I have owned 3 discovery model Roombas for several years and am totally sold on the concept of having a robot vacuum. It keeps my home cleaner because I do not have to do it so it can get done more frequently.
How does Roomba Work?
Roomba 500 series is a cordless automatic vacuum sweeper that will vacuum your carpets, hard surfaces and some throw rugs. It will run for nearly 2 hrs on a single charge when brand new. With regular use you will probably need to buy a new battery at approx 2 yrs of age.
Preparation– You will have to pick up your room in order for Roomba to do a thorough job cleaning your home. It might not be suitable for people who keep a lot of clutter in their rooms. I actually find that it helps me keep things picked up on a regular basis so that Roomba can do it’s job.
Navigation– Roomba Vacuums and also sweeps with two rotating beater brushes. There is a side rotating brush to loosen debris that might be against a wall. This vacuum can move from hard surfaces to carpeted areas with no problems. It can even negotiate wood strips between rooms and surfaces.
Stair Avoidance System– This Roomba is equipped with a system that prevents it from going over the stairs. It does this with a combination of sensors. Sometimes a very dark rug or a rug with a black border stripe will confuse it into thinking that there is a drop off and will make him turn around and not vacuum that area. I have thought with past models that they would put an override switch for people who do not have to worry about stairs but might have dark carpets. It does not seem to have a problem with my black marble by the fireplace but I think that is because of the reflective nature of marble compared to carpet. On one of my old roombas I did put masking tape over the sensors to combat this problem effectively, but the 500 series will not allow me to do this effectively.
Maintenance– You have to empty the dust bin after each use. I empty mine over the garbage can and use my Dustbuster to clean the filter so that I do not have to replace it. as often. A clean filter will help Roomba Clean better. Also every so often you will have to clean the brushes. The vacuum comes with a tool that removed strings etc from its brushes but I find that a manicuring scissors is very helpful as well. Depending on the condition of your home, brushes will need to be cleaned about once a month. Roomba will stop and tell you when you clean them or you can be proactive and clean them on a regular schedule.
Different Roomba functions
Clean -press clean and the vacuum will clean your rooms and return to it’s home base when it is finished. The cleaning time will vary depending on the size of your rooms.
Spot – press Spot and it will clean a circle about 3-4ft in diameter. When it is done it will stop and you will have to press dock for it to return to it’s home base, otherwise you can just pick it up and place it on it’s home base.
Demo – If you want to impress your friends press and hold down the Dock button and the robot will start a demo where it talks about and demonstrates the different functions it can do.
Dock – If you want Roomba to return to it’s home base before it is done with its cleaning cycle just press Dock and it will find and dock with the home base.
Additional Parts and Functions
Self Charging Home Base/Power Cord -The vacuum comes with a self charging home base as well as a power adapter. You can charge it by plugging the cord directly into the vacuum or by plugging the cord into the home base. When cleaning with this vacuum, it will know when it is done cleaning and will return and dock with the home base automatically.
2 Virtual Wall Lighthouses – The Roomba that I got came with 2 wall/lighthouses. There is a switch to use it as a wall or as a lighthouse. If you want to use the wall function it will keep it in a room indefinitely. If you want Roomba 500 series to clean one room and then move on to the next use the lighthouse function and Roomba will leave when the room is clean. The time it stays in each room will depend on the size of the room. After you are done cleaning the lighthouses will act as a beacon to help the vacuum find and return to dock with the home base.
Onboard Help – If your robot runs into a problem it will stop and beep. If you press the clean button it will tell you what it needs like. “Clean my brushes”
3 Replacement Filters – Roomba’s filter will need to be replaced every few months. Roomba 500 series comes with 3 to keep it going for a year with normal use and regular cleaning(replace every 3 months)
Scheduling – You can schedule the vacuum to clean once a day to once a week. I have never used the scheduling function because I like to be here in case Roomba needs assistance.
Roomba has a full warranty for 1 yr. IRobot is very good about correcting problems. With this one I noticed that it was not picking up as well on the hardwood as my old roomba did and when I called in they offered to send me an upgraded cleaning module without my even asking for it. I bought mine in their “outlet” section so I thought perhaps it was not the most updated version and was prepared to just buy the updated cleaning module. I have had batteries that died before one year and these were also replaced, no questions asked. I would suggest buying directly from IRobot. If you buy it elsewhere make sure to call and register your robot.
How is Roomba 500 series different from previous models
*This series does not get caught up on cords and rugs so I do not have to pick up as much. It will not get hung up on fringe from most rugs. It is best to watch it the first few times so that you know how acts with things in your home.
*Another great feature is that it has modular replacement parts so if one part breaks you do not have to replace the entire robot
*This vacuum does not bash into walls and furniture the way old roomba did. It slows down before it reaches a wall or something else in front of it. I can even leave my dogs water dish out because it just lightly taps it. It must have a sensor which makes it slow down when it is approaching an object
*This Rooma docks better with its recharging base. The older series would often have trouble finding its base.
*It has a larger dust bin and vacuums as well as just sweeping like the old Roomba
*The unit comes with lighthouses which allow Roomba to leave a room after it is finished cleaning. Instead of just holding it in the room.
*The battery that lasts twice as long as the discovery series
My experience so far (June 2009)
I have only had the Roomba 500 series for 2 months. So far I love it. I might need to get an additional wall lighthouse. Just a side note. The walls from the discovery series will not work with the Roomba 500 series
Update August 12 2009
I had noticed that my new Roomba was not picking up as well on the hard surfaces as my old Roomba did, so I called customer service and they sent out a new upgraded cleaning module including the brushes. I did not have to send the old part back or anything. The new one was easy to install and is working much better. My experience with iRobot customer service was great
Update June 2010
I liked my new Roomba so much that I got him a new friend to help him clean :-) both are living happily together
Update December 2013
One of my Roombas failed and was just going in circles. I called iRobot and asked them what could be done to fix this. They said that it was likely something that could not be fixed without replacing it. They offered me an upgraded one but it would not work with the same virtual walls I have so the customer service representative offered to send me a new robot at no charge even though my robot was years out of warranty. I could hardly believe it, but they did indeed send me a brand new robot at absolutely no charge. It did not include a battery or the base or walls, but I did not need those items. I was extremely happy with the customer service. To me they went above and beyond what I would have expected.