Cleaning strategies: These ARE the (just smart enough) droids you’re looking for

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For nearly a decade, I’ve worked primarily from (and often on our) home. As a co-homemaker and with VERY furry pets, I’ve become a big fan of discount and just smart enough robotic cleaning assistance — it’s good to have some basic cleaning droids / co-workers on the team.

In 2016, I took a <$200 gamble on an ILIFE A4 robot vacuum cleaner  (a model that has since been upgraded to A4s). I am happy to report that, with some minor repairs and replacement parts, this robot keeps going in 2020.

ILIFE A4 Robot Vacuum Cleaner —  slightly scarred after nearly four years of almost daily use.

Over the years, I’ve become fairly expert at dismantling this robot, as assisted by YouTube — mainly to clear internal parts of pet hair. This is what I like about our A4 robot sidekick:

  • it’s possible to disassemble the A4 with basic tools (a screw driver set) as well as purchase replacement parts, such as a battery  but also roller brushed and even wheel engines, via Amazon;
  • as far as I can tell, the A4 has no WIFI, cameras, microphones, Bluetooth or app — sometimes no connectivity is a benefit;
  • it works with or without a handheld remote, and the remote uses AAA batteries;
  • it cleans far under furniture like couches and beds;
  • It runs relatively quietly and for over an hour (in our case) on one charge;
  • there are only a few places that ours gets stuck. Before using the A4, I put up any dangling cables and set makeshift barriers to block a few trouble spots;
  • It’s smart enough to return to its base (most of the time) to recharge on its own;
  • it does not need expensive smart barriers to operate;
  • it offers a power outage warning. When the plugged-in charging base loses power, the A4 rolls out of it, spins in a circle and beeps.

The A4 remote apparently allows for timed cleaning (I don’t use this feature), but reviews indicate that this does not always work. Additionally, our A4 does not seem to detect black furniture, objects or pets (sorry pug). Regardless, it seems to get the job done, and I feel safe using it with pets in the house and when I’m not home. No, the cat doesn’t surf it, but she does sometimes treat it as a toy (and hasn’t been mangled yet).

Impressed with the A4, we also invested just under $200 in a sidekick iRobot Braava Jet 240 Robot Mop and some washable attachment mats:

iRobot Braava Jet 240 Robot Mop — in our house, known as “SpongeBob”

The Braava also keeps going after years of service, and isn’t particularly “smart” (no remote or connectivity). I haven’t had to disassemble it, and it bleeps a delightful song when it is finished working — we use it on very small areas of tiled flooring. I only wish that the Braava had better battery life,  but we haven’t had to replace the original and 3rd-party spare batteries are available.

The A4 and Braava together have NOT replaced weekly cleaning, but they have been a great backup duo. For regular vacuuming, we rely on a roughly $60 Bissell Zing bagless vacuum that hasn’t needed any major repairs or replacement.

Together, these small investments have added to our domestic bliss (while offering a hint of the future of robotic assistance . . . and robot maintenance).

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