Home technology has evolved leaps and bounds in the last 20-25 years or so. More recently, smart home technologies are beginning to add value to homes by eliminating the need to remembering repetitive tasks such as turning on lights every evening, locking the door when it is closed, or even turning lights off when a room is unoccupied. While it may be difficult to estimate an ROI on such tasks, it is also geared towards improving one’s lifestyle and providing peace of mind that things get done, even when our lives keep us busy with other things.
Now there are some tasks that not only are cumbersome, but they also are boring, have low skill requirements, involve recurring expense, and are absolutely essential. LAWN MOWING is one such task. Most homeowners prefer outsourcing the job so that they do not have to deal with the hassle of owning and maintaining a lawnmower, mowing the mower in the hot summer, and then follow it up with trimming, edging, and blowing. A robotic lawn mower however can help in this scenario – but is it really worth it. Let’s analyze the different aspects of a robotic lawn mower including the cost of ownership and the value it adds to homeowners.
1. COST: Irrespective of the value a device may add, cost plays an important role in determining whether one could afford a machine or not. The good news however is that robotic lawnmowers have gotten cheaper over the last few years. Manufacturers such as Husqvarna offer different models and sizes for different lawn types making it affordable for any lawn type. A simple backyard-only setup can cost upwards of $999 excluding any installation costs and for large lawns (up to 2 acres) the cost can be as high as $3499. When compared to an indoor vacuum cleaner, these costs are not very high and with financing options can be very much affordable.
2. DURABILITY: Robotic lawn mowers are built to operate in the outdoors and in extreme conditions. The Husqvarna Automower for example is designed for a lifetime of 10 years, making it a great long-term investment.
3. SAFETY: Robotic lawn mowers are designed with utmost importance given to safety. When choosing a robotic lawnmower, it is advisable to choose a mower with pivoting blades rather than a mower with fixed blades. This is because the pivoting blades stick out due to centrifugal force from rotating disc cut just grass. When confronted with immovable objects such as toys, stones or branches, the blades pivot away protecting the object and the cutting assembly of the mower. Robotic mowers are also equipped with multiple sensors that stop the blades whenever it is lifted or stopped.
4. GRASS QUALITY: Robotic mowers improve the grass quality over time. They mow the lawn frequently, which creates micro grass clippings. These tiny clippings decompose fast and are fed back into the soil as fertilizer, which makes the lawn lush and green. Unlike the mower from a landscaping service, a dedicated robotic mower will not move diseases or weeds from other yards and its constant mowing will reduce weeds significantly. Since an Automower’s quiet operation enables mowing at night, with its constant movement in the yard, it is also proven that users have observed a significant reduction in bugs and pests.
5. DURABILITY & MAINTENANCE: Robotic mowers are designed to work outdoors in varying climatic conditions. They are typically designed to be durable in order to withstand the forces of nature. Robotic mowers from top manufacturers like Husqvarna are designed for a life span of 10 years. They are designed to mow even during rain, so you do not miss mowing on rainy days after which grass typically grows the fastest.
The only maintenance involved in robotic mowers is changing of blades (which cost less than $2 for each blade) and option annual service (like one would service their car). One could overestimate a maintenance cost of $15 per month over the life of the mower.
6. ROI: Return on investment is a very commonly used term especially for large purchases. Homeowners conveniently ignore the ROI when spending thousands of dollars on home theatres and high-quality audio systems. That is because it is an upgrade to lifestyle; an improvement that adds value to one’s life. A robotic lawn mower is also an upgraded lifestyle. It gives homeowners back the time they can use to spend with their family or to complete a pending home improvement project. With that being said, there actually is also a strong ROI business case for homeowners with robotic mowers. Let’s consider a scenario where a robotic mower has to mow an average lawn (backyard only) that is about 5000 sq feet in size. If we consider the top-of-the-line robotic mower for this scenario from Husqvarna, a 115H would fit the bill perfectly. The cost of a 115H with installation and material is about $1500. If we consider that a mowing service costs $30 per visit (Yes, one could pay $15 to a high school student, but that would not be a fair comparison), then there are typically 8 months or 32 weeks of mowing in a year. With an average of one service per 2 weeks, the total cost for a service for a year would be ~$480. This means that the ROI for the robotic mower in this scenario is ~ 3 years. At the end of 3 years, the mower holds some value which also needs to be considered. With a 50% depreciation in value, the mower could be worth ~600 at the end of 3 years. If this is considered as well, the actual ROI technically could be less than 2 years. Considering that a family typically spends 7 years in a home on average in the US, this ROI is completely justified.
7. THEFT & SECURITY: Robotic mowers are typically covered by home insurance in case of theft. All that a homeowner needs to do is call their home insurance company and let them know that you have added a robotic mower to your property and provide its value. However, robotic mowers from top manufacturers like Husqvarna come with built-in security features such as pin-based lock, loud siren when lifted, built-in GPS that also works with mower turned off and cellular-based connectivity to track the mower in real-time. While these features typically deter a theft, if it is still stolen, a police case will enable the cops to track and retrieve the mower. If the police are unsuccessful, a valid police report will enable the insurance to reimburse the cost of the mower.
8. WHERE TO BUY: The most common intuition in today’s age is to go to Amazon.com and search for robotic mowers or Google the online store that is offering the best deal. In the case of robotic mowers that may not be the best thing to do for multiple reasons. A robotic lawn mower involves multiple aspects such as choosing the right model for your lawn, proper installation of the perimeter wire, use of the right wire and materials for installation, post-installation support, warranty and repair options, and other things such as accessories and add on value options for the mower. The best thing to do is to consider a manufacturer who also offers a strong support structure through a dealer network or similar and can provide end-to-end support. A local provider such as SmartDots (www.smart-dots.com) would be a perfect option for Husqvarna Automowers. As authorized dealers for Husqvarna local providers like SmartDots are able to provide all end-to-end support including product sales, installation, repair, warranty, maintenance services, etc.
CONCLUSION: When we look at all the benefits that a robotic mower can offer, the purchase is absolutely worth it and totally justified. Yes, it is an upfront investment, which can be mitigated through options such as 0% financing offered by local providers. But if one can justify the purchase of a media room, then a robotic lawn mower is no different. Providing the family with an “always mowed” lawn 24X7 is the best gift one can get for the family. For homeowners who are not using a robotic lawnmower in their homes, it is a missed opportunity to enjoy the benefits that it can bring. In Europe, more than 60% of mowing is done by robotic lawnmowers. With the latest advancements in commercial robotic mowers that number is expected to increase more in the coming years. Similar trends are expected in the US too. If you are a homeowner who is on the fence about getting a robotic lawnmower, you know what to do.