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7 Things You Should Know Before Buying Your First Robot Vacuum

Cleaning! Sweeping! Mopping!
Arghhhh.

Young Woman Hates Cleaning The House
Young Woman Hates Cleaning The House

The feeling is 10X worse right after a long tedious day at work. Life should be fun. Enjoyable.

You Only Live Once → YOLO.

I say ditch all the mundane tedious house chores! We gotta evolve! But how?

There are ONLY 3 Options:

  1. Clean yourself
  2. Ask your family members to clean (Smart, cheap and can bonding!)
  3. Hire a full time maid/domestic helper
  4. Get a Robot vacuum

Out of the 4 options, I think the robot vacuum option is the most balanced one as first, you don’t have to spend a bomb feeding someone under your roof, and secondly, you don’t have to do the house chores yourself. Double Win. Yay  ✌

You don’t have to see your family members giving you the sour face either. Triple Win I say! HAHA

So today I will be sharing a few tips on what to look for before you buy your very first robot vacuum. This will act as a general guideline without going into too specific details. We will save that for another day.

Generally, we regard the purchase of a robot vacuum as a significant investment into our home as robot vacuum is not relatively cheap compared to other home appliances such as toaster, oven etc.

A wrong purchase might destroy your first impression on the wonders of a robot vacuum.

And even worse is letting your other half nag at you for making such silly purchase.

So without further ado, follow us as we guide you on your very first robot vacuum purchase!

1. Identify Your House Size

This is the most important step. Do not skip this step. 

First, study how big your house is before you start searching for robot vacuums. As every brand has a wide range of robots to cater for different household needs.

For example, most entry level robot vacuum could only cover 1000sqft space as it does not have a “Recharge & Resume” feature which is only available in the top range robots.

So if you live in a house that is below 1200sqft, it is very likely the entry level robot vacuum will do the work fine for you. Unless of course you are looking for extra advanced features such as stronger suction power, systematic navigation, zone cleaning and so forth.

But if you are living in a hugeeeeee house (1800 sqft and above), you will need to look for robot vacuums that have “Recharge & Resume” feature.

Why do I say so?

That is because, the running time of a robot vacuum is determined primarily by the battery capacity. Technically, a bigger battery power will enable the robot to clean for longer hours, but it does not make sense to fit a super large battery into it just for this purpose. This is where the “Recharge & Resume” feature comes into play.

With this feature, the robot is able to identify and map your floor layout enabling it to remember which area has been cleaned and which has not been cleaned yet. With this mapping, once the robot detects that it’s running low on battery, it will return to its home base for a recharge. Once the battery is charged, it will resume from where it left off. All of this is done automatically without any human intervention. You just sit back and relax.

2. Do You Have Pets?

Dogs are Man’s Best Friend.

Pets are Man’s Best Friend. 

As much as we love them, we can’t deny that sometimes we are still annoyed with their excessive fur shedding (seasonal) and their furballs rolling right in front of your eyes. Ha!

We would strongly recommend looking for a robot vacuum that has stronger suction power to pick up even the thickest furballs on the floor.

With great power, comes great responsibility.

With great suction, comes great noise. AFAIK, Neato probably has the strongest suction power in the market, and they are the noisiest in the whole pack. Technology has improved a lot these days, but the general idea is still the same.

An example: A high powered-petrol car produces loud engine noise as well. Think Ferrari.

Besides having strong suction power, you should (highly recommended) to get one with HEPA filter.

In short, a HEPA filter traps 99.7% of the air particles such as pollen, mold, etc to keep the air within your home fresh and clean. We will explain this further in our next point.

The next additional feature that pet owners might want to consider is the brush attachment. With the traditional roller bristle brush, hairs or furs get tangled easily and it might be a tad of a hassle to clean it up. Usually you will have to take a pair of scissors and cut through the lump of hairs. Some brands do provide a special hair cutter for their brushes.

So what can be the better hassle free way? 

There are 2 more different types of brush attachment in the market. First is iRobot Aeroforce Tangle Free Extractor Brush and the other one is Vacuum Port Suction only attachment.

The Suction Port Attachment looks as below:

Using the attachment, all dust and hairs will be sucked into the dustbin directly. Such attachment are usually seen on China brands like iLIFE, ECOVACS.

The only downside is if there’s a slightly stickier mess on the floor, the suction strength alone will not be able to pick it up compared to the brushes style. There could be multiple arguments regarding the effectiveness of such attachment, but we have not seen the more popular brands adopting it. Top brands are still relying on brushes to maximize floor cleaning. That brings us to the next brush technology from iRobot.

The iRobot Aeroforce Tangle Free Extractor Brush is their most revolutionary design to date. It is only available for higher end models, starting from the 800 Series (Roomba 890, 880, 860), Roomba 900 Series (Roomba 980, 970, 960), Roomba e Series (Roomba e6, e5), Roomba i Series (Roomba i7, i7+), Roomba s Series (Roomba s9, s9+).

The iRobot Extractor Brush comes in a pair to create a dual force cleaning effect on the floor. The newly designed brush has grooves on it that breaks down hairs into smaller parts while cleaning. The shorter hair/fur is now easier to be sucked into the dustbin.

WARNING: for long hair or furs, the extractor might not be able to do a great job in keeping it totally tangle free. But from many of our customers’ feedback, the new rubber extractor does a pretty good job in terms of less tangled hair on the rubber brush.

There is also a downside of the rubber brush. After a prolonged usage of the rubber brush, it might get worn out and need a new replacement usually around 1-2 years time, depending again on how you use it.

So for non-pet owners, what do I need?

Well, the core idea is still the same, you should look for strong suction power. HEPA filters are a good addition if your budget allows it as only top tier brands comes with HEPA filter and we will go through it in our next point.

3. Do You Suffer from Allergies?

Sinusitis (runny stuffy nose, sneezing, morning flu) and atopic dermatitis (itchy or rash on skin) are pretty common allergies.

These are caused usually from allergens such as dust mites, mold, animal dander.

We can’t do much about it as technically there is NO CURE for allergies

BUT….

Nobody says we can’t do anything to alleviate our symptoms!

So how does a robot vacuum help alleviate allergic symptoms?

A good robot vacuum will come equipped with a HEPA filter system. Also for your information, only a select few brands (iRobot, Neato, Dyson) in the market truly offers HEPA filters for their robot vacuum. Most of the other China brands are using non-HEPA filters. They usually claim it’s a High-Performance filter, but never HEPA. Do not get misled by them.

So what does a HEPA filter do? 

As mentioned earlier, a HEPA filter traps 99.7% of the air particles such as pollen, mold, etc to keep the air within your home fresh and clean. When you have allergies, you should change the filter on a regular basis.

If you have any of the above symptoms, please please please do me a favour. Get yourself a robot vacuum that comes with HEPA filter. We have written extensively on the benefits of HEPA Filter for allergy sufferers. If you want to know more about HEPA filter and its benefit, read here:

What is HEPA Filter  and How Do They Work

Robots that comes with HEPA filter are usually more expensive at the first glance. But it usually becomes a worthwhile investment once you start seeing your symptoms alleviated.

We have quite a number of customers that swear by it.

For non-allergy sufferers, you are very lucky as you can go with about any robot vacuums in the market. But we still strongly recommend getting one with HEPA filter if your budget allows.

Remember,

“The first wealth is Health”

“You can’t enjoy wealth IF you are not in GOOD Health”

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/allergies/symptoms-causes/syc-20351497

Navigation system

At the moment there are 3 different types of navigation used in the market and I will explain briefly the methodology of each navigation.

1. Bump and run

These bump and run robot vacuums are most commonly found on entry level robots. The robot will move in a straight line till it bumps into an obstacle (wall, couch, furnitures) and turn into a different angle and move again till it bumps into the next obstacle.

The better robots which uses this methodology employs wall following technology, edge cleaning, and also Dirt Detection technology (*hint hint* iRobot Roomba 690, 890, e6). Dirt Detection technology means the bot cleans the spot in a back and forth motion multiple times when it detects a spot with higher than normal level of dirt.

The bump and run method does look dumb to the naked eye. But from our experience, this method can clean as well as the higher end models utilizing laser and/or camera mapping. It might miss certain spots here and there, but it will surely get them tomorrow. Or the day after.

For this method to work flawlessly, you have to keep the robot working in a confined space that is around 1000-1200sqft. The robot manufacturers are aware of these limitations and that is why they provide Auto Lighthouse, Virtual Walls or Wall Barrier to restrict the robot movement in a smaller area. Anything larger, the robot might miss more spots.

The important key point here is this: you have to schedule the robot to run everyday. You have already invested in a robot vacuum, you should maximize the usage by making it work work work. Day in day out. And FYI, I’m not asking you to abuse the robot. HAHAHA.

If you live in a large house (more than 1800sqft per floor), you could still use these bump and run robots to clean, but it will require more work as once you have clean say Section 1, you have to move the robot into Section 2 to start the cleaning process again and so forth.

Therefore, if you live in a large house we would recommend getting a smarter robot that uses Laser and/or Camera Mapping. Which brings us to the next point.

2. Laser Mapping (LIDAR)

Laser mapping robot uses LIDAR to scan the room before it starts its cleaning job. Laser mapping technology is first used by Neato when all other robots at that time are still using the bump and run method. Neato is the pioneer in laser mapping robot vacuum with their first launch of Neato XV-11 in 2010. Only in recent years we see more brands such as Xiaomi, Roborock, and Viomi adopting this technology as well.

There are a few downsides to this navigation system though.

Laser mapping does not work well with super reflective surfaces like chrome or full length mirrors. The reflective surface will reflect the laser beam from the LIDAR sensor and distort the calculation of the robot. You will notice that the robot will display irregular movement, or sometimes unable to return to base for charging.

LIDAR sensors are also more prone to breakdowns with many complaints from Neato, and Roborock.

3. Camera Mapping (vSlam)

These robot moves in a straight line capturing each detail of your house such as walls, furnitures, and landmarks to make its calculation based on the information.

Camera mapping is available mostly for high-end robotic vacuums such as Roomba 900 Series, i Series, and s Series.

Are there downside for camera mapping?

Oh yes, there’s only ONE downside

They don’t work well in totally dark areas.

Why?

Because the current camera does not come with IR (infrared) lights to capture dark surroundings yet (like CCTV for example).

This is the only downside with camera mapping robot vacuums.

Smart App Features

When the first smart app was introduced, only a handful of settings are useful such as scheduling, and adjusting the suction power. Even till right now, I still think remotely controlling the robot is not really an essential feature. Once you have set the schedules, the remote control will not be used most of the time. There are certain rare occasions that it would be useful though, like unexpected guest arrival etc.

But now the app can do much much more compared to earlier days. Brands have included many sophisticated technologies into their apps such as:

Interactive Maps

All systematic navigation robots now provide map within their app. After a few rounds of cleaning, your floor layout is drawn onto the app. The map should almost reflect your current floor layout. The alignment and shape might be off a little but you can usually use the homebase placement on the map as the original point of reference. What if I have multiple floors? What will happen to the map?

Hold your horses. We are going into it in the next point.

Multiple Floor Maps

Not everyone lives in a condo or single storey house. There’s a significant portion of you who are living in multiple storey house. With the introduction of multiple floor maps in high-end models, you can now have a single robot vacuum to cover multiple floors of your home without messing up each other floor plans. This greatly improves the robot navigation and cleaning efficiency.

There’s a tiny bit of catch though.

You have to carry or move the robot to the level that you want to be cleaned as the robot is unable to climb stairs yet (sneer emoji).

There is another hassle free way that you don’t have to carry the robots around. Do you know how?

Yes. Buy multiple robots. HAHA.

It’s true, we have quite a number of customers that purchase multiple robot vacuums for each floor. Usually they will place the best robot in their living room, and an entry-level or intermediate robot for the bedroom upstairs.

Virtual Barrier or No-Go-Lines

With the bump and run robots, you have to place a physical Virtual Wall gadget on the floor to create a barrier to keep the robots from going into certain areas of your house (ie: Wet Kitchen). Now you can do the same  by drawing a line on the map within the app itself. You can even draw multiple lines as well (saving the cost of having multiple Virtual Wall) on the map.

Zone Cleaning

Zone cleaning is quite useful if you live in a large house, or if you don’t need the robot to clean the entire floor every day. With zone cleaning, you can label sections of your house such as Living Room, Dining Room, Bedroom (1,2,3..), Dry Kitchen, Wet Kitchen and so forth. Once it’s labelled, you can set schedules to clean specific Zones on different days.

Other features of smart app: Cleaning History, Alerts/Notifications, Maintenance Alert

Long Term Maintenance

Before you invest in a robot vacuum, you also have to consider the maintenance and upkeep of the robot. You have to make sure your robot is able to keep working for you to make your investment worthwhile. ROI.

Electricity or power consumption is generally low, a couple bucks per month. So you don’t have to worry about high electricity bills.

There are 3 Major Concerns:

Reliability or Durability

“You always get what you pay for”

By reliability and durability, it means that the unit itself will face lesser breakdowns with time. The lesser the feature, the lesser moving parts or technology it has, the lesser is the failure or breakdown rate.

But that doesn’t mean that the high-end robots experience a high breakdown rate as well. With better established brands, their technology is more matured relatively due to their enormous experience in the field, hence relatively lower breakdowns.

Generally, we will always recommend you to go with better established brands such as iRobot (pioneer in robot vacuum since year 1990), and Neato. We would stay away from lesser known China brands such as 360, Clobot, Proscenic. There are good China brands too such as Roborock, Viomi, under the Xiaomi Group. But since the brands are relatively new, it will take some years to prove their reliability. Fortunately, most robot vacuums sold under us comes with a 2 Years Warranty giving you full peace of mind.

Spare Parts Availability

Common spare parts replacement includes filter, side brush, and battery.

Batteries are known to have a certain shelflife or charge cycles. As robot vacuum works diligently everyday, it is inevitable that the battery will one day deplete and could  no longer run as good as new. You will need to replace the battery. What if after 1 or 2 years of usage and the model is discontinued? Are you going to buy a new robot again?

On top of that, China robots are notorious for rapid new models introduction, and each model comes with a different design of side brush, filter,  and battery making it hard to get replacement parts.

When you purchase a better known brand, it is relatively easier to get the spare parts online or offline. For example, comparing iPhone X and One Plus 5, if either one faces battery issue, which phone do you think is easier to get it fix?

Using the example above, say you need a wheel module replacement for your robot vacuum. Which brand do you think is easier to get? iRobot or iLIFE? Roborock or Clobot?

Accessories maintenance

Proper maintenance is needed to keep your robot vacuum working at its best performance.

Filters should be replaced every 3-6 months depending on each brand recommendations. But we would advise for an earlier replacement if you have pets at home or you have higher usage relatively.

Therefore, you have to guesstimate the cost of replacement for the common accessories such as filter, side brush, and also battery.

Conclusion:

There you go! I hope this guide helps you in determining which robot vacuum partner you need to choose.

If you are still undecided, feel free to reach out to our customer support via livechat or call us up! We are more than happy to help you decide.