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Our IRobot Roomba is now reaching the end of his natural life. We will miss 'Bob' very much. I bought him four years ago to do the vacuuming upstairs, and to do a top-up vacuum of the sitting room so that I wasn't always whipping out my Dyson mid-week.
He has performed this function very well. He's certainly a thorough worker, doggedly doing all he can to get into tight corners or behind bits of furniture, sounding annoyed and frustrated when he sounds his 'warning' note that something has gone wrong.
He was also very good at finding things we'd lost: bits of plastic toys, jewellery, etc. If it's on the floor Roomba will find it. While he obviously hasn't got the sucking power of a Dyson I was always amazed at how much I'd find dust, hair and general grime I'd have to empty out of his bin when he was finished.
Our IRobot is on his last legs now. I think our house presents too much of a challenge for a Roomba. It is small and we have lots of lamps and electrical gadgets with wires and rugs with fringes. Unless you meticulously scoop up all wire and rugs he always seems to trap his brushes in them. If, however, you pick up every rug, unplug every cable and place out of reach, you're not really saving yourself much time as it would be just as quick to take a conventional vacuum cleaner and simply move around these obstacles. Disentangling our Roomba from rug fringes on a few occasions seems to have placed too much of a strain on his motor. Sadly he wasn't always, despite the assurances on the box, capable of working out where the stairs were, either, and did have a nasty fall a year or so ago. We have replaced brushes but can't get him back to the way he was when he first arrived.
If you live in a larger house with fewer cables and rugs an IRobot makes a lot of sense. I would use one as a mid-week top up or when you have guests coming but no time to vacuum. I also used to stick him in lightly-used rooms to keep them fresh.
I will probably buy another Roomba when our budget allows as I do think they're a good idea and save time. Newer and more expensive models have probably ironed out some of the glitches I describe.
Who wouldn't want a gadget which does the hoovering for you? You just set it going and it cleans all your floors itself - how fabulous is that?? Of course as with most things, it's not quite as fabulous as it sounds.
The iRobot vacuum cleaner is called Roomba. It is about 18 inches across and 3 inches tall, with brushes and chunky wheels underneath and the controls on top. The controls are nice and simple - just 3 buttons, and in general you just use one to set it going. There are a few flashing lights etc. with the controls, and handle to lift Roomba and take him (her? it?) somewhere else. It comes with a charger / docking port (see "maintenance" below. Some models also include an extra bit which allows you to set a barrier to keep him within one area - mostly it's not needed though.
Roomba will clean your floors for you - carpet, lino, tile, laminate, it's all the same to Roomba. He never complains (well kind of... see later) and saves you all that cleaning. He's amazing to watch ambling round the floor in a seemingly random pattern which nonetheless covers the whole floor. And when he's finished, he stops and gives a little "I'm done, aren't I great" fanfare (that's why I think Roomba is male, by the way - I apologise for the implied sexism!) He is very clever at coping with most obstacles - he can even do the landing without falling down the stairs (he senses the drop and retreats), although obviously he can't do stairs.
My cat doesn't like Roomba and avoids him which is a shame because Roomba is just the right size to be ridden by a cat - checkout youtube for an excellent video of one cat who loves his Roomba!
Put Roomba in the room you want, press the button and leave him to get on with it, it's that simple! Well kind of. First you need to move anything he'll get tangled up on - shoelaces are pretty bad, as are stray wires (like a mobile phone charger for instance) and dangling fabric like the valance sheet on a bed. He doesn't generally damage things if he gets caught - but he stops where he is waiting for you to go in and rescue him, and he sometimes swallows quite a lot of the dangling cable which is fiddly to disentangle.
He will clean hard floors and carpet, and some rugs. I have a shaggy rug in the living room which he detests, and stops in protest whenever he touches it - I think each shaggy strand is like a wire to him (see above). He copes well with the doormat but does tend to push it round the hall for a bit before actually climbing on and cleaning it. I think he would manage most rugs as long as they are well anchored and the pile isn't too deep.
He has no trouble at all running under the table or even the coffee table, which is fantastic. However our dining chairs include a metal tube across the floor (about an inch diameter) which he often runs onto and strands himself - at which point he stops and does his best "damsel in distress" act.
As a big round robot he obviously can't get into corners very well, and the suction is all underneath rather than at the edges. So you will still need to do your corners periodically. On carpet this isn't too bad but it can be an issue on hard floors - he sometimes chases bits of cat fur round the room and eventually just runs them into a corner and leaves them there.
On the main sections he does a reasonable job of cleaning - not perfect but pretty good.
Roomba comes with his own bed (docking port / charging station) which plugs into the wall. If it's placed on carpet he will even take himself to bed when he's finished - but if it's on laminate then it tends to slide around as if it's running away from him which is a bit unfair on a poor robot who just wants to go to bed! The battery charge lasts long enough to do most of a medium sized house, which is pretty good.
Roomba doesn't have a bag - just a box which you pull out and empty into the bin. The main problem is that the box is really quite small - if you have a cat or dog you'll probably need to empty it after every 3 rooms or so.
And the crowning glory is the frequency with which is stops, beeps and says, "Please remove and clean Roomba's brushes". I think this is a consequence of someone in the house with long hair - long hairs tend to wrap themselves around the brushes, and cleaning them is very fiddly. This is the last straw for me - it takes me as long to clean the brushes as it does to hoover most of the house (for a quick once over at least). I think if you only have short haired people this is much less of a problem.
So overall it's a great concept and it does work. But the time spent pulling long hairs out of the brushes is almost as much as you save pushing a hoover round the house.
I was really quite curious about the Roomba, I got one off eBay as a bit of a gimick, it only cost £40, had been used but was in full working order.
To my surprise, it actually works as a vacuum cleaner. You can set it to whizz around the room whilst you get on with other things, it copes fine with sofas and rugs and anything else in its way and even manages the corners of rooms to an extent. I've found that it works best with hard floors; tiles, laminate, wood... with thick carpet it has a few issues due to its little "wheels"... similar to the way remote controlled cars work best on a hard floor.
Im not naiive enough to believe that I could get rid of my dyson, but during the week it saves alot of dust building up, making the end of week clean that bit easier.
The Roomba can clean pretty much all of my downstairs (5 fairly small rooms) before it returns to its charging cradle, the charging times are a bit lengthy for my liking, but it takes me no effort. I just wish my phone could fly back to its charger of its own accord.
Also the dust capacity is pretty or, though I said roomba can vacuum 5 small rooms, if theyre very dusty it stops after about 3 and needs its little dust basket emptying.
Overall its a handy little device for keeping on-top of the dust that accumulates throughout the week, if nothing else it is a good talking point.
//Sidenote: A friend of mine thought he could get around the dust basket issue by buying two, it doesnt work very well, in his experience they both try and dock at the same charging cradle... rather than using separate ones//
I bought one of these funny-looking things on a recommendation from a friend. As I was dubious, I got one second-hand, and I couldn't be more delighted with it. You can set it to vacuum while you are out or get on with other stuff while you leave it to it in any room, knowing that it won't get stuck on the rug or fall down the stairs. It even gets into the corners (which is what I was dubious about) as it's got brushes which stick out and swipe all of the dirt up. I do however have two gripes. Firstly, it won't work on thick pile carpet. I knew this before I bought it though (we've only got one carpeted room in our house) and secondly it doesn't have the capacity of a regular vacuum cleaner. The pros definitely outweigh the cons with the irobot, I would definitely recommend it.
I love my Irobot Roomba, I think it is an absolute god-send and I couldn't be without it. It is a fantastic little machine which travels around all on its own doing your hoovering for you. I'm not going to say that you could completely replace your conventional cleaner with one of these but for everyday cleaning its great. We have a dog and of course dog equals dog hairs, dried up bits of mud in the kitchen and all sorts of other bits of dirt he brings in from the garden. If i didn't have my roomba to set around the house everyday I would forever be having to drag out my vacuum out of the cuboard to clean the house.
Roomba is a great little invention and it is highly easy to use. When you get Roomba you just pop him on his "dock" and leave him there for the battery to charge to its full capasity. Then to set him going it is a simple matter of pressing the large button marked "CLEAN" and off he goes. He also has a "SPOT" cleaning option so if you spill any sugar or anything, he will just clean the area you want him to. He is an intelligent robot. He has sensors to prevent him from bumping into things and falling off ledges so you can use him to clean both upstairs and downstairs and he will not fall down the stairs. The Irobot Roomba 520 will clean about 3 rooms (i.e kitchen, dining room and living room) before he heads back all of his own accord to his dock where he will recharge himself. (notice I'm talking about him rather then it, he has become a bit of a pet in our household!). When he is back at his dock I usually empty his dust pan because he does seem to fill up rather quickly so I would reccomend that you empty him everytime he goes back to dock.
As I have said before, I would not use the Irobot Roomba as a replacement for our traditional cleaner. He cannot clean everywhere and I do find myself having to get the conventional cleaner out a couple of times a month. Whilst he can reach 99% of our floors including corners as he has a special brush for this, he cannot obviously dust of the telly and other household objects nor can he get behind things like the T.V stand. He is nice and low to the ground however so he will clean under tables and chairs etc. A couple of other things which can be a tad irksome are that dog hairs tend to wrap around the brush turning mechanisms so I always have to clean the dogs hairs out of these. This doesn't appear to happen if you have a short haired dog or cat as my brother has a Roomba and a short haired dog and he doesn't have the same problem. Also roomba occasionally has a habit of randomly stopping for no apparent reason and you have to press his clean button to get him going again. This doesn't happen very often but annoying when it does as you have to get up to go sort him out.
You can buy all the replacement brushes and filters etc when they wear out from a variety of different shops so spare parts are easy to find.
All in all this is a fantastic invention and a really useful cleaner to have around the house. It is a shame he can't reach everywhere but I wouldn't really expect that something like this would be able to. His battery life is perfectly adequete to clean an average sized downstairs or upstairs floor as is his dust collecting container and I think the price that these robots fetch are fairly reasonable for something which makes my life that much simpler. Overall I give Irobot Roomba 520 an 8.5/10
*UPDATE IN RESPONSE TO SOME QUESTIONS*
I wouldn't say he is excessivly noisy - much quieter then our large cleaner. We have him running when the T.V is on and he is not too irritating.
He doesn't take too long to charge either - not that I have kept a specific eye on him to see how long but I have set him going downstairs and he has returned to his charger and then I have left him there whilst I have done dinner and eaten (say roughly and hour) and he is ready to go upstairs to start cleaning again.
I think Roomba is very good quality - he seems to be very sturdy and we haven't broken anything on him yet.
As for price, we paid £260 for ours which I think is quite reasonable. There is a pet version out at around £400 which I have been thinking of buying but I'm just not sure the differences between the two justify the price jump.
Short name: iRobot Roomba 520