DIY Roomba

Consumer Reports thinks the Roomba is a waste of money, so Make Magazine’s Blog brings you this thing. Is it a DIY Roomba? A way to get your children to sweep the floor? A way to get you to sweep the floor? We don’t know, all we know is, we want one, and Make claims that one can be crafted for less than the cost of a floor-sweeping robot. —MEGHANN MARCO

Turn an RC car into a floor sweeper [Make]


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  1. Skeptic says:

    “Make claims that one can be crafted for less than the cost of a floor-sweeping robot.”

    Well, duh, it isn’t robotic. While it is an amusing project for Makers, it has no value as a consumer product. How the heck long would it take to manually steer the R/C car over every part of your floor?

  2. MeOhMy says:

    You can actually get cheap knockoff robot vacuums, but they seem to pretty much suck…er…not suck I guess is more appropriate for a vacuum.

    I have not seen the entire Consumer Reports, but one of their main gripes seems to be that it takes longer than doing it by hand.

    I can also wash a load of dishes a lot faster than my dishwasher can. The point is that I don’t have to stand there and wash the dishes. At least with a dishwasher one can stake the claim that it takes time just to load it up. But the Roomba? You just push a button. On a remote control.

    So what if Roomba takes an hour to do what I could in 15 minutes? I don’t have to do it! Duh. I can set the thing off when I go to work and have a clean floor when I return. Show me a normal vac that can do this!

    My wife quickly realized that the Roomba was doing a lot more cleaning than the upright vac we never used.

  3. trixare4kids says:

    Consumer reports can kiss my tuchas. The Roomba was THE best thing I’ve purchased in forever. I really, really hate to vacuum and because life is like that – I like clean floors equally as much as I hate to clean them.

    *It gets it done while I’m away – so I don’t care how long it takes.
    *Its gets under the couch, bed, around all the kitchen chairs, etc and I don’t have to move a thing.
    *I don’t have to plug and unplug to move from room to room.
    *It takes a grand total of for 5 minutes of prep work before hand and 3 minutes to empty and clean the brushes afterwards.
    *Can handle all my surfaces: rugs, carpet, tile, hardwood floors.
    *It’s totally satisfying to come home to clean floors and all I had to do was push a button.

    …there’s a “Roomba’s are better than men joke in there somewhere..”

    As a side note – my good friend purchased a scooba because she has mostly sealed hardwood floors and tiles in here house and she reports she’s very happy with it.

  4. Meg Marco says:

    Trixare4kids–Hush. Do not convince me to purchase a roomba. It’s a daily struggle.

  5. Mike_ says:

    Meghann, I have a Roomba. The dustbin is tiny, and the brush collects every piece of hair it comes across. It requires attention at least once per use. Sometimes that means sitting on the floor with scissors, Roomba on its back, picking hair out of the brushes and cursing about how none of your other vacuums have this problem. At the very least, it means a trip to the trash can when you really just wanted to push a button and be done with it. The Roomba is a fun geek toy, but it won’t replace your old fashioned vacuum.

    If you’re in the market for a new vacuum, get a Dyson. I love mine. It’s about twice as much as the Roomba, but it’s easily 10 times better. It’s quiet, doesn’t lose suction (for reals), and it’s got a great design.

  6. viriiman says:

    Mike_: Which Roomba do you have? I know that this was a problem with the first edition, but was solved in the newer models.

  7. Mike_ says:

    I have the Roomba Discovery. Even if they’ve improved the brush, the dustbin is still tiny, and needs to be emptied just about every time you use it. For $300, it’s way more trouble than it’s worth. The Roomba is definitely more of a toy than a practical appliance. I used mine for a few months, and then gave up on it.

    Remember, you’ll need to keep a clutter-free home in order for the Roomba to do its job. It will clean your floor, but it won’t move stuff out of the way in order to do it. And if you have stairs, you’re still going to need a real vacuum to clean them. And don’t be surprised when you expect to come home to a clean floor, but instead find the Roomba stuck on a floor vent or trapped in a corner behind a table leg. (It makes a cute “uh oh” sound when it gets in trouble.)

    It’s neat, but IMO, it’s not $300 worth of neat. And it doesn’t live up to the hype.

    My previous upright vacuum was a piece of junk, and I had some Reward Zone money to spend, so I went to Best Buy and picked up a Dyson. I hate vacuuming, but I like this vacuum. It has lots of features that fix minor annoyances with other models. (For example, the canister is sealed, and has a “trap door” on the bottom. You can empty it with one hand without spilling dust all over the place.) If you’re looking for a new vacuum, this is the one I recommend.

  8. FMF says:

    Cute idea. Now my 10-year-old will be ASKING to sweep the floors. ;-)

  9. MeOhMy says:

    You will need to empty the dustbin pretty much every time…this basically consists of popping off the back and shaking it out. This really shouldn’t be considered more troublesome than vacuuming manually.

    As for clutter, did Dyson add a new cattle catcher feature that pushes clutter out of the way? Because my upright vac still requires me to move clutter and obstructions.

    I’m not so sure about the brush getting messed up, either. It doesn’t have to be spotless every time. I clean the brush once or twice a year. My Discovery even came with a tool to help cut the hairs and comb them out.

    And you can get them much less than $300. I got my Discovery on clearance for $160.

    Mike is definitely right that it cannot replace your conventional vac completely. It’s useless on stairs and pretty awful on shag carpet. It can’t do corners, crevices, or upholstery. It has a “spot cleaning” feature, but you’ll probaby find yourself grabbing the upright for localized messes anyway.

    I think the key to understanding the point of a Roomba is setting your expectations correctly. Think of it the same way you think of a dishwasher. It seems like people hear “robot” and get a sci-fi vision of this miraculous device that requires no human interaction ever aside from switching it on. It’s not Rosie from the Jetsons. You still have to do some of the work, and you will still have to do it the old fashioned way sometimes, just like you have to load/empty a dishwasher and still hand-wash things some of the time. It just reduces the time you have to spend on a task that you probably prefer not to do. If you think a dishwasher is a waste, you’ll probably think a Roomba is, too.

    I’ve got both and love them both.

  10. ElizabethD says:

    My friend owns seven (yes, seven) long-haired, shedding dogs that are house pets. She got a Roomba a few years ago and sets it loose every night to suck up all the dog hair. For her, it’s the Best Device Ever.

  11. Mike_ says:

    No, it’s not a huge chore to empty the dustbin. But this is an appliance people buy for its amazing convenience. The frequency with which it needs to be emptied is annoying. I would like it more if it didn’t require so much attention.

    And as for clutter, with the upright vacuum, you can lift stuff with one hand while you vacuum under it with the other. With the Roomba, anything on the floor needs to be moved to higher ground. I keep a fairly tidy house, but I still need to spend a few moments relocating stuff to the coffee table before I can use my Roomba.

    Mine didn’t come with the brush tool you’re describing. It looks like they’ve improved the brush somewhat since I got it. Last time I used my Roomba, I had one cat, and the brush needed to be cleaned every few uses. It’s no picnic, either — a real chore. Now I have two cats.

    I don’t know how much mine cost, exactly. It was given to me as a birthday present. The model closest to mine is $279.99 on Amazon right now. I don’t think it’s worth nearly that much.

    The dishwasher comparison only works if you have a really crappy dishwasher. The Roomba will not revolutionize floor cleaning in the way that dishwashers changed dish washing. Appliances should make chores easier. The Roomba just makes the chore different. That’s been my experience, at least.

    I think most people will ultimately be happier spending 5 minutes pushing an upright around the room, rather than spending 5 minutes tending to a finnicky robot before, during, and after it bops around the room for an hour. And I’m a technophile with a real affinity for this sort of gadget, too. If anyone should love this sort of thing, it should be me.

  12. MeOhMy says:

    I’m not sure why the quality of the dishwasher matters. Fact is, you have a $300 appliance that does in 2 hours what you could do in 1 hour or probably less. You just have to spend 5 minutes loading and unloading it. No matter how good your dishwasher is, someone still has to load it and unload it.

    For clutter, in my house possible obstructions for a vacuum are either furniture which I wouldn’t move either way, or things that *should* have been put away, but were instead left on the floor. I always had to spend 5 minutes putting that stuff away whether I was using the Roomba or the upright.

    My last comment is that vacuuming even a small room always takes me more than 5 minutes. If vacuuming took less time than emptying and maintaining the Roomba, I’d probably skip the Roomba too, but personally I can’t vacuum that quickly and feel that I’ve done an adequate job.

  13. Mike_ says:

    With the dishwasher, you’re saving a lot of time and effort (namely rinsing, washing, re-rinsing and drying). With the Roomba, you’re only spared from having to push the vacuum around the room. You still have to maintain it (much more frequently than an upright), and you have new tasks, like tucking away power cables, setting up virtual walls, removing and replacing obstacles, and hauling out your old-fashioned vacuum to get the corners and edges. If there is a net gain, it is negligible. The only way the dishwasher comparison works is if your dishwasher is more trouble than it’s worth. I can’t imagine living without my dishwasher. My Roomba I can do without.

    By obstacles, I meant things like my guitar (always on a stand in the corner), space heater (this time of year, at least), and sometimes my camera and laptop bags, power cables, etc. They all have to go up on furniture for the Roomba. With the upright, I move them out of the way and replace them as I sweep.

    Also, I always felt like the upright vacuum did a better job than the Roomba anyway. The filter in the Roomba gets clogged up pretty quickly. I’m not sure it’s picking up much of anything at that point.

    Okay, I’m done beating this horse.

  14. thorn_stevens says:

    This post is incorrect. Consumer Reports has praised the Roomba, naming it a quick pick and better than robotic vacuums that cost $1,500.

    Consumer Reports has panned the Scooba, but for reasons that I find insane — it can’t clean corners (big deal, it’s round), and can’t clean up a bucket-glop of ketchup easily. For regular, weekly mopping, it’s great. It’s especially great for people like me who almost never mop.

    -Thorn, publisher,