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Robot Vacuum Buying Guide: Choosing The Right Features

You’re looking for a robot vacuum but don’t know which one to get?

We get it! There are many options, and robot vacuums can be expensive, so we want to make sure that your money is well spent.

This robot vacuum buying guide will walk you through the basics of what makes a good robot vacuum and how to choose the best one to keep your home clean and tidy!

How To Choose A Robot Vacuum

Popular brands include:

1. Cost And Price Ranges

Robot vacuums can be expensive, but the price range varies considerably. The cheapest robot vacuums may not have all of the features that more expensive models offer.

Generally speaking, the higher prices are justified for robot vacuums that have better features.

Consider choosing an older model that hasn’t been discontinued for those who want to spend a little less money or don’t need many features.

2. Type Of Flooring In Your Home

Some robot vacuums will do better than others on different types of flooring. Consider a robot vacuum with specialized features instead of a multi-purpose one.

For instance, if you have hardwood floors, it might be best to buy one with side brushes near the wheels for sweeping up pet hair and other debris around the unit.

You will want a robot vacuum with strong suction power for deep cleaning if you have carpet floors.

Here are some popular features to look for, for each type of flooring:

  • Low Pile Carpet - High suction, spot cleaning, large collection bin
  • Hardwood Flooring - HEPA filter, edging mode, self-emptying base
  • Laminate & Ceramic Flooring - High suction, vacuum and mop
  • Concrete Floors - Strong suction, HEPA filter for dust, mop

3. Do You Need A Vacuum And Mop?

Robot mops sprinkle water and then wipe it up instead of wringing out dirty water like a traditional mop. It makes this device an eco-friendly alternative when you use it to clean hardwood or tiles.

While these robot vacuums also vacuum up debris, they are really built for the wetter side of things. So we think it’s best to use robot mops for a dedicated section of your home. For example, a tiled floor in a large kitchen or hard, smooth flooring in the basement.

If you’re looking for the best robot vacuum to handle multiple surfaces, including rugs and carpets, it’s better to skip mopping robot vacs and mop by hand once they have finished cleaning.

4. Does Your Home Have Pets?

If you don’t have pets, it’s less of a priority, but you may still find value if you have allergies to dust.

If you have a pet, essential features to handle fur and dander are:

  • Good suction for deep cleaning carpets and hardwood floors.
  • A HEPA filter to remove pet hair and dander from the air.
  • Tangle-free brush rollers on your robot vacuum can clean and pick up pet hair without getting tangled, so you don’t have to worry about cleaning it yourself.

5. How Many Rooms Do You Need To Be Cleaned?

This is an essential question, as robot vacuums offer different coverage areas. To be sure that the robot vacuum will meet your needs, measure the floor area of your home and check their coverage area to see if it suits you.

In general, if you have a smaller home, or are okay with only vacuuming the main rooms in your house, then most robot vacuums will be able to handle that.

However, if you need floor cleaning throughout other parts of your house (kitchen and living room), it may not be wise to purchase one with an overly restricted coverage area.

Keep in mind that a robot vacuum is unable to climb up and down stairs on its own.

Features At A Glance

As more manufacturers move into the market, improvements in quality and design are generating a lot of excitement. Each brand offers a unit that excels in one area and falls in another.

At this point in our guide, you should be ready to buy a robot vacuum that will meet most of your needs.

However, if you want to take a closer look at what makes a robot vacuum, the following features and explanations will help you narrow down exactly what you should consider.

Self-Emptying Base

The hassle of emptying a robot vacuum’s dustbin is the most annoying thing about having one in your home.

Fortunately, robots with self-emptying features can help you out of this problem to minimize the time and effort that it takes to maintain your robot vacuum.

Some hiccups can occur, such as debris or pet hair getting clogged and triggering an error, that will need your help to resolve. Some models have a much harder time with emptying than others, which may make it more of a hassle than it’s worth.

For those reasons, the self-emptying feature is nice to have but not needed.

Cleaning Modes

Most robot vacuums have a few different modes that help you clean efficiently and save battery power.

This includes the ability to vacuum carpets in one mode and then automatically switch to a cleaning mode designed for a different type of flooring such as hardwood.

Special modes like an edge-cleaning mode can help pick up errant dirt that has collected against walls and along baseboards.

Some robot vacuums use spot cleaning mode, which gives a concentrated focus to an area or spot.

Cleaning mode options combined with good navigation and mapping in the section below will lead to cleaner carpets and floors.

Navigation And Mapping

In the past, robot vacuums clean floors in a fairly random pattern. They would roam around until they hit a wall, turn, and go in a different direction. A Newer robot vacuum will have some type of mapping system, often using lasers, to help it navigate around more efficiently and avoid dangers like falling downstairs or gets stuck under furniture.

With virtual walls and virtual no-go zones, you’ll be able to set up boundaries for where the vacuum is allowed and not allowed to go – like keeping it out of the kitchen or living room when you’re not home.

Virtual boundaries can protect furniture from being bumped into and scratched by the robotic cleaner.

And suppose there’s an emergency like a pet running around while the vacuum is in use. In that case, most models have an “Emergency Stop” in their app, and it will immediately stop moving - perfect for those furry friends who don’t always listen when we ask them to get out of the way!

Overall, you’ll want a robot vacuum that has a variety of mapping abilities. If you plan to use virtual walls and boundaries, additional products are usually required and sold separately.

Wi-Fi Connectivity And Remote Controls

A Wi-Fi-enabled robot vacuum will work with your existing network, so you don’t have to worry about setting up an additional router or paying extra monthly fees.

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 still have remotes but are better operated with a tablet or mobile phone. Most apps are well laid out and make it easy to diagnose problems and set up cleaning routines. So having the Wi-Fi connectivity option to run your robot vacuum is ideal for most users.

Amazon Alexa And Google Assistant Compatibility

Many robot vacuums are now compatible with Google and Alexa, which means you can use voice commands to start or stop the vacuum.

For example, the iRobot Roomba s9+ is compatible with both Alexa and Google. The commands often have several variations so that you don’t need to memorize specific commands. For example, how cool is this? “Alexa, tell Roomba there’s no place like home.” to have it return to home base for either storage or recharging.

The downside is that older models will only work through a remote or an app.

Battery Life And Charging Docks

Most robot vacuums have rechargeable batteries. Its life will be determined by how often you use your vacuum, what type it is, and how much juice your robot vac uses.

A lithium-ion battery may last up to two hours on a single charge for newer energy-efficient models and is what we recommend choosing.

Many robot vacuums will make their way back to their charging dock, dock themselves, and begin recharging. Once charged up, they will resume their cleaning duties.

Some units have energy-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.

Others can be programmed to vacuum less frequently and return to their charging base to keep topped up at all times. The dock should be kept in a cool place and easily accessible for your vacuum to connect to.

If your selected model supports a charging dock, we recommend that you buy the base (dock) and vacuum as a bundle to ensure compatibility. This will add to the overall purchase price.

Should You Get A Robot Vacuum?

A robot vacuum can be a great way to keep your home clean with minimal monitoring. However, it’s important that you think about what you want from the machine before purchasing so that you don’t end up with something too expensive or not powerful enough for your needs.

Here are some reasons why you might want to buy a robot vacuum:

  • Robot vacuums can save you time with minimal supervision or input.
  • They’re efficient when programmed properly.
  • They’re usually quieter than a regular vacuum.
  • Robot vacuum cleaners don’t get bored or distracted with cleaning.
  • Robot vacuums with HEPA filters are great for allergy sufferers because they can reduce the amount of dust and dander in your home.

However, there are a few drawbacks to consider before deciding if a robot vacuum is right for your home.

Do Robot Vacuums Work?

Robot vacuums do work and can be a great convenience. However, they also have some downsides that you should consider before committing to one of these devices for your home:

  • Upright vacuums are easier to maneuver around furniture and other obstacles than most robotic models currently available.
  • They have limited battery life.
  • They can’t be used on high-pile carpeting or rugs.
  • Robot vacuums aren’t cheap compared to uprights. Although prices are coming down, you will need to spend a couple hundred dollars or more for one that has decent functionality and features.

That said, robot vacuums are useful and do work well. They just need to be used in the right setting.

Where To Buy A Robot Vacuum?

You can buy robot vacuums from several retailers, including Target, Wayfair, and Amazon.

However, it is best to check the return policy before you buy one. Just in case there’s an issue with your robot vacuum that can’t be fixed by customer service, you’ll want to know if they’re willing to take it back for a refund or replacement.

All of our reviews contain links and suggested locations of where to buy a robot vac.

In Summary

When deciding what features you want in your robot vacuum, be extra careful. It’s easy to get caught up with fancy new technology or the latest and greatest feature that all of our competitors offer.

But if you’re unsure how it will work for your home, don’t go overboard on a model just because it has more bells and whistles than another one.

You’ll end up paying more money for something that doesn’t meet your needs - which is why we recommend taking some time before making this big decision so you can make an informed purchase!