Anyone have experience with Hayward Above-Ground cleaners (aquabug, wanda whale, penguin) in an in-ground gunite pool?

peterl1365

LifeTime Supporter
Mar 28, 2007
244
Murrieta, CA
So I've been nursing a Hayward Navigator for the last 13 years or so, and I think it's finally time to buy a whole new unit.
The aboveground cleaners are a lot cheaper than a new Navigator, but seem to use a lot of the same internals (turbine, A-frames, pods, shoes etc).
To me, it looks like a repackaged navigator.

Other than replacing the shoes with the proper version, is there any reason I could not use this in my pool? Will it climb the pool walls adequately?
The reviews I can find are not stellar, but they don't seem any worse than the reviews for the standard navigator.
 

duraleigh

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Apr 1, 2007
32,866
Sebring, Florida
Just a general comment. I believe a suction side cleaner is a bit small for your pool.

I would consider a robot. I know they are A LOT MORE money but all the technology and innovation is going towards robots because they are simply a better, more powerful product than suction side (or pressure side) cleaners.
 

peterl1365

LifeTime Supporter
Mar 28, 2007
244
Murrieta, CA
Just a general comment. I believe a suction side cleaner is a bit small for your pool.

I would consider a robot. I know they are A LOT MORE money but all the technology and innovation is going towards robots because they are simply a better, more powerful product than suction side (or pressure side) cleaners.
Thanks for the feedback. I actually prefer the suction cleaners because I can leave it in the pool indefinitely and not have to deal with it for weeks or months at a time. I've got my automation system set up to switch the valves and run the cleaner for about an hour a day, which is usually adequate. If the cleaner is not moving properly, as navigators tend to fail occasionally, I will see an accumulation of dirt/leaves/etc. within a day or two and that's when I take the cleaner apart to inspect/repair.

I thought about investing in a robot some years ago, but the need to plug it in and to take it out after it's done its job was a show-stopper for me. I also presume that the robot needs to be cleaned periodically (weekly? monthly?), whereas the suction cleaner just utilizes the existing filtration system.
 

wireform

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In The Industry
Aug 15, 2017
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Spring Valley, NY
I thought about investing in a robot some years ago, but the need to plug it in and to take it out after it's done its job was a show-stopper for me. I also presume that the robot needs to be cleaned periodically (weekly? monthly?), whereas the suction cleaner just utilizes the existing filtration system.
Here's the difference your suction side cleaner doesn't need cleaning because all the debris is collecting in the pool filter shortening the duration between cleaning your cartridges. Robots keep the debris contained and need the routine emptying which is a no biggie compared to opening and cleaning a cartridge filter. Some of todays robots have a lift feature where they come up to the top edge of the wall waiting for you to grab it out of the water. Yes they are costly but are packed with many useful features.
 

peterl1365

LifeTime Supporter
Mar 28, 2007
244
Murrieta, CA
Here's the difference your suction side cleaner doesn't need cleaning because all the debris is collecting in the pool filter shortening the duration between cleaning your cartridges. Robots keep the debris contained and need the routine emptying which is a no biggie compared to opening and cleaning a cartridge filter. Some of todays robots have a lift feature where they come up to the top edge of the wall waiting for you to grab it out of the water. Yes they are costly but are packed with many useful features.
True, but I only need to clean my cartridges once or twice a year. Living in southern California, we don't have a huge amount of leaves to deal with. It's mostly just dust and fibers.
I doubt that using a robot would extend my cartridge cleaning intervals significantly. As it is, I've only been cleaning them once a year for the last 3 or 4 years. I do it in November after the annual "Santa Ana" winds that tend to dump a large amount of airborne dust and debris into the pool. There is a fair amount of stuff in the filters to wash out, but I've never gotten more than a 2-3 psi rise in filter pressure as the cartridges get dirty over the course of the year.
 

peterl1365

LifeTime Supporter
Mar 28, 2007
244
Murrieta, CA
Just adding a response to my OP in case anyone else is interested...

So, I took a chance and purchased one of these cleaners off eBay. For the price, I figured it was worth a shot. Just for reference purposes, I had found some new units selling for ~ $130 shipped, but I opted for a "manufacturer refurbished" unit for ~ $60 shipped.

Pros:
  • Unit arrived in pretty good shape, and there is decent chance that these are really overstock units rather refurbed/returned items.
  • Came with new hoses. I think there was 30 or 32 ft of genuine Hayward hoses. I think the hoses alone sell for more than $60.
  • Includes the accessories needed for above ground pools, which shouldn't be necessary for replacing an in-ground vacuum.
  • The eBay seller advertised a "free return" policy. If you don't like it, they apparently will pay the return shipping costs and give a full refund.
Cons:
  • The "throat" opening is smaller than the opening in the standard Navigator that I had. I suspect that this is done to optimize for the lower flow rates expected from above-ground pool pumps. The throat is removable, though, and it seems to work well without it.
  • Does not climb walls. This was expected, but the ring around the perimeter of the vacuum also seems to hurt performance where the pool bottom curves up into the walls.
  • Comes with soft rubber shoes, which are obviously not well-suited to in-ground pools. This was also expected and I just transplanted the shoes from my old Navigator.
Conclusion:
The unit did not perform as well as I had hoped it would. It seemed to only stay in a small area of the pool bottom, as if it didn't like traversing the inclines. So, rather that using it in its original form, I decided to cannibalize its innards and transplant them into my original Navigator. Generally speaking, everything fit exactly as if they were original Navigator parts. The notable exception was the rear intake screen which is unique to the outer shell of each model. In short, I managed to get the equivalent of an entire Navigator lower propulsion unit, upper steering mechanism, and a set of hoses for $60 shipped. It took a little bit of work, but it's no big deal if you've ever done any DIY repairs on the Navigators. I suspect this would work for the Hayward PoolVac units as well.

Bottom line, I now have a vacuum that performs like new for 60 bucks plus tax and a couple hours of twiddling. I might buy a second one just to have a full set of spare parts.