In-floor cleaning. Yes or no?

We don’t view in-floor cleaning as a necessity. It works well, but is really expensive as an up-front cost (anywhere from $9- 15K). In addition it’s really expensive to run in terms of the electrical energy. It uses approximately $1000 of electricity per year (see calculation below) – which is a lot of money seeing all it does is remove the debris on the floor of the pool. We recommend robotic pool cleaners instead. Nevertheless we are only too happy to install in-floor cleaning systems.

An in-floor cleaner

Example of an in-floor cleaner.

In-floor cleaning manufacturers have been a little duplicitous in how they have packaged and marketed their swimming pool in-floor cleaning products. The notion that a pool with in-floor cleaning is “self cleaning” is a little mischievous in my book. There are 4 critical components involved in keeping a pool clean, of which in-floor cleaning is only one. These are:

  • Sanitation – removal of organic matter from within the water. Historically oxidising agents like chlorine have done this. Many people now use salt chlorinators for the same purpose
  • Filtration – the removal of inorganic ( sometimes organic matter ) suspended within the water column. The filter traps and stores fine particulate matter that would otherwise cloud the water when its in suspension in the water column
  • Skimming – the skimmer box removes floating debris from the surface of the pool. Often debris that is not skimmed off the surface falls to the bottom of the pool. Then and only then does infloor cleaning provide a meaningful benefit – as it acts to remove debris from the floor of the pool.
  • Debris removal from the floor of the pool – infloor cleaning systems remove debris from the floor of the pool, as do other forms of pool cleaners including robotic pool cleaners. Infloor cleaning systems use water jets in an energy intensive process to blow debris randomly around the pool and ultimately into a centralised pickup point for removal from the pool.

My argument on the value of in-floor cleaning isn’t that it doesn’t work. But rather it doesn’t represent value for money as its really expensive to sell for the re-seller ( the average pool builder like me) and hugely expensive for the end user ( pool owner) to purchase and ultimately to run ( – in terms of energy use).

In-floor manufacturers also point to other benefits like deep water circulation, heat retention and chemical savings etc. But I have never seen any independent studies commissioned to endorse these benefits – which is a certification you would want if your argument was sound. Instead I think these are illusory claims, which intuitively make sense – but quantitatively represent incremental gains at exponential costs.

This is a fact well evidenced amongst commercial clients who never specify infloor cleaning on any commercial or council facilities. In fact all council and local government facilities are cleaned by Robotic pool cleaners  – and that’s what we recommend.

Infloor Cleaning Running Costs

The average price of electricity in Australia in 2015  is $0.29/KWhr.

The average infloor system uses a 2.5KWpump and runs for a period of 4 hrs per day.

The math is really simple. 365 (days) x  4 ( hrs  / day) x (2.5(kW) x $0.29 (rate)) = $1058 – to run your in-floor pump; or more particularly to remove the debris from the bottom of the pool only.

Given, the average household electricity build is in the order of $500 / quarter. That infloor cleaning system will represent a 50% increase in your home electricity usage.