A vacuum cleaner worth buying?
I’ve long been a believer that smart home tech is worth investing in. From smart lighting, heating, even a robot lawn mower that cuts the grass every day!
Yet, I still didn’t dive into investing in a robot hoover.
Until, iRobot got in touch with me, offering to send me one to review.
And damn am I happy that they did!
This is the iRobot Roomba j7+, and it costs £899 (Can be found for £699 at times)
I don’t know why, but I never felt like I needed a robot vacuum.
I totally get having a robot lawn mower; that saves me an hour or so every week that I now spend with the kids.
But a vacuum? I mean, with kids, that thing is out pretty often with everything that kids bring with them. Crisps, chocolate, pieces of paper, random bits just everywhere, all the time.
Setting up the iRobot was very simple. Once you unbox everything, you just plug in the base station, locate the hoover into the charging dock, fire up the app and follow a few simple steps to connect to the app and that’s all you really have to do to get things set up.
The first task to do is to map your house, and this is something I was really surprised with.
Unlike my robot lawn mower which just bounces aimlessly in random directions until you can assume it has actually covered all areas of your lawn, the iRobot is actually intelligent.
It goes line by line until it reaches all corners of your room, around furniture and obstacles.
It’s actually really interesting to watch at times; I found moments when the iRobot would flash its lights and look one way, then turn and look another, flash again, and turn back; you can almost see it thinking to itself, trying to understand the terrain and where it should go next.
What this means is that after the first 2 or 3 mapping runs, it builds up a pretty accurate map of your entire floor.
And once it’s built the map, you can define your spaces as rooms, even including ‘no entry’ zones for areas where you don’t want it to cover.
As you can see from the images, after a while, it does get a few marks as it bumps and navigates its way around furniture and walls!
Once mapping is complete, it has everything it needs to just get on with it’s job.
You can set schedules for this to go off whilst you’re out of the house, and it takes care of everything, covering all areas of your house (bar from leaving the floor that it’s on, it doesn’t have the ability to climb stairs yet!)
If you choose to, you can lift it up and place it on other floors, and it will also map and clean those floors too.
If you or your kids have an accident in a particular room (when I say accident, I mean - just being kids and spilling stuff everywhere!) well, you can use the app and get the hoover to clean just one room that has the mess.
Press go and off it pops to clean.
Whilst cleaning, it may head back to charge up again, charge for a while and then head back out again to continue cleaning, and once cleaning is completed, it will re-dock itself, and the mother of all noises will happen.
It’s not actually too bad in my opinion, but my cat and my kids don’t enjoy it, and it’s certainly not something I would set off at night due to the small but still noticeable noise it makes whilst cleaning. When the robot finishes cleaning, it docks itself back to re-charge and also a huge jet-engine WHOOSH happens as it sucks out the dirt from the vacuum and into the bin at the back of the hoover.
How good is it?
My wife summed this up pretty nicely “We have hoover marks again!”
Apparently that’s the sign of a good one?
But honestly, this thing picks up mess and dirt of all sizes. From bits of food that my kids leave out, to the endless cat hair left by my very furry friend around the house, this thing leaves each room feeling spotless, and I’ve never had to go back over areas to ‘finish the job properly’ after this thing has been around.
Another benefit, due to the size, is that for once in the years that we’ve lived in the house, now we’re able to clean under things!
Under sofas, under sideboards, we’ve rediscovered all sorts of things that we lost to the darkness of ‘under and behind things’.
After and during each cleaning run, it actually snaps photos of objects it thinks are in the way, and asks you to review each one. Instructing it whether it’s a permanent obstruction, or just a toy that you’ve left on the floor that might be tidied away next time.
This approach has meant we can comfortable send the robot out to clean, even when the house is still full of toys, or when leaving other items on the floor.
Admittedly if you leave something like a towel, or a t-shirt flat on the floor, it’s probably just going to roll over that, but any sizeable object won’t pose any risk to you for it being ‘cleaned’.
Restrictions / issues
My experience with the iRobot Vacuum has been really, really good. And whilst I’m going to be keeping the one which was gifted to me for this review (I’m definitely a convert to the benefits of a smart robot vacuum cleaner now!), there are still some drawbacks which are worth addressing.
Number 1, It can’t go up stairs. Pretty obvious this, it doesn’t have legs, so to clean multiple floors you will need to pick this up and move it manually (not a huge issue, but still involves manual work to do so), or buy more than 1. (Costly to buy more than one, but remains totally automated)
Number 2, it’s not just stairs it can’t deal with, but I have a small step down into my conservatory - it’s around 1 inch in height. And the vacuum couldn’t handle this. Instead, it would roll into the room, forever becoming stuck and not knowing what to do with itself. Some larger wheels may rectify this, but alas, not on this model. It is a shame as that means there is one room in the house that this hoover can’t reach. The workaround for this is that I’ve had to draw a ‘keep out zone’ from the area to stop it from going near and accidentally falling in.
Number 3, it’s too loud to use at night. The noise of it cleaning does wake my kids up, and definitely the noise of the jet engine that sounds when it empties its contents into the dock.
And finally, Number 4, the J7 comes with 2 ‘Dirt Disposal Bags’. And so far, we are yet to empty even the first one after more than a month of using it.
But to buy three more, it’s £21.95, which seems extremely expensive for what is essentially a bag with a plastic fitting. Particularly as I feel like they could easily design one that is re-usable by adding a zip onto one side.
I’m hugely impressed with this bit of kit, I actually might ask to test out another one now just so I can see what differences exist between brands and models, but you’ve got me - I think Robot Vacuum cleaners are awesome!