PROUDLY SOUTH AFRICAN: Invented in Springs in 1974, the Kreepy Krauly, above, was the first commercially successful pool vacuum cleaner.

The best inventions are the ones that are so obvious you kick yourself for not thinking of them first. Using the water pressure generated by a swimming pool pump to create suction for a pool cleaner was one of the best.

The Pool Bug Automatic Pool Cleaner, designed in the late 1960s by prolific Joburg inventor John Raubenheimer, was the first of many South African pool cleaning inventions. It entered the market in 1972, preceding the Kreepy Krauly by two years. Although the Pool Bug was initially unreliable, it was an international breakthrough, provided inspiration for other inventions and created a worldwide industry.

The Pool Ranger, developed in 1975 by Helga Schmeider, was another early pool-cleaning invention from South Africa.

Ferdinand Chauvier, a hydraulics engineer who emigrated to South Africa from the then Belgian Congo in 1951, invented the first commercially successful swimming pool vacuum cleaner.

Chauvier realised there was a huge market for equipment that reduced the tedium of pool cleaning and developed a device that cleaned the pool, automatically and efficiently, powered by the water pump driving the pool’s filter.

The first Kreepy Krauly reached the market in 1974 from Chauvier’s home workshop in Springs.

The Kreepy Krawly was an immediate success and soon became well established in the world market.

The licence to make and sell Kreepy Krauly was eventually sold to an American company.

When Chauvier died in 1985, his Kreepy Krauly was cleaning more than a million pools around the world.

The Baracuda MARS Pool Cleaner, from Zodiac Pool Care, is another innovative automatic pool cleaner invented in South Africa.

It operates on water pressure, as opposed to suction used by traditional pool cleaners, and has a number of unique features that make it quieter and quicker than conventional cleaners.

The Baracuda was invented in 2002 by Henk van der Meijde, Michael Moore, Peter Harrison, Paul Lambourn, Alexis Wadman and William Blake of Halfway House, Gauteng.

The dynamic ball-shaped design, which allows for greater manoeuvrability, enables the MARS to negotiate obstacles in the pool and climb steps without getting stuck. It also picks up fine as well as coarse debris, including acorns, leaves and even golf balls. To ensure that it does not remain static for long periods, a time-activated module pulls the unit into a new position every few minutes. A “tail” agitates particles into the water column so that they can be sucked up.

The Baracuda Classic Automatic Pool Cleaner, with its distinctive arrowhead design, uses a diaphragm to harness water pressure. The fluted ribbed disc prevents the unit from sticking on to obstacles such as pool lights and drains and enables the cleaner to operate on all pool surfaces, including fibreglass, vinyl, Marbelite or plaster.

The latest product from Zodiac is the Baracuda MX8, a high performance cleaner that uses cyclonic suction technology, requires only low water flow and cleans pool floors and walls.

Poolskim, designed in 1995 by HP Spradbury and GW Sutton of Joburg, skims leaves from the water surface by tapping energy from the pool pump at its outlet. The floating “hat” that enables Poolskim to deal with changing water levels is one of its novel design features.

The PoolCop Automated Pool Management System, invented by Gustav Lutz, Maynard La Codi and Bennie de Lange of Joburg in 1997, continues the South African tradition of world-class innovation in pool-cleaning equipment.

The valve system with its intelligent microprocessor allows the user to manage the pool from the comfort of his lounge with automated chemical measurements, pH control, backwash and chlorination and water level control.

Other novel pool cleaners developed in South Africa include the Pivotal Pool Cleaner Assistant (Albert Snook of Pretoria), and the Pool Scrubber (Eudore Allers du Plooy of Pretoria).

l Mike Bruton was the founding director of the Cape Town Science Centre and is director of imagineering at MTE Studios.

He wrote Great South African Inventions (Cambridge University Press). - Cape Argus