Robot Vacuums: How They Work and What to Look For?

Dejan Josipovic
10 Minute Read

Over the last few years, we've been stuck inside our house a lot more often. That has caused a dramatic shift in an unexpected market: robot vacuum cleaners. No one wants to drag out a traditional vacuum cleaner every day so in 2021, the global market size for robot cleaners rose to USD 4.48 Billion. 

That incredible growth is only expected to continue, with one protection estimating the market will hit USD 29.82 billion by 2030.

That's a lot of Roombas! 

If you're new to the world of robot vacuums, here's everything you need to know.

What are robot vacuums?

You know that little round machine that zooms around your floors picking up dirt and debris? That's a robot vacuum. These autonomous cleaners use sensors to detect obstacles and navigate your home, sucking up dust as they go. 

They range from budget-friendly models that cost less than $100 to more expensive options with advanced features like app control and virtual wall mapping. 

Do robotic vacuums work?

Yes!. Robot vacuums are designed to be effective at cleaning your floors and carpets, with some models even being able to detect high-traffic areas to clean more thoroughly. Most come equipped with a range of sensors that can identify dirt and debris, as well as obstacles like furniture or stairs so the robot doesn't bump into them.

These cute little robots are surprisingly efficient too. Depending on the size of your home and the model you buy, a robot vacuum can clean up to 1,000 square feet in one charge, making them ideal for busy households. 

What are some pros and cons of a robot vacuum?

It's not all roses, so here are some of the pros and cons to consider before you buy a robot vacuum:

What are the pros?

  • Easy to Use: You can simply press a button, and you're off! No need for manual cleaning. 

  • Noise Level: Robot vacuums are much quieter than traditional vacuums, meaning they won’t wake up the baby or scare your dog!

  • Convenience: They can clean while you’re away from home or asleep, so your floors are always spotless.

What are the cons?

  • Price Tag: Depending on the model, they can come with a hefty price tag compared to traditional models. 

  • Battery Life: If you have a large home, a single charge may not be able to get through a full cleaning run. 

  • Navigation: Some models are better at navigating than others, which can result in a less thorough cleaning job.

Is a robot vacuum as good as a regular vacuum?

Some people that experienced the first few generations of robots may remember that they weren’t as effective as a traditional vacuum. But the technology has improved dramatically over the last few years, and many people find that they are now actually better than a regular stand-up model. 

Just think, there's no more need to lift the couch to vacuum under it. Let your robot friend do the job!

Are robot vacuums worth buying?

Robot vacuums are great for busy households and those who want to save time on cleaning. They’re (usually) more expensive than regular vacuums, but they can be a great investment if you want your floors to be spotless without the hassle of manual cleaning.

What to look for when buying a robot vacuum?

Not all robots are equal, though. Here are a few key features to keep in mind when selecting the right model for your home:

Price point

If you've ever tried to buy a high-end television, you know that price doesn't always equate to quality. The same goes for robot vacuums. While more expensive models often come with advanced features, you can still find budget-friendly options that are effective and efficient.

Customer reviews

Marketing language always tries to make products look better than they are, so be sure to read through customer reviews before committing. Look for a model that has consistent positive feedback and is rated highly by users.

Obstacle detection

Robot vacuums are designed to do is navigate around obstacles, so make sure the model you select has good obstacle detection. This feature helps the robot avoid furniture and stairs while cleaning, which can be a lifesaver if you have kids or pets running around your house. 

Cliff detection

Some of the older models used to just drive off of ledges like lemmings running to their death, so make sure the model you select has good sensors for detecting cliffs. This way, your robot won't take an unexpected plunge off of the stairs when it thinks it's just a flat surface.

App and internet integration

Want to activate your robot vacuum from your phone? Look for models that are compatible with home automation systems like Amazon Alexa or Google Home. This way, you can make sure your place is spotless for the date you're bringing home, or before your in-laws show up unexpectedly.

Area mapping

This is a great feature if you have a complicated floor plan or lots of furniture. The robot vacuum will map its environment and then create an efficient cleaning route, making sure it doesn't miss any spots in your home.

How does the mapping work?

The most common method of navigation used by robot vacuums is known as SLAM (Simultaneous Localization and Mapping). This involves the use of sensors to detect obstacles and walls, which are then plotted on a map. 

The robot will then create a route for itself, allowing it to efficiently clean your home without running into anything. 

Mopping

Some models even come with mopping capabilities, which means even less work for you! If you're looking for a robot vacuum that can do more than just clean your floors, this is an important feature to look out for.

What type of floors can you clean with a mopping vacuum?

Robot vacuums are designed to clean a variety of different floor types, including:

  • Tile

  • Hardwood

  • Laminate

  • Vinyl

They can even mop a carpet, though you’ll have to make sure that it can dry properly or else mould and mildew could build up.

Noise level

They are pretty quiet compared to traditional vacuums, but some models are louder than others. Look for one that has a low decibel rating to make sure your robot isn't too disruptive when it's cleaning.

Self-emptying capability

This is a newer feature that some high-end models have, but it's worth considering if you want a truly hands-off experience. A self-emptying robot vacuum can store dirt and debris in an attached bin, so all you have to do is empty the bin every few weeks. 

Are self-emptying robot vacuums worth it?

It all depends on your lifestyle and budget. Self-emptying robot vacuums are more expensive, but they can be a great option if you don't want to worry about emptying the bin every day.

Battery life

Options like self-emptying can be a drain on battery life, so make sure to check the specs on any model you're considering. You don't want to have a robot vacuum cleaner that can only clean for a few minutes before it needs to be plugged in again.

Maneuverability

If you have lots of tight spaces, look for a robot vacuum cleaner that can handle them. Some models come with features like edge cleaning and side brushes to help get into those hard-to-reach places.

Maintenance

Like any piece of electronics, there will be regular maintenance required for a robot vacuum. Make sure to check the manufacturer's instructions on how often you need to clean and maintain your model, as this can vary from one type of robot vacuum cleaner to another.

Who is iRobot?

No, not the 2004 movie with Will Smith (or the 1950 book by Isaac Asimov). iRobot is the leading manufacturer of robotic vacuum cleaners, with their Roomba brand essentially becoming the generic name, the same way some people refer to all tablets as iPads.

They were founded in 1990 and originally engineered robots for the U.S. military, but then shifted their focus to consumer products. In 2022, Amazon announced its intention to acquire iRobot for approximately USD 1.7 billion. 

What are some iRobot alternatives?

They're not the only player, though. There are several other top-rated robot vacuums on the market, including Roborock, Eufy, and Neato. The number of options continues to grow as technology improves and prices come down. 

According to Choice

That's why you need a service like Choice, which compares products across categories to help you find the best one for your needs. Choice has reviewed many of the top brands and gives detailed breakdowns with a focus on price, dirt removal, and edge cleaning.

Best Robot Vacuum Picks

Here are some of the best robot vacuum cleaners that Choice reviewed in 2022.

iRobot Roomba s9+ - RRP Price: $2899.00

Order Now for Only - $2777.97

The king of kings, this self-emptying vacuum received the best score, with an expert rating of 82%. In dirt pick-up performance it had nearly a perfect rating of 99% and lasted for 111 minutes before needing to be recharged. 

It does well with pet hair and is good (but not great) with carpet cleaning. It is expensive, though, so won’t be an option for everyone who wants to buy a robot vacuum cleaner.

iRobot Roomba E5 E5150 - RRP Price: $999.00

For something more reasonably priced, the second-best score goes to the e5, which did exceptionally well when cleaning on hard floors. Great at corners and edges, this is the perfect option for a smaller area or one with a lot more furniture.

The battery only lasted 94 minutes but this one comes with an automatic return function that will take it back to the charging station before it runs out of juice.

iRobot Roomba i3+ - RRP Price: $1399.00

Order Now for Only - $1299.00

The i3+ falls somewhere between the two in terms of price and functionality. It has the self-emptying capability and will return to the dock automatically but it’s quite as good on battery life or picking up pet hair.

Still, this is recommended by Choice, who gave it a 73% expert rating.

iRobot Roomba i7 (i7150) - RRP Price: $1499.00

Another good option is the i7, given its solid rating on hardwood and strong overall rating. The one thing to keep in mind is that this model will run into objects often, even if it does do it at a slow pace.

iRobot Roomba i7+ (i7550) - RRP Price: $1899.00

The i7+, meanwhile, is the self-emptying version of the same product and has many of the same pros and cons. Because of the added $400 in price, this one comes out a little lower, given it doesn’t offer many noticeable upgrades. 

Roborock S7+ - RRP Price: $1699.00

The list can’t all be iRobot products though, and Roborock grabs a spot with its solid S7+. This sleek white robot is a great competitor that can stand toe-to-toe and performs excellently in most categories. 

The one concern is noise, though with so many other features – self-emptying, mopping, and stair detection, for example – it’s sure to impress.

Robot Vacuums to Avoid

Not every review is positive, and Choice has listed three robot vacuum cleaners to avoid

Ecovacs Deebot U2 - RRP Price: $249.00

It’s not just that this is a low-cost option; several cheaper vacuums did significantly better in the testing. This Ecovacs entry scored the lowest with a 47% expert rating and struggled to even pick up dirt off hard surfaces consistently.

Eufy G10 Hybrid RoboVac T2150 - RRP Price: $499.00

If you’re going to fork over $500, you better get something that works. Even though the product appears to be marketed as a carpet cleaner – it’s meant for hard floors only. Make sure you check the specifications before you buy!

Aposen 1800PA Robotic Vacuum Cleaner A550 - RRP Price: $398.00

It’s a nice design, but this slim robot doesn’t work at all on carpet and scored a 57% expert rating overall. A vacuum cleaner that leaves a trail of dirt behind it isn’t exactly the best feature.

What is the best value for money robot vacuum cleaner?

Among the robot vacuum cleaners that Choice reviews, the iRobot Roomba e5 e5150 is the easy choice for blending value and performance. There aren’t many that can keep up with it and even fewer that cost under $1000.00. 

Final thoughts on Robot Vacuums

Robot vacuums can be a great addition to any home, especially if you don't have the time or energy to drag out a regular vacuum every few days. They're efficient and effective and come in a range of sizes and price points so you can find one that suits your needs. 

Plus, with companies like Choice helping you make an informed decision, it's easier than ever to choose the right one. Head on over to the products page and find a little helper for your own home!

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.