I tried a $230 Roomba alternative that automatically vacuums and mops floors - here's what using it was like
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- Since 1996, robotic vacuums have become increasingly sophisticated with several manufacturers trying to cut into the Roomba's market share.
- ILIFE currently has two lines of vacuums: the A series for cleaning carpets and the V series designed for vacuuming and mopping hard floors.
- Having never used a robotic vacuum before, I appreciated how user-friendly and low-maintenance the ILIFE vacuum is.
- The ILIFE V8s Robotic Mop & Vacuum Cleaner is a mid-range vacuum (currently $229.99 on Amazon) that isn't supported by an app but has plenty of high-end features, including a programmable schedule system.
I live in a home with two shedding cats, a dog that sheds even more, two free-range boys, and an incredibly busy wife. We clearly must stay on top of cleaning or we end up with dust bunnies drifting across our hardwood floors like tumbleweed in the Wild West. It was clear that we needed a robotic vacuum
Robotic vacuum cleaners, or robovacs, are rechargeable battery-powered appliances that use a combination of suction and brushes to clean your floor. You are probably familiar with the most popular brand, iRobot's Roomba. Most models, including the Roomba and ILIFE's robovacs, are circular and look like giant beetles rolling across your floor. You can control them with a remote control, or they operate autonomously using intelligent programming.
In March, ILIFE introduced their newest robotic vacuum cleaner: the V8s. Their representative sent me the unit to test in our home that was deep in the throes of a renovation project. Below, I will share some info about the ILIFE V8s, how it handled the fur and dust of our house, and if it's worth your money.
What's special about the ILIFE V8s?
Based in Shenzhen, China, where many of their models are also manufactured, ILIFE launched an intelligent robotic vacuum project in 2010. The company's only focus is on producing innovative robovacs. They were the first to integrate infrared detection systems, lithium-ion batteries, and BLOC fan motors. Today, they have warehouses and service centers on four continents.
The ILIFE V8s robotic vacuum cleaner was launched in March of 2018. It is part of the company's V series of robovacs, which are designed for vacuuming and mopping hard floors. The V8s is considered the most advanced model in the V series. It's unique because it features a relatively large 750-milliliter dustbin, high-suction setting, and i-Dropping mopping. The mopping system is designed to limit the amount of water that is dispersed to avoid damaging cables or flooring. The vacuum is also able to perform edge, spot, and programmed cleaning.
My first experiences with the V8s robotic vacuum
Since I had never used a robotic vacuum before, I was a little intimidated at first. I opened the box, saw an array of confusing attachments, closed the box, and basically ran away. But, after a couple days of neglect, the pet hair started to pile up and my wife gently encouraged me to read the manual. Looking back, I don't know what I was so afraid of.
I spent about 10 minutes reading the manual and quickly felt comfortable setting up the vacuum and the charging dock. The manual recommends charging the vacuum for at least 12 hours before using it for the first time. Also, the charging dock needs to be against a wall with three feet of clearance on the sides and six feet of clearance directly in front of it. This is meant to make it easier for the vacuum to leave and dock. In practice, I found the little guy - we named him "Jerome 2.0" after my teen son who no longer needed to do the vacuuming - didn't need that much space.
Once the robot was charged, I realized I needed to preclean. It was nothing major: I just needed to pick some items up off the floor. I figured the vac would get caught up on the Lego detritus that tends to show up when you have a young child. And, shoelaces and random cords could also tie up the brushes. The precleaning forced me to be a tidier person. I would still miss the occasional phone charger wire hanging loose, but if the V8s got to it before me, it would just send out a little beeping cry for help, and I would set it free.
How the V8s performed
On its maiden voyage, the V8s ran for about an hour and a half on normal suction mode. Subsequently, I noticed the vacuum would run for up to two hours on normal power and about an hour on high suction. After each semi-daily cycle, the dustbin would be full.
I quickly learned that I could not operate the robovac around my four-year-old son. No matter how I tried to tell him that he needed to observe from a distance, he would test out the abilities of the vacuum. He laid out bits of paper and other debris for the device to "eat." I thought I had turned a corner when I handed him the remote, which gave him complete control over the robot's motions, but he was soon back to lifting the robovac up or pushing it around.
Because of this human obstacle, I chose to run the vacuum when my preschooler was preoccupied. As my comfort levels increased, I programmed it to run every afternoon at 2:30 p.m. since this was when the little one was either napping or pretending to nap.
The mopping function was another feature seemed challenging but turned out to be super simple. First, you remove the dustbin attachment, fill the water tank with warm water, make sure the mop cloth is attached (the system comes with two clothes), insert the mopping attachment, and press start. In mop mode, drops of water are released as the robot covers a seven-meter-by-seven-meter area directly in front of its starting position.
It's important to vacuum before you mop. Unfortunately, if you run the battery down, you need to let the device charge before you can mop. I found the V8s charges quickly, usually about four hours to go from zero bars to three bars - the highest charge level. And, the mopping function doesn't need nearly as much battery power as the vacuum.
Another feature worth noting is the "RoadRover" wheels. The V8s has two substantial wheels that can handle uneven floors and lift the vacuum over thresholds. Our house's foundation has settled a bit over the years causing some dramatic lips from one room to the next. The V8s was able to handle these to my satisfaction, but I would not say it was seamless.
As with any vacuum, there is a little maintenance involved with operating a V8s. The dustbin should be emptied after each use. This was effortless: You just open the magnetic door and shake the contents into your trash can. ILIFE recommends cleaning the filter, spinning side brushes, and charging dock each week. Over the last two months, I was lax in performing these duties and didn't notice any degradation in performance.
Some concerns about the robotic vacuum
For the most part, I was happy with the V8s. If a ne'er-do-well were to break into my home and take it, I would likely replace it. However, there were a few things that were mildly annoying. First, the vacuum kept getting caught in the hair of my elderly Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever. He didn't care enough to get out of its way, so the brush would just keep winding up his fur until it registered an error. I would then have to free the vacuum and direct it elsewhere.
Programming the vacuum to clean on a schedule could be more user-friendly. If you happen to hit the power button on the vacuum, which is easy to do by accident, the schedule is erased. To set the times, you will need guidance from the user manual since it isn't intuitive. This whole process could be improved with a smartphone app, which ILIFE offers with other models. Unfortunately, the V8s doesn't get the app treatment.
Lastly, the V8s is not designed for deep cleaning. It's more of a maintenance device, which is perfect for taking care of dust and pet hair. But, if you have a wee one who drops and stomps on a blueberry, you'll probably want to use a wet paper towel instead of summoning the V8s's mop, which could potentially spread the mess around.
Overall, I'm surprised more people don't invest in robotic vacuums, especially if you have pets (though you might want to be careful if your pet has incontinence problems.) The ILIFE V8s Robotic Mop & Vacuum Cleaner is a particularly attractive option because it forgoes smart connectivity in favor of a lower price and simple functionality. So, for around $230, you get many of the cleaning features you might expect from pricier Roombas.
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