Aquabot Care and Feeding Part 1: The Filter (A MUST read)

This is a first in a series of articles regarding basic care and some troubleshooting of Aquabot Robotic Pool Cleaners

Your Aquabot does require some maintenance and needs to be treated right if you want it to last. Today I am going to go over the basics of the filter bag. This article  applies to both the Tracked and Jet Drive styles of cleaners.

Filter Bag, Filter Bag, Filter Bag

If you forget all other things about your cleaner, remember that the proper operation and longevity of your Aquabot revolves around proper filter bag maintenance.

The filter bag is capable of removing microscopic debris from your pool water. If you happen to have a buildup of this type of fine debris, your bag can clog very quickly. In a worst case, I have seen cleaners block up on a single crossing of a pool bottom.

True User Experience #1
An In-ground  Tracked Pool Cleaner:

I was contacted by a homeowner (a doctor actually) who had owned the top of the line Aquabot Turbo T4 for two years. He was calling to see if there was a better cleaner for his pool since it did not seem to ever work work for him and he had worn out all of the belts, brushes and tracks (twice). The pool never looked clean even after setting the timer for 7 hours and running it once each week. His cord was also very twisted and at times he would find the cleaner upside down at the bottom of the pool. It was always found in the deep end. I was honestly amazed at the patience of this guy.

The solution? The filter bag was clogging.

True User Experience #2
An Above-ground  Wheeled “Jet Drive” Pool Cleaner:
A user had tried to use their new cleaner (A Pool Rover ) and complained that it would slow down and then stop after one or two passes in the pool. There was nothing in the bag but a few leaves.

The solution? The filter bag was clogging.

You are probably asking right now: How could the filter bag cause all of this?

First, a bit about how the cleaners work. The basic operation of an aquabot pool cleaner is actually pretty simple. Create a vacuum and move it around. Just like any home vacuum that uses a bag, as it clogs up, you lose suction. An Aquabot uses this suction to also pull itself down against the floor of the pool and stick to the walls so that it can climb. In the case of a Jet drive cleaner, it uses the pump outflow to push itself around AND stick to the wall (if used in an in-ground).

If the filter bag blocks up (not to be confused with full), tracked cleaners will not climb and jet cleaners will not move. Its really that simple.

Symptoms Explained
Example #1 (above)
The Turbo T4 should be able to clean most pools in under two hours. Since the first day of ownership, the unit was started and left unmonitored for seven hours. Yes, that is the idea with a robotic cleaner, but it is a good idea to check on it now and again on the first run.  His pool never had a robotic cleaner in the pool, at least one with such fine filtering capability. The filter was clogging early in the cycle and at that point stopped removing debris.  The unit was again run a week later. Over that weeks time, more debris had accumulated and he was back to square one. Rinse, repeat. He never managed to reach a “maintenance” level of clean.

Once the bag clogs, a few things can happen. The unit may fall off of the wall and/or end up in a corner spinning its tracks and brushes. If the pool surface is at all abrasive, the tracks and brushes will start to wear down as it spins. In all cases, the belts will certainly take a beating and eventually start to skip. Another symptom that is seen more in the jet driven cleaners is that they go to the deep end and stay there. If the jet is not strong enough, it can’t climb out.

Prevention is the Cure
A lot of microscopic debris (algae food) can be present in a pool where visually, it looks clean and clear. DE powder settled to the bottom can also cause initial issues.  If you are a new Aquabot owner, are opening your pool, or have DE powder in the pool, you could have these issues. Simply monitor the unit occasionally on the first run. If it does not complete a cycle, clean the bag and start it again. You may need to repeat this a number of times. The filter bag clogging is actually a GOOD THING because it proves that the cleaner is doing what is asked of it. It should be cleaned after each run and having a spare bag on hand is a good idea. It makes things a bit more convenient since you can swap the bag,store the cleaner and clean the dirty one at your leisure.

Never trust your eyes when it comes to the filter bag. A filter bag with a leaf or two can be fully blocked. Don’t expect your cleaner to turn a green pool clear. They are meant to take a clean pool, make it many times cleaner and keep it that way through the season.

A Few Words on Run Time, Cycles and Per Week
Most users run their cleaner two or three times a week. It should be run for approximately the same time that the manufacturer recommends for your model. That time can vary from one to seven hours. At some point I will have to put together a reference table and other issues related to run time, but that is another article altogether.

The Last Words
If you are ever in doubt that the bag is the problem, simply remove it and test the cleaner for a minute in an area where there are no sticks or other objects that might jam the pump. If it operates normally, you have your answer.