Can Roomba Detect Stairs

Can a Roomba Sense Stairs?

Flying vacuums aren’t a thing… yet. You don’t want your Roomba taking a dive off the top of the stairs. So, can Roomba sense stairs?

Yes, Roombas sense stairs and other drops. They call them cliffs and ledges. There are cliff sensors on the underside of the Roomba. These detect the edge and will cause the Roomba to reverse course and move away to clean some other safe area. Your Roomba should sense the edge and back away safely. 

Can Roomba Detect Stairs?

Your Roomba should detect stairs because of the cliff sensors we just mentioned. These sensors are positioned on the bottom of the Roomba. There are three or four sensors across the front edge to detect any cliffs or ledges. When a drop off is located, the Roomba should back away safely.

You can check the condition of your sensors by turning the Roomba upside down. Along the front edge, there should be three or four dark rectangles. There is one or two in the middle and then one further along each side of the front edge. Locate them and have a good look.

If they are blocked or covered by dirt, then they may not work properly. This usually means your Roomba will not function or will spin in circles. You can clean them with a lint-free cloth or compressed air.

 

Can Roomba Clean Stairs?

Roombas cannot clean stairs without a lot of help. One guy made a Roomba with small drone fans that could fly. 

It didn’t clean, though. Your Roomba will not clean stairs unless you lift it onto each stair separately. You might as well use a normal vacuum for the stairs (For example this model from Shark Rocket series).

What your Roomba can do is clean the top floor or the bottom floor. Some people move their Roombas around, so they clean upstairs one day and downstairs the next day. This only leaves the stairs themselves to be cleaned by a real person.

How Do You Stop a Roomba from Falling Down Stairs?

This isn’t the beginning of a really boring joke. Roombas are not small purchases for most people, so keeping them safe is a good idea. Thankfully, Roombas sense cliff edges and other ledges. 

The Roomba should ‘feel’ the edge of the stairs and back away safely. It will continue its cleaning pattern without a stair dive.

There are a few other possibilities:

  • You can put obstacles in the Roomba’s way to keep it extra safe.
  • Some models use infrared laser beam pods to create invisible fences to prevent Roombas from going down the stairs or into specific areas.
  • Other models use a Wi-Fi connection and an app to ap out your home. You can add virtual fences to steer your Roomba away from danger or unwanted spaces.

All these options should keep your Roomba safe if its internal sensors don’t seem up to the job.

How Does Roomba Navigate Stairs?

Roombas cannot climb stairs. To keep them safe, Roombas come with cliff sensors to detect edges. iRobot also sells Virtual Walls (Check Prices in Amazon.com) to help Roombas know where NOT to clean. There are other options for using them near stairs or in multiple-level houses.

Let’s start with the simplest option for cleaning more than one floor. Move the Roomba’s base unit from one floor to the other each day. This might take a little effort, but it is certainly easier than cleaning all the carpets yourself.

If you have only one or two stairs, then you could build or buy a Roomba ramp. These ramps will let your Roomba roam up and down the stairs. They are probably not great for a full flight of stairs. For homes with a split-level living space, though, the ramp might get your robotic assistant up and down the stairs safely.

Can Roomba Climb Stairs?

No, Roombas cannot climb stairs. Clever engineers are still trying to design this feature, but they haven’t managed to make it work yet.

For multi-level houses, there are only three options for cleaning each floor.

    1. Buy a Roomba for each floor. This could be a little pricey, but you will always have a spare Roomba if one needs some time off.
    2. Move the Roomba base unit each day or every few days. While moving the unit is a little more work, it is easier than doing the cleaning yourself and cheaper than buying another Roomba.
    3. If you only have a few stairs, then you can buy or build a Roomba ramp. Here’s a video of a guy testing out this concept:

So your Roomba cannot climb the stairs but there are some options for cleaning your whole house.

How Much Damage Does a Roomba Vacuum Take from Falling Down Stairs?

If your Roomba does take a tumble, then it may be damaged. The amount of damage will depend on a few things and there are some steps you can take to limit the damage.

  • If your Roomba dives down a whole flight of steps and crashes onto your modern designer concrete floor, then the damage could be catastrophic. The height and the hardness of the landing surface both affect the amount of damage taken.
  • If you have super steep stairs, then your little friend is going to build up more falling speed and could take more damage.

On the other hand, real tests, such as this one, show Roombas can take a tumble and still work just fine. This is because Roombas don’t actually travel super fast. They move slowly and so they don’t fall fast or far. Instead, they sort of tumble and roll down one or two stairs, and then stop.

So, if your Roomba does take a dive, then it will probably be okay. You can pick it up, dust it off, and put it back to work.

How to Keep Roomba Away from Stairs?

Keeping your Roomba away from stairs is very easy. There are a few options:

  • The easiest option is to let your Roomba do this by itself. vSLAM technology is used by Roomba to locate the robot. vSLAM stands for visual localization and mapping (read more about this technology here). This is how Roomba builds its Imprint Smart Map to learn where your stairs are and avoid them.
  • Another option is to use obstacles to block your stairs. Books, bins, or baskets can be placed at the top of the stairs to signal danger to your Roomba.
  • The final choice is to install some Virtual Walls. These little devices sit at the top of the stairs, or any area you want to cordon off. They send a signal to the robot to tell it to back away from the edge or area it should avoid.

Following any of these three options will keep your Roomba away from stairs and other areas it should avoid.

How Does Roomba Work Around Stairs?

The Roomba uses its internal sensors to find cliff edges and back away from them. As the Roomba travels, it senses an edge and then backs away. Its normal pattern is to back away, turn a little, and try to find a way to keep cleaning. As the Roomba builds its map of your space, it will avoid the edges in the future.

About the Author Jason