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Robomower RL1000 - Robotic Lawn
|Note: This review was written
a few years ago. We have updated the text to reflect the current
models where functional changes have occurred.
RL-1000 Robomower Docking for Recharge
Since you are here reading this review, you must already
be hooked on the idea of a robot doing your lawn. We will
be covering everything from unpacking to setting up and
running the unit. We will also cover the results that are
|How the Robomower arrives
The Robomower unit will arrive in a large box and the dock
will arrive in a smaller separate box containing additional
accessories. You should have some help available to move
the box and when removing the mower. Remove the battery
to make it easier to lift.
It comes enclosed in a foam "clam shell" to ensure
that it arrives safe and sound. We give Friendly Robotics
high marks for this.
|Documentation and instructions
Although the Robomower is not hard to
install or use, reviewing the manual should be first on
your list. There is also an instructional DVD included with
each unit and it will further assist you in installing the
mower. Between the two, you will have all of the information
needed to get started. As with any lawn mower manual, cautions
are clearly stated and should always be followed. We had
provided a Robomower to a Major magazine for review and
they stated that they found the manual to be "daunting".
We must disagree here. To us, the manual is clearly written
and provides more information than many manufacturers of
any product bother to include. As a matter of fact, we have
asked customers about this and they thought that it was
fine. Now these are not all engineers, they are regular
everyday people. Plenty of pictures of installation and
set-up steps make everything pretty clear. If you would
like to see for yourself, we have the manual available for
download in acrobat PDF format..
Download the Manual by Clicking Here
If you hare more of a learn by sight
type of person, the instructional DVD included will get
you through the installation easily. It covers everything
from taking it out of the box to laying out the wire. We
found it to be informative but there is a distracting mispronunciation
of "Perimeter". We can't describe it so you will
need to hear it yourself to appreciate it.
When we first opened the box, we were
pleasantly surprised by the size of the unit and how well
engineered it appeared to be. The unit itself weighs about
79 lbs with the battery installed and measures 35 inches
long by 26 inches wide with a height of 12.5 inches. The
color is pretty nice shade of yellow (now Green). The manual
controller has an easily seen red stop button and is conveniently
located on top near the center of the unit.
Of course we had to get a look at the
blades. Upon turning the mower on its side (do this on grass),
we found three separate blades recessed into bowl shaped
chambers. The blades resemble a food processor blade more
than a traditional lawnmower blade but at 5800 RPM, anything
will cut grass. These blades are far from flimsy and should
last at least a season. One really well thought out feature
here is that no tools are needed to remove the blades. Just
pinch two tabs and pull! Reinstalling the blades is just
as easy. Just push them on.
You may be wondering how you move a 90
pound mower around if you need to store it or move it to
another mowing area. The unit includes a corded remote that
easily pulls from the top of the mower. It works kind of
like a game controller in that there is a four way directional
button and buttons to turn the blades on. This is very handy
for manually mowing areas too small for the mower in automatic
mode. It also doubles as the programing device by way of
a backlit LCD screen.
The tires on the unit have treads that
look like snow tires and give the mower a rough and tough
persona. On the flip side, the rubber bumpers round off
the edges and give it a sleek look and feel.
The safety features go much further than
any traditional lawn mower. If the unit front lifts or one
of the bumpers are pressed, the blades instantly stop. The
fact that the blades are recessed and the center blade is
set way back shows that a lot of thought was put into this
during design. In addition, the low weigh of the blades
and their location pretty much eliminate the possibility
that any objects will be thrown. According to publicly available
statistics, 70,000+ people are treated each year for lawn
mower related injuries. As of the time of this review, none
were the result of robotic mowers! With the tens of thousands
presently operating, this is pretty darn impressive. To
avoid tampering there are two levels of lawn mower security.
The first is a "child lock" that requires that
you press two buttons on order to get the unit to start.
The second is a security password that requires a four digit
code to be entered if you want to operate the unit. Neither
interferes with regularly scheduled operation.
|Well enough of looking, time
for the Robomower install!
Enclosed with the mower is 750 feet of
wire (incorrectly stated as 1000 feet on a few websites
so plan accordingly), the manual and installation DVD. Also
included is the Roboruler. This can be found in a slot located
in the top of the foam "clam shell". It is easily
missed so be sure to look before calling support. In the
box containing the dock, you will find the pegs, power supply
and dock components.
|Finding the best location
for the dock is the first order of business. Since every lawn
is a bit different, we won't go into details here. It just
has to be 50 feet from a outdoor electrical receptacle. Most
people place it in the back yard in a spot were it is not
obvious. If you want to hide it, a trash can screen (or hide)
can be purchased at your local home center and it does a nice
job of screening the unit and dock from view.
|Laying the wire is pretty
easy. You just use the provided "Roboruler" to place
it the correct distance from an edge and stake it down. We
found it easier to remove the wire from the box and unroll
it while slowly walking. This reduced the "coil"
so it laid flatter to the ground. Stakes should be placed
every 5 feet or so. In areas where a good amount of foot traffic
is expected, one every foot is a good idea so no one catches
a toe on it. One thing to be aware of is that it is much easier
to install the pegs after a recent rain. Sun baked hard soil
is sure to cause you to break more than a few pegs while driving
them in. Once the loop is complete you just connect it to
the dock as shown in the manual. Our initial installation
took about 2 hours and was actually completed just as the
light of day faded.
|Letting it go
|Excitement won out over sense
so we went ahead and pressed the start button in the dark.
The unit backed out of the dock a few feet, turned left 90
degrees and then proceeded forward. It then turned to the
right to aquire the wire ahead of the dock. Once it had found
its perimeter it proceeded down the wire as we excitedly followed.
After about 50 feet, it abruptly stopped as a result of cutting
the wire. In the morning we quickly discovered the cause.
First of all, we had the cutting height way too low. Second,
we did not check for low spots that were masked by the grass.
After walking directly on the wire to find valleys in the
terrain, we added a few more pegs, adjusted the height, and
tried again. This time everything went well. The Robomower
followed the edge, docked for a moment, turned into the lawn
and started mowing. The mowing pattern can be described as
a "W". With each successive completion of a set
of "W" passes across the width of lawn, the unit
then changes its angle and continues the "W"".
If you want to visualize this, imagine erasing a chalkboard
in W patterns and changing the W from vertical to horizontal
with each pass across the board. The theory is that you will
eventually get it all and for the most part it does. If you
stretch the unit to its operational yard size limits, you
may occasionally find a small, unmown patch. You can either
manually cut it using the manual controller or let it go until
the next run. Our initial run was about 3 hours and did a
pretty impressive job. We did have to tweak the wire placement
in a few places but that was it for the most part.
|Going Fully Automatic
When we took on this task we fully expected
to be faced with something as frustrating as programming
a VCR. As it turned out, it took about 5 minutes to set
the mowing days and start times. If you have a more complicated
lawn some other options are provided that allow you to set
up secondary zones like a split front yard or areas separated
by a fence. In addition, for coverage assurance on larger
lawns, you can set the mower to automatically start from
a different location each day that it runs . Advanced options
allow you to choose just where those start points occur.
The following day the unit left the dock
right on schedule and dutifully went about its task. Once
the Robomower had completed it's run, it located the perimeter
wire and returned to home base for a recharge. We ended
up actually reducing the run time a bit and then set it
to run every other day.
One thing that initially had us baffled
was that the mower would shut down its blades and zig zag
on the lawn for a while before latching on to the wire and
returning to the dock. As it turned out there was a setting
on the service menu that stopped this. It was actually a
feature that prevents the mower from latching on to a perimeter
wire around an "island" bed when seeking its dock.
The mower will basically "look" for an inside
corner so it is sure that it is on the outer perimeter The
latest mowers have this feature set to off by default so
you probably won't see it.
|Once everything is set, you
can pretty much forget about the mower for the summer. We
do however, get a nice reminder that our robotic buddy is
on the job when we arrive home to a tidy lawn. Hmmm... What
should we do this weekend?
After using a number of successive
models we have learned quite a bit more about where this mower
works best. Contrary to the manufacturers site, we believe
that the RL-1000 is best suited for lawns of less than a half
acre, especially if you have very well fertilized grass or
a good number of grades (this has been corrected so I guess
that they agreed). If you want to push it further, we would
recommend that you purchase an extra battery and fast charger
to allow more than one mowing operation a day as required.
Since you cannot schedule more than one automatic run per
day, the Robomower must be manually started. This is as simple
as dropping in the other battery and pressing the "go"
The RL-1000 now comes with a rain sensor that prevents the
mower from going out in the rain and tells it to return
to its dock if it gets caught in a shower.
The RL-850 does not need a rain sensor since you manually
start it in good weather.
Low Cut Blades
All we can say is WOW! Although these blades cut at a lower
2 1/2 inches, they provide a superior cut. In addition,
they require that you set the mowing height to its maximum.
This provides better ground clearance so the Robomower is
much less likely to get stuck on uneven terrain.
We not only sell robotic mowers, we use them as well. We believe
that they are good for the environment and promote domestic