Should I Buy a Roomba or just use Elbow Grease?
I often wonder….should I buy a Roomba iRobot Vacuum Cleaner so that the house could be vacuumed while I am out at work. Think of all the extra time I would have, and think how clean the house would be! But a new ones around $300 so that is a lot of money…frugal common sense suggests I am heading in the wrong direction here so lets look at the question in more detail.
The Roomba “autonomous robotic vacuum cleaner” is manufactured by iRobot, was launched in 2002 and has sold over 3 million units worldwide. Surely this invention is what what we expect from the technology that took man to the moon? This is what we have all dreamed about…a friendly robot that performs a useful and labor saving task while we can enjoy a life of leisure! Well, like all dreams we have to wake up eventually, so what is the real options for vacuum cleaning your house or apartment?
- New Roomba: $300 to $800 depending on the model so that is a serious investment!
- Second Hand Roomba: $50 to $100 on ebay. The older models like the Discovery have a much better reputation for reliability than the more recent models and the spare parts are widely available.
- Normal Vacuum Cleaner: $250 or so for a Dyson or $50 for a simple traditional model
- Dust Buster Handheld Vacuum Cleaner & Dustpan: $30 for the lot
Why not use a dust pan and brush and save the $300?
The Dead Tortoise:
So should I take the plunge? Should I buy a Roomba….or choose one of the other options? Take a reality check, is a battery powered over-sized frisby really going to clean up my place properly and save me time? Realistically the answer is “no” for the following reasons:
- Maintenance: The Roomba is small and so is the dust compartment so you need to empty and clean it after each session. Those funny straw like brushes have to be replaced regularly and if it encounters fishing line, string etc you could be in for a long job untangling it
- Intelligent Navigation: Ok so I need to spend time on a bit of maintenance…but the Roomba will navigate around my place and find all the dirt right? Well it might….but then again it might get stuck inside the bathroom for two hours until the battery runs down. The Roomba is not that smart since it can nudge its way into a room through a half open door, but can just as easily shut itself in as well.
- A Dead Tortoise: What happens when a tortoise gets stuck on its back….well it dies. A Roomba does the same, and there are plenty of obstacles around the place that can tip it over. Once wedged in a corner or stuck on its back it can’t right itself so it will “wurgh” away happily until the battery runs out….and then you have do the cleaning as well as fix the machine
- Stairs: Ha ha ha, well the Roomba is really stuck here since it was not designed to clean stairs, so you will just have to get on and do those yourself…
- Cables: Mobile phone chargers, phone cables, all that stuff behind your PC….well that is a perfect place for a Roomba to get stuck, gobble up the cables and try to make a nest. Basically you need to tidy stuff up first before you “release the beast”. Actually you should just put things away after you have used them so that you have a tidier house in the first place!
- Noisy Little Bugger: Well, if you are able to schedule the Roomba to “do its thing” while you are out of the house….and if it doesn’t lock itself in the bathroom or die on its back then after a couple of hours you might come home to a pretty clean couple of rooms. However, if you have to use the Roomba while you are in the house then you will soon get fed up with the irritating noise that goes on and on forever….well at least until it gets stuck on its back and the battery runs out!
So, Should I buy a Roomba?
A fine example of a second hand Roomba worth seeking out on ebay. Oscar the cat particularly likes to tease the robot but so far has not managed to achieve the “Dead Tortoise”!!
It is pretty clear that there are a lot of downsides to this robotic cleaning lark. How long does it actually take to wizz round yourself? Get organized and you can do it a lot quicker than you think probably! Of course it depends on the kind of floors you have….wood, lino (does that still exist?) or carpet etc…and do you have a herd of pets that shed hair everywhere.If you have no pets (or just Goldfish) and mostly hard floors then a quick 2 minute sweep with a broom and then wizz up the dust with a handheld vacuum cleaner before doing a quick suck round the skirting boards. Honestly, you can do that in no more than five minutes per room….not bad exercise either. You have to do the stairs anyway. Just find five minutes a day to do some quick cleaning and your place will be spick and span the whole time. Leave it for a month and not even the Roomba can help you out since there will be so much dirt that you will have to empty it every few minutes. Hmmm, I am confused, should I buy a Roomba or not? Best checkout the YouTube video for more information to help me decide if I should buy a Roomba or not…
The Second Hand Option:
If you like scouring the pages of ebay then it is fairly easy to find older models of the Roomba available very cheaply…buy two so that you have one for spares. There is a lot of information online about how to repair and fix them so if you want to invest the time then you could get up and running for a sensible price. But going down this route commits you to fiddly regular maintenance and repair which you will need to learn how to do….perhaps this is a good option if you really hate housework, have mostly carpets and perhaps plenty of pet hair to cope with.
Technology is great, and really can help us to save time and often money….but you need to choose carefully and not just “buy now think later” or else you might end up with cupboards full of stuff you never use and a huge credit card bill! In certain circumstances a Roomba could make sense, particularly if you are able to get one dirt cheap second hand. But for most of us it is probably better to find a quick and simple “low tech” solution, and focus on getting the job done regularly and quickly. Should I buy a Roomba to save time and money….then the answer is certainly “NO” if you are thinking about a new one…but searching for a low cost second hand one could be worth considering.
Another amusing point of view that may help you answer the question “should I buy a Roomba” can be found at this link:
Phil Gyford’s website
During 2012 several very low cost Roomba clones have appeared in the shops. These can often be had for under $100 and are about the size of a Frisbee. I think common sense will tell you that these robotic cleaners are just not up to the job since they are just too small and will not be able to store enough dust. If you buy a Roomba then at least can be sure that you will always be able to obtain spare parts….with these cheap clones your guess is as good as mine!
More details about cheap and reliable cleaning methods here: Use Elbow Grease!
Credits: Many thanks to Anne & Pete for the ideas and the pictures of the Roomba, which is in fact part of a fleet of three that they own. Oscar the cat is not impressed, but is at least part of the justification! He is probably thinking “should I buy a Roomba?…….narrr, perhaps I will lick my bum and then go out an catch another mouse”
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