Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Roomba Batteries Suck

... and not in a good way!

I know we have gotten used to a throwaway society, but this is a bit much.

In the past there was a break between goods that were meant to be tossed, and those that weren't.  Those that weren't were considered "real" goods, and would last more than a year.  I had kept my vacuum cleaner from my childhood, purchased by my parents in 1968, well into the late 1990s.  Something bought these days just aren't going to last 30 or so years.

When things cost a third of what they used to, it doesn't cost to replace them.  They're made cheap, thrown away, and forgotten.  Flip them over and you will see one very telling motto: "Made In China".   For the most part, this kind of motto means that it is designed with Planned Obsolescence in mind and don't expect to give it to your children.

If you look around some of the thrift stores and some places that deal in antiques and second hand goods, you will find items from Pre Chinese Invasion that are still reparable and quite useable.  Think Electrolux Vacuums and the like.  Few Plastic Parts, and those parts that are there are designed to be repaired.  Yes, they cost more, and in many case much more than the average of the market, but buying something for the home would be something that would be expected to last much longer than the low end garbage we get these days.

Compare the quality of a Hyundai of the 1980s if you can find one and one of this decade.  They were built better because upper management made a conscious decision to make a better product.  It worked with Ford, they're making a profit while GM is stumbling along.  Simple and sturdy is always better for longevity than is complex and "fiddly".

So what about that Roomba?   After using it for about six months, I noticed that the rubber flippy bits that swept the dirt into the chambers were pulling loose and that it wasn't quite doing the job it should have.  Duct Tape helped a little, but really the parts were not made to be serviced so the machine lost its effectiveness well before that first year was out.  It certainly wasn't that old Hoover that I got from Mom when I moved out!

The other problem with it is the same problem that everyone has with sealed rechargeable batteries.  You can not service the things easily.  In the case of the battery pack with the Roomba, the thing is sealed with screws whose heads are a triangular indentation.  And just where to these people expect you to get a tool to repair that?

They Don't.

You can buy a new pack if you like, they are fairly available and you can snap one in to the machine in a heartbeat.  I'd prefer it if I could open the pack up and remove the bad cells and replace them.   After all, they're just garden variety NiCd cells, but that would be too simple.

At this point, I'm glad I paid next to nothing for the Roomba because I'm disappointed in how long it lasted.  It was nice to not to have to chase that old Hoover around the house, but now I'm back to the vacuum that I keep in the hall closet.

Basically it was nice while it lasted but didn't last nearly long enough.

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