Pool Skimmers: The Unsung Hero of Your Pool What does a Pool Skimmer Do? Kinds of Skimmers Recommended Brands

Pool Skimmers: The Unsung Hero of Your Pool

Think of a pool skimmer like a gutter: It captures debris such as leaves, flower petals, dirt, twigs, dead insects, and even oily sunblock residue before it all sinks to the bottom of the pool.

Pool skimmers have no motor or other moving parts, so there’s very little maintenance required except regularly cleaning them. Check out our guide to cleaning your pump and filter basket here. Of course, this also means it can be easy to forget about them. But all pools – from inground pools to above ground pools to spas – need skimmers. In fact, the Pool and Hot Tub Alliance recommends a minimum of one skimmer per 400 square feet of pool surface area.

Skimmers are a vital element of your pool to keep your water fresh and healthy. With just a tiny bit of TLC, they will do their job for years to come.

What does a Pool Skimmer Do?

In very basic terms, a pool skimmer’s job is to “skim” the debris off the surface your pool water.

But pool skimmers really have two very important functions in your swimming pool: They help keep your pool water clean and help keep your pool’s circulation going.

  1. Cleaning. Skimmers help your pool filter pull smaller contaminants out, so that the water returning into your pool is cleaner. And collecting debris from your pool not only keeps your water fresh, it also makes sure that water passing through them is clear of bulky contaminants that could cause major problems for that expensive equipment.
  2. Circulating. Skimmers are the starting point of your pool’s circulation and filtration system. The pool pump draws water into the skimmers. The water passes through the skimmer basket, where larger debris is cleared out before it can cause a blockage in the pump or filter.

Pro tip: Your pool water should be about halfway to two-thirds of the way up the opening of the skimmer. If water is too low, you’ll hear gurgling that indicates your pump is working too hard and struggling to keep the water flowing. If water is too high, you will lose any skimming effect of the surface debris because it will draw in water from below the surface.

swimming pool skimmer basket

Kinds of Pool Skimmers

Deciding what pool skimmer is right for your pool depends on what kind of pool you have.

  • Inground pool skimmers are built into your pool. These are usually rectangular cutouts placed around the pool, near the top of the pool walls so that the water level covers about the bottom half of the recess.
    • They’re often made of white plastic, sometimes with a little flap in front that opens and closes with the movement of the water. The flap closes to trap the collected debris in the skimmer basket and prevent it from floating back into the pool.
  • Above ground pool skimmers are mounted on the wall or floating around your pool. Mounted versions hang on the side of the pool with a plastic arm, while floating models attach to your pool vacuum and glide atop the water to randomly collect debris.
    • Some above-ground pools have precut openings near the top of the pool wall so you can install built-in pool skimmers. But your liner then needs to be cut to accommodate the skimmer units.
  • Robotic pool skimmers offer an alternative to the stationary wall-mounted version. These automatic skimmers, available in battery- or solar-powered models, glide across the surface of your pool, syphoning up debris along the way.
    • Depending on the manufacturer and style, robotic skimmers can either be designed to work independently of the pool pump to save on energy costs or connect to an automatic pool cleaner that vacuums up the surface debris and discards it through the pool's filtration system.
  • Hot Tub skimmers are just as important as pool skimmers because hot tubs need surface cleaning, too. A hot tub with poor filtration is susceptible to problems such as cloudy or green water. This is not only unhealthy, it also costs more to run and requires more maintenance.
    • Spa skimmers suction the water’s surface and draw any debris into a plastic screen. Some portable spas use skimmers with built-in cartridge filters. The water passes through the filter basket to remove larger debris, then through a microfilter to catch smaller particulates, then back into the main body of water through the massage jets.
  • Pool skimmer nets are a low-cost, low-tech solution some pool owners use to scoop the pool surface, the pool floor, pool steps, or attached spas. Think of a flat, wide fishing net: The fine mesh material attached to a solid frame captures surface debris while allowing water to flow through it for easy removal.
    • Pool skimmer nets are handheld devices that can also be attached to a telescopic pole to extend their reach. They can also be used to remove leaves from winter pool covers.

Pro tip: Think twice about chlorine tablets in your skimmer. Placing chlorine pucks in the pool skimmer basket cuts down on time, but this high concentration of acid can break down parts of the filter and force more frequent replacement.

swimming pool skimmer net

Find a pool store to find skimmers and other pool cleaning products now.

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