After a few weeks of comparing prices, reading reviews, and weighing pros and cons; we ordered an iRobot Roomba 560. My wife and I decided that it was the right choice (and the right time to get one) since we are both quite busy, don’t always vacuum as much as we should, and since we have been borrowing our bosses vacuum for the last two years. According to reviews, it should last us 3-4 years (some sources say 5-6 years) with good care. It costs as much as a comparable vacuum (and we found it for a good deal less than the iRobot site, though we found the Amazon price fluctuates almost daily) and it’s less work, right?
Setup: We received our new robot vacuum yesterday and after naming it Guster (which is common practice and we didn’t want to be non-conformists) put it directly on the charger and waited.
First clean: After the initial 16 hour charge was up, my wife and I gathered around our newest family member and pressed “Clean” and he went right to work (this is quite remarkable since, when I was 16 hours old, I was still busy making more messes than I was cleaning).
Now, I’ve read every review out there (good and bad) and so I was surprised to find that the robot still found ways to surprise me. For one, yes I knew that it would criss-cross the room in an irregular pattern, I was shocked to find how irregular. When you read the reviews that say that it seems to have a mind of its own—well, when you watch it, you don’t wonder why that’s said. I’d really like to have a chance to look at the source code (written in Java from what I surmise) to see the programming for this guy.
Another commonly written thing in reviews is how much dirt you’ll get on your first vacuuming. Wow! That is a lot of dirt. It’s surprising that so much dirt can fit in such a small little sucker. I would say that the amount of dirt, hair, junk, and other unsightlyness that Guster picked up wouldn’t have fit in a quart jar (even if you remove the peaches first, which we all know is the best use for quart jars). So, when you go out and read reviews on the Roomba, and you see that said, don’t be surprised.
When it was done, the little guy found its way back to the base. According to the reviews I’ve read it won’t always find home, but I have a theory that the reason it sometimes has problems is that the dock is in an out-of-sight-out-of-mind place, so that the owners don’t have to stare at an unsightly vacuum all day. Since we didn’t have room for anything else, we put it in plane view of most of the room. I’d like to experiment with shelves for it to be stored under to solve the out-of-sight-out-of-mind problem.
When it is done it will find it’s dock, or if it’s in a different room it will just stop. It didn’t really take that long, but it vacuumed much longer than I ever do in any given room. The largest room took about an hour (though it was actually doing two rooms at once) the smaller rooms took about 20 - 30 minuts.
Cleaning the Vacuum: They say you can’t make anything clean without making something else dirty, the Roomba is no different. After it docked itself it was my duty to empty the bin, clean the filter, and clear the brushes of debris (which should help the robot to have a long and happy life) all of which was straight forward and easy except for one small thing. The unit shipped with a handy circular cleaning comb that you can slide the brushes through and it will get most of the hair that twists around the brush. The cleaning comb was a good start, but the was also hair wrapped around the ends of the vacuum that the comb was useless in removing. I tried several things before I found something that worked. The tines of a fork are too fat, but the tip of a knife is perfect to get into the groove and cut through the hair and help in removing it. The first time I did this it took me about 10 minutes (I could have vacuumed myself in that time) but after that I got the hang of it and it took only about 3 minuts. I’m also sure that since this was only the initial clean that subsequent (and regular) vacuumings will pick up less hair to pick up and so less will get wrapped around ends.
Miscellaneous: There are several nice things about this model, scheduling being one of them. It has an easy to set up scheduling mechanism allowing you to program a different time for each day of the week. I wish that I could have set this on my computer, but you have to set it on the machine.
This ends the first day’s review, if I have any comments in a week or so, I’ll post an update to this review.
P.S. I think that the future of vacuuming is here.