Everything you need to know about robotic vacuum cleaners
by Mr Yellow
Robots have been considered a threat to mankind during the ages, but technological advances have, on the contrary, helped society make giant leaps forward in all sectors. Let's face it: cleaning chores are no fun and the less time you spend sweeping, mopping and vacuuming, the more you can dedicate time to more interesting and fulfilling activities.
Tech developers have come to the rescue and, lo and behold, the robotic vacuum cleaner has now become one of the trendiest gadgets of 2019. Robots haven't taken over the world yet, but robotic vacuums are here to take over your cleaning routine. Whether you're a tech geek, have mobility issues or merely hate cleaning, this robot will become your new friend. It's the helping hand you didn't know you needed and will become a valuable addition to any household.
So..what are robotic vacuum cleaners?
A robotic vacuum cleaner, or a robovac (as it is sometimes referred to), is not another cool toy for your gadget collection, but rather a beneficial addendum to your selection of day-to-day cleaning equipment. It's a circular or D shaped intelligent device which cleans your floor using sensors, laser and/or cameras to navigate around your home and reach every nook and cranny. The roller brushes underneath the shell can suck human and pet hair, crumbs, dirt, and any other grime which piles up throughout the day. When it runs out of battery, the device will find its way to its charging dock to recharge itself. These robot cleaners are generally autonomous and the sole thing you need to do is empty the detachable dustbin at the back after each cleaning round, as long as you don't own a high-end model with automatic dirt disposal. Every model comes with its own distinct features, accessories and control methods, which in turn determine its cost.
How do robotic vacuum cleaners work?
Being an ingenious piece of tech, you'll definitely be inquisitive on how it operates. How will the device know where to go and which areas are done and dusted? How doesn't it crash downstairs and bump into furniture? How can it be controlled?
A robot floor cleaner can navigate using the following technology:
- Sensors: it will have a variety of sensors to perceive furniture and other obstacles on the floor, stairs, and even walls. It won't tumble down a flight of stairs or slam into any valuable furniture.
- Mapping technology: more advanced bots are emerging with integrated self-navigation systems using laser and cameras. On initial use, the robot will cruise around your home exploring the area and will commence the mapping process. It will be able to generate a map of each room, making it possible to navigate through specified rooms. When it runs out of juice and re-charges itself at the dock, the bot will remember the room's layout and will effectively find its way to the specific point where the cleaning job was paused and will continue where it left off. Since the route would be saved in its memory, a bot with integrated mapping technology can be seen moving in a more orderly and methodical fashion, making it more effective, and hence, requiring minimal intervention.
How can you control your robot vacuum? These devices can either be controlled via a remote control, voice control or if they have integrated wi-fi, can be controlled via an app. Handy, right?
Will you need to tidy up a room to use your robot vacuum? This mainly depends on your model as some devices can navigate around small obstacles quite effectively, while others may get stuck and would need to be moved manually. Nevertheless, we recommend you declutter your rooms and put away elements which may instil confusion. Long curtains, trailing cables, bags, shoes and toys are such examples.
Be alert: your new vacuum cleaner may get some strange looks from your bewildered pet, which may, in turn, decide to attack the new enemy that has invaded its territory. Hence, we recommend you lock your pet up until the cleaning job is done to avoid unnecessary harm to your bot (and to your valiant animal).
Which are the best robotic vacuum cleaners?
Various renowned brands are developing new robot cleaners, with the most prominent being iRobot (Roomba), Eufy, Neato, Ecovacs, iLife, Samsung and Dyson. People from all social classes are deliberating whether to buy a vacuum cleaner, and more importantly, are pondering on which one to buy, due to the diversity of products the market has to offer. Won't they all remove grime from your floors? Yes, they will, but each one will have specialised features unique to its model. Moreover, each space has its own individual needs and what works best for one room, wouldn't be fitting for another. The best device for pet hair may not be the most suitable for small spaces, the device with the best navigation equipment may not be the best product for deep cleaning, while the one with the longest battery life may not be the most worthwhile.
Check out the aspects you need to take into consideration to purchase the best robot vacuum cleaner for your needs in the next section.
How do you choose a robotic vacuum? What do you really need to look out for?
Picking a robot vacuum cleaner may be overwhelming if you're in the dark on what to look out for. We are here to make the buying process less sweaty and as simple as ABC. Explore the factors which you need to consider when you're shortlisting candidate robots:
Robot shape & dimensions
The diameter and height of the robot vacuum will vary from one product to another. If you have a small space or low-profile furniture, opt for a slim and compact one which wouldn't look too bulky in your space and which wouldn't get stuck easily under furniture. Be prepared to pay a little bit extra for a compact robot. With regard to shape, the common circular robots are great at turning around, while D shaped ones reach corners more effectively.
Robots come with different cleaning functions. You may be able to choose between cleaning your whole house, a specific room, a particular messy spot which needs special attention or just the edges.
Spending money on a robot which picks up your dirt may not be sufficient for you. If you also want it to mop and polish your floor, a hybrid mop and vacuum robot is the one for you. All you need to do is fill up the water tank and attach a microfibre cloth on the underside of the robot and it's good to go. As expected, this version would be more pricey due to its dual purpose.
Suction is crucial in determining the volume of dust gathered. Some will just pick up fresh grime, while others have suction so powerful it can remove old stains. Additionally, having a device with one wide rotating brush would be more effective in reaching tight crevices, rather than opting for one with small spinning brushes.
Type of flooring & carpets
If your floor surfaces range from tiles to wood, carpets and rugs, you may need to consider how well the bot adjusts itself to different surfaces with minimal incumbrances. Raised edges cannot be tackled effectively by all models and it would be tiresome having to step in each time your bot gets stuck. In some models, suction strength can be adjusted for rugs and carpets.
Do think twice before purchasing a robot vacuum if you have a house with multiple storeys, as it would require more intervention. You need to be at home to return it to the docking station when it's out of power, and place it on the floors in line to be cleaned.
How well your robot perceives obstacles and manoeuvres around items on its path is crucial in determining efficiency. If you have bulky antique furniture which you want to protect or have a myriad of toys cluttering the floor, invest in high quality sensors, so you won't need to move or pick up things before using your robot. Choosing a model with mapping technology is wise as it will use laser to develop maps of the whole space, enabling it to locate specific rooms efficiently and sweep each nook and cranny each and every time, following the most effective routine. You'd also be aware of what's been cleaned and what's still in the pipeline.
Battery life varies from one model to another but may last from as little as 1 hour up to a max of 2 hours (up until the time of writing). When the robot runs out of steam, it will automatically connect itself to the charging dock to recharge itself. Certain models may not always make it back on time and will peter out, forcing you to step in. The number of charges your robot requires to clean your house depends on the area of the space; so do make sure the one you buy boasts a long battery life if you have a humongous place. Otherwise, having fast charging would be an alternate option if time is of the essence.
Quick tip: more expensive models don't necessarily get a longer battery life. Prices generally increase according to their features so do check specs properly.
Wouldn't it be convenient to schedule cleaning times for when you're away from home? Yes, certain models provide this feature, so start searching around.
Virtual walls enable you to section off areas which you don't want your bot to access, especially where the bot will undoubtedly get stuck. These walls can be marked on your app if the device has smart mapping. However, if this is not available, go the old fashioned way and place a bulky object to intercept the bot.
How will you be able to pilot your new friend? Robot floor cleaners may either be manually controlled, voice or remote controlled. However, the latest models flaunt a wi-fi connection, making it possible to control your device via an app on your smartphone. Can't be more user-friendly, right? The app may enable you to switch on your device from your phone while you're at work or doing errands, check out the robot's position and battery life, select cleaning options and control its features. It may also generate cleaning reports, which would be fun bedtime reading if you're a tech geek. Certain models are also compatible with smart home systems.
Some models are more silent than others, while others may be quite noisy, so if you know the sound will drive you crazy, opt for the quietest one on the market.
How easy is it to set up the charging dock? How efficient is it? How useful is the app? You'll have these questions answered if you skim through a few reviews.
If you're buying a robotic vacuum cleaner, it means you want to intervene as little as possible or it will defeat the purpose of owning one. Thus, make sure it's as self-contained as it can be.
Environmentally friendly robots
You don't want to throw away your new friend after a couple of months, right? Check if warranty is provided and whether you can send it to the manufacturer in case it needs repairs.
The cost of these robot vacuums can be considered as the sole drawback of these devices. However, no matter what your budget is, you'll find a vast selection of cheap, midrange and high-end models to choose from. Always evaluate the features to price ratio: Are its features worth the cost? Do you absolutely need a self-emptying feature or voice control? What are your primary priorities? If you're an aficionado of tech stuff, then you need to take a look at the expensive models on the market. Give it some thought and take your time to choose.
Reviews would be a good indication of which device would best suit your needs and expectations, so leaf through as many of these as you can to make the right purchase. You can check out the likes of PCMag, Techradar and The Telegraph to get you started.
Pros of robotic vacuums: Why should you buy one?
- You'll free up precious time, especially if your day is jam-packed with to-do lists
- Cleaning is monotonous
- There's no need to lift a finger while the robot is doing its job as it's generally autonomous. All you need to do is empty the dustbin (although models are already coming out with a self-emptying feature)
- Robot will sweep up any dust, scraps of food, hair, and any other grit which builds up on your floor
- People with mobility issues will have less risk of falling while cleaning
- Bot boasts a powerful suction and has rotating brushes to reach even the toughest corners
- It provides various cleaning modes to choose from
- Bot is compact, allowing it to move under furniture
- Smart devices can be controlled via app when you're away from home, and may be integrated with smart home systems
- It's more allergen friendly than a traditional vacuum cleaner
- Cleaning can be scheduled
- It boasts a stylish design
Cons of robotic vacuums
- Models with tons of attractive features are too expensive and cheaper models would be less efficient
- Wi-fi connection may not be too strong in certain smart robots or may not have wi-fi at all
- It may get stuck under furniture or on raised edges
- Some models may be too noisy if you're in the same room while it's operating
- Cleaning has to be paused when its battery drains out
- If you have cluttered floors, it wouldn't be able to navigate efficiently
- It can't descend stairs so it's not suitable for multi storey houses
- Dustbin needs to be emptied on a regular basis due to its compact size
- You may still need to vacuum tough corners
- It takes much more time than regular cleaning methods
- It needs regular maintenance to retain optimum performance
Where can you buy a robotic vacuum from?
So you've set your mind on a specific brand and model. Where will you find a robotic vacuum locally? Local tech stores and domestic appliance outlets are the place to go. Outlets specialising in vacuum cleaners and other cleaning equipment may also import these robotic devices.
How much do robot vacuum cleaners cost?
Robot cleaners used to cost a fortune up until a few years ago and were marketed solely toward the crème de la crème of society. However, in this time and age, they have become more affordable pieces of tech, hence empowering households to invest in these devices.
The prices of these cleaners start from €200 but more advanced models on the market are priced over €1000. Do your research and check out which exact features you're paying for to ensure you're making a good investment. You won't need to spend a whole month's worth of salary on this device, as no matter what your budget is, you'll be able to find one which suits all your needs and expectations. Having said that, we do advise you to steer beyond the cheapest options for a self-sufficient and effective device.
How can you care for your robot cleaner?
- Name your robot as it's a psychological way to help you remember to take care of it
- Don't forget to empty the dustbin after each cleaning round as the device may not have indicators to show you it's full. Do check its manual before deciding to dump it in your dishwasher
- Clean brushes regularly
- Clean wheels to retain optimum traction
- Keep your app up-to-date
- Put away wires and any other objects which may damage the robot
- Keep it away from pets and kids
Yellow's top recommendations
Too busy to carry out your own research? Yellow is at your service 24/7! Check out our top recommendations when it comes to choosing the best robotic vacuum cleaner for your home:
Most powerful suction: Dyson 360 Eye
Advertised as having "twice the suction of any other robot vacuum', Dyson's powerful motor has a suction so powerful, it can absorb particles and fragments as small as 0.5 microns, which is, in reality, smaller than the width of a human hair. Impressive, right? Apart from its prevailing suction abilities, the Dyson 360 Eye is also renowned for its 360° camera which enables it to map the most effective cleaning route possible.
If you're hesitant on spending €700 on a robot vacuum, but a potent suction is one of your must-have features, you can opt for the iRobot Roomba 960, which comes with a cheaper price tag.
Best for small spaces and low-lying furniture: Eufy RoboVac 11S
This model's slim and compact design makes it an ideal option for people having a number of low-lying furniture scattered across each room. Your robot will be able to navigate better and clean in a more efficient manner, as the chances of getting stuck are much slimmer. You can relax or pursue other chores, knowing your bot will slide with ease beneath your furniture. If you'd like to pay a little extra for more features within the same compact size, you can opt for the Robovac 30C.
Longest battery life: Neato Botvac D7
With up to 120 minutes of battery life, this model is a godsend for large homes. Along with this perk, the D shaped Neato Botvac D7 offers a variety of cleaning modes, smart navigation systems and powerful suction.
Most value for money: iLife A4S
For a little over €200, you get a user-friendly compact bot, advanced cleaning modes and sensors, a long battery life, and much more in this model. The iLife A4S is ideal if you're on a tight budget, as you'll still get several attractive features at this affordable price.
Best for app compatibility: iRobot Roomba 690
Do you want to control your bot from your smartphone or through voice control? By means of the iRobot HOME app, you can integrate your Roomba 690 with several smart home systems. Schedule and monitor all the cleaning from your office using this effective and user-friendly app. As a result of its specially designed brushes, this model can absorb all kinds of dirt and debris.
Silent vacuuming: iLife A7
With advanced sensors, various cleaning modes, and a user-friendly app, the iLife A7 is a convenient alternative if a quiet robotic vacuum is what you're after.
Best hybrid vacuum: Ecovacs Deebot Ozmo 930
Although on the expensive side, this new model provides both vacuum and mop features. There are cheaper hybrids, such as the iRobot Braava series, but they require more manual intervention and maintenance, and cannot be controlled via your smartphone. On the other hand, the Ozmo 930 offers intelligent mapping, smart navigation, efficient cleaning, and app control.
Most autonomous vacuum cleaner: iRobot Roomba i7+
With its advanced features, the Roomba i7+ is currently a top-of-the-range robotic vacuum. Why? This model manages the whole cleaning process from A to Z. From automatic charging to intelligent mapping and navigation, powerful suction and efficient adjustment for different surfaces, you can control and monitor all features from your smartphone. What truly makes it one of a kind is its automatic dirt disposal feature which eliminates the need to empty the bot's dustbin after each cleaning round. This wholly independent bot has an expensive price tag attached to it, but it's well worth its price.
What does the future hold?
Technology has truly come a long way, but there are no limits these bots can reach and the myriad of possibilities are endless. The progress that vacuum cleaners have made is just a whiff of what science has in store for us for the coming years. Our lives have yet to be transformed in unimaginable ways as tech companies make more interesting breakthroughs. Cookers, dishwashers, microwaves, washing machines and fridges will surely be getting smarter as time goes by. But for now just say hello to a spanking clean home!
Keep on discovering local with Yellow.