Test-driving iRobot’s almost perfect vacuum cleaner, plus some entertaining videos.I’m using the Roomba, iRobot’s robotic vacuum, to keep my house clean, and I have tons to say about it.But first, a little background.I’m a house husband. It was a commitment I made when I was in graduate school and Judy was working. Over the years I’ve learned to enjoy many of the domestic chores.With Judy mostly retired now, we’ve started sharing some of the chores. It’s clear we have different cleaning styles. For example, I prefer to wait until I can see the dog hair and dirt on the hardwood floors and then vacuum the entire house. Judy likes to pull out the broom and do the room when it needs it.But we’re both being replaced, at least when it comes to cleaning the floor.
Video: iRobot Dirt Dog, Scooba and RoombaThe Almost Miraculous Robotic Vacuum
The Roomba is a robotic cleaner that zips around hardwood floors, tile, and low-nap carpeting, vacuuming up dirt. I’ve had a loaner for almost six months and I like it, though it isn’t perfect.There are five models, and the one I’m using is the iRobot Roomba Scheduler, which Costco sells for $260 (I’ve seen it for $175 online).The Roomba is 13 inches in diameter and about 4 inches high, so it’s low enough to get under most furniture. It’s also noisy as all get out, at about 80 decibels. You’ll want to be in another room while it’s running. As you might except, the Roomba is smart. It finds its way around a room, gently bumping off walls and furniture. It senses when it’s about to topple off a ledge and turns in the other direction. When it detects a batch of dirt, it focuses on the area and then moves off to finish the room. On one hand, the Roomba is truly a walk-away device. It’s a pleasure to push the Power and Clean buttons, then leave the house, knowing that the job will be done–mostly. The Roomba is also cute, and fun to watch.But there’s the other hand…Dig This: Are you still waiting for pages to load in Internet Explorer? Apparently the kids at Mozilla want to convince you to switch to Firefox. Get a load of these clever ads to help you see the light.
Nothing Is Perfect, not Even the Roomba
|Okay, so now I have to warn you: The Roomba isn’t miraculous.You’ll need a traditional vacuum cleaner for inhaling cobwebs and cleaning behind the chair cushions. The Roomba won’t pick up goopy messes, and it can’t reach pet hair in corners or behind furniture.The Roomba is too big to get into small spaces. You have to move furniture, as you would with a traditional vacuum cleaner–and sometimes you’ll just have to grab a broomThere are other trouble spots for Roomba. Take a look at a video (click on “Cleans Your Whole Floor”) and note the white areas around the furniture legs and floor edges and corners.The Roomba can’t deal with tassels on throw rugs or stray USB cables on the floor–trust me, I know. You’ll need to pick up cords and tuck tassels under the rug.There’s also the maintenance. A newer model has a light that lets you know when to empty the dust collector and clean the brushes. Mine doesn’t warn me, so I do this after each use–if I don’t, performance degrades.The Roomba I’m trying out is supposed to dock itself when it’s running low on power, and most of the time it does. Yes, that is cool, but unless its sensors are clean of dust and crud, the Roomba can’t recharge. Clean the contacts every month and the problem’s resolved.