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Polaris 280 Pressure Side Pool Cleaner by Zodiac

Polaris 280

My favorite Polaris Pool Cleaner!

The Polaris 280 pressure side pool cleaner is my all time favorite. This is my go to pool cleaner when I am replacing any other pressure side pool cleaner. I will explain why the Polaris 280 beats out even the higher priced Polaris cleaners in my book. I will also quickly explain what a “pressure side” cleaner means and if this cleaner will work for you.

Let’s start with why I love this cleaner so much.

First, the quality.

Most Polaris pool cleaners are made to last without much repair but the Polaris 280 is such a simple design with very few parts that wear out, or at least wear out quickly. To give you an idea, I have personally installed over 200 of the Polaris 280. I have continued to maintain those pools for years to come and am proud to say that I even had a couple of those cleaners live out their lives and I actually needed to replace them one more time (about 18 years later)! Most pool cleaners will last between 15-20 years but not without repairs.

The Polaris 280 will go at least the first 5 years with no repairs needed on average. The first repair you will most likely need to do is replace some of the tires, wheels, or a bearing or two. This will most likely cost you around $50 and should get you by for at least another 3-5 years. After that you may replace other wheels, tires, and bearings. You may also have to replace the backup valve at this point (only if it stops reversing and starts to get stuck a lot). The total cost on all of this could be $125.00. After that you should go another 3-5 years and you may need a few extra parts beyond just wheels and bearings. It may be a good idea at this point to do a tune-up-kit or a rebuild-kit which both come with many common parts and make your Polaris 280 almost like new. Actually, you can always continue rebuilding your Polaris 280 for as long as you like. The parts are not that expensive and the unit will continue to clean your pool. The main reason I choose to replace the entire polaris 280 and start over with a new Polaris 280 is because of the hose. After 15 or more years the hose becomes stiff and brittle. Things start to break on the hose and usually at that point the Polaris needs parts too. This is the perfect time to replace it all because the complete hose replacement is over $100.00 and doesn’t come with a backup valve. You would almost save money buying an new one and then everything is new again.

The most important thing is that Polaris doesn’t use cheap plastics and bad designs that constantly need repair or replacement. The Polaris 280 is a quality pool cleaner.

The second reason is how well the Polaris 280 works!

When I talk about how well the Polaris 280 works, I am comparing it in my mind to all the other pressure side pool cleaners that are out there that I have dealt with in swimming pools throughout the years. If you read the previous section about repairs and thought that those estimates seemed expensive and short lived, you should see other brands and their quality/price! Trust me, the Polaris 280 is better.

It is also better when it comes to the way it cleans the pool and how much debris fits in it’s bag every week. The Polaris 280 gets stuck less often and in less places throughout your pool. There may be an occasional step or swimout corner that it hangs up in from time to time but I promise that compared to most other cleaners, this is very minimal.

The unit also has a very large opening at the bottom for the leaves and dirt to enter. The opening is larger and better shaped than it’s competitors for better suction at the bottom of the pool. I have even seen Barbie Dolls sucked up and inside the bag of the cleaner! The back of the bag near the zipper collects all of the small debris like sand and silt from the bottom of your pool. The rest of the bag collects larger debris like leaves. The bag is easy to remove with a quick release from the unit and a clip on the hose. There is a zipper at the back of the bag for easy emptying. Everything snaps back on and you are done in less than a minute. Do this at least once per week to help the bag last as long as possible. The bag will need to be replaced when it develops holes in it which is usually every 2 years. Making sure you always snap the clip from the bag to the hose of the Polaris 280 will help extend it’s life. If you don’t do this the bag can fall down to the wheels and get torn up when the unit turns back on the next day.

There are less expensive replacement bags available that are not made by Polaris but I never buy them. I have found that the material is not as good and does not last as long or pick up the same size particles and the original. I have also seen the Polaris 280 floating around the pool because air was trapped inside an after market non name brand bag replacement rendering the Polaris 280 ineffective. Here is the link to the correct Polaris 280 bag replacement on Amazon (less expensive than most pool stores).

The last reason is the great price!

The price versus what you get is in my mind a no brainer. The Polaris 280 is under $475 complete and should last you 15-20 years with only a couple hundred dollars of repairs possible in that time.

The Polaris 380 pool cleaner is almost $700. In my experience, you will repair this cleaner more often at a higher price for each repair. I have seen people put an additional $100 – $150 every 3-5 years just to keep this cleaner working well.

The Polaris 3900 Sport is almost $800 complete before mail in rebate and could cost you around $300 in repairs over the same 15-20 years. Here is a link to the current rebates available from Polaris. This unit is probably better than the Polaris 380 but still doesn’t compare in my mind to the Polaris 280. The fancy look and metal drive belt are not enough for me to spend more on this unit. I have this cleaner is a few of my pools and I think the Polaris 280 gets stuck less often and cleans better anyway.


What does “Pressure Side Pool Cleaner” mean?

For this cleaner to work in your pool you will need a booster pump. Click here to see what a booster pump looks like if you are unsure. The booster pump takes a small amount of water from your main pump while they both run. The small amount of water that goes through the booster pump is pressurized to make the Polaris 280 more powerful without needing so much water. This means that the rest of the water that your main pump is moving is available for regular circulation and general motion throughout your pool. This keeps your pool cleaner and helps prevent algae.

If you do not have a booster pump over there at your pool equipment pad, you will need to use a Polaris 360 or suction side pool cleaner depending on how your pool is plumbed. This can get a little complicated and it is probably best to send me a quick message and a few pictures (one of your equipment pad and one of your previous pool cleaner) so that I can help you choose the correct pool cleaner replacement. Please use the contact page on this website.

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Variable Speed Pool Pump Comparison

Variable speed pool pump

A new Variable Speed pool pump is your biggest and best chance to save money on your pool operations.

Pool pumps have truly come a long way in the last few years. They are quieter, smarter, and much more efficient. There are also many laws that are now in place in many states that prevent you from installing a single speed pump when your old one fails or you are building a new pool.

So how much can you really save?

Truthfully, this depends on the pump that you are replacing and a few other factors. To keep things simple, if your old pump is within 25 years old it is safe to say that if you run the new variable speed pump at a high enough speed to equal the gallons per minute of the old pump (comparing apples to apples) you will save at least 50% on the pump part of your energy bill.

There may even be more savings involved if you were running the old pump for too many hours per day compared to what is needed.

The last way that you will save money is if your old single speed pump was too large for your specific pool. Remember that when single speed pumps were installed years ago, it was up to the installer on which speed (horsepower) to install. Many times two or three pump sizes could be chosen depending on desired effects. The problem with a pump that was too powerful is that you can only force a certain amount of water through a certain size pipe. So if the pump is trying to move more water than will go through the pipes, the rest of the energy used is lost. You end up with a motor that runs hot and doesn’t last. You also end up with other damaged pool equipment and plumbing due to the abnormally high pressure created.

With all of that said, you can save as much as 90% over the cost per month to run your single speed pump. If your old pump is more than 25 years old you will most definitely save closer to the 90% mark.


So what brand and what version do you pick?

More talking from me, sorry.

If your pool is just being built your pool installer will decide for you and you should probably let them because they know all of the variables involved with your new pool.

Again, to make things as simple as I can, if you have 1 1/2″ plumbing anywhere at your equipment pad, You should not go with a 3Hp variable speed pump. Each brand has an 1 1/2Hp variable speed pump available. If you do go with the larger pump, make sure you go into the settings and set the highest rpm to around 2000. Any more may damage plumbing over time. If you have 2″ plumbing throughout you should use the 3Hp variation. You may still not want to run the pump at the highest speeds possible (3450 rpms) because of other pieces of equipment like solar or heaters and such.

The entire idea of the variable speed pump is that you now have the flexibility to select the lowest possible speed and still have your pool circulate as desired. This will give you the most efficient situation and longest lasting equipment too.

Which brand you select depends on what timer or controller you have. If you have a simple mechanical timer like an Intermatic (yellow dial timer) you can select any brand you like. I like Pentair and Sta-Rite myself. If you have a digital controller you may want to use the same brand for your pump. This is because it will most likely work better with your old controller and if you ever have to replace the circuit board on that controller, the new one will have more functionality that was specifically designed for their brand variable speed pump.

The last choice you have is if you feel you need the “Safety Vacuum Release System” on your new pump. This adds a new layer of safety to your pump if there is ever a blockage of the water flow due to a possible entrapment of a person at the suction ports of your pool. At this point the pump will detect the blockage and shut down the pump. The only negative thing I have found with this feature is that the pumps don’t all turn back on the next day or turn off all equipment so it is possible to damage other equipment or cause algae due to inactivity unless the pump is properly installed.


Even with all of that said I may have still not answered your specific question about what to do. If you would like to ask me directly, feel free to use the contact form on this website. You can send me pictures and questions and I will try to help. You may also find some more helpful information in my book available on Amazon. Here is the link.

John Brace

Pentair Variable Speed 3 hp Pumps

Safety Vacuum Release Version 3 hp

Pentair Variable Speed 1 1/2 hp Pump

Sta-Rite Variable Speed 3 hp Pumps

Safety Vacuum Release Version 3 hp

Sta-Rite Variable Speed 1 1/2 hp Pump

Jandy Variable Speed 3 hp Pump

Jandy Variable Speed 1 1/2 hp – 2 hp Pumps

Hayward Variable Speed 3 hp Pumps

Safety Vacuum Release Version 3 hp

Hayward Variable Speed 1 hp – 2 hp Pumps

120V Version

Safety Vacuum Release Version 1 1/2 hp – 2 hp