Robot Vacuums: What Every Homeowner Should Know

If you’re considering a robot vacuum for your home, there are some important things to know first before spending hundreds of dollars on a product that may (or may not) fit your particular needs.

To begin with, understand that not all makes and models of robot cleaners are alike.

Some models map the rooms, others clean randomly. And some can be scheduled while others aren’t as convenient. Nevertheless, all robots can clean with the bare minimum of human help, which makes them a useful tool in the fight against dirt and grime!

Understanding the Basics

Most manufacturers will tell you that a robot vacuum isn’t meant to replace your full-size vac. It should be used to keep your floors clean if you don’t have time to clean them throughout the week. 

Even so, a robot can be very useful if you don’t have time to clean. If this is the case, you will probably have to spend more money on  a high-end robot that can be used every day. Then, you wouldn’t need to use a full-sized vacuum cleaner more than once or twice a month.

Regardless of the robot, the basic features and specifications are pretty much the same. They include:

  • ⬥ Cliff sensors
  • ⬥ Rotating brushes
  • ⬥ Battery sensors

And while robot vacuums can have more bells and whistles than these features, you’ll end up paying more for those extra features.

For example, in most cases, basic robotic vacuums cannot return to their docks. They also can’t map out a room, and/or often can’t see cliffs, such as stairs. 

That’s why basic robot vacuums are best suited to individuals who use a full-size vacuum at least once a week.


Higher-end robots usually have mapping and navigation capabilities. Each manufacturer has its own approach, but most of the time it revolves around two methods.

One method is a robot with an onboard camera that takes pictures of ceilings, walls, doorways, furniture, stairs, and other landmarks. 

The other method involves using lasers to detect and measure the distance between the vacuum and a particular object. In both cases, the system uses the data collected to create a map of the room.

It may not seem necessary, but mapping offers significant benefits. It is easier for a robot to map out the most efficient cleaning route when it has a floor plan. Because of this, mapping robots appear to move in straight lines, while others appear to move randomly.

Your mapping vacuum can also localize itself within the map. The vacuum knows where it has been and where it needs to go. This allows it to quickly locate the docking station after a cleaning session so that it can recharge.

Drawbacks of mapping robots

Mapping robots aren’t perfect however…they do have some drawbacks. For example, in low-light conditions, vacuums with camera mapping struggle to find their way. Also, dark walls can confuse your robot’s lasers, even if it uses them to map the area. 

A floor-length mirror might trick the vacuum into thinking the room is larger than it really is. Also, it is possible for these vacuums to get stuck under tables and other furniture and become tangled. 

While navigation and mapping help the robot be more efficient with less help from you, no matter how much you pay for the robot, it will sometimes struggle. 


Robots need enough space to move around and clean, so make sure you get rid of all cables and long curtains that might be in its way. 

Also, understand that robots don’t see like we do. Even though some have cameras, they still require various sensors to detect hazards and obstacles. 

The sensors can also discover new areas and measure the distance traveled.

Different robotic vacuums have different sensors, although some of these sensors are fairly standard. These factors will determine how a vacuum reacts to what is ahead of triggered the sensor

Obstacle Sensors

As noted, your robot sees many things as obstacles. 

Playthings, sofas, chair legs, and coffee tables could all impede the robot. That’s why it employs sensors located near the shock-absorbing bumpers. 

When the vacuum hits an object with its bumper, the sensor is triggered. As a result, the vacuum is directed to move away and continue its journey. Additionally, the bumper determines the direction. Hence, if it strikes on the left side, it will most likely turn right.

Even though this enhances its overall performance, it can often affect it in the opposite direction as well. Avoiding obstacles can mean that areas of the floor are left unattended. 

Some vacuums don’t move away from the barrier. Instead, they use the sensor to see it, then slow down as they approach.

The robot will therefore gently touch the object without damaging  it, allowing it to move through bed skirts and curtains without stopping.

Wall Sensors

These enable the vacuum to detect walls through infrared light. By doing so, the vacuum won’t move away from the wall, but will approach it slowly, cleaning all around it.

A unit equipped with wall sensors can clean along edges without damaging the wall. Vacuums that have mapping capabilities can also use wall sensors to navigate around doorways and new areas every time.

Cliff Sensors

Robot vacuums are most at risk from stairs; falling down the stairs could cause irreparable damage. Therefore, cliff sensors are present to prevent disasters from occurring.

These sensors use infrared signals that measure the distance to the floor. When the signal isn’t received back immediately, the robot thinks it has detected a cliff, so it turns around and moves in another direction.

Wheel Sensors

Robots equipped with wheel sensors measure the rotation of its wheels using light sensors. It calculates the distance traveled based on the number and the wheel circumference. Older technologies like this are typically found in lower-end models.

It’s not the most efficient method since it makes robots vacuum in strange patterns. The sensors do little to help, and you will notice the robot vacuuming in uneven patterns and taking multiple passes over the same area.

Pros and cons



Because of its small size, a robot vacuum can get into tight spaces. As a result, pet owners will find this vacuum to be ideal for picking up hair and dander from underneath furniture.


Most robots are quite lightweight as well. It is light and portable, especially when compared to traditional vacuums that are heavy.

Time saving

One of the most notable advantages is that it enables you to keep your floors clean without a lot of hassle. Rather than use your full-size vacuum two or three times a week, try using a robot every day. If you do, you’ll see that you’ll only need to pull out the big machine about once a week.


The biggest problem with robot vacuums is that sometimes they miss certain areas. Despite advanced mapping technology and advanced sensors, there are still instances in which things can go wrong.

Missed spots

Low-end models clean randomly, which can leave lots of areas unattended. They can usually clean it all, but it may take them more than an hour. Most of the time, their batteries won’t allow this.

Battery life

Another problem is battery life. A robot vacuum is  battery-operated and cordless. Although they can move freely without tripping over the cord, this also limits their run time.

Although some of the more expensive models can run for an hour, most models run for about 30 minutes. Usually, this depends on the cleaning mode, since a “boost mode” can reduce its run time more than half.

Robots also have small dust bins. There’s a limit to how much debris it can handle, so depending on how dirty your floors are, you may have to empty it frequently.


After every few cleanings you may need to clean out the hair and debris that can get wrapped around the bristles on the unit’s brushes.


When they move around your house, even the quietest models tend to bang against your walls and furniture.


The home base can’t just be put anywhere…it needs to be placed near an outlet and in a location where it has enough space for the robot to operate.

Robot vacuums are among the easiest to use gadgets because of the technology behind them. If the robot’s battery is full, it can clean your floors without your intervention. And while some  vacuums have more difficulty than others, depending on their sensors, most of them do an adequate job.

Here are more posts on cleaning your home.

How to Find the Best Vacuum Cleaner

How To Clean Different Types of Flooring

Home Remedies to Get Rid of Pet Odors