Should you buy a robot vacuum cleaner? 5 things to consider
Robot vacuums sound great in theory. Your floors are cleaned daily by a robotic assistant, so you have one less thing to do when you wake up or come home from work. Unfortunately, the theory does not always translate well in practice.
A robotic vacuum cleaner is exactly what it sounds like: a small, self-contained cleaning device that automatically deploys itself to clean up after you. Once you’ve made the initial investment, they’re incredibly cheap to run and only require periodic attention from you in the form of emptying them, just like a standard vacuum cleaner.
Robot vacuums are much smaller than your standard cylinder, upright or stick vacuums. They don’t have to be ergonomic as you don’t “use” them in the traditional sense. Since they don’t have to be human-resistant, they can also forgo many of the metal tubing and hard-wearing plastic you might find on a Hoover or Henry.
By far the biggest draw of a robot vacuum is that they clean your floors so you don’t have to. Most allow you to program them or implement them manually, often using a smartphone app or web interface. They operate on a set-and-forget basis, and if you work outside the home during the day, you may never meet anyone in your hallway.
Not only do they automatically clean your home, but they also go back to their charging station at the end of a cycle, so they’re ready to go the next time. You can’t forget to charge a robot vacuum and most will even let you know when it’s time to empty the dust compartment.
Because they are a lot smaller than a traditional vacuum cleaner, they are also a lot quieter. They use extra tricks like small brushes that sweep dirt into the main intake and some can even detect the type of surface they are cleaning and adjust if necessary.
Perhaps the greatest benefit of all is that your cat can just sit on the robot vacuum and pour you an endless supply of Instagram food, as demonstrated in this post from the reallydumbcats account. Be prepared for this to go the other way and your cat will hate you for introducing a new adversary to their domain as well.
By far the biggest question to ask yourself before investing in a robotic vacuum cleaner is: is my home, and with it its lifespan, compatible?
The layout of the house is an obstacle. Not everyone lives in a modern apartment with flat carpets and walls at right angles. Some people live in older homes, while others have quirky layouts that can pose a problem.
If your home has a combination of carpet, tile, and wood floors, you probably have transitions between surfaces. These can be bumpy and uneven and your vacuum cleaner may not be able to navigate through them. Perhaps you live in a split-level home with stairs leading from one living space to another, which is currently unsolved in the robotic vacuum cleaner world. Dyson is reportedly working on the issueHowever.
But layout is only part of the puzzle. Most of us have a small jungle of interestingly shaped furniture and objects in the house, such as shoes in the hallway or clothes on the bedroom floor. Cables are another ugly but necessary evil, and renting may not adequately solve the problem.
If you have children or pets, you are probably used to toys and activities lying on the floor. These items are like Czech Hedgehogs for most robotic vacuum cleaners, and can lead to them avoiding large areas entirely. It’s not always possible to clear the way before your robot does its thing.
This is not a problem if you do weekly cleaning or troubleshoot problem areas. But the whole point of a robot vacuum is convenience, so you might consider how much you’ll need to customize your autonomous assistant to make it work as advertised.
Robot vacuums were never designed to be the only vacuum you own, but rather to keep the space a little tidier. In light of this, you will find that your money would be better spent on an all-in-one device.
Take a moment to think about all the other things you could use a vacuum cleaner for besides cleaning your floors. This can be:
Cleaning hard-to-reach places Cleaning your car Freshening up cupboards and drawers Crawling between the cushions of your sofa Vacuuming bed linen and other fabrics
You might also think about the things they don’t do very well. Some have a hard time with dark floors and mistakenly think they are about to take a dip. While most will deal with pet hair to some degree, they often do: pale compared to a standard vacuum specially designed with animal hair in mind.
The best robot vacuums will still cost you an arm and a leg, and with good reason. These are the best on the market, with nice features like smart home integration, long battery life and self-cleaning or emptying mechanisms.
for example the iRobot Roomba s9+ still costs over $1000. iRobot claims it’s their smartest and most powerful model, but it’s still limited in terms of what can be accomplished. It cannot navigate steps or move your dog’s favorite chew bone, although its performance is among the best in its class.
iRobot Roomba s9+
Cheaper models are much more popular, but like any cheaper version of a high-tech product, they have their own drawbacks. At the other end of the spectrum from the Roomba s9+ is the Left M201 for under $150. At this price point, the internal components will be much less reliable and break easily, and many reviews (even the positive ones) complain about poor software and build quality.
Lefant Robot Vacuum Cleaner, Automatic Robot Vacuum Cleaners, Enhanced 6D Collision Sensor, 1800pa WiFi/App/Alexa, Self Charging, Super Quiet Mini Pet Hair Cleaning Robot, Hard Floor, Low Pile Carpets, M201
The Lefant M201 is a budget robot vacuum with four cleaning modes, a small body with a diameter of 11 inches and Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa connectivity.
Budget robot vacuums often lack the more intelligent features that make them attractive in the first place. You should expect to get what you pay for, but even the best can’t live up to expectations.
Did you see that news story that was doing the rounds a few years ago? a dog owner came home with an unpleasant surprise† Dubbed “poopocalypse”, the problem has become so widespread that iRobot now uses AI to avoid what most of us would consider a nightmare.
Dogs and cats have accidents, it’s part of having pets. The vast majority of robotic vacuums in homes around the world don’t use AI to avoid the presents your dog or cat may leave in the house from time to time.
What starts as an whoops in the hallway can quickly turn into an ordeal for the whole house. Most stories end with only a small part of the house being affected (besides the robot vacuum cleaner itself, of course), but then there is always that one man†
This problem will likely go away as more vacuum cleaners can identify unwanted substances, but for now it’s something to keep in mind if you live with furry friends.
Vacuuming Robot Vacuums
In many situations, a robot vacuum will save you hours every month. They are especially ideal in places where you may not want to carry a heavy vacuum, such as open attics, basements, home gyms or office environments that have been carefully planned.
They’re just not ideal for everyone, and if your life isn’t ready for robotic vacuum, your money (for now) is better spent elsewhere. Wondering which one is the best of the bunch? Checking out our recommendations for robot vacuums.