In general, there seems to be a dearth of detailed information on the performance of in-floor cleaning (IFC) systems. I’d like to share my experience after using my IFC for the last 6 months or so.
My wife disliked the Polaris 280 we had at our last house and hated the way it sprayed the windows and got tangled up in the kids when they were swimming (she really hated to disconnect it when using the pool). So in my recent pool build, I went with the Paramount PCC2000 system. My pool has 2 skimmers (Skimmer #1 is in parallel to the MDX floor drain and is part of the filter loop; Skimmer #2 is the water source for the IFC nozzles.) I also have 4 pumps: 1 for the filter loop, one for IFC loop, and 2 for various water features.
When a PB is desiging a pool, they send the design to Paramount who specifies number and location of nozzles, number of zones, etc. The hard engineering part is left to the engineers, and the PB’s plumbers just have to follow the instructions.
In theory, the PCC2000 system is designed to work like this: There are various pop-up nozzles in the floor, on the steps, on the benches, and on the sun shelf. My pool has 6 zones. When a given zone is on, the heads pop up and spray relatively high-pressure water for about 30 or 40 seconds and then go back down. The next time the zone is active, the heads rotate slightly and spray in a different direction. During the transition time between zones, the previous and next zones are both active at the same time, which is a change from older-style systems that would turn off one zone before activating the next zone, which resulted in high-pressure fluctuations in the IFC plumbing.
I have a very large MDX drain in the center (deepest part) of my pool that collects all the debris sprayed by the nozzles. To maintain VGB compliance, there is another “drain” on the side wall, under my waterfall. The MDX drain feeds a debris canister built in to my pool deck, which then feeds the pool filter. So basically, all the dirt on the pool bottom goes into a net to filter out the big stuff and then into my filter. The debris canister can be opened and cleaned (very similar to a skimmer) in about 20 seconds. Most of the time, the filter screen net has bugs, a few leaves, some pebble from my pool surface, and tons of dog hair (my Labrador Retriever can’t say out of the pool!) Interestingly, when opening the lid it appears that there is stagnant water on top of the internal lid, but Paramount assures me that 2-3 gallons per minute of water actually circulate through this reservoir. After watching it in operation, I think I agree. And besides…my pool water reaches 90°F during the day, and there is no visible evidence of anything growing in there!
After the filter, the water is returned to my pool through the various jets on the walls of the pool. These are not typical directional jets; each one is directed down and washes water down the pool walls towards the floor. This helps drive water currents towards the bottom and, ultimately, to the MDX drain. In addition, when the pool filter pump is running, there are 2 static pop-ups near the center line of the pool that continually push high-pressure water towards the floor drain. These are continually operational, even if the IFC pump is off.
Right now, I’m running my main filter pump 6-7 hours per day (dictated by SWG run time needs), and my IFC pump is running about 1.5 hours per day (haven’t adjusted since January). These run times are programmed into my pool controller.
In general, the system works as intended. I haven’t used any other method of cleaning my pool floor, and it’s generally spotless. There is 1 spot under my waterfall that tends to collect some “dust”, but it eventually gets washed away. I would say that I’m completely happy with system performance. My pool bottom is clean, and I have to spend zero time and effort to keep it that way.
But there are a few things that I don’t particularly care for. For my 2nd skimmer to be skimming, I need to have the 2nd 1.5HP pump running. I only run the 2nd skimmer about 1.5 hours per day, which works most of the time. Occasionally, I need to run my IFC just to help clean debris off of the water surface, which requires a manual intervention of my pool controls. This is not a complaint; this is just an observation if anybody reading this is considering including IFC in their pool build.
To clean any dirt from my spa floor, I need to put the pool into “spa mode”, since the spa floor drains don’t suck water in any other operating mode. For me, this is a non-event, since the spa floor never seems to be dirty. I suppose I could re-program the controller to do this differently, but if it ain’t broke….
My PB provided nozzle removal tools for both sizes that are in my pool. It’s very simple to install and remove the nozzles with this tool, which fastens onto the skimmer/brush pole. Apparantly the nozzles need cleaned on some frequency, but mine haven’t had any issues yet. According to my PB, there is a lifetime warranty on the system, but I think this is limited to the nozzles. I can’t imagine that the rotating manifold is covered forever. But I did open it once, and it has very few part and looks very easy to rebuild.
At one point, my PB didn’t give me very detailed answers on how the system works. I emailed Paramount customer service, and got a response within a few hours. We carried on an email thread for several iterations over the course of a week. Each response was articulate and responsive to my actual questions. These were not canned answers; the tech was really trying to make sure I got what I needed. Their customer service is frickin’ awesome. It turns out that Paramount only recommends how a system should be installed. PBs can do it however they want. Fortunately for me, it appears that my installation is the way Paramount recommends.
While researching IFC systems prior to making my commitment, I tended to find only bad reviews online. But most of these seemed to be from people who had purchased a home with a pool with an IFC system and didn’t understand how it worked. (For example, there are many threads out there about people thinking the permanent static pop-ups are broken because they are always up when the pump is running. This is a design feature, not a malfunction.)
I’m sure that there are pool owners with IFC systems that really do not work as intended, but I am quite happy to say that I am not one of them. If you are building a new pool and have room in your budget, I highly recommend putting one in. You’ll be glad you did.