The leaves and flower petals that drift into your pool can pose a real challenge from a maintenance perspective. Unlike the idyllic pool in the woods, you don’t want organic material to add to the muck on the bottom, growing water plants for the frogs and fish to eat. You want a sparkling clean pool with hygienic, clear water. So how do you remove the hundreds or thousands of leaves and flowers from your pool? There are two main approaches – from the surface and from the bottom.
There are huge benefits to removing leaves and debris from the surface before they sink, not the least of which is appearance. By the time your leaves get to the bottom, they are heavy, decomposing and generating bacteria and algae. The sheer weight of bottom debris increases the strain on your pump and shortens its life.
Cleaning from the surface:
With pump-driven skimmers: In-ground pools are built with one or two skimmer baskets in the wall of the pool. When the pump is running, it pulls water through the main drain on the bottom of the pool and through the skimmers in the wall. Debris is captured in baskets in the wall skimmers and also in a basket at the pump. These baskets need to be emptied regularly in order for them to function efficiently. It is best to reduce the amount of suction through the main drain and increase the flow through the wall skimmers. You want less debris being captured at the pump, so that the flow through the pump is not blocked by a full basket.
With an autonomous solar-powered robot: This is a new paradigm in pool cleaning. The solar-powered robot motors around the surface of the pool, scooping debris into a large debris tray and chasing that debris with a chlorine tablet. It operates entirely on solar-energy and a rechargeable battery with no hoses or cords. There is only one of these in the world and it is called Solar-Breeze. Since it operates at least 12 hours a day on solar and battery power, it allows you to reduce your pool pump run-time by up to two-thirds. The minimal amount of debris that isn’t captured by the Solar-Breeze can be removed by one of the other methods at a much reduced energy cost.
Cleaning from the bottom:
With Pop-Ups: These systems resemble lawn sprinklers that pop-up from the bottom of the pool. Water is sprayed in sweeping patterns from these jets washing the debris into the deep-end of the pool where it is sucked through a specialized drain. Leaves are captured in a filter basket which needs to be emptied regularly and the finer particles are caught in the filter, so the filter will need to be backwashed a little more often. If this is your main system for removing debris, keep in mind that is only works when the pump is running. However, you can schedule that for when electricity is cheaper – normally during the night.
With a pump-driven cleaner: There are a variety of automatic cleaners that are attached to a long hose and operate with the suction from the pump. My kids used to call this the night-crawler because we ran it at night when electricity is cheaper. When the pump is running and the cleaner is hooked up, it crawls along the bottom and the sides of the pool essentially vacuuming the bottom of the pool. The leaves and debris are sucked up the long hose toward the pump and captured in the filter basket at the upstream point of the pump. The challenges with these systems are that you need to empty the basket frequently to maintain the flow and suction of the pump. These systems only work when the pump is running.
With an electric automatic cleaner: There are a variety of automatic cleaners that run from a 12-volt power supply instead of from the suction of the pool pump. These have long cords and electric motors securely contained in an underwater robot. Yes – you are putting an electric appliance in your pool! They vacuum the bottom and walls of the pool and capture the debris in a debris-chamber. When the unit is finished its work-cycle (usually a couple of hours), you simply haul it out of the pool, empty and clean the debris chamber and put it away until the next use. These are generally great pieces of equipment but they do nothing to remove leaves between cleanings or from the surface before they sink and start decomposing.
Manually: The simplest pool tool is just a net on a long pole. This is person-powered, old-tech and has almost no carbon footprint. Scoop the leaves off the surface and dump them in the compost or the garbage. If you have a lot of debris already on the bottom, you will need a leaf-rake. This is a device that combines a rake on a pole with a bag to capture the debris. It is sturdier than a leaf-net but takes some strength to operate. When debris sinks to the bottom, it gets heavy and fosters algae and bacterial growth. The problem with this method is that it only works when you are working and it needs to be done before you go swimming. Your pool is not swim-ready when you are.
The benefit of cleaning the pool using solar energy is that the cleaner runs all day and into the night without costing anything to operate. Cleaning from the surface with a solar powered robot means that your swimming pool is always Swim-Ready, you have less bacterial growth and you can embrace the landscaping that used to make you crazy.