An at-home swimming pool is a great luxury, and often the only way to escape the worst of Australia's notoriously brutal summers, so it stands to reason that you'll want to keep it as clean and sanitary as possible. However, choosing a suitable pool cleaner can be something of a challenge -- various different types, makes and configurations are available, differing vastly in price and suitable uses. As such, when looking for a new pool cleaner you should pay particular attention to the types of dirt and debris you are routinely cleaning out of your pool.
Cleaners for pools in arid or coastal locations
Whether you live by a beautiful beach or a rugged patch of bushland, your pool problems are likely to be the same - sand. The difference between the sizes of sand grains and other grit and particulate matters means that it can collect both on the surface of your pool and on the bottom, and particles can easily be missed by pool cleaners without high suction and fine filtering capabilities. For these reasons, suction-side pool cleaners are a popular choice for brushing up a sandy pool. These devices are attached directly to your pool's inbuilt filters, and use the suction power of your filters to propel themselves around the surface of the pool, sucking up debris as they go and feeding it back into the pool filters.
The great advantage of these devices is that they essentially make your main pool filters mobile, giving them the ability to filter out much finer particles than standalone units (they also reduce the amount of time you spend cleaning your various pool cleaning contraptions). Some suction-side cleaners also clean the sides of your pool by agitating the water as they pass by, although like most automatic pool cleaners they will not clean the bottom of your pool. However, if you choose to purchase a suction-side cleaner, be sure to install a leaf trap or similar device, as larger debris passed from the cleaner directly to the fragile pool filters can cause a hideous amount of damage.
Cleaners for pools with overhanging trees and foliage
Spending half an hour with a pool skimmer fishing all the leaves from the surface of your pool is no way to spend a morning, so if you own a garden pool surrounded by trees and shrubs, you'll want a cleaner capable of tackling larger debris. More robust is better here, as you never know when a pool cleaner might have to contend with a fallen twig, or even large seeds such as acorns and chestnuts.
A good choice for these pools is a pressure-side cleaner. These cleaners are propelled by the power of a water pump (they can be attached to your pool's main pump, or powered by a dedicated pump), and feed the waste they pick up into a filter bag. This avoids the nasty possibility of large debris destroying your pool's filters, and has the added advantage of letting you inspect collected debris before you dispose of it (handy for lost wedding rings and the like). Bear in mind that these cleaners are only as powerful as the pump they are attached to, so small pool owners may need to invest in a dedicated pump to see the best results.
Pool cleaners for heavily shaded or polluted areas
Algae is the eternal nemesis of any long-time pool owner, and tackling algal blooms can be a particular problem in areas where the environment promotes algal growth. City and industrial pollution can greatly exacerbate an algal infestation, but even something as similar as having an east-facing garden can provoke extensive algae build up, as the algae thrives in the moist, shady conditions.
Algae has a nasty habit of forming 'mats' on pool floors and walls. This rules out most automatic cleaners, which only catch debris on or near the surface of the water, so you might have to choose something requiring a little more elbow grease. Manual pool cleaners resemble nothing more than a vacuum cleaner head attached to your pool wall, but in the right hands they can clean your pool more thoroughly than any automatic cleaner, at a fraction of the associated cost. Once again, however, you should bear in mind that the power of these cleaners is dictated by the pump they are attached to.