One of my biggest concerns in making the decision whether to switch to a robot vacuum cleaner or not is how well such devices can handle stairs, ledges, and lips that pose potential hazards for the machine. I have no interest in spending my hard-earned money on a product that’s going to be unusable within a month. When you use a traditional vacuum cleaner you have full control over how you handle stairs and ledges so there’s really nothing to be concerned about, but it’s a different thing altogether with an autonomous robot that has to navigate such challenges itself.

There are essentially three types of obstacles that can cause problems for a robot vacuum cleaner and these are stairs, ledges or drops in the floor, and lips between rooms. In general, the stairs are probably the biggest hazard, but all three of these types of obstructions can cause you problems. The best robot vacuum cleaners handle all of these hazards without any problem at all.

Those Pesky Lips

Some of the least worrying rises and falls that a robot vacuum cleaner will have to deal with are the room dividers or the lips that divide doorways. In most cases these are no more than an inch or two tall and shouldn’t pose a problem for a good robot vacuum cleaner – if the model you’re considering purchasing can’t even handle this type of obstacle you should probably walk away and keep looking for a better model. Unfortunately, there are quite a few robot vacuum cleaners that can’t handle such a basic obstacle. These types of vacuum cleaners are usually very inexpensive and only work on flat, hard floors.

Unexpected Drops

If you’ve ever seen a room with a sunken living room or if you’ve lived in a house with one, then you are well aware that the drop from one level to the other can be fairly substantial. These types of rooms may be the centerpiece of your home and add a great deal of value, but they’re quite a challenge for a robot vacuum cleaner. This is where many robot vacuum cleaners can run into some problems. In order to navigate this type of obstacle the robot needs to have good sensor technology that can detect the danger that’s in front of it. Most robot vacuum cleaners do handle this type of obstacle pretty well, but not all of them.

Recognizing the Stairs

For a robot vacuum cleaner, detecting stairs is very similar to detecting the type of drop we described above in our sunken living room example. Robot vacuum cleaners have a series of sensors including an infrared beam and a photocell sensor that alerts the machine to the dangers ahead of it. When it sends outs its sensor signal and detects no solid floor in front of its path, it recognizes that there must be a stair or ledge in the way and will turn away from the danger. Again, all robot vacuum cleaners are designed to handle this type of hazard, but some of the less expensive models have been known to simply stop rather than turning around to continue with the cleaning duties. It’s nice to save a few bucks, but if the machine is not going to work properly it will probably just become another forgotten device in your closet in no time.

Do Yourself a Favor

When you’re checking out robot vacuum cleaners you should strongly consider what type of sensor technology they employ. This is one area where you simply don’t want to cut any corners, as you want a machine that will handle stairs just as well as you can when you’re using a traditional vacuum cleaner. One piece of advice I would offer is that if you cannot find any type of information on how the robot vacuum cleaner you’re considering handles the detection of stairs and other obstacles, then you should keep on searching.

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