Roomba Power Saving and Noise Reduction

So, while talking about the Roombas to a colleague of mine, we spoke about the origins of the Roomba and he reminded me of a little known fact.

Robots 101
Robots 101

The Roomba was actually originally designed and tested without the vacuum part.  The brushes were there, but no sucking power.  Particles tended to drop out of the catch tray a bit, but a small change to the incline of the tray lip fixed that issue.  When it was demo’d the test market didn’t have any confidence in a “vacuum cleaner” without an actual vacuum.  Specifically they didn’t feel it was very effective without the noisy part.

If it doesn't suck

Legend has it, the Roomba is so efficient with its brushes that it doesn’t need the vacuum?  Ok, let’s test that.  Let’s not too much effort into this.  I need to disable the part that sucks for this, run it around a dirty room and have a look at how much it picked up.  Then enable suck mode again and send it round to see what it missed when the vacuum was off.  I know this is not even close to a perfect test, but this is a hobby dammit.  Anyway, I have to make this the unsuckiest Roomba yet but don’t want to get the screwdriver out.

The Roomba Catch Bin
The Roomba Catch Bin

So to make this into a naturally aspirated Roomba you need to do something about those those 2 terminals dead center at the top of the catch bin?  If you stop those from working, there’s no power to the bin and thus the sucky part.  So, you’ll need 2 Torx 8 screwdrivers, a security lock bit, and a unicorn that talks.


Unicorn Applied
Unicorn Applied

Just kidding, could you imagine.  Just some electrical tape will be enough.  So tape up those terminals and no power to the sucko-thingy-thing.  The first thing I noticed was that it was quieter but not by much.  I suppose when the vacuum had to be included to placate the test market, some excited engineer took a big black marker to the project board and drew a line through the item that said “Reduce drive and brush motor noise”.  Then that same engineer probably had a great weekend.

That's a dirty catch bin!
That’s a dirty catch bin!

Yeah, I found out that there was a hiccup with my less dirty catch bin, but being late at night, I didn’t feel like cleaning out my other one thoroughly.  I added some extra dirt to the carpet by….let’s say upending a pizza box (to my housemate, I’m sorry…it had to be done) with a billion flakes of garlic bread in it.

Dirty Carpet
Dirty Carpet

Unfortunately, the crumbs, flakes, and dust can’t bee seen too well with the camera on my carpet but I assure you it’s dirty.  I wouldn’t let some of my friends over until I vacuumed, even if they were too drunk see it.  So then I emptied the catch bin, disabled the brushes, and sent it on its way cleaning.

The future is here!
The future is here!

It wasn’t long before I had suspected something was wrong.  I couldn’t hear it going about its business downstair like I normally can so I went down to check it hadn’t stopped.  Well you could have knocked me over with a feather, it was actually really bloody clean already and the Roomba was still going.  So it was looking like the legend may be true.  Next up, the Naturally Aspirated Results!

Wow that did great considering there was no vacuum
Wow that did great considering there was no vacuum

So, I had to charge the Roomba back up to try again with the vacuum enabled.  Obviously re-enable to the vacuum by removing the electrical tape on the two terminals.  Then I hit clean for another round and off it goes.

There's barely anything there!
There’s barely anything there!

Great Scott! There’s barely anything in there.  It’s possible that the clump that is in there feel from the catch bin and into the Roomba when I pulled it out the first time to check and went into the catch bin again when I turned it on for the vacuum test.  Obviously I can’t be sure as I didn’t really make this anywhere close to a scientific test method, but I’m damn certain the legends are true.

A Roomba doesn't have to suck
A Roomba doesn’t have to suck

So why would you care about this?  Well here’s a list of the benefits of a naturally aspirated Roomba:

  • Less noise
  • No need to clean air filters
  • Uses less power (can clean for longer, opens up options for add on things like webcams/bluetooth)
  • If the internal vacuum components are removed, we can use that space for onboard computers etc.

I’m still not convinced, so I’ll make a little switch to engage or disengage the vacuum component at will and run it for a few weeks as naturally aspirated Roomba then use the vacuum for a few cycles to see if it is actually picking up the dirt.  If I run naturally aspirated regularly it shouldn’t pick up any additional dirt when I switch the vacuum back on.


So there you have it.  Roombas work great without the vacuum on and just running the brushes, which will save you power and leave you with a quieter house.


PS:  It would be nice to get the motor noise down some more.


2 comments on “Roomba Power Saving and Noise ReductionAdd yours →

  1. I tried this on a Roomba 960 (had to go in and cover up a chip though in the vacuum assembly.) It did a great job of gathering pet hair into a pile for me afterward. The downside is it didn’t manage to get the pile into the waste bin. But it was a fun exercise 🙂

    1. Hehe, pet hair is always the real test. I think I wrote that when I was single and had no pets living alone in Melbourne. 2 cats and a wife now. Not sure which will break the Roomba first.

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