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John Weland | February 24, 2021

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Shark IQ Smart Robot Vacuum

My wife secretly bought the Shark IQ Smart Robot Vacuum on Black Friday; little did she know it had been on my “to-get” list for some time already. I will preface this by saying our use case may not be typical, since we foster animals (typically cats) for a local rescue. So we have 5 or more animals in the house at any given time.

This is exactly why a robot vacuum was on my list. We could vacuum multiple times a week and there would still be pet hair tumbleweeds. As someone who loves animals, but is also really allergic to pet dander, something had to be done.

Unboxing

We opted for the bundle package that came with the Shark IQ robot vacuum and the base station with an included bin for “self-emptying”. The packaging was fairly minimal yet still robust. Hard cell foam with specifically sized cutouts holds everything in place: the vacuum, dock, bin, mag strip tape, and some minor literature for getting started.

Shark IQ Setup

The setup of the Shark IQ robot vacuum is super easy. It’s really only a matter of positioning the base unit, setting the vacuum, and pairing it through the required app.

As a rule for our smart things devices, we connected our vacuum to a separate “IoT” specific WiFi SSID. Doing this puts devices connected to it on a separate VLAN for security purposes. You can read more about that in our smarter networking articles.

Simply lay the mag strip tape around any obstacles that the Shark IQ robot vacuum might hang up on or fall from. You can also lay it at the threshold of any rooms you’d just rather never have it enter. Measure the tape, cut to length, and lay on the floor. As the vacuum begins to traverse over the tape, it registers and backs away.

For the security conscious, it is worth noting this “smart vac” uses a camera for learning your house. I would have preferred LIDAR technology instead. With that in mind, the above-mentioned secure network is a must.

The App: a failed IQ test

After running the Shark IQ a few times, it renders a map of what it believes to be the layout of your floorplan. You can then draw bounding boxes around given areas on the floor-plan and label them as specific room. This allows you to schedule cleaning certain rooms while foregoing others… in theory, anyway.

For example, we told the Shark IQ to vacuum the living room and kitchen but not the bedrooms. Nine times out of 10, the very first places it tried to clean were the areas we told it not to do. That’s not to say it is worthless; when you just tell the Shark IQ to vacuum the whole house it does a great job.

The mag strips allow you to create fencing. This is useful for keeping the Shark IQ from taking a bad tumble down a flight of stairs or, equally as useful in our case, to block off one chair that causes particular problems. The legs on our living room chair sit with just the right pitch that the Shark IQ Vacuum likes to try to climb them and then hangs up. Adding a mag strip there fixes the problem, as the vacuum then just avoids that small area.

The Shark IQ claims

Shark claims that the included bin on the dock only needs to be emptied every 30 days. This is obviously dependent on the amount of debris picked up, the size of the house, and the number of times it runs in a given month. We found that with running the vacuum every three days, we still needed to empty the bin at least every other run.

Shark also claims the main brush is tangle free. However, again for us, this simply isn’t true. When we first began using the Shark IQ robot vacuum, we noticed that by the second run the vacuum would fail. It would throw an error telling us there was an obstruction under the vacuum itself. Yet we would find nothing. This isn’t a problem exclusive to us, either. Googling the issue showed that many people were having the same problem.

The problem is this: the brush will clog with hair. Simply looking at the brush wouldn’t indicate it, though. All that hair only tangles on the ends of the roller where it connects to the drive belt. We have to remove the brush and clean out any pet or people’s hair from around the brush’s anchor points.

Final Thoughts

Here is probably the strangest closing “closing thoughts” you’ll read from me. The Shark IQ robot vacuum misses the mark on some of the key claims it makes. Yet, somehow, I still highly recommend it for pet lovers who know the woes of pet hair around the house. Especially for those also allergic to pet dander like myself. Even if the IQ is as dumb as a box of rocks, there is the fact that you can schedule it to pick up extra shifts cleaning up around the house. It is a night and day difference.

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