This Polaris 280 vs. 380 comparison review examines the features of the two pressure side pool cleaners to determine which model offers the best bang for the buck.
Polaris 280 and 380 are two popular pool cleaners. While they are from the same brand and look similar, there are clear-cut differences. The Vac-Sweep 280 is an old model, while the Vac-Sweep 380 is an upgrade. In terms of performance, they are both worthy pressure side pool cleaners, but the newer model, the Polaris 380, has the upper hand. It cleans more effectively and is faster compared to the Polaris 280.
For more regarding how the two compare, read along.
The Polaris 380 is an upgrade of the Polaris 280. It features three venturi jets, a belt drive system, and classic wheels. There are two Polaris 380 models on the market; the standard white and blue Polaris 380 and the Polaris 380 Black Max model for dark pools.
The advantage of the Polaris 380 over the 280 is the inclusion of three jets for better propulsion, and the belt drive system. It also offers better wall and steps cleaning. But, just like the two sides of a coin, it also has disadvantages. The Polaris 380 is more expensive, is maintenance-intensive, and has a problematic bag that drops off.
Last update on 2023-09-25 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
Polaris 280 vs. 380 Comparison Review
Let’s face it; buying a pool cleaner is not a walk in the park. There are many aspects that buyers need to consider before settling on any model. In this main segment of this Polaris comparison review, we have compared the two models based on the important factors considered when choosing a pool cleaner. So, without further ado, let’s get into it.
1. Cleaning Orientation
As you may be aware, different types of pool cleaners are designed to suit different pools. So, the first thing to ask yourself is, what’s the suitability of Polaris 280 and Polaris 380? What types of pools are they designed for?
The Polaris 380 is also a pressure side pool cleaner suitable for all types of inground pools, from vinyl, fiberglass, tile, gunite, and pebble pools to round and rectangular pools of any size.
Like the 280, the 380 can vacuum, sweep and scrub the bottom and walls of inground pools. But, unlike the 280, the 380 can climb and clean pool steps without any problem.
Regarding the cleaning orientation, it is a close call. Both are pressure side pool cleaners and can work in all types of inground pools. They will also vacuum, sweep and scrub the bottom and walls of the pool. However, the Polaris 380 carries the day as it can handle pool steps effectively and, more so, it cleans pools more effectively and faster.
2. Design and Aesthetics
While the design and aesthetics don’t have anything to do with the performance of a pool cleaner, you definitely want a model that complements your pool. Besides the aesthetics, you should also go for a lightweight and compact pool cleaner for easy portability. Importantly, light pool cleaners will climb pool stairs and clean pool walls more effortlessly. So, how does the Polaris 280 compare to the 380 in terms of design and aesthetics?
Polaris 380 is also a sleek pool cleaner that complements your pool just like the Polaris 280. However, its dimensions slightly differ from the 280’s. It measures 9.75 x 20 x 22.5 inches and weighs 16.88 lbs.
As for the finish, the standard model is blue and white, but there is also a black model. Regarding the construction, we also like Polaris’ choice of materials. The 380 can also withstand harsh weather conditions courtesy of UV-resistant materials.
As far as design and aesthetics are concerned, it’s hard to call a winner. The two pressure side pool cleaners are sleek and feature strong and sturdy construction. They are also available in the standard blue and white finish and a black model for dark pools. The only difference is the dimensions and weight.
3. Venturi Jets
Pressure side pool cleaners rely on the venturi effect principle for propulsion, up and down. There are jets that convert incoming water into powerful suction.
On the other hand, the Polaris 380 features 3 venturi jets giving it more power. Besides, the three jets mean the 380 can clean faster and cover every inch of the pool.
On an average pool, the Polaris 380 takes approximately 3 hours to get the job done (subject to the pool’s shape, corners, and depth). Here again, you need to properly adjust the water pressure to enable the cleaner to climb and clean the pool’s wall in the correct speed..
Here, it’s evident that the Polaris 380 is the winner as it is equipped with three venturi jets which mean better propulsion. It also enables the cleaner to capture bigger debris and prevent clogging. Besides, the three jets mean it will clean faster and more efficiently.
4. Feed Hose
The feed hose length is also an important consideration when choosing between Polaris 280 and 380. Here, the idea is to go for a model with the longest hose, especially if you have a large pool. It’s also essential to assess the build quality of the hose.
The Polaris 380 also comes with a 31ft adjustable hose that attaches to a 1.5-inch dedicated pressure line. Its build quality is just the same as the 280’s.
In this round, none of the two pressure side pool cleaners is superior. They both have the same hose type with the same length, so you get the same reach regardless of your model.
5. Booster Pump
To supplement the pool’s built-in circulation system and enhance efficiency, pressure side pool cleaners require a booster pump. However, not all models require a booster pump.
Just like the Polaris 280, Polaris 380 requires a booster pump for optimal performance. This pump should also be rated at least 1HP, preferably the Polaris PB4 60 booster pump.
Without the pump, the efficiency of the pool cleaner will be around 20%
Here, it’s hard to call a winner as both the 280 and 380 require a booster pump. For the record, it’s not a must to have a booster pump with these two models, but if you want optimal performance, you will have to fork out a few more hundred bucks. For those who don’t want these extra costs, we recommend the Polaris 360, which is also a pressure side pool cleaner but doesn’t require a booster pump. Instead, it is connected to the pool’s pressure line.
6. Backup Valve
Pressure side pool cleaners, unlike robotic pool cleaners, are not invincible. From time to time, they may get stuck, and that can be a nuisance when you come for a swim only to find the cleaner didn’t finish cleaning the pool because they got stuck. Fortunately, there is a clever feature that enables them to free themselves when they get stuck. This is the backup valve. So, do the Polaris 280 and 380 feature the backup valve?
If none of these two methods work, you will have no option but to get a replacement. One notable extra with the 380’s backup valve is that it also enhances the cleaner’s climbing power on the steps and walls.
In this round, too, it’s hard to call a winner as both models feature the backup valve, and both backup valves are problematic. However, the 380 is the best choice as its backup valve does more than just free the cleaner when it’s stuck; it also gives the 380 better climbing power.
7. Drive Mechanism
Pressure side pool cleaners rely on venturi jets for propulsion, but then there are wheels that facilitate the actual movement. Polaris has two drive systems; the shaft drive system and the belt drive system. Each of these two drive mechanisms has advantages and disadvantages. So what drive systems do the two Polaris pressure-side pool cleaners use?
On the downside, the belt drive system has many parts, making maintenance more intensive. When it comes to the wheels, the Polaris 380 has the classic wheels; there is no Polaris 380 variant with the TankTrax wheels.
When it comes to the drive mechanism, the belt drive system is the best as it’s swifter. The problem of maintenance shouldn’t be an issue here. As for the wheels, the Polaris 280 carries the day as it has a variant with TankTrax wheels, so it can go over any debris and get to those hard-to-reach spots.
8. Sweep Hose Tail
At the back of Polaris pressure-side pool cleaners, there’s a sweep hose tail designed to reach the deep pool corners where dirt and debris hide. These are areas that the cleaner can’t reach. Besides the sweep hose tail, there is an addon feature dubbed the TailSweep Pro, which is an advanced sweep hose tail. Now, let’s see how the two compare here.
The good thing is that, with the TailSweep Pro, you get better water propulsion and, consequently, a better clean. What’s more? The TailSweep Pro will prevent water splashes out of the pool.
Here, the Polaris 380 is the best choice. While they are both compatible with the TailSweep Pro, the 380’s sweep hose tail is longer, which means better coverage, especially in large pools.
9. Vacuum Inlet
The vacuum inlet is an important consideration when choosing a pressure-side pool cleaner. Here, the rule of the thumb is to go for a pool cleaner with a large vacuum inlet. This is because a large vacuum inlet will suck in all kinds of pool debris, from small debris to large debris, such as large leaves and twigs. So, which model wins this round?
The Polaris Vac-Sweep 280 and 380 have the same vacuum inlet, so this round has no winner.
10. Filter Bag
The filter bag is another essential discussion in this Polaris 280 vs. 380 comparison review. Here, the aim is to go for a bag that requires less maintenance and can capture the most common debris and dirt that gets into your pool. So, how does the Polaris 280’s pool compare to the 380’s?
While the Polaris 280 and 380 all come with the single chamber zippered bag, the former wins this round as its bag is larger. This means its maintenance requirements are lower now that you don’t have to empty the bag as frequently as it is with the Polaris 380.
11. Warranty and After Sales
The warranty of a pool cleaner is another important factor to consider when buying pool cleaners. This is alongside the after-sales services. A longer warranty from a brand that honors warranties is what you should target. When it comes to after-sales, assess the level of support you can get from the seller and, importantly, the availability of replacement parts.
As far as the warranty and after-sales is concerned, there is no winner as both models come with the same 2-year warranty and are from the same brand.
Regarding after-sales, Polaris has resourceful customer support, and replacement parts are readily available.
Polaris 280 vs. 380: What’s the Best Pressure Side Pool Cleaner?
There you have it, folks, a Polaris 280 vs. 380 comparison review. So, which is the best model for you? Well, it all depends on your cleaning needs. The Polaris 280 Vac-Sweep is an excellent choice for those with small to medium-sized pools. It is cheaper and cleans pools satisfactorily. Besides, it is suitable for buyers whose pools get lots of large debris. However, it doesn’t clean the steps. On the other hand, the Polaris 380 Vac-Sweep tags, along with three venturi jets and an all-wheel belt drive system making it much more powerful to handle large pools and even clean the steps effectively. It’s the ultimate winner in this comparison review.
How to Identify a Polaris Vac-Sweep Cleaner
As mentioned earlier, the Polaris 280 and 380 are pretty similar in terms of design and aesthetics. They can be really confusing when buying their replacement parts. If you are not sure which Polaris vacuum you have, this segment is for you. Below is how to identify the Polaris Vac-Sweep at hand.
While Polaris pool cleaners can be identified by their color, checking the serial number is the most accurate method. For example, the Polaris 280’s serial number starts with ‘C’ while the 380’s serial number starts with ‘K .’On the other hand, the Polaris 360’s serial number starts with ‘L.’
Besides the serial numbers, you can differentiate the 280 from the 380 by inspecting the main component to find out the number of jets. The 280 has two venturi jets while the 380 has three.
How to Choose a Polaris Vac-Sweep Filter Bag
Another vital aspect is choosing the bag. As mentioned above, there are different specialty bags. Obviously, you should choose the bag that is designed for the particular model you have. Importantly, it should suit your needs. Below are the available Polaris bags.
- All-purpose bags (K13) – These are the standard bags and are suitable for common pool debris. They are suitable for the Polaris 180, 280, 360, and 380.
- Sand / Silt bags (K14) – The silt bags are the best for those whose pools are near silt and sand deposits. They are compatible with the Polaris 280 and 380 and the 360.
- Leaf bags (K16) – These are ideal for pools that are under or near trees. They capture leaves, acorns, and twigs without any problem.
Polaris Troubleshooting Guide
As mentioned earlier, Polaris Vac-Sweep cleaners are not invincible. From time to time, you will encounter a few problems with them. In this segment, check out a basic Polaris troubleshooting guide to help you out when you are stuck with a malfunctioning pool cleaner.
Polaris Pool Cleaners FAQ
1. Is Polaris 280 or 380 better?
2. Should you leave Polaris 280 in the pool?
3. Does the Polaris 280 need a booster pump?
4. Can you swim with a pool vacuum?
5. Is Polaris 280 better than 360?
The Vac-Sweep 360 doesn’t require a separate booster pump, so you can save a few hundred bucks.
Hi! I’m Markus Robertson, and water is my passion.
Five years ago, I graduated from the University of California-Los Angeles and was going to become a professional marine biologist. However, my fate had other plans for me, and due to family problems, I had to find a more stable and well-paid job. I had only one wish for my job to be connected with water.
During this period of my life, I worked as a sales manager at Olympic Pool & Spa Supplies. The job helped me learn everything about swimming pools and related pool equipment, as well as how to choose the best option and what to pay attention to.
Having worked there for three years, I decided to start my own blog about pools, where I can tell people about the best new pool equipment models and share my knowledge and experience.
A marine biologist by education, I became a pool blogger by trade. Now I’m glad I can help the guests of my store and the visitors of my blog know a lot of exciting things about pools, their types, best pumps and filters, necessary equipment maintenance, and so on.
I welcome all people who want to choose a proper basin and the stuff to my blog! Hope you’ll find this information interesting and useful!