Here in northwest Florida, the weather’s kind of crazy – 97-degrees in the shade during the summer, below 20-degrees in the sun in the winter. During the summer if you have a bucket of water on the back lawn or a swimming pool (pool preferred), things can get almost tolerable. You jump in and things always get better.

We have an in-the-ground concrete pool measuring about 15-feet by 30-feet, 8-feet deep at the far end. It’s a lot of fun and a great survival tool during the summer but maintenance (required year-round) can be a real pain. Chemicals are fairly simple: you use a test kit to check PH and chlorine and dump in whatever is necessary. The big problem is pool surface cleanliness. You have to brush, vacuum, skim, scrape, brush it again, vacuum again, scrub up and down the walls and floor, and do it at least once a week, more if there are leaves in the area.

If you have a wife who won’t get in the pool unless it’s spotless, well, you can see the problem. If I don’t brush/vacuum/scrape/skim on a regular basis, my wife won’t get in the pool and splashing around by myself is no fun. I tried that and I got lonesome.

I just bought my first automatic pool cleaner and it’s a joy…and a relief. It hooks up to the skimmer inlet I normally use for the vacuum and crawls around the bottom and up the walls (up the walls is important when you buy a pool cleaner), using some magical route controlled by the design of the gearbox. The programmed steering makes the cleaner clean by moving in a pattern, then moving to another area and repeating the pattern until the pool is completely covered. It’s completely silent, uses no electricity (it’s powered by the vacuum thing at the skimmer, so you can use it anywhere in the world. You can leave it in the pool while you’re sleeping, watching TV, eating, etc., but it’s recommended you take it out when you’re swimming.

I put off buying a cleaner for many years, thinking they were too expensive. Even at minimum wage, I’ve probably spent $10,000 in labor over the years just keeping the pool up to my wife’s standards, so anything reasonably-priced was worth considering at this point. Ease of installation is also important and after watching the how-to video, we had it out of the box and scooting around pool in fifteen minutes.

Some cleaners require you install a special pump between the pool and the cleaning gizmo and that’s an additional expense. I was looking for something I could install in ten minutes or so that need no constant adjustments and attention. The Hayward Navigator (800-227-1477 – ) for in-ground pools not only meets my spending requirements but my avoidance of manual labor and my lack of handyman skills. You take it out of the box, read the instructions and watch the video, attach the hose, plug it into the vacuum inlet and toss it in. It comes with 40-feet of hose and immediately starts moving around from one end to the other, up the walls, retracing it’s steps until the pool is spotless. It works so good, it can actually climb out of the water and start sucking air, but you can correct that with a simple adjustment. About 80% of pool debris is on the floor of the pool and 20% on the walls, so it takes care of everything. The wife agrees it was a good investment and we spent yesterday doing laps together.

Price-wise, the Hayward Navigator is one of the least expensive automatic pool cleaners on the market and if you shop around (check with your nearest dealer or on-line), you can get one for about 44 times the current minimum wage (you do the arithmetic).