While flying cars are yet to see the light of day, autonomous robot vacuum cleaners have been a reality for some time now. Although they will not be replacing a human maid anytime soon, these house cleaning bots can buzz around your home and suck up dirt and debris. At first glance, these robotic house cleaners seem like something you cannot live without. A robot that cleans your home while you sit back and relax; what more can anybody ask for? Unfortunately, they do come with a set of limitations and they are well short of being the perfect cleaning machines some of you think they are. With companies placing new-gen models at expensive price points, it begs the question of whether they are worth buying. Following is a list of robot vacuum benefits and drawbacks that will help you figure things out.
They require almost no effort
Now, we say ‘almost’ no effort because you still have to clean the filter and collection bag every now and then. Sometimes, when they can find their way to the charging bay, you have to carry them back. Other than these simple chores, cleaning is completely automatic and requires no human intervention. This undoubtedly is the numero uno selling point of all robot vacs.
Most are cheaper than hiring a maid
When you factor in the cost of hiring a maid, robot vacs seem pretty cheap. Even though good robotic vacuums have a steep sticker price, the cost of running them on a monthly basis is almost nil. For the cost of hiring a maid for one month, you will able to buy one of the best robotic vacs in the market and still have money to spare.
You can schedule them
Imagine this scenario. You have to leave your home, but you want the floors cleaned by the time you get back. If you are the happy owner a robotic vacuum, you can schedule a clean. This way you don’t have to cross paths with your robotic cleaning pal when you are at home. Simply put, your home stays clean and you don’t even need to witness the cleaning process.
Newer units even come with smartphone apps to help you speed this process. Here’s i.e. a map of my condo made by the Mi app, with data from the Xiaomi robot vacuum. I intentionally left some doors closed, because I didn’t have time to declutter the rooms. Nevertheless, notice the neat coverage and the charging dock which is located in the middle of the map, in my living room. The bubble from that room are in fact the legs of my couch.
They can go underneath the furniture
Cleaning the years of accumulated dust underneath heavy furniture is a backbreaking chore. Thankfully, a slim robot vacuum can get the job done without you breaking a sweat. Most advanced models know how to work tricky corners and maneuver around obstacles to deliver a complete clean.
They can clean up a messy spot
Some models come with a Spot Cleaning feature. This enables them to clean a particular area rather than cleaning the entire home. You can quickly deal with a sudden spill situation without having to clean it up yourself.
Manual pre-cleaning/decluttering is necessary
Like it or not, you need to do a pre-clean before setting the robot free. This is because the robot does not know the difference between dirt and something like a small Lego piece. Unless you want coins, small toy pieces, rubber bands, and other stuff go missing from the floor, you need to quickly scan your home before letting Wall-E work its magic.
Performance wise, they are not as good as you doing a manual clean
If you are switching from a human maid to a robotic vac then prepare yourself for a poorer clean. That’s right, even the most sophisticated and expensive bots out there cannot match the mopping and cleaning skills of a human. Yet.
The good ones are expensive
The quality of the clean is highly dependent on the model you pick. The Newer generation of robovacs come with a wide range of sophisticated sensors to ensure an efficient clean. However, new tech comes at a price. To give you an idea, the latest Roomba 980 and Dyson 360 Eye models can go as much as $1000. If you decide to get cheaper models, then there is a good chance that you will not be satisfied with the cleaning results. However, there are a few exceptions to the rule. The Xiaomi unit costs around $350 and really delivers.
They can run out of battery
If you have a big home, then there is a chance that your robot cleaner will run out of juice before it cleans the entire floor area. Premium products usually don’t face this problem, but if you bought a cheaper model, there is a chance that it will happen often. If you don’t have a bot that can make its way back to its charging dock, then the frequent chore of charging it yourself will get on your nerves. Apart from that, you would also need to replace the batteries after a set number of cleaning runs, which adds to the maintenance cost.
The question of privacy
Newer models come with the possibility of mapping their customer’s home. This technology helps them navigate the floor and deliver an efficient clean. The mapped data of the customers’ floor plan is sometimes stored in a cloud network, or sent directly to the server of the producer. For some customers, this is a serious threat because anything on the internet is susceptible to hacking. And some manufacturers such as iRobot even plan on selling this data. I’ve found a really nice conversation over this matter here.
Some get stuck
This has been a problem ever since the first Roomba model. Robot vacuums often find it difficult to navigate out of tricky corners, especially if they don’t do mapping. Not being able to sense low-hanging obstacles, there have been reported numerous instances where robot vacuums got stuck.
Full floor coverage is not guaranteed
Some “dumb” robots do not come with mapping features. This means they move around the house somewhat randomly and react to obstacles as they encounter them. These models often end up cleaning the same area multiple times while not cleaning some areas at all. iLife vacuums i.e., such as the V5S Pro below, have this problem. They compensate things by “brute force”: their batteries are among the best on the market.
Cleaning takes more time
A robot vacuum is much slower when compared to a human with a traditional vacuum cleaner. They take their own sweet time to understand the different obstacles on the floor and navigate around them. This means you are forced to listen to the buzzing sound of the cleaner for a while. Luckily, most can be scheduled or left to work on their own.
To sum things up, robot vacs are a great solution for busy individuals who cannot afford to hire a maid. They get the job done with little to no supervision. However, buying a robot vacuum is a big investment and the least you can do is know what you are paying for. Where most people go wrong is that they set their expectation too high and end up spending hundreds of dollars to bring home the latest model, without understanding its limitations.