Robot Lawn Mower Buying Guide (2022)
Robot Lawn Mowers are actually fairly simple pieces of machinery. Some robotic enthusiasts have been building basic versions of them for themselves for fun starting from way back. Average Joes like me have found out about them only recently.
That said, I’ve researched into it and this piece of content here is the result. I’m hoping that it will put your mind at ease by helping you make a more informed decision. ^^
What Is a Robot Lawn Mower?
Also known as autonomous lawn mower, automatic mowing robot, self-mowing robot, robotic lawn mower, or heck, a weird new pet with wheels.
They are what you’d expect: toy car sized robotic creatures on wheels that drive around a designated area and cut grass autonomously, fairly safely, and very quietly (around 60 dB), whenever you please, even when it rains (excluding winter). They run on a replaceable rechargeable battery which they recharge on their own as long as you’ve installed the charging station for them to drive up to. There are both simple and more sophisticated, or smart, models out there when it comes to their features, capabilities, and quality, but each of them requires hardly any interaction/babysitting from you when set up right.
How Much Do Robot Mowers Cost?
Robot lawn mowers can cost anywhere from $300 to upwards of $4000 or more.
I’ve noticed that in the United States, robot lawn mowers aren’t yet very popular, so the lack of demand sets the high price there, roughly $600 being cheap (this might have changed since I last checked at some point in 2022). In Europe, robot lawn mowers are a little more popular, competition more fierce, and prices thus lower, going as low as $400 here and there. So much for the initial cost…
I’m sure you’re wondering about the running costs, too. In short, you’re looking at roughly 12 kWh per month (just for context: 1 kWh costs €0.11 in my case, so €1.32/month). Have a quick read on everything cost related here: “How much does a robot mower cost?” While you’re so focused on numbers, try to remember the time lost when manually mowing and the hearing impairment caused by loud roaring noise of the regular lawn mower.
How Do Robot Mowers Work?
If you were imagining a little autonomous robot quietly rolling around in your garden keeping things in check, you basically understand it all. However, there are nuances to how it operates.
Here’s to giving you a simplified overview on the matter:
In themselves, robot lawn mowers are simple machines designed to cut and mulch grass, but much more frequently. They nibble away at the growing grass, autonomously at that, multiple times a day by going from cutting-charging-cutting-charging… And that as per your configured parameters. Robot lawn mowers are made up of wheels, a cutting system, a few motors, a circuit board, sensors, and a chassis around all that. It’s that circuit board that makes it a “robot” lawn mower. Sensors are basically its eyes with which it learns about its environment. That makes the circuit board its brain with which it calls the shots within its programmed rules which you can change to your liking. The more sophisticated this sensor-circuit combination is, the better it can do its job whilst leaving your roses be and giving the cat next door a fighting chance.
You can read more about that from this article: “How Do Robot Mowers Work?”
Are Robot Lawn Mowers Safe?
Right off the bat: not safe for pets and children!
…but so is a fork you eat with not safe for any living thing really. Even the cheapest models come equipped with a lot of safety features. I’d even argue that it takes actual effort on your part for the robot lawn mower to become unsafe. It’s the small nocturnal animals and little unaware children incapable of stepping aside that are the main target for the robot mower. But even then multiple stars need to align for anything Major to happen. And most such animals will likely at least try to run away. From my own experience, such potential accidents are super rare (never has anything happened in the few years we’ve had one ourselves).
For more info on robot lawn mower safety features, studies regarding its safety, and real life accidents, take a look at this article on robot lawn mower safety.
Is Your Garden Layout Robot-Mower Compatible?
I’d imagine every normal garden being a suitable workplace for a robot lawn mower.
Not all robot mowers are the same. While some robot mowers are designed for small city gardens, others are meant for the really big lawns instead. It’d be easier to determine whether it can handle your lawn by simply understanding those limits:
Usually measured in square meters, robot mowers have a different maximum lawn size that they can cut. Most of the cheaper robot mowers are meant for 300 m² lawns, high-end robot mowers can handle lawns up to 44,000 m². Note that it’s perfectly normal for robot mowers to work more frequently than a regular mower, making multiple trips, from mowing to recharging to mowing, before the entire area is cut.
Most robot mowers can’t deal with zones separated by fences or too narrow paths. What some models can do however is recognize different mowing zones configured and/or scheduled by the operator (you) in the robot mower control panel settings. If such a zone is not accessible by the mower itself, you’d have to manually carry it over to that zone and back once it’s crying there due to low battery or when the job is done.
Too steep slopes
Slopes up to 30 or 45 degrees, even up to 60 degrees, depending on the model, a robot mower can still handle. The reason for that is that robot mowers have a very low center of gravity, making them able to traverse on such slopes. The reason they can’t handle more comes down to both the relatively low motor system power and simple physical laws.
Robot mowers, to my knowledge, are unable to use staircases. Maybe if you luck out, it might land right and not upside down, but for getting back up on its own using stairs it needs more than a miracle. Additionally, when it made those flips down the stairs, as a typical safety measure, it probably turned itself off when it was tilted too much on its way down.
Too narrow corridors/pathways
The needed clearance for narrow situations depends on a particular robot mower’s capability. Some are programmed to handle these situations better than others.
The protection of flowerbeds, tree saplings, and other elements at risk of challenging the mighty robot mower also varies by model. More sophisticated robot mowers can detect objects that are big enough while the simpletons relying on a perimeter wire only require you to install the perimeter wire in a way that excludes those elements from the designated mowing area. That is, by physically installing the wire around the flower bed for example.
Main Types of Cutting Systems To Choose (2)
Apart from different sophistication of overall features, capabilities, and quality, there are 2 main types of cutting systems robot mowers tend to have. You can learn more about that from here: “Robot Lawn Mower Cutting System”.
1) Fixed blade
Here you can imagine something like a mini version of your regular lawn mower cutting blades that is solid and fixed, spinning around its axis. This type of a cutting system is less energy efficient and not as safe, but more efficient at cutting grass. It’s also a little louder than the other cutting system type.
2) Pivoting blades
Here you can imagine a rotating disc to which usually 3 pivoting razor blades are attached to. If these blades come in contact with something harder (as in: not grass), the blades are pushed aside and won’t get stuck behind the object like a solid blade would. This type of a cutting system is more energy efficient and safer than the fixed blades, though it’s not as efficient at cutting things, it more like slices in comparison. Not to forget, it’s also quieter than the other cutting system type.
What Brand Robot Mower Do I Want?
This is pretty new stuff, so some big lawn mower brands might not have even launched their own robot lawn mower as of writing this guiding overview here. Anyhow, here’s a list of robot mower brands I’ve come across…
- Husqvarna (leading brand in the realm of robot mowers)
- Yard Force
- Mcculloch (brand of Husqvarna)
- Gardena (brand of Husqvarna)
- Flymo (brand of Husqvarna)
- Warm Worm
How Long Do Robot Mowers Last?
When serviced annually, a robot lawn mower can last you more than a decade.
What might need changing from time to time are the battery (every 2 to 6 years) and cutting blades (twice per mowing season). In case you missed it earlier, here’s an article for a better overview: “Life Expectancy of a Robot Lawn Mower”.
However, you could potentially only change them out whenever you feel like. You could just allow the robot lawn mower to operate until it simply just gives up on itself before you reach for a new battery. The cutting blades are a little different because you may not like ripped and torn grass or brown spots in your garden caused by blunt blades…
How Do I Look After My Robot Lawn Mower?
Taking care of your robot lawn mower is fairly simple as it involves very low maintenance:
- clean regularly;
- replace cutting blades when need be;
- replace rechargeable battery when it seems almost dead;
- install charging station in shaded area to protect the mower from the elements;
- don’t forget to unplug the power supply connected to the charging station you left outside for winter;
- when storing the robot mower, charge fully, turn off, clean, and place in dry indoor conditions, and avoid leaving in freezing temperature.
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