Wouldn’t it be great if there were robots to clean everything for us while we watch some TV? Well, there are already some robots to help around with cleaning: the so-called “robot vacuum cleaners”. But are the robot vacuums that have been released so far any good? Should we spend hundreds to get one?
We will answer all your questions related to robot vacuums in this article. We will discuss how robot vacuums work, how effective they are, if you should consider buying one, what you should pay attention to when looking to buy one, and how much you should actually spend in a robot vacuum.
How do Robot Vacuums work?
When the subject is vacuums, we need to start by talking about the cleaning systems. Most robot vacuums have 3 or 4 stages of cleaning, the most visible one is the spinning side brush (sometimes two side brushes) that help collect the dirt and dust.
The other systems consist of counter-rotating brushes in the bottom that act like a dustpan and a broom as the robot “walks” around, and of course the vacuum that puts the dirt and dust out of your sight.
One of the features that most people don’t take into consideration when choosing a vacuum is its navigation technology. Until today, there are three types of navigation technologies being implemented in robot vacuums.
The robots with Programmed Navigation are the ones with a pre-chosen path that you usually can’t change. These tend to be cheaper while still being very accurate in terms of navigation, but there are generally much fewer things you can control with the companion app.
The robots with Camera Navigation can be considered the most accurate when it comes to navigation path because they create a visual map of your home, the problem is that you need the lights to be on for them to work. These are still a great choice if you don’t plan on having the robot working during the night.
The Laser Navigation robots are, in my opinion, the future of the robotic vacuums. Not only are they able to map your house like the ones with camera navigation, but they are able to do it during the night as well. Not only that, but because they can map the space so easily, you will usually have more options in the app related to the robot’s navigation.
Other things to note when it comes to navigation are the various technologies embedded in most of the robot vacuums, such as the ability to differentiate soft barriers (like bed skirts) from solid barriers (like walls); the ability to follow walls; the ability to detect dirt through acoustic sensors; and the ability to detect stairs and other drop-offs.
What is the "Virtual Wall Technology" and is it really important?
The so-called “virtual wall technology” is sometimes a little bit overrated. Some robots come with sensors or magnetic stripes that you can place in the ground to prevent the robot vacuum from going to a certain place where you might have cords in the ground or your pet’s food, and they usually work perfectly well! The problem is that they are not very eye pleasing and most of the time the manufacturers include only one or two sensors/magnetic stripes and you might need to buy more.
But don’t worry! Most laser navigation robots and some camera navigation ones come with the incredible option to manually draw on your app the zones you don’t want the robot to enter, which is the best and most easy way to deal with this problem.
Robot Vacuums also come with the ability to find the location of their charging stations and stop whatever they are doing to get back to it whenever they are low in battery. This means that will only have to put your hands to work when cleaning the filters and brushes, which you should do frequently. If you think your robot it not picking up all the dirt or all the pet hair, it’s probably because you haven’t cleaned up the filters and brushes in a while.
Are Robot Vacuums Actually Effective?
When it comes to the quality of vacuuming, at least on hard floors, robot vacuums are without a doubt as good (and sometimes even better) as upright vacuums, especially for taking care of larger debris.
They can clean in all types of floor, be it carpets, hardwood, tile or linoleum floors. But we can’t deny that they don’t do the best of jobs in carpets. Robot Vacuums will take care of everything in the surface of the carpet, but won’t pick up dust that is deep in the carpet. We should also mention that there might be good news related to this in the future, as some companies are working on and have actually already released some robots that can detect when they “enter” a carpet and automatically switch to high power.
Having said all this, robot vacuums do a very good job of helping around. You can schedule them to clean only during the night if you prefer, and then wake up to a clean floor!
Don’t be eluded though: you should not expect everything to be clean just by having the robot going around the house from time to time. An upright vacuum cleaner that takes care of the couches and high pile carpets will be your robot’s best partner in the mission that is keeping your house clean!
Should I Consider Buying a Robot Vacuum Cleaner?
If you feel like everything is dirty even though you vacuum weekly, then maybe you should consider getting a robot to help you out. As I mentioned before, you can use the schedule feature to make the robot get to work during the night and then wake up to a clean floor. Even though it won’t be perfectly clean, it’s still a very good help.
These robot vacuums can help you with many problems. One simple example is pet hair, as many pet owners struggle with the amount of pet hair in the house. For some people, cleaning is therapeutic and relaxing, I personally like to turn on the music and get to the cleaning once or twice a week, but I don’t like to spend an entire afternoon doing it. A robot vacuum ultimately reduced the time I need to spend cleaning the floor.
What to Look for When Choosing a Robot Vacuum Cleaner:
You should pay a lot of attention to your house (and more specifically to the place you want your robot to wander around) before choosing the perfect buddy for you. Here are the most important factors you should take into account:
Low furniture: If you have furniture that is low to the ground, you should pick a slimmer robot vacuum. One of the slimmest robots out there (only 2.85”/7.3cm in height) is the RoboVac 11S, which is also our 1st pick in the “Best Robot Vacuum Under $400” list.
High Pile Carpets: If you have high pile carpets, the first thing you should look at is the suction power. If you pick a robot with low suction power, you better be ready to put that upright vacuum cleaner to work from time to time. One of the reasons why we consider the RoboVac 11S one of the best in the business is its new technology that senses when it steps on top of a carpet and activates the high power mode.
Pet Hair: If you are a pet owner, you know that it is very hard to win the battle against pet hair… but these robot vacuums can be a good ally! Something you should pay attention to is the capacity of the dust collector. 0.6 liters is the standard and is usually good enough, but the bigger the better!
Cords and Carpet Fringes: Most robot vacuums come ready to deal with cords and carpet fringes, either by detecting it as a barrier and going around it or by walking through it. But if you have a specific zone with a lot of cords in the ground that you don’t want to be messed with, you should look at getting a laser or camera navigation robot that lets you draw however many no-go zones you wish in the app.
How Much Should You Spend in a Robot Vacuum Cleaner?
A robot vacuum is not the most inexpensive thing in the world. Sure there are some robots out there on sale for less than $100, but don’t fall into that trap, as those cheaper robots are not worth you even driving to the store. You can get a very good little helper for about $200.
All you need to do is take a look and scan the zone you would like the robot vacuum to work in, and then, considering everything mentioned above, find the best robot for you from our “Best Robot Vacuum Under 400” list. It won’t be hard to find multiple bots adequate to your house for a good price. You can also check out wirecutter’s or PCMag’s lists if you don’t mind spending more money on your new helper.
So… are robot vacuums any good? Well, we can’t deny that robot vacuums do a very good job of helping around. But, just like we have mentioned before, an upright vacuum cleaner that takes care of couches and high pile carpets will be your robot’s best friend.
With that said, if you feel like your house’s floor is always dirty, then a robot vacuum might be the best solution! And you don’t have to spend a lot of money on it, make sure to check our “Best Robot Vacuum Under 400” list to find very good robots for a quite affordable price!