Updated: June 8, 2015

iRobot Roomba Vacuum Robot

For centuries, technology has been at work to make peoples' lives easier. From basic conveniences like running water, indoor plumbing, and hot water, to more advanced machines like dishwashers, washing machines, and dryers, technology and electronics have been slowly taming household chores and giving people more free time. One chore that has been around since the days of dirt and brick floors is cleaning those floors - brushing, washing, dusting, sweeping, mopping, vacuuming, there always seems to be dust, hair, food scraps, and junk in general laying about the ground. Bulky vacuums have been around for a long time, and they do a decent job of cleaning hard surfaces and carpets. Mops work well on stone and tile surfaces. The advent of the Swiffer a few years back changed the way many people cleaned with simplified dusting and mopping of kitchen floors, but it still required manual time and effort.

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How does Roomba work?

The Roomba looks to change this entire cleaning paradigm, by combining artificial robot technology and intelligence with a mini sweeper and vacuum system. Developed by iRobot Corporation, the Roomba is a small robotic vacuuming appliance. How does Roomba work? Looking something like an electronic, thick frisbee on wheels, Roomba has a system of small brushes and vacuum suction. It has a 13" diameter and is circular in form. It is battery powered, and works best on smooth surfaces like tile or hardwood, but can also handle non-pile carpets. It's intelligent cleaning system allows it to make its way around the room or rooms where you place it, going under tables and chairs, along edges of walls, while avoiding stairs and other pitfalls. It knows to turn around and back up when it comes into contact with walls and doors, and it stops and circles areas where it finds lots of debris, meaning better cleaning for those problem areas. In a normal cleaning cycle, it will cover the entire floor area 3 or 4 times. View all iRobot Roomba models here

Sure, this may not be the smartest most efficient machine, but it does a pretty thorough job. Due to its low profile, it can also clean under beds and couches, places tough to reach with a normal vacuum. Roomba cleans in a 3 stage process. First, little spinning brushes along the front edges sweep dirt towards the center of its path. Next, 2 spinning brushes pick up hair and larger particles, again through a sweeping motion. Lastly, a squeegee vacuum picks up any remaining fine particles, dumping everything into a removable bin for cleaning. You can tell it areas to clean and avoid by using either of the included 2 Virtual Wall units -- place these in front of a doorway and they emit a signal that Roomba picks up, stopping it in its tracks at that invisible line (of course if you have a door there, you can just shut it as well). How long do Roomba batteries last? It should be able to clean 3 medium sized rooms (14x16 feet) in a single charge. If you need help or have questions about your Roomba, check out the official Roomba website, iRobot.com - they have a support section with answer to questions like: what do the beep error codes mean? where is the Roomba owners manual? how to remove and clean the Roomba brushes?

How much does Roomba vacuum cost?

The iRobot Roomba 4230 Remote Scheduler Robotic Vacuum costs about $329 (at Amazon.com - same price from the iRobot.com homepage). The more basic version, the iRobot Roomba 4100/4300 Intelligent Floorvac Robotic Vacuum, costs only $129. HSN.com sells the Roomba Discovery Scheduler 2.1 Robotic Vacuum with Docking Device for $269, and a two-pack of Roombas for $429. When it comes to Roomba reviews, this little vacuum gets generally high marks. Some people complain it does not clean as well as a full size vacuum, and that is to be expected. However, for simple daily cleanings most people give rave reviews about its ability to pick up pet hair, crumbs, and other stuff normally found on the kitchen floor. The nice thing about using the Roomba is that you don't have to program it or do anything special to make it work. It has its own routine of mapping out and cleaning the area it finds itself in - just push the CLEAN button and let it do its thing.

iRobot Scooba

iRobot didn't just stop at the vacuuming Roomba - it also came up with the mini-mopper wet cleaner, the Scooba. The Scooba is a floor washing robot which can scrub, wash, and dry hard wood and tiled floors. It uses a Clorox/water solution for cleaning, and is meant for sealed hard wood only. It uses only fresh cleaning solution, unlike a mop which keeps dipping into a dirtier and dirtier bucket. Most users recommend that you sweep or vacuum floors before using Scooba - it has a tendency to pickup hair and get clogged, limiting its cleaning ability. Many also complain that it can't get into corners and crevices and behind toilets like a normal mop - this is true, it has limitations based on its size, so you will still have to occasionally clean those little nooks and crannies manually. Some also complain about the smell of the cleaning solution being too strong -- and the Scooba has built in sensors that detect the mixture, so you cant substitute water or a more diluted mixture. Overall though, most people comment that the Scooba cleans up better than a maid with a mop, removing dirt and grime that even a cleaning service might miss. You can but the Scooba for $299 at the Home Shopping Network, HSN.com, or at Amazon.com for $295 (iRobot 5900 Scooba Floor Washing Robotic Hard Surface Cleaner). It comes with a 8 oz bottle of cleaning solution and a 1 year warranty. The lowest price we found was from a company called Cincynow, shipping through Amazon, that had the Scooba for $249.