Cleaning our floors is one of the most meticulous jobs in the world. You could sweep and sweep and still end up with piles of dust and pet hair all over your floors. An upright or stick vacuum cleaner is the better way of maintaining a spotless floor, but then there’s the hassle of plugging and unplugging the unit. And don’t even get us started on their rechargeable batteries!
Anyways, the best way to do it – by best, we mean the lazy-man’s way – is by getting a robot vacuum cleaner. These disc-shaped beings of wire and science redefine the phrase “picking up after yourself.” With one of these robots in your household, removing that dusty, graining feeling from under your feet is as easy as letting the robot roam free.
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Do I need a Robot Vacuum Cleaner?
Once you get a robot, you won’t be able to imagine life without one. We’re not exaggerating when we say that owning a robot vacuum is life-changing. This is especially true for people who wholeheartedly hate sweeping and vacuuming – i.e. 100% of the world. Plus, if you have messy creatures in your home, the kind that you call children, then you know how infuriating it can be picking up after them for completely avoidable messes on your beautiful hardwood flooring.
How does a Robot Vacuum work?
Good question. When it comes to how a robot vacuum knows when, where, and how to clean, the questions people have are more on the “robot” subject rather than the “vacuum” of it. In one word, we can answer this question: science. But that’s not enough, is it?
There are several ways a robot can navigate through the wild environment known as the floor of your home. First, the robot vacuum cleaner is equipped with three main sensors – an obstacle sensor, a cliff sensor, and a wheel sensor.
An obstacle sensor is exactly what it sounds like. The robot’s onboard bumpers will collide into any object in its path – toys, pet food bowls, chair legs – that could prevent it from moving about. After the initial bump, the robot now knows to avoid that spot to avoid further collision based on which part of the bumper has made contact. However, this could potentially mean that the robot will deem movable objects like curtains as an unmovable obstacle and avoid cleaning parts of your floor adjacent to walls.
Stairs and cliffs are a robot vacuum’s worst enemy. Nothing will damage a robot vacuum cleaner more than toppling down a flight of stairs. The cliff sensor is the solution to keep your robot from committing suicide; it constantly checks the level of the surface immediately in front of the robot. If the robot does not receive a responding signal within a certain timeframe, it’ll automatically assume that it’s standing on the edge of a high-altitude place, turn tail, and vacuum in another direction.
The robot is always calculating how far it has traveled based on the rotation of its wheels. When the robot begins cleaning in the already-explored territory, the circumference of the wheels in pair with the wheel sensors will remind the robot of the location of stairs and obstacles.
Types of Mapping
Apart from navigation sensors which are mandatory for the safety of the robot, the robot also utilizes a mapping system to draw and store the layout of your floors. Different manufacturers use different mapping systems, but the two most commonly used are picture mapping and LIDAR mapping. We’ll explain briefly what each of these two systems is, but the most important thing to take away from it all is that both systems create a digital layout of your home, allowing the robot to calculate the most efficient way of cleaning your floors.
With picture mapping, the robot’s camera takes a picture of an area in your home, marking the locations of different landmarks likes furniture, walls, and door thresholds. This is the more basic way of drawing a layout of your home’s floors, but it’s used by some pretty heavy contenders in the robot vacuum cleaner industry (Samsung and iRobot).
The second mapping system is known as LIDAR mapping, short for light detection and ranging. Using non-life threatening lasers, the robot shoots the beam at anything in its path, quickly counting the distance of the robot’s position relative to the upcoming obstacle (wall or furniture leg).
Robot Vacuum Cleaner Virtual Walls
You may not want a robot vacuum cleaner to make its way into a certain room. Or maybe the robot isn’t programmed with a single-room cleaning feature. Whatever the case may be, there are ways to set boundaries for the robot. That way it’ll continue to clean your floors, but it’ll also know that you just want to be friends.
One of the most effective ways of prohibiting your vacuum cleaner from venturing past a certain point is by using a physical device known as a virtual wall. This device emits an infrared beam that the robot can detect and interprets as an un-passable wall. When the robot comes within detecting range of the beam, it’ll act as if it were in a path of collision with an object and turn right around.
Virtual walls are not the most advanced system available, but they are available in a wide range of different robot cleaners. Also, they provide you with the convenience of not having to access digital maps in a smart device is manually mark which places the robot should not vacuum.
Best Robots with Mapping and Virtual Wall: Buying Guide
So now that we’ve learned how a robot vacuum navigates through the jungle known as your home and how to boundary off parts of your home, it’s time to discuss what sort of features to look out for when shopping for a robot vac. In this brief buying guide, we’ll go over what sort of factors will add to the convenience of owning and using a robot vacuum cleaner.
There’s absolutely no point in getting a robotic vacuum cleaner if it only runs for 20 minutes at a time. Thankfully, advances in battery technology have allowed robots to come with larger batteries – more than 2,000 mAh – and thus, longer runtimes. Robot vacuums typically run for up to 90 minutes per charge, though newer models can work for up to 120 minutes.
Your purchase decision should depend on the size of your home or apartment. A larger battery would be ideal for covering more floor area per charge.
Wheels and Tires
The way a robot vacuum travels around the floor of your home is by gliding on wheels. If you have carpeting, you need to pay close attention to the size of the robot’s wheels. Larger wheels are more adept at transitioning from smooth floors to carpets and vice versa. If your floors are absent of carpeting, take some time to study the tires and traction. Robots typically don’t slip and slide, but if you have slippery floors, the robot could accidentally slip down a flight of stairs. Sure, it’s funny seeing a robot not brake in time, but it could lead to some pretty expensive damage.
The type of filter installed in your robot vacuum will determine what sort of fallen debris it can suction up. Filters with finer meshes are ideal for microscopic particles like dander. If this is something that’s plaguing your home, then consider getting a True HEPA Filter – the only type of filter that traps particles as small as 0.3 microns with 99.97% effectiveness.
The best thing about robot vacuum filters nowadays is that they come with a double filter design. The primary filter serves to capture all dust and prevent it from falling back onto your floors, whereas the secondary filter is designed for more specific tasks like trapping dander, pet hair, and other allergens.
Robot vacuums have a selection of cleaning modes to choose from. The most basic cleaning modes include an automatic mode, spot mode, power boost, and cleaning pass. Some robot vacuums also have a mode to clean a single room, but if you’re getting one that comes with virtual walls, this is not available, nor is it needed.
The problem of a smaller battery and shorter runtimes can be solved with an auto-charging feature. When the robot detects that its battery is running low on juice, it’ll make a beeline directly to the charging dock to refuel. Not all models have this feature, so if convenience is a priority (it should be since you’re thinking of getting a robot to do your dirty work), make sure that it can auto-charge.
So after the robot has fully charged, now what? Well, if you get an older model, your only option is to bend over and push a button to command it to resume its cleaning cycle. Imagine expecting a clean floor and finding that the robot has been chilling all day, getting high on electricity, and not doing any work. Or if you’d like, you can search for a robot that comes with an auto-resume feature. This instructs the robot to continue where it left off before charging. Once again, this is all about convenience, but it’s extremely handy when you need the robot to vacuum your floors while you’re away.
Here’s one feature that’s an absolute must-have if you don’t spend much time at home: the ability to connect to your home’s Wi-Fi. Manufacturers provide you with a downloadable app on your smart device that lets you give cleaning instructions from afar. The app also lets you program cleaning schedules so you can set it up and forget about it.
To make things even more convenient, the latest robot vacuum cleaner models come with voice control. No, you don’t speak to the robot, but we can’t wait for the technology to come out. Instead, you give vocal commands via Amazon Alexa and/or Google Assistant. Like the downloadable app, you can command Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant to relay cleaning instructions and schedules to the robot from the comfort of your couch or bed. You can get by without ever having to bend over and push the control panel buttons on the robot.
Here’s something you may not be aware of. Many robots come with a mopping feature that does a pretty decent job at cleaning floors. We must admit that the technology is not yet perfect and 100% reliable. In fact, “mopping” is a very generous term compared to what it does – it wipes your floor with a wet rag with hardly any pressure. So realistically, it will not be able to clean spaghetti stains from tiles, but it will get rid of dust particles.
There you have it, ladies and gentlemen; a thorough guide on what a robot vacuum cleaner with mapping and virtual walls is.
In a nutshell, the mapping algorithm in a robot vacuum is what helps it plan out the most efficient route when cleaning your floors. It marks the most important landmarks in your home, specifically obstacles that could prevent it from getting the task done, and makes sure to avoid them when its cleaning cycle begins. Without it, prepare to laugh your sides off as the robot bumps clumsily around your home.
The virtual wall is a lot more straightforward; it’s a physical device that emits an infrared beam which prevents the robot from passing. This is useful for locking your robot in a single room for more concentrated cleaning.
In this article, we’ve also provided you with a quick buying guide on how to find the most convenient robot vacuum cleaner. The essential factors to consider are the size of the battery, how well the robot navigates across your floors, the types of filter used by the robot, and available cleaning modes. Everything else – auto-charge, auto-resume, Wi-Fi connectivity, voice control, and mopping feature – add to the convenience of the robot.
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Last update on 2020-09-29 / Most affiliate links and/or Images from Amazon Product Advertising API