For pool service professionals, time is money. The more pools you can get to in a day, the more money you make, so seasoned pros are pretty particular about where and how they store their tools, which poles and nets they prefer and which products and equipment they recommend to their customers. Efficiency is the name of the game.
That is the pitch that Pivot-Solar Breeze, the company that makes Ariel, the solar-powered pool skimming robot, gives to the industry. Put Ariel in your pools and save time, money and energy at each stop.
This summer, PoolPro tested one out. We dropped Ariel in a residential pool in Norman, Oklahoma, and let it do its thing.
Built in the ’90s, most of this pool’s equipment has been updated recently. The finish, however, is another story. A former owner attempted some patches, but there is some flaking. The pool gets used almost daily during the summer by the owners and occasionally their dogs. While lots of debris accumulates in the fall, during the summer, it’s minimal, at least to the naked eye.
“I have been surprised how much [Ariel has] gotten that I didn’t realize we had,” says Mallory Stewart, the homeowner.
Tranquil Waters Pool Service technician Caleb Lamb has been performing weekly maintenance on the pool for about a year. Between visits, Stewart says she skims the pool once a week and brushes it once or twice a month.
When Stewart and I unboxed Ariel in her backyard, we were confused. Expecting a big booklet of instructions, simply placing Ariel in the water seemed too easy (and a little anticlimactic). But we dropped it in the pool to charge, and the next day, she texted a video of the robot picking up grass in the pool.
“This thing is so cute,” she wrote. “We got our lawn mowed today so it was a perfect test!”
Though the Stewarts previously had a traditional pool cleaner, they are not currently using one, instead relying on their efforts with assistance from Tranquil Waters and now, help from Ariel. Originally, Stewart was concerned the robot wouldn’t hold much debris or that the debris would be pushed out if it got too full.
“It looks like things would dump out easily, but that’s not the case,” she says. “I clean it out maybe once a week when I notice it getting full. But once it catches leaves and surface debris, it doesn’t then drop it off somewhere else. Previously, we had a submerged vacuum that would sometimes push out the debris when it was full.”
That’s a feature Lamb says he likes as well. “Every time I’ve gone to a pool that had it, there’s nothing on the top, and it all ends up in the little basket,” he says. “Another good thing — it doesn’t spit the stuff back out.”
A designer by trade, it’s no surprise that one of the first and prevailing comments Stewart had about Ariel was how it looked in their pool. “The colors are so cute — the neon is precious,” she says.
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The fact is, there’s not much to report on Ariel because it simply did what it said it would do — no headaches.
“It is the most low-maintenance thing ever,” Stewart says. Other than removing it if there were going to be lots of people in the pool and emptying it weekly, she barely interacted with it.
It’s just a drop-and-go. It’s so user-friendly. Our previous vacuum connected to Wi-Fi and had an app that you could use to schedule things, which is great, but it was hard to figure out. … I literally don’t have to think about [Ariel] as it putters around in the pool.”
“It’s just a drop-and-go,” she says. “It’s so user-friendly. Our previous vacuum connected to Wi-Fi and had an app that you could use to schedule things, which is great, but it was hard to figure out. … I literally don’t have to think about [Ariel] as it putters around in the pool.”
Even when it got stuck on objects in the pool, it worked its way off them after a few minutes.
At this point, Stewart gives Ariel high marks. “Anything it touches, it will catch,” she says. “It’s just in the pool — I don’t mess with it, I don’t have to go out there, and because it’s solar-activated, I don’t have to go start it.”
Within weeks of this article’s publication date, Oklahoma will see leaves fall en masse, and we’ll add video of Ariel in its element.
While Lamb can’t quite quantify how much, he does think Ariel saves him time. He says it could be especially helpful for pools that have poor suction through the skimmer. But his final stamp of approval is, “If I had a pool, I’d buy it.”
Pivot Solar Breeze
The patent for Ariel was filed in 2006. The inventors went through several iterations of the product, and several attempts to keep the idea funded from bringing on partners, to doing a Kickstarter campaign, to finally combining forces with its current parent company Pivot Manufacturing.
“We surprised a lot of people along the way that we hung in,” says Paul Sim, vice president at Pivot-Solar Breeze. “We created a category in the pool cleaning business.”
Sim says they wanted to “turn pool cleaning right side up,” getting debris cleaned up off the top before it has the chance to sink to the bottom.
“If you can get that debris off the surface, it makes the pool a lot easier to clean.”