Robot Mowers - Frequently Asked Questions & Key Features
Robotic Mowers have been in use for over 15 years and although we do not seen them very often in the UK are very prevalent in mainland Europe (in Sweden they account for 50% of all mower sales). Although there are a number of makes available, most work on the same principles and have similar features. When one maker introduces some new feature, other makes will follow and with the ability to update the software on the mower remotely on a lot of machines, it all happens fairly seamlessly. I have endeavoured below to outline the key features, what they mean and if they matter. It does matter if you end up buying a Ambrogio, Mobomow, Hasqvarna or other make, make sure that you understand what it’s features are if you need them.
To give it some context, it probably worth covering a few questions that I am frequently asked (FAQs):
There are 3 main considerations when choosing a model:
- The area I need to mow – you can use our Measure My Lawn page to measure or have a site survey (see Services)
- How many areas I need to mow – Areas are connected lawns which the mower can move between (see Areas)
- How much time do I want to be ‘robot free’ – e.g. if you only want your robot to mow overnight, you need to ensure that it will cover the area within the hours of darkness (see Robot Free Time)
No, stripes are created by the rollers on the back on mowers and robot mowers don’t have rollers and don’t cut ‘up and down’. Nearly all robot mowers mow in a random pattern i.e. they set off in a straight line and when they turn ( due to the edge of the lawn or an obstacle), they turn in a random direction and set off again. Some use GPS to try and ensure that they don’t cut the same area twice, some cut in spirals when they sense particularly long grass.
As the mowers are cutting little and often, you don’t need to collect the clippings (mulch), in fact mulching is a great way to return nutrients to the soil. You’ll need around 25% less fertilizer by mulching with lawn clippings.
Most robot mowers (excluding the Ambrogio L60 Delux) use a wire which is laid around the perimeter of the lawn. An electrical pulse it sent down the wire and when the mower reaches the it, it turns around (just like it has encountered an obstacle).
It doesn’t, unfortunately nobody has invented a robot strimmer …yet! Some mowers do a regular cut along the perimeter wire to minimise the amount of edge cutting required, but you will still need to cut the edge from time to time.
There are a number of factors to consider when looking at the cost:
The initial purchase and installation cost
Robot mowers are generally more expensive that traditional electric or petrol powered mowers although for large gardens can be cheaper than a ride on mower that covers a similar area.
The cost of your time (or maybe your gardener’s time)
This is where the big saving is found. If you have a gardener, how much do they cost (£20-£30 an hour in our area). If you mow the lawn yourself, how much do you value your time and if you had that extra time, what would you do with it…probably other household jobs but that’s another story. Apparently we spend on average 2 months of our lives mowing.
The cost of fuel
Robot mowers cost approx £20 – £40 per year to run, that wouldn’t run your petrol mower for long!
Cost to the environment
In the US, it was reported that petrol mowers represent Petrol mowers 5% of U.S. air pollution. Hopefully it has decreased since that report but it is still significant.
Installation involves laying a perimeter cable and installing the base station (except for the L60).
Both of these are possible to do yourself and there are a number of videos to help you (see self-installation). If you have a large garden i.e. requires a long perimeter cable or have multiple areas then it’s worth contacting us to discuss whether you need a professional installation.
Most manufacturers will quote the maximum lawn size that a model can cope with but what does that really mean. It is usually based on the maximum performance of the batteries, but there are other considerations to consider:
- Complexity of lawn – the more complex the lawn, the longer the mower will take to mow it
- Number of areas – if you have a number of connected areas, it may take longer for the robot to get to an area (or back again) which will increase the amount of time it is travelling (not cutting) and hence reduce the cutting time.
- How much time do you want with a robot free lawn – some manufacturers work out the maximum size lawn assuming that your robot will mow 24 hours a day (including charging time). The reality is that the amount of time required to cut your lawn will vary through the growing season but do consider how much robot free time you want.
You can install your robot and base station yourself.
Remember that you will need somewhere to plug it in and the power supply unit needs to be protected from sun and rain.
If you have a large amount of perimeter wire to lay, it can be a back-breaking job so it may be worth asking about a professional installation.
Although it is possible to have your docking station inside an out-building, it is not practical in the majority of the cases. Even if you can manage this, your mower will still be outside for a large amount of the time mowing.
Most models have features which will deter anyone who takes a liking to your mower:
- Geofencing – this will notify you if the mower goes outside of a pre-set area
- Tilt/ lift alarm – this will sound if the mower is picked up
Whilst it is possible to change the cutting height remotely on the 4.0 Elite , on the rest of the models it is manual. Having previously used a traditional mower where I changed the height according to where I was mowing and how frequently I mowed, I wondered if that would be a problem?
As the mower cuts the lawn frequently, the grass stays a fairly consistent length so there is no reason to adjust it. The only time that I have changed the cutting height is at the beginning of the season where I had to start mowing with a high cutting height as the grass was long and gradually reduce it. The perfect solution would be to install the mower before the season starts and start cutting early…life isn’t always perfect. The other thing I found was that as the robot mower is much lighter than a traditional mower, it is possible to mower earlier in the season when the ground is too soft for a traditional mower.
Cutting Edge Technology
The mower uses the built in GPS to record where it has mown as it goes. It uses this information to feed into it’s advanced algorithms , allows the robot to create virtual maps of your garden dividing it up into small areas (Smart Partitions – about 2m squares). As the mower passes through a square, it checks if the area has been fully mown recently, if it has, the robot continues to mow through the area. If it enters a square which has not been mown recently, it changes mode to cut in Spiral Cutting Mode pattern until the square is fully cut and then moves on. With Satellite Dynamic Memory (SDM) , Ambrogio mowers benefit from the improved coverage of a random cutting pattern, paired with the greater efficiency of focused, time saving, systematic navigation.
The ZCS Connect feature allows you to connect and interact with the robot from your smartphone or tablet. The Ambrogio Remote App allows you to check where your robot is, tell it to mow in a different area, monitor it’s status and receive alerts. All this can be done from anywhere in the world , giving you the peace of mind that your lawn will always be looking it’s best.
Additional things to consider
There are a lot of advantages of having a robot mower but there are a number of things to consider which may not be obvious, I’ve tried to make a list below but if you have any other questions, feel free to contact us:
What happens if I have leaves or twigs/ branches on the lawn
As the robot mower does not pick up grass, it will not come as a surprise that it does not pick up leaves either. With a fixed mower blade, the mower will shred the leaves which will then blow away in the wind …remember as it cuts little and often, the number of leaves between mowings should be small. For twigs/ branches, then it’s best to pick them up, same as for a normal mower, although I’ve found that as I’ve got more time to look after the garden, it’s not a problem.
How does it cope with rabbit holes etc.
Unfortunately, we have rabbits in our garden so it was one of my concerns. I’ve found that it will cope with most small holes in the garden, either by navigating it’s way over them or by sensing them as an obstacle and turning around. Having said that, the best solution is to fill them in…easier said than done. The other thing that can happen is that an animal may break the perimeter cable. I was worried about this with rabbits but have only found it an issue with bigger animals e.g. deer (once last season). There are 2 options, you can either just fix the break after it has happened, it’s not difficult as connectors are available and the break is usually fairly easy to find or install a thicker cable which is more animal proof.
Are all gardens suitable
Although not all gardens are suitable for a robot mower, most should be although it may be worth having a survey if you have any doubts. We may find that you need to employ some if the clever ‘tricks’ that Ambrogio provides to get round complex areas in the most efficient manner.
I have found that I have changed a few areas over time e.g. adding a raised border around an existing flower bed to improve things but that’s just to make my life easier.
What happens if I change the layout of my garden
If you need to change the perimeter of the garden then, it’s not a problem. I usually walk the perimeter after installation and take a video so I know exactly where the perimeter cable is. If I have to change anything, I can go back to the video and work out where the wire is. Then it’s just a case of digging down to the wire, pulling out the section that needs to be moved and then reconnecting a new section. If it’s a small section then you can just peg in back to the ground and let nature bury it over time.