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Roomba Hacking

We haven't been using the Roomba for a while, because Patricia loves the new Dyson. But it excels at vacuuming under the bed, so we tried it for that today. It ran for about five minutes, and died.

I put it back on the charger, and it charged quickly. Too quickly, I fear. I think that the batteries have seen their last.

I was looking on line to see how much replacements are, and found a site that describes how to replace the Roomba batteries with standard sub-C NiMH batteries, with much more capacity than the factory original (four hours on a charge). I may give it a try.


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Alpha Lupi wrote:

Mine did the same thing after an extended period of non-use. It needed a good, thorough cleaning out before it worked again. I had to open the chasis and clear out the crusted dirt.

Josh Reiter wrote:

I wonder if you can remove the battery and take it to a Batteries Plus store. I got a extra camcorder battery there once and I saw they have some specialized equipment in there. They maybe able to recondition the battery to start taking a charge again.

I admit, though, the battery hack would be mighty tempting.

Paul F. Dietz wrote:

I have a Roomba, but haven't used it for a long time. It ended up being too sensitive to gunk build up, particularly hair wrapping around rotating parts.

Ric Locke wrote:

Most anything with rechargeable batteries can be improved by replacing the batteries. Like anything in a mass produced item, the batteries were selected for lowest cost. Good batteries are expensive because they use a lot of materials and require careful processing. They don't end up in consumer products.

You run into two problems: the cells often aren't standard size, and assembling them can be difficult. I'm not sure why designers and engineers go to such lengths to avoid using standard sizes and shapes, but they do. I have a cordless drill that needs new batteries, but the non-standard cell size isn't available anywhere I can find.

Assembling them is more difficult than it should be because they're connected by spot welding. It isn't that hard to rig a spot welder (although it's harder than it used to be because it's harder to find carbon-zinc cells; the carbon rod in one of those makes an ideal spot welding electrode) but it may not be worth the trouble for just one item. They can be soldered, but it isn't easy and risks cell damage.


Rick C wrote:

Batteries Plus can whip up custom rechargable packs for many things, but they're a bit pricy.

ArtD0dger wrote:

Roomba 1st gen "APS" batteries suddenly and conspicuously became scarce a number of months ago. iRobot has been saying "ships in 3-4 weeks" for months, and the aftermarket prices shot up from ~$40 to ~$120, if you can find them at all. Seems like this company may have a forced-obsolescence strategy.

Maybe I'll try the homebrew thing, but I'm annoyed that I should have to.

ArtD0dger wrote:

... whaddayaknow, I just Googled again and now I'm getting some hits (including this). So maybe it was just a supply-chain glitch after all.

BTW, mine sometimes malfunctions from dust-build-up too, but I've always been able to fix it by blowing it out with canned air.

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This page contains a single entry by Rand Simberg published on July 13, 2008 2:53 PM.

You Want Transitional Fossils? was the previous entry in this blog.

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