What Is A Robot Lawn Mower?
If machines ever do one day rise to conquer and enslave humanity, robot lawn mowers might serve as their most degrading evidence in favor of avenging humanity’s crimes against synthetic dignity. That’s fine. For those who have seen an autonomous, artificially intelligent mower in action, these revolutionary dynamos built to independently groom a vast variety of lawns to perfection are nothing short of adolescent dreams of eradicated yardwork come true.
A robot lawn mower typically works within a border wire enclosing the desired area to be trimmed. These devices can map and mow up to 220,000 square-feet of grass, including the location of a convenient charging dock. Since MowBot was patented and introduced as the world’s first commercial robot lawn mower in 1969 with early takes on a number of today’s more popular features, sales of these ingenious lawn-care helpers rose to make them the world’s second largest category of domestic robots by 2005 and total 15 times the growth of more traditional mowers as of 2012. Today’s mowers are now not only self-docking but capable of detecting rain and eliminating most need for human interaction short of basic programming and optional direct control via several proprietary smartphone and tablet apps.
What Are The Different Types Of Robot Lawn Mowers?
Most lawn mowers offer a healthy array of different types within general classes, each with features that make them uniquely suited to lawns of somewhat particular sizes and profiles. Robot lawn mowers, not so much. The vast majority resemble a radio-controlled model of some sort of all-terrain vehicle fresh out of a sci-fi movie. They body shapes may differ, but they almost universally operate based on large rear drive wheels that equal most of the height of the entire body and two smaller, almost hidden front wheels.
Who Is A Robot Lawn Mower Ideal For?
This is quite possibly what I love most about robot lawn mowers: I dare you to find someone who instinctively wouldn’t appreciate at least their general appeal to convenience. Maybe you could simply do with freeing up as much additional free time as you can engage in something you enjoy far more than the sweat of your brow, the aroma of freshly cut grass, and the sun on your neck while tending to your yard. Perhaps chronic pain or general physical infirmity has robbed you of working in your yard as you’re accustomed to but hiring someone to groom your greenery for you falls outside your budget. Failing either of those more practical motivators, you might happen to love life-simplifying gadgets and beautifying your home with equal zeal. The most ambitious top-shelf robot lawn mowers around will handle most jobs short of the tallest, thickest grasses with easy-to-appreciate consistently smooth, fine cuts that leave your lawn pristinely manicured and healthy season after season without their human counterparts hardly lifting a finger.
All in all, robot lawn mowers are shockingly affordable, impeccably safe time-savers. Many will even mulch as they mow to multitask snipping with fertilizing.
Why Buy A Robot Lawn Mower?
Here’s the real beauty of this technology: your robot lawn mower doesn’t fundamentally need you to do much beyond setting up the border wire surrounding your lawn’s perimeter. Once it establishes its boundaries, the mower cuts as programmed with only minimal incidental assistance. Multizone robot lawn mowers can even map several separate areas and recall their regular trimming needs instantly. These little helpers raise no complaints about toiling in the most unforgiving summer heat and many can play it safe with specially attuned rain-detecting sensors by foregoing mowing entirely when faced with wet conditions and returning to the safety of the charging dock until the humidity falls. The right combination of options and helpful features can tackle large and small lawns with equally efficient, dependable precision.
How To Choose A Robot Lawn Mower?
Maximum Lawn Area – Acres / Sq Feet
The pace at which your robot lawn mower will finish grooming your entire lawn will vary according to the mower’s cutting radius. Especially if you have to manage a rather large lawn, it benefits your shopping to accurately measure out your yard and size up how much grass per pass a given deck radius will cover, especially since a number of automatic mowers are limited in their range to certain acreages and require some expert configuration to mow effectively beyond that range. For the sake of quick conversion, keep in mind that a half-acre is equivalent to 22,000 square feet.
Cutting Pattern & Travel Direction (Clockwise / Counter Clockwise)
As much as I understand a natural preference toward orderly movement, robot lawn mowers actually seem to function best when programmed to mow in no particular pattern. Some mowers naturally proceed around its wired-in area with a clockwise pattern and others automatically orient themselves counterclockwise. Either way, the vast majority of owners note that mowing randomly results in a uniquely uniform, carpet-like lawn of impeccable neatness.
What Are The Benefits Of A Robot Lawn Mower? (Pros Vs Cons)
When you allow a robot lawn mower to tackle your trimming, you can choose to take a load off entirely or patrol the yard knocking out other tasks. That alone makes these automated groundskeepers utter godsends to allergy sufferers by letting them seek shelter from dust and pollen indoors while this outdoorsy cousin of the Roomba clips in near total silence. Like any other electrical mower, these robots also slash lawn-care expenses by eliminating the need to fuss with oil or gas. They are essentially the quintessential time-saving and cost-cutting tool for quiet, clean and smooth mowing. Mostly.
Fair warning: robot lawn mowers do come with a handful of drawbacks. For one thing, initially setting up the perimeter guide wire that maintains the mower’s desired path and fences in its working area is a one-time irritating chore easily consuming more than six hours you would probably rather spend doing just about anything else. However, I stress that you have to do this exactly once.
You should also prepare yourself for a lofty price tag. As with any gadget, cutting-edge technology is not free, especially when it isn’t yet considered “mainstream.” That can be particularly infuriating if your robot lawn mower breaks down. Since not lawn mower repair specialists also possess the electrical savvy to repair an autonomous lawn-care assistant, many owners find themselves stuck with frequently disappointing customer support from manufacturers.
If the above-stated issues haven’t put you off investing in a robot lawn mower, then I implore you, measure your lawn carefully and triple-check the math accounting for any mower’s clipping swath, range, and estimated battery life. The preferable random patterning results in a peerlessly manicured lawn, but it also places a decidedly inefficient strain on a battery’s charge. That can be especially aggravating if your mower should hang itself up on an obstacle in its path. To minimize such an occurrence, take extra care to maintain an open route toward the mower’s charging dock.
Last, but never least, robot lawn mowers should command caution equal to any other mower’s potential hazards. They can quickly tempt the curiosity of pets and small children while meandering about the yard. To cats, dogs and kids who don’t know any better, they can seem quite the neat little playthings. I don’t need to tell you just how dangerous that could be.
What Types Of Grass Is Best Or Bad For A Manual Robot Lawn Mower?
It’s easier to simply be cautionary about what I wouldn’t advise enlisting a robot lawn mower to manage. Tall, thick grasses are best maintained using just about any other mower type. Robot lawn mowers are simply too small to be practical from an energy-efficiency standpoint because the power needed to chew through heavy roughage will decimate battery life in no time. Wet grass must also be avoided at all cost. Electronics tend to be deathly allergic to water.
What Are The Top Features Of A Robot Lawn Mower?
Multi Zone Capability
Robot lawn mowers with multi-zone capability can travel independently and directly to and from several cutting areas, allowing them to transition between two to four grassy patches without a stretch of lawn to act as a thoroughfare or needing to manually reset its location. This feature is a must-have for robot lawn mower owners with two different-sized lawns or commercial property managers with several disconnected patches of grass. Otherwise, users must reset each zone’s size manually before directly moving the mower to the next area.
This is by far a robot lawn mower’s bread-and-butter appeal: the option to schedule it to mow on a set day at an appointed time. The more programmable options, the better. Some must be programmed directly at their docks while others offer Bluetooth, Wi-Fi or smartphone connectivity to plan their tasks remotely.
Apps For Mobile Devices
Mowing your lawn whether you happen to be home or not? Yep, there’s an app for that. The cream of robot lawn mowers provide for owners to call discretionary audibles for their work by way of some nifty free software for compatible smartphones and tablets. Away on business and need to tweak your mower’s schedule? Grab your device, pull up its itinerary, and adapt as needed. Spot some insufficient cutting patterns or a spot that could do with some unique attention while your robot is actively trimming? You can still command it in real time from your own comfortable vantage point.
AIA – Artificial Intelligence Algorithm
Robot lawn mowers are ostensibly machines that improve upon their performance the more frequently they carry out a task. More advanced designs operate based on Artificial Intelligence Algorithms (AIA) that evolve with ongoing experience, enabling them to retain understanding of a lawn’s size, topography, and even the average rate at which the grass grows.
Robot lawn mowers are powered by either solar cells, charging by way of an electrical source, or batteries that must be replaced every few years. Unfortunately, solar-powered mowers have largely been rendered obsolete by their demonstrated inefficiency. The other two energy sources actually display surprising effectiveness and can be conveniently charged at any time using standard household current.
Your robot lawn mower may indeed crown you the envy of your neighborhood. Equally likely, someone may stroll past your property and decide your artificially intelligent helper looks like it would fetch a pretty penny. Either way, don’t underestimate the possibility it may “wander off” when your back is turned. Fortunately, many models come equipped with GPS tracking to make locate them once more with ease.
By and large, robot lawn mower manufacturers tailor their battery choices to meet each model’s particular operational traits.
Lead-Acid batteries are similar to those that power most automobiles. They are both the least expensive power sources available today and the bulkiest, a combination of characteristics that keeps the prices of the mowers they power relatively low and provides advantageous traction. However, their capacities tend to diminish from one year to the next, making them less-than-ideal choices for lawns larger than their mowers’ individual recommended sizes.
Lithium-Ion batteries, much like those paired with every cell phone you’ve ever owned, provide solid service life without weakening with age. That being said, they are incredibly lightweight, notably more pricey, but vastly worth the cost based on remarkably efficient weight-to-available power ratios. Many mowers can even afford to include the space to install optional additional cells without sucking extra power to haul more batteries around, as would be the case if one were to try adding a heavy secondary lead-acid battery.
If you have ever used a cordless power tool of any kind, you’ve used a Nickel-Cadmium battery. NiCad power sources can be tricky. If not completely discharged before recharging them, a deceptive “memory” they develop convinces them that they can provide only as much power as their last few uses actually delivered. Fortunately, a number of mowers that employ these will not return to their docks until they have fully run out their juice.
Several factors determine any robot lawn mower’s run time. For one thing, the more effort it has to exert to get the job done, the quicker it will burn through its battery’s charge. Obviously, larger lawns mean more ground to cover and longer continuous operation. A wealth of obstacles, steep hills, tall grass and heavy weeds will all place an extra tax on available energy. Ultimately, run times can range anywhere between around 45 minutes up to a rare few models that can go for five to 10 hours before needing to retreat for a rest.
Like your robot lawn mower’s running time, charging duration will vary from one model to the next. You can mostly chalk that up to the kind of battery. I have seen a few mowers whose batteries are completely topped-up in about 30 minutes but most take about 45 minutes to an hour and a very few models take several hours to fully charge and run for up to 10 hours. Generally speaking, the longer the mower’s running time, the longer you can probably expect its battery to need to charge. Beware, some mowers are designed to only run a set number of hours or even only once within a 24-hour period.
For reasons that should be fairly obvious, robot lawn mowers are ill-suited for bagging their clippings. A side-discharge disposal option would actually be even more disastrous, spreading piles of errant grass to slow them down by being run over again and again. The elegant solution? Mulching. Your mower will instantly convert remnants of clipped grass into fine biodegradable pellets dispensed directly to your lawn while it cuts as a nutritious fertilizer.
Cutting Height (Min & Max)
As flawlessly even as the texture your robot lawn mower will leave behind is, do not go overboard in grooming your grass to resemble an expanse of outdoor carpet. Never trim below 30 percent of your lawn’s overall height. Cleanly cutting the grass above that length will allow it to quickly grow back healthy and strong. Clipping too short is an all-too-common cause of increased susceptibility to disease and pests and a tendency to dehydrate quickly during prolonged hot, dry spells.
As with any mower, a wider cutting path comes at the cost of a bigger body and a bit more weight to move around, often at the cost of more energy expended. Fortunately, it isn’t you that has to propel it all around your lawn. Bad news: it means either burning through a lighter battery more quickly or adding even more weight with a heavier battery that can deliver the necessary extra power. The good news being, the combination of an artificial intelligence algorithm with a robot lawn mower’s diminutive size means it can deftly handle intricate cutting patterns and spaces as narrow as 24 inches.
Maximum Ground Slope Degree
Robot lawn mowers are not exactly known for their heavy-duty engines or endless battery life. As surefooted as they are, they are limited in their capacity to deal with steep slopes. The average threshold I’ve seen is around 15 degrees but some admirably nimble robot lawn mowers top out at climbing a 27-degree incline.
There are three major types of blades common to robot lawn mowers. It definitely behooves your shopping experience to familiarize yourself with the benefits of each.
Double-edged blades conserve energy impressively well with a low-mass thin constitution that trims grass tips cleanly and still flexes a bit when striking an unwanted object.
Some mowers cut with recessed hardened blades positioned inside mulching chambers to deal with longer grass and leave not a trace of visible clippings in their wake.
Still other mowers constantly cut using thin blades that each resemble the fine edges of a utility knife. These expose only a small sharp cutting area and the blade swings back inside its mounting disc upon contact with a hard object and returns on its next rotation.
We’ll keep this plenty simple: being electrically powered and satisfyingly compact, robot lawn mowers run with about as close to perfect silence as any lawn tool you will ever use.
Every so often, you are bound to need to take your robot lawn mower’s operation somewhat into your own hands. Look for a lawn mower that allows you to direct its movement somewhat, activate it or return it to its charging dock with the push of a button.
While your robot lawn mower can deal with blazing summer heat without a fuss, moisture and electronics predictably do not mix. As thoroughly weatherproof as manufacturers may try to keep their mowers’ bodies, trust a model with sensors that detect high humidity or precipitation and return automatically to their docks until conditions dry out.
Being so small of stature, robot lawn mowers are quite easy to pick up and make off with at a moment’s whim. First off, an alarm system that sets the machine off in a panic when disturbed is a huge boon to calling attention to a would-be thief. However, just in case someone should make a clean getaway, it helps to be able to protect your mower with a unique PIN to make it effectively useless in anyone’s hands but yours.
Robot lawn mowers are practically all equipped with sensors, switches activated by shell movement and internal contacts that detect objects in their paths. In additional, tilt sensors will stop the blades and/or shut the mower off completely if it should deviate too far from its standing position. A number of other models add sonar “eyes” that decelerate the mower before it can strike an object and others turn off the blade with a touch-sensitive lift handle when it comes into contact with your hand.
The last thing you want is for your mower to catch on an object and futilely spin its wheels until its battery dies down. Effective collision sensors will re-orient your robot lawn mower quickly on contact and send it on its way with its environment mapped in just a bit more detail to avoid the obstacle in the future.
What’s the point of having an artificially intelligent robot at your beck and call if it won’t act without your say-so? The most popular robot lawn mowers around today allow owners to scheduling cutting appointments using built-in programs that establish set times and dates when it should set forth. You can even deploy these little self-starters using a mobile app while you’re as far away from home as business or pleasure calls you to be.
Warranty And Support
Being an electronic device, your robot lawn mower is bound to eventually either do something you don’t want it to do or fail to do what you request. That’s what makes reputable customer service and warranty protection supported by a healthy population of positive reviews such a swing factor. Always read the coverage conditions as thoroughly as possible to root out any sneaky exceptions. The industry has seemingly accepted a two-year warranty as par for the course but I would regard anything less than three or four years as somewhat underwhelming in terms of peace of mind.
Prepare to stretch your wallet: robot lawn mowers start around $600 but elite models can top over over $5,500.
Extra Features To Consider
Self Charging — The less you need to police your mower’s usability, the better. If your robot lawn mower returns to its charging station on its own when it starts feeling run-down, consider that a major notch in its favor.
Rain Sensors — Generally speaking, anything electronic operates best when kept as dry as possible. Rain sensors will immediately cease mowing and send your robot lawn mower right back to the moisture-free safety of its charging station until the precipitation ends and/or humidity dissipates.
Alarms — A robot lawn mower would be pretty easy to abscond with at a moment’s thought. A built-in alarm system will send it into a tantrum of light and sound to alert you if a passerby should decide to take it for a walk.
Mini Storage Garage Base — What better safe, dry place to charge your robot lawn mower than in the comfort of your garage?
Objects On Lawn
Yes, your robot lawn mower can probably deal with obstacles just fine thanks to its collision sensors and task-based artificial intelligence algorithm. That doesn’t entirely rule out the possibility it could snag on something and run its engine aimlessly until you can realize it isn’t clipping like it’s supposed to and seek it out. For the sake of prolonging your battery life and preventing collision damage to your mower, keep your yard as free from stray objects as possible, especially along your mower’s path to its charging station.
What Are The Robot Lawn Mower Brands?
One of the world’s finest makers of lawn-care tools for every need, Husqvarna makes some fantastically effective mowers packed with features and built for durable performance at a premium price.
You won’t find too many mowers that can handle up to 25-degree slopes and sport up to 10 hours of running time.
Not exactly a household name among brands, but they are a go-to supplier of affordable, no-frills robot lawn mowers backed by an admirable three-year warranty.
Where To Buy A Robot Lawn Mower?
To be perfectly honest, I don’t see much of an advantage to buying a robot lawn mower from a brick-and-mortar retailer, but it isn’t exactly a disadvantage. Make it easy on yourself by purchasing from Amazon, Lowe’s, Home Depot, Walmart, Tractor Supply Company and other fine retailers online.
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