Own an above-ground pool or a small inground pool? Think robotic pool cleaners are too expensive?
Well, you have no excuse now.
The Smartpool NC22 SmartKleen is a sub-$400 pool cleaner that cleans smaller pools almost as well as a Dolphin or Polaris – for half the price.
What it lacks some of the other units’ advanced features, it makes up for it in terms of a nearly-equal cleaning ability.
Keep reading this page for my full review of the SmartKleen’s features and cleaning performance.
NOTE: If this is not the robotic pool cleaner you’re looking for, then check out my robot pool cleaner buying guide for other top recommendations.
You may be wondering why the SmartKleen is so much cheaper than Dolphin or Polaris.
Is it terrible at cleaning?
Quite the opposite.
While the SmartKleen definitely lacks many of the high-tech features found in pricier cleaners like the Dolphin Premiere or Polaris 9550, this simple cleaner uses ingenious methods to clean almost as well.
One of the best techniques it applies is intelligent wall-independent navigation.
Pricier models use smart pool-mapping software to guide the robot around the pool. This pool cleaner doesn’t do that; instead, it uses an internal tracking technology to calculate how far the cleaner has traveled and then automatically changes its direction.
When the robot is cleaning, you’ll notice it sometimes stops, raises its front wheels and rotates. This is how it changes direction.
Because this SmartKleen doesn’t rely on walls to navigate like most basic pool cleaners, it can cover a larger area in a short time. It also ensures the cleaner doesn’t miss any spots.
Another genius feature is how they’ve designed the suction system. They call it Brush-to-Port Suction. Essentially, the brushes are directly connected to a suction cavity. Any dirt they scrub off the pool floor and walls is immediately vacuumed up.
The SmartKleen actually uses four suction intakes which provide plenty of suction power compared most cleaners that rely on just one intake. It can vacuum leaves and acorns just as easily as it sucks up sand and gravel.
Combined with its scrubbing brushes, the SmartKleen leaves your pool sparkling clean. Whether you are struggling with stubborn algae, leaves and acorns from trees or wind-blown sand, this pool cleaner will not disappoint.
Debris is collected into an oversized debris bag that is easy to remove and clean.
The only problem I see is the non-swivel cable, which tends to twist on itself a lot. You may have to spend a few minutes after every cleaning untangling it. Not unlike most pump-driven pool cleaners like the popular Polaris 280.
Here’s a tip: instead of letting the whole cable length float in the water, just let out as enough line for the robot cleaner to traverse the entire pool and leave the rest of the hose on your pool deck. It will not get tangled.
Features We Like
1. Intelligent Navigation
By ‘intelligent’, I don’t mean sensors that scan the pool and an algorithm to calculate an optimal cleaning path.
Instead, the SmartKleen NC22 uses a much simpler system that nevertheless saves a lot of energy.
Other non-intelligent robotic cleaners use walls to navigate a pool. They hit a wall, turn to another direction, hit another wall, turn again and so on.
This random motion is tedious, takes longer to clean the pool, wastes energy, and there’s bound to be some missed spots.
The SmartKleen uses a different tracking method that keeps track of the robot’s position in the pool. The robot can turn around in any direction without using the walls.
This results in less time cleaning, doesn’t miss spots and uses less energy.
2. Direct Drive
Direct drive is a motor-drive system that improves wheel traction and reduces maintenance by getting rid of a lot of moving parts such as gears. This also improves performance and reliability.
With large-footprint wheels, the SmartKleen easily climbs over drains and goes up the wall without slipping or getting stuck.
3. Quick Drain System
At 18 lbs, the SmartKleenis is light enough for most people to easily lift in and out of the pool. They also sell a caddy, but you won’t need it to transport the robot to and from storage.
There is another feature that makes the SmartKleen easy to use, called the Quick-drain system. When you lift the robot out of the pool, it drains water quickly from the front ensuring you won’t have to deal with the extra weight of all that water.
4. Large Filter Bag
Unlike most top-access filters, the SmartKleen’s debris bag can only be accessed from the bottom – but I don’t consider that a big deal.
Customers love how big this bag is, however. It can store loads of debris before you need to empty it.
It’s also easy to wash using a hose – you can even put it in a washing machine if it’s really dirty (just don’t put it in the dryer).
• Great price
• Excellent cleaning ability
• Large debris capacity
• Easy to lift
• Cable may tangle at times
• Uses a messier debris bag (vs. a cartridge)
• No remote control or programmable timer
• Dry weight: 18 lbs
• Cycle time: 2 hrs
• 40 ft cable
• For above-ground pools and small inground pools.
• 1 yr warranty
The SmartKleen NC22 may not give you all of the smarts and flexible programming of pricier robots, but you will get a clean pool day after day – for a rock-bottom price. Definitely worth a look.