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When we review robot vacuums here at Robovac, we measure the sound output in decibels (dB). We’ve had a couple of questions recently about what these numbers mean in practice so it felt like the perfect time to put together a short guide.

Typically, robot vacuums range from around 50 dB to 70 dB at the top end, although the latter is exceptionally rare. It’s unlikely that a robovac will cause noise complaints from the neighbours. In most cases, you’ll know that it’s there and working, but it won’t have much of an impact on you going about your day to day business.

Real Examples of Decibel Levels

The best way to put robot vacuum noise into context is with a few real-world examples. With 0 dB being total silence, or close to it, the following numbers should help to put the noise made by your robot vacuum of choice into context:

  • 30 dB is around the level of a whisper or extremely soft background music
  • 40 dB is the noise level in a typical occupied home, taking into account the combination of internal and external noise
  • 60 dB is the level of a normal conversation, whereby two or more people have a chat in the same room. This is also the average robot vacuum noise level although it does, of course, vary by model.
  • 75 dB is the noise produced by a typical upright vacuum cleaner. Noise is closely linked to the strength of the motor. Given that most vacuum cleaners boast slightly better suction than their robotic counterparts, it makes sense that they’ll be somewhat noisier.
  • 90 dB is the level produced by a typical lawnmower. Anything above 85 dB is considered dangerous, so you should think about wearing ear protection if you plan to exceed this level for an extended period. Fortunately, robot vacuums never reach this kind of sound level.
  • 120 dB is what you’d experience at a pop concert or well-attended sports match. There’s a reason why DJs tend to wear earplugs and it’s not because they hate the music they play!

Noise Levels on Robot Vacuums

There’s some impressive engineering out there on robot vacuums. They’re still relatively new at the moment, and noise reduction is something that always stands a chance of improving. This time last year (July 2019), we considered anything under 65 dB as being a good result. However, a year later, we’ve reduced that down to 55 dB as being the standard. Eufy set the trend, with both the Eufy RoboVac 15C MAX and RoboVac 30C clocking in at this number. Those two robovacs occupied the top two spots on our best robot vacuum buyer’s guide for many months, and their noise output was an important factor in their rankings.

Today, in July 2020, we consider 55 dB as the new standard. The most recent releases from Bagotte, comprising the BG700 and BG800, both pack quite the punch in terms of cleaning capabilities. Crucially, they do so without disturbing their owner, as both sit at the 55 dB mark. The Bagotte BG800 does deviate from this when it kicks into full power mode, but that’s a compromise that most owners will be happy to make in return for 2,200 Pa of suction power.

What Can Affect Noise on Robovacs?

The main source of noise on a robot vacuum – assuming everything is working properly – is the motor. The harder it works, the more noise it produces. That’s why the aforementioned Bagotte BG800 sits around 55 dB most of the time but will ramp up on noise in line with suction power.

Filters and other feats of engineering can also have an effect and a more powerful robotic vacuum doesn’t necessarily mean a noisier one.

What Kind of Noise Level Should I Look For when Buying a Robot Vacuum?

There’s no set upper limit to the noise produced by a robot vacuum. I personally don’t mind the noise on just about anything – I can cope with an upright vacuum, and no robotic equivalent trumps that. However, how and when you use your robovac will influence your choices.

If you tend to put the robot around of an evening while you watch TV, quieter is usually better. At 55 dB, it won’t interrupt your television viewing. The same applies if you prefer to put your robovac around overnight. Assuming you sleep upstairs and want it to clean downstairs, a 55 dB robot vacuum won’t have any impact on your rest unless you’re a particularly light sleeper.

If you make full use of your robot vacuum’s scheduling and network capabilities to get it to take care of the cleaning while you’re out and about, noise levels don’t really matter. None of them are loud enough to annoy the neighbours so it becomes less of a priority.

How Much Noise Does a Normal Vacuum Cleaner Make?

I’ve touched on the noise levels produced by a normal vacuum cleaner already. However, as it’s potentially the best way to give context to robovacs, it deserves its own section.

A 2017 article in The Guardian noted how new (at the time) EU rules would prohibit the sale of vacuum cleaners that produce more than 80 decibels. As noted in the article, there’s quite the range in the upright world, with most vacuum cleaners sitting anywhere from 65 to 90 decibels.

In 2020, with a few exceptions, most robot vacuums sit within the same kind of range. The ever-charming Henry Hoover is one of the outliers, clocking in at under 50 dB on some models.

As a rule of thumb, if you go with a robot vacuum rated at 60 dB or less, there’s every chance that it will be quieter than your upright.

What is the Quietest Robot Vacuum?

Technically speaking, the quietest robot vacuum we’ve reviewed to date is the ILIFE V5S Pro. However, I’m not going to suggest heading straight out and buying one for its quietness. Firstly, while you can still get your hands on one, they’re becoming increasingly hard to find. Secondly, it achieves such a low decibel rating through being criminally underpowered by modern standards.

That leaves us with a whole host of 55 dB robot vacuums, and it’s a photo finish. Many of our favourite robovac companies, including Eufy and Bagotte, tend to target the 55dB level so there are plenty to choose from. The leaders from the respective brands at this sound level are the Eufy RoboVac 15C MAX and the Bagotte BG700 respectively. The former is more powerful, while the latter boasts superior navigation – and they’re pretty much tied on apps, voice control and everything else.

It’s a close one, but if I was asked to recommend one robot vacuum for someone that values peace and quiet, the winner would be:

What’s the Noisiest Robot Vacuum?

I suppose I could easily call this section ‘a robot vacuum to avoid at all costs’. Unless you run a YouTube channel comparing vacuums to jet engines, there’s no reason to get a noisy one. Fortunately, I don’t have to step on any toes with this one, as the noisiest robot vacuum we’ve reviewed to date is one that nobody buys anyway!

The winner is…

Samsung VR7000 Robot Vacuum Cleaner, 30W, Airbourne White
  • Extra slim body, extra powerful suction - powerfully cleans even the most hard-to-reach places.
  • Visionary mapping plus system - "maps your rooms to identify the optimal cleaning path.
  • Self-cleaning brush - less dust & hair clogging up the brush. Noise level is 77 dBA
  • Wi-Fi control - control it with your smartphone while away from home.
  • Easy pass - large wheels move smoothly over obstacles.

I like to call this one a failed experiment. I love Samsung and wouldn’t buy a television from anyone else. However, the VR7000 was the only robot vacuum the brand ever released in the UK and I’d like to hope they’ve used the time since working on the kinks – if they haven’t abandoned robovacs altogether!

It was something of a shame, as the device packed in huge amounts of technology and innovation, but never managed to hit the sweet spot that its rival Roombas were already at.

How Can I Keep Noise to a Minimum when Using a Robot Vacuum?

There isn’t a huge amount you can do to a robot vacuum to keep noise levels low. However, an increasing number of new releases offer users the opportunity to adjust power levels. As discussed already, power generally means noise. There are numerous reasons to use the lowest setting you can, including extending battery life on each clean. Unless you’ve just got back from Glastonbury or taken your dog to the swamp, you won’t need to kick into high gear often. Even then, most modern robotic vacuum cleaners are intelligent enough to look after themselves. The ‘auto’ setting or equivalent will see your cleaning companion merrily going about its business and only cranking up the suction when it detects the right spot.

Most robot vacuums come with wifi and apps nowadays, so you could take advantage of being able to start a clean from anywhere by doing just that. Just remember to tidy up cables and tassels before you head out! After all, “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”

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