Robot lawn mowers - also known as robo mowers - are the must-have garden accessory. However, they’re a relatively new innovation which means many people are full of questions when they come to buy one. If you’re thinking about buying a robot lawn mower for your home, read this article and the team at Hughie Willett Machinery will answer all your questions…
What is a robot lawn mower?
Robot lawn mowers are a type of autonomous robot that is able to cut grass without human supervision.
Today’s robot lawn mowers are compact pieces of equipment, typically powered by a lithium-ion battery pack.
Some robo mowers also incorporate a solar panel which ‘tops up’ the battery’s charge during operation. Many robot lawn mowers include a charging station. When they require charge, they will automatically navigate to this station and begin a charging cycle.
Most robot mowers have two rear wheels and an integrated cutting deck which is positioned at the front of the mower. However, in order to tackle a broader range of terrains, we are seeing more robot mowers that have four wheels and features such as all-wheel drive (AWD). This latter type of mower will usually have its cutting deck mounted in the middle between the two wheel axles (what we call ‘mid mounted’).
Because they are highly desirable items, many robot lawn mowers come with ‘anti-theft’ features such as pin code entry, anti-theft alarms, and even theft tracking on the most advanced models.
Robot lawn mowers also increasingly come with safety features such as lift and tilt sensors. If the robot mower accidentally tips or topples over, the cutting deck will automatically stop.
Although robot mowers are primarily aimed at home users and thus for use on domestic lawns, it is also possible to buy commercial robot lawn mowers that are designed to be used on much larger tracts of land of up to 5,000 m².
A number of established groundcare equipment brands have launched robot lawn mowers, however Husqvarna is widely considered to be the market leader.
How do robot lawn mowers work?
Depending on the exact type of robot lawn mower you buy, it’ll work in a certain way.
Traditionally, robot lawn mowers worked on the basis of a boundary wire.
This boundary wire takes the form of a copper cable that is wrapped in a protective insulating material. The wire is then buried around the perimeter of the lawn (the area within which you want the robo mower to operate).
Typically, this boundary wire is buried at a depth of approximately 10 to 30 cm. This ensures that it’s out of sight and not despoiling the aesthetics of the garden. (Note, the optimal depth to bury the wire may vary from mower to mower). It’s not always necessary to bury the boundary wire, however. In many cases, it’s possible to ‘staple’ the wire to the ground and allow the surrounding grass to grow over it.
Once installed, this boundary wire sets the perimeter within which the lawn mower can operate. In effect, it’s the job of the boundary wire to stop the robot mower from ‘wandering off’ away from your garden.
With the boundary wire in place, the robot mower can then start doing its job - mowing your lawn!
The more basic robot lawn mowers mow in a random fashion. They will basically wander around the lawn mowing until they reach the area of the boundary wire. They’ll then turn around and continue mowing in another direction.
As you can imagine, this type of mowing isn’t particularly efficient and also means the mower has to be in almost continual operation.
In recent years, new robot lawn mowers have been launched which can ‘map out’ a lawn and thus mow it in a more intelligent and efficient fashion. Indeed, systems such as Husqvarna’s AIM technology allow the owner of the mower to view the map on their smartphone, letting them tailor the cut to their exact preferences.
Today, we are beginning to see announcements about robot lawn mowers that will be able to operate without a boundary wire. An example is the Husqvarna Automower NERA range. These mowers operate using a satellite navigation technology called EPOS (Exact Positioning Operation System) which allows them to cut with a precision of 2-3 cm.
In terms of cutting performance, robot lawn mowers operate in a similar fashion to regular mowers. They use a cutting deck which uses quickly rotating blades to cut grass.
Can robot mowers go uphill?
Yes. Robot lawn mowers are able to travel across a variety of terrains including travelling up inclines and hills.
Naturally, there are limits to this, and you shouldn’t expect a robot lawn mower to travel across egregiously rough terrain.
You’ll also find there are limitations depending on the exact model of robot lawn mower.
If in doubt, check the exact specifications of your chosen robot lawn mower. For example, Husqvarna states that its Automower® range of mowers can handle up to 50% slope performance (depending on the exact model).
The more advanced robot mowers, such as Husqvarna’s AWD models can even tackle slopes of up to 70% (35º) - which is equivalent to a black ski slope.
Some robot mowers are available with an optional ‘terrain kit’ which includes heavier rear wheels and wheel brushes that enhance the mower’s ability to operate on slopes and other similar terrain.
To summarise, a robot mower will be able to handle the average UK garden. But, always check the exact specifications of your chosen mower before committing to a purchase.
Do robot lawn mowers work on uneven lawns?
Yes, in general you’ll find that most models of robot mower are able to effectively mow uneven lawns.
In fact, some mowers such as Husqvarna robo mowers have been specifically designed to work on uneven lawns without ‘scalping’ the raised sections of lawn.
Can robot lawn mowers cut to the edge of a lawn?
Yes. Provided you have installed the boundary wire in the correct location, a robot mower will be able to cut the same areas of your lawn as a regular mower would.
Just as with a regular lawn mower, you may still need to use a trimmer to finish the very edge of your lawn.
Do you still need a regular lawn mower if you buy a robot lawn mower?
No. As we mentioned above, a robot mower will be able to cover the same type and amount of lawn space as a regular lawn mower.
Once you’ve invested in a new robot lawn mower, you will no longer need a regular lawn mower.
However, if you have a particularly complex garden, you may find it handy to keep a regular mower or strimmer on hand to help tidy up any difficult to reach areas.
Do robot lawn mowers collect grass?
No. As a whole, robot lawn mowers do not collect grass clippings.
Robot lawn mowers are designed to cut grass very finely. This leaves behind only very small clippings which will eventually be subsumed into the ground, acting as a natural form of fertiliser for your lawn.
Are robot lawn mowers noisy?
No. Quite the contrary! Compared to traditional petrol-powered mowers which have a sound level of between 95 and 100 dB, robot lawn mowers are much quieter at about 60dB.
To provide you with some context, 60dB is about the sound of an office - so you’ll easily be able to conduct a conversation etc whilst your robot lawn mower is in operation.
How are robot lawn mowers powered?
As we mentioned at the outset of this article, pretty much every robot lawn mower you can buy is battery powered.
This is great as it means robot mowers are quiet and clean and don’t give off exhaust fumes etc. However, it does mean that they require charging up from time to time.
In many cases, robot lawn mowers are available with a ‘charging station’. This is a type of dock which you can place against an external wall of your home. Depending on the exact model mower you buy, you’ll find that it automatically navigates to the charging station when it detects that its battery is low on charge.
In some cases, you may need to lay a guide wire in your lawn to the charging station.
In terms of operating time - this can vary considerably from model to model - however, you can normally expect around an hour of mowing time between each charge. Having said that, the very largest commercial robot lawn mowers can often mow for as long as three and a half hours between charges.
Are robot lawn mowers weatherproof?
In general, yes. The majority of robot lawn mowers - particularly those from premium brands like Husqvarna - are weatherproof and are designed to be left outdoors in all weathers.
To determine how weatherproof a particular robot lawn mower is, you should check its IP Code. You’ll find this in the product specification.
IP stands for ‘ingress protection’ and measures how well a device is protected from both liquids and small solids (e.g. dust particles).
Ideally, you’ll want your chosen robot lawn mower to have an IP Code of IPX4 or IPX5. This means it can withstand rainfall, and low pressure water streams (e.g. hoses).
Some robot mowers also feature additional weatherproofing such as frost protection.
Are robot lawn mowers safe?
Yes. Robot lawn mowers are as safe as any other form of garden equipment. In fact, in many cases, they are safer.
This is because robot mowers include features such as tilt detection - which will stop the blades instantly should the mower topple over. Many robo mowers also feature object detection and avoidance. So, if things like children’s toys are left on the lawn, the mower will automatically detect and avoid them.
Are robot lawn mowers easy to maintain?
Yes. Given that robot lawn mowers are designed to free you up from mowing your lawn, they are also easy to maintain.
To keep them in top condition, you simply need to spend a minute or two cleaning grass from their wheels and chassis occasionally.
After prolonged use, it can also be beneficial to replace a robot mower’s cutting blades.
How much do robot lawn mowers cost?
Given that robot lawn mowers are far more technologically advanced pieces of equipment than regular lawn mowers, they sit at a higher price point.
For a basic robot lawn mower, you should expect to pay at least £600 to £700. However, should you want one of the more advanced models which includes the latest technology and features, expect to pay over £1,000. In fact, for the very latest models (including those suitable for commercial use), you can expect to pay close to £3,000 or more.
Where can you buy robot lawn mowers?
If you’re looking to buy the very best robot lawn mower - be it for your home or a commercial property - then buy one from Hughie Willett Machinery.
Why? Because, we’re the robot mower experts!
We are a main dealer for Husqvarna - the world’s leading robot lawn mower brand - and carry the most popular models from their esteemed Automower® range. Not only that, but we also carry robot lawn mower accessories and genuine Husqvarna Automower® parts.
If you want to buy the very best robot lawn mower, there’s no better place to buy it than Hughie Willett Machinery.
Should you wish to discuss your robot mower requirements in detail, feel free to contact us and one of our friendly experts will be happy to help.