Robot Vacuums: Are They Really Worth It?
You come home exhausted on Friday after a relentlessly hectic week at work.
Sure, your smart door lock opened as you approached the door and the lights came on exactly as intended. But there’s something not quite right…
Now you’ve got to grab the vacuum and spend a half hour dashing around to blitz the grimy floors, right?
Can you imagine what it would be like to return to a spotless house without needing to hire in an expensive maid service each week? Well you don’t have to imagine any longer if you invest in a robotic vacuum.
What Is a Robotic Vacuum
Any vacuum that cleans without human input can be termed a robotic vacuum, also known as a robovac. These nifty little gadgets come with varying degrees of programmability.
Vacuuming is standard with additional functionality differing from brand to brand. Some robovacs also pack spinning brushes or a mopping feature so you can get your hard flooring buffed up as well as your carpets cleaned.
If you’re an early adopter and found yourself wildly underwhelmed with the early robovacs of the late 90s and early 2000s, you might think differently if you road tested some of the current generation of home helpers.
That said, we’re not here to sell you on a robotic vacuum. We have absolutely no interest in nudging you toward a product that’s not right for you. What we are here to do is shed some light on how these robovacs have evolved from the Electrolux Trilobite first brought to market in 1996. We’ll kick off with a concise guide to robotic vacuums so you can see how they work and whether you’d like to add one to your cleaning arsenal.
All About Robot Vacuums
Battery: Charging and Power Requirements
Since robot vacuums are battery-powered, these batteries inevitably need charging. This is one of many ways in which robovacs are not created equal.
If the model you’re looking at comes with less than an hour of battery life, this is usually indicative of poor performance across the board. Even if you have a smaller apartment, you’re better off giving these units a swerve. Cheaper robots give you 60 minutes or so on a single charge, mid-range vacs anywhere up to around 75 minutes and the upscale heavyweights running a full 90 minutes before they hustle back to the charging station.
If you opt for one of the lower-end robots, it will stop where it runs out of power, and you’ll need to physically return it to the docking station. If you step things up a notch, a mid-level robovac will head home independently for charging but start again from the beginning. The line-topping models return to the base for a top-up then resume the interrupted cycle right where it left off.
Think about your needs on the battery front and bear these pointers in mind to get the most appropriate solution for your needs without spending more than you need to.
Overall Cleaning Performance
Since the core purpose of your robotic vacuum is to render your home immaculate without you needing to lift a finger, it goes unsaid you should laser in first and foremost on cleaning performance.
If you’re hoping for a deep-clean roughly on par with a regular vacuum, you’ll only achieve this with the more expensive robovacs.
If you can only stretch to a mid-range robot, overall cleaning should be perfectly sound although you might dip out when it comes to the edges and finishing touches.
With cheaper robotic vacuums, you’ll get a decent cleaning assistant but expect to periodically use your regular vac to keep things fully scoured.
How a robotic vacuum cleans is obviously key but you shouldn’t overlook filtration either.
If you have even a basic grounding in vacuum cleaners, you’ll have encountered the term HEPA (high-efficiency particulate arrestance) filter, but what exactly does it mean?
Well, to qualify for true HEPA-rating, a vacuum needs to trap 99.97% of all airborne pollutants down to a size of 0.3 microns. To put that into meaningful perspective, pathogens of 0.3 microns are far too small to be seen with the naked eye but very easily inhaled and capable of getting stuck in your lungs. Examples include smoke, bacteria, dust, spores, and allergens.
Unfortunately, you can’t really check how air gets filtered visually and many manufacturers claim true-HEPA performance when in reality they fall short of the mark.
We mention all of this so you don’t fall for the marketing hype without being aware of the facts. Focus on overall efficiency of the filtration system in place rather than obsessing about whether or not it’s a genuine HEPA filter and you’ll breathe fresher, cleaner air.
Since you’ll be buying a robotic vacuum as a labor-saving device, it’s obviously prudent to make sure the model you’re considering won’t be too heavy on the maintenance front.
As technology continues to advance in leaps and bounds, filtration improves, and extraction systems become ever more efficient, the level of human input required drops.
Look for a robotic vacuum where all you’ll need to do is empty out the bin along with occasionally changing the filters. That way, you won’t end up spending more time tinkering around than you would have spent vacuuming manually. Be smart and get the most suitable vacuum for your modern smart home.
Size of Dust Bin
While not a critical issue, you should at least pay attention to the capacity of the dust container.
As a rule of thumb, you’ll need to ditch the contents of the dustbin after perhaps 3 or 4 cycles.
Don’t write off robots that fill up quickly completely, though. Sometimes it just indicates that they’re extremely good at their job.
Size of Your Home
Size does matter when it comes to the dimensions of your living space.
If you’re lucky enough to live in a large and rambling house, our honest advice is to go for a more expensive and robust robovac. A combination of superior battery life, automatic recharging, bulky dust containers and top-notch navigation renders these pricier robots tailor-made for big houses.
A number of the better and more recent robotic vacuums can be controlled in-app using your smartphone as a controller.
For anyone interested in a fully automated home, it’s well worth angling for a robot with WiFi connectivity so your new artificial maid can make your life even easier. If you simply want the cleaning done for you and you’re not a smartphone aficionado, there’s no need to get hung up on this issue. With all features, you should ask yourself how it will benefit you rather than looking for unnecessary bells and whistles.
Price should always play a part in any buying decision but should never be the sole determining factor.
With many basic products, there’s little real difference between the cheaper and more expensive options. We can’t claim this logic holds true with most robotic vacuums. You might find the odd model like the eufy we review come in at a keen price without stiffing you on the cleaning front but generally, you’ll get what you pay for with a robotic vacuum.
If you’re strapped for cash but still determined to buy a robovac, why not consider an older model from one of the better manufacturers? That way, you’ll end up with a robot from a brand you can rely on without needing to take out a bank loan.
Robotic Vacuums: The Advantages and Drawbacks
You should now have a sound idea of whether or not a robotic vacuum would make your life easier or represent a waste of money.
Before we briefly explore a trio of the very best robovacs, we’ve whittle down the upsides and drawbacks of these smart cleaning appliances so you can see at a glance whether you feel robot vacuums are worthwhile.
- Save Time and Effort: Obviously, the fact your new vacuum will clean without your physical input saves you both time and effort on an ongoing basis. You can kick back and rack up your Fire TV while your robot does all the hard work for you
- Programmability: Not only can you get the cleaning done when you’re not at home, but you can also schedule exactly when you’d like it to happen. The all-around convenience of robots is perhaps the main reason anyone invests
- Quieter Than Regular Vacuums: A standard vacuum can kick up quite a racket but most robovacs are practically whisper-quiet
- Deep Clean Every Time Right To The Edges: Where earlier versions of robotic vacuums offered patchy performance, the newer and smarter models can equal or even outflank manual vacuums leaving your home cleaner than ever before
- Compact Space-Savers: The size and shape of robovacs allow you to store them away even in limited spaces so they’re perfect if you live in a smaller apartment with restricted storage space.
- Low Maintenance: Demanding very little by the way of upkeep beyond ditching the dirt every few cycles and occasionally swapping out the filter, you barely need to do a thing with a robotic vacuum on your team
- Price: As with any automated kit, you can expect to pay a premium. We would urge you to consider overall value rather than focusing purely on the bottom line, though. Also, prices are still in decline so you can pick up a relative steal as the eufy we review makes crystal clear
- Can’t Clean The Stairs: Unable to deal with cleaning stairs, you should hold onto your old vacuum so you can keep the whole house in order including the staircases and all above-floor cleaning like curtains and furniture.
- Snags With Some Carpet Patterns: If you have carpeting with black patches on, the sensors on your robovac might assume it’s a drop-off point and fail to clean that area properly
As you can see, the shower of benefits served up when you automate your cleaning greatly outweigh the drawbacks. We’ve omitted factors like the time it takes for a robovac to clean from the negative column since it’s almost irrelevant. You can get the job done automatically even if you’re not at home so what difference does it make if it takes twice as long as cleaning by hand?
Having loaded you up with theory, it’s time to get practical with a brief look at some of the leading robovacs on the market.
3 of The Best Robot Vacuums
Strangely enough, some of the biggest names roundly disappoint when it comes to robotic vacuums…
Dyson, such a dominant force in the regular vacuum space, failed to deliver enormously with the 360 Eye. We can only hope the 360 Heurist improves on this limp debut, a robotic vacuum almost universally reviled. That said, the prototype Dyson DC06 from 2001 was too pricey and flawed to even make it into production at all.
Samsung, stalwart of the smart home scene and responsible for the outstanding SmartThings set-up came up woefully short with the weak PowerBOT, not particularly cheap and a poor performer across the whole range.
So, now you’ve got an idea of what to avoid, we’ve got 3 far superior and cheaper robotic vacuums well worth further investigation if you think by now that robotic vacuums might be worth a shot after all.
When you think of robotic vacuums, iRobot is a class-leader with an impressive range of which the Roomba 890 sits near the top, just below the hard-hitting 900 series. Despite such excellence, the price is so keen it should fit most budgets.
Program your new domestic helper to clean up to 7 times weekly confident the AeroForce filter will capture the vast bulk of even the smallest particles. You can take charge of everything in-app on your smart phone making this the ideal workhorse for your connected home.
Smart sensors help Roomba intelligently make its way around your home without taking a tumble down the stairs. Far more powerful than the cheaper 600 and 700 series, the 890 punches above its weight.
Unlike many robot vacuums, iRobot excels across all surfaces so it’s perfect if your home has mixed flooring with carpets in the lounge and hardwood or laminate flooring elsewhere.
Perhaps the best part of iRobot is the fact it’s always primed for action. It makes it way back to the dock when it needs some juice so it won’t let you down mid-cycle.
For a hard-hitting robovac to simplify the tedious routine of vacuuming the whole house, you really can’t go wrong with iRobot Roomba 890.
- Outstanding price to performance ratio from a brand synonymous with the very best robot vacuums
- Integrates well with smart homes and compatible with both Alexa and Google Assistant allowing you to control your vacuum with voice commands
- 3-stage cleaning system for a deeper clean combined with nimble navigation so you’ll get your rooms scoured thoroughly from edge-to-edge with no effort required on your part
- Some users have complained Roomba fails to pick up pet hair as efficiently as claimed
- You’ll need an Alexa-enabled device like Echo to use your favorite digital butler
Marginally more expensive than Roomba, the Neato Robotics D5 is a highly capable robotic vacuum in stealthy matte black that would slot very neatly into any smart home.
We picked our way through the comprehensive line of models and opted for the D5 as best overall value without sacrificing cleaning performance. The laser navigation system is a far cry from the random patterns of less effective robovacs.
The D5 is another highly capable vacuum across all flooring. Picking up fully 99% of the finest particles and airborne pathogens, you can get your house cleaned without all those contaminants being belched back into the atmosphere.
With an hour and a half of oomph before it needs a boost of charge, you won’t come home to find the job unfinished and the robot back at home base. Should it happen to run out of battery mid-cycle, it will limp back to the base station under its own steam. When powered up, it will carry on exactly where it left off.
For a versatile and efficient robotic vacuum putting the earlier, flawed robots to shame, road test the Neato Robotics D5 and we can safely say you’ll be impressed.
- Generous 90 minutes of runtime on a single charge so ideal even for sprawling homes
- Substantial dirt container so get more done without needing to ditch the contents
- Multiple methods of control from Alexa and Google Home through Neato Chatbot if you’re a Facebook fan or IFTTT
- You’ll need an Alexa-enabled device or Google Home if you want to take charge that way
While the eufy RoboVac stands tall against the opposition, it comes in at roughly half the price of most other robotic vacuums so makes a perfect match for anyone on a tight budget not prepared to sacrifice quality to get a bargain.
Coming with 3 modes and super-strong suction, you’ll get the edges of your rooms impeccably cleaned while being able to amp up the power for any high-traffic areas or even spot clean stubborn messes.
Alongside that raw power, you’ll get a pair of regular filters backed up by another high-performance filter making RoboVac ideal for asthma sufferers or anyone with an allergy.
The rolling brush is supplemented with a couple edge brushes so you’ll get a fine finish every time without needing to break a sweat or even be at home.
The eufy RoboVac is a versatile all-rounder at a price you’ll love so why not pop to the store and give one a go? Even if you plan to buy online – and let’s be honest, you’ll get a better deal if you do – there’s no harm in some active window shopping so you can try before you buy.
- Another solid performer in terms of battery life with a full 90 minutes of life
- Low-slung design helps your robot to work its way under furniture for a thorough clean throughout the whole house
- Triple-filtration to keep the air in your home as spotless as the floors you can have cleaned without lifting a finger using 1 of 3 modes
- A few niggles about loss of power and performance over time but you need to be realistic at this price-point
So there we have it…
While the decision is largely personal and subjective, we’d have to say that in 2018, robotic vacuums are certainly well worth the relatively modest investment.
After all, with the price of high-end vacuums comparable to decent robovacs and the cost of these intelligent cleaners continuing to plummet while functionality keeps on improving, buying into a robotic vac is an extremely attractive option, For more content on smart home devices, visit the smart home blog.