« Shedding | Main | The athletic pug »

Roomba vs. Shelby — A Roomba Product Review

We've had Roomba for about 2 weeks now. We've used just about every other day to help deal with Shelby's fur. Here are some first impressions.

The first time
Roomba's instructions are easy enough to understand. Unfortunately it takes 12 hours to charge. There is a quick charger, but it's a separate purchase. (And we didn't buy it.) 12 hours later, we gave Roomba its first run. It needs to be watched the first time so that we can evaluate any trouble spots where Roomba might get stuck. After that, it doesn't need supervision. In general I was impressed. It doesn't fall off stairs, and I saw it lift itself off if a wire tube furniture leg when it high-centered. We moved chairs out of the room so that it could get around everything. We did find that Roomba's power swtich was the exact same height as one of our door stops, and as a result Roomba would turn itself off accidentally. Luckily, Roomba comes with a little "virtual wall" module that let's you seal off a room. So we seal off that door stop when Roomba is at work. The module takes batteries, which are not included.

How well does it vacuum?
We set Roomba loose on the dining room, which has not been vacuumed well in about 6 months. (Some of this dirt and dust has been here so long that it should be paying rent.) It came back with a dirt bin full of hair, dust, and other crap. I then set it loose again on the same room immediately after. It pulled in less, but there was more dirt and hair. I set it loose a third time. This time it pulled in significantly less hair and dust. About 1/3 the amount of the first session. I haven't had time to compare this to other vacuums. I mean, why doesn't it get everything the first time around? We're willing to forgive this, since
Roomba's low profile means it gets under things that haven't been vacuumed in years. This is great! We saw it go under the curio, and it almost made it under the couch. We shimmied up the couch so it would go underneath.

Maintaining Roomba. Roomba needs to be emptied after each room. It's dirt/dust container is small. Ths air filter is also pretty small. There are 3 areas that need to be emptied. The dirt container is separated into two compartments, and occasionally, stuff gets sucked into the lower tray. It sound like a pain, but it's not hard. The directions recommend that we remove foreign items from the brushes as well, but we haven't found any yet. For as much hair that Roomba is picking up, I find this remarkable.

Battery Life. The battery life is OK. Not great, not lousy. Just OK. Roomba has done up to 3 large rooms before running out of batteries, so for us, it cannot do the whole house on one charge, but it can do one floor. That means it will take 12 hours before we can vacuum the second story.
We have low-pile berber carpet and wood floors. Roomba's instructions say that it works best on low-pile carpet, and not at all on a high shag carpet. The higher the pile, the fewer rooms it can clean on one charge.

Durability. I can't say much about this yet, since we've only had it two weeks. So far so good. Nothing's broken. Parts of it do feel cheaper that on a standard vacuum, but that might be due to its small size.

Noise. Roomba is not as noisy as a standard vacuum, thouth I wouldn't try to watch TV or listen to the radio with it running. It's about as loud as my dishwasher.

What is Roomba good for?
You'll have to decide if Roomba is right for you. The ideal situation for Roomba would be a low-pile carpet or smooth floor (wood, laminate etc.). Do a good cleaning with your vacuum, or even better, a carpet cleaning. Then use Roomba for maintenance cleaning. For example, set Roomba loose on the first floor on Mondays, and the second floor on Tuesdays, letting Roomba charge for 12 hours inbetween. Keep a small vacuum around for times when Roomba is charging, or for emergency spills. Since Shelby sheds constantly, Roomba has worked out very well for us. It takes care of all the vacuum maintenance with no supervision required. Shelby has stopped barking at it, and doesn't appear alarmed when Roomba is doing its thing.

By the way, no one paid me to review Roomba. I paid $200 at Target, but found it cheaper online.

May 24, 2004 | Permalink


Thanks for the comments on the Roomba. It's help me decide that I will look into one for myself, since I have 2 pugs and HATE to vacum/sweep my laminate flooring.

Posted by: htc | May 25, 2004 1:23:16 PM

How do I get this blasted thing undocked? I can't see if it is any good if I can't get it loose from its housing.

Posted by: J | Feb 11, 2005 7:44:27 PM

I have had two ROOMBAs (A Discovery and Discovery SE) for about five months now. We have three German Shepherds, multiple cats and a large house. Our ROOMBAs are used twice daily on the MAX setting.

Although they clean well I've had lots of problems keeping them functional with multiple cliff sensor and brush drive failures despite cleaning them, cleaning the brushes and blowing them out with air after each use. The folks at I Robot have been great about replacing them under warranty but the process is beginning to get tiresome. I can only conclude that long-term durability is, at best, questionable and that maintenance is far greater than that of a "normal" vacuum. The whole equation adds up to time saved having a robot vacuum = zero.

Posted by: Jack | Apr 3, 2005 8:27:08 AM

Wow, you use Roomba a lot. We haven't had that issue with Shelby's fur. Because it's so short, it goes right into the dust container. The brush is difficult to access for cleaning, so it's a pain for longer hair. Perhaps the the Furminator is the answer? I've never tried it, but there are some pretty dramatic photos of the results. http://www.furminator.com/

Posted by: Winnie | Apr 3, 2005 9:42:09 AM

Hi, I just wanted to ask if it's OK if I copy your picture of Shelby investigating the Roomba. It's just an awesome picture. I put it here:


but I can take it down if you don't want it being borrowed.

Posted by: giles | Nov 13, 2005 12:54:25 PM

Yes that's fine, and thanks for asking. :)

Posted by: Winnie | Nov 13, 2005 5:27:07 PM

I'm wondering, for a single 28 years old man without any pet, would a Roomba be enough? I'm looking for a vacuum cleaner and I'm seriously thinking about a Roomba to save some time.

Posted by: Alex Fukombe | Jun 11, 2007 8:22:38 AM

You can get a heavy duty cleaning thingy for roomba from a company formed by two guys that worked for the company that made Roomba. Great for if you have lots of pet hair.

I bought some KeepOff mats from them and they work great.


Posted by: emily | Dec 23, 2009 8:37:54 AM

Great post! I've been doing research lately and will be bookmarking your site for future reference purposes. Thank you.

Posted by: robotic vacuum reviews | Jun 20, 2011 8:02:18 PM

a great information you post on your blog people will get good information from your blog and keep sharing more information. thank you. por and para

Posted by: Por and Para | Jun 18, 2012 2:07:20 PM

Shelby is the best according to my opinion.

Posted by: Matt | Jul 3, 2012 2:31:06 AM

Hey Admin..I read your post and so i came to a conclusion that Romba is a nice product plus i want to add that your expression is just Perfect.. Better than anyone could have..

Posted by: house for sale in Corfu | Aug 1, 2012 4:21:14 AM

The comments to this entry are closed.