It’s incredibly frustrating when a robot vacuum seems to aimlessly wander until its battery dies, especially when you notice it passing right by its home base without docking.
I’ve found it particularly annoying when the Roomba does this. If you’re dealing with this issue, here are some suggestions to help your robot vacuum find its way back home.
How A Robot Vacuum Finds Its Home
I need to explain how the robot vacuum can find its home in the first place.
The way it works is super simple; it’s like how your TV remote tells your TV to change the channel.
The base station is emitting an infrared flashing light. We can’t see infrared, so it’s not apparent to us that the robot vacuum needs to see this light. This light is also pulsing to a particular frequency as not to confuse it with other things that use infrared as communication, too, like your TV.
If you have something blocking the light or narrowly hiding it, then the robot vacuum can’t find its home base.
The way most robot vacuums work is by wandering around until they see that flashing infrared light. Once they find it, they keep moving to it and lining itself until it gets over the charging pads.
Move The Robot Vacuum’s Base
If it’s common that your robot vacuum won’t find its home base, then you need to move it somewhere else.
Something is blocking the light sensors and the robot vacuum can’t see them. Moving the base to a new location can fix this problem.
Avoid Sunny Areas
Since a lot of robot vacuums use infrared light to tell it where the home base is located, any bit of sunlight can confuse it.
If the incoming sunlight is brighter than the home base’s light, it will never find home.
I’ve also seen this be a problem with security cameras in homes as they use infrared to light up the room at night.
It’s best to put the robot vacuum somewhere that doesn’t get a ton of sunlight and is in an open area like a hallway.
The robot vacuum can have issues with a dark room or dark floors; I have a post that goes over that here.
The Starting Point Matters
More of the higher-end robot vacuums will start and finish in the same spot.
This means if you physically move the robot vacuum to the center of the room, that is where it will try to finish.
Make sure to start the robot vacuum at its home base if you want it to end up there.
From my personal experience, this is not a huge problem, especially with the Roomba 600 series I’ve used. If I start them in the middle of the room 9/10 times, it will go home. Other brands and higher-end models that use different mapping could be affected by this.
Avoid Tight Areas And Hiding Spots
I’ll admit that robot vacuums don’t look the best, but if you want it to make it home, you’ll have to have it in the open.
Hiding the robot vacuum base station in a corner or under something like a couch will mean it will never find its home.
You want at least 12 inches on either side to be free of items and 3 feet in front to be free of things too.
Put The Base In the Middle
If you let your robot vacuum roam the many rooms of your home, you’ll be better off putting it in the middle of the house.
If the robot vacuum has to go through 3 rooms before it finds its home base, it may never find it. Keep in mind most of them wander aimlessly looking for a flashing light that signals their home.
Placing the robot vacuum in the middle of the 3 rooms will increase its chances of finding its home.
Make Sure You Have Power
I’ve run into several people who have a robot vacuum base station plugged into an outlet that doesn’t work.
Make sure to use an outlet that is working for your robot vacuum.
Also, avoid surge protectors or extension cords. People tend to use old surge protectors with many items plugged into them. Some robot vacuums are picky and need to be the only thing on the plug.
If your robot vacuum is not charging, we have several tips you can do to fix this.
Remove The Shipping Plastics
Make sure you removed all the protective shipping plastic that comes on the robot vacuum, and its charging station.
You’ll need to double-check the sensor on the base station and the robot vacuum to make sure they have nothing blocking them.
Get A New Base
If you tried everything else, you need a new base station.
It’s a simple LED in the base charging station, and LEDs can burn out.
The good news is that getting a Roomba base charger is not that expensive, and a lot of the models share the same one.
You can get these charging stations for Roomba’s here on Amazon*.
Stop Worrying About It
Honestly, stop worrying about it.
That is what I do and come to prefer the Roomba not finding its home base for charging.
If it’s not finding its home it’s spending more time cleaning.
When a robot vacuum gets down to 10% battery life left, it starts to look for its home base. If it finds its home base with 6% battery life left, that is 6% of the cleaning I’m missing.
I instead let it clean until it’s dead to get that few extra minutes of cleaning.