Robot Vacuums: Are They Really Worth It?

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Robot Vacuums: Are They Really Worth It?


Picture this… 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.

Filtration System

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.

Maintenance

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.

Connectivity

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

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 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.


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