Robotic pool skimmers are a revolution in the pool cleaner market, in 2018. One of the popular models: the ‘Solar-Breeze NX2’ has been dubbed the ‘Roomba’ of pool cleaners. And, like the Roomba, they are set-and-forget types of cleaner.
Unlike other robotic pool cleaners, robotic skimmers can remove 95% of debris from the surface of your pool. In addition, they are the only automatic pool cleaners to be completely solar-powered. Robotic pool skimmers are suitable for above-ground and in-ground pools, medium to large, with any shape or configuration. With a robotic skimmer, you can ditch the net and pole for good, to spend more time swimming and less time skimming. And, your pool water will be crystal-clear and swim-ready for you at all times.
How Does a Pool Surface Skimmer Work?
A rear paddle powers the cleaner along the pool’s surface, while a front paddle collects debris into the debris tray. The unit also filters water through a nylon mesh as it floats along. The bumper wheels at the front re-direct the device each time it hits the side of the pool. And the onboard computer helps it navigate around obstacles (like toys or rocks) in the pool. To operate, you simply place the unit in the pool and switch it to the ‘on’ position.
The Pros of a Pool Surface Skimmer
- It cleans the surface of the pool. If the matter is removed at the surface, it has less time to decay in the sunlight, and fewer bacteria and algae are formed. Most pool cleaners clean from the bottom of the pool; after dust, debris, and organic matter have become water-logged and sunk to the bottom. This also results in more work for your pool equipment.
- It can remove up to 95% of debris from the surface of your pool: dust, pollen, leaves, insects, even suntan oil. So you don’t get that unsightly floating surface ‘film’. Using this skimmer results in less work for your pool equipment.
- It can pay for itself in just 6 months. According to Solar-Breeze, who manufacture the popular Solar-Breeze NX2 skimmer, if you take into account the reduction of your pool running costs (made possible by using a Solar-Breeze skimmer) you can save $792 every 6 months, that’s $1584, annually.
It is completely powered by solar energy. The rechargeable Lithium-Ion battery gets charged in the sunlight. So the cleaner will operate for several hours after sundown using the power that was stored earlier in the day. It can operate all day long when most pool filtration systems are idle and can run up to 24 hours per day.
- It can reduce your pool pump run time by up to 60%. The pool pump alone is the second highest consumer of electricity in US households.
- There’s no need to hand-skim your pool anymore. Depending on your area, debris type/size, and the wind, some pool owners have to skim their pool by hand 2-3 times, every day.
- Because skimmers collect from the surface, there’s no need to wait a while for debris to sink to the bottom for another pool system or cleaner to pick it up.
- It can help pick up debris (especially larger debris) which is not always picked up by a pool’s in-built skimmer. It can clean debris from tight corners and even from the edges of your pool.
- There are no attachments, cables, cords, hoses, or pool equipment required to operate it.
- It can reduce the environmental impact of owning a pool. With a robotic pool skimmer, you use fewer chemicals and energy.
A customizable cleaning schedule can run the cleaner day, night, or around the clock depending on your individual pool type/size and needs.
- Some models can be remote-controlled via a smartphone app.
- It uses smart technology to map your pool’s surface and clean your pool in the quickest, most efficient way.
- Stand-by or sleep mode can stop and start the cleaner automatically, depending on available sunlight.
- It can run without emptying the debris tray for a while, sometimes days, depending on the debris type/size and the wind.
- It is easy to operate and maintain: set-up is easy, the debris tray takes just minutes to empty, and there are no cords to attach. You don’t always need to switch it on or off; it can do that automatically in ‘standby’ or ‘sleep’ modes.
- It will sanitize your pool as it floats along.
- It is quiet in operation.
The Cons of a Pool Surface Skimmer
- Not cheap to buy. The Solar-Breeze costs around $600, the Skimdevil, around $750. But it is worth noting: that each of these models can pay for itself in just 6 months.
- Short warranty: just 1 year. You get 2 years, at least, with other (non-skimmer) types of robotic pool cleaners.
- They are relatively new, so are not as tried and tested as robotic cleaners that have been around longer.
- It can only clean the surface of your pool. You have to scrub and clean the rest or use it together with another robotic pool cleaner.
- It is reliant on the weather to operate. This could be a problem if the sun is not out long enough to operate it and charge the battery.
- It can get stuck and stop working in shallow and narrow areas of your pool, but can usually rectify itself.
- Because of a potential safety hazard, you can’t swim while a robotic skimmer is in use. Swimming could also cause the unit to get swamped or water-logged; and if the unit gets damaged, the warranty will become void.
Why Surface Cleaning is Essential for Pool Care
The best defense is a good offense
Preventative maintenance is the key to freedom for pool owners. This focus allows you to spend less time cleaning the pool and more time enjoying the relaxing and recreational benefits of owning a pool. Rounding out your pool cleaning equipment with a robotic pool skimmer that focuses on removing surface debris before it decays, creates bacteria and sinks to the bottom can keep your pool sparkling clean while saving time and money.
Surface Cleaning is the Key to a Clean Pool
Skimming the surface of the pool is a part of any pool owner’s routine. There are many reasons why catching and removing debris from the pool’s surface is essential to keeping the pool clean. First, your pool just looks more inviting without leaves, bugs, pollen and even suntan oils floating on the surface. But more importantly, debris that sinks will decompose, promoting algae growth. Dirt and dust can introduce bacteria into the pool, while lotions and soaps can change the chemistry of the pool water.
Stop problems before they start
Floating debris usually remains on the surface of the water for 3 to 4 hours. So, even if a conscientious pool owner is grabbing a net and skimming twice a day, a good deal of debris can sink to the bottom of the pool in between skimming sessions. This necessitates longer running time for the pool pump, and use of a vacuum or other underwater cleaning equipment to remove decomposing matter from the bottom of the pool. Regular vacuuming of your pool will keep it cleaner, but once sunken debris begins to break down, fine particles can remain in the pool, giving it a cloudy look.
Skimming helps prevent algae problems
Debris left in your pool can create a welcoming environment for algae. Algae feeds on organic matter such as leaves, seeds, spores and bacteria that fall into the pool. Fueled by the sun, algae can take hold of your pool. If algae does grow in the pool, removing it and preventing re-growth can be difficult. First, the type of algae growth has to be identified. Next, a potent algaecide product is used along with a clarifying product (flocculant) that will cause the skeletal remains of the algae to sink to the bottom of the pool. The pool must be brushed vigorously and frequently and the filter must be run and backwashed to remove the dead algae from the pool. Pool owners can spend a lot of time, energy and money trying to deal with the fallout from a normal backyard environment. When “messy” trees, pets and dusty environments are part of the equation, the problem grows exponentially.
New solutions for continuous pool surface cleaning
The smartest way to deal with keeping the pool clean and algae-free is to remove surface debris before it has a chance to affect the water quality. A new category of pool cleaning equipment has recently proven highly effective in maintaining a cleaner pool and eliminating algae growth, while using less chemicals and drastically cutting pump running time. Solar-powered, robotic surface cleaners like the Solar-Breeze NX prevent 90-95% of debris from sinking and causing problems for pool owners. Powered only by the sun, the Solar-Breeze NX continuously skims the surface of the pool for up to 20 hours a day. A robotic pool skimmer rarely sleeps – it easily accomplishes what pool owners simply can’t. Its internal rechargeable battery allows it to operate at night and even on cloudy days. Debris captured by the robot is collected in a compartment that can hold approximately twice the volume of the pool’s skimmer basket. The tray is easily pulled out and emptied by the pool owner every few days. Its fine mesh filter traps pollen, pet hair, and even lotions and oils that are left on the pool’s surface. The unit also holds two 3-inch Trichlor tablets for sanitizing the pool and neutralizing organic matter in the debris chamber.
The robotic surface cleaner is smart, too. Programmed steering ensures that the robot backs up and turns when it encounters obstacles (like the sides of the pool) and travels randomly around the entire surface of most pools in under 2 hours. This means debris doesn’t have a chance to sink before getting scooped up by the robot’s collection system. Because it operates completely on its own solar power, there are no cords or external power supplies to deal with and the robot is free to go anywhere and everywhere on the pool’s surface.
Energy-saving benefits of solar-powered pool robots
An added benefit to operating the solar-powered robotic surface cleaner is the savings in energy costs. Because it is powered completely by the sun, running the robotic skimmer won’t add to your energy bill. In sunbelt homes, the pool pump is the second largest consumer of electricity after air conditioning the home. Keeping the pool cleaner with a solar-powered surface cleaner can cut pool pump running time by up to two-thirds, resulting in significant savings and a reduced carbon footprint for pool owners.
Is it Worth Investing in a Pool Surface Skimmer?
Yes. You can spend more time swimming and less to no time hand-skimming your pool each time you want a swim. Unlike other cleaners, they clean the surface of your pool. Being completely solar-powered, robotic pool skimmers are free to run; and can reduce your pool running costs to pay back the initial cost of buying one in just 6 months. A robotic skimmer can also reduce the environmental impact of owning a pool.
How Do You Choose the Right Pool Surface Skimmer?
When deciding on a robotic skimmer to buy, ask yourself 5 questions:
1. What type of pool do I have?
Does it have shallow and narrow areas which may ground or stop the cleaner in its tracks? Note: a robotic skimmer can be used for above-ground and in-ground pools with any shape or configuration. But is more suited for medium to large-sized pools, not for small pools.
2. What’s the main purpose of my cleaner?
Determine the debris type/size, and amount of it in your pool on a regular basis… Do you live in a tree-laden area? A windy area? Does the pool surface need skimming often?
4. What’s my budget?
Robotic pool skimmers cost from $600 to $750. Consider that you will need to use it together with another (possibly) expensive robotic cleaner to clean other areas of your pool. However, both cleaners will use little to no electricity. And can reduce your pool running costs to pay the initial cost of buying each one back within 6 months to a year.
5. What’s the climate in my area?
If you get less than 4 hours of sunlight each day, the battery may not get the charge it needs to run the cleaner and charge the battery with surplus energy for use in sundown.
Extra features & options to consider
Double-check reviews for issues with build quality and the durability of materials. Older models did have these issues. However, newer models have improved.
The right cleaning cycles
Each model has its own set of pre-programmed cleaning cycles, which vary from model to model. Choose a cleaner that offers cleaning cycles suited to your type and size of pool, and individual cleaning needs. The cycles should also clean your pool in the quickest, most efficient and effective way possible.
Remote control option
Some models come with remote control options: where you can control the cleaner from a smartphone app.
A reliable brand for after-sales service and warranty
As with any product, you want it backed by a reliable brand that can:
a) Build an effective, durable skimmer that lasts.
b) Provide a reliable, quick service to fix or replace your skimmer.
c) Ensure replacement parts are reasonably priced and are easily available.
d) Provide a responsive technical support service when you need it.
e) Provide a long warranty to cover the product for an adequate length of time. Warranties for the Skimdevil and Solar-Breeze NX2 are just 1 year. So make sure to inquire about the option of an extended warranty.
What’s a Good Brand and Model?
Two of the most popular models on the market are the ‘Skimdevil’ and the ‘Solar-Breeze NX2’. Both are very similar in operation and features. Although, the Skimdevil is pricier at around $750, compared to $600 for the Solar-Breeze NX2. The Skimdevil can also be operated via a smartphone app, whereas, the Solar-Breeze NX2 cannot. Both are new to the market in 2018.