For a person who loves, loves, loves to swim like I do, living in a house with a pool is a dream come true. The flipside, though, which everyone lucky enough to have a pool knows, is that swimming pools are a serious labor of love-- and money. Installing a pool is a huge expense, but the real kicker comes in the time and cost of upkeep. There's the pump, pH levels, chemicals, temperature, water level, and debris and scum, all of which needs to be monitored and maintained. This is where pool cleaners like the Dolphin Nautilus CC Plus. Though they may seem extravagant (they're not cheap!), these ingenious, automated devices handle a bulk of the workload for you, operating like underwater vacuum cleaners. I decided to test out the new, high-end robotic cleaner to see if it could blow my old one out of the water. Who doesn't love the idea of a "robot" doing your cleaning? In reality, though, automatic appliances usually require some sort of hands-on setup and supervision. The Nautilus CC Plus really delivers on the robotic element. Using it, I felt like one of the The Jetsons with an aquatic Rosie the Robot Maid, especially as this product requires just about nothing from its human companion. All I did was plug it in, carry it over to the pool, push the "on" button, and drop it in the water. The display screen can be programmed for three different weekly cleaning intervals by pushing the "1," "2," or "3" buttons, which stand for once a day, every other day, or twice a week. That's a big plus, as it allows me to set it and forget it-- and check this task off my to-do list. The Nautilus CC Plus even has an automatic shutoff; it does its work and then goes to sleep, so you don't need to worry about leaving it running too long. This Dolphin model has a pleasant blue and black design that doesn't detract from the beauty of our pool. It weighs in at around 20 pounds, technically about the same or a little less than its competitors. However, it seems lighter due to the streamlined design. The model is made of plastic with soft but strong scrubbing rollers on the bottom. The power supply is about a quarter of the size of the unit, and this part always stays out of the water. There is a styrofoam "buoy" hidden inside the unit, which helps it to float. A large handle on top makes maneuvering the unit to and from the pool, and also lifting it out, much easier. The unit is attached to a 60-foot-long, durable blue cable equipped with a swivel feature, which prevents tangling (we have never encountered an issue on that front) and lets the device easily navigate everywhere it needs to go within the pool. It's important to gently drop the unit into the pool and pull it out using the handle rather than the cable to protect the integrity of the machine. The innovative unit also uses "climbing rings" which help it to cling to the walls and navigate vertically in the pool. It utilizes three-point turns (an upgrade from many lower priced models, which can only perform soft turns) and has excellent wall-climbing ability, going right up to the water's edge so that it doesn't miss an inch. Rather than rely on wheels, like our previous unit, this model moves by harnessing the power of its textured brushes, which grab dirt off the pool walls. The location of my pool and the size of my family gave the Dolphin Nautilus CC Plus Robotic Pool Cleaner a lot to contend with. The deep end is shaded by a huge birch tree, while two other sides are lined by giant laurel hedges-- meaning seeds and leaves rain down in massive numbers all season long. The fourth side edges up to a grassy lawn, where my boys play soccer and baseball and run around after our red-haired labradoodle. We have a locking pool cover, but the second it's opened, all that natural material starts dropping in. My kids (there are five of them, from ages 7 to 15) are non-stop movers who tend to have sweaty, snack-dusted, dirty bodies-- and then jump straight into the pool. Even against all that debris, the Dolphin Nautilus handled cleaning like a champ. Our other cleaner also worked well but was more awkward to maneuver, required more upkeep, and took longer to achieve an optimal clean.
After working its magic for a little over two hours, my pool, up to the waterline, was noticeably cleaner. I could "see" this in the clearer, fresher-looking water and "feel" it in the water as it had a lighter, less "silty" feeling. Depending on the amount of use our pool is getting, we will use our cleaner between two and seven days per week. The more bodies in the pool and the more particles dropping from the trees, the more days per week we run it. We tend to use it proactively before and after a pool party as well. This cleaner-bot really gets the pool sparkling clean, even after a big crowd of swimmers, and I don't need to run it as often as I did with my previous one to maintain that level of freshness. I was also impressed by how quiet the machine is and how well it navigates the pool walls, tracking all the way up and down the sides and even breaking the water line. When I opened the filter hatch after the first use, I saw the impressive amount of grime (most of which is a fine, whitish silt) this Dolphin model had extracted. You don't necessarily notice all that dirt suspended in the water and along the pool surface until it's gone. Seeing it piled up on the filter reiterates just how vital all this cleaning is. This product is a great improvement over a number of its rivals, which tend to have smaller, less efficient filters that can't remove as much fine or large material from the pool. Also, other brands often require you to flip over the often heavy and awkward-shaped machines in order to reach the filter hatches, which makes cleaning the filters much more of a chore. With the Nautilus, rinsing the filter and replacing it was super simple: All it takes is opening the filter compartment, sliding out the filter, running it under the hose, and then putting it back inside the compartment. When larger debris is present, I switch to using the larger mesh screen. Other than that, the Dolphin unit requires minimal upkeep besides keeping it out of direct sun or rain. This is particularly important with the power supply, which is water-resistant, not waterproof, and needs to be stored out of the rain (or standing water) for safety reasons as well as to keep it operating optimally. The power supply also needs to be kept out of direct sunlight when in operation to prevent overheating. I store mine in our pool shed when not in use. It is not recommended to swim while the unit is cleaning the pool or to have it in the water when adding chemicals or if the pH balance is off, as this can corrode the unit. However, the cleaner can be kept in the pool between cleanings and be programmed to clean on a regular basis. I always take mine out because I don't like swimming around the cords. I also don't like my kids to be in the pool with it, as they might be tempted to mess around with it.
A Simple Comparison of Dolphin Nautilus CC Plus Robotic Pool Cleaner and Dolphin Premier Robotic Pool Cleaner
There are plenty of lower-priced options out there, but I think it is clear that they don't give you anywhere near the quality and ease of cleaning that the Dolphin Nautilus model offers. Instead, I decided to compare this product with a higher-end Dolphin model, which retails for between $1,000 all the way up to $1,500. The advantages of the pricier Premier machine are a three-year warranty compared with the two years offered on the Nautilus. The Premier also comes with three sets of filter cartridges (rather than two) and has a sensor to let you know when the filter needs changing. The additional filter is a bag that will collect larger leaves and other debris. This might be a worthy feature if you get lots of leaves in your pool or if your pool stays uncovered much of the time. Additionally, it offers even more advanced scrubbing ability and maneuverability. These are decent bonuses, but in my opinion, our Nautilus works so well that I don't think any improvements (no matter how advanced) offered by the upgrade would be noticeable enough to warrant paying more. Also, the Premier model weighs in a full 15 pounds (for a total of 37) over the Nautilus unit, and I wouldn't like lugging that extra weight.