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Robot Vacuum Buying Guide: 7 Things You Need to Know

Instead of holding a traditional vacuum and walking it around your hardwood floors, carpet, or other surface, you can set a robot vacuum to clean your house. Then, off it will go while you watch some TV. Still, robot vacuums come with all kinds of features and prices, so you'll need to figure out how it'll be used and how much you want to spend before you choose one. If you live in a carpeted house, for instance, don't even think about getting a vacuum that specializes in hardwood floors. Simply put, buying a robot vacuum isn't as easy as you think.

To help you out with your robot vacuum purchase, we've compiled the following buying guide.

Quick Tips

  1. Determine the kind of surfaces you're hoping to clean.
  2. Size up your abode. Make sure you know how big your home is before choosing a model.
  3. More expensive isn't always better. Make your decision based on your needs, not by price.
  4. Check that battery life.1 hour is typical, so don't settle for less.
  5. Think about Wi-Fi control.It makes your life much easier, but is generally only in more expensive models.
  6. A remote is really handy. Even if you don’t have a robot that you can control from your smartphone, a remote control means you don’t have to get down on your hands and knees to start the vacuum.
  7. Auto-scheduling is a great feature. This will allow the robot vaccum to clean while you're not home.
  8. If you care about cleaning time, consider speed controls. Some robots will clean more quickly than others.


Why Do You Even Need A Robot Vacuum?

Not everyone needs a robot vacuum. Truth is, traditional vacuums generally work better than robot vacuums, which can get caught up on certain items in your house, don't have as large a canister for holding dirt, and might not have the same suction power as traditional models.

MORE: The Best Robot Vacuums

However, higher-end robot vacuums can, in some circumstances, deliver even better suction performance than traditional models. What's more, they deliver the kind of convenience you simply won't find in traditional devices. You don't need to follow your robot vacuum around. Instead, you can be productive while it's cleaning your house. That alone makes robot vacuums worth the price.

How Large is Your Home?

When you're ready to buy a robot vacuum, you'll need to first consider how big your house is. Some vacuums are designed for apartments and therefore don't have the ability on a single charge to roam around your big house and clean it up. Others, such as the Samsung Powerbot R7070, can cruise around 2,000 square feet with ease and you won't need to worry about their battery lives. Your robot vacuum choice, then, will depend in large part on the size of your home. So be sure to have your square footage ready.

You'll also want to consider the size of the robot vacuum itself if you want it to clean up underneath your furniture. Robot vacuums taller than 4-5 inches, such as the Dyson 360Eye, for example, won't be able to get those dust bunnies gathering under your dresser or bed.

Do You Have Carpeting?

Most robot vacuums are designed to handle both carpets and hardwood floors, but their performance will vary. Look for vacuums that can detect what sort of surface they’re on, and adjust their suction accordingly. Others, such as the Neato Botvac Connected, also let you switch between Turbo and Eco modes, for extra power on carpets.

Other robot vacuums specialize in a particular floor type. For example, the iRobot Braava Jet is only intended to scrub hardwood and tile floors. Either way, figure out where you'll be using your robot vacuum and pick the right device for it.

What's the Goal?

It's also critical that you determine what your goal might be with your robot vacuum. If you simply want to get a device that helps you clean but you're going to do the heavy lifting, you can probably get away with a cheaper robot vacuum that will get the easy stuff. If you're hoping to leave all of the vacuuming to your robot, expect to spend more to get the right device.

Robot vacuums also come with a slew of features and accessories that do require some upkeep. If you don't like the idea of fixing accessories or spending too much hands-on time with your vacuum, you'll probably want a cheaper model that doesn't come with all the extras you'll find in higher-end versions.

Do You Have Pets?

Credit: Frank11/ShutterstockCredit: Frank11/Shutterstock

One of the nicer features in a robot vacuum is its ability to pick up pet hair. While you'll need to make sure the option you pick can pick up pet hair, many models, like the midrange Samsung PowerBot R7070, can pick it up with ease—it was among the top scorers on our pet hair tests. In addition, if you suffer from allergies, many of the better robot vacuums today come with a HEPA filter to limit the amount of allergens getting into the air.

However, be aware that pet hair can sometimes cause some clogging troubles with robot vacuums and HEPA filters will lose their efficacy as time goes on. So keep a close eye on both after your vacuum's been roaming around your place for awhile.

Programming Could Be Your Best Friend

One of the most convenient features of a robot vacuum is the ability to program it to clean on a specific schedule; that way, you don't have to manually start it. Scheduling enables you to run the vacuum when you're not at home, so you don't have to be distracted by it running around your floor.

Another nice-to-have feature is a remote control, which lets you manually direct the robot to a particular spot on the floor it may have missed; it's also a great way to terrorize your pets by having the robot vacuum chase after them.

Some of the newer and admittedly more expensive robot vacuums come with programming features that let you control their movement and schedules over Wi-Fi via a smartphone app. The iRobot Roomba 960 and Samsung PowerBot support app control and programming. The Neato Botvac Connected is another higher-end robot vacuum that connects to your Wi-Fi network, and works with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, too.

Battery Life Is Critical

When it comes time to find a robot vacuum, pay attention to battery life.

In general, you get what you pay for when it comes to battery life. Some of the lower end models will deliver about an hour or less on a single charge. On average, a robot vacuum can last up to an hour-and-a-half before it needs some more juice, and those on the higher end of the spectrum can run for around two hours.

There's another thing to consider when it comes to battery life: vacuum behavior. Get a robot vacuum that automatically returns to its base station when its battery runs low or when it's finished cleaning. If something goes awry with a lesser model, or it can't find its way back to the base station, you might find yourself searching for your vacuum whenever the juice runs out. It's no fun.

What Do You Get for the Price?

As you might suspect from our description on robot vacuums, your mileage will vary and in most cases, the more you pay the more features you'll get.

In general, for a basic robot vacuum, expect to pay at least $200. Our top budget pick is the Eufy Robovac 11. While it didn’t fare well on our pet hair tests, it wa an effective cleaner with other materials and on a variety of surfaces, has a large bin, and had a low enough profile to fit under most furniture. While it came with a remote, it lacks Wi-Fi connectivity, so you can’t control it from your phone.

The good news is you no longer have to spend upwards of $800 to get a great robot vacuum. Around the $500 mark, you'll start to find some solid performers like the Samsung Powerbot R7070. It has connected features, such as Wi-Fi, an app, and works with other smart home systems, so you can have it automatically start cleaning once you leave your house.

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