Product Review: Roomba vacuums

What could be geekier than having a robotic vacuum clean the floors in your home so you don’t have to? The pioneer of the robotic vacuum market is without a doubt the iRobot corp. with their Roomba series. Most people who are interested in the market for robotic vacuums have already heard about Roomba- and anyone who frequents the Deal-A-Day site has surely seen these on sale at every wootoff.

Here are some questions many people have asked me about Roombas. Believe it or not most people who come and ask me about them do decide to buy one. It’s just a geek thing for me. It’s one of the most practical and useful toys a geek can have in his or her arsenal!

How loud are Roombas?
They aren’t quite as loud as upright vacuums but they aren’t exactly stealthy. Don’t imagine yourself sitting in front of the TV as Roomba cleans the living room as you’ll find yourself cranking up the TV volume. Most people make them clean while they’re heading off for work.

Do Roombas clean as good as normal vacuums?
From personal experience they clean far better than commercial vacuums. Day one of my first Roomba we ran it 3 times and each time the dust bin came back full of cat hair and dust bunnies. Even the ones that aren’t designed for cat hair work VERY well on collecting strands all over the place. It has brushes and suction power just like a typical vacuum. One of the nicest features is the small form factor of Roomba allows it to travel under couches, chairs and beds where you can’t normally clean. So in some ways it works better than an upright simply because it can go into deep dark spaces.

Do Roombas clean hardwood floors?
This is where Roombas lose a little respect. They can clean hard floors but they clean carpet MUCH better. The spinning brush on the side of the Roomba often pushes crumbs around the floor instead of picking them up. It can do a fairly decent job but using a broom is often the quicker and cleaner way to go about it. However, Roombas do a fantastic job and transitioning between carpet and hard floors (or even from carpet to a rug).

How long do Roombas take to clean?
Most of the Roomba series have two cleaning options. One is a spot clean which cleans a single spot of the floor. You put it in the middle of the spot, click spot, and Roomba will clean a six foot circle. This only takes a couple minutes and works great for spills. The main clean option will run endlessly until the battery runs low. It doesn’t stop when it thinks the floors are clean- it’ll run until it knows it’s about to run out of juice. For those that get the docking station feature, the Roomba will then try to locate and navigate back to the docking station for charging. The 570 model gets somewhere around a 90 minute clean time off a full charge.

How often should you clean the dust bin?
If the floors are dirty it is best to clean it after every run. However if you run your Roomba almost daily then you can probably go a few days before cleaning it. The dust bins aren’t huge but they do hold a considerable amount of garbage.

What other maintenance is there on a Roomba?

Depending on the model, you’ll probably have to clean the air filter every week or so. It doesn’t hurt to also remove the brushes and clean those as well (they tend to pick up a lot of hair that just wraps around the brush). Overall if you spend 5 minutes cleaning it a week you’re still way ahead of everyone who still uses traditional vacuums.

Do Roombas still get tangled in cables and cords?
They used to get stuck in the 4xx series but since I’ve upgraded to the 5xx series it hasn’t got stuck on a cord yet. It runs them over all the time and it does move the lightweight cords around a little bit but it hasn’t once picked them up and got stuck.

Do Roombas fall down stairs?
Dating back to the 4xx series they all have built-in sensors preventing them from falling down the stairs. You’ll likely be hesitant like I was (and still am) about this feature since Roombas aren’t cheap but on a few occasions I tested this feature out and the Roomba behaved how it should.

Do people really name their Roombas?
Yes! As funny as it sounds, yes! A lot of people name their Roombas. My first Roomba was named iBob and the one currently running around my floors is Groomba (it was a wedding giftJ )

If you have any other questions, feel free to use the form to send them in. I love answering questions or sharing my experiences with the Roomba.

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