Do you dread the never endless chore of vacuuming? Has vacuuming become increasingly hard to do – maybe hurting your back? Do you wish there was a way you could have a cleaner floor without the manual labor? Well, there is. Robotic vacuums are here to vacuum anytime you want to. However, before clicking that buy now button, there are options you’ll want to consider. In this Robotic Vacuum Cleaner Buying Guide, I point out, explore, and explain some of those options.
How Does a Robotic Vacuum Work?
Without getting too technical, robot or robotic vacuums are usually circular. As they make their way around your home or office, they use sensors, cameras, and possibly lasers to navigate the area. These sensors allow them to perceive obstacles, such as furniture and walls and then turn in a different direction. With something called mapping (see more information below), the robot uses these sensors, cameras, and lasers to remember the path for future jobs. When it’s done with cleaning or when it runs low on its battery charge, it will return to its charging station.
What are Some Options and Features You’ll Want to Consider?
If you suffer from allergies or have someone in the household with respiratory issues, then you’ll want to consider an anti-allergen vacuum – one with a HEPA filter or allergen bags. The HEPA filter will help capture dust mites, pollen, and mold, contributing to many people’s allergies. One reasonably priced vacuum that does come with a HEPA filter and has gotten good reviews is the GOOVI 1600 PA.
Boundary strips can be laid down to prevent your robot from going to an area you don’t want it to go to. Let’s say you have pets, and you don’t want the vacuum hitting their water bowl – you can put a boundary strip down, and it will let the vacuum know not to go into that area. Maybe there is a play area with small toys scattered, and you want the vacuum to avoid that area. Not all vacuums come with boundary strips. The Eufy by Anker has this feature.
Boost Technology will automatically increase the suction power within 1.5 seconds when extra vacuuming strength is needed to get the best clean.
Charging Stations, aka docks, is where your vacuum will recharge to get ready for more use. There are two types of charging stations; manual and automatic. With the manual type, when the vacuum loses its charge or is done cleaning, you take it to the docking station to charge. And like you might expect, an automatic charging station occurs when the vacuum knows the battery charge is low and automatically returns to the charging station on its own to charge.
How long does it take to charge your vacuum? If time is not of the essence and say you have overnight to charge, this might not be an issue for you. However, if you want a quicker turnaround charge time, then look at the charging time. Charging times can vary by model, but generally, it takes 2-3 hours for a complete charge.
Amount of Coverage
One of the first options you’ll want to consider is what amount of coverage you need? Some robotic vacuums are suitable for a small home, apartment, or townhouse. These, however, may be impractical for a larger home. If you have a larger home having a vacuum that holds a charge longer could be something you want to look at.
How long will the battery charge last? Some robotic vacuums are suitable for a small home, apartment, or townhouse, coming with a shorter charge time. These, however, may be impractical for a larger home. If you have a larger home having a vacuum that holds a charge longer would be something you want to look at. If you start your vacuum, do you want it to finish the job in one charge? Then you want a longer run time. If you use your vacuum when you’re away from home, the amount of time it needs to recharge might not matter. For the most part, robotic vacuums will hold their charge from an hour up to 120 minutes.
The climbing threshold is the height of a threshold that the vacuum can transition over. It’s simple to find out just how much of a climbing ability you’ll want your vacuum to have. It’s as simple as just measuring the height of all the thresholds in your home to ensure your vacuum can accommodate them. If the vacuum doesn’t have enough climbing ability, the robotic vacuum will stop and turn and go in another direction if the threshold is too high.
What is mapping? Mapping is the ability of the vacuum to learn a home’s floor plan. This will allow the vacuum to clean your home the most efficiently. Robotic vacuums come with and without mapping capabilities. Mapping tends to do a better job of cleaning areas, and it allows the vacuum to know where it has already cleaned so it doesn’t repeat itself if it should it need to recharge in the middle of cleaning – once it recharges, it will start where it left off.
As your vacuum makes its way through cleaning your floors, it will pick up debris, much like a regular vacuum. Your vacuum will come with a bin that collects the debris. Do you mind emptying it yourself or prefer your vacuum to have an automatic disposal function, allowing for virtually hands-off vacuuming? Self-emptying vacuums usually are more expensive. A well-known, trusted brand, iRobot, which has this as a feature is the iRobot Roomba i7.
Suction Power is the amount of pull the vacuum has. The higher the suction power, the more it will be able to suction or suck in. This becomes important, especially if you have a heavy traffic area to clean and need a heavy-duty vacuum. Do you have pets that shed, children, or grandchildren that seem to have dirt follow them? If so, you will want to look at a higher suction capacity than maybe someone who lives alone. Without getting too technical, the suction power is listed as the number of PA or KPA – the higher the number, the higher the suction power.
Type of Flooring
Do you have carpet, hardwood tile floors, or a combination? For convenience, if you have a mix, you will want to look for a robotic vacuum that will transition between them, such as the iMartine. If you have only wood floors, then there won’t be a need for your robot to have the ability to do carpet. If you have a high pile carpet, but you chose a vacuum that does only wood, tile, and laminate flooring, you will surely be disappointed. Do be aware that robotic vacuums cannot go up and down stairs as of this post. If you have stairs in your home, you will need to find another way to clean them.
Yes, there are even robotic models that have a combination of vacuum and mop. An example of this is the Roborock S5 Max. If you have tile floors that you mop, this might be a viable option for you. Most of the combination models will vacuum and mop simultaneously – taking care of two tasks that will allow you more free time. After the vacuum has done its job, you won’t have to finish up with mopping – getting a combination vacuum/mop does it all for you.
Is WiFi required to run a robotic vacuum?
Most vacuums do not require a WiFi connection. Most will allow you to push the clean button to start the cleaning process, and it will return to its charger/dock when it is done or low on charge.
However, if you want to take advantage of features such as scheduling, cleaning preferences, mapping, the ability to control from a smartphone while away from home, and other features, WiFi is a must in these instances. If you decide on purchasing a robotic vacuum without WiFi capability, some benefits will not work, so be sure to research what ones do and do not need a WiFi connection.
Alexa and Echo
Some vacuums can connect with Alexa or Echo. Using Alexa/Echo, you can ask them to have your vacuum perform such tasks as to start cleaning, to return to the dock, or even to schedule a cleaning.
One of the features I find helpful is scheduling cleanings. I can program my vacuum to clean on certain days, and it will automatically do so on that day and time—effortless cleaning at its best.
Are replacement parts readily available? Can you buy them at a local store, or do you need to order them from the manufacturer? This might not seem too important, well, until you have company coming over this weekend, and your vacuum needs a particular part, and you need it now. No time to wait for parts that take three weeks to arrive. Just something to keep in mind.
A warranty or guarantee is something you’ll want to look into. Though most products today offer this type of service, there are still some that do not. A couple of items to consider – how long is the warranty for? Is there a money-back guarantee, and if so, how soon do you need to return the vacuum to qualify. Are there specific conditions you need to meet, and what are the conditions that can terminate your warranty/guarantee? Who’s responsible for shipping costs? Though your machine is new, you never know when you might need to use a warranty, and you will be glad you have one if you do.
Cost is always a factor with a purchase. Is a less expensive model as good as one that costs more – at times. Does the more expensive model offer you more features – many times. One way to help you decide is to make a list of options available with robotic vacuums. Then think about which options you can live without and which are most important to you. This will give you a starting point as to which vacuum is the right choice for you.
A Few Final Words
I hope you found reading this Robotic Vacuum Cleaner Buying Guide helpful in your quest to understand the workings and options available with robotic vacuums. If you’ve decided you would like to purchase a robotic vacuum or want more information on particular models, have a look at 5 Best Robot Vacuum Cleaners, where I compare and review 5 of the best robotic vacuum cleaners available.
Do you have a robotic vacuum – what are some pros and cons you have found? Please comment below.