Robotic pool cleaning technology has matured
For many years, robotic pool cleaners have been vital pieces of equipment at most large public pools. Although they are more expensive than other types of pool cleaner, their powerful cleaning ability and intelligent cleaning patterns make them great value for money for commercial operations. Robotic cleaners save the cost of having staff manually cleaning the pool and improve the water quality by bypassing the filtration system. Now, with prices coming down for smaller residential robotic cleaners, homeowners
can experience the pool cleaning power of robotics too.
The revolution is happening
Waterco manufactures and supplies suction, pressure and robotic pool cleaners. Group marketing director Bryan Goh says that the majority of pool cleaners in the market today are suction cleaners. Suction cleaners have various restrictions, including the fact that they are fitted into a pool’s skimmer, reducing the pool’s skimming ability, and also reducing its turnover by adding a restriction to its pool circulation. And to operate a suction cleaner effectively, the pool pump needs to operate at higher speeds. “From personal experience,” says Goh, “I operate my pool pump at a low-speed setting to maximize filtration and to maximize energy savings. A suction pool cleaner requires at least a medium speed setting to operate.” The other disadvantage of suction cleaners is that they have a smaller vacuum opening and can be often clogged with large debris, such as large leaves or sticks. Goh says that prior to the availability of robotic pool cleaners, the only option was to install a pressure cleaner, which requires the addition of another pump and therefore more power. “And this option is not always possible unless the builder installs a provision for a pressure cleaner,” he says. “So if you have a leafy pool or a pool that suffers from large debris – and a suction cleaner that is not capable of vacuuming large debris – plus you don’t have provision for a pressure cleaner, then a robotic cleaner is the only option.” Goh also says that often after heavy rainfall or a storm, there can be quite a lot of debris in the pool. In that case, if a suction cleaner is operated, the debris goes straight to the filtration system, which then requires backwashing or maintenance. With a robotic cleaner, the debris it is trapped within it. Goh lists the following as advantages of robotic cleaners compared with competing technologies:
Robotic pool cleaning technology allows for the automatic and systematic cleaning of residential swimming pools without relying on the operation of the pool’s filtering equipment. The result is a dramatic reduction in energy costs versus all other types of automatic pool cleaners:
• Suction cleaners need the pool’s filtration system to operate at a higher speed, negating any energy savings from the use of variable speed pumps (while in operation);
• Pressure cleaners not only need the normal filtration system to be operating, but they also require the addition of a booster pump, vastly increasing the energy consumption and consequently the cost.
Robotic cleaners vacuum and trap all the pool debris in self-contained compartments or bags. This technique eliminates the pool owner from having to do excessive backwashing or rinsing the pool’s filter, such as is the case with suction style cleaners.
Total pool cleaning Robotic pool cleaners are equipped with scrubbing brushes, and not only do they vacuum the pool’s floor and walls, they also scrub the pool’s surface (vinyl, Fiberglass, concrete etc).More comprehensive clean in shorter
period of time Some robotic cleaners have large intake ports and a wider cleaning path than traditional cleaners.
Disadvantages of certain robotic cleaners
Their weight – traditional robotic cleaners have an average ‘dry’ weight of around 9.5kg and an average ‘wet’ weight (when being pulled out of the water) of more than 27kg. However, some modern robotic cleaners have a much lower weight.
Waterco has recently released their Admiral range of robotic pool cleaners.
How robotic pool cleaners work
Dan Kwaczynski from Maytronics Australia, the company responsible for the Dolphin Supreme range of robotic pool cleaners says that while residential pool cleaning robots are relatively new to Australia, they are now taking the market by storm. “They are a proven technology and used extensively in Europe and with a growing share in US as well,” he says. “Prior to 2011, there was really only one major brand in the Australian residential market and now there are more than four,” Kwaczynski says that because there are many different types of robotic cleaners, with many different features and benefits, it’s important to first consider the core functionality of the robots, and then consider product features.
Core Functionality - A robotic pool cleaner is quite a simple concept, but to achieve this simplicity is extremely technical. In its purest form, pool robots work like this:
- Power Supply – mains power is converted to a low voltage using a transformer or switch mode power supply. This ensures the power is safe in the water (like pool lights).
- Cable – a cable connects the low voltage supply to the robot. Swivels on the cable prevent entanglement.
- Cleaner motor – inside the cleaner is a motor unit. This provides power to the impeller for water flow, using sensors and logic to maneuver the robot and also to provide power to the drive mechanism.
- Drive mechanism – this is connected to the motor and is usually a tracked system connected to brushes that depress (and with friction clean at the same time). Occasionally the drive may be via hard wheels (these provide no scrubbing).
- Filter arrangement – filtration on cleaners is inbuilt inside each robot. The micron of the filter will vary from quite coarse (sprint net arrangements 100 microns) down to cartridges (approximately 20 microns). Pool debris is normally in the range
from 0 – 200 microns so even at 100 microns a large amount of debris is captured. The movement of water through the robot and out via the impeller mechanism can be up to 250 liters per minute – a significant flow rate.Robot cleaning technology
Robotic pool cleaners are not the cheapest pool cleaners on the market. Why then are sales growing so fast? Especially in the economic context where times are tough and customers are holding onto their hard earned cash?
The simple answer is value for money. Customers will pay more for a product if they see the value in it. A robot offers so much more to customers for a very good price. Robots pool cleaners have a superior cleaning ability compared to other cleaners. This is for a number of reasons, including their systematic approach, scrubbing ability, independent filtration, strong sucking power and wall-climbing ability. Cleaning benefits • Systematic – many robot cleaners have inbuilt electronics with sensors, logic, and controls to enable them to navigate the pool. The better ones actually map the pool each time they are installed. This means they provide superior coverage and they don’t get stuck. • Brushing and scrubbing – robots are designed not simply to suck debris from a pool, but they actually scrub the surface as well. Some even have extra brushes designed to work independently at high speed.
- Independent filtration – robots have their own independent filtering system on board. This removes debris from the water and filters as it goes. Comparisons show this to be at a very high level compared to pressure cleaners.
- Strong suction power – robots have an extremely strong suction power ranging up to 250 liters per minute – that’s as much as a 1.5hp pump in most applications.
- Wall climbing and waterline scrubbing – the enormous suction creates an additional benefit – it enables the robot to climb walls, benches and ledges and once at the surface, they can be programmed to scrub the waterline as well. Kwaczynski also says they are user-friendly. “Simply place in the water and press ‘on’. No more hoses, floats, and bumps or booster pumps. And because Robots have superior cleaning abilities, they are really only needed to be used once or twice a week for the majority of residential pools, and for only about three hours per cycle. “The great thing is that end users’ pools can look like pools again – not like hydraulic factories with pipes and hoses in all directions.” Kwaczynski agrees with Goh that there are many environmental benefits to robotic pool cleaners. They can save power, water and chemicals. He says that independent studies by electrical companies have shown that annual savings can be up to $300 per annum, even after the running cost of a robot is taken into account.
- Save power – robots operate and filter inside the pool. They are completely independent of the pool's main filtration system. The great benefit of this is that water does not have to be pumped 20 meters through 40mm or 50mm pipe, bends, elbows, etc just to be filtered. The water is filtered in the pool. Note – pool filtration is still needed – just not to anywhere near the level required when using other cleaners.
- Save water – because of robots filter in the water, they remove the debris from the system. This, in turn, means that the main pool filter unit does not become clogged as quickly, which results in fewer backwashes. Estimates are that backwashing is reduced by up to 50 per cent when using robots compared to all other cleaning methods.
- Save chemicals. In Australia, the vast majority of pools have suction cleaners that are permanently in the pool and connected. In this circumstance, the skimmer is completely ineffective – the result is that all debris landing on the surface must slowly go through the water, making the water cloudier but also requiring chemicals to control it. When a robot is used, the pool’s skimmer starts working again. Also, by removing the debris rather than storing it in the pool’s main filter, the chemical load is reduced. Benefits for builders Kwaczynski says that while there are many reasons why a pool owner would like to choose a robotic pool cleaner, why should a builder bother? He answers that there are several reasons why a pool builder would want to increase their new pool package price to include a robot. These include the fact that.
- No extra plumbing or booster pump is required.
- There are no set up issues, no customer call-backs on stuck cleaners.
- It provides end users with great value for money.
- Many end users embrace and tell their friends about their robot. When they see their robot in action, they love it and remember their great builder who recommended it.
Many brands of Robotic Pool Cleaners are available through www.poolsuperstore.com.au
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