The automower dazzles with its alarm system and programmability, but let's not get ahead of ourselves: First you're probably wondering how to keep it from mowing your flowers or your neighbor's yard.
Before setting the automower loose, you need to set up some boundaries, similar to an in-ground pet fence. The automower comes with a small wire that needs to be buried just below grass level to set predetermined areas in which the robot stays -- these boundary wires limit the mowing area and can be used to set off flowerbeds and gardens. Guide wires also help the mower navigate back to its home base charging station. With the wires in place, the automower's on-board navigation system and ultrasound sensors -- one in front and one in back -- keep an eye on the robot's position.
Within the set boundaries, the automower makes an irregular mowing pattern and crisscrosses the yard until the work is done. Obstacles (or a boundary wire) are handled in two ways, depending on the size of the obstacle. If the mower bumps into a hard object that's at least 6 inches (15 centimeters) tall, such as a tree or a pet, it backs up and starts mowing in a new direction. When the mower encounters boundary wire, its navigation system guides the machine around. Even hills aren't a problem -- the mower can handle up to a 35 percent gradient before it takes a tumble.
Wondering what kind of performance you can expect from a robot mower that's about the size of a French bulldog? The automower's performance depends on the size of your lawn and the available sunlight, in addition to a variety of other things like the type of grass in your yard, how damp the conditions are and how well-maintained you keep the mower's blades. The recommended lawn size is about 0.6 acres (2,100 square meters), give or take 20 percent, and owners can expect their automower to handle about 0.02 acres (87.5 square meters) in an hour. After an hour of mowing, the mower returns to its charging station for a quick energy boost before it heads back out to finish the job. It typically takes about 45 minutes to charge fully.
A homeowner with a conventional power mower can expect to spend about 120 hours mowing that acreage annually -- if you work a 40-hour work week, that's equivalent to spending three weeks of vacation mowing your lawn. How would you rather spend your time?