I am a nerd by trade, and run my own company (Webtechy Ltd) specializing in Microsoft technologies such as Azure, SharePoint and Office 365 as well as other content management systems. I also enjoy graphic design in PhotoShop and tinkering around with Arduino's and Raspberry Pi's. In my spare time I like to go to the gym, running (well, I say "enjoy"), and martial arts.
Meet our new robot, R2 (aka the Flymo Robotic Lawnmower 1200R)
Where possible, it's no secret that I like to automated repeat tasks. I would rather spend more time upfront, in exchange that I don't need to repeat the same task again (and again, and again). The same thought process cross my mind when we moved to a bigger property, where we had a large lawn. In my previous house (bachelor pad) I had removed the lawns front and back with decking and patio). So, when I started to look for a new lawn mower, looking at the prices of a decent petrol engine (after ruling out that I unfortunately couldn't really warrant a sit on mower), I wondered if there was any robotic lawnmowers out there on the market, and indeed there were! I decided to plunge for the Flymo Robotic Lawnmower 1200R based on the reviews on Amazon. It was a close call between that and the Worx option (in fact, going from the labelling on the charger, my guess is this is a re-branded Husqvarna Automower - but a bit cheaper!).
The Flymo 1200R works on the principle of laying a boundary wire around your garden so that it. I assume the guide wire works by broadcasting a signal down it which the robotic lawn mower can detect. It's programmable to run on days and times that suit you (when you're not hanging the washing out!). He's is pretty quiet and potters about strutting his stuff. He has bump detection so can avoid objects.
A couple of things to note:
- You have to lay a boundary wire which can take quite along time initially
- It does not leave wheels ruts (other than slight depressions) as it chooses different routes
- The robotic lawn mower happily docks himself again when he needs charging
- The grass is not collected, instead, because it is cut frequently, the grass is "mulched"
- The blade area is quite small so can take a while to cut the lawn
- You should be handy with a soldering iron to mend wires breaks (unless you're a lot more careful than me - which isn't that hard actually)
- It's very quiet with just a quiet buzz
- It doesn't do the edges!
The lawnmower is stated to cover up to 400m2. However, it should be notes that for our garden there was not enough wire (and associated pegs) to get all the way round (we also have a large pond area in the middle that increases the boundary length). The replacement parts for this expensive from Flymo, and it's much cheaper just to buy regular cable and plastic pegs off Amazon.
So, after a year of ownership, he has to be my favourite gadget - now affectionately known as R2 (we should paint him white really)! He has probably saved me quite a bit of time (2 hours every other week at a rough estimate says it's saved be 52 hours of lawn mowing over the last year). However, I wouldn't say it's without it's issues. The two main issues I have noticed are as follows:
- The cables leading into the back of the charging dock are easy to kick on your way past (we had to get this serviced and the part replaced)
- If you cut your boundary or guide wire (and you will), it can be very problematic to find where! **
We've had a couple of breaks, such as when the lawn care company carried out aeration which involved punching little holes into the ground. We thought we saw where it had cut the guide wire - but actually it had been cut in 3 places (my fault for incorrectly guessing where the guide wire was and not marking it correctly for him to avoid). We also had quite a few breaks at the start when the wire was still on top of the grass (the grass grows over it in a few weeks and you can no longer see it - in fact, it's quite deep now and hard to follow) and we put the grass length too short. We also found the connectors (e.g. the guide wire to the boundary wire connector) was a bit crappy, and you're best off soldering these (as these connectors protrude from the grass and end up getting cut too).
To investigate where the break has occurred if it's not obvious, I found is to use a wire tracer. I borrowed a Fluke Networks IntelliTone Pro 100 Kit. This kit has two parts, one broadcasts a beeping signal down the wire, whilst the other detector picks up the signal allowing you to trace along the wire until the signal stops, at which point you know the wire has broken. Make sure you're handy (to some degree) with a soldiering iron and cover the repair with heat shrink. I looked online to buy this myself and thought it's quite likely I will do it again, but this particular device costs around 250 quid! I bought a cheaper alternative, and that only seemed to work when tracing a pair of wires - so the search continues (recommendations?). Anyway, lesson learnt, if you're going to do strimming around the garden, do it when the mower is going so you can see when the mower has stopped and you broke the wire to save you a lot of time.
Because his blade area is quite small, bless him - I assume so that if he bumps into your leg, you don't loose your toes (so far the cat still has his tail) - he's not the fasted worker in the world, but he can take as long as he likes as he's autonomous in my books as long as he gets the job done
For the price (around 800 quid if I recall correctly), I would really have liked R2 to have a mobile App to go with him. Would be a nice feature to be able to see how much he's done, still left to do, tell him which bits to do, remotely start and stop him, etc. Maybe even a little solar panel or two!
As noted he doesn't do the edges - hence me going round with a strimmer :-( However, if you're anything like me, you will be considering how to brick the edge of you lawn so that the guide wire can go right up to the edge of the grass and therefore leave nothing uncut :-)
Following the success of the Flymo 1200R, I have actually followed the same principles with an iRobot robotic hoover. Unlike the Flymo, the iRobot doesn't need any guidewires, but basically "bumps" his way around the house ... However, I wouldn't say this was as much of a success (he's still good!), namely because at least R2 doesn't lock himself in the shed (like Oscar the hoover, who normally ends up shutting himself in the downstairs loo by closing the door behind himself)! And to date ... I haven't had to fish R2 out of the pond (fingers crossed)!