Roomba® Vacuuming Robot & Lighthouse™ Review

After my post in August on the new 5th-generation (500 series) Roomba vacuum cleaning robots, I bought one to try out. So, I can now officially do a review. Two words: love it!

First off, the Roomba is almost perfect for our house. I’m vacuuming now as I type. :-) How bad could that be? But with that said, it’s probably not for everyone. I’ve had to learn a way around a few quirks, but now that I know what to expect, I couldn’t love it more. You can find full reviews and videos on other sites, so I will take this time to really talk about the Lighthouse, as it’s the most relevant aspect to Rapidsea.

The first time I used the Roomba, I just sent it wildly through the kitchen, living room, dining room, and foyer area. It took it well over an hour to do everything. I watched it neurotically intently almost the whole time. I realized that I had to overcome my desire to push dirt in front of it that I assumed it had missed. It seemed to have no logic in where it went. I was wrong on both counts.

Just when you think it’s going to miss something, it passes over it several times and then suddenly returns to its base for charging. Prior to that, it goes over everything several times and will almost always pick up things you think it won’t.

It will probably even get a lot of things that you never would. Think about the tiny crack you might have in your hardwood floors that you might sweep dirt into. The suction on the Roomba along with the sweeper brush gets a surprising amount of dirt off the floor.

The only place that it didn’t do such a great job on was a thin rug. The Roomba kind of pushed it to the point that the rug bunched up and created a wall for it. You can do spot cleaning on a rug like this, but it’s probably best just to pick it up and shake it hard outside.

One real issue was that there is a wooden "bump" in-between the kitchen and dining room area that is steeper going down onto the hardwood than onto the kitchen tile. See this high-tech diagram:

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Kitchen Tile – Lighthouse Bump – Hardwood Dining Room

If the Roomba comes at it head on, it won’t make it over. It spins for a few seconds trying to get over it and then turns around. It did finally make it over though when it came at it at an angle. It has no problems going in the opposite direction from the kitchen to hardwood; it just rolls on over. The good news is that the Lighthouse solved this problem and actually helped the Roomba to clean more efficiently.

Some people familiar with the older generation Roombas might think that "Lighthouse" is the new name for the virtual walls that were used to keep the Roomba from going into other rooms. This is not exactly the case.

The Lighthouses are designed to act as a virtual wall while the Roomba cleans one room. It will then let it pass into the next and keep it from going back into the room it already cleaned. When it is done, the Lighthouse will also help the Roomba find its home base. Finally, the Lighthouse also has a switch that will let it serve as a virtual wall, just like the old ones. This Lighthouse device, as far as I know, only works with the new 5th generation Roombas.

While I would usually point out when something abuses the term "lighthouse" and other Rapidsea imagery, I like this name for this product. It’s actually serving as both a beacon to the little clean ship Roomba and also as a warning to stay away at times. So I’m giving this product a pass. I really do love it.

You probably don’t need a lot of Lighthouses if you have a small apartment or if you have doors on most of your rooms. You’re not going to want to keep them out in the open all week either, so you don’t want to have to go chasing after them after the Roomba is done cleaning.

The model that I bought through HSN.com actually only came with one Lighthouse. I think that iRobot made a deal with HSN.com to market a slightly different package for a slightly discounted price. I do wish that we had one more of the Lighthouses, and I might buy one soon. But it’s not a high priority. I’m happy with the price and package that HSN.com is selling. I found a first-time-customer 15% off code, and they also shipped it for free. I had never bought anything from them before and came out of the experience very pleased.

Some of you might also know that they have a "Scheduler" version Roomba that allows you to electronically set when it cleans. Most people probably don’t need to buy this one. Our reasoning for not getting one was that we have to arrange the furniture a bit to make sure the Roomba can get around okay. For example, we flip the chairs upside down on the table and arrange the shoes by the door. We also close the bedroom doors to keep it in or out of them.

If you have a house that is relatively clear of obstacles, you might want to get a scheduler. If you have a second home, you may also want to keep a scheduler there to clean once a week while you’re away, taking care to clear out obstacles as you go. For example, while the new generation has better electrical cord handling capabilities, it’s still not perfect. It can usually untangle itself.

Other than that, you may want to clean out the Roomba fairly often if you have a pet or people in the house with long hair. Our Roomba brush got a little trapped by several strands of long hair once, but at least it cleans up pretty easily. Really, the only major downside is that you still need a vacuum for your furniture and your stairs.

I haven’t decided yet if this is a good or bad tool for the obsessive compulsive cleaners of the world. If anybody out there is one and loves the Roomba, please let us know in the comments. It’s probably best for moderately obsessive but busy people.

Finally, don’t get too excited about your Roomba arriving. You have to let it charge for sixteen hours before its first use! And you’ll also want to make sure that you have some C batteries on hand to power the Lighthouses (two batteries per unit).

I hope this helps.

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Posted on September 26, 2007
Filed Under Household Goods, Lighthouses, Robots | Leave a Comment

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