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Spare time is limited for most people in today’s usually busy and often hectic lifestyles. If you count yourself as someone who hates house cleaning or who has very little time to keep your floors clean, you can get help from a robot vacuum. If you are considering investing in one, knowing how they work will help you decide which model is right for you. 

So how does a robot vacuum operate? Three basic elements to consider include navigation, cleaning, and control. 


Navigation methods vary by model, often including a range of sensors. Bumper sensors help the unit detect obstacles; when the bumper hits something, the sensors are activated which causes the vacuum to back up, rotate, and continue forward into a new clear path. Cliff sensors send infrared signals straight down, allowing the unit to tell when it is approaching a drop-off so it can change its path. Wall sensors also use infrared light, helping the robot vacuum to find and follow a wall and clean the space where the wall meets the floor. And wheel sensors tell the unit how far it has travelled. 

Sensory input alone does not provide thorough or even cleaning coverage. More recent advanced models use self-navigation—mapping systems that increase efficiency by building floor plans to follow. Some mapping systems integrate built-in digital cameras to take pictures from which its floor plan can be created. Others use light detection methods that measure the distance to all the objects in a room. Advanced mapping systems compile all the information collected from each pass to gradually develop and refine the paths that the robot vacuum can take through each room. 


How do robot vacuums actually clean? 

Much like regular vacuums, they use vacuum suction to pull up dirt, dust, and debris. 

They also employ a variety of brushes to move and collect dirt into its dirt bin. Rotating brushes underneath (sometimes called agitators), grab and pull up dust into the dirt bin, and spinning side brushes reach out to move debris from spots into which the unit itself does not fit.  

Some recent models even have a mopping feature. All cleaning systems require filters that need to be periodically changed and dirt bins that need to be emptied, although thankfully, no big messy vacuum bags to wrangle.


A primary appeal of a robot vacuum is having a household appliance that can work on its own. While early models had only sensory input reactions, modern robot vacuums can be controlled remotely by everything from handheld units to full smart home integration and voice activation via Google Home or Amazon Alexa.

Newer models such the Roomba S9+ can even include an automatic self-emptying dust bin and smart navigation with zoned cleaning and digital mapping.

So if you don’t like cleaning, consider integrating a robot vacuum into your household. With its help, soon you’ll be on the way to having more spare time!

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