Roomba, Roomba, wherefore art thou, Roomba?
December 17, 2013 8:54 AM   Subscribe

Will a robotic vacuum be an asset to our (snowflake filled) home? If so what makes, models, or features are worth the cost nowadays? First hand experience preferred but any input is welcome.

Reasons I ask:

0) We're doing baby registry stuff and are coming up severely short on things to list because A) we don't have a ton of space, B) we don't like being crazy consumers of disposable/trashy items, and C) we [or family members/grandmas] are planning on crafting alot of the sundry items related to diapering, cleaning up, keeping warm, etc.

1) We just finished redoing the downstairs floors in stained concrete and laminate. No carpets and only throw rugs (which I don't mind, nay prefer, taking outside and beating out manually) which, from what I'd expect anyway, will hopefully make for an ideal Roomba habitat. See below for one caveat.

2) We have two dogs that are moderate shedders. This is way more apparent on the hard surfaces than it was on our previous flooring and is the major source of concern. Not to even mention the kiddo on the way. Anyway, it's my understanding that keeping the laminate clean will also prevent dirt/dust/whatever from scratching it and dulling the finish. Hence the roomba being a win win win with regards to daily maintenance sorta cleaning as well as work savings in general.

3) My allergies/breathing are something I fight with pretty constantly. Some days are worse than others and our Dyson is really nice but I can't help but think one more HEPA device in the household will be anything but a positive influence on the situation.

The one caveat that I mentioned above is regarding room to room transitions. So, because we went the stained concrete route we had a height transition between the 3 rooms. That is to say the room layout/thresholds are such that the stained concrete is in the middle of the two laminate rooms.

Here follows a poor ASCII representation of bottom floor layout as it goes from

Front --> Back
Living Room (laminate) -> KitchenHallBathLaundryPantry (concrete) -> TVManRoom (laminate)
The dogs spend much of their time in the TVManRoom if that matters.

where straight lines are walls and parenthesis are thresholds (one wide transition and one standard doorway size), as described above.

Anyway, the thresholds just went down yesterday and they are the best case scenario but I don't know if they'll be quite good enough. They don't look like this or this but they do look kinda like this (although mine are one piece hardwood affixed directly to the slab with silicon (per the install guy's 20 years of experience recomendation) instead of the stuff you get at home depot that relies upon a channel to clip the threshold into.

Basically what I'm trying to say is that it's not the blunt nose style (good) and it's going to be as close to the slab as possible (also good) but I'm still unsure as to if the Roomba will be able to cross it because I have zero personal Roomba experience and it is a pretty distinct change in height over the width of the moulding.

Also, for what it's worth, I'm pretty handy and would hope to be able to hack and/or repair my way out of any sort of premature failure mode but, obviously, longevity is a positive aspect with regards to a purchase like this on our end. Also, also, we were looking at the Model 770 and, maybe, the shiny new model 880 and possibly letting people put money into our registry in a sort of "fund" because I can't see any one of our friends or relatives dropping that sort of money on an item for us, but I could be wrong and MsEld is kinda in the mode of "LIST ALL THE THINGS", so here we are.

Thanks, and I'll try not to threadsit but I'm not so great at that most of the time....
posted by RolandOfEld to Shopping (17 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Hmmm I have a robo vacuum, but it's a Neato. From what I read the roombas just go around randomly sucking dirt up. The Neato OTOH maps out the house, and cleans the areas it can access, and it knows where it has cleaned. Big time saver.

I think the Neato has a pet/allergy upgrade with Hepa filters. I use the base model, so no idea about those. So far it runs automatically when I'm out, and I only clean out the trap once every two weeks or so (I live in a one bed at the moment).

About your thresholds, I'm not sure if the Neato (or Roomba) can traverse those, I'm sure someone more knowledgeable will chime in...
posted by TrinsicWS at 9:02 AM on December 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

The Roomba does go around randomly, but it's not going to miss a spot. Basically, instead of trying to map the room, the Roomba bounces around at not-quite-random, until it's gone a while without missing any dirt. It's a strategy that generally takes longer than room-mapping, but is a lot less likely to miss spots than mapping - it's "robotics guys settle on a specific random-based strategy after trying many options." You can be quite confident that if you kick off a Roomba, when it stops running it'll have vacuumed the whole space it's in.

I have a number of pet-owning friends who own Roombas and they often run them daily. There's a model that says it's better for pets, but I don't know anyone who's had both types so I'm not sure how much better it really is.
posted by Tomorrowful at 9:12 AM on December 17, 2013

The Roomba works by starting in a small spiral and gradually circling outward. You start the vacuum in the center of the room, and each time it hits an obstacle is redirects slightly, but still continues in a general spiral.

We have a shorthaired dog that sheds a lot (Houston summers) and concrete floors. We got rid of our Roomba because having to empty the teeny tiny collection drawer every five minutes was just as annoying and time-consuming/labor intensive as using a normal vacuum.

This was roughly five years ago though, so models may have improved.
posted by Brittanie at 9:20 AM on December 17, 2013

I have a Neato as well, with decent thresholds between rooms. Neato works well with it, and I have transitions from carpet to wood, or carpet to tile. It also does well with not falling down the stairs. I also have 3 cats, and this keeps up with them quite well.
posted by kellyblah at 9:21 AM on December 17, 2013

I will say, though, that if you aren't spending your own money and it and you're hard-pressed to come up with other gifts for the registry, you might as well ask for one just to try it. Free stuff, right?
posted by Brittanie at 9:22 AM on December 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

I have a Roomba and I like it. However. I can't speak to your specific room transition issues, but I have two tables the Roomba doesn't get along well with which I mention so that you can evaluate your furniture.

One is sort of like this, and the Roomba gets stuck under those lower bars. The other is a box frame sort of like this, except the part of the frame that is flush to the floor is even flatter than the one depicted, and the Roomba frequently gets stuck trying to cross over the legs.

I know this was only a small part of your question, but I'd advise against providing people with a "fund" that they can deposit cash into. It will rub some people the wrong way. In my experience, if their is a big-ticket gift your friends/family want to get you, they'll will chip in in small groups or perhaps get you a gift certificate.
posted by lalex at 9:23 AM on December 17, 2013

I've used both pet (home) and non pet (in-laws) roomba models. If you have two dogs, go for the pet one. It will be worth it. Likewise the roomba will traverse thresholds... sometimes, generally when t is feeling daring.

The big thing is that roombas like open spaces. If you have a lot of table and chair legs, the roomba will have a harder time cleaning there. Likwise, it will have a harder time if you leave stuff out and about (such as kids toys).

Knowing this though, you know what would clean better? Maids coming once a month for the first 10 months after your new one has arrived. Of course, that doesn't last forever, but if I had the choice between our Roomba (gift $699 or a cleaning service (Quoted rate: $70 visit), I'd probably get the cleaning service. In the long run the Roomba would still be around at the 10 month mark, but you'd have a lot more free time and sanity not having to worry about general upkeep. Other point, maids don't have a problem with the transition between rooms.
posted by Nanukthedog at 9:31 AM on December 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

I have a Mint robotic cleaner (similar to this model) and I really love it. It sweeps and mops and does a great job. It's also very quiet (though it will make a cute beeping noise when it gets stuck behind a door or something).
posted by mogget at 9:34 AM on December 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

I love my roomba (I run it 2-3x/week) and it does really well with threshholds. It even makes it over the 2" square marble step into the bathroom.
I will say that if there is a lot of pet hair, you'll have to empty the cartridge often which can be annoying. Get the pet version because I think the brushes are different and less likely to get wrapped up in hair tangles.
Having one is totally worth it to me. I waited til BBB was having one of their perpetual 20% off and free shipping sales though so I only paid like $300.

I am thinking of getting a mopping one too, since now my floors are free of particles but the bunny cements half-chewed parsley to the wood floor that the roomba can't pick up.

If/when I have a baby who is on the floor a lot and crawling, I will definitely get a mopping thing because what I've seen from friends at that stage is that they have to mop basically every day.
posted by rmless at 9:35 AM on December 17, 2013

Got a Roomba a few months ago and like it - the dust box is smallish and I have to move it manually between three floors, but given that both the resident dog and resident small child really really hate the sound of the Dyson but are fine with the quieter Roomba, it's been well worth it. Oh, and they supply a pretty good set of tools for removing tangles from the brushes - I found that this helped a lot.
posted by doop at 9:35 AM on December 17, 2013

Another vote for the Neato. We've had ours for about 6 months. We have very prominent wood thresholds in our pre-war apartment, and it makes it over them with no problem. It's pretty good transitioning from hard wood to low pile rugs (occasionally it gets a little stuck, but it will back-up and try at a slightly different angle). We have two long hair cats, and this has really helped keeping things clean. The big bonus for me is that it can go under our couch, and several other pieces of furniture where we seldom vacuumed. I''ll agree with others that you have to stay on top of keeping the little dust compartment empty. My only complaint is that Neato will wait until it is really over full before actually signalling that it needs to be empty.
posted by kimdog at 10:04 AM on December 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

We have a Neato - it handles transitions between carpet and hardwood easily and shouldn't have any problems with your thresholds. We like that it's got a square front for better reach into corners as opposed to a completely round model. We have the base model but definitely look into the upgraded models. You can schedule it to run daily, but with pet hair you'll need to empty it daily or every other day at most.

Two great things about our model (not sure if Roomba or others do the same thing) - it will stop and beep at you when it's full, so it's not going to continue rolling and just push the dirt and fur around. It also will go back to the base station to charge itself if the battery runs low before it's done cleaning, and remembers where it was so it can restart where it left off once recharged. Really great for larger rooms or open floor plans where it's cleaning half the house!
posted by trivia genius at 10:14 AM on December 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

I have a roomba, sheddy cats, and laminate floors. It's pretty much useless, for a couple of reasons:
a) on laminate floors the hair doesn't "stick" to a spot, so when it goes by it tends to blow the hairs that it doesn't actually suck up around so it never gets quite clean.
b) the bin on it is really small, so the time between cleanup is small.

If you pay for shipping I'll gladly send it to you.
posted by Runes at 10:40 AM on December 17, 2013

I came into the thread to promote the Neato as well. I've had mine (the pet one with HEPA filter) for a little over a year now and I'm still in love with it. It shouldn't have any problem with your threshold. Mine jumps a marble riser between my bedroom and bathroom that's completely square and about 1/2" high.

I'm in the habit of emptying it every day, so I don't know about it getting full, but trivia genius is spot on about it recharging itself when necessary and it's smart enough to stop what it's doing when it gets into trouble.

I've got three cats and it sucks all the hair up like a champ. I run it daily, or try to. It can be set to run on a schedule, but I only run it manually as I don't want it to encounter any potential cat effluvia from either end if I'm not around to clean it up.
posted by ursus_comiter at 12:18 PM on December 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

I like the Neato, it's cleans up hair and doesn't require constant unwinding of pet hair around the brushes like my (older) Roomba. But it's very loud on my tile floors and annoys my s/o. I'm thinking of trying the Braava (iRobot's rebranded Mint) for my relatives with wood floors.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 9:12 PM on December 17, 2013

I have a lower end non-pet roomba, three cats who shed moderate cat amounts, and mostly carpet. As much as I'd like to love my roomba, it's useless as the bars get clogged up with cat hair and the thing stops to beep at me to clean it about 3/4 though almost every cycle. Extracting cat hair from its innards every time gets old quickly to the point where I'd rather just vacuum for real. Maybe the higher end ones are better, but I'm not dropping the change to find out. But it is good and climbing over different flooring surfaces.
posted by cgg at 9:45 PM on December 17, 2013

Since requests keep dribbling in, just wanted to note that Roland has indeed requested the roomba.
posted by Runes at 6:06 AM on December 19, 2013 [2 favorites]

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