Purchasing a robot vacuum cleaner can be a large investment. However, this tool can reduce your chore time and save wear and tear on your flooring by sucking up dust that darkens carpet and particles that can scratch hardwood flooring all on its own.
We like iRobot’s Roomba 880 because of its 3 stage cleaning system that allows it to detect tougher areas. This means that it will spend more time cleaning in that particular area where other robot vacuums will simply treat all areas the same. It also makes use of virtual walls which allows you to control where and where it doesn’t go. Don’t want it to roam in the kitchen while you’re cooking? Setup a virtual wall and keep it out! And best of all it’s pretty hands free, other than cleaning and maintenance, because it will dock and recharge on its own.
But the Roomba isn’t the only option available. So how do we decide which one to buy? In this guide we will cover the most important features and types of robot vacuums to help you choose the best robot vacuum for your home.
Why Get A Robot Vacuum?
Vacuuming is one of those weird tasks that takes pretty much the same amount of time no matter how quickly you really need to do it.
Time and convenience are the biggest reasons why robot vacuums are ideal for many households.
If you really need to clean the kitchen, it's going to take at least an hour. If you really need to mop floors, you'll be at it for a while. But if you need to do a little vacuuming or a lot of vacuuming, the time commitment doesn't change that much.
- If you’re a busy professional working on your career, a robot vac can save you precious free time.
- Families with young children need to vacuum frequently so that crawling youngsters can stay safe from debris they might crawl over, roll on or put in their mouths.
Finally, robot vacuums never skip the chore because they'd rather read, play a game or take a nap!
Do Robot Vacuums Work As Well As Traditional Vacuums?
Robot vacuums are made by a variety of manufacturers, and as more producers move into the market, improvements in quality and design are generating a lot of excitement.
Many robot vacuums are able to clean just as well as traditional upright vacuums.
SEE ALSO: How To Vacuum
Robot Vacuum Features To Consider
However, each brand offers a unit that excels in one area and falls in another. In order to decide on one that is right for your home, the following are some important features to consider.
Batteries & Charging Stations
Robot vacuums use a battery because having a cord would be a complete nightmare as it’s going under and around tables and chairs.
As with all batteries, there is a limit to the usage in runtime and lifetime longevity.
A robot vacuum charging station is just that, a place for it to recharge its battery. As mentioned above, it should be kept in a cool place and easily accessible for your vacuum to dock itself for recharging.
If your vacuum comes with virtual wall accessories, make sure that they aren’t blocking the path to the charging base or you may find your vacuum lifeless in the middle of the floor or under the sofa.
Many robot vacuums’ runtime ranges between 30 -100 minutes. Some newer robots can last up to 100 minutes on a single charge and we expect that to improve in the future as newer technology is developed.
The runtime of all vacuums will decrease over time and the battery may need to be replaced at some point.
It is a good idea to check out battery replacement options before purchasing a unit. Some units have expensive batteries and may be difficult to replace without a service technician.
Do you need a long runtime?
Another great thing about automatic robot vacuums is that they are almost hands-off. Many units will make their way back to their charging station, dock themselves, and begin recharging their battery. Once charged up, they will resume their cleaning duties.
Some units have battery saving modes. For example, the Roomba has a “vacation mode” that requires the battery to be removed while you aren’t using it for extended periods of time.
Others can be programmed to vacuum less frequently and return to its charging base to keep topped up at all times.
Things That Wear Down The Battery
There are a few things that will wear down a robot vacuum battery. Even though the unit is very hands-off, it still requires some care to keep running optimally.
- Battery Heat – The batteries in your vacuum, like all batteries, do not like heat. Heat can eventually lead to battery damage and low runtimes. Best advice? Keep the charging base in a cool place out of the sun, don’t run the vacuum outdoors.
- Dirt & Debris – Keep your robot vacuum empty to reduce its weight. More weight will cause the unit to work harder to move around. Clean debris from the track and brushes. The less buildup that there is, the less energy it has to use while operating.
- Exhausting The Battery – Most units do better when frequently charged. Draining these types of batteries frequently may shorten its lifespan. Of course, check the manual with your particular unit to see the best way to care for its battery.
The first models of robot vacuums just worked by placing them down on the floor and they roamed at free will with no real direction. Later models required a remote control to operate and the user had more control over it.
Today, many of them have remotes but also can be operated with a tablet or mobile phone.
For example, the Dyson Eye needs no special remotes; you can put it to work from an app on your phone. Once it's charged, it can run for up to 75 minutes.
Depending on your commute and the number of stories in your home, you can come home to a freshly vacuumed house. Programming capabilities mean you can even automate it through your calendar!
We definitely think having the option to run your vacuum using your mobile is ideal for your smart home!
Cleaning Robot Types
There are various types of robot vacuums. Some units combine all 3 types, while others are just made for a specific task. The 3 types are:
Sweeping and vacuuming combinations are the most popular and do a great job. The increased performance of these units has been trending up since the beginning.
One increase in performance is the ability of the vacuum to detect dirty spots or areas that need more focused cleaning.
iRobot’s 880 Roomba, and Roomba 860, have a 3-stage cleaning system. Once the robot detects a difficult area it may go over that area more times or simply increase the power to clean that area better.
Not all units are capable of doing this, so be sure to check the details of the unit that you plan on purchasing.
Some robots “mop” the floor with a microfiber fabric attachment and no moisture.
The Moneual Rydis H68 offers wet and dry cleaning cycles, but must be manually adjusted to switch between these settings.
While the initial setup may be fairly simple, activating the more involved processes of this machine take some serious study.
Types Of Flooring
What type of flooring do you plan on using your robot on?
- HardWood Flooring
- Laminate & Ceramic Flooring
Many units will function on any level flooring surface and will build a cleaning pattern to make sure it's not causing too much wear in one spot; the pattern focuses on the next area to be cleaned, not the section that's been covered.
Note: While some units are able to work on shag carpet, we don’t suggest that you run a robot vacuum on shag carpet because it may jam the cleaner heads or cause excessive wear and tear on the unit. As always follow the recommended guidelines of your particular unit.
Wheels Or Tracks?
Many units operate with wheels or castors. In certain cases, wheels may be a disadvantage.
However, you don't have to worry about the Dyson Eye getting stuck on a piece of floor edging. Instead of wheels, this robot vacuum travels on a track and transitions easily from carpeting to wood to ceramic.
The cleaning head features a camera that allows the robot to survey the space and build a logical cleaning pattern around any obstacles it sees.
Round Or Square?
While the Dyson Eye is round, many other robot vacuum cleaners feature a squared face for corners and detailed edging.
The Neato XV Signature Pro, Neato XV-21 and the Neato Botvac offer a rounded edge and squared corners. As seen in our Roomba vs Neato guide, we think that this design is ideal to edge around most items around the home.
Drawbacks Of Robot Vacuums
Many robot vacuums offer an easily detachable bagless container and excellent filtration systems to catch and hold dust, debris and pet hair.
That being said, those containers are relatively small, as the machine is small.
Once those containers are full of dust and animal hair, the robot vacuum will soldier on and provide a lower quality vacuuming job.
If your pets produce a great deal of hair, vacuuming and emptying the bagless container may be a frequent chore. Be prepared to run the unit frequently if you choose to invest in a robot vacuum cleaner for pet hair removal.
In our bObsweep vs Roomba guide we found that the bObsweep PetHair Plus has one of the largest dust bins at 1L (1000ml).
Additionally, if you have carpeted stairs in your home, you'll need a supplemental vacuum. Many small cordless vacuums are an ideal fit for a stair tread, however, so you can reduce the need for a full-sized vacuum when you combine a cordless upright and a robot vacuum.
At this point and time, robot vacuums are not designed to crawl up stairs, awkward angles, or ledges. You will have to carry up to your second floor or into a new room is there is a drop-off between rooms.
The rule of thumb is, if you have to step up or step down, it is not ideal for a robot vacuum.
Robot Vacuum VS Upright
Because the units are small, your robot vacuum may be limited in horsepower compared to a full-sized vacuum depending on models and brands.
However, all you really need to do is dump the bag-less debris container and turn the machine on, and you can conceivably run this unit every day. Therefore, you wouldn't need a lot of horse power anyway. For stubborn areas, some units are able to tackle them much better than others.
While some may not have the same vacuuming power as a traditional upright, robot vacuums offer a brush to loosen dirt from carpets and enough suction to draw dust, dirt and pet hair on the first pass.
Multiple vacuuming sessions over the source of the week will probably pick up the same amount of dirt as one vacuuming session with a traditional upright.
How Much Does A Robot Vacuum Cost?
Robot vacuums are complex and are still a relatively new technology for the home. For these reason, robot vacuums typically cost more than basic upright vacuums. They range from a few hundred dollars up to over a thousand for higher end models.
Determining whether or not the convenience of a robot vacuum is worth the extra money is a personal decision.
If keeping a spotless house isn't critically important to you, then a robot vacuum probably sounds like a luxury. However, if you love the feeling of spotless flooring under bare feet and don't have the time to drag out the upright every day, a robot vacuum may be a necessity.
Did you enjoy this guide? We hope that it has helped you decide which features are important when choosing the best robot vacuum for your home. Let us know in the comments what you think and share your thoughts about any robot vacuum you’re considering.