Robot vacuum cleaners: What Can they Do and Do You Need One?

Vacuum robot Smart home Tips and Tricks

In addition to beautiful furnishings, cleanliness and order make up a homely home. Unfortunately, the day only has a limited number of hours and in our hectic everyday life there is often little time to fully clean up your own floors. How would it be if a small, hard-working helper would help you with this tedious and time-consuming work? With a vacuum cleaner robot, you no longer have to worry about dust, hair, mites and other dirt on the floor. Well-known manufacturers of vacuum robots include iRobot, Roborock, Ecovacs, Eufy, Medion or Dirt Devil.

What can vacuum robots do?

Robot vacuum cleaners can vacuum the entire apartment with one suction pass. They identify and avoid obstacles and recognize stairs. After vacuuming, you can automatically return to your charging station, where your battery is then recharged with fresh electricity. Although they are called vacuum robots, quite a few models also have a practical wiping function. By attaching a special cloth, you are able to wet wipe smooth floors.

A special water tank moisturizes the cloth over and over again during the entire cleaning process. This function is particularly recommended for allergy sufferers, as even extremely fine dust particles can be reliably removed. The quality of the floor (hard floors, carpets) and an area that is as free and tidy as possible are decisive for the result of cleaning by a vacuum cleaner robot.
Vacuum robot – do you need something like that?

On average, around 6.2 milligrams of dust per square meter accumulate in a German household every day. That may not sound like a lot, but it is quite a lot and adds up every day. This dust consists not only of abrasion or fiber residues, but increasingly also of organic materials such as breadcrumbs, other food residues, skin flakes, bacteria and fungal spores or animal hair. If these are lying around for too long, this can promote the formation of fungi and provide an optimal nutritional basis for mites.

A house dust mite produces around 20 globules of feces per day. Anyone who has already examined these little roommates under the microscope will be reluctant to tolerate large numbers of them in their apartment. Only one thing can help against this: clean the floor as often and thoroughly as possible. But who has the time and desire to vacuum and clean their floor every day? This is where the vacuum cleaner robot comes in! A real blessing, especially for people with house dust or mite allergies.

Serious differences in equipment and functionality

Not all Robotic vacuum cleaners are made equal. With regard to the range of functions, performance and price, there are sometimes serious differences between the various models. While high-priced devices have features such as WiFi, laser and camera navigation, climbing aids or map creation, some very inexpensive variants do not even have a docking station for automatic charging and can only reliably vacuum very fine dust from smooth floors. Which criteria you should attach particular importance to when buying a vacuum cleaner robot depends on your individual preferences, but above all on the structural conditions of the respective apartment. Therefore questions like:

Are there carpets in the apartment? -> Note suction power & climbing aid
Are there steps and obstacles? -> Fall and obstacle sensors
Are there any bumps inside the apartment? -> Plan climbing aid
Do you have a big apartment? -> consider high battery capacity & intelligent navigation
Would you like to connect the vacuum robot to your smartphone ? -> WiFi is a must
Should also be wiped wet? -> Select model with wet wipe function
Should the robot start work on its own? -> Pay attention to an intelligent time control
Do you also want to vacuum under the sofa / bed? -> Take into account the height of the device
Are you allergic? -> Robot vacuum cleaner with HEPA filter and wet mopping function
Are you sensitive to noise? -> Take volume into account

What distinguishes a vacuum robot?

Suction power – especially important for carpets

The most important criterion of a vacuum robot is its suction power. While very cheap models only vacuum fine dust and small hairs from the smooth floor, powerful vacuum cleaner robots can also vacuum deep-seated dust from carpets, sand, fine gravel and other small objects. However, you shouldn’t expect the high suction power of a conventional vacuum cleaner from a battery-powered robot vacuum. The power is given in watts and, in addition to the high-quality and long brushes, is a performance indicator for the result of cleaning.
Main and side brushes – are responsible for the rough

In addition to the suction power, the brushes of the vacuum robot also play a decisive role in the success of cleaning. Good results are only guaranteed if these dust and dirt reliably sweep to the suction intake. The brushes therefore have a sweeping function and are sometimes responsible for coarser dirt such as crumbs. With long side brushes, the vacuum cleaner is able to pick up and suck up dirt from a larger area at once when driving past. The brushes should also be replaceable as they often wear out over time.
Wet wipe function for perfect cleaning

As a supplement to pure vacuum cleaning , quite a few devices offer a wet mopping function. Simple models do this by manually attaching a damp cloth. The vacuum cleaner can then either just vacuum or wipe wet – a variable change is only possible with manual intervention by the user. High-quality vacuum robots have an integrated water tank and use this water reservoir specifically for cleaning. You can set them so that they first vacuum and then automatically switch to the damp-wiping program.

Fall and obstacle sensors

The fall sensor is part of the basic equipment of a vacuum robot and ensures that it does not fall down abysses. This can be particularly advantageous in maisonette apartments and also allows you to have your stairwell swept, vacuumed and mopped by the vacuum cleaner robot.

With the help of obstacle sensors, the robot detects obstacles and reliably stops shortly before a collision. This prevents it from moving or knocking over home objects.

Volume – do you prefer it quiet?

Are you one of those people who are sensitive to noise and do you like to let the vacuum robot work when you are at home? Then pay attention to the volume when buying, this is given in decibels (dB). Quiet models only achieve 40 to 55 decibels. In general, however, vacuum robots are a lot quieter than conventional vacuum cleaners.

Battery performance – larger areas also require a larger battery

Entry-level models usually manage to remove dust from two to three rooms. However, if your living space is over 100 square meters, you should make sure that your future robot vacuum cleaner has a correspondingly sized battery. The battery capacity is given in mAH (milliampere hours). The respective manufacturer gives you an important clue about the running time in hours. For a slightly larger apartment, the vacuum cleaner robot should last around two hours, although the navigation system used also matters here. Models with an integrated camera or laser clean the apartment more systematically and therefore tend to be more efficient, which can save the battery.

WiFi – connects the vacuum robot to your smartphone

A must for all technology freaks and smart home enthusiasts, and it also has interesting functions for beginners! If the vacuum cleaner robot has WiFi, you can connect it to your smartphone or tablet and program and control it using the manufacturer’s app. Here you can use a mostly intuitive user interface to set the dates on which the vacuum cleaner should do its work. A great feature that you can only use with WiFi is virtual map creation.

Map creation – see which areas have been cleaned on your smartphone

Some models can use their integrated camera technology to create a virtual map of your home. You can then see in detail from this virtual map which areas the vacuum cleaner robot has already cleaned and which may not yet. In addition, you receive status information about the battery level or the fullness of the dust canister. A few vacuum robots can even send the recorded camera image to your smartphone in real time .
Charging station / docking station – fulfills another important function in addition to charging

A charging station should actually be part of the standard equipment of a modern vacuum cleaner robot. It fulfills two important functions. On the one hand, it charges the battery again, on the other hand, it ensures that the vacuum cleaner automatically returns to a central point within the apartment after the work has been done. Very cheap vacuum cleaner robots without a docking station simply stop when the battery is empty. It can sometimes happen that they stop under the sofa, which makes finding them idle. Inexpensive robots use infrared to identify their docking station, more expensive robots use laser or camera technology – but the result is the same, the robot connects reliably to the docking station without any action.

Climbing aid / SUV function – the robot can also overcome higher obstacles with it

Some robotic vacuum cleaners are faced with greater difficulties even from very small increases. So it can happen that the vacuum cleaner cannot negotiate slightly uneven door transitions and therefore only stays in one room all the time. However, that is not the point and purpose of a vacuum robot, after all, it should remove dust from the entire apartment if possible.

If there are uneven areas in your apartment such as high carpets or door sills, make sure you have an integrated climbing aid, also known as an SUV function. Robots with this equipment feature have an integrated spring system, which allows them to easily overcome door sills with heights of up to 2.5 centimeters.

HEPA filter – not only mandatory for allergy sufferers

When buying a robot vacuum, you should also consider the filter. An inferior filter can lead to the finest dust particles with a diameter of less than 10 micrometers being blown back into the air – this is extremely counterproductive, especially for allergy sufferers. A special HEPA floating filter (“High Efficiency Particulate Air”) can reliably intercept these micro-dust particles.

Remote control – great for unscheduled cleaning

With the remote control you can start, stop and return the robot to its charging station. This can be useful, for example, if you want to carry out an unscheduled cleaning. Simply press the start button and he will begin his work diligently. Even if the robot should ever get lost in the last nook and cranny under the sofa, it can be easily pulled out again with the help of a remote control.

How does the Vacuum robot actually work?

Vacuum robots use different navigation techniques in order to achieve their goal of cleaning as thoroughly as possible. A basic distinction is made here between chaos, laser or camera navigation.

Cleaning according to the chaos principle

In the chaos of the Navigation, the robotic vacuum detects obstacles mechanically. For example, it hits a chair and then realigns itself. A kind of shock absorber (bumper) registers the impact with the help of integrated sensors and at the same time absorbs it. Nevertheless, it can happen from time to time that the robot knocks over objects, shifts them and, in the worst case, damages them. When cleaning according to the chaos principle, a distinction is made between amoeba, gyro and 90-degree strategy. It is advantageous for the cleaning process if the robot can combine the different variants of the chaos principle.

Amoeba strategy

Here the robot drives straight ahead until it hits an obstacle. Then he randomly changes his drive in a different direction. A disadvantage of this cleaning is the time it takes for the robot to remove dust from the entire apartment. Because when cleaning amoeba, it inevitably happens that the robot vacuums the surface several times unnecessarily. In many models, the amoeba strategy is supplemented by a time component. Here the robot automatically changes its direction after a certain time, even if it has not registered an obstacle. This automatic realignment can be particularly advantageous in very large rooms, as it increases the likelihood that the robot will also move into rooms that are further away.

Gyro and 90 degree strategy

With the gyro strategy, the vacuum robot starts with small circular movements that get bigger over time. In this way, however, it hardly gets into corners, which is why circle cleaning is combined with amoeba cleaning. With the 90 degree strategy, it drives straight ahead and turns 90 degrees with every obstacle.

Navigation via laser and camera

Laser and camera technology is usually only used in somewhat more expensive vacuum robots. With the help of a laser or camera, the robot can orient itself optimally in space and precisely identify all obstacles. This technique enables the robot to create an accurate map of the apartment. In this way, he can independently identify which areas he still has to clean. This means that vacuum robots usually work more efficiently and at the same time more thoroughly with this technology. In addition, they recognize obstacles in advance and cannot damage any objects when they hit them. In some models with an integrated camera, it is even possible to follow the captured footage in real time on a smartphone or tablet via WiFi.

Summary

As with many technical devices, the equipment of vacuum robots also varies greatly. If you want to gain your first experience with a vacuum robot, but don’t want to spend a fortune right away, you are probably well advised with an entry-level model in the price range between 150 and 300 euros. These fulfill the usual basic functions and do what they are supposed to: vacuum.

Those who cannot do without technical gadgets such as WiFi or camera technology or who need other special functions due to the structural conditions of the apartment usually have to dig a little deeper into their wallet. However, they also receive a high-end device that impresses with its smart functions, achieves optimal cleaning results and in many cases offers real added value.

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