Polaris 280 vs. 380 Comparison Review

Polaris 280 vs. 380 ComparisonThis 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.

important

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.

Polaris 280

The Polaris 280 is undoubtedly the most popular Polaris pressure-side pool cleaners. It comes with two venturi jets, a shaft drive system, and classic tires (except the TankTrax model). There are three Polaris 280 models on the market; The F5 (standard), F5B (Black Max), and F5T (TankTrax).

The advantage of the Polaris 280 is the fact that it’s cheaper, has a wide vacuum inlet, and requires lesser maintenance. But then, it’s slower, requires a booster pump for efficiency, and struggles in climbing pool walls and steps.

Polaris 380

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.

Comparison Table

Polaris Vac-Sweep 280 Pressure-Side...
Polaris Vac-Sweep 380 Pressure...
Dimensions
20" x 23" x 10"
9.75" x 20" x 22.5"
Weight
6.2 pounds
16.5 pounds
Pool Type
inground pools of all sizes and shapes
inground pools of all sizes and shapes
Surfaces Available
floor, walls
Walls, floors and steps
Jet System
2 jets
3 jets
Drive System
Shaft Drive
Belt drive
Suction Port
2.25”
2.25”
Bag
single chamber 2L bag
2L Ziplock filter bag
Hose Length
31 ft
31 ft
Booster Pump Required
Polaris Vac-Sweep 280 Pressure-Side...
Dimensions
20" x 23" x 10"
Weight
6.2 pounds
Pool Type
inground pools of all sizes and shapes
Surfaces Available
floor, walls
Jet System
2 jets
Drive System
Shaft Drive
Suction Port
2.25”
Bag
single chamber 2L bag
Hose Length
31 ft
Booster Pump Required
Polaris Vac-Sweep 380 Pressure...
Dimensions
9.75" x 20" x 22.5"
Weight
16.5 pounds
Pool Type
inground pools of all sizes and shapes
Surfaces Available
Walls, floors and steps
Jet System
3 jets
Drive System
Belt drive
Suction Port
2.25”
Bag
2L Ziplock filter bag
Hose Length
31 ft
Booster Pump Required

Last update on 2022-11-22 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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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?

Polaris 280 Cleaning Orientation
The Polaris 280 is a pressure side pool cleaner designed for all types of inground pools regardless of the material and shape. It is suitable for vinyl, fiberglass, tile, gunite, and pebble pools. Besides, the Polaris 280 can work in round, oval, and rectangular pools.

You can rely on this pool cleaner to vacuum, sweep and scrub the floors and walls. But then, it will struggle on the steps.

Polaris 380 Cleaning Orientation
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.

verdict

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 280 Design and Aesthetics
Polaris 280 boasts a sleek and stylish design. It measures 20 x 23 x 10 inches and weighs just 6.2lbs. When it comes to the finish, the standard model is blue and white. There is also a black model that blends well with dark pools.

When it comes to build quality, we really like the fact that Polaris used high-grade UV-resistant materials to craft the Polaris 280. It can withstand harsh weather conditions, even during those sunny summers.

Polaris 380 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.

verdict

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.

Polaris 280 Venturi Jets
The Polaris 280 comes with 2 venturi jets. The two jets create sufficient power to enable the cleaner to move around your pool and even climb the walls. On an average pool, the Polaris 280 can clean in 3-4 hours (subject to the pool’s shape, corners, and depth).

For optimal performance, you need to make sure the water pressure is adjusted correctly so the cleaner doesn’t move too fast or too slow, and importantly, to ensure that it climbs the pool’s walls where stains and grime stick.

Polaris 380 Venturi Jets
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..

verdict

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.

Polaris 280 Feed Hose
Polaris 280 comes with a 31ft adjustable hose that attaches to the dedicated 1.5-inch dedicated pressure line. Its build quality is fair, to say the least.

Polaris 380 Feed 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.
verdict

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.

Polaris 280 Booster Pump
Unfortunately, the Polaris 280 requires a booster pump, rated at least 1HP, to operate optimally. The most recommended pool pump is the Polaris PB4 60 booster pump, but there are several options from other brands.

The booster pump is purchased separately, so that means you need to foot the costs separately. This is among the shortcomings of the Polaris 280. Without the pump, the efficiency dips to around 20%.

Polaris 380 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%

verdict

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?

Polaris 280, despite being the base model, comes with the backup valve. It comes really handy when the Polaris 280 is stuck, but the problem is, the backup valve frequently fails when it doesn’t cycle on and off.

In this case, you will have to hold the backup valve out of the water to complete the cycle. If it remains on or doesn’t come on at all, you will have to purchase a replacement.

The Polaris 380 also comes with the backup valve, so you won’t have to babysit it when it’s working. The backup valve works similarly to the 280’s backup valve. It reverses the cleaner regularly thus freeing the cleaner when it’s stuck. You may also encounter problems with the backup valve. Here, the solution will be holding the backup valve out of the water for at least three minutes to enable it to complete the cycle. Unclogging the valves could also be a solution.

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.

verdict

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?

Polaris 280 comes with the shaft drive system, which is old technology now that it is not swift. But the advantage of the 280’s shaft drive system is that it has lesser moving parts which translates to lesser maintenance requirements.

There is also a model with the classic tires and another model with TankTrax tires to enable it to reach those hard-to-reach spots and go over any debris without getting stuck.

On the other hand, the Polaris 380 shifts to an all-wheel belt drive system. The advantage of an all-wheel-drive belt system is that it makes the cleaner more swift, so it can clean faster and more efficiently.

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.

verdict

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 Polaris 280 comes with a sweep hose tail that does a great job cleaning the deep corners of your pool. But then, it can be a nuisance as it splashes water out of the pool. If your house is near the pool, you will have to deal with water splashes on the walls and windows.

This model is also compatible with the advanced TailSweep Pro, but unfortunately, this is an addon that you have to purchase separately. But with the TailSweep Pro, you get better water propulsion to flush out dirt and prevent water from splashing out of the pool.

Polaris 380 also features a sweep hose tail, but this time, a longer one compared to the 280’s. But then, it will also splash water out of the pool. Besides the sweep hose tail, it’s also compatible with the TailSweep Pro, but just like in the 280, this accessory is not included in the package; you have to buy it separately.

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.

verdict

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 280 is a great choice if you encounter large debris. The vacuum inlet has a 2.25-inch diameter, so it can suck up large debris without any restrictions or clogging.

The Polaris 380 also comes with a vacuum inlet with a 2.25-inch diameter.
verdict

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?

Polaris 280 comes with a unique single-chamber zipper 3L bag that can hold quite a lot of dirt. It is compatible with several other Polaris bags, including the standard all-purpose bags, silt bags, and leaf bags.
On the other hand, the Polaris 380 comes with the same single chamber zippered bag, but it is smaller. It has a 2L capacity, to be precise, and connects to the cleaner courtesy of an EZ bag filter connector. This cleaner is also compatible with the standard all-purpose bag, silt bags, and leaf bags.
verdict

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.

Polaris 280 comes with a 2-year warranty that covers you in the event of any manufacturing defects. But then, it’s essential to read the warranty in detail to avoid anything that could void the warranty. Regarding whether Polaris honors warranties, it’s a hard call. Some buyers have had their pool cleaners repaired or replaced under warranty, but there are also cases where the company faces allegations of not having honored the warranty.

When it comes to after-sales, we are glad Polaris is a trusted brand that avails original replacement parts at affordable prices. If you need the Polaris 280’s filter bag or any other replacement part, they are readily available.

Polaris 380 also comes with the same warranty as the Polaris 280. This is a 2-year warranty that covers you in case the pool cleaner fails. But then, regarding whether the brand honors warranty, there’s some bit of controversy, but many buyers have had their warranties honored. Regarding replacement parts, market has plenty of Polaris 380 replacement parts available at affordable prices.
verdict

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.

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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.
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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.

1. Polaris pool cleaner doesn't climb, or it's moving in circles.
The first culprit could be that the RPMs are not in the correct range, so you will have to make adjustments on the thrust jet. In case the cleaner is not climbing, check whether the thrust jets are at the 11 o’clock angle. If it moves in circles, then the thrust jets should be angled to the opposite direction it is turning.
2. Polaris cleaner is sluggish and runs with less power than normal.
The first thing to do is check the RPM of the wheels, and if they are okay, you might want to check the hose and all connections to see if there is any leakage that could cause a loss of water pressure. The last option would be cleaning the skimmer basket, filter screen, pool filter, and pump basket.
3. Polaris tail sweep hose gets sucked into the vacuum tube.
First, check whether the opening at the end of the tail sweep hose is blocked by the sweep hose’s scrubber. If it’s not blocked, adjust the tail sweep hose into a gentle sweeping motion.
4. Polaris tail sweep hose splashes water out of the pool.
First, adjust the sweep hose’s speed by slightly unscrewing the adjustment screw. The other solution is buying a sweep hose weight of the TailSweep Pro.
5. Hose(s) gets tangled or coiled.
Remove the hose from the water and check whether the swivels are spinning freely. If they are, you might want to place the hose in the sun for at least a day to get rid of the hose memory.
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Polaris Pool Cleaners FAQ

1. Is Polaris 280 or 380 better?

faqWhile these two are worthy pool cleaners, the Polaris 380 has the edge as it comes with three venturi jets for better propulsion and an all-wheel-drive belt system that makes it swift. It also comes with a longer tail sweep hose and can clean the steps.

2. Should you leave Polaris 280 in the pool?

There’s no problem leaving your Polaris pressure-side cleaner in the pool as it has been crafted using high-grade UV-resistant materials.

3. Does the Polaris 280 need a booster pump?

Yes. The Polaris 280 and 380 require a booster pump to run optimally. For those who don’t want to spend more on the pump, the Vac-Sweep 360 is the solution as it doesn’t require a booster pump.

4. Can you swim with a pool vacuum?

No. Experts recommend cleaning the pool first and shutting down the cleaner and removing it from the pool before jumping in the water.

5. Is Polaris 280 better than 360?

They are both worthy pool cleaners, but the 360 is better. It comes with three venturi jets and an all-wheel-drive belt drive mechanism that gives it more power. What’s more?
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!

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