Answers to All Your Questions on Roomba, Neato & Other Vacuum Robots

Vacuum Robot FAQ
Helper robots at home is a compelling idea. We all want to have some machine to take care of all the housekeeping chores. Besides, the aging population makes such service robots is even more necessary. Indeed, we need robots that take care of all the grannies and the grandpas living alone. Such robots are among high priority targets of the robotic community. This is why there exist competitions such as the RoCKIn @ Home and the RoboCup@Home. Unfortunately, none of the current robotic assistants is ready yet to take care of the dishes or the laundry. They are still far form fictional robots in movies and TV shows such as Rosie the robot-maid. Nevertheless, there is good news. There exist robots on sale that successfully deal with some specific chores. The most prominent family is the one of robotic vacuums. This innovation comes with many questions. This is why we have made this vacuum robot FAQ.


In the following, we address all the questions frequently asked by vacuum cleaner robots buyers and owners. But, we also support you with your less frequent questions. Just post them in the comment section at the bottom of this page. You’ll quickly get help.

What is a Vacuum Cleaning Robot? What is an Automatic Vacuum?

A vacuum robot is a robot that automatically vacuums your home or office. This automatic vacuum is the first kind of first truly mobile autonomous robots to reach the consumer electronics market. Vacuum robots are autonomous since they operate without any human intervention. They can operate based on a schedule and clean your place while you are away.

The first commercial vacuum robot was the Electrolux Trilobite. It hit the market on 2001. A year later, iRobot, a company specialized in military robots made the famous Roomba. Roomba is the current leader of the market, with many millions units sold. Nowadays, the market is mature. There exist plenty of vacuum robot brands.

Do I Really Need A Vacuum Robot? Are Vacuum Cleaner Robots Worth It? Are they Good?

If you like vacuuming your home several times a week, then you don’t need a vacuum robot! For the rest of people, go get one! You’ll save time for work, or relaxing alone or with family and friends. Your place will remain clean with almost no effort. All you have to do is empty the dirt bin from time to time.

Having a vacuum robot is especially recommended if:

  • you have pets
  • you have young children
  • you or your family suffer from allergy
  • you are a caregiver to an elderly or a disabled person

For people suffering from allergies, you need to pick a vacuum robot with high performance filter. Those are the ones with filters that capture smaller particles, including pollen.

But wait! Even the best robots can leave some dust, especially at the corners. So, don’t throw away your old manual vacuum. You’ll still have to use it, much less often though. Checkout the video blow.

Which Vacuum Robot is the Best? What Robot Vacuum Should I Buy?

The answer depends on your needs, and your budget. In our review of robotic vacuums, we made our selection based on the following criteria:

Are Roombas Good for Hardwood Floors?

The short answer is yes. Roombas are very suited to vacuum hard floor. That’s true for all vacuum robots.

Roomba side brush cleans wall edges

Roomba Counter-Rotating Brushes Break Debris

On Roombas, the cleaning system ensures maximum efficiency through a combination of brushes and suction. Actually, Roombas rely on two brushes: a main brush and a secondary one. The latter spins on the edge. It captures dust along the side of the robot. Hence, even if the Roomba is round, it still cleans wall edges.

The main brush is located on the bottom of the robot. It collects debris and hair and channels them into the suction path of the vacuum motor. On Roomba 800 series and the high-end 900 series, the main brush is more efficient that ones found in most other robotic vacuums. It is indeed made of two counter-rotating dirt extractors. They break down dirt into smaller parts easier to suck, resulting into improved cleaning. Besides, the counter-rotation avoids hair getting entangled. This means less maintenance for you. No need to clean the main brush, as with other vacuum robots.

Last, Roomba has a dirt sensor that improves the cleaning. It detects areas with high concentrations of dirt, dust, and pet hair. Those are typically around the dining table or high-traffic zones of your home. The Roomba is capable of detecting
these spots and spend more time cleaning them.

Roomba: Which Roomba to Choose?

There is no doubt that the iRobot Roomba is among the best and most durable vacuum robots. Yet, it’s not easy to pick one because there are actually many Roombas on the market. They have different features and accessories. Their prices also vary in a wide range: from $200 up to $900.

Our guide provides with a detailed comparison of different Roombas. They are spread over 3 categories, each meeting a specific need.

Brands: What are the Top Vacuum Robot Brands?

In our yearly review of vacuum robot brands, we ranked vacuum robot brands based on their average quality. We have considered that the characteristics of sold products is merely a hint about how good is a robotic vacuum brand. The actual quality is a mix of the following criteria. First is the cleaning efficiency of the brand’s robotic vacuums. The perfect robot cleans all types of floors and carpets as good as you might do with a manual vacuum. Durability and good customer service are two other important and related criteria for comparing vacuum robot brands quality. Best robots are the most robust. And, the rare failures are quickly addressed by a good customer service. Ease of use is yet another complementary measure of quality.

How to Efficiently Clean a Large House Using a Vacuum Robot?

Cleaning a large house is a task that only some vacuum robots can efficiently tackle. Having multiple rooms is not an issue per se. The challenge lies in the area to cover, the battery capacity, and stairs. Low-cost Roombas and alike have an operating mode to run until they run out of battery. With a new battery, a single charge lasts from 60 minutes, and up to 120 min, depending on the brand. So, the battery capacity is criterion to take into account when choosing a vacuum cleaning robot.

Having a large battery is not always enough to cover all the house. This is especially with robots that roam randomly. The better option is go for vacuum robots that map the house such as the Roomba 980 or the Neato botvac D7. They are capable of remembering which areas were cleaned and which ones left. When the battery is low, a such robotic vacuum goes back to recharge, then resumes cleaning where it stopped.

Having a house with stairs introduces an extra challenge to vacuum robots. They are smart enough to avoid falling down the stairs, but they cannot go from one floor to the other. Of course, you can carry your robot up and down the stairs. But, there are other smarter alternatives, relying on some recent innovations.

How Much Does a Vacuum Robot Cost?

The range of prices for vacuum robots varies widely from less than $200 up to $900 and more. This includes the Roomba that comes in different series, with different features. If you are tight on budget, check out our selection of vacuum robots for less than $300. They’ll do the job for small homes. You can also dedicate one to rooms with high traffic such as the kitchen, and the living room. The more money you can put, the more automation and “smartness” you get. Though, quality varies from one brand to the other.

Which Robot Vacuum is Best for Pet hair?

A vacuum robot is a good idea to collect dog and cat hair. You’ll be surprise how much your vacuum robot will pick up. All vacuum robots combine rotative brushes with suction. Cleaning performance depends on brushes size and positions, as well as suction power. Keep in mind however that some vacuum robots require more maintenance than others. Prefer ones with tangle-free brushes, otherwise you’ll have to frequently remove hair that get stuck into the brushes.

Which Robot Vacuum is the Quietest?

The combination of brush rotations with the vacuum pump operation result in a high level of noise. The noise level can be as high as 80dB, which is equivalent to an alarm clock or a coffee grinder.

Noise might not be an issue if you pick a vacuum robot that supports scheduling. Even some of the cheapest vacuum robots offer this feature. You simply plan the cleaning while you are out.

An alternative is to go for vacuum robots have a quiet cleaning mode mode (sometime called Eco mode). In this quiet mode, the brushes and the pump operate at a lower speed, and generate less noise. This comes often at the expense of a worse cleaning performance. However, some high-end vacuum robots manage to drop the noise level down to 66dB, while keeping high suction power, and hence good cleaning performance.

Still, 66dB is too loud if you want to sleep while the vacuum robot operates. If you really want a truly quiet cleaning robot, consider buying a robotic mop. Its noise level is as low as 35 dB. It can operate in a library, and nobody would notice! The secret: no rotating brushes, and no vacuum pump. Instead, it carries a pad for sweeping the floor.

What is the Best Alternative to Roomba?

There exist multiple Roombas with different specs and prices. Each targets different users and needs. If you are looking for an alternative to Roomba, you need first to identify your requirements and priorities (price, and features). Then you can compare vacuum robots from different brands that best match your needs.

Other Questions on Roomba, Neato or Other Vacuum Robots

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