Affordable Roomba Robot Vacuum Cleaners Rock!

Okay, let's face it: living in the country means we track dirt into the house. Not only that, we're focused on outdoors and we aren't keeping up with housework. So here's a little gadget that can really make our lives easier: affordable floor-cleaning robots!

Do They Work?

These cute little machines cost well under $300, and they really work! The iRobot Roomba is a battery-powered vacuum cleaner that wanders around looking for dirt, vacuuming as it goes. If it finds a dirty patch, it focuses on that area for a while, until its "dirt detector" decides that it's clean. Then it wanders off again, vacuuming your house more or less at random.

It bounces gently off obstacles, has "cliff sensors" to keep it from falling down stairs, and rarely gets stuck. It doesn't like bolts very much, but has no trouble vacuuming up surprisingly large items like coins and keys (so pay attention when you dump its dirt bin!). Unlike my regular vacuum cleaner, smoke doesn't pour out if the beater bar gets jammed; the robot notices that nothing is turning, stops, and complains by beeping mournfully.

The robots are fairly quiet (much quieter than a regular vacuum cleaner). To give you an idea, if you have one in the same room with you when you're watching TV, it's annoying but doesn't make it hard to hear the program. The units run for 1-2 hours before needing to be recharged.

Since they're hard to jam, they work pretty well even in a cluttered house like mine! As an extra bonus, the threat, "I'm letting the robot loose, so pick up anything you don't want it to suck up." works pretty well on family members.

I have two Roomba Discovery units, one for upstairs and one for downstairs. I run them every day. It takes a minute or two to dump the dirt bin and make sure they end up on the charger when they're done. The Discovery is supposed to dock with its charger when its done, but because I turn the robots loose on an entire floor, they can't seem to find their way back to the charger once they realize they're running out of juice.

iRobot also has a floor-scrubbing robot, the "Scooba," and a garage/workshop/basement robot, the "Dirt Dog," which is supposed to be untroubled by things like bolts and wood chips. I haven't tried these. Also, since the regular Roomba has trouble dealing with masses of long hair, there's a new "Roomba for pets" (though from some reviews I've seen, it might just as well be called "Roomba for daughters").

I'm really tickled by these devices, which are cute and fun. More importantly, they've made a big difference in our housekeeping.


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