Friday, September 30, 2022

Smartpool Kleen Machine – Robotic Pool Cleaner Review

I have been reviewing robotic pool cleaners for a long time. The last few months have had me neck deep in pool cleaning tech. In that time I have become very familiar with all the key players in the industry. The wide range of products offered by Aquabot, the most fully featured mid range bots from Dolphin, and even the customer friendly builds offered by Hayward. This last few weeks will focus on the bots of Smartpool. And while the first few bots in their stable, the BigFoot and its derivatives, have been fantastic, we are now entering old school above ground pool cleaning builds, SmartKleen, Kleen Machine and the 4i. You will be as impressed with them as I am.

The Kleen machine is an old bot. More so than most that I have reviewed. It lacks the core feature set that I devised, and even a low price cannot compensate this time, as it does for a few other bots. Getting a brand new Kleen machine will take some doing, I have looked around, and found that the price of them does not reflect the value of the item. This may well be my first negative review of a robotic pool cleaner. Many have had problems, and I few I have called pointless, but I have found none lacking quite so much as the Kleen Machine.

So let’s take a dive into the world of Smartpool’s least attractive robotic pool cleaner. I am sure you will find this riveting.

Smartpool Kleen Machine Design and Build Quality

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The SmartKleen

There are three bots based on the Kleen Machine. All three are very well made, can’t fault Smartpool on that front. They have made a name for themselves with their more robust builds. More sturdy than the competition at the very least, though that should not be seen as too big a slight on them. There are two things to remember before shelling out the cash for a bot. The fit of the build can be tested with a simple shake, if you hear rattle then you may have a factory defect. The other important factor is the warranty, make sure it covers what you want it to cover, as if there is a little rattle you may have to use it sooner rather than later.

Now to the look of the build, and my opinion holds across the variants. The SmartKleen, the Kleen Machine and the 4i are all a little underwhelming in terms of aesthetic. The Kleen Machine has a red finish, which is a little better than the off white of the SmartKleen, but both pale in comparison to the 4i, which is black. Considering the shape of this bot one would expect that it would not have been too hard to position the filter chamber on the top, but that is not the case. I will go into that in more detail in the ease of use section.

Smartpool can build a robotic pool cleaner that will stand the test of time, it is a major selling point with them. What they cannot seem to do is make one that looks good. Granted this is far from the worst looking bot I have seen, and it is easy to argue that the look of a bot does not matter. But in this case I think it is. There are three nearly identical bots to chose from, so the look of the build may end up being the deciding factor if this is the robotic pool cleaner you chose.

Smartpool Kleen Machine Features and Specs

In the months since I began researching robotic pool cleaners I have come up with a list of must haves. Three things that all robotic pool cleaners must be able to do for me to consider them worth your money. Firstly, they must have good scrubbing brushes, algae can be an issue for some. They must be able to filter the water to crystal clear clarity in the allotted cycle time and they must be able to climb a wall. If it cannot do all three then you are going to have to clean something manually, and that defeats the purpose of an automatic cleaner. The Kleen machine manages the first two no problem, but we stumble at the final hurdle.

The Kleen Machine is designed for above ground pools, and smaller in ground pools. if you have a large in ground pool I have plenty of articles on alternative that should suit you. The 40′ power cable that comes with this bot is thick and sturdy, but it is not a swivel cable. Swivel cables are less prone to tangling, which can stop the cleaning cycle. If you go with a model that does not have a swivel cable then buy a few pool noodle, fit them to the cable. That should reduce the odds of the cable tangling, and if it does tangle it will be a little easier to get the bot rolling again.

The base brushes are Smartpool’s high powered, soft brushes. Robust enough to break up all kinds of debris, but not so rough as the scour a pool floor. The bot, like the others in this clone range, cannot climb a wall. I have gone on record saying that this is a deal breaker for me. I do not see the point in getting a bot which does not clean the whole of the pool, though the inability to climb is common among above ground bots. Cycle time is 2 hours, short, but seen as this is for smaller pools not too much of a surprise. The path finding on this machine is impressive though, it takes a single cycle to fully map your pool and does not require a wall to turn.

It comes with a high capacity filter bag, but beware a filthy pool, it will fill the bag before the cycle is finished. The suction ports are fitted close to the brush, and have been widened, allowing it to vacuum up even acorns and other larger debris. It also has a two hour shut off timer, which I wouldn’t even mention if it were on any other bot, but pickings are slim here.

Unimpressed to say the lease. While it accomplishes what it sets out to do, and I am certain their is a section of the market screaming out for a cheap robotic pool cleaner, I argue that if it can’t clean a wall you are better off looking elsewhere. Up to the consumer though, if you are swayed by the price then I’m not going to judge, the price really does make it quite tempting.

Smartpool Kleen Machine Ease of Use

In the world of robotic pool cleaners there are really only two core models. The old style external pump based systems, and the newer internal pump cleaners. I am not a fan of the older models, they require some technical know how, and need to be connected to your own pools pump system. These days the internal pumps that come with the cleaners are more than powerful enough, so there is little point in buying the older kind. The newer models can be further split into two categories. The legacy design models and the Ultra Modern models. The vast majority of the builds on the market are of the legacy design, and they come with a few problems. Not deal breakers, just minor annoyances.

The Kleen Machine is a legacy build. The core problems of the legacy builds are in the filter chamber position and the use of a bag system. The filter chamber is on the bottom, and so you must flip the bot upside down to get at it. This problem is made worse the heavier a build you go with, but with the Kleen machine its is only a minor issues, at 18 pounds, but one that will grate after a while. The use of a filter bag is not a problem in and of itself. It is simply more prone to human error. An improperly fitted bag can clog, leading to a cycle stop, and you do not want one of them.

Other issues are weight based. Getting the cleaner from storage to the pool is made more cumbersome by the lack of caddy, many models come with one as standard and I would like to see a caddy included with all models or robotic pool cleaner. Finally, getting it in and out of the water is troublesome, as the handle is much too short. The Kleen Machine does have a rapid drain system as standard, which voids the water as soon as it realizes it is being taken out, and that does lighten the machine a little.

When it comes to robotic pool cleaners, even the most cumbersome build is easy to use. I have to find problems though, so I am forced to get into the nitty gritty, the day to day annoyances of owning a robotic pool cleaner. If you feel that any of the problems here are enough to put you off there are options available, but expect to pay a little more if that is the case. Besides, I’m fairly certain we can find better reasons to not own a clean machine.

Smartpool Kleen Machine Pricing, Value, & Discounts

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The 4i

It is always the case that a good price can change your mind about something, and a bad one can turn you off of a product you previously loved. It would take a miracle at this point to save the Kleen Machine, and lo and behold the heavens themselves have opened to give us this one. A price range of $300 to $400 is amazing. Getting any robotic pool cleaner for that price is impressive. I always point out that any bot will save you time. Even one that doesn’t clean a wall will give you back hours a week. Depending on how you value your time, the Kleen Machine will have paid you back within a few months. Not all robotic pool cleaners can make that claim, I can tel you.

There is another price to consider, the running costs. Unlike Aquabot, Smartpool has not released the exact power consumption details for their line of cleaners, no other firm has that information available either though. So I am forced to make a slightly less accurate estimate. As it is a smaller machine I will assume a 160 w consumption. Factor that into a few common price per kilowatt hours and you are looking at close to 10c per cycle. That will change depending on where you are, but not by any more than a cent and a half. It is not a huge sum, but it will add up, be sure to consider it when thinking about long term costs. Make a habit of knowing how much it costs to run your appliances too, it is very useful, and too few people consider it.

I review products for a living, and as a result I find myself reading through a fair number of warranties. I can spot a good one, like Hayward’s limited warranty, and a less good one, like Aquabot’s limited warranty. Unfortunately I cannot make a value judgement on the limited warranty that comes with the Kleen Machine, as Smartpool has not replied to my inquiries. I asked for more detail, and I am still waiting. I will of course update this review, and the other Smartpool reviews, when they get in contact with me, but until then all we know for certain is that the Kleen Machine comes with a 2 year limited warranty, which could mean anything.

Smartpool Kleen Machine Conclusion

For all its faults, lack of a swivel cable, no ability to climb walls and the legacy design issues, the Kleen Machine does have its niche. It is good for those looking to try out a rudimentary robotic pool cleaner. The price is low enough, so with regular use it will be worth the money. In my opinion though, the 4i is the better buy of the three. It looks better, and does all the same things.

Pros:

  • Works out of the box, no need to connect it to a pool pump.
  • A slight machine that is capable of withstanding the elements and can even vacuum acorns.
  • That price is amazing. Very easy to afford this one, possible to use it as a stepping stone to greater things.

Cons:

  • The warranty information is light on the ground, I am waiting for more information on this.
  • The handle is a little short, and for such a weighty build that is an issue.
  • There is no swivel cable, and while there is a trick to reduce tangling, it’s absence is conspicuous.
  • Legacy design issues.
  • It cannot climb a wall, were it not for the price and the look that alone would have killed it.
Barry W Stanton
Irish born writer who drinks too much caffeine and reads too much Terry Pratchett. I enjoy long walks on the server and Korean cuisine.
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