power
Filters fine particles

In my old routine, I would spend at least three hours trying to use our manual vacuum hose to remove dead algae sediment from the bottom of the pool. This was my most dreaded chore of my weekly summer-time routine.  I would try to start early in the day before the sun was in its full blazing glory searing my forehead like oven-cooked bacon.

Unfortunately, I could never get the manual vacuum to work properly. Our pool has two skimmers, one close to the pump and one on the other side of the pool. I could never really figure out which one I was supposed to use. I eventually realized that the near-side skimmer had better suction, but even when blocking the other skimmer, I could never get the vacuum to effectively pull the silt up. So, in addition to three hours of ineffective vacuuming, I also did the very tiring work of brushing the entire pool to get the sediment suspended in the water, so that the filter could remove it.

Besides wearing me out, this approach also had the disadvantage that I would end up running my pump 24 hours per day for several days before the pool would get clear, greatly increasing my electricity bill which was already substantial from the demands of the air conditioner in the Texas summer heat.  Furthermore, I was spending lots of money on flocculants and clarifiers beyond what I was buying in shock and chlorine tablets. 

Other Styles of Vacuums Were Wastes of Money

Before buying my Dolphin pool cleaner, I sank money into two other methods of getting my pool clean.

Manual Vacuums Did Not Work

First, I tried the manual vacuum. I ran off and purchased the long vacuum hose. I bought 2 or 3 different vacuum heads, and tried various methods of blocking suction from the other skimmer that I was not using for vacuum pressure.  No matter what I did, the suction and silt removal was minimal. In addition to that, I was spending hours getting the hose into the pool in just the right way to ensure that there were no air bubbles in it that would weaken the suction. And afterwards, I’d spend at least 30 minutes, just trying to wrangle the hose back into the box it came in to store it in the garage.  In between, I would sit on the edge of the pool with my feet in the water helping to guide the vacuum tube this way and that so that I could reach the distant and deep areas of the pool.

Rechargeable Pole Vacuums Are a Waste of Money

Second, I tried a lower-end electric vacuum. I spent about $200 on a rechargeable filter bag vacuum that goes on the end of your pool pole. As excited as I was about this purchase, I was soon sorely disappointed.  The pole vacuum was pretty much useless for the following reasons:

Short Battery Life

The battery only lasted about 45 minutes which was not enough time to do any major cleaning. You may be thinking 45 minutes is plenty, until you read this next point

Small Filter Bag

The filter bag was about the size of a pint glass. This bag filled up in about 5 minutes of vacuuming, and then I had to spend the next 10 minutes, pulling the vacuum apart, cleaning the bag, and putting it back together. So, all told, I got about 3 five-minute sessions of actual vacuuming done before the battery would start to peter out and need recharging.

True, the suction was better than my manual vac, but because of the reasons above, the pole vacuum was horribly frustrating, and ultimately ineffective.

After Three Years of Torture, I Decided to Spend Real Money on the Problem

As much as try to limit my expenses, I knew I had to bite the bullet and invest in a better solution.  I had two major options to choose from. I could gamble again on hardware by purchasing a high-end robotic cleaner, or I could take my wife’s advice and hire a pool service.

Hiring a Pool Service

I had numerous reservations about hiring a pool service, one of which was the blow to my pride that would come from having a probably younger, stronger man hanging out in my backyard doing the work that Daddy is supposed to do. But mainly, I could not bring myself to pay someone to clean my pool at a price that was almost the price of an entire bucket of shock every month. There were also the security concerns of giving yet another service provider access to my backyard when I’m not around as I already pay for lawn care.

So, for me, a pool service was a last resort. I was determined to find a way to keep my pool clean and useful without asking an outsider for help.

Shopping for a Robotic Pool Cleaner

Once I made the decision to buy an automatic robotic pool cleaner, I knew from previous experience that there were certain features I would need.

One, It Must Have Its Own Pump

Because I had struggled so much with my manual vacuum, I knew that the robot for me would need its own mechanism for moving water through its filter medium. The pump that runs the filter for my pool is a good solid pump, but it does not have any extra power beyond what it uses to circulate the pool water.  It simply is not strong enough to run the filter AND provide sufficient suction to pull algae from the pool floor.

There are different ways to fulfill this requirement. There are some devices that use a pump that sits outside of the pool and have a hose that connects to the vacuum head. Others, like my Dolphin, have a motor and fan inside the submerged vacuum head.  I don’t necessarily know that what I’ve chosen is better, but it definitely works.

Two, A Moving Brush

Suction is not enough. If you are going to get your pool clean of months worth of algae growth, you need to brush. But, I HATE brushing my pool. I am a middle aged father with a lot of things to take care of and I’d rather not spend hours every week brushing down the walls of my pool with 1 inch by 14 inch brush.  

If I’m going to put out hundreds of dollars for a pool cleaner, it had better clean the pool and not just get it ready for me to clean.

Three, A Plug In Power Source

Some tools and devices lend themselves well to rechargeable batteries as a power source.  Devices that are used for short periods of time like electric screwdrivers and weed wackers work perfectly fine, though for the latter, I definitely suggest buying a second battery.  Devices that require long periods of operation, or high levels of torque are much better suited to using 110 volt AC power.  I much prefer my plug-in DeWalt drill and driver to the rechargeable Worx driver. I’m sure there are really good battery-operated drills out there, but I’d really have to do some research before making a purchase.  Similarly, if I ever bought an electric lawn mower, I’d much rather put up with unwieldy power and extension cords than have to stop mid-mow to put a battery on a charging station.

And after my experience with the rechargeable pole vac, I knew I needed constant AC power to be comfortable. And as weird as it seems to run a power cord from you home into a giant pool of water, this criterion has been critical to my success.

Nice To Have, It’s Own Filter Medium

One more thing I looked for in a robotic pool cleaner, was a filter medium independent of my whole pool filter.  I tend to have a LOT of sediment. This may mean that I could do a better job with my chemical balance. Either way, even when the sediment is suspended in the pool water, it takes many washes of the filter to get the pool clear and clean.  So, I wanted to add to my existing filter capacity when I bought my cleaner.  I wanted the option of starting up my pool cleaner without having to go through the hassle of disassembling and washing my main filter.

Dolphin to the Rescue!

After spending hours and hours comparing reviews on Amazon as well as lobbing tons of annoying questions at the guys at Leslie’s Pool Supply, I decided on the Dolphin Robotic Pool Cleaner by Maytonics.

The Dolphin is a hard-working and reliable device with plenty of power and a sizable filter bag. The version of the device that I purchased even has a roll-around caddy attached to the control module.  

It’s also a very smart device. Unlike many pool cleaners that randomly creep around your pool, the Dolphin remembers the shape of your pool and has an algorithm for ensuring that it cleans the entire pool.  Even better, the control module has several timed programs so that you can turn it on and have the robot start itself daily. I personally don’t use that feature as I like to clean out the filter bag after one or two cleaning cycles.

It Was a Good Decision

My Dolphin Wally
Wally has served us for 5 years

I have had Wally now for 5 seasons (pool-years).  My total cost of ownership has been in the range of about $1500.  Beyond the additional purchase price, after 3 years, my pool cleaner did break. Luckily, I was able to take him to a Leslie’s Pool Supply and they fixed him on the spot. I turned out that years of leaving Wally in the pool when he was not in use had damaged his power-control cable. After testing the cable, the technician replaced it with one he had in stock for $300.

I’d Do It Again In a Heartbeat

With the years of loyal service my Dolphin Robotic Pool Cleaner has given me, I would definitely purchase another in the event that he could not be repaired.

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