Ok, so the future has finally arrived (mostly because the future was less then $50) in my household and I purchased a floor cleaning robot on the Internet for $46 bucks. If you ever looked into the matter, you may have heard of the Roombas by iRobot
, which start in the above $100 range, but have gotten reasonable good reviews.
My "Robotic cleaner" is a cheap knockoff made in China (although so is the Roomba), the packaging is branded as "Tchibo
", a German 'Starbuck style' coffee roaster that sells all kinda of stuff and knockoffs (supposedly with very little regard for intellectual property; I wonder how iRobot feels about this thing) in their stores. This item was on sale for 89 euros about 2 years ago and it appears like that the US power supply was just kind of thrown into the box - guess we're looking at overstock here.
Together with the cleaner I found a manual, branded "SupportPlus", the power supply and a couple replacement particle filters for the cleaner. The cleaner actually looks pretty good but feels a bit shaky, but that is just due to the fact that both the cleaning mechanism and the wheels have their own 'suspension', so can move freely. The cleaner has two independent drive wheels, which are large and have a rubber tread for traction, a spinning cleaning brush for the main dirt that feeds into the dirt container and a sqweegy style vacuum rubber lip behind the brush. The brush runs along a comb in the dirt container, which turns out to be pretty effective when picking up hair. The dirt container also has a seperate department in which it collect the fine dust from the sqweegy vacuum, which does have very little suction power, but works effectively due to its unique sqweegy design.
I want to point that I have hardwood floor and tested the unit on those. A quick run at a friends apartment showed total failure on normal carpet
, so I would consider this unit only on hard floors.
Initially I was a bit disappointed with the unit; the cleaning power appeared to be ok, but it only had a battery life of 15 minutes. After some investigation I noticed that my power supply did not meet the specs on the unit (15v@300mAh vs. 17.5V@230mAh power supply). A quick trip to my local electronics surplus store SurplusGizmos.com
(check it out! it rocks!) yielded a 16V@300mAh power supply for $3, less then it would have cost me to ship the robot back to the ComputerGeeks.com
. With the new power supply the unit is able to complete 3 cleaning programs with a total run time of over an hour, thanks to the 14.4 V 2000mAh Nickel-hybrid battery.
The cleaning power of the unit is better then expected, while it does not catch everything on the first run, it seems to cover almost every spot in the room at least a couple times, resulting in a fairly clean room - the dirt compartment is usually full after a 20 minute program; it seems to be especially effective for tracked cat litter! The movement pattern of the unit is random, but seems to consist of 3 main modes:
- spiral, the unit makes a slowly larger getting spiral, overlapping its previous path by about 30%
- zig-zag, the unit runs straight until it hits something, then turns around and goes back at a slightly different angle.
- wall cleaning, in which the unit uses its IR sensor to run along the wall and together with the rotating side brush does a decent job of getting close to the wall.
The movement doesn't seem very intelligent, the unit constantly runs into items and does not seem to remember any obstacles - resulting in things like several minutes of 'wall cleaning' mode in which it runs in circles around a table leg. Beyond that, however, the unit does cover most of the floor it has access to and cleans underneath furniture as well, while rarely getting stuck for longer then a few seconds (cords are its enemy!).
The unit itself is a bit of a pain to clean, but at least permits easy removal of the rolling brush and cleaning of the vacuum chamber. It is also a bit noisy, as the plastic body amplifies the noise of the 5 (!) electric motors inside, provoking a bit of animosity in my feline pets, especially because it enters their holy space below my bed to clean.
I wish the unit had a longer program then 20 minutes and a bit more professional sounds (it beeps little melodies), but for the price I payed I am pleasantly surprised, if I ignore the annoyance of the wrong/defective power supply. The unit has become handy for a quick cleanup of a room and manages fairly well even under the 'extreme' pet hair conditions, caused by my personal zoo.