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It would be hard to go back to a Roomba-free life (but we might have to)
on 23 April 2013
16 months after buying Roomba we had a problem - he stopped picking up. I contacted iRobot and they sent me a list of checks to make and suggested that I might need a replacement cleaning module (the one from the 700 series) - which they offered to sell to me. I haven't bought the new module yet (you can only purchase by phone during working hours), but I probably will. However, I'm pretty unimpressed that a £300 robot broke down four months out of warranty - and the fact that iRobot has a pre-written list of checks for the fault and a ready solution with an updated part suggests to me that this is a known problem with this series of Roombas and not an isolated incident. Under the circumstances I feel that they could have offered the part as a goodwill gesture, but they were not budging on payment (I did ask!)
Since I first bought Roomba I have spent money on new brushes and filters, and have cleaned him regularly as per iRobot's instructions. Our flat is pretty small, and Roomba hasn't been used daily. In addition to the major fault above, his front wheel has also worn out its bearings and the wheel holder needs to be replaced. I really do feel overall that such an expensive item should last for longer. It's a shame, because I love the Roomba, and find him very useful, but I'm not very happy with iRobot right now.
**End of update**
Like others, I thought long and hard before purchasing a robot vacuum cleaner. It felt like an unnecessary luxury, and (almost) £300 isn't a sum that I spend lightly - especially on something so seemingly non-essential. However, I'm also a busy parent and, after a lot of research, I decided to treat myself to a luxury that might also make my daily life a tiny bit easier.
...aaand - it really does. The flat is cleaner than it's ever habitually been. I find that I tidy up a bit before setting Roomba off, to clear the way for him (of course we've anthropomorphised our robot - why deny yourself the fun?). It's tidying that I probably wouldn't have done otherwise, and he then more than repays me by hoovering (nearly) everywhere with no further effort from me whatsoever. The flat's getting hoovered every other day rather than once a week (on a good week) - and I cannot stress enough the satisfaction of setting him off when I leave for work and coming home to find that the flat's been vacuumed in my absence.
Our flat is pretty small and poky (not the open-plan spacious area that I've seen some reviewers suggesting is Roomba's ideal habitat) and he gets into most nooks and crannies. Of course there are some places that he just can't get to; you can deal with it to some extent by adjusting the furniture every so often, but there will always be the odd corner that you need to do by hand.
Although he's fascinating to watch at first, his methods can seem a bit illogical - as others have noted. I'm assuming, though, that there's a reason behind this (irobot must have done the research?) and I now tend to just close the door and let him get on with it. As long as he doesn't run out of battery (which he hasn't, yet), it doesn't really matter to me how long he takes. I haven't yet felt the lack of the features that don't come with this model (invisible walls, remote, timer), but most things can be bought separately if you decide you want them later.
It's probably worth saying that I'm not the world's most house proud person - a bit of dust here and there doesn't bother me as long as the bulk of the floor is clean. Whether Roomba would fulfil all of your vacuuming needs if you were super house proud, I don't know, but personally I'm considering getting rid of my big hoover and managing with Roomba and my hand-held dusbuster.
He does require some maintenance - emptying out the dust each time he hoovers, and also (approx) once weekly brush cleaning etc, but you'd have to empty any hoover, and the other cleaning is really not that much effort. We've only had him for about a month, so I can't comment on the lifespan - various replacement parts do at least seem to be readily available, which is one of the reasons that I chose this brand. For the price, I expect him to do a good few years service - but even after a month it would already be hard to go back to a Roomba-free life.