How long should I run vacuum?

Ericinphoenix

Well-known member
Sep 6, 2020
52
Arizona
Hello, everyone. I have a question about how much my vacuum should be going/moving around the bottom every day. Currently, I have it hooked to the pump, which runs 6 am - midnight every day. (Please see attached picture.) However, it stops moving soon after the priming is finished. I can see tracks where it’s worked. It sits in the same place for hours. Should it be vacuuming/moving around 6-midnight or is it correct the way it is? I have checked the hoses and strainers and baskets for blockage and there is nothing. My pump has four speeds. When it is running daily from 6-midnight it is running on speed 2. If i manually turn it to speed 3 the vacuum runs, but pretty slowly. Speed 4 even better. Should I reset to have it run on higher speed? Or is that too much? Thanks for your help and insight. EricB5192EE3-954C-4B5F-8C7C-B4369684D62B.jpeg
 

Dirk

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We can't rule out that the vac is defective in some way, but based on your description I would first troubleshoot the flow rate it is getting. Your vac should have come with a set of instructions or a flow indicator, or both, that help you determine the optimum flow for your vac. Mine came with both. I'll describe how mine works, apply as appropriate.

My flow indicator is a small plastic tube that fits inline with the vac's hose. It has a small lever that reacts to the water flowing through the hose and tube, and a printed scale that lets you know when the flow is within optimal range. It is then a simple matter to adjust your pump's RPM to achieve optimal flow through the vac. So step one is to find out if the manufacturer of your vac supplies such a thing, and if so get a hold of it.

If that doesn't solve the vac's performance issue, the next best solution is to see if the vac's manual includes instructions for determining optimal vac performance based on the vac's wheel's RPMs. Something along the lines of x rotations per minute, or x seconds per rotation. Find those instructions and adjust your pump's RPMs to achieve the optimum vac wheel RPM. If the instructions don't include such instructions, call the manufacturer and inquire of their support staff for instructions like that.

If neither of those get you some good vac performance, then your setup might be suffering from what my setup was. As long as I tried to run both my vac and my skimmer at the same time, I couldn't get either to work well. Both were plumbed to a three-way valve at the pad, to allow me to balance flow between the two, but I could never get it right. Either the vac worked well(ish), or the skimmer did, but never both. And even if I could have, the skimmer's performance was not static because sometimes it would be full of leaves (affecting flow) and other times not. So I installed an actuator on the three-way valve and programmed the valve to go back and forth between skimmer and vac. That solved the performance of the vac, because it was getting most of the suction of the pump*, and then when in "skimmer mode," the skimmer's performance was also greatly improved. The schedule is controlled by my pool's automation system. So that's my recommended solution.

But there's more! (There always is...)

A suction-side vac, run the way you're running yours, is somewhat of a hazard. It's an exposed suction port that you are allowing in your pool during swimming hours. While it's arguably less dangerous than an exposed main drain's suction, it is still an exposed suction port, and one that does not have any sort of protective cover. The suction hole under the vac is fully exposed (mine is, anyway). Could it trap a child underwater? Personally, I'm not going to test that on my long-haired granddaughter who loves to swim down to the bottom. So...

Now that I have a vac cycle that can be scheduled, I run it in the middle of the night, when no one is swimming. And then the actuator closes off that suction port (and its hazard) for the rest of the daylight hours. That also improves energy efficiency, because the RPMs needed for a good vac session are much higher than my daylight skimming RPMs. So the vac only runs 1.5 hours a night, and then the pump drops down to skimming RPM the rest of the day.

Still more!!

* Because I remove the vac and its hose when it's more than just me in the pool (kids!), I have to remember to put it back in the pool after the kids are done. Otherwise, the suction port's spring-loaded flap will deadhead the pump during the vac's nighttime session. I solved for this in two ways: my home automation system alerts me when I have to reconnect the vac, and repeats the alert, all evening, until I do it. More importantly: I adjusted the three-way valve/actuator to allow some flow through the skimmer during "vac mode." Like 20%/80% or something like that. This safety "feature" accomplishes two things: if I ever forget to reconnect the vac, and the vac session occurs, my pump won't deadhead because some amount of flow will still be allowed through the skimmer. And should my vac ever inadvertently come on during daylight hours with people in the pool, and somehow get stuck to someone because they're messing around with it underwater (not all that farfetched given my middle one's tendency to do things he's not supposed to be doing), the vac is less likely to eviscerate him because the entire force of the pump will be relieved by the flow through the skimmer: not unlike the principal that two main drains are safer than one.

Hope that all makes sense. So that took me about a year to figure all that out (almost as long as it took to write this post). But now I've got optimized flow through the vac and the skimmer and a very clean pool. Because I also have a FlowVis in my system, I noted what the system's flow is during an optimal vac run. And my FlowVis makes it a very simple matter to check system flow throughout the year. Why? Because I only clean my filter once a year. As it clogs up, the flow drops slightly, which affects the performance of my vac (and other things, too, like my solar heating system). I maintain optimal flow for everything by slightly adjusting my VS pump's RPMs a few times a year, then reset it in the Spring when I clean my filter, and start over again. So my vac always works as well as it can, all year long...

Whew! Hopefully you'll be able to make use of some of these tips...
 
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mgtfp

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Mar 5, 2020
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Because I remove the vac and its hose when it's more than just me in the pool (kids!), I have to remember to put it back in the pool after the kids are done.

Great write-up of your setup, Dirk.

One question: when you take cleaner and hose out, where and how do you store them for the day?

I always struggle to find a good spot where the hose doesn't lie coiled up in the sun, or not coiled up but getting dirty, so I tend to leave it in the pool, tied to the side of the pool, which is also not ideal.
 

mknauss

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May 3, 2014
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which robot is recommended for a pool of my size, in case i should stumble upon a sizable sum of somolians soon?
Maytronics S200. Marina Pool Spa. $699. No tax, free shipping.
You will be astounded how much cleaner the pool is. And no longer needing to run the pump at a high RPM or nearly as long each day.
 

Dirk

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Great write-up of your setup, Dirk.

One question: when you take cleaner and hose out, where and how do you store them for the day?

I always struggle to find a good spot where the hose doesn't lie coiled up in the sun, or not coiled up but getting dirty, so I tend to leave it in the pool, tied to the side of the pool, which is also not ideal.
Early in my yard remodeling project I replaced a large section of mulch with river rock, which happens to be well shaded by a fence and a tree. So that's the perfect spot for my coiled up hose and vac, just laying on the rock. Out of the sun, and no dirt or mulch, and there's no landscaping to worry about if some pool water drains from the hose or vac. Just out of sight of guests, too, so it's ideal.

Make a border like this out of a 12' redwood 2x4 and fill it with pavers or river rock, under a bush or tree. Lay out the pavers to determine the four lengths of 2x4. If you use rock, it can be any size you want. Screw the corners together. Inset it into the dirt a bit. If you use river rock, just fill it. If you want to walk on it, lay down a bag of sand and screed it level, and fill the frame with pavers. Half-day project: vac bed!

cleaning station.jpg

Or just plop down four large pavers (like 16" x 16") and then spend the rest of the half-day drinking beer and admiring your "work!" Lowes, five bucks each:

paver.jpg

BONUS TIP!
That little framed pad isn't for my vac, it's actually my pool filter cartridge cleaning station. Most of my yard is landscaped, so I can only clean my cartridges in the "back 40." But the first time I tried that it turned into a mud-wrestling tournament. So the pad is just the right size for a lawn chair, which I sit on while hosing down the cartridges. The ABS is my cartridge stand. The tee holds the cartridge at a good height. I sit in front of that with a hose and rotate the cartridge as I clean it... times four cartridges. The crud just kinda blends into the surrounding dirt. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust...
 
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Ericinphoenix

Well-known member
Sep 6, 2020
52
Arizona
Quick Update with Questions: turns out the top of the Regulator Valve, which attaches to skimmer, was unscrewed all the way out, making the bypass of water very high and slowing the vac almost completely. I tightened this down, which has the effect of slowing the bypass of water but now the vac moves steadily, making the floor much cleaner. Question is, does the slowing down of the water pose a risk? And now that the vacuum is running all the time, is it okay to have pump/vac going 18 hours a day at low speed? Thanks!
 

Dirk

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Running your pump/vac for 18 hours a day is fine. Many here do just that.

Regarding the "Regulator Valve," are you referring to the diverter in the bottom of your skimmer that balances the flow between skimmer and main drain? Or something else? Can you post a picture of it?
 

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Dirk

Gold Supporter
TFP Guide
Nov 12, 2017
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Central California
Pool Size
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Plaster
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SWG Type
Pentair Intellichlor IC-40
OK, got it. The purpose of that valve is to adjust down the flow through the vac. You'd need that if you have no other way to adjust flow and the flow through the vac was too high. Folks with single-speed pumps (or two-speed running on high) need some way to lessen the flow through the vac, or it will run up the walls and right out of the water, and probably be less effective vacuuming to boot.

Question is, does the slowing down of the water pose a risk?
Kinda. If the hose is running into the skimmer, especially through the weir door, then that greatly impacts the efficiency of the skimmer. Ideally you'd run an automated vac from a dedicated suction port in the side of your pool. If you don't have one, and can't add one, then you have to use the suction port in the skimmer. But that setup should be temporary, used only for the hours required to clean your pool. The rest of the pump's runtime should be dedicated to skimming, without the interference of that valve or the vac hose.

Remember, skimming is just as important as vacuuming, maybe more so. Everything that collects on the bottom of your pool gets there through the surface. A lot of that stuff floats on the surface for a while before it sinks to the bottom. If your skimming is optimized and efficient, the skimmer will collect some or most of that gunk before it sinks, and that significantly reduces the amount of vacuuming needed. And of course your pool will look better, too: less gunk on the bottom, less gunk floating around.
 
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