Robotic Vacuum Cleaners

Robotic Vacuum Cleaners2022-06-06T06:22:16+00:00

Robotic Vacuum Cleaners


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On average, people spend up to 90% of their time indoors, and indoor air can be two and a half times as polluted as outdoor air.

Indoor Air Quality is of particular concern for those affected by asthma and allergies, but a healthier home is of broader benefit to all.

The asthma & allergy friendly® Certification Program seeks to assist people to identify products which will make a genuine difference to their indoor environment. It develops certification standards for relevant categories of products, and all certified products undergo testing to those standards. In this way, the consumer can then make an informed choice about materials like insulation, flooring products, etc. that they bring into their home.

In the case of robotic vacuum cleaners, consumers want to be confident that a robot can effectively remove allergens such as dust mite and cat allergen from flooring. Regular vacuuming is an important part of maintaining a healthier home environment, particularly for those people who suffer from asthma and allergies. Vacuuming can impact on those with sensitive airways, as allergens and particles can become airborne during vacuuming and receptacle emptying.

Our standard addresses all of these issues.

Our robotic vacuum cleaner standard is one of over 51 standards in the asthma & allergy friendly® Certification Program, covering appliances, bedding products, air filters, building products, and services that can have an impact on the indoor air environment. You can explore the robotic vacuum cleaner standard in more detail using the menu on the left, or use the links above to explore other standards.

ASP:03-09/101 Robotic Vacuum Cleaner Certification Standard

Robotic vacuum cleaners that are certified asthma & allergy friendly® are tested to the ASP:03-09/101 Certification Standard.

The Certification Standard utilizes innovative scientific methods to assess the impact of robotic vacuum cleaners on the indoor environment.

Robotic vacuum cleaners that pass certification testing are granted a certificate stating that the particular robotic vacuum cleaner meets the requirements of the asthma & allergy friendly® ASP:03-09/101 Certification Standard.

The Robotic Vacuum Cleaner Certification Standard includes the following five parts:

  1. Evaluation of capability to remove allergen-containing test dust from flooring
  2. Evaluation of airborne particle and allergen levels during vacuuming
  3. Evaluation of the airborne particle burden from motor emissions
  4. Assessment of loss in suction as the dust receptacle fills up
  5. Evaluation of airborne allergens and particles during receptacle emptying

Part 1: Removal of allergen-containing test dust from flooring

The robotic vacuum cleaner must meet the following criteria for removal of allergen-containing test dust from flooring:

Criterion

Flooring surface

Limit level

Mean reduction in allergen concentration post-intervention

Hard floor

≥90%

Carpet

≥80%

Mean dust removal

Hard floor

≥75%

Carpet

≥40%

Part 2: Airborne particles and allergens during vacuuming

Airborne particles and allergens are measured during vacuuming. They must not exceed the following limit levels:

Criterion

Limit level

Airborne allergens

<1 ng/m3 cat allergen (Fel d 1)

Total airborne particle count

<150,000 count/m3

Part 3: Evaluation of particulate burden from motor emissions

Testing is performed to evaluate the particulate burden from motor emissions. The total airborne particle count ≥0.3µm must be <150,000 count/m3.

Part 4: Loss in suction

The reduction in suction should be £10% after 5 passes, where the flooring surface is newly seeded with allergen-containing test dust after each pass.  

Part 5: Exposure to allergens during receptacle emptying

During emptying of the robotic vacuum cleaner receptacle, the operator should not be exposed to airborne pollutants above the following limit levels:

Criterion

Limit level

Airborne allergen levels

<1 ng/m3 cat allergen (Fel d 1)

Airborne particle count

<150,000 count/m3

 

Why and how we certify robotic vacuum cleaners – a Q&A

There is an increasing awareness of the quality of the air that we breathe indoors, particularly in homes affected by asthma or allergies. We created the asthma & allergy friendly® Certification Program to help you improve your indoor environment by identifying products and services that can help to reduce allergens and create a healthier home environment.

But what is it that makes some vacuum cleaning products better for the indoor environment than others, and where do we draw the line when deciding to decide to certify a robotic vacuum cleaner as asthma & allergy friendly®? We hope that the questions below will clarify this. Let us know if you have more questions!

Why do we certify robotic vacuum cleaners?

Robotic vacuum cleaners operate autonomously and require less human intervention or presence during the cleaning cycle. Not all functions are automated – for example a person must empty the receptacle when it is full. But robots represent a potential benefit for people with asthma and allergies, because vacuuming can be done when a person is not even in the room, reducing exposure to dust and allergens.

How do we test robotic vacuum cleaners?

We use a controlled environmental chamber to test robotic vacuum cleaners. The first element we look for is the ability of a robot to remove allergen-containing test dust from flooring surfaces.

We spread allergen-containing test dust on the floor in a controlled environmental chamber, run the robotic vacuum cleaner over the floor, and then measure how much dust and allergen is left on the surface. This test is repeated three times on two different types of flooring – linoleum and carpet – to replicate different home setups. 

  1. Removal of allergen from flooring surfaces

The robotic vacuum cleaner must reduce the level of allergens on carpet by 80% and on hard flooring by 90%.

  1. Particles and allergens in the air during vacuuming 

Vacuuming your floor can have a negative impact on air quality, because vacuums can kick up dust into the breathing zone. While the robotic vacuum cleaner is operating, we measure the levels of particles and allergens in the air. We have strict criteria in place for airborne particles and allergens to ensure that they remain below limit levels during vacuuming.

  1. Testing reduction in suction as the robot receptacle fills up

We also measure any reduction in suction as the robot receptacle fills up. We do this by running the same test a number of times, and checking how well the robot continues to pick up dust as the receptacle fills up.

  1. Emptying the robot’s receptacle

It is common for dust and allergens to enter the air when emptying the dust receptacle. The design of a vacuum cleaner can have an impact here in minimising the amount of dust and allergen that is released into the room when the receptacle is emptied.

We measure the impact that emptying the receptacle has on the level of particles and allergens in the air. We test this by emptying a full receptacle in a controlled environmental chamber (following the instructions in the product manual). We measure the particles and allergens that are released into the air during and after the emptying step to ensure they remain below limit levels.

What types of vacuum cleaners do we certify?

In addition to robotic vacuum cleaners, we certify many other types of vacuum cleaner, including handless cordless vacuum cleaners, bagged vacuum cleaners, and vacuum cleaners with water-based filtration.

Are certified vacuum cleaners safe to use for those with asthma and allergies?

As you can see from the description above, we thoroughly test certified vacuum cleaners to make sure they make a demonstrable difference to the indoor air environment. However, it is not possible to say that a product is completely ‘safe’ for someone with asthma and allergies, particularly if they are very sensitive to dust. If someone in your household has very sensitive airways, it would make sense for them not to be in the room during vacuuming.

What else do we certify?

We have over 50 standards different asthma & allergy friendly® certification standards for products and services, addressing all aspects of the indoor air environment. Some of these relate to products that remove allergens and dust from indoor environments, such as vacuum cleaners, air cleaners and washing machines. We also have a range of other standards that test products for their impact on the indoor air environment, from bedding (where allergen barrier properties and effective removal of allergens are important) to building materials (such as insulation, flooring and paint) that should make as little an impact on the indoor air environment as possible.

You can find out which products are certified asthma & allergy friendly® and read more here: www.asthmaandallergyfriendly.com

Is it Time to Invest In a Robot Vacuum Cleaner?

Robot vacuum

The dishwasher, the washing machine the tumble dryer…just some of the automated appliances that have changed our lives. No longer are we required to spend large swathes of our precious time washing and drying dishes and clothes. Vacuuming, however, is still one job that most of us must fit into our busy lives. But could that be changing? Robot vacuums have actually been on the scene for decades now. Are we at the stage that we can add the robot vacuum cleaner to our arsenal of appliances to reduce the burden of cleaning?

Originally envisioned in a science fiction novel, and then realised into a relatively valid vacuum cleaner in the 1990s the robot vacuum has come a long way. The first devices were bulky, clumsy and tended to leave large areas uncleaned. They were considered fascinatingly futuristic, so much so that a prototype warranted an appearance on the BBC’s tv program Tomorrow’s World. This particular model didn’t last too long on the market but certainly paved the way for newer improved versions that are available today.

Which leads to the question ‘What are the pros and cons of robot vacuum cleaners?

Pros of Robot Vacuums

Who wouldn’t agree that someone or something else doing a chore on your behalf isn’t a good thing? To sit down and relax, saving time, energy (and maybe a sore back) has got to be a bonus. Most robots can be programmed in advance to operate while you aren’t home. Some newer models are also Wi-Fi compatible, so you can press ‘play’ while you are out and arrive home to find the dreaded job done already. Now that’s definitely a bonus.

The knowledge that the vacuuming is being done when I’m not even in the same room as the vacuum cleaner gives me great satisfaction, but for people with sensitive airways this benefit is much more consequential: it can reduce exposure to airborne particles and allergens thereby being a benefit to health.   

These vacuums are great at reaching to places that are hard to access by us mere humans as their lower profile allows them whiz around under the bed or the sofa. They are particularly helpful if vacuuming is difficult due to physical disability or injury.

It’s possible to set no-go areas or block off rooms you don’t want to be cleaned. Robot vacuums work by using sensors to avoid bumping into furniture and they can map where they’ve been around the room. The original vacuums used ultrasonic sensors, only allowing them to come within an inch of objects. This has been replaced by new technology, evolving over the years to using camera based navigation systems (vSLAM) and then to the newer more accurate type of laser-based navigation (LiDAR). LiDAR navigates better as cameras lose accuracy in poor light. Also, the LiDAR laser scans through the entire room to get a clearer picture of obstacles on the ground. The laser technology means no-go lines can be drawn with higher accuracy, so fewer areas are missed.

robot vacuum and dog

Some robots also have a dirt sensor so they know which areas of your floor to pay more attention to. The smart models offer a wide range of features like voice control, room mapping and even automatic dirt disposal (although the larger receptacle still needs to be emptied manually). Many will also send you error alerts if your robot is in trouble. Integrated webcams allow you remotely watch it hard at work (a novelty factor that may quickly wear off!) or indeed, watch it being chased by your pets!

The latest models even feature an innovative mopping system with a technology combining an intelligent auto lift feature and a sonic mopping system with carpet recognition. This means the robot can recognise when it is on carpeted surfaces, automatically lifting the mop so as not to soak the carpet, allowing it to vacuum and mop in one go, without the need for manual intervention.

Finally, these appliances are compact and easily stored -more so than a traditional vacuum-  and will not take up too much additional space in your home.

Cons of Robot Vacuums

Robot vacuums are ideal for cleaning individual rooms and single storey homes. However stair cleaning is beyond their capability. That being said, while robot vacuums are unable to go upstairs, their built-in sensors thankfully prevent them from falling down the stairs.

Laser technology means these robots have come a long way but cables, rugs and similar obstacles can cause difficulties and your robot may need rescuing from time to time.

Robot vacuums are relatively noisy. It’s unlikely you will be able to tolerate your robot doing its job while you sleep, watch a movie or take part in a zoom meeting. It’s not just the noise of the appliance itself but they regularly bang into furniture and walls.

Robot vacuums’ smaller motors can’t generate as much suction as normal vacuums so to do a similar job, cleaning cycles must be more frequent. Manual vacuuming, unfortunately will still be necessary to do a comparable job. This is especially true on carpets. Receptacles are generally smaller than traditional vacuums, so need emptying more often. Plus, the nozzle is often equipped with side rotating brushes. These factors are all relevant for indoor air quality as each has the potential to increase airborne particles and allergens. The design of a robot vacuum cleaner is critical to how much it impacts indoor air quality so it’s crucial to choose a model that has been proven to be capable of adequate suctioning, does not result in excessive allergen or particulate exposure when in use, and doesn’t release excess allergen into the air when changing the bag or emptying the receptacle.

robot vacuum

There is no doubt that there are good quality robot vacuums in the market that do an effective job of cleaning your floors. However they cannot reach areas like curtains or upholstery so a traditional vacuum with a hose attachment has to take up the slack in this regard. This, I’m sorry to say, is an unavoidable chore to reduce dust and allergens in your home.

Robot vacuums are more likely to break and are harder to fix .With inbuilt computers, sensors and app integration, the robot vacuum is a much more complex machine than the traditional vacuum. Not only do they need more regular maintenance (cleaning out wheels and brushes, for example), but they can also be harder and more expensive to fix. To make your life easier, it’s always wise to look for models whose replacement parts- brushes, batteries, and wheels- are easy to find.

Conclusion

There is no doubt that robot vacuums have come a long way. Cameras, lasers, webcams and app integration have all contributed to a much more effective, user-friendly appliance than the early models. Having one can pleasantly reduce how often you need to use your traditional vacuum. However, in terms of cleaning power, reliability and ability to adequately remove dust and allergens from your home, the robot has to be considered as a great addition to the home appliance collection but not as a replacement.

 

Introduction

Robotic Vacuum Cleaner

Allergy Standards Limited (ASL) is excited to announce a new addition to its asthma & allergy friendly®Standards portfolio: the Robotic Vacuum Cleaner Standard ASP:03-09/101

This article presents an overview of what is relevant to people with asthma and allergy when looking at vacuum cleaners, why it is challenging to test robotic vacuum cleaners (‘robots’ from now on) and what approach ASL adopted to assess their impact on indoor air.

Standard development:

Allergy Standards Limited (ASL) develops Certification standards for a variety of product categories. These standards are based on research, product testing, using the expertise of partners, and subject matter experts where necessary. All standards are peer-reviewed by a panel of medical experts in the field of asthma and allergy and the final version of the Standard is approved by the ASL Scientific Committee.

Vacuum cleaners:

Allergy Standards has previously developed standards for manually-operated vacuum cleaners under the ASP:03 category. In brief, testing is designed to ensure that a vacuum cleaner aligns with the following principles:

  1. The vacuum cleaner must have the capability to reduce the dust and allergen burden from flooring
  2. Vacuuming must not result in excessive allergen or particulate exposure to the operator
  3. The vacuum cleaner must have the capability to effectively trap particles without leakage through the filter, seals, bag or canister/frame
  4. The vacuum cleaner must maintain suction performance as the dust reservoir fills or the filter begins to clog
  5. Performing a bag change or emptying of the receptacle must not result in excessive allergen or particle exposure to the operator
  6. The vacuum cleaner must have the capability to reduce the dust and allergen burden from a crevice in hard flooring

More information on the standard, the criteria and the test methods can be found on the industry page of our website.

 

Testing a robotic vacuum cleaner

Robots operate autonomously and require less human intervention or presence during the cleaning cycle. Although not all functions are automated (emptying their receptacle still requires a direct human intervention), they represent a potential benefit for people with asthma and allergies, as they can reduce their exposure to dust and allergens. Their construction and subsequent performance are different to manually-operated vacuum cleaners in a number of ways:

  • It takes longer for a robot to clean a room, as its suction and cleaning ability, especially on carpet, are lower than manually-operated vacuum cleaners. To compensate, cleaning cycles may be more frequent and the nozzle is often equipped with side rotating brushes, which can represent a higher risk for airborne particle emissions.
  • Robots are not always designed to reach corners, crevices or other difficult-to-reach areas. They are not a substitute for manual cleaning but may help to reduce the intensity and frequency of heavy cleaning cycles by maintaining a higher standard of cleanliness, particularly in commonly used areas of a room.
  • Manual handling of robots affects their operation, making current vacuum cleaner assessment methods inadequate. For example, the assessment of leakage in manual devices is done off the floor with the nozzle taken off. This would not work for robots as they often stop functioning when taken off the floor.
  • A robot’s cleaning pattern is determined via a cleaning algorithm and varies between brands and models. This poses a challenge to the assessment of device performance under controlled lab conditions to enable comparison between models. Manufacturers have responded by incorporating a test mode to enable product assessment to be conducted under more controlled conditions. This does not align with the approach of the Certification Program which aims to replicate the home environment during product testing and assessment. Our certification requires that robotic vacuum cleaner be tested in real operating conditions and not in test mode.

In summary, the methods used to assess manually-operated vacuum cleaner performance must be looked at and modified for robots.

 

Testing a robotic vacuum using the new standard 

In the first part of the asthma & allergy friendly® ASP:03-09/101 Standard testing protocol, we seed a piece of flooring with test dust that contains dust mite allergen and cat allergen, and then run the robot vacuum cleaner over the flooring to test how much allergen is removed (certification principle 1). This is repeated multiple times in two different types of flooring (linoleum and carpet) with a newly seeded flooring after each pass. As the robot receptacle or bag fills up after each pass, we measure the reduction in suction loss (Certification principle 4).

To ensure that vacuuming does not result in excessive allergen or particulate exposure to the operator (Certification principle 2) we use a controlled environmental chamber to measure particles and allergens in the air when the robot is vacuuming the room. A control run in a clean room is used to assess motor emissions from the robot and the capability to effectively trap particles without leakage through the filter, seals, bag or canister/frame (Certification principle 3). This is done on a linoleum flooring and a carpet to reproduce the different home setups. 

One of the easiest ways for dust and allergens to get into the air from vacuuming is when the bag or receptacle is full and is being emptied. The design of the device can have a big impact in minimising the amount of dust and allergens that are released into the room when the bag or receptacle is emptied. We test this by emptying a full bag or receptacle in the environmental chamber, using the user manual instructions, and we measure the particles and allergens that are released when this is done (Certification principle 5).

 

Conclusion

Robots fulfil similar functions to manually operated vacuums. However, one may not be considered a substitute for the other but rather each may contribute as part of a multifaceted approach to improve indoor air quality

Current testing methods for manual vacuums are not suitable to assess robots in line with the principles of the asthma & allergy friendly® Certification Program, therefore the ASL team has developed new innovative methods to assess their impact on the indoor environment.

We would love to discuss this in more detail! Please get in touch to get your robotic vacuum cleaner certified!

Contact Us to Discuss Your Requirements

 

Keywords

Robotic vacuum cleaner, robots, vacuum cleaner, asthma, allergy, asthma & allergy friendly®, certification program, allergy insights, standards, new standard, testing, dust mite, allergens, Allergy Standards, ASL

 

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