iRobot Roomba 530 Review - Is It Worth The Investment?
A couple weeks ago I came across an online deal to buy an iRobot Roomba 530 for $125.99 (including shipping). I hadn't really given serious consideration to purchasing one, but these retail for typically ~$299 so I started contemplating the potential payback of such an investment. With our growing family we have been having trouble keeping up with a lot of general cleaning around the house including our downstairs floors.
So without having anyone personal testimatent or in-person expierence of seeing a Roomba in action I started reading all the reviews online and product literatue I could get my hands on to see if they were anything like advertised. After processing everything I could find I decided that a Roomba could potentially be exactly what we needed. However, it was hard for me to figure out WHICH Roomba we needed. Distinctions and features between the different models were fuzzy in everything I read. For instance the Roomba 400 series only retails for $125 so what the difference were between that and the Roomba 530 where hard to distinguish other than the 530 is a newer model with hopefully an improved design.
In the end my wife and I decided that for $125.99 we would take a gamble - we thought a Roomba would be able to help keep the house cleaner (although how much was unclear) with less work. Now that we have been using the Roomba 530 for several weeks I can honestly save its great for our situation and in our opinion definitely worth our investment. However, I can see why its hard to say its a good investment for everyone.
Roomba in Action
Roomba is suprisingly simple to operate. I would have thought there would be a lot of controls associated with the Roomba, but there are only 3 buttons (clean, dock, spot clean). We setup Roomba and her dock station in an empty corner of a room downstairs. When your ready for her to clean, you simply press the clean button and get out of her way.
Our downstairs consists of 4 rooms, an entranceway, bathroom, plus a couple hallways totally a little less than 1200 square feet. Back out space for furniture, cabinets, closets, etc and there is roughly 700-800 square feet of area that needs to be vacummed. At this point the entire floor looks clean after a run, but I suspect as the battery life degades our Roomba may not be able to cover our entire floor in 1 cleaning. We also have wider doorways between rooms downstairs which I think makes it easier for Roomba to move about and not get stuck in a room.
Hangups for our Roomba
So far we have only noticed a couple points of concern with Roomba and our floors.
1)Things like empty plastic dog food bowls will get pushed into a corner.
2) Our cordless phone base station and Ooma box which have been resting on the floor are at just the right level that our Roomba can hit the buttons on them while she is cleaning. Every once in awhile she will hit the "speakerphone" or "page" on the phone base station.
3)Our baby's swing which has about a 1/2" support bar resting on the ground that Roomba can get hung up on. Suprisingly things like power cords and rugs haven't been a problem.
One concern I had was about using the Virutal Walls that come with Roomba 530. They are a bit annoying as they need to be turned on everytime you want to use them and they will send out a beam that the Roomba won't cross for a predetermined time period upto 9hrs). There useful if you want to limit Roomba to a certain area. Luckily it turns out we don't have a real need for them in our usuage. We just let Roomba loose on our entire downstairs. The layout is pretty open with wide doorways between rooms so Roomba goes back and forth between the rooms very easily. Even better is that she is consistently able to find the docking station. This is a important point to me because I got confused about the need for lighthouses to limit Roomba to 1 room at a time and help her find the docking station. In our situation that hasn't been a problem at all.
Does the iRobot Roomba 530 Clean Well?
Yes we believe the Roomba 530 cleans as well as our upright Eureka vacuum cleaner. Its amazing what the Roomba picks up after cleaning the house. Given the relatively small size of her air filter, we do need to empty out the dirt bin after every 2-3 cleaning cycles.
Biggest Weakness of Roomba
For us the biggest weakness of our Roomba at this point is how often we need to clean the air filter/dirt bin. Over the long run though I am suspicous the battery life may also be a concern based on the reviews, but so far that hasn't been a problem for us. Its probably worth noting that cleaning coverage is not a concern, we really feel like the floors are cleaned well by our Roomba.
We have been using our Roomba 530 for ~4 weeks on nearly every other day basis. Our routine is to now to start our Roomba on our way upstairs to bed. She will roughly clean for about 1 hour and then return to her docking station and is quite enough that we can fall asleep while she is running downstairs. When we get up she is normally back in her docking station and all charged up. Once a week when I have a couple minutes I'll empty out the dirt bin and clean the air filter.
At this point it looks like there is a clear payback in our situation for our investment in a Roomba 530. We have been able to reduce the amount of time spent keeping our floors clean and they are cleaner overall than before. However, if you can't establish a simple routine to utilize a Roomba effectively then it may be no better than an ordinary vacuum.
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