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Can Roombas and other Robot Vacuums Clean In The Dark?

Most Roombas and Robot Vacuums can clean in the dark. This is because robot vacuums do not see the world as we do, they don’t rely on cameras that require bright light as our eyes do. 

Many Roombas come equipped with sensors that allow them to navigate their way around a room, avoiding obstacles and picking up dirt and debris along the way. But can Roombas clean in the dark? Some Roombas do have an infrared sensor that can help them to detect obstacles in low-light conditions. However, this sensor is not as effective as the sensors Roombas uses to navigate in well-lit rooms. As a result, Roombas may not be able to clean as effectively in the dark. Roomba owners should therefore consider turning on a light when using their Roomba in a darkened room.

Robot vacuums such as Roomba, Neato, Roborock, Dyson, etc. rely on lidar, laser, and optical sensors to determine where they are and where they’ve been. 

What I’ve found out though is that some vacuum cleaners actually also rely on camera technology. Here you’ll have to tread carefully. If the robot vacuum relies in any way on a camera to navigate it’ll need some kind of light. 

What Robot Vacuums need light?

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After doing some research I found that the Roomba 900 series uses camera lenses to navigate. Most people have no issues with pitch-black rooms, but some people do. 

So if you are going to buy a Roomba 900 series vacuum or any other robot vacuum which uses camera lenses for navigation, consider if you need it to clean at night. 

Other robot vacuums that need light:

  • ILIFE A8
  • Roborock S6
  • Trifo Ionpie m6
  • LG HOM-BOT
  • Ecovac Deepbot Ozmo T8
  • Dyson 360 Eye
  • Dyson 3660 Heurist

Advice for making robot vacuums better at cleaning in the dark

If you have a robot vacuum that uses camera lenses to navigate, it might not clean as well if it’s very dark. Here are some tips to make it do a better job at cleaning in the dark.

First, make sure that the area you’re vacuuming is well-lit. Roombas rely on sensors to navigate, and they work best when there’s plenty of light. Secondly, give your Roomba some time to adjust to its new surroundings. It can take a few cleaning cycles for a Roomba to map out a room and learn where all the obstacles are. Finally, if your Roomba still isn’t cleaning as well as you’d like, try using a black marker to draw lines around areas that you want it to avoid. The contrast will help the Roomba’s sensors identify these areas, and it will be less likely to miss them when it’s cleaning. With a little bit of effort, you can help your Roomba clean more effectively in the dark.

List of tips to make your Roomba robot vacuum clean better in the dark:

  • Leave a little ambient light turned on. It doesn’t need much light, just enough for the camera to pick up. 
  • Let the vacuum make a practice run when there is a good lighting condition. This will make it able to create a map and this way make it easier for it to navigate. 
  • Collect smaller objects from the floor which will be impossible for it to see in the dark. 
  • Remove challenging objects like chairs and dog trays so they can move unhindered. 

How to find out if your robot vacuum isn’t working in the dark

Below is a list of stuff I’ve come across when troubleshooting a robot vacuum that can’t clean in the dark.

Indications that your robot vacuum cannot clean in the dark:

  • Some Robot Vacuums, like the iRobot, will tell you, by giving you a warning, that the lighting isn’t good enough.
  • When they get stuck on something that isn’t there. So it will tell you that it’s stuck but it isn’t really stuck in anything.
  • It does a poor job of getting around and cleaning everything. If you own a robot vacuum with mapping technology, you can see where it has been cleaned. 
  • If it tells you to clean its sensors/cameras even though they are clean. 

How much light does a robot vacuum need to clean?

A robot vacuum using camera technology needs 40-80 lumen. So between 10 and 20 percent strength of a normal 40 Watts light bulb. 

I tested this on a Roomba 900 series vacuum cleaner. When going below 10 percent it started giving poor results and going below 5 percent it gave me errors and completely stopped working.

Going below the 5 percent strength of a 40 Watts light bulb it’s becoming very dark and also too dark for the human eye, so I’d say that is fair.  

So the conclusion here really is that robot vacuums with camera technology don’t need much light and some even have lidar or laser sensors on top of that so they don’t solely rely on cameras.

Can there be too much light in a room for a robot vacuum?

As long as the light is constant there shouldn’t be any issues no matter how light the room is. However, if the light is shining/flickering into the sensors and cameras it’ll freak out a bit. 

It does take a lot of light to mess with the sensors. I tested it by shining a laser into the camera, what happened was that it would just continue cleaning as normal, but it wouldn’t react to objects as well. 

I could imagine that the sun bouncing in from a window could make the robot vacuum behave poorly. But it’s a very unlikely scenario. 

Quick conclusion

It all depends on the types of sensors used. Almost all sensors like lidar, laser, radar, and optical sensors don’t require a light source such as a lamp or the sun. But if your robot vacuum is solely dependent on a camera lens to navigate it can become an issue in very low lighting. It will also depend on the camera quality and the lens size. The bigger its lens is, the more light it can absorb which means the less light it needs to operate. 

If you want to be sure that your robot can operate in the dark, you should go for a robot vacuum with laser navigation. 

Author: Morten Pradsgaard

Morten has been working with technology, IoT, and electronics for over a decade. His passion for technology is reflected in this blog to give you relevant and correct information.

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