Miscellaneous Robotics Technology

Roomba Update – 3 Months In

September 25, 2010

Several months ago I wrote excitedly about a new purchase, the Roomba 430S. So how is it holding out? How well does it clean? What’s the battery life like? Well, to sum it all up, it’s exceeding all my expectations.

I set the Roomba on free roam at least once a week, often twice. It bumps and bangs it’s way around the apartment and usually finds it way home. Occasionally I have to go rescue it when it’s wandered out the kitchen door to clean the entrance and eventually finds one of it’s sensors hanging over the edge of the stairs. It’s usually pretty good around stairs, but sometimes it just seems to panic and call for help. Just turn it around and hit the button, and it’s good to go — it’s never fallen over the steps. As for snags, I’ve had a few cases where it has managed to eat a wire or choke on a sock, but I consider that my fault for not picking up a bit more first or not setting up the virtual wall to keep it out of a room that’s not prepped for cleaning. The snags are always easy to clear, just flip the little bugger over and you can easily release the rollers and pulled out whatever has worked it’s way in there. Set it right side up and smack the button, and it goes back on it’s journey.

As for general maintenance, I only had to clean it extensively the first few runs. Now that it basically just does maintenance I could easily get away with emptying the bin every 3rd or 4th run, though I usually empty it each time because I like to check it over before each use. The rollers get a bit of cat hair in them, as I do have a cat, but generally it looks quite free of hair (during it’s first few runs it was packed with hair after each use). So it’s definitely proven to be very low maintenance.

Battery power has proven to be quite good so far. Sure, a battery doesn’t die on you in 3 months, so I can’t say much on how long it will work like this. But it always holds out as long as needed to get the job done, often returning home to charge just because it’s done and not because it’s low on power. I’m careful to keep it on the charger at all times and follow all the other proper charging rules so hopefully this will continue to be the case.

I do have one goofy charging issue though, often after returning from a cleaning job it slowly pulls into the docking station, shuts down the vacuum and makes it’s sleepy “home to charge” sound. Moments later it randomly rolls back a few centimeters and the thing springs to life again, fires up the vacuums and then bumps around for two minutes trying to figure out what happened, then returns to the dock eventually. There’s even been a few cases where it’s found itself into a loop like this so I have to go move the charging station to another place. As far as I can tell my floors are level, so I’m not sure why this does this. I’ve tried keeping it on a rug and on linoleum flooring but that doesn’t impact it much.

All in all, my floors are much cleaner then they used to be. I haven’t noticed an impact on my hydro bill, I haven’t had to do any costly repairs on the device, and it’s still tons of fun to watch.

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