Ditch the Chore, Embrace the Robot: Your Guide to Robot Lawn Mowers

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Are we slowly reaching the point where — like in sci-fi movies — robots become so common that we forget they are there? It kind of seems that way, since seeing a robot roaming around someone’s home is normal. While we haven’t quite made it to that point with robot lawn mowers, it could become just as common to see these gadgets maintaining lawns all over your neighborhood in the not-so-distant future.While robot lawn mowers aren’t exactly new on the market, for years, these machines were very expensive for the average person and required a lengthy and manual installation process. It’s not too dissimilar from how some of the best robot vacuums began about a decade ago. But much of that has changed, with prices coming down and setup being much easier. So the question today is, do robot lawn mowers work?Getting the right tool for the job With several robot lawn mowers on the market, it’s important to get the right match for your yard for the best experience. Chris Wedel/CNETWhile you can use an ax to cut down a tree, it will take a long time to cut down a forest with it. Just as you could cut your grass with scissors, a lawn mower is faster. I say this because there isn’t a one-size-fits-all machine when it comes to robot mowers. Before considering what robotic grass cutter to buy, you must determine how much area the mower will be cutting. Some mowers, like the Segway Navimow i110N, which I’m currently testing, can manage a quarter-acre of grass. This may be plenty of coverage for some, but a quarter-acre is well shy of my total yard in rural Kansas. On the flip side, a Mammotion mower I’m testing, the LUBA 2 AWD 10000H, can handle up to three acres and would be overkill for many but perfect for others. Mammotion does offer models designed for smaller yards and Segway offers models that can handle more than the i110N. We’ll soon have a list of the best robot lawn mowers to help take some of the guesswork out.Putting in the work With a properly sized robot lawn mower, your grass-cutting days could be behind you. Chris Wedel/CNETTo be clear, the robot mower will do the work, not you. With a properly sized robot lawn mower for your yard, these machines could be great. Because of their reliability and effectiveness, I’m saving about 65 hours per summer not mowing. If your yard is smaller, under three acres, then the amount of time saved will be less. But it is still time you get back for other things.So do robot lawn mowers work to cut grass? Yes, but so do scissors. Ensuring you get a properly sized robot lawn mower is the first step in getting back time lost to you manually mowing your yard. Once that is done, and you’ve completed your mower setup, it is mostly a set-it-and-forget-it situation where you will consistently have a wonderfully manicured lawn all without turning a key.What to know about robot mowers before you buyAs you might expect, like robot vacuums, not all robot lawn mowers are the same. You can buy a cheap robot vacuum for around $150 or a high-end option that is closer to $2,000. Meanwhile, a “cheap” robot mower starts at around $500, but considering you could spend upward of $6,000, that isn’t too bad. Especially when you consider a good riding lawn mower will cost you thousands, and you still have to do the work.Are cheap robot lawn mowers any good? The Auto Mower from Husqvarna is like a Roomba for the lawn.  HusqvarnaA cheap robot lawn mower can do a great job. While I haven’t tested any robo mowers in the $500 range yet, these devices will have similar functionality to the Husqvarna Automower 430XH I have used, as in it will use a boundary wire to keep it within your yard. These mowers are wonderful for a smaller yard as they will “bounce” off the virtual walls formed by the boundary wire. It will get the job done, just less efficiently than higher-end models with GPS, like the LUBA 2 AWD mentioned above.Mowers like that will act much more like a robot vacuum cleaner, where it uses sensors to “see” objects. You also navigate the mower around your yard using your phone to teach the robot lawn mower where it can and can’t go. Not only will the setup be much easier for these types of robot lawn mowers, but the mower will also mow more efficiently. Instead of bouncing around your yard, it now knows exactly the size and shape of the mowing area and will mow much better.Are robot lawn mowers safe? Robot mowers are safe and cut your weekly yard work down by several hours. Chris Wedel/CNETFor the most part, yes, it is very safe. As with anything, if used improperly, it can be unsafe. These mowers, even the cheap ones, have lift sensors, overload sensors and an emergency stop button. The pricier options have sensors to detect objects before hitting them. These features add more layers of safety to keep from running over something it shouldn’t.As for the blades, most robot mowers essentially use three or more specially designed razor blades to cut the grass. These blades are double-sided, and many have a long cutout in the middle to allow the blade to swing out of the way more easily if it hits something hard to avoid damaging the mower. What kinds of maintenance do robot lawn mowers need? LG has thrown its hat into the robot lawn mower ring.  Tyler Lizenby/CNETVery little, since you don’t have to worry about fuel, oil, air filters, oil filters, or spark plugs like you must with traditional lawn mowers. That leaves only a few things for you to take care of with a robot lawn mower, like keeping the charging contacts clean, changing the blades when dull, keeping sensors clean and occasionally washing the underside of the mowing deck with a hose. How long does it take to charge a robot lawn mower?The time required to fully charge a robot lawn mower has a lot of variables. Essentially, it comes down to the battery capacity and its allowed charging rate. It could take an hour to fully charge or a couple of hours. So if the robot mower is in the middle of cutting your lawn and the battery runs low, it will head back to its dock to recharge. Once it is back to full, your robot lawn mower will head out again to finish the job.

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