When I first started learning about robot lawn mowers and considering a purchase, I first had to answer a crucial question. Are robot lawn mowers any good? I loved the idea of getting rid of the weekly chore of cutting my lawn, but I wanted to make sure that a robot lawn mower would do a good job and not create more problems.
I did a lot of research prior to making a purchase, read countless articles and watched videos on youtube. After owning a robot lawn mower for the last two years, I’m delighted with its performance. I feel that a robot lawn mower is a great option if you would rather do something other than cut your grass in your spare time. That’s not to say that robot lawn mowers are a perfect product. There are a number of limitations, and I have had a few issues along the way. This article will share my experience of the positive and negative aspects.
What Is A Robot Lawn Mower?
Robot lawn mowers are machines that cut your grass for you. They are fully autonomous in operation, and will cut your grass as per a user defined schedule. They will generally return to a charging station autonomously on an as required basis. Robot lawn mowers can cut lawns up to 20 000sqm (5 acres), although widely available consumer models typically will manage up to 5000sqm (1.25 acres). Most robot lawn mowers operate within a perimeter wire which is laid out by the user when installing the robot.
The popularity of robot lawn mowers is increasing as the technology of improves and the prices fall. Robot lawn mowers have been commercially available since 1995, although the first recognised robot lawn mower was actually invented back in 1969. Robot lawn mowers are currently the second most popular category of domestic robots. The market for robot lawn mowers has grown rapidly, and sales are forecast to grow at 17% per year in Europe over the next 5 years. The United States has historically been behind Europe in adoption of robot lawn mowers. Growth in sales is starting to take off as consumer acceptance increases, prices decrease, and the technology matures.
What Do Robot Lawn Mowers Do Well?
You’ll Never Have To Cut Your Lawn Again
One of the primary motivating factors for people looking at robot lawn mowers is to be able to stop having to cut your lawn every week all through the growing season. I have a busy life, with a full times job and two small children. I found myself spending my Saturday mornings every week cutting the grass. I didn’t have time for it, and I’m delighted to have this extra free time now that I have a robot lawn mower. After the initial setup, the robot lawn mower requires no input from me at all. I get a lot of satisfaction from seeing the little robot working away in the garden, but looking is as close as I get to mowing my lawn these days.
Your Lawn Will Look Better
Another thing that robot lawn mowers do extremely well, is improve the quality and look of your lawn. There are two main reasons for this.
The first is the regular cutting of your grass. Robot lawn mowers are designed to cut your grass much more frequently than a conventional mower. They only cut a small length of the grass each time, and use sharp blades which cut the grass rather than knock the top off, which a lot of rotary mowers do. This results in the grass experiencing less stress, allowing it to remain much healthier and greener.
The second reason is that robot lawn mowers do not collect the clippings, but mulch them. The clippings are returned to the lawn, providing nutrients to the growing grass. This keeps your grass much healthier and greener than it would be if you use a conventional lawnmower and remove the clippings each time your lawn is cut.
They Are Much Safer
The safety features of robot lawn mowers far surpass conventional mowers. Robot lawn mowers use much smaller, lower powered blades to cut your grass. There is no user interaction with the blades while they are in operation. Robot lawn mowers have lift and tilt sensors so that if a robot lawn mower is accidentally or intentionally lifted while in use, the blades will shut down in an instant. The safety record of conventional lawnmowers is horrendous, with over 80 000 emergency room attendances per year in the United States with lawn mower related injuries. Robot lawn mowers, on the other hand, have not been responsible for any emergency room attendances at all according to several of the manufacturers. Although this sounds unbelievable, I have not been able to find any information to the contrary. Read more here about the safety features of robot lawn mowers.
They Can Work Out Cheaper
Although the initial cost of a robot lawnmower is often more expensive than a comparable conventional mower, they can often work out cheaper over the long run. This is due to the decreased maintenance requirements of a robot lawn mower and lower operating costs. We haven’t even considered the value of your time, which is required to cut your lawn with a conventional lawn mower. For those who employ a gardener to cut your lawn, the payback time can be as little as one year. Here’s a quick guide to how much robot lawn mowers cost.
Robot Lawn Mowers Are Great Fun
Everybody who comes to my house notices the robot lawn mower and it becomes a topic of conversation. My kids love looking out at the mower in action and keeping me updated with what it is up to. Even after having my robot mower for quite some time now, I love looking out the window or going into the garden to inspect its work. It still provides me with a continued sense of satisfaction, knowing that I have much more free time, thanks to this helpful robot.
What Problems Are There With Robot Lawn Mowers?
There are a number of negative things that need to be considered for anybody considering a robot lawn mower. Having had plenty of experience with robot lawn mowers now, there are a number of negatives, which detract from an otherwise positive experience.
You Need To Install A Perimeter Wire
All good robot lawn mowers currently use a perimeter wire to mark the edge of your lawn. This must be manually installed by either pegging it to the ground or burying it under your lawn before you use your robot lawn mower. This means that the installation process for a robot lawn mower can take several hours.
When I first started reading about robot lawn mowers, I assumed that the robot would be able to detect the edge of the lawn without any assistance from a perimeter wire. Unfortunately, this is not the case, as the technology integrated into the robot lawn mowers on the market today is fairly basic for a number of reasons including decreasing complexity and increasing cost competitiveness.
The good news is that once you have the perimeter wire installed, your robot mower will work away and you can relax. It took me about an hour to install the perimeter wire for my robot lawn mower. My lawn is approximately 400 square metres, so this gives you some idea of the time involved.
Robot Lawn Mowers Won’t Trim The Edges Of Your Lawn Perfectly
Most robot lawn mowers will not adequately cut the edges of your grass. Almost all models on the market currently leave some grass at the edge of your lawn, up to 15cm in some cases. Personally, I use an electric strimmer about once per month to tidy up the edges. This is a relatively quick job, but I was not fully aware that I would need to maintain the edges prior to purchasing a robot lawn mower, so this was a bit of a negative.
The Upfront Cost is Often Higher
There is no getting away from the fact that robot lawn mowers are still generally more expensive than comparable conventional lawn mowers. Robot lawn mowers start at approximately £450, and top of the range consumer models go up to around £3,100. At the low end, the mowers will handle lawns of 4-600 square metres and at the high end, they can manage lawns of up to 5000 square metres.
There are models from other companies, such as Ambrogio, which can manage lawns of up to 20 000 square metres, but these cost considerably more. As mentioned in the benefits section, whilst the initial outlay of a robot lawn mower is quite expensive, the lifetime cost is more in line and often cheaper than a conventional lawn mower due to the decreased running and maintenance costs.
Limited Battery Life
Robot lawn mowers generally used lithium ion batteries. Most robot lawn mowers are fully autonomous during operation. They return to their charging station when needed, and the batteries take about an hour to charge. This then provides power to mow your lawn for 60 to 90 minutes, depending on the model.
I don’t see this as a particularly negative point as the robot lawn mower is completely anonymous, so it can be left to work without human intervention, so the actual running time of the mower between charges does not matter so much.
The batteries last approximately 3 to 5 years, although the life time will vary depending on the individual battery and the amount of use that the robot lawn mower sees.
Are Robot Lawn Mowers Expensive?
I mentioned price as both a positive and negative feature of robot lawn mowers. This was because it depends how you look at it and what your individual circumstances are.
Robot lawn mowers are generally more expensive than comparable conventional rotary mowers. However, they are usually cheaper than comparable cylinder mowers.
The upfront cost is a lot, and going from a tried and tested machine, to new technology has added risks other than cost. Overall, when I factor in maintenance and running costs, I think my robot lawn mower will be about equal in cost to a conventional mower over the lifetime of the machine.
As mentioned above, if you currently employ a gardener to cut your lawn, then purchasing a robot lawn mower will be cheaper. However, there are many other factors to consider if you are in this situation. In fact, I have written a whole article discussing whether you are better getting a robot lawn mower or employing a gardener.
Is The Setup Difficult?
In my experience, the setup of robot lawn mowers is easy, but it is a little time consuming. The good news is that you only have to do it once. After your robot lawn mower has been set up, you don’t need to lift a finger other than to adjust its schedule or cutting height as required. I have experience with a lot of different models of robot lawn mower, and generally, the installation guides, manuals, and in some cases video guides, are very clear and straight forward. I’ve gone into some depth here about my experiences with the Flymo 1200R, including the entire setup process.
How To avoid problems With A Robot Lawn Mower
There are a few things that I have learned from my experience and the experience of others with robot lawn mowers.
Firstly, make sure that the robot lawn mower you have chosen is suitable for your garden. Models differ in their ability to handle large lawns and steep slopes for example.
Secondly, follow the installation instructions very carefully, particularly in regards to the perimeter wire. The installation isn’t difficult, but it you do not put the perimeter wire at the correct distance from the edge of your lawn, you may find your robot lawn mower falling into flower beds.
Are robot lawn mowers any good? For me, I would never go back to a conventional lawn mower. The benefits in terms of the extra free time, a better looking lawn and the safety features far surpass the negatives. I would definitely recommend reading as much as you can about robot lawn mowers before making a purchase.
I’ve written a comprehensive guide which covers everything you should look for when buying a robot lawn mower. The technology is still maturing and they cannot do everything perfectly. The market for robot lawn mowers is growing quickly, and whether you decide to make the switch yourself, it’s likely that you will start to see these more and more in your neighborhood.