The What, Why, Who, Which and Where of Robot Vacuums

Sam Harris
written by Sam Harris
created on March 27, 2020
updated on September 12, 2020

From the definition of a robot vacuum to its methodology and applications, to buying guide, and finally to a comparison of robot vacuums with upright vacuums. Here’s everything you need to get started with a robotic vacuum cleaner.

What are robotic vacuum cleaners?

Robot vacuum cleaners, also known as robovacs, it turns out, are automatic cleaning machines with intelligent programming capabilities. These intelligent features ensure a robot vacuum is able to tidy anywhere it is being deployed with less human intervention. A robot vacuum can be operated through a remote, app, or voice assistants such as Alexa or Google Home.

How do robot vacuums work?

A robot vacuum moves around on its wheels.

To aid navigation and avoid injury to the machine, there are attached sensors on different parts of the machine to include for detecting walls, obstacles, and cliffs, dirt, and carpets.

As the robot vacuum is navigating a space, there are side brushes sweeping the mess toward the path the center brush (aka roller or extractor) which ultimately pulls it in. The sucked cruds then get transferred to the detachable dustbin.

The above is true of the science behind robot vacuums in general, although some models (Roomba i7+, s9+, and Shark IQ RV1001AE) have additional features (voice control, mapping, auto-empty, etc) that can alter the mode of operation.

Who Needs a Robot Vacuum?

  • Households that attract a lot of foot traffic.
  • Households whose family members may have back pain, lung diseases amongst other health-related conditions.
  • Households or individuals who want to keep up with the long hairs of their partners or mates.
  • Pet owners whose cats, dogs shed hairs like crazy.
  • People with allergies.
  • People who need quick fixes.
  • People who are living in an area where dust traffic in high volume.
  • People who want to cut down on arguments over who’s doing what in the house.
  • People who cannot or are unable to push or pull a manual vacuum (could be that they’re elderly, disabled or even able-bodied persons who simply don’t feel like doing full vacuum).
  • New parents with small kids.
  • Busy professionals who travel a lot/don’t have extra time for vacuuming.
  • Homeowners selling their houses who need to keep it as spotless as possible.
  • Homeowners who are remodeling with new floorings
  • Also, a robot vacuum is an excellent solution for households or anyone at all who wants their floors cleaned regularly.

Who shouldn’t buy a robot vacuum?

Robot vacuums may not be suitable for anyone who:
  • Is unwilling to spend serious money (items less than $300 in my experience are expensive toys at best).
  • Has dark patterned rugs or carpets. This will be treated as an edge so the device will avoid cleaning. Specific to some models most notably the Roomba, and this is due to the visual/optical navigation technology
  • Can’t keep things off the floor.
  • Prioritizes their privacy. For people in this category, a robot vacuum with remote control should suffice. Keep in mind though that the remote-controlled floor robots lack the functionalities of the app option. You may be interested in reading this post about privacy concerns as they relate to using the app-controlled robot vacuums.
  • Prioritizes deep or detailed cleaning.
  • Want to clean the stairs.

Are robotic cleaners any good? Are they worth it?

You should be considering a smart robot vacuum cleaner on the basis that it’s everything the upright vacuum isn’t:

Robot vacuums for what type of home?

  • Robot vacuums in the beginner category often work best in a small space (≤ 800 sq ft), open floor plan, with mostly hard floors (tiles, laminates, woods) and maybe low-pile carpets.
  • Robot vacuums in the intermediate category can handle a medium space (≤ 1500 sq ft), multiple floor plans, with multiple floorings (hard floors, rugs, low- to medium-pile carpets), and long human and dog hair.
  • Robot vacuums in the advanced category, thanks to their intelligent navigation, larger battery capacity, specially designed rollers, auto recharge, resume, and self empty functions–are better able to handle large spaces (≤ 3500 sq ft), hard floors, low- to medium-pile carpets, and pets fur.

What should I consider when choosing a robot vacuum?

  • Consider the price of the available robot vacuums in the market and their offerings
  • Consider floor plan and layout
  • Consider floor type (tile, carpet, hardwood, etc)
  • Consider home size
  • Consider lifestyle (pets, activity level)
  • Consider your tech capabilities.

You can follow this link to read more about the importance of those variables in the purchase decision.

Which smart robot vacuum cleaner is best for me? Which should I buy?

Smart robotic vacuums differ in specs, pricing, and performance. 

And because more features don’t always translate into better performance. Or in plain English–the suitability of a product for a vacuuming task isn’t necessarily about its pricing or the features it is advertised with. Choosing the ideal self vacuum robot will depend on what you need or think is important to you.

You can get by with items in the beginner and intermediate categories if you have, say, an open floor plan with over 90% hardwood floor in a home of 1200 sq ft or less. But maybe not if you have a large house (more than 3000 sq ft) with mixed floors, obstacles, and lots of transitions. Instead, the talking point will be the high-end models, my favorites being the Roborock S5 Max, Proscenic M7 Pro, and Deebot 950.

Can a robot vacuum replace a normal vacuum?

Not necessarily.

Can a robot vacuum be an alternative to an upright vacuum? Absolutely!

You should be considering a smart robot vacuum cleaner on the basis that it’s everything the upright vacuum isn’t.

  • A time saver
  • A convenient and efficient cleaning device
  • A lifesaver (especially for homes with pets and homeowners with large apartments)
  • A productivity hack
  • A trusted, versatile, reliable cleaning assistant
  • A loyal homeboy



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