KMPC staff writer
Robot Vacuums In 2020
Wave of the Future
Robot Vacuums are no longer a new thing. They have been on consumer markets for over a decade now and what was once novelty is now clear to have a place in our homes in the future. According to Consumer Reports “Annual sales are forecast to rise… to $2.5 billion by the end of 2021, according to Future Market Insights.” https://www.consumerreports.org/robotic-vacuums/can-a-robotic-vacuum-replace-your-canister-or-upright/
Some of our clients have incorporated a robot vacuum into their cleaning routine. We can speak from experience and say that they do an adequate job of vacuuming, i.e. removing dry soil and pet hair from hard floors and carpet. A trained Carpet Cleaning Technician can certainly tell if a carpet has been maintained by frequent vacuum cleaning or not. A carpet that has been vacuumed regularly will always clean up (with Hot Water Extraction) better than a carpet that has not. As far as we can tell those of our clients who now have a robot vacuum as part of their cleaning routine have a machine that does its job pretty well.
Attention to Detail
The attention to detail works both in favor and against the Robot Vacuums. Most are of a round shape and therefore cannot always get into the corners. However, there are specially designed robot vacuum (more of a D-shape) for this purpose. They perform rather well at cleaning along the edges of the room and baseboards where accessible like in a hallway for instance. This is because of the way the brushes are working on the bottom of the unit, brushing the soil, dust, and debris towards the vacuum inlet.
Due to the low profile, most models can clean under large contents such as beds, some couches, and coffee tables. This is a huge plus for some homeowners because moving furniture to vacuum is difficult. However, this only works if those areas are clear of debris and high enough off the ground. The average profile of a Robot Vacuum is under 4 inches in height.
Nothing Better To Do But Vacuum
Another point in favor of Robot Vacuums is just how thorough they can be. Vacuuming with an upright vacuum is hard work with a repetitive back and forth motion. If we tire out while vacuuming, we will often start to take the easy way out. The Carpet and Rug Institute states that, “A quick once-over doesn’t do much. Slow and steady does the trick.” https://carpet-rug.org/carpet-for-homes/cleaning-and-maintenance/ It is recommended to take 3-6 passes over each area and from multiple directions. It takes a lot of time to do this and vacuuming is not usually what we want to spend our time doing!
A good quality Robot Vacuum can meticulously pass over a room, row by row, vacuuming every inch of the floor. With planed routes and cleaning times the Robot can move through your home while you are away, although, there is some prep work needed for things to run smoothly while you are away. “Robotics are best for uncluttered rooms with bare floors or low-pile rugs,” says Susan Booth, CR’s lead vacuum test engineer. https://www.consumerreports.org/robotic-vacuums/can-a-robotic-vacuum-replace-your-canister-or-upright/. This means you will need to pick up any items that may clog or get in the path of the vacuum. Some models are rather crafty at avoiding obstacles and getting themselves unstuck but some owners have come home to find their robot in a different room out of range of the Docking Station or stuck on a transition from hard floor to carpet.
“Check your expectations. Most robotic vacuums won’t fully replace upright vacuums with large canisters. However, they’re great for providing a quick sweep between larger cleaning jobs.” https://bestreviews.com/best-robotic-vacuums
Several side by side comparisons have been done and always show that a traditional upright style vacuum out performs by picking up over 60% of the debris particles from carpet while the Robot only removes about 20%-30%. This makes the Robot a perfect fit for maintenance and daily touch-ups, but it should not entirely replace a through vacuum cleaning with an upright vacuum. The power an upright vacuum draws from an electrical outlet is far greater than any battery can offer. In short the Battery powered Robots have “…Less power…Robotic vacuum cleaners lack the power of traditional vacuums. You simply can’t get a super deep clean with a robotic vacuum. We recommend using it often in combination with a traditional vacuum for heavily soiled areas or on dense surfaces like shag carpeting.” https://bestreviews.com/best-robotic-vacuums. Battery power and battery life also vary greatly. The best ones can have up to a 2-hour run time which in some cases could move through your entire house on one charge. Others have reported to have far less battery life meaning the Robot needs to charge on the dock more often. Therefore, it takes it longer to complete the job because of the frequent breaks in activity.
The robot does need some human intervention to frequently empty the canister (depending on the size of the canister and the amount of soil in your home) and to periodically change the filters and brushes. The latest advancement in Robot Vacuums is the Marketing of the “Self-Cleaning” feature that “Automatically empties the bin on its own, so you don’t have to think about vacuuming for weeks at a time.” As stated on store.irobot.com. The average canister size is about the size of a plastic water bottle and these models boast that it can hold 30 canisters of soil before a human needs to empty the enclosed, disposable bag at the Docking Station.
Most of the higher priced models use HEPA filters to keep allergens and pollutants from re-entering the air which is crucial to maintain indoor air quality. Replacement parts are reasonably priced with full kits including brushes and filters priced between $15 - $40 online. New wheels are also inexpensive around $8 per wheel. Replacement rechargeable batteries are about $25 each and should have to be purchased infrequently.
As technology and reliability improve Robot Vacuums may become a standard household appliance. But as it stands now, a high-quality upright vacuum with Disposable Bag and HEPA filter will cost about $550. This is by far what any IICRC (https://www.iicrc.org/) or CRI (https://carpet-rug.org/) Certified Cleaning Firm would recommend for the best results. But keep in mind the continuing cost of replacement bags, filters and your labor to do the chore.
The robots have a wide price range anywhere from a couple hundred bucks on the low end to almost $1,500 for a high end model with Bluetooth and Mapping Technology. The features and performance vary greatly from model to model so some consumer research should be done prior to purchase. There are plenty of blogs and online resources comparing the models to help you choose the right one for your budget and needs. This one is current and straight to the point highlighting the Pros and Cons of each model. https://bestreviews.com/best-robotic-vacuums
So for now equation stands: the cost of a high quality Robot Vacuum is more than double the price of a high quality Upright Vacuum. The Robot Vacuums have 30%-40% less cleaning ability but offer the convenience of saving you up to 2 hours a week on chores. How does that equation balance out for you?