Do you really need to buy a self-contained robot vacuum?

Many robot vacuums are smart enough to automatically clean your home, but most lack the ability to empty their bins. That means you’ll still be messing around with a dirty robot vacuum — which kind of defeats the whole purpose. However, if you step up to a premium model like the iRobot Roomba j7+, you’ll benefit from a device that knows how to empty itself when its bin is full.

The capability can still be found in some midrange models, but is a stand-alone robot vacuum necessary? Or should you save more money and opt for an entry-level robot that lacks features? Here’s a closer look at the benefits and drawbacks associated with self-cleaning robot vacuums.

What is a self-removal system?

As the robot vacuum cleans, it pulls the debris into an internal storage system – usually a small trash can. Depending on the size of your home and how dirty the floor is, you may need to empty the bin every two or three cleaning cycles.

A self-emptying system provides a port for the robot vacuum to rest in to not only charge the device, but also connect it to a series of vacuums that pull dirt and debris out of the dustbin and into a larger that storage bin. Think of it like the bag in a traditional vacuum cleaner. You empty the base station every 30 or 60 days instead of every two or three days.

The benefits of self-cleaning robot vacuums

The convenience of a robot vacuum is that it does the cleaning for you. The more hands-off it is, the better. Imagine a busy parent in the middle of the week. They take care of children, work, and many other household tasks. In the middle of all this, they have to stop vacuuming. Not having to vacuum is a benefit, but if you have to stop several times in your day so that the robot vacuum can continue its work – especially in a large house – those benefits are somewhat negated.

A self-emptying system also means you can run the robot vacuum more often. If you know you have to go in and empty the trash all day, you may be hesitant to use the vacuum more than necessary. On the other hand, if it vacuums itself, you can run it more often and keep your house cleaner.

Following the same line of thinking, you can use a robot vacuum in larger homes. If you have to empty the vacuum several times per run, it means you can’t really use the cleaning schedule. You must be home when the vacuum runs. With a self-contained base, even people in larger homes can put their vacuum to run and forget about it.

The storage bags within the self-emptying system are designed to contain dirt and debris without being released; in other words, even with a bag full of pet hair and dander, you don’t have to worry about allergies just from being near the base station. Plus, the blowback that most people experience when emptying their bot’s trash is eliminated, so there’s no more a thin layer of dust on your hands after emptying!

The failures of self-cleaning robot vacuums

With robot vacuums, the pros definitely outweigh the cons – but there are things to be aware of.

The first is size. A robot vacuum requires a certain amount of space on either side of it and in front of it (usually 1.5 feet and 4.5 feet, respectively), but you can place it under a table or place it on except until needed. With the addition of a base that does not contain itself, it takes up a lot of space.

For example, the iRobot Roomba i7 Plus Clean Base is 19 inches long and 12 inches wide, with a small ramp in front of it where the Roomba rests. It takes up more floor space than a robot vacuum by itself.

Another disadvantage is the noise. While short, the process of emptying the dustbin is strength While no robot vacuum is considered silent — it’s a vacuum cleaner, after all — most are quiet enough that they won’t actively bother you. On average, robot vacuums fall somewhere in the 60 to 70 decibel range. The self-emptying process is quick 10 decibels loud.

The last downside is the cost. The iRobot Clean Base is an additional $250, while the dirt storage bags are roughly $5 each and are offered in packs of three. The same can be said about the Shark IQ’s self-emptying base, which commands the same $250 additional charge. That’s not pocket change, especially when coupled with the cost of the robot vacuum itself.

Is a self-contained robot vacuum worth it?

A robot vacuum without a self-contained base is worth it, but it’s for sure more worth it for one. The self-emptying base adds a fair amount of value and convenience to any compatible robot vacuum. This is especially valuable if you have individuals at home who are more sensitive to dust and allergies. You’re less likely to bring up debris again if you go with a self-contained bot.

It’s even more valuable if you live in a big house with lots of floor space. The robot vacuum cleans more efficiently, and you don’t have to empty it as many times per run.

On the other hand, if you live in a studio apartment, it’s better to just buy the robot vacuum and invest in a self-contained base. The large size of the base station dominates a decent amount of space and does not provide much benefit in a smaller area.

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