what to look for when buying a robot vacuum cleanerIf you’re interested in buying a robot vacuum cleaner you must get familiar with their features and capabilities. As the reviews show, these robots can do a lot when it comes to cleaning dirt, debris, pet dander, etc. but they don’t perform the same way. While all robot vacuums can climb above thresholds, some are better than others, and some have features like spot cleaning that other models don’t have.

Aside from the ability to climb thresholds, a good robot vacuum should have a ledge sensor that allows the robot to sense if it is near a drop-off (like stairs) so it doesn’t fall off. Of course that is not the only feature you should look for as the following are equally important.

Cleaning Performance

This is what it all comes down to in the end; a robot vacuum can have all the bells and whistles, but it’s all about the cleaning. A well-designed robot vacuum cleans different types of floors such as bath mats, rugs, hard surfaces, hardwood and so on. The best robot vacuums can also pick up crumbs, dirt, pet fur, human hair and dust.

All robot vacuum cleaners can do the above, but the difference lies in the efficiency: while most pick up hair, those without the proper sensors won’t be able to see the other debris and collect them.

Performance is also determined by the brushes (i.e., rotating, side brushes) as they enhance the cleaning power of the vacuum. While these brushes generally have the same function, the design determines how effective they can be on putting the debris in the bin.

Performance also needs to be based on how well the robot navigates around potential obstacles like furniture, power cords and rugs. When you first run a robot vacuum, you can expect it to bump into furniture every now and then, but over time they usually “learn” and avoid them. Some of these robots can make multiple passes on a surface to ensure it is thoroughly cleaned.

Battery Life

The top robot vacuum cleaners have a battery life of around 2 hours or so on a full charge, but others run only for an hour or so. The actual running time depends on the mode you use and how much area needs to be cleaned up. Most of these robots can sense when power is running low and will automatically return to the dock for recharging. Speaking of recharging, we recommend you get a robot with as short a charging time as possible for faster cleaning.

Note that some robot vacuums don’t come with a charging station (check the product description). If it doesn’t come with one, make sure it has a light or some other lower power indicator.

Convenience and Scheduling

These robots are built with convenience in mind, and since they’re capable of navigating floors without your assistance, all you have to do is press the “clean” button, sit back and watch the machine go to work. Furthermore, these robots can be configured to run a weekly / daily basis: just set the time and the robot will go to work and when it’s finished, go back to the dock. The scheduling feature is essential if you’re going away on vacation or too busy during the day to do any cleaning.

Other features you need to look for are the cleaning and maintenance of the robot vacuum itself. With the best ones you just need to clean the filter or empty the dust collector, but others may require manual cleanup of tangled fur if they get caught up in the brushes. This isn’t uncommon in robot vacuums, but in the best ones the hair or fur should be easy to pull off. Other factors you need to look into in the convenience department are putting up boundaries, assembly and ease of use.


Regular vacuum cleaners generate a lot of noise, and that is the advantage of robot cleaners as they’re generally quieter. Some are just in the 55dB range, but some of the more powerful robot vacuum cleaners reach 78 decibels, which is around the range of your standard vacuum cleaner.

Other Features to look for – before buying a robotic vacuum cleaner

There are robot vacuum cleaners equipped with special features and accessories, but it’s up to you to decide if they’re worth it or just fluff. Here are some of the other essentials and extras you will find useful.

  • Loong warranty: the longer the warranty the better, but do take the time to read it so you know the extent of the coverage. The most basic warranty covers defective components and the warranty length should be at least 6 months for the battery and one year for the vacuum cleaner. As the reviews here show, some of these robot vacuum cleaners have longer warranties.

  • Customer Support: a long warranty is great, but if there are questions about the product it doesn’t cover, customer support should be available be it via email, chat or phone.

  • Helpful instructions: most of these robots just require you to press a button to start the cleaning process, but you may need help with scheduling and using the other functions. In this case a detailed user manual will come in handy, and some even have instructional videos. Also check out the manufacturer’s website if there are additional guides or troubleshooting info available.
  • Accessories: some robot vacuums have an app so you can use your mobile device to run the unit, set up a schedule and so on. This feature can be useful if you’re not at home and you want the robot to do some extra cleaning, but since most of these machines have an auto scheduling feature it might be redundant.

Other robot vacuums come with a remote control, and it’s a handy feature so you don’t have to come get the machine if you want to change its settings. Other robot vacuums come with magnetic strips which you can put on areas or doorways you don’t want the robot to cross. Other models let you set up virtual walls or boundaries to keep the machine from venturing into specific places.

What are the Benefits of a Robot Vacuum?

A robot vacuum can do a lot, actually.

  • Frees Up Your Time: a robot vacuum cleaner runs automatically so you don’t have to spend all your time monitoring it. To put it another way, you just need to press a button and the machine goes to work whereas with other vacuum cleaners you need to do a lot of the work yourself. When you add it all up, the time you save cleaning can be used for something else.

  • Cleans Where You Want It: if you don’t want the robot to clean a particular area in your home, you can configure it so the vacuum doesn’t go there.

  • Versatile: this has been pointed out before so there’s no need to belabor the point: robot vacuum cleaners work on different types of surfaces, but do keep in mind the versatility varies per product. In majority of cases however, a robot vacuum cleaner can be used on the most common types of floors without difficulty. One of the biggest frustrations with regular vacuum cleaners is they only work on certain types of floors, but with the top robot vacuums don’t have that kind of limitation.

  • Low Power Awareness: robot vacuum cleaners know when power is low or when they are done cleaning. When either one is detected, it heads back to the charging station to regain its charge. Therefore there is no need for you to worry the vacuum cleaner is going to run out of power or wonder when it needs to recharge.

  • Equipped with Long Lasting Batteries: back in the days, robot vacuum cleaners were costly and had short battery lifespans which made them impractical especially if you planned to use it every day or clean large areas. The good news is most quality robot vacuum cleaners use lithium ion batteries so they have a longer lifespan.

  • Highly Efficient Cleaning: robot vacuum cleaners are not just convenient but they’re also powerful. It doesn’t matter if there are large or small areas of dirt that need to be cleaned up, a robot vacuum cleaner can do it for you. Pieces of paper, food crumbs, pet hair, nails, dust etc., the suction power and brushes will be more than enough to collect the dirt.

  • Compact: robot vacuum cleaners are compact and can be stored in closets, boxes or just placed in a corner. Their slim and sleek design means you can put it under your bed or on the sofa and pick it up for cleaning later or the following day.

  • Quick Cleaning: these vacuum cleaners work fast but they’re thorough. This means you can clean other areas of your house while the vacuum cleaner works on the floors. This might not seem like a lot but really this means you’ll be able to finish your chores quickly and can do more of the stuff you want sooner than later.

  • Has Anti-bacterial Properties: dust mites and other dirty particles can trigger allergies and aggravate asthma and other respiratory conditions. Cleaning regularly with an upright vacuum cleaner is tedious but a robot cleaner is more convenient. More importantly, they come with UV sterilization that kills bacteria and up to 98% of fungus, dust mite, molds, microorganisms and more. What this means is the more you use the vacuum cleaner the more microorganisms are killed, minimizing the risk of respiratory ailments.

  • Reduce the Amount of Vacuuming You Do: since robot vacuum cleaners are automatic you don’t have to do a lot of actual vacuuming. While these are not going to replace a more powerful vacuum cleaner, it should more than suffice if you’re cleaning small spaces.

  • Helps if You Have Mobility Problems: whether it’s due to old age or injury, regularly vacuuming floors presents a problem. However if you don’t vacuum your floors, dust and dirt will build up and trigger asthma and make you vulnerable to various ailments.

With a robot vacuum cleaner you have a helper that can clean the floor automatically and thoroughly. Second, you can schedule the cleaning for specific days of the week so even if you’re sick during that day, the robot vacuum cleaner will still go to work.

Do You Need a Robot Vacuum Cleaner?

The answer is yes if you’re tired of frequent vacuuming and don’t want to hire a maid to do the job. The costs of robot vacuum cleaners have gone down and when you consider the benefits as outlined earlier, it’s a worthy investment. As indicated above, these robots do the work while you can go about doing other tasks or relaxing. As a pet owner, you will love it when no hair is laying around everywhere.

If your body has been hurting from using a large vacuum cleaner, then a more compact robot cleaner is more suitable. These compact vacuum cleaners are also more capable of reaching deep corners and tight spots, something that is impossible to do with large vacuum cleaners.

A lot of people like to use these vacuum cleaners because they‘re more energy efficient than their bigger counterparts. Most of these devices adjust the suction power depending on how much dirt has to be cleaned, saving power and energy in the process.


A robot vacuum cleaner isn’t going to take the place of an upright vacuum cleaner or mop, but it’s going to make your cleaning tasks easier. They’re affordable, easy to use and don’t get in the way. More importantly, by using one of these on a regular basis, there is less need for you to use an upright vacuum.