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Robot vacuums are designed to take away some of the workload in the home, and they do a fantastic job. As you’ll have noticed if you’ve browsed through our robot vacuum reviews or taken a look at our ranking of the best robot vacuums, there’s something for everyone. However, one thing they all have in common is that it makes perfect sense to prepare your home before the new arrival gets there.
The good news is, they’re not too demanding. Nevertheless, if you’ve got a robovac on the way or you’re deep in the research phase, it’s never too soon to ensure a smooth installation with a bit of tidying up and some tech considerations.
1. Decide Where You Want the Dock and Make Room
Every robot vacuum worth buying comes with a dock. They have all sorts of roles – in most cases, they’re the ‘home’ for the robovac and where it recharges. With a specialist model, it might have a few more tricks up its sleeve too – the iRobot Roomba i7+ will even empty itself in the dock for an even more hands-off approach.
Nevertheless, one thing you always need, regardless of the model, is space. The docks themselves don’t take up too much room, but you also need to consider the needs of your robovac as it makes its way home. Most manufacturers recommend a couple of feet either side and a clear path back to the dock. In my opinion, that couple of feet is pushing things, and you don’t need quite that much. In practical terms, I’d suggest leaving as much room as you can, but not feeling like you have to empty half a room just to give your robotic assistant somewhere to live.
It’s a decent idea to prepare for a new robot vacuum by thinking about where you’ll use it most. If you have a particular room in mind for extra cleaning, position it in that room. You can then close the door and leave it to it if you don’t want to commit to tidying all the other floors in the house.
Also, consider whether you’ll mainly use the robovac upstairs and downstairs and position it accordingly. My downstairs gets more foot traffic by far and while I now have a robot vacuum for each, my first robovac – a Roomba 671 – spent the first year of its life downstairs.
2. Start with a Deep Clean if You Can
As big of a fan of robot vacuums as I am, I won’t pretend that they’re ready to replace their full-size counterparts. As I’ve mentioned in the past, at the very least you’ll need one for the stairs (you can see my recommendations for that role here), and it’s best to give your robot vacuum as little to do on its first run as possible.
That means clearing the floors of any clutter and giving them the once over. From a relatively clean start, you’ll get an idea of how much your robovac will pick up on a typical run so you can plan to empty it accordingly.
Conversely, what you won’t get an idea of is what your new robot vacuum won’t pick up. We talk about the cleaning prowess of each model in their respective reviews, and very few will let you down in any significant way. However, some deal better than others with larger pieces of debris, plastic and pet hair and if you haven’t chosen one yet, it’s best to look into one that will specialise in the task at hand.
3. Buy a Pack of Cable Ties and Arrange Wires Accordingly
While what I’m about to say will hopefully become outdated in a few years, robot vacuums have no way to differentiate between different objects. Effectively, they pick up whatever they can and assume you’re happy with that.
In most cases, you will be, albeit not with cables and wires. To give you a real-world example, I have my PlayStation 4 under the television. I don’t play many games nowadays, but where it does come in handy is as a two-port USB charging hub.
Even when the cables are in use, as they are here, they still touch the floor. That’s fair game for a robot vacuum that prides itself on sucking up everything it can. As you’d imagine, the issue can get even worse when the cables aren’t plugged into a device.
Fortunately, the worst I’ve ever come into was the PS4 at a 45-degree angle to where it started!
The important part is that trailing cables and anything else along those lines will not necessarily get on well with your robovac. Manufacturers won’t be keen on paying for damages (hint – they won’t) so take a proactive approach and tidy up those cables before you need to learn from experience. Naturally, you should not just consider chargers, but plugs, headphones and anything else that could go up inside your robot vacuum but probably shouldn’t.
4. Check Wi-Fi Coverage Throughout Your Home
There are several fantastic robot vacuums out there that work to their full potential without any need for Wi-Fi – the Bagotte BG600 is a tremendous example and probably the best robot vacuum without wi-fi support you can buy today. However, if you’re a smart home fan and love the idea of asking Alexa to start cleaning on your behalf or activating a clean from the other side of the world with a mobile app, wi-fi is a must.
I hate to admit it, but as of this writing – but hopefully not for long – I’m still using the router supplied by Virgin Media when they install their broadband. For those unfamiliar with Virgin, they provide some of the fastest possible speeds here in the UK, but their stock routers are famously, well, crap. My home is relatively average in size, and my router positioning isn’t exactly optimal, but I do get blackspots at the other end of the house that I wouldn’t with a replacement.
The primary consideration is base unit positioning. That’s where your robot vacuum will spend most of its life, and you need a reliable signal. If possible, you could consider boosting your signal to ensure consistency throughout the home – I’m currently weighing up adding a mesh network and I’ve got my eye on this one for those interested. However, that’s an added expense most won’t want, and the free solution is just to use your phone to check wi-fi strength where you plan to position the base.
Crucially, once the robot vacuum gets to work, it won’t cut out if and when it loses signal, and it’ll continue to use its on-board sensors to make its way around the home before it returns to its base unit.
5. Look Out for Anything that Could Be Knocked Over
The first thing that comes to mind concerning this tip is water bowls for our furry friends. Many people go out of their way to choose a robot vacuum that specialises in pet hair but may not consider that if you’re a pet owner, the ideal robovac for your needs is not just one that can cope with the hair itself.
If I were put on the spot and asked what the best robot vacuum for pet hair is today, I’d say the Neato Robotics Botvac D7. It’s not the highest-scoring robot vacuum here on the site because the value for money and noise ratings drag it down, but it’s very, very good at what it does. Not only does the shape help it to clean right up to edges, but it includes virtual walls as standard, with no extras required.
Of course, if you don’t mind using magnetic tape, you can find a cheaper option. The Eufy RoboVac 30C includes this functionality and sits at #3 on our list of the best robot vacuums at the time of writing, and it’s no slouch when it comes to pet hair either.
Those walls can come in handy for all sorts of reasons. Continuing with the water bowl example, you can use a robot vacuum that includes virtual walls to block off the area. If you go for a robovac that doesn’t have such functionality, you need to either close the door or pick those bowls up each time you clean.
Bowls make for the perfect example as water and electronics don’t mix. However, you can extrapolate that advice and the solutions into anything around the home that might suffer if it takes a bump from your robovac. Toys, lightweight lampstands and anything else that could fall over with a nudge warrant consideration.
6. Consider Laces and Tassels in the Same Way as Cables
There’s a chance that you have rugs. There’s an even better chance that you have shoes. If your rugs have tassels around the edges and your shoes have laces, you need to think about how these items might interact with your new robot vacuum. If either is long enough to wrap around a robot vacuum roller, it could cause issues.
Ideally, you’ll keep your shoes out of the way, although rugs might prove more of an issue. If you’d rather keep your tasselled rug than buy a robot vacuum, the best solution I can give you is to choose a robovac without a roller brush. That narrows down your choices massively, but I’d suggest the ILIFE V8S Pro as an option, as it cleans without the use of a roller brush. With that model, you only have to risk the side brushes, but they are far less susceptible to getting tangled up.
7. Be Patient When You First Get Started
Robot Vacuums are great, but they’re not human, and they might not get everything right the first time. Even those with mapping like the Roomba 981 will require a few cleaning cycles to get accustomed to your home.
You might also find it slow going to get your robot vacuum to connect to your network. There’s a chance you might need some help with troubleshooting, so keep the manual close at hand. If you do experience issues, then the Robovac team will be happy to help if you leave a comment. You can also consider seeking assistance from the manufacturer’s own support channels or the Home Automation Subreddit.
So, there you have it! Those are the top seven considerations for anyone seeking to buy a robot vacuum, and they should combine to put your home in tip-top condition for the impending new arrival. If you have any questions or further considerations you feel other robot vacuum owners should be aware of, be sure to leave a comment.
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