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Robotics Toys Hardware

IRobot Looj Gutter Cleaning Robot Review 168

Posted by timothy
from the need-one-of-these-right-now-in-fact dept.
justechn writes "Many of us have seen robots in the movies and wondered how long it would take for them to become a reality. Some of my favorites when I was a kid were Short Circut and Runaway. iRobot is a company that is striving to bring some of that technology home today. Their most popular and well known product is the Roomba vacuuming robot. The Roomba is great, after I finished my review of it and sent it back I went out and bought one. It does its best work picking up pet hair. They just came out with another robot called the Looj. The Looj is used to clean the rain gutters that go around your roof. If you have ever had to do this by hand you know how much of a pain it is. This robot uses a 3 stage auger to break up clogs and sweep all the debris out of your gutter. It is also water proof so you don't have to worry if you have water in your gutter, just don't stand below it when it is cleaning or you will get sprayed." Read on for the rest of justechn's review.
"The Looj does not move on it own like the Roomba does, instead there is a remote control that controls the direction that the auger spins and the direction that the Looj moves (forward and backward). Because it requires constant human interaction I am not even sure I would classify it as a robot, rather it is more like a remote controlled car.

I recently got my hands on one and put it through my gutters. It did a fairly good job. I did have to go over some spots more than once to get all the leaves and dirt out, but in the end my gutters were a lot cleaner after it was done.

The price is also very good. At $99 for the base model it is cheap enough that you can pick one up just to play around with. The more expensive models only give you extra batteries and augers, so you are not missing anything if you go with the base model.

I only found two things about the Looj that I did not like. First, it will not turn corners, it is way too long and not flexible. Second, if you want it to move you have to constantly hold down the forward or backward button. As soon as you let go, it stops. If you could lock in the movement then you could do other things like move your ladder to the next corner while it was cleaning."
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IRobot Looj Gutter Cleaning Robot Review

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  • Link (Score:5, Informative)

    by psergiu (67614) on Saturday June 28, 2008 @05:48PM (#23985213)
    • by Divebus (860563)

      Oh sure. NOW this comes out after I just finished that ugly job. Next year.

    • by plover (150551) *
      Watched the video in your link. Apparently the announcer is confusing a "three stage" auger with their "three paddle" auger.
    • Re:Link (Score:4, Interesting)

      by mrroot (543673) on Saturday June 28, 2008 @07:35PM (#23985897)
      I watched the video and it only shows it cleaning dry debris out of a gutter. But most gutters (or at least mine) tend to have soggy, caked-up gunk in them, not just dry leaves. How often do you have to use this thing? I mean I clean out my gutters about 3 times a year right now, only when they get really full. But if I had this thing I probably would have to do it MORE OFTEN because it probably won't work as well on a gutter that is packed full of leaves. I would rather do a big job a few times a year, than do a smaller job say 10 to 15 times a year.

      A better idea would be to create a new kind of gutter. Maybe one that could be manually (or automatically) tilted over to dump out all of the debris, instead of trying to clean it in the upright position.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by cojsl (694820)
        "But most gutters (or at least mine) tend to have soggy, caked-up gunk in them"

        I recall a home improvement show (This Old House?) testing the Looj. They placed a section of gutter on the ground and filled it with various debris, then ran the Looj through it. The Looj didn't deal with the heavy caked gunk very well, losing one of its tracks at one point. It did not come across as very impressive. I recall the host didn't recommend it. Can't find a video unfortunately

      • by Vexar (664860)
        Gutters are overrated unless they are hooked up to a cistern. Just let the water run off the roof. If you have an entry door, get one of those metal "v" bars and attach it on the roof ahead of the entry. I use a hose with a pressure nozzle (like what you get when you buy Blue Coral car wash detergent) and a ladder. Speaking of which, my gutters are clogged again, and I really should get either rid of them or clean them. Or, I heard there are these gutter sleeves that also work.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by srvivn21 (410280)

        A better idea would be to create a new kind of gutter. Maybe one that could be manually (or automatically) tilted over to dump out all of the debris, instead of trying to clean it in the upright position.

        Or perhaps a perforated gutter cover that lets the water in but keeps the debris out. Like this [gutterworks.com]. Or some other method of preventing clogged gutters, like a curved cover that water will follow, but leaves will not like this [gutterworks.com].

    • The USA needs reliable and cheap robots. Reliable because they are complicated, expensive, and difficult to fix because there aren't many people who are expert with robotics technology.

      Cheap because the USA is shares a border with a country that millions of people who are ready, willing, and able to come here and work for about $40-$50 a 8-10 hour day. Any robot that we buy has to be able to do productive work for eight hours a day and cost less than $50 a day for energy, maintainence, and

      • by Nethead (1563)

        You racist... if I only had the mod points! You sound like a yakamaniac.

      • by Nethead (1563) <joe@nethead.com> on Saturday June 28, 2008 @08:29PM (#23986245) Homepage Journal

        http://www.freshplaza.com/news_detail.asp?id=10153 [freshplaza.com]

          Robots may have future in apple orchards

      • by buswolley (591500)
        Unemployment is the cure, not the disease.

        from Ruby the Galactic Gumshoe

      • ...but robots won't have to pay into SSI to help keep it solvent for the baby boomers. America's next big crop is old human beings.
      • Yes, there are millions of poor Mexican peasants in the USA working at a half or third of standard American pay. This is because NAFTA allowed American agri-business like Cargil with huge US government subsidies to flood the Mexican agricultural economy with corn so cheap that the Mexicans couldn't afford to live by growing it. And because NAFTA allowed American bio-industries like Monsanto to replace traditional Mexican corn with patented bio-engineered varieties that the Mexican farmers couldn't afford to

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by nicklott (533496)

        I am missing something here? Wouldn't a much cheaper solution to your "problem" of too many mexicans be to stop subsidising agri-business and make US farmers compete at international prices? The guiding hand and all that..

        BTW if you want cheap and reliable iRobot is *not* who you're looking for.

      • Implementing robots will result in a massive unemployment epidemic. See this article [marshallbrain.com] by Marshall Brian, the creator of How Stuff Works.

        You MUST take into account sociological factors when you're talking about a major robotic influx. The bottom line is that our economy is set up to use human labor right now. If there is not something in place to help people continue to work, perhaps at a lower rate (such as a 20 hour workweek limit, or something), all of the money will just flow up into the top 10% like i

  • by MiKM (752717) on Saturday June 28, 2008 @05:49PM (#23985217)

    The price is also very good. At $99 for the base model it is cheap enough that you can pick one up just to play around with.

    For most of the world, $100 is not something you can just spend on a whim. Then again, it might be for the people who buy iRobot products in the first place.

    • by I confirm I'm not a (720413) on Saturday June 28, 2008 @05:58PM (#23985291) Journal

      To be fair, I suspect the target market for this is "people who own their own house". For this demographic, $100 is probably reasonable.

      Then again, there's a product advertised in New Zealand called "Gutter Witch/Gutter Wand" - the idea is you use the "wand" to reach the gutters (it's basically a long stick, nozzle and hose), and the "witch" to open up the drain pipe without making a mess to pull out the leaves flushed away by the wand. This seems much more sensible, but I still want a Looj ;-)

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Bloater (12932)

        Lots of people who own their own homes would take a lifetime to earn $100. However they don't have gutters on their homes :)

        • Touche! I suspect a large part of the target demographic includes people like me - people who live in a downstairs apartment yet still really, *really* want one of these robots ;-)

      • by cbreaker (561297)

        I tried something like that once. It was a log rod with a hook on the end, so you can stand on the ground (for lower gutters) or on a ladder and just run it along the gutter.

        Unfortunately, it must have been a cheapo one because the hook on the end and started spinning everywhere, getting me real soaked in the process. Not fun when it's nearly freezing outside!

        In the end, none of these gadgets work as well as a standard garden hose with a normal trigger-style nozzle while standing on a ladder.

        If cleaning

      • by Skater (41976)

        I dunno. I just cleaned my gutters today, and it took me perhaps 30 minutes. Of course, I have a single-level house so that's probably helping (a 6' ladder is all I need), and it's not a huge house.

        I would like to have something better though. My neighbor has gutters that have a ledge over the top of them so water can get in but little or nothing else. And they have a lifetime warranty: if they ever get clogged the company will come out and clean them for free. He's had them for quite a few years and h

      • by nospam007 (722110)

        >To be fair, I suspect the target market for this is "people who own their own house" ...and most of the slashdot crowd lives in the basement of people owning a house.

    • Then again, it might be for the people who buy iRobot products in the first place.

      My wife and I purchased a Roomba two years ago. While on the surface it may seem like an extreme and silly purchase, the reality is that we were sick of buying cheap vacuums that tended to break down a lot and/or where a pain to use*. The Roomba was the second cheapest option we considered, and from the first time we started it we knew it was exactly the right decision.

      *This specificlly refers to a Dirt Devil vacuum that had a fancy swivel feature with little casters that turned out to be worthless. After running about three times they didn't properly swivel anymore.

      • I wonder if you added up all of the cheap vacuums you burned through plus the Roomba, if you could perhaps have afforded a REAL vacuum cleaner.

        I love the Roomba from the geek perspective. Unfortunately, I don't believe it's HEPA, and to be honest I'm not sure how fine of particles it actually retains. I've generally found non-HEPA vacuum cleaners to be very efficient invokers of allergic responses.

        • As far as full on HEPA capabilities I can't really comment on that with any authority.

          However the Roomba we have is by and far the best performing vacuum we had ever owned. While I'm sure a $1000+ vacuum could 'suck more' (sorry couldn't resist), that was just out of our budget range. We were targeting an average around $300. We arrived at that number by talking with numerous people that had owned more than a few vacuums over their years, and most agreed that the $300 price point is where the best bang f

      • Don't buy cheap vacuums.

        We have two dogs and two cats. We finally broke down and bought a Dyson Animal a few years ago. A bit over $450. Seems pretty extravagant at the time. But it works extremely well, picks up all the dog hair and other crap.

        It is not good on throw rugs because it tends to lift them, so you have to be careful.
      • by nametaken (610866)

        I'm glad someone mentioned that the Roombas are not expensive. In the way of vacuum cleaners, they're quite inexpensive.

        I have one, and I've never regretted it (I'm not wealthy). I could see someone having a regular vacuum to deal with the few areas the roomba can't clean well (90deg corners and tight spots) but if it runs more often than you'd otherwise vacuum manually, it keeps your place very clean.

        LOVE my Roomba, and I haven't even tinkered with it. ;)

        PS - The little bonus is that you WILL engage in a

      • The Roomba was the second cheapest option we considered

        I too love my Roomba. The Roomba Discovery is quite robust. It's also possible to repair! I know because I've done it. (Replaced the edge-cleaning rotary brush motor.)

        Panasonic makes cheap vacuums that hotels and other companies give their custodial employees. There's no fancy HEPA filter or any whizbang features. It's just a very cheaply but robustly made vacuum with a few basic attachments that are flimsy but really work. The first one I had lasted 12 years, which included a stint being used by a h

    • But most of us reading /. aren't most of the world. Most of us have nice $500 computers that are 2-3 years old max along with a small collection of older computers sometimes acting like a server or etc. Most of our phones are smartphones, we have high-speed internet, some of us even own Macs. Just about the only thing us /.ers don't like paying money for is crappy software.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by LoudMusic (199347) *

      The price is also very good. At $99 for the base model it is cheap enough that you can pick one up just to play around with.

      For most of the world, $100 is not something you can just spend on a whim. Then again, it might be for the people who buy iRobot products in the first place.

      But if you own a house with gutters that need cleaning, you likely have more disposable income as well. Or you've gotten yourself into bigger trouble than needing your gutters cleaned.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by QuantumRiff (120817)
      My uncle bought one. His shop he uses for his business has 6 RV sized garage doors across the front, plus office and storage space. I'd guess about 150' long total. Front and back have gutters. He mentioned that the $100 tool saved him money on the first day. There are oak trees all around his shop. (it only took 2 hours the first time.. now its down to 30 minutes or so) because of the height of the gutters (about 20 feet off the ground) its a royal pain to move that big of a ladder.. Now he puts the la
  • by cavtroop (859432) on Saturday June 28, 2008 @05:51PM (#23985231)
    ...if you are already up there with a ladder, so you can manually move the Looj around corners etc? Scooping out the leaves is trivial at that point - the real PIA is getting out the ladder, and going up/down and moving it from side to side. Doesn't seem like this performs and real useful activity?
    • by skiingyac (262641) on Saturday June 28, 2008 @06:00PM (#23985303)

      Imagine you have a 300' long roof. With the Looj, you climb up the ladder at one end of the roof, hold down "forward", and carry your ladder to the other end of the roof, climb up, and collect the Looj. According to their website it cleans 60' in 10 seconds, so that seems like a lot faster & less work, if you have a large roof. So it may be best for businesses/condos/etc.

      • by ThreeGigs (239452) on Saturday June 28, 2008 @06:39PM (#23985553)

        carry your ladder to the other end of the roof, climb up, and collect the Looj.

        You go right ahead and move your ladder.

        I'll stay where I am and just hit the reverse button :-)

        • by skiingyac (262641)

          You go right ahead and move your ladder.

          I'll stay where I am and just hit the reverse button :-)

          You go right ahead and wait for it to come back, carry it DOWN your ladder, carry it AND your ladder to the next corner, and carry it back UP your ladder, smart guy.

          I'll just carry my ladder to the next corner and wait for it to arrive so I can help it around the corner. :p

          • by Gnavpot (708731)

            You go right ahead and wait for it to come back, carry it DOWN your ladder, carry it AND your ladder to the next corner, and carry it back UP your ladder, smart guy.

            I'll just carry my ladder to the next corner and wait for it to arrive so I can help it around the corner. :p

            Don't you have gutters in two directions from each corner? I have in my house, at least.

            I would think that using the reverse, you only have to be at two corners. Without using the reverse, you have to be at all 4 corners. (On a rectangu

            • by skiingyac (262641)

              In our condos, we just have gutters on 2 sides of the roof, but the condo buildings are often at 90 degree angles with each other, and with each group of buildings, the buildings aren't more than 5 feet apart, with some actually touching. So basically you have some number of corners/gaps that you'd have to help it around.

              It depends on your roof (and the speed of the robot) whether using reverse would make sense.

      • 300' long roof? Uhm ... then we're definately past homeowners, and I suspect businesses have little problems paying someone to do the cleaning for them. Hell, they might even have proper equipment for staying on the roof.

        • by skiingyac (262641)

          Well I know our condo association pays close to $2000 a year to have the gutters cleaned. Somehow I think the bill would be more than $100 cheaper if this thing was used & actually worked.

      • According to their website it cleans 60' in 10 seconds

        60' in ten minutes.

    • by I confirm I'm not a (720413) on Saturday June 28, 2008 @06:03PM (#23985321) Journal

      Well, it seems like you'd need to go up the ladder a lot less - once or twice at each corner instead of down-move-ladder-2-metres-up.

      But yes, I can think of easier ways to clean your guttering. I mentioned a long hose and an opening on your down-pipe in an earlier post; another alternative I've seen is simply to insert a long plastic bristle affair along the length of your guttering; the bristles let water pass into the gutter but leaves get stuck on top and break down before they can clog the down-pipe.

      But, and this is a big but, I still want a Looj. If only so I can lean against the fence with a beer and proudly inform the neighbours that I'm supervising the gutter-cleaning robot...

    • Well the problem is you can only reach so far, so you have to keep going up and down the ladder and move it bit by bit all around the house. With this you just have to reposition the ladder 4 times or however many corners your house has, so it does save quite a bit of work.

      This is what I want though, although it seems like it wouldn't be too hard to make one at home: http://www.irobot.com/sp.cfm?pageid=338 [irobot.com]
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by iksbob (947407)

      Agreed... If I were on the design team, I would have pushed for a method of lifting it up to the gutter... A simple hooked pole and a loop on the robot's body would be fine. Of course, you would need some method of triggering it once it was up there... Maybe a two-way remote that would alert the operator when it reaches the end of a run?

    • What they should do is put a bit eye-loop on top and make a hook stick. Then you could just put it up in the gutter without even getting out a ladder.

      Sounds like an obvious accessory to me.

    • Or you can just get gutter covers. When I moved into my house 3 years ago, I cleaned the gutters out once, decided it sucked and got gutter covers. Each cover was less than a buck and we got enough for the whole house for less than the price of a Looj. Sure, it was a bit of extra work to put on the covers, but it's just a one-time investment and I've never had to clean gutters since.

  • http://www.smarthome.com/31262.html [smarthome.com]

    We also sell them in my hardware store but I don't want to link to my own site and crash the server. :)

    They work great, just wear rain gear when standing underneath while using it.

    • by v1 (525388)

      I look at that picture and that is sooo unrealistic. Clean gutter, user standing directly below, with dry clothes and groomed hair.

      That's just NOT going to happen. For most gutters that need cleaning, you can use that, but you'd better go out there with a cap and raincoat.

      I go after mine with a hose, but I have several problems. First, I have a mesh over the top of my gutter to keep the umpteen leaves from my large bertch out of it, and it still collects an amazing amount of seeds and grit from my shingl

    • by LanMan04 (790429)

      Because lots of people own 2-story homes. 2 of my 4 gutters are at a height of 22' or so. That wand only goes to 6'.

      And operating one on a ladder would be, well, interesting. :)

  • No Brainer. (Score:4, Informative)

    by jpellino (202698) on Saturday June 28, 2008 @06:26PM (#23985475)

    If you have a house, you have likely spent $99 on far worse things.

    If all I have to do to clean the gutters is put the ladder at each corner once - I want this.

    I suspect many of the "why bother"s have never actually cleaned gutters by hand. You basically go around the house trying to find a stable spot for the ladder every so often. Every so often is defined as your own wingspan plus how brave you are either side of an extension ladder. Scoop, fling, repeat. Chase leavings with hose or bucket. For even a smallish 24'x36' house, this is tedium with the added risk of a broken arm.

    OK - the wand looks interesting but you're standing under the slop.

    iRobot is in Somerville, MA. And here in New England the fall leaves aren't as bad as the muck made of spring tree flowers and seeds (maple and oak).

    • by tarogue (84626)

      I suspect many of the "why bother"s have never actually cleaned gutters by hand.

      Actually, I live in New England too (NH) and I clean my gutters by hand. A hose, with a good nozzle can spray pretty much all the crap out for a lot less than $100. And with a Federal house, that's 4 gutters on the house, 3 more on the el, and 3 on the little stick-y out bit with the door.

      The Looj would be more work than I want to bother with, thanks.

    • by penguinboy (35085)
      They're in Bedford now (not that it makes any difference season-wise).
  • Now all I need is $1.4 million for a house. Maybe iRobot would provide a free house to do a Looj Cutter review with.

    Considering most of the money on this product is made in Asia, they should think of an easier name.

    • "Considering most of the money on this product is made in Asia"

      Yet it's an American company, so I doubt that if they outsource to Asia, that they are doing it because its more expensive to make them in Asia.

      I'll agree that the name, is well frankly retarded. Although when searching "looj" [google.com] it's not exactly a common name, so that could be a benefit.

      However, the name of a product doesn't make the money it makes isn't worth as much.

  • Obliq. (Score:2, Funny)

    by phreakincool (975248)
    I, for one, welcome our robotic gutter cleaning and making our lives easier, overlords.
  • by microcars (708223) on Saturday June 28, 2008 @07:02PM (#23985687) Homepage
    old mucked up gutters that you neglected.

    I bought one of these when they first came out last fall and liked playing with it, but unless you regularly use it to clean your gutters, you will find that it gets bogged down in heavy mucked up areas.

    These tend to be right in the middle of the run and I have to get on the roof or move the ladder to free it up.

    and if you have a valley that feeds into a gutter that gets clogged with small twigs and branches, fugedaboutit.

    That being said, it is fun to use and works pretty much as advertised you just have to approach heavy obstacles slowly and go back and forth like you are drilling through it.

    My gutters a really a pain to clean and just knowing I can go play with the Looj makes me more likely to drag out the ladder and clean them more often.
  • Gutter (Score:5, Funny)

    by Kamineko (851857) on Saturday June 28, 2008 @07:10PM (#23985737)
    The people who designed this need to get their minds out of the gutter.
  • I got one of these off a Woot the other month. It performed as advertised on the vast amount of dry crap on one side of my house. It tossed all the (slightly damp) leaves and twigs out quite nicely. Yes, I still had to get up on the ladder once to put it up there, but I didn't have to climb down, move the ladder three feet, climb back up, rinse and repeat -- the looj probably saved me a good hour.

    Unfortunately, the other side of the house was worse with the gutters containing standing water and a kind

  • You can see some good First Robotics matches at The blue Alliance [thebluealliance.net] under the match archives. This year Simbotics, ThunderChickens, and Robowranglers won the World Championship.
  • I'm sure a lot of hard R&D went into this, but something you've still got to get on a ladder multiple times for? C'mon.

    Am I the only one who thinks home robotics is a VASTLY under-developed market? Yeah, I know how tough AI is, but I still get the nagging feeling we could be doing so much better if someone made a hard run for it. Seriously, look at Windows -- the damn robots don't have to be perfect, they just have to be ok.

    Back in the late 70's & 80's the mantra was a computer in every ho
  • battery issues? (Score:3, Informative)

    by drew30319 (828970) on Saturday June 28, 2008 @08:27PM (#23986233) Homepage Journal
    I have both the Roomba and the Scooba and while I was initially pleased with both, I've been less than happy with battery life. Although iRobot states that the rechargeable battery will last for "hundreds of cleaning cycles" that hasn't been my experience, with the batteries for each dying far short of that mark.

    Before the batteries did die I was very happy with the performance of these "robots." But ultimately would not recommend either until either the batteries last longer or the price drops for replacements ($80 for the Scooba battery & $70 for the Roomba). I just checked, and the Looj battery is available for $30 so it may be a non-issue for some.

    Obviously YMMV but thought I'd give you a heads up!
  • They Break Too Easy (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Doc Ruby (173196)

    Every 6-12 months I check in on the "Roomba" lines, whether just vacuums, or wet mops, or other kinds like this new "gutter cleaner". They all look pretty cool, and the idea is good. But every time I check with people who actually have them, I confirm that they break really easy. They wear out, or they can't take the kind of hard bump that most moving appliances have to take.

    At $99, replacing them once or twice every couple-few years is a little expensive, compared to a $250 vacuum that lasts 5+ years. And

  • Seriously, you put it on once and you're done.

    Water flows through the mesh and into your gutters, leaves and twigs are kept out.

    Is there something I'm missing here?

    • we have the mesh, but stuff still gets through. i just get on the roof with a water hose and spray them out once or twice a year. maybe a bit risky if you've got a steep or high roof, though. if you've got enough pressure in the hose, you could just move the ladder down a few times until you push all the gunk into the downspout.
  • A teenage son with a leafblower.
  • It's just a simple, self propelled power tool, and a very narrowly specialized one at that. What makes it a "robot"?

  • Many of us have seen robots in the movies

    What are these "robots" of which you speak? I have yet to see one of these in the moving pictures.

  • AKA gutter guard, gutter strainer etc etc... Price from $2.39...
     

  • Robot? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by CopaceticOpus (965603) on Sunday June 29, 2008 @03:08AM (#23988171)

    In what sense is this a robot? As I understand it, it moves back and forth along your gutter when you push the corresponding buttons. If this is a robot, then so is an RC car.

    A gutter cleaning robot would emerge from a pod at the top of your roof, and walk around with spider-like legs. It would first map out your roof and send a 3D map to your computer. You would then indicate on the map where it should dump the gutter contents over the edge, and it would go to work. It might take all day to clear out the gutters, but you would be free to leave it alone (after you got bored of watching it.)

  • Like many other urban Britons, I have a flat in a moderately tall building (3 storeys in my case). Health and safety rules preclude ladders this tall, so basically any time maintenance is needed, you have to work from indoors or use scaffolding.

    It would be /really/ handy to have a remote control gutter cleaning tool (I hesitate to use the word robot) that climbs the inside of a downpipe in order to reach the guttering. Someone make it. I'll buy it.

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