Robotic Lawn Mowers: Lawn Care for the Lazy

One of the most disagreeable tasks that every homeowner faces is mowing the lawn, especially during the summer months when the temperature is hot. It’s an especially challenging task if one is elderly, has some kind of disability (like a bad back), or even-as is too common-some kind of plant allergy.

A professional lawn service (or a neighborhood kid) may cost in excess of twenty or thirty dollars per job, once every week or two weeks. Maybe one has an industrious teenager willing to do the job-or maybe not.

Fortunately there is a high tech way to get the lawn mowed robotically. A robot lawn mower does not complain about the heat or humidity. It does not charge a lot of money (except for the purchase price and after that electricity). Properly set up and cared for, it will tirelessly roll across ones lawn, cutting grass, until the job is done, while one can relax of the porch sipping iced tea in comfort.

What is a Robotic lawn Mower?

A typical robotic lawn mower looks like a low flying space ship, made of hardened plastic, with steel blades on the bottom that whirl at speeds up to 5800 rpm (double that of a typical gas powered mower.) A typical robotic lawn mower is able to mulch the grass far better than most standard mowers. This allows the cut grass to decompose on ones lawn naturally, adding nutrients to facilitate the lawn’s long term health. They run of electricity, charged after every job, hence they run quieter and with less pollution that a standard gas powered mower. They run in random patterns over a residential lawn, kept in bounds by above ground wires that are set up around the lawn and around obstructions such as trees, swimming pools, and flower beds. The mower’s onboard navigation system uses an internal compass and bumper to maneuver around objects and up and down slopes.

Most robotic lawn mowers come with a variety of safety features. These include a child lock, a device that automatically cuts off the blades when the mower is lifted, and a feature that will cause the mower to turn around if slight pressure is applied to the side. This last feature makes the mower safe to use in a lawn which also has dogs or cats. Dogs will bark at it until they give up. Cats will run away.

The most expensive model of robotic lawn mower is designed to cut a lawn of up to 16,000 square feet. Most recent robotic lawn mowers have a preprogrammed feature that will cause it to start a lawn mowing job automatically, without human intervention, resting in a charging station between jobs. Earlier models require one to start it manually by pressing the start button.

In the future, robotic lawn mowers will likely be powerful enough to take care of commercial lawn mowing, such as golf courses and football and baseball fields. Carnegie Mellon University is already testing an industrial grade lawn mower on golf courses and the training field of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Toro is sponsoring a project called the Automatic Turf Management System. Clearly the development this technology will save a lot of labor costs.

Setting the Lawn Up for the Robotic Lawn Mower

The most time consuming task, with the potential for mistakes, is setting up ones lawn for the robotic lawn mower. Along with each mower, one has included a length of wire with pegs to hold them down. One strings the wire around the perimeter of ones lawn, securing them with the pegs. Some people will bury the wire, but setting it up at ground level works just as well. The wires contain an electromagnetic current that signals the robotic lawn mower to turn upon encountering the perimeter. Most problems that people have had with robotic lawn mowers seem to have resulted from improper set up.

Problems with Robotic Lawn Mowers

Some people have reported problems with their robotic lawn mowers. First, the job of preparing the lawn is usually more difficult and time consuming than is represented by the manual. If the wire is not taunt enough, there is the potential for the robotic lawn mower to snag on it. Some people buy an extra number of pegs to make sure that the wire is taunt enough. Some close observation and adjustments are usually necessary to get the wire perimeter just right. Also, some people with larger than average lawns are obliged to break up their lawns into sections, wiring each of them to be mowed in turn.

Some of the earlier and cheaper robotic lawn mowers have experienced problems with navigation around obstructions and over sloping grades of lawn. These problems seem to have been solved with more recent and more expensive robotic lawn mowers.

The power pack of the robotic lawn mower has to be replaced every three to four years. The blades have to be replaced after every year.

Buying a Robotic Lawn Mower

Friendly Robotics offers a line of robotic lawn mowers called the Robomow. Depending on the model, the Robomow can cost between five hundred and fifteen hundred dollars. Extra wire and pegs, which are sometimes necessary, will run one slightly more. Toro, Husqvarna (a division of Electrolux), and Ambrogio, an Italian firm, has marketed their own lines of robotic lawn mowers.

The decision to buy a robotic lawn mower, because of its relatively high cost, can be a major purchasing decision. One has to balance the high cost of the mower with whatever cost, time, and labor savings one can anticipate. Clearly not having to hire a lawn service and/or buy the gas and other maintenance that a standard gas powered mower requires is a powerful incentive. Being able to just turn on the robotic lawn mower or even have it work at preprogrammed times and then have the time to do something else is also an incentive. While ones robotic lawn mower is busy cutting the lawn, one can do other tasks around the house, go shopping, or even just relax, secure in the knowledge that the hot, tiring work of cutting the lawn is now being done for one. Of course, one can always choose to retain ones standard gas powered mower if one needs the exercise.

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