What Is Roomba


The Roomba from iRobot, is a circular disc shaped vacuum cleaner. Unlike standard vacuum cleaners, Roomba does all the work for you. Roomba, which has 5 revisions - in 3 major generations - has changed substantially over the years but the basic principles are still the same: Brain + Wheels + Brushes + Vacuum = Clean floors for you!

How does it work?

How does Roomba get around my room?

Roomba uses a bumper on its front, and when it bumps into a object its brain will tell it in what different direction or pattern to go. Some of these patterns are spiral, wall follow, Z pattern, and random. This technology is known as "AWARE". As Roomba bumps and turns over a period of time these patterns will allow Roomba to cover nearly your entire floor. Due to Roomba's small height and width (H-13.4" x W-3.5") it can easily get under places like couches, tables, and beds. Since Roomba can get under these places it has better floor coverage than your ordinary upright vacuum. Its wheels are mounted along the center axis of the unit so that it can spin in place.

Will Roomba fall down my stairs?

No, of course not, unless you push it! Roomba uses many sensors, of which some are called "Cliff" sensors. These sensors will tell Roomba if there is a definite change in the elevation of the space in front of it. Roomba may come to your stairs and appear as if it's going to go over the edge, but it will simply "peek" over the edge, turn and then go a different way.

What are common Roomba maintenance procedures?

Well, like all things Roomba will need simple cleaning procedures that will keep it working for years to come. The easiest and most important maintenance procedure is to simply empty Roomba's bin and filter. Also, Roomba uses two dual spinning brushes to pick up dirt, hair, etc. After approximately 2-3 uses you are going to want to clean these out. What I like to do is have my Roomba clean Monday, Thursday, and Saturday and then clean out its brushes on Sunday. I find the easiest way to do this is to just plug in a shop vac, remove Roomba's brushes, and just take the shop vac and just let it suck all the dirt and dust it can out of my Roomba. This usually takes about 10 minutes and it leaves me with clean floors.

For more extensive cleaning instructions for the latest 5xx series and procedures:


How long can Roomba clean for?

Roomba, depending on the battery and floor type can clean for between 90-120 minutes.(About 3 medium sized rooms). Roomba can then recharge in 3-7 hours depending on which charger you have (if its labeled APS then it will be 3 hours) and Roomba will be good to go again.

Roomba generations

First major generation

The original Roomba (Silver) released in 2002 had 3 buttons on the top: "Small," "Medium," and "Large" depending on the size of room you wanted it to clean.

This first generation was upgraded to the Roomba Elite (blue), and the Roomba Pro Elite (red). These are considered the 2nd and 3rd (minor) revisions. They look the same, only in different colors and a few extra buttons. A remote can control these Roomba via infrared signals. The new buttons Roomba gained were:

Spot clean button with which Roomba will spiral out about a 4 foot circle and then spiral back to the center.

Max clean button where Roomba will clean until its battery is nearly dead.

All of these Roombas are also capable of being used with "Virtual Walls," which use an infrared beam of which the Roombas will steer clear.

First major generation.











original roomba











Roomba Pro











Roomba Pro Elite

Second major generation

The Roomba Discovery Series featured many new features over the 1st generation Roombas.

  • a "Home Base", where it returns back to after cleaning the floor, so it recharges itself.
  • can be scheduled via the scheduler remote which allows Roomba to start cleaning at 7 preset times (once per weekday).
  • automatically calculates room size, so there are no longer the S, M, L buttons. Now only Spot, Clean, and Max.
  • a redesigned cleaning system that is easier to maintain and more durable

All of the Discovery series roombas are the same underneath and just differ with what accessories are bundled with them. Many of you who are just entering the Roomba world may want to start with one of these you can get a remanufactured Roomba for as low as $79.99 or a nicer new one with the homebase for about $160.

The iRobot Dirt Dog is also of this generation, but doesn't contain a vacuum.

2nd major generation











Roomba 4100 Red











Roomba 4105 Sage











Roomba 4210 Discovery

all robots that look like the disco's (discovery's) above are all disco series' robots, there is also a plain looking 500 series (more on that in a second) that as far as I can tell is a disco with a newly designed faceplate.

The dirt dog is also part of the 400/disco range of robots. 


Third major generation

The Roomba 500 Series is the newest of the Roombas, released in September of 2007. Read the original Press Release from iRobot from August 2007 (Press Release) . Roomba gained a much classier look, a light touch bumper so that Roomba slows down before it hits anything, and new Virtual Wall Lighthouses which allow Roomba to clean one room, let it into the next, then clean that one, then into the next, clean, and then guide it back to the first room to recharge. This generation of Roombas is also more sealed, so less dirt and dust can get inside of the spaces in the Roomba. It is also much easier to take apart and replace something if it were to break as its technology is in modules. View a breakdown and an extensive photo gallery of the 500 series including the accessories at Gizmodo

Here are the versions of Roomba 500's








































Plus more but as long as they look like this, they are probably a 500 series roomba


These new Roombas retail for around $300-$500 and many deals can be found with a little searching.

See our Comparison of Roomba 500 Series Robots

Custom Roomba Creations

The Roomba and iRobot Robots have created quite a fan following! Many owners name their robots and do other creative things with them. Here is an example of the Roomba Sage Cake

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