Robotic Vacuum: We Aren’t There Yet

Advice On Robotic Vacuums

  • I have 4 robotic vacuums in the house. Two Samsung’s, one Roomba, and One Neato. The Samsung’s are new but we’ve had Roombas and Neato for over 5 years and having just freed one of the Samsung’s for the second time today (typically it gets stuck 3-4 times in the same vicinity every day) figured I would share best practices with a robotic vacuum as well as some advice on selecting one because they sure as hell aren’t created equal.

    We’ll start by house layout and furniture choices.

    The Ideal House For A Robotic Vacuum

    The ideal house for a Robotic Vacuum is a single-story home with tile or hardwood floors. This is because Robotic Vacuum’s don’t do stairs and if you want them to start and stop automatically and not carry them from floor to floor you’ll need a different Robotic Vacuum for each floor which can add up. Robotic Vacuums don’t deal well with cords on the floor nor chairs and tables with closely spaced legs that can catch them. Worse are chairs we have which have a U-shaped metal base on the floor which forms a really nice trap for the Samsung Vacuums.

    Also, avoid couches, chairs and beds that stand up from the ground 4 to 5 inches, or around the height of the Robotic Vacuum you have purchased because it may drive underneath and get stuck and it if is far enough back it’ll take you a bit to both find and extract it. Right now, vacuuming under low furniture isn’t something any of these do well.

    Now the reason hard tile or wood floors are generally better is because you can use cheaper sweeper products and not the more expensive true vacuums and there are mopping products like the Rumba Scuba that really do a nice job now on this class of floor.

    Doing carpet is far tougher because the unit has to pull dirt up and a sweeper can’t do that well. In addition, these are relatively small units so their suction is typically far less than a regular vacuum cleaner at half or less of their price.

    So, if you have a house with lots of cords on the floor and or furniture that will catch Robotic Vacuums I’d avoid these solutions right now in favor of more traditional solutions. But, if you don’t, these things actually work rather well now.

    Picking A Robotic Vacuum

    Generally, if you have hardwood or tile floors the lower cost Roomba sweepers and the Roomba Scuba mobile vacuum is your best choice. If you have to deal with footprints a lot you may appreciate the more expensive Scuba but realize, since is uses fluid and has to be placed in a cradle, it won’t truly operate automatically. I’ve found that the combination of the Scuba with something else works best as a result.

    On carpets the Neato Robotic Vacuum seems to do the best job and because it typically does a better job of mapping the room and then vacuuming it methodically it creates nice straight, even, vacuum lines on the rug while other brands tend to bounce around a lot leaving marks that look like whoever vacuumed was drunk. Be aware that the dirt bin on these things is a fraction of what you’d get in a full-sized vacuum so, if you have pets or kids, you might prefer something with a bigger bin.

    I’ve been surprisingly impressed with the Samsung’s Robotic Vacuums with one exception and that is the Wi-Fi feature. Like a lot of products in market that don’t use Qualcomm radios the connections just don’t work so you end up paying extra for something that doesn’t function and, without the connection, you can’t update the device which otherwise would be unique asset. They do have a decent sized bin and good suction but they don’t map the room as well as a Neato. Granted with what has been happening with some Samsung phones and washing machines, I’m just glad the things haven’t caught fire or exploded at this point.

    The Dyson looked promising but it is not only the most expensive in class users have broadly panned it suggesting that it will need one or two more versions before it can get a glowing recommendation.

    Wrapping Up:

    If you have the right house and right Robotic Vacuum the result is actually pretty good. We have two dogs and two cats and are reasonably happy with the work these things do, but, be aware we also have a maid service that comes in regularly to get what these vacuums miss. Someday we’ll have a robotic cleaning solution that will replace that service but that that isn’t today.

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